Favorite photos from the 2014 WAVM Beacon Santa Telethon

This was my 22nd mostly sleepless weekend spent with a hundred or so amazing high school students, parents and volunteers as we raised money for needy families in the area. The WAVM Beacon Santa Telethon is a hallmark event here in town and I’m proud to play a small part in helping the WAVM staff achieve their goals and documenting the event for future generations. It is a 40-hour, non-stop, television and radio event – but there’s another 10 or so hours before and after that make for one really long weekend. You can head over the the telethon website for updates to the total and to see all of the pictures that were posted during the event.

Here are my 100 (plus 6) favorite photographs from the weekend:



Technical stuff for those interested…

I shot the entire event with my Fuji equipment. It was a joy to not be lugging the Canon glass around all weekend. (With the exception of some video work, my Canon equipment is now idle and I have plans to sell it off in the next year or so.)

The X100S was used for general candids and I tended to have it with me at all times. I shot 412 frames with it and kept 337. The X-T1 was used for both auction item photography (around 300 frames) and the “heavy lifting” of shooting bands, acts, and general activity. Most of the time I had the 55-200 lens on the X-T1, but the wide-angle lens got heavy use for the finale (large group in a studio). I tend to shoot in burst mode, so that artificially moves the frame count up. So, 2,200 frames shot with 1,900 still left in the Lightroom library. That’s nearly 3,000 images shot for the event.

To process and deliver the photographs during the event, I bring them into Lightroom and do a quick edit to throw out the obvious errors and bad images. When you get into band performances a lot of the bursts are either all good or all bad, but for the good bursts I really don’t have time to toss out the subtle duplicates, so I usually keep a couple from each burst just in case the band is interested in variations after the event. If I were to spend a bit more time I’d probably chop another 20% out of the X-T1 pile: perfectly good photographs, but not different enough to really keep.

After a few hours I had the camera and Lightroom settings established for the 3 major shooting areas (items, television studio and the auditorium). I’d let auto white balance and default settings take care of the rest of the candids. This makes the workflow go pretty quickly as I can get a large batch of photographs looking pretty good with a few clicks. From there I do the selects to create the gallery. After selecting the images, I go back and fine tune the exposures (I find that with the Fuji cameras I tend to underexpose more than I did with the Canon DSLRs — not sure why yet, but I think the EVF has me shooting conservatively).

While the cameras generally performed well, there were a few issues that I’m still working through to make sure I have more successful shoots. For a number of previous projects I’ve found the combination of the X100S and the X-T1 to be really powerful. The X100S is lightweight and unassuming, making for great candids while the X-T1 would have the telephoto lens on it for the close-ups. For this event, with the wide variety of settings and lighting conditions I found myself really wishing I had two X-T1s for two reasons:

  1. The X100S has a nice fixed wide angle lens, but sometimes you really want something wider.  But the killer was that the situation of documenting an event without interrupting it means that I really can’t “zoom with my feet” and need a real zoom lens to properly frame the scenes.
  2. The X100S and X-T1’s controls are sufficiently different that I found it increasingly annoying to remember which set of button pushes did this or that and when seconds count that cost me some images (or just made simple tasks a bit harder).  Even though I shoot with different Canon bodies, the controls have enough “family” similarity that they don’t often get in the way (not 100% true of course).  Having 2 X-T1s in my kit is now an increasing priority.

As discussed before, I’m still not happy with the autofocus of the X-T1/55-200mm lens.  When it locks on, it does a great job – but it’s just way too slow and doesn’t do well in low light.   I think there’s a f/2.8 telephoto coming to market soon and, if I sell my Canon glass, I will probably spring for one of those and hope it does better.

All in all, the Fuji system continues to be a great investment and is the future of event photography for me.