Saturday, September 15, 2012

Full report on Assignment: Rooftop Marriage Proposal

Here's a first full report on my assignment. This is where I will be sharing and discussing some of the details of what happened on my assignment. Some of it might sounds generic, some a little technical...but I just want to share what I have learned from this experience and hopefully you might find some of this useful or entertaining. So, here we go.

September, 13th 2012. Bangkok, Thailand. The assignment was to photograph my client as he proposes to his girlfriend on her birthday on the rooftop of a 61-floor to backdrop of the twilight of Bangkok night sky. Classy and Romantic.
My client had already told me his grand plan for her. Dinner at 6.00 pm, then around 7.00 pm he would excuse himself, come down to the lobby to pick up 100 roses from the reception and bring me up to perform the deed.

The location of this assignment is on a rooftop restaurant of a 61-floor hotel building, and the time was just a little 7.00 pm, when the sun already set and the sky was dark. Doing some research on the location, all I couldn't find much specifics that I wanted on the location. I found some really nice photos of the place from the hotel website, but nothing helpful in preparing me shoot there. So when it was time for me to go up for the big moment (both him and me), I just internally went "What the...". The place was very close to pitch black, only lights were the candles on the tables. My client was on his way to the table where his girlfriend was waiting. I realized there's no stopping him now, so I quickly take a shot which turned out like this...

Aperture Priority Mode, F4.5, Shutter speed 0.5, ISO 3200
Not how I wanted it to turn out. What I had in mind and practiced for supposed to be drastically different. And between the first shot, me chimping to see this on the LCD and panicking, my man just keep going and I'm losing precious seconds if I don't react now. So I switched to manual mode, quickly checked the setting and took another shot...

Manual Mode, F5, Shutter speed 1/13, ISO 3200
That's what I was going for. All I did was change the setting to expose for the background, so I got all the beautiful lights in the city. As for the couple, all I needed to do was to let the flash did the work. The difference was night and ...night (more aesthetically pleasing), and it took me just 3 seconds to made the change. How did I do it? Practice... and be prepared for such a situation. If you know beforehand what kind of lighting situation you are walking into, you can be prepared for it.

I wasn't missing much shots when changing the camera setting, but the location was so dark every shots needed flash to light up the couple. It was a problem as it took a few seconds to charge before firing, and a few more to cycle for another shots. The bigger problem ended up being it was so dark, when I look through the viewfinder I was almost blind. I could barely make out the silhouette and I couldn't see their faces at all. I had a really hard time composing, I wasn't really sure where my focus was aiming at. I missed quite a few good shots because of that.

Another problem because of the dark was the ISO. On my Canon EOS 7D, ISO at 3200, the quality wasn't all that great with noise and all. On top of that, I still had 'technical' issues with my flash when I was using it off-camera. My theory is the flash unit only had 2 AA batteries to power it, so when I used it off-camera, there's not enough power to light up target too far away. That's what I think anyway. So for those shots that wasn't quite there in terms of quality and lighting, I had to most of them and convert to black and white.

Overall, despite the near total darkness of the location, I managed to get a few shots I really liked and I think the couple will love them too.

In closing, I want to congratulate the lovely couple one more time and express my sincere appreciation for allowing me to be an important part of their lives.