How Many Bodies Do You Have?

That banner is quite high up, suspended from a pergola arch in front of Libbey Park. Steve and Jamie were at the edge of the sidewalk. As usual, I was in the gutter. To get a proper fill-flash exposure, I used the D300's flash value lock to take a reading on the men's faces. Otherwise, the exposure would have been thrown off by the bright area between them. Remember, whatever exposure mode you are using, Nikon's TTL system uses the center of the frame to set flash exposure.

Lately I’ve been asked to shoot some events. Last week I took pictures at a press conference on location at a construction site. Later this week, I’ll be documenting the Ojai Film Festival. Back in my film days, it was a lot easier to shoot events because it was a lot easier to own multiple camera bodies.  I used to roam the paddock area at motorcycle races with at least two cameras hanging around my neck: a Nikon FM with a telephoto zoom and a Nikon FM with a wide angle lens. It’s not that I mind changing lenses in the field, but two bodies allow much, much faster response times.  Sure, today I could buy Nikon’s 18-200 lens for less than the price of a second camera body, but that lens does not offer the low-light capability I’ll need for workshops and awards presentations.

Back in the day, I believed in buying the cheapest reliable camera body and the best lenses I could afford. The FM was a minimalist dream;  manual exposure, manual focus, all mechanical. I liked to have two or three identical camera bodies so I could just grab and shoot. Today, things are not so simple. I love my D300, and I capture images that would have been difficult or impossible to get with the FM and film, but the price is steep. I cannot justify the expense of two camera bodies, so I’m resigned to missing some shots as a result. Naturally, someone earning significant income from photography will invest whatever is necessary to do the job. Us amateurs make do with what we’ve got. Which brings me to the other body a photographer needs.

As I sit here typing, my left knee is aching. Earlier today, I photographed the Film Festival’s Artistic Director and Executive Director. To include one of their banners in the shot, my subjects stood at the edge of the sidewalk while I knelt in the street as cars zipped past my butt. For some of the shots, I invented some crazy new limbo moves, and as I said, my knee paid the price. And my lower back picked up the tip.

This sign is much lower than the banner in the picture above. I had to experiment a bit to find the right camera hight: too low and Jamie's head blocked the sign; too high and I'd only have their heads. All I had to do was spread my legs as far as they would go, with one foot on the sidewalk and one in the gutter, and then lean back as far as I could. Thank goodness I wasn't wearing a backpack.

Photography can be a very physically demanding hobby. For theater publicity shoots, I often carry a camera bag, lighting bag, tripod, and step-stool. As recently as a couple of years ago, I could be seen bounding around town carrying all that gear. Lately, I’m huffing and puffing and wondering who will find my body and whether they will steal the camera. I’ve let myself get out of shape and it affects every aspect of my life negatively (except my laziness, I guess). Today’s aching knee is a reminder that before I set out for my assignments this week, I need to take some long walks, do a lot of stretching, warm-up before the actual shoot, and think about ergonomics and distribution of weight loads. I take good care of my photo equipment, but if I break my camera body, I can buy a new one. I would hate to lose this wonderful avocation because I didn’t take care of MY body.

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Filed under Camera Gear, Lighting, Professional vs. Amateur

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