Lake Wenatchee. October 5, 2008.
If you read the comments on this blog, you will notice that people are always asking, “Andy, how do you get such great pictures of your friends goofing off and the-what-not?” Whether it is capturing your friends in the middle of ‘the little things that make life meaningful’ or just party pixxxxxing when yall are having a good time, properly operating a DSLR can make the difference between some ‘nasty Facebook tags’ and ‘authentic profile pics.’
The first thing you need to do to take great photographs is simple: wait for one of your friends to organize a party/weekend/camping trip. It is important that you make little to no effort in planning this event as you’ll need all the time you can to plan shots/buy lenses/charge batteries. Also, it’s easier and stress free to just ‘go along for the ride’ instead of ‘sending emails and collecting money.’ If you want to send emails and collect money, that’s fine, but you’ll probably get to distracted and lose your camera (like I did at Riegling’s Vegas bachelor party—oops!). In this example, Laura did a wonderful job of getting the gang together for an Oktoberfest weekend in Leavenworth.
If you are the artistic type, (let’s face it, if you own a DSLR you probably at least think you’re a ‘creative who gets art/music more than your friends’) you might have the tendency to ‘overindulge’ in things that fuel your innovation. Since a cop has never pulled me over to compliment me on my ‘creative’ driving, I’ll leave motorized pursuits to the willing during ‘photographic/party pixxxxxxxxing expeditions.’ Be careful though, not every DD is cool with you sipping single malt scotch from your flask to stay ‘inspired.’ 😉
Once your friends have made reservations at a lodge in the middle of the mountains, and you have safely arrived riding shotgun with one of your bros, it is now your responsibility to ‘take the party to the next level.’ Walking through the door half drunk with a case of beer and yelling something positive sounding (it doesn’t need to be in English or any language—see Sigur Ros) always makes for a great entrance. Since you are not the first to arrive, (I don’t need to go over that, do I?) your friends should be 15-25% more buzzed than you. Leverage their buzzedness by suggesting everyone do shots of strange foreign liquors or encouraging sing-a-longs with musical instruments. Bringing a trunk full of acoustic instruments for you and your friends to play is a must for any camping/mountain experience. Rocking out several late 90’s anthems that everyone knows the words to will also help you establish yourself as the ‘guy/gal-who-always-likes-to-have-a-good-time- yet-is-also-sorta-artistic/gifted.’ If you don’t know any Dave Matthew’s Band songs, girls might be disappointed, but all the dudes at the party will respect you. Also, make sure you can at least play some Beatles’ songs because everyone likes those.
Desiree at the lodge. Nikon D300 with Nikon 50mm f/1.8, wide open.
What about the DSLR?
Once you have helped bring the party to ‘the next level,’ it’s a good time to bust out your Nikon D300/Canon 50D. Throw on a fast lens, let your ISO float to 1600 or 3200, and dial in a wide open setting in Aperture Priority. Since you’re probably not ‘totally wasted’ yet, you don’t have to go into full-blown idiot autofocus mode. Use a selective sensor AF, put the active sensor on the eye of your subject and just snap away. It’s important to offer positive reinforcement like, “looks great!” or “this is prolly going to be your new FB profile pic.” People love hearing that shit. After you crank off 6 or 7 frames, find a good one and pull it up on your 3” LCD. One of the cardinal rules of party pixxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxing is showing off your goods during the sesh to show people you are talented/not a creepster.
Left to right: Emily, Laura, Drew, Kristen, Curtis, Claire, Lara, Desiree.
Remember, the whole reason you’re doing any of this is to attend some festival/concert/parade. It is important to have your DSLR charged and ready to document you and your friends ‘getting cultural.’ People love being tagged and switching up their MySpaces to show everyone on the internet that their fun/kute. Creating killer JPEGS for your friends to Facebook about is your duty.
Prepare to Get Drunk.
Sometimes to shoot the story, you need to become the story. Never let your DSLR get in the way of a beer, and never let a beer get in between your lens and a CMOS sensor (sooo expensive to fix yall). As the amount of alcohol you imbibe increases, gradually shift the settings on your camera to automatic modes. Stop jacking around in Aperture Priority—those days are behind you—throw it in “P.” Also, now would be a good time to engage idiot autofocus. You are essentially morphing your fancy gear into a very large point ‘n shoot.
Time to Go Wide.
Once inebriation reaches a certain threshold, composing the shot becomes difficult. Reach into your camera bag and grab the wide guy (a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, for example). Wide angle lenses allow you to be in the middle of the action and make great photographs without worrying about where the camera is pointed. If a 400mm f/2.8 is a sniper rifle, this baby is a 12 gauge shotgun.
The Day After.
After a big day of beerfesting, your friends will be pretty cracked out. They will likely begin to engage in peculiar and moderately foolish behavior. This is what is known as “prime time” in DSLR parlance. You’ll have all kinds of great opportunities to catch your friends being goofy and just ‘getting real with each other.’ This is usually the final chapter of a party pixxxxxxxxxxx sesh. After a little Photoshop and blogging, you’ll be an internet celebrity for about 4 minutes.