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08-05-2012, 07:50 PM   #1
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Military wedding with the K5 -- the good and the bad




Venue: Kingston Military College, Ontario
URL: Blog post with my favorites shots

Bodies used: K10D, K5
Lenses: DA*50-135, FA77, DA35, DA12-24
PP: LR4

I don't usually do weddings. I have my reasons, and the fact I chose to go with Pentax six years ago is one of them. I specialize in studio work, mostly babies and maternity shoots, and did high-fashion photography in studios as well for two years. In that environment, Pentax gear can really shine. The limited primes do such a great job at rendering high quality shots, no client (either personal or commercial) have ever complained. Though I've often be snobbed by colleagues for using an APS-C body, I never really cared, as long as I kept getting clients and they liked my work. Weddings are a lucrative niche, but I felt Pentax wasn't adequate for the job. Mostly because of the shitty AF system, which I hate. There are shots you can't miss, which requires an AF system you can trust. There's usually not enough time time to compose, meter as well as manually focus: first kiss, first look, etc. Especially when you shoot alone and don't have a second that can serve as a security blanket if you miss the shot. Or enlarge the point of view, whichever you prefer. I've second shooted a couple of times, for the experience. I'm hoping to attend the Genesis workshop next year, among other things, before I start shooting weddings on my own. However, an opportunity recently presented itself which prompted me to seize it.

Ten days ago, I get a call from a referral. It's a last minute request. They are operating on a tight budget, are in a terrible situation (their photog just bailed at the last minute) and I've known people involved in the wedding personally for years. I discuss the details with the bride, I explain I don't usually do weddings, but that I am willing to help them out. To begin with, the venue is a 3 hours drive away. There won't be enough time to find a second, and my colleague who has been kind enough to loan me his 5DMkIII in the past is away on assignment, which means I've got to use my Pentax gear. Err.

The times I was a second shooter, I used either the D700, the 5DMkII or 5DMkIII with lenses such as the 70-200, 85L, etc. In short, I am spoiled to death, and I already know before going in I can't rely on the AF as I did in the other weddings. I was stressed to death. I'm 25 and I have two ulcers for which I am being treated. I was drugged up on immodium, peptobismol and Zantac the entire day, praying to the Gods of Kobol they grant me their favor for the 9 hour day. Both stomach and gear-wise.

The good news: everything went very well. I used the DA*50-135 during the ceremony. I was nervous about using a SDM lens, but it went fine. The K5 really stepped up, and I am definitely in love with its DR. I ****ed up at the end of the night during the dance party shooting. Everything was severely underexposed. Thanks to the K5's DR and PV2012 in LR4, I was able to save them ALL, with NO noise whatsoever. <3 LR4.

The bad: the AF let me down a few times. I calibrated all my lenses with SpyderLensCal before the wedding, so they were all adjusted. The K5 often back focused even though I was using AF.S and single point focusing. Out of 979 shots, I got 621 keepers, which is an acceptable keeper ratio. It was close to 40C under the sun. It was extremely bright outside, which meant LV was useless. The LCD was barely visible, so I had to rely on focus confirmation each time (and to be frank, I had a hard time seeing the viewfinder display as well). Granted, I would have experienced the same technical difficulties with a D800 or a MkIII, but since I don't have to worry about the AF shitting in my hands with these cameras, it would have been a non issue.

The only AF-miss that REALLY pissed me off is this one:


I was RAGING in front of my monitor when I saw it. This is a 8 seconds exposure on a tripod. Focus confirmation went off. It took some photoshopping to get the couple at least somewhat in focus, but it's clear that AF missed. There was a huge lamp near us, so I trusted the AF to do its job. I will never forgive myself for not focusing manually. This is one photo I would never have missed with the MkII/III or the D700/800. It looked OK in the LCD, but we were in a hurry. I had less than five minutes to set up the shot, take it, then get back to the venue where the bride was expected to give a speech. It's my failure as a photographer, I know that. The bride still loves the shot, but I was livid. I was supremely disappointed. They're both military, and the venue has a special meaning to them since then met there. The view was special, and I messed it up.

Overall, I am satisfied with the results. Not happy, but satisfied. The couple was a real joy to work with, I had a lot of fun. But I wouldn't do it again. Not with my current gear setup. The only lens I didn't have I wish I did have was the FA31. What I really, really missed was the dead-accurate AF I grew accustomed to for weddings. It's hardly fair to compare a FF pro body to the K5, I know. In fact, it's not fair at all. But if you're a photog who's thinking about getting into the wedding niche, be aware of your limitations. I'm sure a more experienced photog than me could have pulled every shot I missed, but since weddings are stressful enough as it is, especially when you have no assistant, I'll be happy to do weddings again when I've upgraded to the D800 and the superior gear can account, at least partly, for my incompetence as a photographer. Until then, I'll stick to my more comfortable shoes in the studio


Last edited by FrancisK7; 08-05-2012 at 09:32 PM.
08-05-2012, 08:13 PM   #2
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Sorry to hear that you missed quite a few shots... I am not sure what to say since you seem to be well prepared and calibrated your k-5 for focus accuracy; I don't think that it could be a problem. Did you get the AF confirmation before you trip the shutter?

On the first one, the focus seem to be aiming at the distant instead of the bride and groom.... by the way, some people may not like the horizon not being level. On the second one, is it in a really low light situation where the k-5 may have trouble finding the focus?
08-05-2012, 08:19 PM   #3
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Hmm... the second image... is the AF to blame or the couple? To hold a pose like that and to be absolutely still for 8 seconds seems a bit lengthy for any individual...
08-05-2012, 08:22 PM   #4
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These are my personal favorites. When the couple gets their DVD, for each shot, there are usually at least one with the horizon leveled and one without. I realize it comes down to taste. I prefer to give them the option.

I am 100% positive the issue with shot #2 was the lack of light. The green AF assist light fired off. Focus confirmation (green hexagon) also appeared. I triggered the shot with a 2s timer to prevent shake. It just decided to focus on the ground. I know that even in single point focusing, the area used for AF by the camera is quite larger than the center point in the VF. Still, the fact the camera decided to focus on the frickin' ground rather than them is mind boggling. It's not like the subject lacked contrast!

08-05-2012, 08:23 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Vylen Quote
Hmm... the second image... is the AF to blame or the couple? To hold a pose like that and to be absolutely still for 8 seconds seems a bit lengthy for any individual...
They're both military and in great shape. But even if they moved, which they might have, the original RAW, opened in fullscreen on my 30" monitor (2650x1600 res), makes it's quite clear the AF focused on the ground.

Getting AF to work for this shot was a nightmare as well, but at least it worked:
08-05-2012, 08:26 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Vylen Quote
Hmm... the second image... is the AF to blame or the couple? To hold a pose like that and to be absolutely still for 8 seconds seems a bit lengthy for any individual...
+1 to this.
Upping the ISO and opening up the aperture to get a reasonable shutter speed of even 1/30 would have been better, then lowering the flash power to expose for the subject.


I'd also not even risk tuning the AF for any occasion. If my AF worked fine enough on usual use, I'd stick to it and not change anything ('last minute')

I'm not a professional, but I've taken wedding shots for friends and on one occasion, the K5 had far better accuracy that the D700 and D90 the pro was using.


Sorry to hear your stress and troubles over the shoot though....
08-05-2012, 08:27 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by FrancisK7 Quote
They're both military and in great shape. But even if they moved, which they might have, the original RAW, opened in fullscreen on my 30" monitor (2650x1600 res), makes it's quite clear the AF focused on the ground.
You mean on the ground where the groom's foot is? If so, then given him standing there, and assuming a level camera, then the distance should be similar between the couple and the ground... so they should be in way more focus than what's shown - unless they moved of course
08-05-2012, 08:41 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by pinholecam Quote
I'm not a professional, but I've taken wedding shots for friends and on one occasion, the K5 had far better accuracy that the D700 and D90 the pro was using.


Sorry to hear your stress and troubles over the shoot though....
The ulcers are related to an accutane treatment, not the wedding. I get an easy upset stomach whenever I am nervous though. Ulcers don't help!

The D90 is old, but the D700's accuracy is much superior to the K5. You're the first person I've read/heard say that. You can't seriously expect to shoot an entire wedding on MF these days. Everything is timed to the minute. If there are photogs out there that shoot weddings on MF, I'd like to talk to them. I could learn a lot.

08-05-2012, 08:42 PM   #9
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Nice flash work, especially in the last one.
08-05-2012, 08:51 PM   #10
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Here is a good example of AF miss in broad daylight: LINK
DA35 1/640 ISO100 f/2.8

I was in single point focusing, got green hexagon with the viewfinder dead-centered on the bride's face.
Instead the camera focused on the tree on her left, half a meter away from her.

That's not something the D700 has ever done (though I've taken less than 2000 exposures with one) or would ever do, I reckon.
08-05-2012, 09:07 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by FrancisK7 Quote
This is a 8 seconds exposure on a tripod.
Subject motion isn't stopped by use of a tripod, only camera motion is.
Even in the old days c. 1905, using 8 seconds for a portrait shot was risky.

The plane of focus is actually OK, if you look at the guys feet. If there had been no subject motion, and you'd used an aperture that gave you adequate DOF, the couple would be adequately sharp.

In the meantime, you may want to download FocusMagic and have a play to see if it can pull that shot into somewhat better focus.
08-05-2012, 09:17 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by FrancisK7 Quote
Here is a good example of AF miss in broad daylight: LINK
DA35 1/640 ISO100 f/2.8

I was in single point focusing, got green hexagon with the viewfinder dead-centered on the bride's face.
Instead the camera focused on the tree on her left, half a meter away from her.

That's not something the D700 has ever done (though I've taken less than 2000 exposures with one) or would ever do, I reckon.
That is real typical for the k-5, the center AF "point" is gigantic. Lots of prior threads about this. You can test it out by placing a dark spot on a white piece of paper then approach the outside of the ( ) on the viewfinder. As soon as it touches the outside of that frame the center focus point lights up, which is nowhere near the point where the camera is actually focusing.
It's a shame in my opinion. You can stick the AF center point dead nuts on someones eye and the camera can focus on the ear, someone in the background, or like yours did, a nearby tree.
08-05-2012, 09:25 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
Subject motion isn't stopped by use of a tripod, only camera motion is.
Even in the old days c. 1905, using 8 seconds for a portrait shot was risky.

The plane of focus is actually OK, if you look at the guys feet. If there had been no subject motion, and you'd used an aperture that gave you adequate DOF, the couple would be adequately sharp.

In the meantime, you may want to download FocusMagic and have a play to see if it can pull that shot into somewhat better focus.
Like I said, it's my failure above all else. I was worried about noise and wanted to capture the background sky light, so opened right up to 2.8 but kept ISO at 100. I could easily have bumped ISO to 800 and gotten a one second exposure with the same result (with flash powered way down). Because I was in a hurry and the pic looked sharp on the LCD I said we were good to go. My mistake.

Still, getting AF to lock on them was a chore in and on itself. And as demonstrated above, AF can miss even in broad daylight without subject motion coming into the equation, so I should have known better.

I learned a good lesson.

Last edited by FrancisK7; 08-05-2012 at 09:52 PM.
08-05-2012, 09:30 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
Subject motion isn't stopped by use of a tripod, only camera motion is.
Even in the old days c. 1905, using 8 seconds for a portrait shot was risky.
Tripod was used to get background. Bride and groom were lit by flash. Am I right, Francis?
08-05-2012, 09:31 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Edvinas Quote
Tripod was used to get background. Bride and groom were lit by flash. Am I right, Francis?
Correct.
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