Event Shooting – three lessons learned.

Africa Oyé is a free music festival in Sefton Park, Liverpool, which turned out to not be quite as African as I had expected. But that was OK because I was there to see what I could learn about event shooting rather than the music. The first lesson was that photographing whilst dancing to really good world music creates camera shake. But lets move on to my real lessons for this post:

1. A theme will emerge. It will not always be what you expect.

I thought that I would go and increase my set of photos of street food. The whole arena area was corralled by food stalls but, apart from surfing down a boar and apple burger ad Cajun fries  I didn’t really find much that captivated me this time. What I did end up finding fascinating was the photographers. First there were the ones with press passes who were allowed right in front of the stage and even up on the stage.

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Then there were the keen amateurs who pressed themselves up against the crash barriers as close to the stage as possible for the start of each set and then went wandering for different shots as the set progressed.

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It was nice to meet Jannette Marshall who I work with.

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Then there were the parents and friends who suddenly all whipped their camera phones out when a gang of kids with drums and face paint arrived on stage.

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I ended up making a whole collection of photographs of photographers.

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Some of whom lowered their cameras and allowed themselves moments of almost tearful grandfatherly pride.

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2. Do not have lens envy and trust your camera choice.

I couldn’t help having a bit of lens envy though. This is my friend Peter Goodbody. Serious guy with serious camera.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA And there I was with my tiny little Olympus OMD – EM-10. I confess when I went home I googled his camera and lens and contemplated whether I should save up now so when I had become a bit more proficient I could upgrade. Then I thought: hang on. Didn’t you already make this decision? I googled Micro Four Thirds v Full  Format and found these great posts here and here on Lyndsay Dobson’s Blog. ( I emailed her to thank her for those posts and she even corresponded with me a bit and gave me some great advice. She’s a nice lady!) The fact the professionals are now moving to Micro Four Thirds convinced me I do not need the inconvenience of huge, great big DSLR thank you. Oh that and the fact that I was rather pleased with the images of Andy Kershaw that my little camera got, even from further away than the press pack. Guys, size is not everything. *

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3. People make festivals.

I have been stressing about how to take portrait photos with out studio lights and professional models who know how to pose for me. The answer I think lies in part with taking images of people who are having fun doing something they do naturally and who are not concentrating on your lens. (Of course a small intrusive lens helps here). Indeed many people actually turned towards my camera or huddled together for poses. I did decide, however, not to post the grouping of three women who dangled their little baggies of weed at my camera!

 

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* There are some technical differences between the MFT system and full format which might cause a Pro to choose the latter. My point is that they are not sufficient to make me switch my camera choice given the portability of my kit.

What’s in my bag? ( Review: National Geographic Medium Holster)

I deliberately chose a mirrorless ( compact system) camera for the size and weight, knowing that most of my photography would be when I was travelling in some way. My Olympus OMD EM10 has proved a delight in that regard. But finding a suitable, bag for it was not easy. Traditional camera bags are way too big and my first solution, using a normal handbag with microfibre pouches for the lenses and a quilted wrap for the camera proved to involve too much wrapping and unwrapping of things when out in the field. (It’s a good solution for hand baggage on flights though).

Much measuring and web surfing ensued and eventually, after a flirtation with the Kelly Moore Riva Bag, which was rejected eventually on price and weight, I plumped for the National Geographic African Collection Medium Holster. (Not the nattiest title in the word!). although its advertised as for a DSLR it also comes up on searches of their site for compact system suitable bags. There are many reviews of this bag  but I struggled to find any that answered my burning question: can I fit all my stuff in there? So, here, for other potential owners is my list of what is in my bag. ( Please excuse the crappy pictures, I am resorting to using the ipad so I can photograph the other two cameras in the bag. Plus, I’m drafting this on a train!)

As I write it is set up for a two day trip to London when I shall be roaming alone all day, learning to shoot the city. I also have whiplash at the moment so it was important to me that this and my tripod bag be all I carry. I love that this bag can be carried three ways including cross body in which case it sits very comfortably on my hip giving great accessablity and distributing the weight off my shoulder.

The main, padded compartment’s secret its that it has two movable padded dividers creating three internal compartments coming about half way up the bag. Today I have them as follows

 

1. Tissues and pocket filofax which I use for money and credit cards, train tickets etc and notebook combined. I have a plastic envelope on the rings which I use as a holder for spare memory cards.

2. Olympus 40-150mm ( 80-300 in 35mm format) telephoto lens, 45 mm (90mm equivalent) fast prime and one lens hood.

3. Lee Seven5 filter holder, Big Stopper and Little Stopper and circularising Polariser filters. Four plastic sandwich bags with one corner cut off and two elastic hair bobbles to make hasty rain covers given the evening weather forecast! Four Volterol heat patches for the whiplash!

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The genuis design of the bag means that the tops of the padded divders fold over giving a sort of shelf on which I then have the camera body and a 14-42) (28-84mm equivalent) lens. When you have the body out the bag gives excellent access to the lenses for quick changes. At the moment I also have an apple in there but that will be eaten soon! meanwhile its a good item to use for scale to show you how small this camera is! The bag is wide enough to have the body and the longest 150-300 mm ( 300-600) lens on it.

 

The front compartment has some internal pouches. I use one for the body cap and always put the cap for the lens in use in here as a habit to prevent loss. There are then two pen loops and in the last pouch I have a spare battery and a card with some duct tape on in case the bobbles are not doing the trick with the rain bag.

 

In the body of the front compartment itself I have two moleskine Volante Notebooks ( one has quick reference notes I took from my camera manual, the other has reference notes from blogs or books and my list of aims for the trip and will act as a journal) a Tube Map, my London Underground Oyster card, two lens cleaning cloths and a cleaning pen, a packet of Ibubrufen and my iphone, which has on it my camera manual and also an Olympus app that allows me to use the phone as a remote trigger. Oh, and an app called ND TImer to help me figure out what settings I should use with the filters. The Kindle and Feedly apps also acts as my reading material should I stop for a cafe break and of course a second camera.

The bag is very versatile. On otherdays I have had card and cash in my jeans pocket or just tucked in with the lenses and have replaced the purse with a battery charger and a macro lens. I have just checked and I can carry a bottle of water instead of the purse. I’ll probably do that tomorrow when I have a hotel safe for the spare credit cards. The filters will also fit in the front pocket. begin a holster is sits beautifully on my hip when I wear it cross body. if you zip the top compartment and fasten the two buckles its very secure. I tended leave the buckles loose for easy access when I was actually photographing as I was never anywhere I thought security was a big issue and that gave easy access.

So if you are looking for a small, affordable bag that will carry multiple Micro Four Thirds lenses ( you could get six plus one on the body and filters in the front), this  National Geographic Medium Holster is your bag. That said, I have cheated a little and added some other items to my tripod bag.

The tripod is a Me Foto Road Trip model ( in a lovely metallic green. I confess that was a major motivator in choosing it!) and comes in a carry bag. The bag slings very easily over a shoulder or, if worn cross body allows you to nestle the tripod in the small of your back and take the weight more ergonomically. That said, it is a light weight tripod anyway, weighing just 3.6 lb. Knowing I am going to be doing night shoots with a rain forecast, I was delighted to find I could tuck gloves in the inside pocket and an umbrella and my reading glasses in the bag itself and still have easy access to the tripod. So I am all set!

PS. After the trip…the rain materialised and the plastic bags were needed but eventually the rain was monsoon like and I was freezing. So I retired to the South Bank branch of Foyles and can now report that the next day I took out my purse and carried just a loose card in the bag and cash in my pocket and that allowed my to carry my impulse purchase of The Rosie Effect paperback along with all the other items listed above. This bag is a Tardis! And the novel was so good I couldn’t bear not to have it with me to read all day!

 

 

 

 

 

Why go mirrorless?

There were three reasons I chose to go for a mirrorless or compact system camera rather than a DSLR|

1. Size

2. Size

3. I didn't at all like the pushy salesman in The Jessops shop in Manchester who was insisting that a DSLR was best and then tried to sneak £300 of insurance and a class fee I didn't want onto the quote he was giving me. Whereas the various guys I spoke to in Wilkinson cameras gave me much more balanced advice in favour of, but not pushing the mirrorless. But mostly, it was size.

As you can see my Olympus OMD-EM 10 ( pictured here with the 35mm equivalent of a 300 mm zoom lens*) is indeed compact. ( Sorry for the irony of a bad Ipad photo in a post about good cameras).

The old adage is that the best camera is the one that you take with you. On our last trip to Italy, I was already comtemplating upgrading my camera and spent a lot of time giving other photographers sideways glances trying to figure out what kit they were carrying. I would volunteer to take pictures of couples at the Colosseum or the Rialto bridge so I could get those cameras in my hands and see what they felt like.

Without exception the answers was: heavy. It felt sort of professional having heft to the camera and a huge long instrusive telephoto lens. It said, “I have gear and I know what I am doing and my photos are going to be good”. (Or Alternatively it said,”Seriously? You have all this expensive gear and you just handed it over to a stranger on the Ponte Vecchio? You'll never catch me if I run now”).

So at first the little mirrorless cameras felt like toys. Or at least intermediate cameras I should skip over to get the good stuff. Then I read reviews and realised that professionals were starting to rave over these cameras. I am trying to do more sketching when I travel and so am already carting sketchbooks and paints and pens and brushes and water and pencils and erasers and food and money and keys and kindle and sunhat and…..well, you get the idea! Small and light and high quality seemed a winner to me. And so the order button was pressed.

It has now arrived with a selection of lenses and I am extremely pleased with the portablity. Although at the moment it is not going very far out of the house until I have worked my way through the rather comprehensive instruction manual – small does not mean simple! This little baby is feature packed! And of course, small means issues arise when choosing the perfect camera/ sketchbag, which is a whole other “coming soon” post….

 

*Technical bit: The Olympus is a Micro Four Thirds Camera. The sensor is smaller than the DSLR cameras which have a sensor the size of the old films which were 35mm. This means that the lenses are smaller. Basically the sensor is rectangular and has to fit with in the circle of the lens. Smaller rectangle means smaller circle means smaller lens. However so that photographers can talk about lenses with each other, all lenses, whatever size are usually given a 35mm equaivalent focal length. Fortunately, given my mathematical capailities, with the Micro Four Thirds Camera system you simply multiply by two to get the 35mm equivalent lens length. (Other manufacturers do cropped sensors of different sizes so the multlpication is different) So, the lens above is an Olympus 40-150mm zoom. That means it is the DSLR equaivalent of a 80-300mm lens. Which means its a pretty nifty telephoto zoom.