Steven Brokaw Photography

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A big party thrown every year in Indianapolis is called Oranje.  This is the 10th year and it’s going strong.  Oranje describes itself as “an interactive experience of art and music.  All I can say is that it’s a fusion of rock, hip hop, dance, trance, art, colors, pretty people, sights and sounds.  A photo rich environment.

I went last night for the 3rd year in a row.  I go with the intent of taking lots of low light photographs of the music venues, the people and the general vibe of the place.  It’s amazing.  This year I showed up at 9pm and stayed until about 1am.  Since there are so many people in the venue, an abandoned warehouse, and the action is constantly moving it is not a place to bring a tripod.  Therefore, it’s a night of my fastest lenses, wide open apertures, and very high ISO.  Also, for good measure I brought one of my speedlights, and I’m glad I did.

I started off outside in 2 of the music tents, the IndyMojo Electronic Music Tent and the Nuvo Main Stage.  The Nuvo stage was a bit easier to shoot because it had reasonable lighting that reflected off the white tent.  The Mojo tent was pitch black to go along with the pulsing electronic dance and trance music.  It was lasers and smoke machines.  Loved it.  The absolute best piece of kit I brought was ear plugs.  Believe me the music was so loud even with ear plugs I had no problems hearing it.  I spent about 1 hour shooting in those 2 tents, and of course listening to the music.

To minimize the amount of equipment I carried, since I didn’t want to bring a backpack, was my trusty Nikon D300s, my AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 G, and a Nikon SB-600 speedlight.  I brought extra rechargeable batteries and memory cards, and that was it.  I shot the entire event with that kit.  I could have brought my faster prime lenses, but again I wanted to somewhat blend in, and lugging a camera backpack defeats the purpose.

I later moved into the main building and walked around for about an hour looking at all the local artists’ work.  Good stuff, and I would love to pick up a few pieces, but wow the prices…Anyway, I really enjoy looking at other’s people’s creativity.  There were paintings, photography, sculptures, interactive art, body painting exhibits, hair and design work, etc. etc. It gave me plenty of opportunities to photograph the environment.

Next, I spent a couple of hours listening to music, watching dancers, and photographing in the Ketel One Lounge, Old Soul Stage & the MOKB Presents Stage.  For my $20 entry fee not only did I get to take lots of photographs but I got to listen to some really good musicians and DJs.  Man, I'm a cheap date.  I hung around the Ketel One Lounge for a good chunk of the time simply because there were so many people dancing.  I was able to get right up to the DJ’s and photograph them and also several times get to the front of several dance circles and watch the dancers do their thing. 

Most of the night was a real challenge balancing shutter speed, aperture and ISO.  Most of my shots were taken with ISO 3200, or 2000.  When I did use the flash I cranked my ISO down to 400.  I “tried” to keep the speed up to 1/50 of a second most of the night, but that was often hard.  Therefore, I came back with lots of motion blur, but in many shots that worked.  In this type of setting the speedlight helps but the stopped action really doesn’t work.  I also spent lots of time trying to get my white balance right.  I am proud to say I didn’t take a single shot in auto white-balance.  I found the cooler settings worked the best.  The lighting was REALLY mixed every few feet.

Bottomline, a really fun time AND a great opportunity to shoot.

Tips & After Action Thoughts:
·         I really need to purchase or rent a full frame Nikon for this type of event.  In post processing I have used the noise reduction slider in Lightroom 3 extensively, but I would like to minimize it with a bigger sensor.
·         In hindsight I should have brought in my AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 or AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 to get a wider aperture.  Again to lower noise and the speed up the shutter speed.  I actually brought both, but left them in my car.  I REALLY didn’t want to carry around a bunch of kit
·         A wider zoom might have been good in this setting.  I have a 12-24mm Tokina, but its f/4.  I had stopped into Roberts Camera earlier to see about renting a Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8, but it wasn’t available.  I complain, but honestly my 24-70 worked really well.
·         Note to self, remember to ALWAYS bring ear plugs to an event such as this.  I did, and my ears are thanking me.  I saw almost no-one with ear plugs and I bet they are regretting it today.
·         Don’t be afraid to mix in with the setting.  At first I shot standing back, but after about an hour you could tell the alcohol was starting to loosen people up.  After about an hour no one cared that I was shooting photographs of them or getting up close to the action.  This is a lesson I learned from my San Francisco workshop.  Get close, not the part about photographing lubricated people.
·         Bring business cards.  Argh, I forgot them and several people asked me for my contact information. 
·         Take video.  I took possibly 20 segments throughout the night.  If I have time I’m going to put a short video together of the party. 

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