Good Day. Hope you are enjoying your weekend. Yesterday was my big shoot for the large family reunion held at Rustic Park in Lost Nation, Iowa. I had never been there before and I have to tell you it is a beautiful park complete with a nice pavilion, ball field and lots of area to play and picnic. Friday was mostly preparing for the photo shoot. Making sure cards were formatted, batteries charged, light stands and modifiers all accounted for. I also spent a fair amount of time preparing the website that will contain the photos so the families (spread out across the USA) can download their images.
The lighting conditions couldn’t have been much worse. Not a cloud in the sky and there was haze as well. The photo shoot was scheduled for 11:00 a.m. so the light would be at it most intense and harsh period of the day. Jeanne and I arrived at the park about an hour and half before the shoot. We walked the entire park taking test shots and scouting the best location. Having said that the best location is of course subjective but what I wanted to avoid was having trees coming out of people’s head. They had to be in the shade otherwise they would have squinted and their features washed out. I was concerned with dappled light as well so it was a huge challenge to say the least.
The stress was pretty intense as well. This event happens every two years and there is no way to go back and re-shoot if i made a mistake. I can be very happy shooting for myself but then again I’m the only one I have to please. Here I was promising to deliver quality shots and in the back of my mind competing with the other photographers who were also taking family shots that day, not to mention the photographers who had shot the event before. Finally it was hot and you add all that together, I was one hot dude. 🙂
So after walking the park and shooting a bunch of test shots we settled on the “best” location. Just to give myself an insurance card I decided to set up two soft-boxes with 2 Nikon SB800 speed lights controlled by two Pocket Wizards to give me just a little fill light so I could expose for the background. I shot predominately with the Nikon D4 | Nikon 28 – 300 mm lens (for the sheer versatility of that lens.) I shot in manual mode with settings of ISO 100 1/125 sec @ f5.6. That combination seemed to produce the best results for the various family shots.
For the entire family group photo I used the Nikon D800 | Nikon 24 – 120 F4 lens and the same settings as above. The extra 4 mm of wide-angle was just what I needed to get the large group all together.
People started showing up before I was ready. I had spent too much time checking out locations. Now I have to say that the family was wonderful. They were warm and gracious and made me feel very comfortable. They all and I mean all couldn’t have been nicer to work with. They were responsive to my direction even when I was incoherent in my instructions. “Hey you with the blue top (30 people wearing blue tops) move to your left two paces, no I mean my left.” There was a fair amount of that. The incoherent part that is. Imagine around 140 people of all different ages standing around visiting with folks they may not have seen for a couple of years and trying to get them to pose for a picture. But they were very responsive and the whole session went quite well.
Someone said to me that this shoot was the fastest they had seen at this event. Oh darn, did I forget something, did I not take enough images? Then I got to thinking maybe it was just that we got lucky and everyone was ready for the shoot when they were supposed to be.
Jeanne was an enormous help to me. I doubt that I could have pulled it off without her. She helped me with the equipment, posed for countless test shots, looked for things that needed to be adjusted before the shoot, helped organize people and continuously encouraged me and assured me I was doing a good job. She was simply invaluable. See what I mean about a tree coming out of the person’s head. 🙂
After the session I shot a few candid shots but most people were eating and there is nothing flattering about shooting people when they eat food. 🙂 We were invited to stay for lunch with the families but had to decline as we had made other commitments.
How about the images? Well I have not yet started processing the images but I looked though them all and gave a big sigh of relief. Only one person from one family had half of his head hidden by another person despite my best efforts of making sure I could see everyone. The pictures were all good but I’ll know more after I process them. I won’t be showing them on the blog because I do not have permission to do so and I want to respect the privacy of the families.
That’s it for today. In reflection it was a fun event. Stressful to be sure but like anything practice makes it easier and better. I’ve made thousands of images of people in harsh sunlight but this is the first time I have done it for another person. I want it to be perfect! I’m looking forward to my next photo opportunity. Thanks for stopping by the blog. Enjoy your Sunday and be careful.