getting ready to photograph the ITEEA Minneapolis conference


Next week I’ll be attending the 2011 ITEEA Conference in Minneapolis, MN. This is my fourth year attending the conference, and I always enjoy shooting photos at it. I thought I’d do a post that gives a little behind-the-scenes of what photography gear I’ll be bringing, and more importantly, the decision making process that went into figuring this out.

ITEA Saturday - Francesca Zammarano
photo from the 2010 ITEEA conference

After shooting this conference for several years, I’m more and more comfortable with what gear I am bringing. Here’s this year’s list:

Canon T1i camera
Canon 70-300mm lens
Canon 18-55mm lens
Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens
Canon 430EZ flash
Yongnuo CTR-301p radio trigger (one trigger, one receiver)

This kit gives me all the range I need to cover everything I’ll likely encounter. The zoom plus flash will give me nice coverage for the keynotes, and the 50mm f/1.8 is great in low light and for quick portraits.

ITEA Friday - Lee Morin (NASA)
NASA’s Lee Morin addresses the audience during his keynote at ITEEA 2010

Along with this, there’s the necessary support stuff:

Canon battery charger
extra Canon batteries (2)
extra Eneloop AA batteries (4) for the flash
SD cards – 8GB (1), 4GB (2)
Crumpler 5 million dollar home camera bag
Gallon ziplock bags

After some internal debate, I’ve decided to also bring a small point-and-shoot camera, for a few very specific reasons. I’ll be bringing a Canon Powershot SD780IS, which is a great little pocket camera that can also shoot HD video. I’ll be using it for a “feel” camera, and possibly as a second camera for a short video segment I’m planning on shooting.

Here’s a great article on using a camera because of its feel – granted, it’s a $8000 Leica M9, but the idea is sort of the same.

I did a project like this last year, shooting a pocket camera on high ISO and black-and-white, and I really liked the photojournalistic feel this gave my images.

City of Lights: Behind the Scenes photos

I’ll be planning on shooting this camera at ISO 1600, doing black-and-white in-camera. This will be a perfect companion for the big DSLR rig, especially since it’s completely silent (and if I turn off the auto-focus beam, almost completely impossible to tell that a photo is being taken). I am going to be using this camera to look for the out-of-the-way moments, not the big highlights.

I’ve spent way too much time debating whether to bring some kind of light stand that can also work as a camera support. I will be shooting the keynotes and sessions, which will mean the flash will likely just stay on the camera for that time. However, I’m also planning on shooting some posed portraits like the IdeaGarden group portrait, plus shots of some of the teacher and program award winners. For this, it would be nice to have a light stand and some way to hold a light modifier.

ITEA Thursday - IdeaGarden session
last year’s IdeaGarden group shot

My first thought was to bring my lightweight aluminum tripod, along with a Manfrotto 026 Umbrella Adapter and Westcott 43in. Umbrella with Removable Black Cover. That would give me a place to mount my flash and umbrella, and provide nice soft light. However, that Manfrotto adapter is relatively heavy, and while the umbrella is light and compact, the overall amount of space this would take in my luggage made me reconsider.

I then started thinking about my DIY mic stand to 1/4″ converters, thinking I’d be able to scrounge a mic stand at the conference and just use that. After a few emails to the event organizer, it turned out that it would cost them close to $50/day to rent a mic stand from their AV company – pure extortion, in my opinion! I think I’m settled on bringing just a spring clamp with Manfrotto micro-ballhead, plus a mic-to-1/4″ adapter on the off chance that there’s a spare mic stand floating around that I can snag.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 on DIY superclamp
spring clamp with Manfrotto micro-ballhead

In the end, I’ve decided I’ll bring the following, all of which will fit in my laptop or camera bag:

Spring clamp with Manfrotto 492 Ball Head
Interfit 5 in 1 Collapsible Reflector
Mic stand to 1/4″ stud adaptor
gaff tape

I think this will work nicely – I can always press people into service as Voice-Assisted Light Stands (VALs), holding flashes and my reflector/diffuser. When I go to shoot portraits, I can keep the flash on-camera if needed and bounce off the reflector, or take the flash off the camera using the Yongnuo CTR-301P triggers, and have a VAL hold the flash and refelector. One thing I love about the 5-in-1 reflector: I can take the cover off, and it becomes a nice diffuser, allowing me to shoot the flash through it, similar to how I’d use the 43″ Westcott umbrella with the cover off as a shoot-through umbrella. I can also use just the reflector if there’s reasonable available light, although this is rare at the conference (generally there’s pretty poor light quality from fluorescents, and usually not enough light in general).

I’m very much looking forward to attending and shooting this conference!