When you live in a big, bustling city you don't always remember that it's a lot harder to get in and out of smaller towns in rural and semi-rural areas. Just getting to New Bern, North Carolina to take a photograph today was an undertaking. There is a small airport there but there are only two airlines that fly to and from it. I started my day in Knoxville, TN. and flew to Charlotte, NC. At the Charlotte airport they called for boarding and we walked down stairs and across the tarmac to a small 50 passenger jet parked on the runway. When we landed about 45 minutes later in New Bern we exited the airplane and walked across their tarmac and into the airport. There are two gates at the New Bern airport. The same people who work at the front desk to check you in and check your baggage close the front dest about a half hour before the flight is scheduled to depart and hustle out to the gates to also act as gate agents and baggage handlers.
I got to New Bern around 12:15 in the afternoon and my portrait subject came by in his pickup truck and we headed off to a job site to make his environmental portrait. We were working in direct sun, at midday so I put together a 4x4 foot Chimera scrim panel and "flew" it over my subject's head to block the harsh, direct sunlight. A bit of wind picked up so I grabbed the backpack I've been carrying and tied it to the light stand to anchor it. Then I set up one of the Neewer Vision 4, lithium battery powered mono-lights, and a 2 foot by 3 foot soft box and used it as a main light, coming in at a nice angle under the scrim.
I had my subject in the foreground and the background was filled with heavy machinery; earth movers, bulldozers, and some stuff I was even sure what it was supposed to do. I was rushing myself a bit because my guy had a meeting after my session and it was something he really couldn't miss. I made a few mistakes but nothing I can't "fix in post." I caught one of my mistakes about half way through the session and fixed it. I'd set a high kelvin value yesterday for an interior shoot lit mostly by diffuse cloud light and I'd forgotten to do a color balance reset before I started today. And it's embarrassing because I teach people all the time and stress the need to "zero out" one's cameras before every new shoot.... I felt too rushed to follow my own advice but I caught myself and actually started repeating to myself "slow down. Do this right."
Of course, I ended up overshooting and we walked away from the demolition site with about three hundred variations on a theme. My subject (an employee of the company I'm working for on this trip) was patient and never rushed and when we were finished he dropped me back by the tiny airport on his way to the meeting.
Someone at the home office must have imagined that we'd spend all day photographing our person because they booked me on the last flight out of town (7:30pm) heading back to Charlotte and connecting with a flight to Tampa, FLA that arrives just after midnight. I got to the New Bern airport at around 2pm and walked in with my two 50 pound cases and my small backpack, confident that I could sweet talk my way onto an earlier flight instead of cooling my heels for the next five hours....
And it would have been nice to get into Tampa early enough to actually enjoy my hotel room rather than using it as a napping way station... But when I walked up to the front desk at this international airline outlet.......there was no one there. As in: no person anywhere behind the counter.
They had all assumed their various roles in expediting a departure. And guess what? Since there is no food service at either of the two gates the TSA shuts down the gate area between flights. You can't even check in and cool your heels at the gate. The gate and the security check area open about an hour before the flights. Then, when the last flight arrives from Charlotte (all flights go through either Charlotte or Atlanta, depending on whether you are flying American or Delta) the airport stays open for about a half hour longer before turning off the lights and locking the doors. If you miss your flight you will not be spending the night at the airport...
When the staff finally returned they let me know that the next flight, the one before my flight, was full. They actually can't fill the whole plane, they told me, because the runway is not long enough to handle a fully loaded jet. Kind of fills one with confidence, right?
Thank goodness for one thing though. Even though the New Bern airport has only one food service establishment (outside TSA security and the gates, right next to the tiny baggage claim area) it's actually pretty darn good and never ever crowded. It's called The Triple Play Oasis and the young woman who works there (my one data point) makes a good cheeseburger, crispy good, fresh French fries and on Thursdays you can get a beer for $3.50.
I'll get into my Airport Hampton Suites in Tampa well after midnight and my client's Florida representative is scheduled to collect me there at 7 am tomorrow to begin our last day of shooting this week. It's been a long one but it's fun. It feels like the way we used to work back in the 1980's and 1990's but with cameras that are more fun and easier to use. But the secret to doing good, quick work like this is to have an almost intimate relationship with your flash equipment. You should have a good idea exactly how the final image is going to look and what the flashes will deliver before you even pull a case out of the rental car trunk.
I guess I should wrap this post up as my flight leaves in about two hours and I wouldn't want to be late. The gate is about 150 feet from the restaurant.
I have no idea what we'll be photographing tomorrow but I know it will be mostly people and all the images will be on exterior locations.
Since we were moving fast and were on a dusty demolition job site I put my camera and lens together in the pickup truck to avoid getting dust on the back of the lens or the sensor. I chose a G9 with the Olympus 12-100mm, thinking I might want or need the longer reach to compress the background for some of the closer, more classic portrait compositions. I took a chance and tried syncing at 1/320th of a second and it actually worked. But then, after the realization of my white balance imbroglio I switched down to 1/250th just to be conservative. Looking through the images just a few minutes ago I couldn't see any downside from my little sync experiment, but be forewarned, every flash system is different. Test, test, test.
One more thing. Mr. Katz asked about the variable aperture characteristics of the Panasonic/Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4.0. I thought I'd answer. Just consider it a 12mm f2.8 prime and the consider the lens for the rest of the time to be an f4.0. It crosses the line pretty quickly. By 25mm you are well past the f3.5 zone and heading toward f3.8. When I use a variable aperture zoom I just assume I'll set it at the max aperture of the slowest setting and shoot like that. So, in my mind, since I shot between 25mm and 60mm mostly I instantly presume that the lens is a constant aperture f4.0. And it still seems nice and sharp to me.
I get Saturday, Monday and Tuesday off but I'm heading back out of town again for Wednesday and Thursday, packing and bill paying on Friday next week, and then off to Iceland. Maybe I'll sleep on the plane...... Did professional photography just get popular again? Seems like I'm working all the time.
Morning edit. 10-19.
Got to Tampa a little late and checked into the hotel around 12:45 am. Quick shower and then right into bed. Got a solid five hours and then up for breakfast. Client arranged to meet me in the lobby at 7 sharp. It's now 7:15 am. We'll see just how much sleep I gave up in order to be punctual....
Looking over the photos from yesterday I was very happy with the performance of the G9 and the 12-100mm. It's a nice combo.
Today is the end of this week's march through the Southeast. I've been in four different hotels and by the end of the day today I will have flown on ten different flights through eight airports. I guess it's good practice for my baggage handling skills in anticipation of my trip to Reykjavik and points beyond. I have re-remembered one critical point: The more you carry the less you photograph. I look forward to the Iceland trip because there are really no expectations that I will (or have to) come back with great photographs nor do I have to cover every photographic opportunity that presents itself.
If I do a good job teaching a bit of technical and aesthetic stuff to my fellow workshoppers and help people translate motivation to fun and engaging photographs I will have done my job. While I want to photograph the adventure as well I have the distinct and delicious privilege of taking just one camera and lens, or even no camera and lens and just enjoying the process. Of course, I won't go camera naked because the minute I step off the plane I know my decades of photo-lust would kick in and drive me nuts.
Field Notes: When shooting in direct sun it's good to bring along a dark, cotton baseball cap with a bill. Works well to additionally block light on the EVF and the rear screen giving one a fighting chance to see meaningful information.
Getting ready to work one more day and then get home to the center of the Universe. That's Austin, Texas (your location may vary.....).
And to end this blog post, just got a text from the client this morning. Remember that 7 am rendezvous? The text read: "on the way."
My text: "ETA?"
Response: "About an hour." Oh, the lost sleep....sad.