It’s not often that I have a favorite photograph from a photography session or an event. Typically, I may have a dozen or so selects. Luckily, I was able to attend the 2013 SXSW Japan Nite last Friday and this photograph is my favorite. I shot about 800 photos and narrowed my choices down to about 100. This particular image still bubbles to the top. Of course, it’s from my favorite group, Kao=S. While Kaori, the lead performer, is known for some dynamic and aggressive samurai sword performances, this scene with the cherry blossom petals is quite the opposite.
I wish I can say that I can nail this kind of photo all the time but I do admit there is a certain amount of luck and good timing to these things. I didn’t know she was going to blow the petals and I just happen to be there to catch it and with a good expression. I think the color and light works well and the wispy, motion blurred petals have an etherial quality.
While good timing is key, having the right camera settings also help. Here’s how I got the shot. I used my Olympus E-PM2 with the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 lens. The real star, equipment wise, was the little Olympus FL-300R flash. It’s a really compact flash that runs on two AAA batteries and is properly scaled to the small Olympus Pen bodies. I dialed in a really light -2 1/3 flash exposure compensation. This allowed me to add just a touch of fill on the subject while preserving much of the colorful stage lighting. I used ISO 800 and at f1.4 which gave me 1/160 second shutter.
Like last year, I also used my Canon 7D with the 50mm f1.4 lens but the Olympus Pen really hit its stride this year. I use the older Olympus E-PL1 and the 20mm f1.7 lens last year, with no flash. The images were usable but nothing special. This year’s Pen setup was dramatically better and in some ways bested the results from the 7D. Quite surprising, actually. I’ll talk about how the two cameras compared at Japan Nite, in an upcoming post. Please stay tuned.