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Archive for June, 2013

Wedding Photo Booth

For my wedding I wanted a photobooth setup and since I had most of the equipment to pull it off I decided to put together my own. For those wanting to setup something similar here’s how I accomplished it. My setup centered around my Panasonic GH2 camera with a 20mm lens (40mm equivalent in 35mm terms) mounted on a tripod about chin height. I attached an electronic cable release so the participants could self-trigger their own photos and tapped a plastic cup to the front leg of the tripod as a holder for the release between shots. The LCD back panel was flipped out and turned to face the participants so they could frame themselves. I rented a backdrop from Mike’s Camera and set it about 4-5 feet from the camera making sure it filled the frame.

My mom and a friend provided two boxes of props which quickly got used to make some hilarious photos. The strong afternoon sun was shinning through trees behind the backdrop and gave some extra texture to the background in the early shots of the series.

For lighting I had the pop-up flash on the camera to trigger two Yongnuo YN-560 flashes set to Slave 1 mode on light stands and with shoot-through umbrellas. The flashes were placed at 45 degrees to camera right and left and set on about 1/64 power with the flip diffuser down. (A few times I walked by the setup and adjusted the flash power if I saw blown out highlights on the LCD.) I had originally thought about using my cheap radio triggers, but relying on slave triggering I didn’t have to worry about the batteries in the radio receivers dying.

A white-board was an excellent prop for messages and titles on a few photos.

The toy gun proved a popular accessory as well.

Smart phones were pushed into service as an additional prop to complete costumes.

I first saw this next photo and thought “Who’s posing with my Mom, and why are they wearing Dad’s tie?”

I left the camera on program mode, auto ISO and auto white-balance due to the changing light from having this setup outside. The focus mode was on face-detection and I didn’t see any shots where that seems to have failed to lock on someone. The camera usually went with a wide open aperture for an out of focus background.

That narrow depth-of-field defeated some larger groups, leaving some participants out of focus. I’d consider manually setting the aperture to something like f/7.1 or 8 and bumping up my flash power – especially if this was setup indoors where lighting conditions would be consistent. I’d also consider having some studio strobes since they could be plugged in and I wouldn’t have to worry about the flash batteries dying.

I’ve no idea how my lapel flower got squashed.

If I set this up again I might add a step stool for those of flower-girl height.

I love that the catering staff and band were willing to play along.

Key to making this work was the feedback and inspiration of transferring the photos off the camera rapidly to a laptop that randomly displayed the photos, but also immediately showed any just-downloaded photos. With some Nikon and Canon cameras I could have setup a tethered capture and some newer semi-pro cameras have built-in wireless. For the GH2 I had to use an Eye-Fi card and capture medium sized jpegs to transfer them quickly enough. The Eye-Fi card draws extra power so I had purchased a cheap AC adapter for the camera to ensure no one had to monitor the camera and switch out batteries. A laptop joined the Eye-Fi card network and ran the Eye-Fi helper to pull all the photos to a folder. Then I launched an app called “Photolive” that displayed all the images in that folder full-screen, randomly, but always displayed newly arrived photos immediately. An iPad would have probably been ideal for displaying the images if I had one. Pretty soon we had a huge crowd around the photo-booth and most people took part.

With some more testing time and money I could have purchased some of the professional photo-booth management software that would have allowed selective printing of images just like the photo-booths of days gone by.

I had a few extra bits of gear stashed away in case of emergencies. 4 charged camera batteries + the charger, extra flash batteries + charger, radio triggers, small softboxes (if it got too windy for the umbrellas), scissors, rope (used to guy out my lightweight light stand when a little wind came in) and a couple tent stakes, gaffers tape (helped to hold the cup on the tripod and replace a missing screw on the backdrop), extension cords, spare lenses, memory (in case the Eye-Fi card filled up), etc.

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Wedding Cruiser Ride

Tara had the brilliant idea of having our own cruiser ride to kick off our wedding weekend. Costumes and bike decorations were strongly encouraged with the theme “black and white” and I think everyone figured out who the bride and groom were.

Adult beverages may have enlivened the gathering.

My formal wear may have fallen over my eyes while biking.

Partway into our ride we stopped for a group photo (I should have brought a 2nd flash to avoid casting some people in shadow).

We also discovered that a few people crashed our cruiser ride thinking it was one of the regular events. It pleased us immensely to know that people might have confused our little gathering with one of the hugely popular regular rides.

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Over Memorial Weekend I attended a two day orienteering meet held by the Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club at the Peaceful Valley Boyscout camp. Day one consisted of morning and afternoon training sessions.

In the afternoon I ran another course for practice then rested up for the night orienteering event. For my first night event I was pretty surprised how well it went, as I didn’t really mess up any control points. The night course seemed to have lots of handrails to guide you in to control points and features that would catch you quickly if you went too far. I ended up with the 2nd fastest time of the night.

The next day a standard orienteering event was held and I did the green course (hardest difficulty, but a shorter course than the red). My instructor from the training event the day before beat me so that I got another 2nd place finish. There were a couple controls in particular that I really messed up and I know I need to work on keeping a bearing across long distances without obvious handrails.

The next weekend I was able to travel to Buena Vista for the club’s night and standard courses. This time the night course had a long or short option. Seeing that it was only my 2nd night course, I chose the short course. I found this course harder than the prior weekend’s but managed a first place finish.

After I finished up the course I grabbed my camera equipment and tucked myself behind some trees and rocks with two flashes set off 45 degrees on either side of the camera and my radio triggers then waited for the other participants to finish.

Afterwards most everyone camped out in the area near the course under a beautiful star-filled night.

The next morning I again signed up for the <A HREF="http://app.strava.com/activities/57842828"Green level course and was hoping for another strong finish. Unfortunately, I really messed up one control point, spending about a 3rd of my total race time on it and at one point realized I was off my map. I briefly considered logging a Did-Not-Finish but the march back to the finish sent me close enough to the control that caused me such trouble and the final two points that I went ahead and finished. I still managed a 4th place showing and knew I wasn’t ready to move up to the Red courses until I stop making such major mistakes.

Again, I setup my camera at the finish control point and got a few photos of other participants completing their courses.

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