The second seminar I photographed on Sunday afternoon July 27th was the Knife Fighting Seminar. Sifu Cory Walken hired me through my experience photographing other similar seminars with Arjhan David Brown and Kru Yai Katherine Holmes.
A Serious Lesson:
For this seminar, we headed to Gasworks Park on the north shore of Lake Union in Seattle. I was a gorgeous day. Beautiful day. Crisp blue skies with just enough clouds to break the constant color, deep green grass, the brown of the rusting structures.
The Wrong Way:
As the light was simple, mid-afternoon Sun with little clouds, I used the “Sunny 16 Rule” for my exposure. Basically, at f/5.6, my shutter was 1/2000th of a second. At f/16, 1250th. Read more here: Sunny 16: An Old Rule for a new Age
As I wanted to make sure I had details in the shadows, I used my Nikon SB-910 flash in High-Synch mode or Auto FP. This allowed me to use the faster shutter speeds so I can control my depth of field easier. It’s just a simple setting on the camera.
For my Nikon D300s, it’s in the Custom Setting Menu under Flash/Bracketing. Then go to Flash Synch Speed and choose either the 1/250 Auto FP or the 1/320 Auto FP setting. This allows you to shoot using the higher shutter speeds.
What the flash does at the higher shutter speeds is pulse in a rapid series to expose the entire sensor/film as the curtain passes over the sensor/film. This allows an even flash exposure over the entire area.
***TIP: Dial down the strength of your strobe to -2 or -3 stops. You’re just adding a touch of fill, not trying to overpower the Sun. There is a different technique for that.
The beautiful light also made my white balance issues go away. I just set my camera on Sunny and left it there. Made it simple for me as all I had to do was concentrate on compositions and moments.
Up Close With Death:
As I stated in the post “Photographing a Gun Defense and Knife Fighting Seminar – Part 1,” the lighting was atrocious. So getting a good white balance proved extremely difficult. Working outside alleviated that so I was able to concentrate on composition and moment.
Another great thing about shooting at the park for this seminar was the wide-open space. I did not have to worry about walls, mirrors, or the cramped conditions. It was magical. I could also effectively use my 80-200 zoom lens for better lensing coverage.
My Favorite Shot:
As it grew late in the afternoon, the shadows cast by the participants grew longer as well. I used this as a compositional device to add an extra element. In the photo below, the shadows give a sense of a larger crowd as the two instructors demonstrated techniques.
What are some of the challenges you perceive while photographing in the early afternoon sun? Have you used the flash in FP mode? What were some of the unexpected results?
Do you or anyone you know in the Seattle/Bellingham area need seminars photographed for their business? If so, have them contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the contact form here: Contact Paul Conrad
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Paul “pablo” Conrad
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