First paid gig

This evening I brought some photos to my neighbor so she can take them to choir rehearsal and show them to all the singers and the conductor.¬† I had shot them last Saturday during three of their¬† performances and when I handed them to her she surprised me with the question if I had kept track of my expenses. In the email in which she asked if I could make photos during her choir‘s performances she had mentioned a budget but I had ignored it. I wanted to do this project anyway and had set her expectations low for the end result, i.e. no experience, no guarantees, no pressure. She had done a wonderful job as clerk at our renewal of the vows ceremony and this was the least I could do to do something in return. All in all a win-win.

Every year the choir does some special project, one year they visited all Hansa cities around our town, another they visited all the elven cities in Frisia in the order of the grueling natural ice skating race De Elfstedentocht and this year they performed songs in three city gardens in Zwolle. So, aptly this year’s project was named Groen, which means Green. Last Tuesday I visited their last rehearsal before the big day to get to know them, hear the material and get some practice shooting singing people. Open mouths is unavoidable in this setting as well as weird facial expressions, but expressive photos are pretty easy to come by as long as the shot is sharp. The rehearsal was in a church and around dusk, so the light was not that good, shutter times increased and I learned that is not good for sharp pictures of moving people, lesson learned for the real day. Motion blur works in some cases but not with singing people.

On Saturday we started in the garden of the Library, great setting, extremely quiet and nice garden in the middle of the city. The weather was clear skies with lots of sun, harsh shadows everywhere. But of course the choir chose a shady spot to stand while performing to minimize the perspiration. Too bad not all of them could fit, so I had to deal with some people in the shade and some in the full sun light. At first I was bummed out that I had forgotten to bring my flash but I also realized that would add another layer of complexity. And one that I have very little experience with. During the rehearsal I had used my standard set of lenses, 24mm, 50mm and 100mm. Just in case I had also brought my zooms in my back pack. And while taking some shots in the garden during the choir’s warming up I quickly realized that was a golden move. I quickly replaced the lenses in my shoulder bag to my 70-200 and 24 tilt shift, just because I had the space, and mounted my 24-70. Hello flexibility, good bye dust on sensor. The loss of wide aperture was of no concern because I needed to get as much as possible in focus anyway and with the abundance of light that was easily achieved, even with the max aperture of f/4 of my long zoom.

Chimping and the experience I have had with what can be saved in RAW, I was confident that I was getting usable exposures. Having been to the rehearsal was a big help in planning my movements. There was not much space in the garden with the choir and the audience, so I had to move to the spot I wanted to be way in advance as to not draw too much attention to myself. I got surprised a few times by some parts of the program I was not privy to but got lucky in some of these instances as well. After the first performance a man in the audience, who turned out to be the conductor’s dad, asked me if the photos would appear in the local paper. So, I guess I looked the part.

The other two performances went smooth with a minor hickup when my memory card was unexpectedly full at a crucial point. I just barely got two shots in when they handed a CD of the project to the designer of all the three gardens. He explained a bit about the design of every garden in between songs and recited a poem in every garden. Mind you, I totally missed focus on those two shots. I got home with over 600 photos. I still have to work on my work flow for selecting from such a large collection. But I got it done, I whittled it down to just over 40 that give a nice overview of the whole day and printed 19 to give to my neighbor. She loved them! And then she dropped the question about the expenses. I have no clue what budget they have and I really don’t care. I enjoyed the day, am very happy with at least one shot I took and she is happy with the end result. And it also feels great to be able to pull something like this off.

De Koor in the garden of the Gemeentemuseum in Zwolle

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