I accepted a friend’s invite to join him and his friends to shoot the lanterns as they are lit for the lunar year celebrations. I brought along an ultra-wide angle lens (10-22mm f/3.5-4.5), a fixed lens (50mm f/1.8) and just because I have room in my bag, my 75-300mm lens. The most important item was my tripod, of course. Standard bring-alongs were the cable release, spare battery and a circular polarizing filter. They dont take up space anyway.
When I arrived though, I felt like I wanted to leave immediately. Here were 5-6 blokes who had their big-boys-lenses on their DSLRs, mounted on their ball-head tripods. They had found the angles they wanted, and were in position, ready to snap away as soon as the right time approached. And me? It was my second trip to Thean Hou temple up Robsons Heights in KL, and the first time with a camera, and with an intention to capture the lanterns against the golden hour of twilight. Was I nervous? You bet I was. They were talking to each other about some hot new lens with remarkable bokeh while I unzipped my tripod case. I smiled around and they smiled back, but that was about it. I was both happy and dismayed to see my friend there – happy because it’s always good to catch up with friends, dismayed because now that he had seen me, I had zero chance to escape!
So I decided to just do ONE THING. Focus on the task at hand. I asked myself what kind of pictures did I want to make? I started looking for my own angles and set up my tripod a couple of feet away from the guys. Several test shots and recalls of pictures I had seen, stuff I’d read on the golden hour and previous experiences shooting in low-light conditions occupied my time and thoughts for the next half hour. When the staff switched on the lanterns, it was just minutes until the greyish sky turned bright blue and we had a very small window of opportunity to get the striking backdrop before the inky blue-black night sky would take over. It turned out all right – I had loads of fun, experimenting with different shutter speeds, aperture and points of view. I have one or two favorites, and the picture accompanying this post is one of them.
What did I learn from this evening’s outing? Just relax, focus on the task at hand, and being a newbie means you get more opportunity to explore, experiment, and develop your own style in telling your story. So for any newbies out there, join a club – talk to friends, go out there and shoot. Remember to enjoy photography. It IS fun. 🙂