Ceridian Healthcare Panel in the Vinoy Grand Ballroom

Rita readies the sign in table for the Ceridian event at the Vinoy Grand Ballroom

Part of being a professional photographer is being ready to shoot anytime you have a free spot in your schedule.  I have been a member of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce for almost a year now and have developed a good relationship with many of it staff, including Rita pictured above.  However, it was Bonnie who called me on a Wednesday afternoon asking if I could photograph an event the next day.  I had no scheduling conflicts so I said, "I'd love to, thank you for thinking of me for this job."  

Inside the Vinoy Grand Ballroom - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm manual mode @ f/4 ISO 800 1/40th SB-800 Speedlight hotshoe mounted

This was also my first chance to photograph inside the famous Vinoy Resort Hotel.  Having photographed inside the Don Cesar last year, I have now worked in the two most famous hotels around.  The Vinoy's Grand Ballroom at first glance looked to be well lit, but of course what our eyes think is good indoor light and what a DSLR thinks is almost never the same.  

Listening carefully - Nikon D300 with Nikkor 80-200mm manual mode @ f/2.8 ISO 1000 1/250th SB-800 hotshoe mounted

The panel discussion was on the new healthcare bill President Obama recently signed.  For the first thirty minutes of the close to 90-minute discussion I was very focused on getting at least one good shot of each of the six panel members, with a good shot being mouth not in a strange position, eyes open, hands not obscuring their face, etc.  Even though they were sitting down and just talking, it took quite a few frames to finally get each panelist frozen in a normal looking talking posture.

candid moment between panelists - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm manual mode @ f/2.8 ISO 1000 1/250th SB-800 Speedlight hotshoe mounted

After I got the standard looking shots I of course looked for some fun candids of the panelists, like the shot above featuring some friendly microphone hijacking.  The panelists had to share two microphones between the six of them.

In the exif data I provided in the notes for each shot, you can see that even when shooting at f/2.8 with a powerful Nikon SB-800 Speedlught hotshoe mounted, I needed the ISO to be at 1000.  This is because the ambient light in the room was only so-so and the panelists were a good distance away forcing me to have to shoot at a focal length of 200mm to fill the frame.  All the shots were handheld too so I really had to use solid camera holding technique, and when I could I wedged myself against a wall or window sill.  

Candid Q&A session - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm manual mode @ f2.8 ISO 1000 1/250th SB-800 Speedlight hotshoe mounted

The local debates leading up to the healthcare bill, as you may recall, were rather animated.  However, this was a very polite Q&A session with the panelists, and the panelists themselves were very civil with each other.  After I settled in and got the shots I needed to and dialed in the exact settings for shooting with the two lenses I was using to photograph this event, I could take in some of the discussion and found it to be very interesting.

There were also some great cookies spread out in the back of the ballroom that went mostly ignored!  I ate two while shooting and must confess took another 4 home inside my camera bag!  I did not want them to just get thrown out, of course.