Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to Take a Really Memorable Photo.

Bill Owens (Dolly Parton's Uncle) at the American Chestnut Foundation's 25th Anniversary Celebration in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Bill Owens is Dolly Parton's uncle. He is a songwriter who performs in the shows at Dollywood*. He is a supporter of the American Chestnut Foundation and provided the entertainment at the ACF's 25th anniversary celebration.

I bought my Sigma f/1.4 30mm lens for my Nikon D40 with events like this in mind. The ballroom in the Reed House Hotel in downtown Chattanooga seemed well enough lighted to my eyes but the light was quite dim for most cameras. Hotels are a horror show for existing light photographers. Lights are dim and oddly-colored and reflective surfaces are everywhere.


The Sigma was doing more or less what I had bought it for. I was shooting full auto and the D40 was doing 1/25 of a second at about f/2.8 -- an acceptable compromise for depth of field, hand-holdability and subject motion blur.


Mr. Owens was moving around a bit and the camera really liked that couple on the right side as the subject. I had a bit of a struggle getting it to ignore them and focus on Bill.


Add to that the facts that he had set up on the far side of the stage, I wasn't sitting that close to the stage and a 30mm lens is pretty wide at that distance and I was starting to get a bit frustrated. It didn't help that Mr. Owens was interacting with his slide show which kept his back mostly to me.


This shot above is probably the best I was going to do with the normal lens. I had convinced the camera to focus on the subject and I got a nice profile shot. But I wasn't completely satisfied. So, as he finished his last song I put on my longer but slower zoom lens and changed the setting that was keeping the camera from using the flash. I don't usually like photos taken with an on camera flash but they do generally have the advantage of being sharp and well exposed.

When Mr. Owens stood up after his set I also stood up and snapped the photo below.

It costs me a bit to admit that this is the most memorable photo of the group. The teleospouse still remembers the cost of the Sigma lens and my argument that it was my patriotic duty to go out and spend that economic stimulus check tends to fall on deaf ears. But she does react well to existing light photos. Unfortunately, this time it was the flash photo that grabbed her attention.

Looking at the shot on the LCD screen on the camera she told me that I really ought to show it to Mr Owens who was packing up his equipment.

I should have shown it to him. I'm sure he would have enjoyed it.

The problem is that I am a bit shy.

And I was already feeling a bit embarrassed by the Teleospose's howl when I showed her the photo. People were looking at us wondering what was going on.

Here's what she was looking at.


Entire Image

*I know what you're thinking. Dollywood, huh... But you're wrong. Dollywood is a class act. It's one of the nicest non-Disney theme parks with a wonderful mix of terrifying rides for teenagers, decent shows and traditional mountain craft exhibits. I recommend it.

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