So you’ve probably seen the past two posts about the high school rodeo photo shoot. I thought you might be interested in what exactly I did and why, from equipment choice to settings to how it relates to processing. So here we go:
Keep in mind that all I knew was that it was going to be an outdoor rodeo, and I had no idea what the environment looked like, so I had little idea what obstacles I was up against. Thankfully Lisa was there and willing to give me some guidance on how to best position myself to get the shots the kids like best. So in light of all of this, I loaded my trunk with more than enough equipment. I’m not listing names of equipment because it’s not important, but I’m going to tell you mainly what I had.
Two camera bodies. One with a medium zoom range and the other with a longer zoom range up to 400mm. Looking back, 200-300mm max would have been sufficient. Most of my lenses has a circular polarizer on them as well.
A self-standing video monopod with a fluid head on it. This gave me both stability and mobility. It was easy to move around with, raise and lower quickly with one hand, and tilt from side to side while maintaining stability. The added bonus was that it took the burned of the weight off of my elbows and hands, which is really important because I’m fighting a bad case of tendonitis in both arms.
Fast shooting only. By this I do not mean rapid fire via continuous shooting mode. I can get plenty of shots with individuals shutter pushes on my own without having a feature triple my shots for me. For me, continuous shooting isn’t necessary and only increases your work load while also eating up card space. What I am referring to though is my shutter speed. I set my shutter speed to a minimum of 1/1000th, and at times up to 1/1600th depending on the exposure due to the weather. Generally I tried to also keep my aperture in the range of 4-5.6-ish, but the shutter speed was my biggest priority because I wanted a cleaned and sharp capture on each frame. If things got darker, I just bumped up my ISO as needed.
Stay in manual. I’m not a big program mode kind of guy. They have their place, and I’ll occasionally use them, but usually when I’m in a sporadically changing environment, or when it’s images I’m not worried about. When the environment is either controlled or fairly consistent, as was the case outdoors, I go manual mode on everything! When I say everything, I mean everything related to exposure and white balance. I think I left my camera on a sunny setting the entire weekend. The reason I did this is because it makes editing a million times easier on the back end. When you leave all the thinking up to a camera, there’s constantly variations, whether large or small. So when editing over 2000 photos, then last thing you want to do is individual adjust the exposure and white balance on almost every image so as the make them all look the same. Instead, if you shoot them all the same, then they will already be the same on the back end. And if you have to make an adjustment, then you can get it once for each group or circumstance. Things did change throughout the weekend, so I probably had five or six different times I had to make a global adjustment. But that’s a far cry from close to 2000 individual image adjustments.
As for shooting the rodeo, that’s mainly it for what I used, how I used it, and why. Some will notice some addition photos as well that look a bit more dramatic. Those that were there will probably remember me pulling out some big lights. Those where obviously not for the event itself, but I’ll briefly talk about that as well.
Going all manual again! One of the lights was an actual studio strobe (equipped with a beauty dish) and the other was a camera flash. Both were on battery packs and connected to a radio transmitter. No, I do not use Pocket Wizard or Radio Poppers. Both make use of TTL technologies, which I don’t care for, so why spend extra money on a feature I won’t use. Instead, my are all manual and so are a lot cheaper. I also use either a circular polarizer or a variable neutral density filter on my lens (depending on the circumstance). And then once again my camera is set to all manual.
I adjusted my shutter speed to create my ambient exposure. I maxed out my flash power and then used my aperture to control my flash exposure. And then my lens filter helped to deepen the clouds for me. Once that’s all set, I take my shots real quick, and then I’m done.
This technique really is an art form from a science, but it can create stunning images. Feel free to try any of these techniques and let me know if you have any questions.