"Above the Law"

“Don’t want to be the guest of the sheriff.” Those are lyrics from a song by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. On Monday, February 4th, I was a guest of the sheriff(s). Lots of them. All members of the Illinois Sheriff’s Association, gathered in Peoria for a conference involving the installation of new officers, recognition awards, and more.

Knox County Sheriff David Clague was sworn in as the new president. Originally, Sheriff Clague’s wife, Debbie, had commissioned me to photograph his swearing in ceremony. That led to working for the entire group. There are 102 counties in Illinois. Approximately 90 attended the conference. Lots of law! With all of them being away from their counties, I remarked to one that I didn’t know whether to rob a bank or be on my best behavior?

This job was a challenge. More so than usual. I wasn’t handcuffed, but I had my hands full. The mission was to do a group portrait on the steps inside the lobby of Embassy Suites, where the conference was held. Then, move to a banquet hall for the dinner and awards.

Always striving for a high level of quality on any job. Hard on myself, and always looking to improve, even after 36 years in the business, this job was a technical exercise. 1. Fit close to 90 men on a staircase. 2. Light a banquet room of approximately 5,000-6,000 square feet.

Rather than take the four larger and more powerful lights, I counted on using four smaller, less powerful, but a lot easier to maneuver, speed lights. They worked. But in hindsight, the big guns would have been better. In the conference room, the small lights were mounted for a direct light throw. I experienced some shadows. In hindsight, the larger lights would have been bounced into the ceiling, reducing the shadows.

For the group portrait, four lights were used. In photo 1, a test photo, three lights were used. I didn’t like the shadow the stairs cast, or the darker wall to the left. Hiding a fourth light behind the stairs corrected that (photo 2) The final set up was four lights (photo 3).

There I was. On a ladder, “above the law,” making the group photo. With any group photo of vertical nature, where the subjects trail back, it’s matter of fact that those in back will appear smaller than those in front. This is accented when using a shorter lens. I used a 35-70mm. In hindsight, i have wondered about shooting from further across the room and using a longer, telephoto lens, to compress the distance and make the men more equal in size?

The banquet room gave me fits too. Larger than anticipated, with room lights giving off a yellowish cast, it was all the speed lights could handle to do what I need them to do. I shoot everything in RAW format. It’s been a life-saver. I think it all worked out. The clients are happy!

With a nod to the song author, Bob Marley. “I Shot the Sheriff.” And there were some deputies in photos as well.