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Alice Springs Photographer Blog

Peta Appleyard Gallery - David Bromley Exhibition

The Peta Appleyard Gallery is located here in Alice Springs and its not the first time I've taken photos in the gallery. I was there for the opening night a few months ago and they were happy with the images that I gave to them so they asked me back to cover this exhibition.

I'm not going to write much about the art itself but I will comment on a few aspects of the night namely.

  • preparation
  • gear
  • shooting the art
  • shooting the people and
  • image selecting and final output

Preparation

As it was my first paid shoot I was potentially going to freak out, stuff up and storm out only to return and retrieve my gear that I so hastily forgot. So I wanted to be fully prepared and ready for anything at anytime because this is the best way of getting rid of nerves... knowing your s*&t up, down, left and right.

It was obviously an indoor shoot and being an art gallery there was always going to be a fair amount of light in the room to start but I obviously wanted to have a flash ready to go when I needed it. You can read yesterdays post about the flash research that I did and man did it help out on the night, I know when I needed it, how to use it and most importantly when not to use it.

I did, and this saved me so much post production, going to the gallery to shoot the art during the day with nobody around and while I was there I put into practice what I had learnt about the flash the day before. I quickly found that I didn't need the flash provided I had a good metering mode selected and didn't have strong lights behind the subject throwing the metering off. So going there before and testing at the location was GOLD I'll always do this form now on!

Other things that I had thought about in preparation were the obvious charged battery / empty CF card / clean lenses type stuff but what was most useful was a solid lunch and a refreshing drink, non alcoholic of course. I had spent so much time sorting out the camera that I though what about me I want some love too! I had my Wheat-Bix in the morning and ohhh yeah leftovers from the night before seafood curry feast for lunch, its nice to cook meat when the vego girlfriend is away. :)

With a nice belly of home cooked curry half digested I had plenty of energy to keep going and didn't feel weighed down by a meal that I just ate. I was also able to concentrate on the event and not the food at the event which I must say was pretty good, I had a few nibbles at the end of the evening.

In conclusion to the preparation section I just say that I did take a laptop so I could copy and free up the CF cards for use, this turned out to well worth the extra effort.

Gear

This is pretty easy so I'll be brief with this aspect of the evening.

In the bag I had

  • 5D MKII
  • 400D as a back up and for DLing cards to the laptop while I kept shooting
  • 430 EX Flash with Diffuser + extra batteries
  • 17-40 f/4.0L USM
  • 24-70 f/2.8L USM
  • 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM
  • Cleaning stuff - Giotto rocket blower, lens pen & cleaning cloths
  • Manfroto 190XB Pro tripod with 488RC2 head.
  • Girlfriends Laptop (don't tell her)

Nothing surprising, all of what I usually carry except of the Laptop and 400D. For most of the evening I had the 24-70 f/2.8 and the 70-200 f/2.8 on the camera but I did use the 17-40 f/4.0 for a few wide shots of the whole room.

Shooting the Art

Have you ever tried to fit a piece of rectangular art into a rectangular photo... sounds easy well it would be except of the small angles and tiny perspective shifts, its not just a point and shoot thing. Not only this but colour representation is critical for the display of the work and so having your white balance set correctly is a must.

A pretty cool thing about the 5D MKII is that you can dial in a colour temp with a specific Kelvin number which was very useful in this case. I did shoot a few in AWB mode but I noticed slight shifts so for consistency I set the colour temp and shot all the art with one setting and aperture. so the settings I used were ISO 100, 3000k, f/8 and the relative shutter speed.

Shooting the People

After spending a few hours in the gallery before the evening started I changed my whole approach with regards to the flash. The ambient light was more than enough to shoot with out a flash reducing the extra work a flash can make but also minimising the "impact" on the room of people themselves. With no flash going off every few seconds people were less aware of the presence of the camera and in such a relatively small space this helped retain their comfort and allowed more shots with natural expressions. The only time I did use the flash is when the people were standing below strong down lights active near the art works casting nasty shadows over their faces.

I only used the two lenses for shooting the people the 24-70 and the 70-200 which both rocked the block. I started out the evening with the 24-70 because the gallery was almost totally packed with people so the shorter focal lengths worked well at the time. But as the people spread out over the evening I put the 70-200 on for some real tight images. Both lenses are amazing  pieces of glass and I don't need to tell you about them but I will tell you about the 5D MKII and its high ISO performance.

Throughout all of my images there is only a few that you can see some grain or noise in them. The images that do have a bit of grain were either too under or over exposed and required post adjustment to them in Lightroom or were heavily cropped. I shot the whole evening at ISO 1600 with apertures between f/5.6 and f/2.8 and I felt very comfortable with the resulting shutter speeds which were around 1/80 - 1/350 sec. I have a few blurry shots in the gallery especially one image of the waitress pouring champagne but she has such a great expression so I kept it in with the rest. Over all the sharpness and noise in the images are more than satisfactory for a decent sized web gallery or even prints tho the web is where they are likely to end up.

Compositionally speaking, the fact that its an art gallery showing art to art type people I really tried to get the art in the shot both for context but also a bit of colour. I thought that its what they are here for so why not accent it both as a background and as a focal point for the peoples expressions. With so much free booze going around it was hard to get shot of people looking at the art work and discussing it. Sure the wine and food were important parts of the evening but getting the people in an art gallery context and not a pub context was sometimes difficult.

Image selecting and final output

Thanks to the wondrous powers of Adobe Lightroom I had all the images online with in 3 hours of getting home. Based on the compositional info that I just talked about it was an easy process of selection, anything which had a piece of art in the background got a star next to it. Then a star for shots with good expressions and of course open eyes, I have few shots where people are actually looking at the camera but I did put a few of these in as well.

After the one star round it was on to round two further looking at details like sharpness, exposure and the expressions of the people. Looks of interest in conversation or art and smiles were the ones most selected for the final gallery. Once the selections had been made I started the post processing with white balance, exposure and finally crop. Then once it was all done I started all over again, yep I went through  looked through every one of the images again because having made the selections I knew what was missing from the collection. It wasn't very time consuming and it gave a few extra images to submit so it was another easy way of getting a more well rounded collection.

when I did upload them to this site I made 3 different collections which I thought would make the viewing process easier for the clients. These 3 collections were divided into People, the major work and all art works.

View the Full Image Galleries.

So now I just sit back and wait for them to get back to me.

Conclusion

Now that all the major work has been done and I can sit back and write this post I have to say that the night went very well for me. No doubt that getting nervous and using that nervous energy to research the issues making me nervous helped beyond anything else. Feeling it, using it and conquering it was a very educational experience for me and something that I'll be thinking about well into the future.

Instead of writing too much more I'll just summaries the most valuable experiences

  • Eating a big lunch
  • Doing research at home with the flash and camera
  • Going to the gallery during the day free from pressure and with plenty of time to make all the mistakes I didn't want to make on the night.
  • Having an understanding before the show of light and compositions that I wanted to get.
  • Smiling and keeping out of peoples faces "minimal impact"