Short Assignment – Lantern Festival
I was asked to photograph a primary school lantern festival. I thought this would be a challenge and an ideal subject for this exercise, so I chose this as the focus instead of doing a portrait shoot.
After completing Exercise 1 and knowing that this is an open ended photo shoot I am aware that my workflow needs to be adapted, due to it’s unstructured nature and unpredictable number of images. I have created a workflow (above) that I intend to use for this exercise. This has been adapted from the workflow I used for the first exercise. The changes are based on the unpredictable nature of the shoot and a larger amount of possible images. In the pre-shoot section I have included extra blank memory cards, a spare fully charged battery and a variety of lenses. During the shoot I have included the possibility of changing lens to suit a different angle or viewpoint and the option to delete unwanted images in the camera when necessary. The only addition I made to the processing part of my workflow was to include the option to print when distributing my work. In this digital age I often forget about printing my photographs which is a shame and something I should try to do more of.
Since this is an open workflow I have included an arrow from the post-shoot back to pre-shoot as there may be a need to go through the entire process again to capture suitable images.
Pre-shoot – There have been many times when I’ve gone out with my camera and I’ve had to cut short my photographing because the battery was not fully charged or my memory card had images from a previous shoot. Depending on my previous shoot will also determine existing camera settings. Sometimes I forget to change the white balance setting and have subsequently been disappointed about my images because of an incorrect colour-cast. Luckily I tend to shoot in raw, so I am able to correct this, but it still takes time when processing the images. Sometimes I may have used the ‘continuous’ shooting mode for taking photos of moving subjects. It can be a shock to go to take the first photo during a new session and have a burst of exposures. By ensuring that my camera is always set to pre-determined settings I will know what needs to be altered when out in the field.
Since the lantern festival was going to be at night I made sure that I packed my tripod and remote control so that I could take photos in the low-light conditions without the need for flash. In the past I would sometimes get spots on my images from dirty lenses, so I made a point of cleaning them as part of my work flow. I had also made a note of key shots I wanted to take in my notebook, including various viewpoints and angles to capture the atmosphere of the parade.
During the shoot – It was a very dark evening with poor lighting conditions. I kept the ISO at 200 to avoid graininess and to try to recreate the atmosphere of the event. The lighting was a mixture of tungsten street lights and candles in the lanterns, so I kept the white balance set to auto and shot raw, this would enable me to change the colour temperature if necessary on the computer. Due to the poor light, I also opened up the aperture to f/4.0 and decreased the shutter speed so that I didn’t have to rely on the flash. Using the tripod and a long exposure enabled me to capture the glow of the candles in the lantern. A lot of the marshals were wearing reflective jackets and using a flash would just highlight these and drown out the surrounds. I weaved my way in and out of the parade, trying to get right into the action. Other times I stayed back at a distance, near the sidelines to try and capture the scale of the event. The workflow gave me a good checklist to refer to of things to remember to set on my camera. Having a list of the types of shot that I wanted to capture also helped me know where to position myself during the parade.
Post-shoot – after uploading my photos to Aperture I deleted those pictures where I had used the flash and it had either captured just the reflective strips or bleached the lanterns so that they looked white and unlit. Sometimes I also misjudged the shutter speed and in some photos the people were blurred. I deleted those images too. Having deleted unwanted images in-camera during the shoot meant that this part of the processing phase was much quicker. Some images also needed cropping due to the odd hand or part of someone”s body on the edge of the frame. I found this process much more efficient to what I would previously have done. I used to go through the processing steps for all of my images, one by one. This was very time consuming, and often left me with still too many images to choose from. Waiting a day before returning to my selects was very helpful as it enabled me to review my images with a fresh pair of eyes. I spotted some flaws in some selects so I deleted them too. This meant that I could spend a good amount of time on a smaller set of images that I felt had potential.
Eventually I chose 2 images which the school could use for promotional material. These were:
I split the post-photo shoot into 3 parts: processing; archiving; and distributing. This enabled me to discipline myself to label and tag the images correctly, because I knew where they were destined for. Also, because I was much more ruthless during the processing stage, I had fewer images to archive and distribute. This was particularly important because of the number of different agencies involved and wanting photographs. Durham University’s Centre for Medical Humanities used one of my photos for their blog.
Reflection – The workflow plan really helped me, especially before the shoot. The poor lighting condition was a challenge, so I spent most of my time concentrating on working out the correct shutter speed to use without having to worry about whether I had everything with me. There was a lot happening in the parade giving me lots of opportunities to take photos. Having brought the spare memory cards meant that space was not an issue and I could capture a lot more images. Using a longer shutter speed also drained the camera’s battery a lot quicker, so having a spare battery was also very beneficial. I had nearly 200 images at the beginning of the post-shoot phase so it was a helpful process to reject unwanted images. Due to the large amount of images it was also good to tag and label them correctly during the processing stage. This had always been something I did after uploading them to Flickr and it used to be difficult finding images at a later date on my Mac. The distribution part of the post-shoot phase was very useful for this kind of project in order to send images to the various agencies involved.
Whilst I was pleased with the outcome of this project it will be useful to return to this next year, following the loop from post-shoot back to pre-shoot on my workflow. I would like to try different types of shot using slower shutter speeds which would make the workflow more specific.
Due to the open-nature of the project I feel that the workflow gave me the flexibility I needed whilst steering me in the right direction. I will continue to revisit my workflow and see how it can be refined and improved.