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Party Party Party

It was a great thrill to see my Nowa Huta tram tracks photo in print in The Kraków Post

. This photo (taken on my Sony Xperia) may not have been the greatest photo in the world, but it's always a nice feeling when someone uses my photo. Even if it's just for their profile photo on Facebook I'm happy. In the last week or so, I've had the pleasure of being unofficial photographer at three parties. On each of these occasions nobody asked me to bring my camera, but I'm glad I did.

Party Number One - Dirty 30 Party

This had all the makings of a great event. A friend of mine had just turned thirty and wanted to celebrate in a local bar which her husband describes as "The Brothel." (Kraina Szeptów, Plac Nowy, Kazimierz if you want to check it out). The event sounded promising. I even dressed up for the occasion. Well, I say "dressed up." For me, this meant getting a friend to draw a silly porn-star moustache on me. Sunglasses and a very garish shirt completed the outfit. I arrived at the bar, put on my sunglasses and found the birthday girl. I was one of the earliest guests to arrive, no being fashionably late for me.

The guests gradually filtered in and I began snapping away. It was one of those situations were it was very nearly too dark to take photos. I tried a few with flash and they didn't look so good. So, it was back to high ISO (6400) and a wide aperture (F2). I ended up taking several hundred photos and publishing up 160 of them to Facebook. I even got a nice photo of myself taken (using my camera). Expecting somebody to focus the camera is a bit too much to ask (especially when I have such trouble getting them in focus myself). The best thing to do here is set up the camera as if you are about to take a photo and pass the camera to the person who is taking the photo of you. Then, all they have to worry about is pressing the shutter button.

Photographic lessons learnt

* The only thing that should be on auto on the camera is the ISO (light sensitivity). I should be dialling in the exposure time, depending on the amount of motion. Many a shot I've had spoiled due to motion blur.

* Most of the shots I did that evening were candid (unposed). I shouldn't be afraid of asking people to pose. In particular that evening the birthday girl and her equally pretty friend Anna. I was getting some nice shots of them separately, but it would have been nice to get a photo of them both, standing up (as they both had nice dresses on).

* I need to pay more attention to the backgrounds! This can mean the difference between a good and a great photo.

* It might be worth investing in a proper flash unit (one with a swivelling head so that I can bounce light off the ceiling)

"Party" Number Two - Poetry Reading

I had been invited to a friend's poetry reading at Dwórek Białoprądnicki (a rather elegant manor house). Before the recitals started I asked if I could take some photos (discreetly, so as not to put off anyone waxing lyrical). The lighting was not good. The host and the girl who invited me (who by the way has the most amazing hair) were seated with some rather distracting lights right above their heads. I didn't get any good photos of the event itself. After the reading things started to get interesting. An old gentleman presented my friend with a long-stemmed red rose. Then came the after-party. I was capturing some more great moments; cute kids, presents being given. The lighting was giving me trouble, alternating between too much and too little light. I took about 180 photos and 45 of those were published up.

Even though I'd made a nice photographic record of the event, there were lessons to be learned. Here are my conclusions.

* The focus on some of my photos sucked big-time. I should try a different focussing aid (I have three to choose from). The display on the back of the camera and the trouble I was having getting the exposures right distracted me from getting the focus better than it could be. With kids running around it was quite hard to focus at times, especially with the very wide aperture I was using to ensure I had enough light. I might even try autofocus (perish the thought).

* I should try some different light metering methods

* It is better to underexpose than overexpose

Party Number Three - Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in Poland :) It only makes sense if you have American friends of course. All the guests brought something they had cooked. Apart from me, that is. I brought paper plates and cups and my camera. I took a lot of photos. There was plenty of action and the setting was good too. I'd even brought a few props (an American-themed mug and some nice, pastel-coloured balloons).

The bright white walls in the kitchen was giving me some serious problems with over-exposure. It did give them some of them a nice bright look, like in the film Oblivion. Overall, the photos were well received. There were some photos I didn't take, such as the hand-on-breast incident. I thought it was probably best not to record that incident. I did miss some photo opportunities though. I couldn't have been there to record the moment our diminutive French friend popped out of the shower to surprise a girl when she was about to take a pee. I could have been there, however, when same said French guy was washing the paper plates.

Lessons learned

* It is better to underexpose than overexpose

* Getting wine on you camera is almost inevitable at this sort of party

In conclusion

Apart from providing a few people with nice profile photos I also had one of my photos used for Yelp's weekly newsletter (a photo of two girls posing on a lit-up carriage). Although, it nice to record a story that a few tens or hundreds of people will enjoy. The Kraków Post photos were nice (with a print run numbering 5,000 or more). Going to the World Press Photo exhibition has left me wanted to gain a wider audience (whether by photography, art or writing). For the moment though, I'm quite happy being the party photographer.

First (smartphone) photo is to illustrate the poor lighting conditions I have to contend with ;)
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Camera: Sony C5303; F/Stop: 2.4; ISO: 500; Exposure Bias: 0
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Camera: Sony C5303; F/Stop: 2.4; ISO: 200; Exposure Bias: 0
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Camera: FUJIFILM X100S; F/Stop: 2; ISO: 2000; Exposure Bias: 0
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Camera: Sony C5303; F/Stop: 2.4; ISO: 80; Exposure Bias: 0
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Camera: FUJIFILM X100S; F/Stop: 4; ISO: 5000; Exposure Bias: 0

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