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Isol, Award Ceremony photos


As a brief leave from my paternity leave, I have been following this year’s winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA), Isol from Argentina, the last week here in Stockholm. She has been busy attending the Award Week which ended yesterday with the big ceremony at the Concert House where Crown Princess Victoria presented her with the framed award.

My assignment have been very varied, starting with publicity portraits of Isol, later documenting a workshop, a lecture and a book event. My client, the award office, has recieved same day deliveries of all the photos, so my work is done for this year.


This is my fifth year working for ALMA, so I have some experience on how to do it. The most important part of the evenening is the brief photo shoot I will have with the winner together with the Crown Princess and the Minister of Culture.


Just minutes before the award ceremony is over and the guests are leaving the Concert House, I get, together with one or two other photographers, a couple of minutes with the celebrities trying to get a decent group shot.

We do it in the same corridor every year and it is mostly a matter of shooting a lot of pictures, as many as I can, so I can get at least one where they all look in the same directions with their eyes open and hopefully with a smile.

I have found that the safest way to do that is to attach a Speedlight and just let the camera, AF and TTL do the rest. It is not really the right place or time to create something spectacular, not getting a useful group portrait is not an option.


The ceremony itself is often a mix of speeches, visual presentations and music. Me and the other photographers covering the event for Swedish and international media are sitting on the balcony quite far away from the stage.

For that part I used a Nikon D800 and a 70-200/2.8 VRII, being the official photographer I get a good seat with something to rest my camera on in front of me, so I don’t have to bring a tripod.


It is very dark in the large hall, and the lighting varies a bit depending on what happens on stage. I usually take a few test shots and set the camera to manual exposure so I can easily process the photos in Lightroom with the same settings. This year I brought a laptop so I could deliver a few photos right after the ceremony and the group portrait was shot.


During the ceremony, there is a lot of time it seems, so when I feel that I have what I need from each part of the programme, I try to find something more creative. I can’t remember who said it, but trying not to shoot the same photo over and over again when you feel that you already have it is a waste of time.

The first time I did this assignment, I came home with a lot of photos that I had to go through to find the ones I felt I could deliver. Now I try to delete as much as I can in the camera and that saves a lot of time.


A lot has happened during these five years I have been doing this, the first year I think I used a 12MP Nikon D2X with a 80-200/2.8. Sure, the crop factor of the DX sensor did come in handy, but the relatively small files and the bad ISO performance compared to the D800/D600 I used now makes a lot of difference.

Now I can crop any file really hard and still have a high resolution file that is fit to print in large sizes. Not to mention that VR is nice if I need it, and also the noise levels at higher ISO is a lot better. But I still try to keep it as maximum 400 if I can.


After the ceremony I processed a few photos in Lightroom and sent to my client, minutes later they used them on the web site, blog and in their image bank.

I still had to go through the laptop, one press photographer beside me sent directly via a pocket sized 4G router and a transmitter on his camera. It looked very handy, but I guess I wouldn’t have much use for that kind of equipment so I think I will keep my laptop a while longer.


I don’t think of the technological advances much when I work ordinary days, but on events like this it is evident how fast things are changing. Many clients wants photos as soon as possible to publish directly, and “as soon as possible” is not the same as it was a couple of years ago.


In the same way, many things are getting better when speaking of size. Just to be on the safe side, I brought both a D800 and a D600, you wouldn’t want your camera breaking at the wrong moment without a backup.

But I also brought my Fuji X100s to test it a bit, and I think it is going to be a good extra camera to have in my camera bag on every assignment. The last photo above is from the Fuji, producing files in almost the same size as the D600, and at least as sharp and useful.

And that was that, now I can get back to trying to keep the twins from banging toys in each others heads, and later start working with new blog posts on studio lighting and other subjects again.

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