The above photo, captured just over four years ago on a very very cold day in 2004, has served me well. It was a better image than the one I made in the rain in 2000, and I had a better angle than I did in either 1992 or 1996. Next week will be my fifth inaugural, and arguably the most historic. This post is not, however, about politics, it's about preparation.
Today, we spent the day in pre-production. Between phone calls from prospective clients, and the estimates rolling out for February (many people not booking for the 20th are holding off booking much else until after the 20th, it seems), we were organizing gear. My life ceases to be my own at about 8pm on Friday, and it will be mercifully returned to me at about 1am next Wednesday morning.
Today's pre-production was the determination of the gear we will be using for the inauguration. We laid it all out, set it up, and tweaked it, and then tweaked it some more. Six cameras, all connected to one, triggering and pre-focused at the precise point needed at a variety of focal lengths.
Why so many cameras?
Because we have approximately 30 seconds to make this historic photo. No chance for a redo on this. So we tested.
Which CF card to use? Which speed? Which speed makes a difference?
How many raw files can we generate in 30 seconds on the chosen card? What if we utilized the two slots in the D3? RAW to one, JPEG to another, how would that impact our performance?
We ran this video over a dozen times: (note - that's not my photo)
We maybe ran it two dozen times, and practiced. (In case you're curious - Bush 41's 32 seconds where his hand is/would be raised is here, and Clinton's approximately 29 seconds from 1996 can be heard here.) We learned that with our fastest UDMA CF card, in 30 seconds, we could produce 38 images on the D3. Yet, if you listen to the swearing in on that audio, the President doesn't speak for that entire time. He's reciting. So, many of those 38 images would be with his mouth closed (as the one I have above shows). I am of the opinion that the image is best when the President is actually speaking - mouth open/moving. So we tested some more. What if we only engaged the camera when the President was speaking? How would that impact the image count?
The answer is - we could capture 26 images made just during the recitation of the oath of office. I concluded that 26 images with words being spoken is better than 38 images overall. Filling the buffer and then waiting for the card to write the images produces these quantities. They are more than enough to select from - I am confident of that.
Tomorrow, we debate which camera gets what lens? The D2x - with its' crop factor can have a 300mm cum 420mm, and the D3 can have the 70-200 with the doubler? The D700 can have the wide? Lots of things to think about. Then we parse out the CF cards to the right cameras.
Yes, we will arrive at the Capitol at 5am. Yes, we will wait there for six hours before the ceremony begins. Yes, it will be freezing cold. Yes, I hope it doesn't rain. Yes, I have good gloves. No, there will be no food stands to feed us. Yes, we will be cramped. So, do I really want to be making all these decisions when I am in those conditions, or in the comfort of my office, when I realize I am short two of the Bogen 145BKT camera mounts, and two inserts for my super clamps, and have to order them from New York, instead of not having them?
We will do all of the above for 30 seconds of photographic opportunity. We have done this planning before (I can shoot an entire roll of 36 exposure film, change it out, and shoot another roll of film all the way through in 30 seconds, I learned in 1996, for example), and we will do it again on our sixth inaugural assignment. Yes, of course we will cover everyone else and everything else, but it will be those 30 seconds that matter most.
Thus, when the clock is ticking, it pays to be prepared.
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