I was asked by a friend, Eugene, if I wanted to shoot with him last Saturday (17 September 2011) at Hard Rock Cafe in Philadelphia. Since I had no plans whatsoever, it was a no brainer. We got there around 6 PM and the staff were busy doing their preparation and the cafe was closed to public. We parked our stuff in one of the offices and chose to use flashes. It was a good decision because in no time later the cafe was packed.
Prior to the guests pouring that time, we setup single strobe to take pictures of the buffet they set up for the guests. I should have used some diffuser to cut the harsh lights on the reflective surfaces on the buffet table, however, I did not have time to grab them from the basement and then back up since people were already in the cafe. I also decided to use on camera flash to take pictures of the guests, I should have brought Gary Fong’s light dome. However, my Sony HVL 58 AM was up for the tasks and did great. My gear for the shoot aside from the light stands that were used for the buffet tables were: Sony Alpha 850; Sony 50 mm F/1.4; Sony HVL 58 AM; a couple of Vivitar 285 and Pocket Wizards for wireless triggers.
My camera setting was mostly on F/4 and the shutter speed is 1/50 second (and changed it to 1/20 towards the later part of the shoot) and my ISO was 400. My sony flash came with a small bounce card which proved to be handy as well as the flash itself was so versatile that by keeping it vertical (like ceiling bounce) and bended it at an angle made the light fall better on the subject. I know F/4 will not give you sharp focus on other guests except the ones on the same focal plane as the focused subject but I can live with that as well as the aperture will save batteries on my flash. I focused on women’s eyes more because, heck, they need to be looking best than men.
I also practiced my social skills by asking the guests before I snapped their pictures. I would say 95% did not mind having their pictures taken whereas the remainder were asking a lot of questions like: where will the pictures be posted? what purpose? and all the crap. Well, the one thing that stood out in my head that time were a couple of things: they might be under witness protection program or the person they were with might not be their partner. However, that was a good training for me before I do street photography, in addition to getting skills on interacting with strangers. There was this incident in a shot I took of a group of guys who were glued on the television screen watching college football and I snapped away, as soon as I was walking away there was this guy who asked me if I asked his permission, I simply said no and I apologize. I think I asked him if he wanted me to delete the picture, I did not because he did not ask me to or probably he was just in some power trip of some sort or just busting my chaps.
To my amazement the battery on my camera was great, I did not even used up one battery compared to my other shoot. The secret was chimping, I did not chimp a lot. I took a shot and made my adjustment in camera (by the way I shot in manual mode, my preferred choice) and after I am satisfied with how the light fell on my subject as well as my aperture I was set and I did not have to look at the back of the camera every time I took a shot. Looking back at how I did the shots was kinda awesome (well for me at least) because after I asked their permission for the shot and took the shot, I said thank you and move to the next victim (so to speak) and all without chimping (very cool). It was like a professional photographer I saw in a wedding that took a shot and not looking at their camera (kinda like shooting in film).
What was more amazing was the post process, it did not take me a long time since there was little that I had to do. My keepers were now about 90% of all shots taken compared to less than 50% before. I hope this is telling me something. Also, I was so proud of my Sony Alpha 850 and the 50 mm lens because the pictures were so sharp.
Overall the Hard Rock Cafe experience was a delight and I would not have a chance if not for Eugene. I hope my shots are worth it to get another gig from them.