Be Prepared: Compact Camera Saves the Day

be prepared compact camera saves the dayLast week I posted about how important it is for a photographer to be prepared and three days later a few moments spent to be prepared paid off again. Every year some potter friends host a two day pottery sale, and yes, I almost always come home with some. But their beautiful work, the presence of potters shaping and firing, and the beautiful setting make it a photo adventure as well.

I always want to be prepared weatherwise, and this year the forecast was for light rain in the morning, clearing by noon and partly cloudy thereafter. The forecast was wrong, but happily, I was prepared with my DSLR and lenses, but also a compact camera, and some portable lighting gear. The rain diminished, but never stopped, and I was able to shoot without putting my more expensive gear at risk.

being prepared

Be Prepared: Small, Extra Camera

The compact camera was a Canon G-9, small enough to fit under my windbreaker, light, able to shoot in RAW, and equipped with a real viewfinder and a hot shoe. I zipped it away between me and my windbreaker, stuck a Nikon SB-800 flash in my pocket, and grabbed a collapsible reflector.

Soon I came across an old kitchen rack outside the well-house that I’d photographed before. Holding the reflector over the camera kept the rain at bay and the photo was better than I’d been able to get on a sunny day in an earlier year. Notice the rich, saturated colors and the lack of distracting shadows from the vine compared to the smaller photo. Using the reflector as a rain guard kept water drops off the all-important front of the lens. Otherwise, there was the possibility that a drop or two of rain on the glass would cause blurry pictures.

be prepared compact camera saves the dayready to go
The well house itself came out better in the rain, too. The sky is somewhat bleak compared to the 2009 photo on the right, but the plantings look luscious in the rain.

banjobe prepared
The rain picked up, but the musicians were nice and dry just inside a garage, and I got a front-row seat under a canopy. When it got a bit drier I went to shoot inside the well house where the potters prepare their clay. The photo of their vessels was shot hand held under tungsten light with white balance set for “cloudy.” That rendered the outside nicely, and reducing yellow saturation in Photoshop to brought the utensils and table back from the edge of disaster.

Be Prepared: Take Light with You

The first shot below used the “cloudy” white balance and no supplemental light. The second photo was made with the white balance set for flash, and was lighted with the Nikon flash bounced from the ceiling of the well house. You might recall that the camera was a Canon, so there is no way this equipment was made to work together. The secret to success was setting the flash on manual and adjusting the power to get a good exposure. I started out with 1/2 power – way too much with this powerful unit – and after a couple of tries made the shot with +1/3 stop over a 1/8th power setting. This should bring a smile to the faces of the budget conscious. There’s a good chance you can make a shoe flash you already have work for you, or you can get a used one from an auction site and begin firing away. All you need besides the flash is a way to hook it up to the camera and you will be prepared for all sorts of lighting situations.

be prepared compact camera saves the dayready to go

be prepared compact camera saves the day
The weather remained soggy all day and my expensive gear remained in my car as I continued shooting outside, using the reflector when needed to keep rain off the camera, and adding light with the flash when appropriate.

One final thought — be prepared and ready to shoot when kids are around. Kids and rain almost always lead to a chance for strongly colored images with emotional impact.

We’re always looking for ideas to share with readers. Tell us what do you do to be prepared — monitor weather forecasts, take extra equipment, or scout locations ahead of time?

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