Tim Cook at Apple's Education Event
Last week's education event in Chicago was held in a high school. Thus, the presentation was held in an actual high school auditorium.
I take photos during these things for documentation (it's easier to shoot a screen full of stats and specs than to write it all down) and to maybe wind up a shot or two that I can use with whatever I write about it.
When I was led to a fifth-row seat in this small auditorium, I added a third: to do some actual, you know, photography. In the typical Apple keynote, it's a much bigger place and the people who aren't specifically photographers don't get to sit this close.
I was so close, in fact, that I had to choose between either close-up shots of the presenters or wide shots of the stage; I knew I couldn't swap lenses easily during the event. I kept the long zoom on my Olympus E-M1 and ultimately was very glad that I did.
I really like this shot of Tim Cook. He's a great presenter of course. The problem with shooting him during a preso is that he's methodical and precise as opposed to demonstrative. If you get a shot of him smiling, it'll happen when the crowd does something he found funny, or at the very end, when he's not quite so focused.
Photo notes: I owe this shot to my experience shooting roller derby. Truth! Shooting women tearing around an indoor track taught me a few things:
1) If you want sharp photos of anything that isn't just sitting rock-still, a high shutter speed is your only choice. 1/250th is the minimum you can get away with and 1/400th or better is where you'd rather be. Previously at this kind of event, I'd respond to the low light by risking longer exposures and trusting to luck.
2) Don't be afraid of high ISOs. There are tradeoffs for sure, but you can remove most of the high-ISO noise on your Mac (I use Noiseless CK) and restore much of the "liveliness" of the color and lighting you lost by not shooting at 200 or 400. Here, as I do when shooting derby, I started off shooting at the highest ISO I was even barely comfortable with (6400!) and then kept moving it down as I saw how the camera performed.
3) The number of frames you shoot doesn't matter...just the one or two that make the final cut. Over the course of an hour or more, I shot hundreds of photos. I wound up with just one in which Tim was in perfect focus, smiling, making an active gesture, framed up nicely with an interesting background...and looking at the camera! And that's all that matters.
I'll also throw in "a camera that you know intimately will take better photos than one with which you're unfamiliar." Four years is enough time for me to have made every mistake possible with this camera and to have learned how to not make that mistake again. It wasn't the highest quality camera in that room by any stretch, but I know how to make it do what I want it to do.
Oh, and, uh: clean your lens. "Why the hell won't you focus lock?!" I muttered, as I tried to get a shot of Al Gore. My first instinct was "not enough light" or "wrong focus mode." No, it was a thick smudge on the lens. Duh.
A brilliant photo? I can't say, but it's a photo I like. And I'm well aware that I might not have gotten it if I hadn't spent so much time taking photos of cosplayers and derby skaters. Knowledge is cumulative and all experience is valuable.