Wednesday, January 27, 2010

365/26 Under the Tower

365/26 Under the Tower

Three hundred years ago a prisoner condemned to the Tower of London carved on the wall of his cell this sentiment to keep up his spirits during his long imprisonment: 'It is not adversity that kills, but the impatience with which we bear adversity.'

James Keller

I'd like to say that I have something pithy and inspiring for tonight, but I don't. I can't. I won't. Tonight was a trial of patience, good will, and technical geekery. Admittedly, I probably should not have tried doing this right as classes ended at UT (man, hordes of students EVERYWHERE). As well, I probably should have read the manual a bit more on how the interval timer worked so I could do my self portraits.

But when has that stopped me from trying to play with the camera?

Never. Well, mostly never.

I did two setups tonight, trying to get something together like Dustin Diaz's work on the streets of San Francisco. I took some of his advice on how he does it. Especially the focusing bits. What I discovered was that the camera was resetting the focus when I turned on the interval timer to handle the shots. I'm not yet sure why this was occurring. The way I normally have the camera set up, this shouldn't have happened.

So, I ended up with one shot in five being in focus. Frustrating. I really only like one of them.

The other annoying part of this setup was the weak-assed tripod I have. I can't effectively do portrait style photos with it. I always think the camera is going to fall off the head. The tripod was never really meant to handle a 5lb camera setup in that position. The lens kept creeping slowly towards the floor. I need to get me that new tripod setup. Soon.

The second setup involved using the UT tower, all aglow in it's burnt orangeness, as the background. First hurdle tripped over? From where I wanted to shoot, I couldn't get the tower fully in view with my normal lens (the 24-70mm f2.8). And I certainly wasn't going to set the camera up on the other side of the road without some adult supervision while it triggered remotely with the interval timer. There were just too many people floating around the area for me to feel safe enough.

Aaaand, because I made the intelligent choice of doing this right as evening classes broke, I had people walking right into the field of view as I had gotten everything setup and the camera rolling. Frustrating. Some folks were gracious about it (which I appreciate, you anonymous UT students!). But others were just blind to the fact that there was a camera and flash going off once every five seconds and ... oh, yes, you're in my frame. Thanks. Really.

Another 50-ish photos where one in five was usable. I only got one frame I liked out of the entire setup.

I like playing with the camera. I'm finding that I don't really like being in front of it if I can't have someone experienced behind the lens. I much prefer being in direct control of the camera, honestly. Easier to make photos that are worth posting. There were a few folks that came up to me while I was playing to ask why the tower was orange. I should have roped them into having their photos taken. Maybe next time.

I might try this all again. There's a few other areas around campus that I want to set up at. Next time I'll have the knowledge I gathered tonight. Doubleplusgood for me.

Now, for some technical bits and a bonus photo!

The Tower photo was setup with an 18-55mm lens at F4, cranked to 18mm so I could get the entire tower in the frame. There is an SB-900 to camera left about 6 feet up from ground level and snooted with some blackwrap. The flash is zoomed to 200mm so I can get that nice, crisp shadow line against the wall behind my body. The blackwrap gave me the light falloff that I wanted for the stairs, so the rest of the scene (such as the trees) wouldn't be overpowered. Finally, it was triggered with pocket wizards.

Against the Wall

This photo was set up with an SB-900 with a full CTO gel mounted to camera left about 6 feet up. It was pumping at full power through a white 42" umbrella, just inside the archway between the columns. I wanted to get some nice, blue light coming in from the rest of the area, but dusk fell too quickly for me to get the look I wanted before the area was flooded by the ugly sodium lights in the walkways just out of view. This, too, was triggered via pocket wizards, important for this photo because I couldn't get line of sight needed to trigger via CLS.