How to Photograph Events Pt I

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Image © Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography
Image © Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography

How to Photograph … Events Pt. I of 4

This is a four part series of tutorials, looking at event photography and in particular the Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2015. The tutorials are primarily for the benefit of the volunteer photographers at the festival, however if others gain some inspiration or knowledge from these articles, please feel free to share your comments at the end of the tutorial.

Many images used are by previous volunteer photographers and are courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. My thanks to all for their permission to use their images.

Tutorial Outlines

Part I In this month we will be dealing the element of movement. How to show off your boat’s lines and power. We will also look at how to improve the image to increase its dynamism and add a sense of drama. In short if your boat moves, we will endeavour to show you how to capture its grace, power and the reason why you enjoy it so much.

Part II In the second tutorial we will look at how to capture luxury and details. They maybe the same thing. All boats have a great deal of effort put into how they look and what they do. All are for some form of lifestyle, whether it be a fishing trawler or a palatial cruising yacht or the humble rowing boat. What defines them and makes them special? We will look into this next month to show you how you might approach these shots.

Part III Month three moves over to events. In this month we will be looking at working with light and how to capture images at all times of the day and the tips and tricks that enable you to capture great shots, even in the midday sun.

Part IV Month four will be the final one in the series and will look at working with people. In particular how to approach strangers to get shots you want. We will look at the types of shots you might consider to enhance these images. Working with people also brings up the concerns of Model Releases, so we will look at this briefly as well.

Where do you start?

The first and perhaps most important question is what is the photograph for?

Are they to show off an owner's pride and joy? Are you promoting an interest in a lifestyle? Is it to show how much power it has? Or how relaxing the days have become now they have a boat? Whatever the reason they influence the way to approach your shots. They all represent a lifestyle. Movement is a big part of this lifestyle, whether it be raw, brute force or sedate, and refined elegance. There are so many watercraft that this subject could involve hours of dissecting what to do with each vessel, instead we will look at the common denominators to enable you to make a start. From these guides you can develop your own creative flair to capture what is great and good about the craft you are photographing.

How to create the sense of movement in an image

Every vessel has a front and a back. In its simplest form movement can be shown by allowing the vessel to move into the image or show where it has come from, ie leave space in front of or behind vessel. This way even when the boat is hardly moving you develop a sense of movement. Look also at the diagonal lines – top left to bottom right and top right to bottom left. By doing this you introduce the lines of the craft and another dimension for added interest. If you can get above or below the subject you begin to encourage another perspective and thus more information for the viewer to develop the story in the image.

Examples of putting space forward of the boat showing you where it is going, allowing the viewer to see this creates the sense of movement. Above: Having the rowing boat on a slight angle across the image adds more information about the boat for the viewer. Below: Even though this image has been taken from side on, by lifting the bow a little higher than the stern, it gives the sail boat a little more forward momentum to the viewer. Images Courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival ©
Examples of putting space forward of the boat showing you where it is going, allowing the viewer to see this creates the sense of movement. Above: Having the rowing boat on a slight angle across the image adds more information about the boat for the viewer. Below: Even though this image has been taken from side on, by lifting the bow a little higher than the stern, it gives the sail boat a little more forward momentum to the viewer. Images Courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival ©
Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

What shows power?

For many the draw of power on the water is what gets the adrenalin going. What shows power? Strength? Graceful ease? An easier way to show muscle in a boat requires an element of getting up close. Have the boat in your face so speak. Have it rearing above you and showing its lines and the effects of it power, eg rushing waves, flying wake, hull rearing out of the water. The more extreme the better. Use angles as discussed previously to heighten the drama and develop the story. The more information you can give the viewer, the more they sense the emotion you felt when capturing the image.

Getting low to the water line enables you move the bow higher up in the image adding to the impression of surging forward. Using diagonals and allowing space forward of the boat makes this a powerful image. The fact that the boat is listing and sails full and spray being forced sideways adds to the dynamics and creates this great image. Image Courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival ©
Getting low to the water line enables you move the bow higher up in the image adding to the impression of surging forward. Using diagonals and allowing space forward of the boat makes this a powerful image. The fact that the boat is listing and sails full and spray being forced sideways adds to the dynamics and creates this great image. Image Courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival ©
 Yes it’s a model, but the rules apply. The powerful motion from back to front is driven by the lines of the wake. Having the boat turn away at the last moment shows the lines, and develops that “in your face” force, that dominates the image. Coupled together these create a great sense of power and speed even in a model boat.  Image © Terry Sims | Courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival

Yes it’s a model, but the rules apply. The powerful motion from back to front is driven by the lines of the wake. Having the boat turn away at the last moment shows the lines, and develops that “in your face” force, that dominates the image. Coupled together these create a great sense of power and speed even in a model boat.

Image © Terry Sims | Courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival

Capturing Power

In capturing these images, it is inevitable that you will be following the movement of the boat with your camera. As the boat is also moving the chance for blurring from camera shake and boat movement is vastly increased. So look at using increased shutter speeds to 1/1000th second or faster. For those using compact cameras that do not offer this option, look for the Sports/Action setting. This will increase the shutter speed automatically.

 Again using a close up and having the boat show as much as possible of her hull and deck to create the dominating feel of the boat. The wake created round her as she powered round a corner, emphasises that power and thrill of the moment.  Image © Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography

Again using a close up and having the boat show as much as possible of her hull and deck to create the dominating feel of the boat. The wake created round her as she powered round a corner, emphasises that power and thrill of the moment.

Image © Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography

Panning

Another way to capture movement is with panning. This technique is somewhat trial and error and subject to the speed of the boat being photographed. The aim is to find a shutter speed somewhere around 125th – 400th of a second to freeze the vessel movement but blur the background it is moving through. This also requires a DSLR camera to really stand a chance, (you may get lucky with a compact). Prior to taking the shot set the camera to continuous focus (ie: when you half press the shutter release button and move the camera around, it will try to keep focus as you move.) This is important, if you do not set continuous focus, when you start to track and half press the shutter release, it will focus on the start point only. When you finally take the image it will be out of focus.

To capture the shot, you follow the vessel with the shutter release half depressed and focussed on the moving vessel. As it moves to where you want to take your shot, fully release the shutter whilst still moving with the boat. The result if all goes to plan is a clear boat and blurred background. Take time to practice this. The faster the boat the faster the shutter speed required, but you should never need to go above 1/400th second

 This boat was moving at close 110knots/hr (200kph) Using the yellow/black section of hull just below the driver enabled a great focus point for the camera to track. Avoid using blurry or indefinite edges as focus points, the camera will find it far harder to maintain focus whilst tracking. Note the shutter speed used despite this boat travelling at 200kph – Camera settings 246mm ISO 400, 1/100th sec, f16.  Image © Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography

This boat was moving at close 110knots/hr (200kph) Using the yellow/black section of hull just below the driver enabled a great focus point for the camera to track. Avoid using blurry or indefinite edges as focus points, the camera will find it far harder to maintain focus whilst tracking. Note the shutter speed used despite this boat travelling at 200kph – Camera settings 246mm ISO 400, 1/100th sec, f16.

Image © Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography

Now it is time to practice :)

Good luck!

Still feel like you are heading for a disaster?

Fear not, help is at hand. If you have a question, post it here and we will see what we can do to help.  Image © Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography
Fear not, help is at hand. If you have a question, post it here and we will see what we can do to help. Image © Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography

© Robert Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography Travel and Events Photography and Editorial

Next Month

Luxury is another aspect, whether it be the appointments or the exquisite craftsmanship involved. In both cases, you will be looking at bright, clean and detailed images. We will also look at Lifestyle, as another aspect that is a big drawcard for boat owners. What does your boat enable you to do? Why has it now made your life so much better? If it is the access to unique locations, then think about where you can take your boat to enhance your photos.