Local events are always great opportunities to get out and shoot, so this year we headed into the village of Lucan here in County Dublin, Ireland, to see what was going on. The St Patrick's Day parade is an annual event where pretty much the whole village turns out to celebrate being Irish, and this year being the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Irish State, everyone was out in force!
Lens choice is always tough for a family trip - the littles need attention, so it's not going to be a dedicated photo session, more like grab the odd shot where you can whilst being pulled and pushed. I wanted to concentrate on people and faces in the crowds for this shoot, so I selected my Nikon f2.8 70-200 as a lens which would give me a good range of zoom lengths given that we would plan to be on the roadside so not too far away from subjects. Most of these shots are taken one handed - my hand was pretty tired after an hour of that with the D810 and heavy 70-200 pulling it down, but it was great practice.
Setting my D810 up before we left the house, I wanted to make my subjects stand out from their surroundings, so Aperture Priority with the f number dialled down as far as it would go - f2.8 on my lens - set the camera up for shallow depth of field to throw backgrounds (and foregrounds) out of focus. I checked my SD card had plenty of free space, put my battery grip on the camera so I had 2 batteries to draw on - I knew it was cold so this gave me added confidence that I would have enough juice for the whole shoot. Moving subjects need fairly fast shutter speeds to freeze, and given that my lens was likely to be zoomed to 200mm a fair bit, I set my ISO to 200 and then my Auto-ISO settings to minimum 200th sec, maximum 6400 ISO. This top ISO might seem a bit high, but I can shoot up to 10,000 ISO with the D810 and still get very usable shots, and given that many of these would end up as black and white conversions in my street photography collection, a bit of grain isn't an issue anyway. Spot metering, continuous 3D auto-focus, and I was pretty much ready.
I think "Ice cream girl" is my favourite from the set. It was a pretty chilly day, but little ones always love ice-cream and she was having a great time on her Dad's shoulders watching the parade go by and tucking in. I just managed to catch her as she glanced my way, and then in post desaturated everything bar he Paddy's Day hat to draw the eye. Another thing I did whilst scanning the crowd for shots like this was to position my focussing spot pretty much in the place where her eyes are, so I needed to do very little cropping to keep her at the rule of thirds intersection point. She's facing to our right so I left negative space there for the eye to move through, and cropped from the left to just include a sliver of the telegraph pole for grounding and framing. There's also depth because there are people out of focus both in front and behind her, so the eye is drawn to her because of the colour of the hat but also by the focus moving the eye through the frame.
This shot of the Irish tricolour is straight out of the camera apart form a little straightening , and was just a fortunate instant of the sunlight catching the material to make it stand out from the background. Again, I had set my focus point in the upper left rule of thirds intersection point so was ready to grab the shot in the perhaps half second that it existed.
I hope you enjoyed these images and the story of what went into capturing them. Please feel free to comment either here on on our Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/houghtonphoto.
Joe Houghton - March 18th 2016
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