Archive for Sunday, November 7, 2010

Behind the Lens: Photographers sometimes have to take Hail Mary shot

November 7, 2010


For members of the media, campaign election watch parties can be loud, chaotic affairs interspersed with long moments of boredom and plastic cups full of pretzels.

I photographed the state Republican watch party Tuesday in Topeka. About 300 GOP supporters and 30 journalists focused our attention on politicians running for state offices in the midterm elections.

I went equipped with two camera bodies, a 24-105 wide-angle and a 70-200 telephoto lens. The room was so dark that my exposure was 1/40th of a second, at an aperture of f/4 and an ISO of 4000. To help add illumination, I used a camera-mounted flash with a diffused plastic cap. This technique spreads a softer light over subjects near the camera. And as it turned out the subjects were indeed very close at hand.

At many political events, the media is provided a stage at a distance from the speaker’s podium. On these risers, TV cameramen set up their tripods and everyone squeezes into spots like cattle shuffling for space in the cramped quarters of a tractor-trailer rig. Little space is left for still photographers.

But on this night there was no restriction and I wasn’t confined to the riser. I could go free-range! I positioned myself at the front of the stage near the podium and waited for a big GOP entrance. But Gov.-elect Sam Brownback surprised everyone and entered from the side of the hall and right into the crowd.

It was time to resort to a Hail Mary photo. This is where you take photographs with the camera held at arm’s length up in the air. It provides a higher angle of view and puts your camera above the people near you for an unobstructed shot of a subject. Of course you can’t see what you’re camera is seeing, so you’re shooting blind. To avoid missing the subject, do the following. Once raised in the air, tilt your camera down slightly and try to keep level. With each shot, change the angle of your tilt. This increases your odds of catching at least one photo with the subject in your frame. Most importantly, don’t lose sight of the politician.

Note: We’re still taking registrations for Photography 101 classes at Teller’s today at 4:30 p.m. and Nov. 22.

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