Fast-paced photography

by | 2018-03-28 9:38pm Asia/Tokyo

Fast-paced photography

2018-03-28 9:38pm Asia/Tokyo

The city of Saga is on a mission to attract more tourism. They’ve had an event recently with the rennovation of a museum and new exhibits there, along with some other local seasonal events (usually around Christmas and New Years).

They are working on a new tourism experience that I had the chance to photograph over the weekend. Along with Soejima Takae, I did the photography for a “model tour”, the photos of which will be used to promote the experience.

The tour is a half-day bike-ride and kayaking trip down a local man-made river.

In the past, I’ve done some school event photography that required quite a bit of moving around. I’ve done the photography at several schools for their Sports Day event, a school event in the summer where several track and field sports are played. That photography required a bit of running around to get into good positions, but most of the time I didn’t really have to move around. The photography for Saga’s model tour, however, involved a lot of cycling and quick dismounts. It was probably the most active photography experience I’ve had so far. It really tested my ability to quickly get into a good position and constantly evaluate the photographic environment I was in. I had to ride ahead of the tour group, find a good spot to dismount, move into position, then capture the right moment at the right angle, all within a short time span. No time for careful, deliberate, thought. I had to work based on instincts and skills I had already developed.

As I said before, the purpose of the day’s photography was to advertise that cycling and kayaking experience. Photos for the promotion need to communicate:

  1. Place. At least some pictures need to communicate that the tour is in Saga.
  2. Season. The tour is held in spring. That means blue skys and cherry blossoms in Japan.
  3. Fun. Show smiling faces and fun activity. Since it’s a group experience, showing that people going on the tour will have fun as a group was important.

With those messages in mind, I felt that I’d be mostly shooting wide-angle to capture both context and fun moments within the group, so although I brought my Olympus 40-150mm 2.8, I knew I’d mostly be using my trusty 12-40mm 2.8. I also took along a Pentax with a fish-eye lens to test out the fish-eye’s usefulness on the job.

I’d say that, in general, I did a good job. I think about 10-15% of my photos did a good job of hitting the above communication notes along with being technically good (in focus, etc.). In my experience, having 10% usable photos after doing personal or professional work has been pretty standard for me. I’m not sure how it is for more experienced professionals, but I think for someone at my level of experience, that’s pretty good.

The requirements of the job were in sync with my own personal need to get better at wide-angle photography. However, I have less experience with wide-angles than I do with telephoto photography, so my photos don’t really reflect my best work. Looking through the photos I took, I can see that my wide-angle instincts aren’t as well honed as my telephoto instincts.

Takae was my boss on this job. She had a few critiques of my work that I need to think about and improve on.

  1. I was working in a team of three photographers, but I was often so close to my subjects–who were the main subjects of certain photography opportunities–that I prevented my teammates from taking good photos themselves. This is a reflection of my desire to use wide-angles. I typically use telephoto angles to focus on one or two subjects. I was attempting to do the same with, only with a wide angle. Thus, I need to be more careful about photobombing my teammates.
  2. Related to the previous issue, for jobs like this one, Takae would like me to balance my focus more between the central photography subjects and the peripheral subjects. Like I wrote above, I like to focus on a few subjects, but for jobs like this, I need to step back and try to communicate as much about what is happening. I have to show both the central players as well as the peripheral players in as interesting a way as possible.
  3. Although it was not in the job description, Takae would like me to be able to do the photography for such a job in the future all by myself. In the future, even if the main requirements of the job don’t call for it, and even if I am working in a team, I should pretend that I’m solo and need to take all of the necessary shots by myself. That means not relying on my teammates to take some pictures and focusing on others. In other words, there may be significant overlap in the kind of photos that I and my teammates take.

It’s tough to find a balance between pretending to be solo vs. staying out of the way of my teammates, but I suppose my main weakness (when it comes to this kind of work) is my tendency to get tunnel vision. Of course, when it comes to taking pictures of bugs, flowers, etc. focusing on one main subject and making and interesting photo is important. I’ve gotten good practice doing that. So, learning to do this kind of photography will help me grow my artistic toolkit.

However, the good news is that I did get a chance to use my 40-150mm.