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As some of you may know, I was a combat photographer for nearly 12 years. When I retired from the service, I joined the American Legion. It's the largest veteran's organization that was established by military veterans back in 1919 to mentor and sponsor youth programs such as the American Legion Baseball League. My Legion Post 166 hosted a huge tournament and we all raised money to pay for the event. Since my talent is photography, the Post asked if I would set up a booth to make portraits of the atheltes and sell prints to help raise additional funds.
I have plently of experience of shooting on location. However, I'd never tackled the challenge of printing on demand too. I knew that I had to be prepared with the right equipment and actually practice with it before the "main event". Of course, I called my pals at B&H to help me research printers that would be fast enough and efficient enough to accomodate the staggering number of athletes. They gave me a few options, but the HiTi P11OS Pocket Studio Printer was the best choice for my purpose. Plus with this printer, I could order packs of paper and ink ribbon cartridges to make 60 prints per pack.
I used a Kata Pro-Light Flyby 76 Rolling Case to hold the printer, print packs and cards to hold the prints. This allowed me to keep all of the necessary gear together, ready and neat.
Near the ball fields, I was limited to where I could set up my location studio. Another challege I faced was the weather. The wind was gusting, which prevented me from using my Manfrotto Background Support System and colored roll paper. I made do with a plain painted wall, which is not my first choice. However, when you're on location you must be prepared for curve balls like these.
I brought a light weight plastic folding table to place literature about the portraits and to keep the printer off the gound. I was lucky that the locations had some electricity, so I could plug the HiTi printer in. But what drew me to this printer was that it did not require a power outlet to operate. Yup, it can run off an internal battery power source.
The prints took around a minute from flash card to completeyl print. This allowed the lines of athletes to move very quickly, so they could place their time and energies toward their ball games.
I used the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra with an Elinchrom Rotalux Softbox on a Manfrotto Light Stand. Because the wind was gusting at a pretty good clip, I made sure to secure my light with a Manfrotto Counter Balance Weight. I didn't want to hurt any of the young athletes. That said, it's very important to have insurance for that purpose. Sometimes, no matter how safe you play it, accidents happen. You want to be sure you cover yourself from law suits, should the unexpected happen.
When I shoot on location during events like this, I always bring a number of lenses. I won't be able to know for sure which lens will work until I see what the location limitations are. What do I mean by that? Well, some locations only have limited space where I can't get enough distance between myself and my subject, therefore, I'd need a little wider lens. When I do have the opportunity, I like to use a longer lens to knock out (blur) the background. However, that does require me to get some distance from my subject. Hence, I will bring my Kata Pro-Light Flyby 76 Rolling Bag loaded with a selection of my favorite lenses.
You'd think that setting up to take some portraits would be as easy as snapping your fingers, but it does take planning and preparedness. So make a check list that will help you remember everything you require to have a successful shoot. It's also important to think ahead about what you "may" need. In my case, I packed a shade tent, extension cords, power strips, extra flash cards, batteries, pens, paper, business cards, folding chairs, water and so on. Oh, and I also recruited a couple of volunteers to help usher the athletes through smoothly. This allowed me to focus on my main task at hand.
In the end, we helped raise enough money to pay for all of the atheletes to participate in the tournament free of charge! It was well worth the planning and photography, to be able to help make the dreams come true of the future leaders of America.