The F8 Challenge

Sometimes, when I'm shooting for clients, it's difficult for me to find time to try new things. I want to be sure I'm getting them great images, and experimentations aren't always successful. Thus the need for personal work...the photos I take on my own time and dime. This gives me the chance to try new ways of shooting and challenge myself a little without having to worry what my clients would think. Hey, if it doesn't turn out, it doesn't matter! I've been wanting to flex my photojournalism muscles, but I don't get that chance too often. How can I if I'm only ever practicing on my husband and baby in our house?

Alas, there is a solution: second shooting. This is where I beg plead ask to join a fellow wedding photographer while they work. Lucky for me, Michael Howard gets it. He's a super talented wedding photgrapher in Nashville who is a hybrid film/digital shooter like me. (He also started up Musea...check it out when you have a chance.) He agreed to let me tag along at his wedding at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Downtown Nashville so I could try a little experiments.

I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. I tend to shoot using the same lenses, same films, and same techniques. There is a reason for that: I know what the results will be. But, shooting the same way all the time leaves little room for growth. Enter this blog post from The Image is Found. Nate Kaiser, the photographer behind the website, decided to challenge himself to only shoot with "one lens. one focal length. one camera. all horizontal. all manual focus. all F11. all day." 

Wow. For those of you who are camera nerds, I don't think I have to explain the difficulty level of this. For those of you who aren't, well....this is hard. The results, however, were gorgeous. It's typical for The Image is Found to turn out some amazing stuff, but this really took it to the next level. And now, I'm going to get a little technical. If you're not into the tech side of photography, feel free to skip right on over the next paragraph.

The challenge seemed doable, and it would certainly be out of my comfort zone. I typically camp out at about F1.4-F2.0, so to shoot at F11 would be waaay different for me. I also tend to use my 50mm about 80% of the time, and Fuji 160 is my go-to film. I didn't manual focus, and I forgot about the all horizontal part of it, but I did stick to the other rules. For these, I shot all Tri-X 400, all with my Canon EOS3 and 24mm lens, and all at F8. I didn't do F11 because unlike Nate, I couldn't change my ISO (he shot those digitally) and therefore I needed just a little more light, especially indoors. Here's what I learned from it:


#1) I kept seeing the 50mm shot. The 24mm lens is very wide compared to what I'd normally shoot. There were a lot of shots I didn't take because I thought they would have looked better with the 50mm. I think a 35mm lens would be a happy medium. Perhaps that's my next purchase? It's been a while since I've bought a new lens.
#2) I kept seeing the shots in color. I still use Photoshop as a crutch. I know if I shoot it all in color, I can always turn a photo black and white later. But shooting true black and white film makes for some pretty incredible images.
#3) I didn't pay enough attention to the background. Normally, the background doesn't matter because it's all blurred out anyway. Sure, I pay attention to large objects, but every little thing doesn't show up like it did at F8. This can be great for telling a story, but only if I'm composing my image with a little more purpose.
#4) I should have used a higher ISO film. Especially indoors. I decided to use 400 speed because 35mm film can be grainy as it is, and a higher ISO means more grain. But, I needed more light.
#5) It was difficult to refrain from directing. I tend to be a little bossy at weddings. Sometimes it's good, like when it's time to gather a bunch of family or when I'm helping my clients pose. Sometimes, however, I need to step back and shoot what's in front of me rather than trying to change it all around.
#6) It allowed for beautiful motion. Since I was stuck at F8 and ISO 400, I had to compensate my exposure with my shutter speed. This meant that I was shooting as low as 1-2 seconds at times. I didn't have a tri-pod, so there was a little camera shake. But there was also a lot of motion blur from the people moving around. I love the way it shows the movement of a wedding. I plan on doing this a lot more in the future.

Overall, this challenge was a win. I need a little more practice, but I think I can start incorporating this into my regular shooting. Perhaps I'll become a two camera shooter? One camera can be my comfort/regular camera, and the other can be my F8/F11 challenge/photojournalist camera.

So after all of that, here are my results. This was my first time inside the Symphony Center. I simply must go back! It's a beautiful place for a wedding. Unfortunately, I didn't get to stay for the ceremony or reception...I was only there for a little of the getting ready and the portraits. After you take a look at these, head on over to Michael's blog or Facebook to see this wedding from his perspective. 

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*I should note that I broke the rules for these few shots. The moment of the bride and her daughter just seemed too important to risk missing it, even if it wasn't my wedding and they weren't my clients.
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So tell me what you think! I can't wait to try these techniques more in the future!

1 comment:

Beth said...

Really enjoyed these photos. Love the mirror shot where she is putting on her earring. nice challenge!