Shooting My First Commencement

Posted: May 27, 2013 in Photography
Tags: , , ,

Yesterday May 26th I traveled to Cornell University to shoot pictures of the 2013 Materials Science and Engineering Commencement.

First off you should find out how to get to the place that the event is located at. I used google maps on my phone and it sent me to a dead end road in the middle of now where. Luckily I had some idea of where I was going, so I made a adjustment and arrived in plenty of time.

My camera bag was full of everything I owned and plus I brought a tripod with me as well. There where around 60 student taking part, plus some special awards to be handed out. So the shoot wasn’t going to be a huge memory problem and I didn’t have to worry about batteries either with such a small group. Last week I did buy a battery pack for my flash, increasing my recycle time between shots. I wasn’t sure how fast the students would be called up to receive their diplomas.

When I arrived I met with the lady that had hired me for the job. She was very nice and seemed to be laid back and not to worried about the days event. This eased my nerves a little, because I was a bit nervous about how I was going to have to shoot this huge day for the graduating students.

The big event was going to take place in a big tent outside Bard Hall. The weather was sunny and a little cool, but at least it wasn’t raining or snowing.

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Inside the tent was pretty dark and out side was very bright giving me a challenging day of shooting. So I popped a flash on my Canon 7D and set it to manual mode. I took a meter reading of the bright sun outside of the tent and then used the flash to fill in the front of the students.

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A fellow photographer was shooting next to me in another tent, I went over and talked to him about how he was dealing with the conditions. He had a big flash on a stand shooting straight up bouncing off the tent onto the stage. He also didn’t have the bright sun behind him, he was lucky enough to have a wall behind the stage. After seeing his setup I thought about setting up my stand with a flash on it but, I didn’t think I had enough power to over power the sun.

I went with speed lights on both of my cameras. On my 7D I had my 70-200 2.8 lens, and a 24-75 on my 50D. This setup gave me a good range to shoot all kinds of shots throughout the day.

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After all of the diplomas where handed out we went out side for some group shots. This proved to be a challenge as well with the sun beating down making shadows and blown out highlights.

I moved the students to a partly shaded area for the big group shot. We packed everybody in trying to get them close for a nice shot. As I was getting them together the parents where crowding around not allowing me to get back far enough to get everybody in the shot. So I had to ask them to step back so I could get the shot. After that was finished I continued to shoot some small groups which was much easier to shoot. The only problem that I had was the big bright white diplomas acting light bounce cards in the midday sun.

This was a good experience for me and I’m glad it worked out good for me and the students. I learned that you must be ready for every kind of condition and be able to make changes to overcome those curveballs.

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