It was during one of my random surfing for information on upcoming events at malls in KL that I have stumbled upon the Autumn Fashion Festival at the Gardens last Saturday. Normally I would not sacrifice my entire afternoon just for a fashion show (who am I trying to kid here blerrghhh) but when I read that there were rumours going around about a special guest appearance by Amber Chia, how can I say no? Not many supermodels would do public fashion shows for non-paying patrons at shopping malls !! This was one of the rare chances of catching her in person, though I have had encounters with her previously, more than a year ago.
The autumn fashion festival was quite dazzling. The set up of the whole runway was quite unorthodox, with plenty of fancy decorations and props to create a garden feeling inside the mall. The looks may be sophisticated and admirable at the same time, but it was not favourable for photography mainly because of the inclusion of too many distracting and messy elements. Plain and simple set-up would have worked best, but of course, style is never plain and simple.
The models recruited for this session of fashion show were mostly not locals. And looking at the catwalk, I would say that they knew what they were doing on stage. Typical Malaysian fashion shows would be.. models doing very casual walk to the end of runway, strike some long, poses for the photographers. This Garden’s fashion show was very different. The catwalk itself was the main fashion show, and the models stopped very, very briefly for just one pose that lasted less than one second at the end of the runway, then they continued their catwalk. I heard plenty of grumbles from the crowd of photographers surrounding me about the very narrow window of opportunity to capture the models’ poses. However, I beg to differ in opinion.
Looking at fashion magazines, it is prominently acknowledged that the fashion show itself is ALL about the catwalk, on how the models would present themselves just by walking down the runway. The best fashion photographs were mainly taken during the catwalk itself, with the model walking in such confidence that the cloths themselves were scream attention, and that was when fashion was selling their highest points. Of course it was not easy photographing the catwalk in action, or else why would fashion photographers being paid so well?
I believe there are many technical challenges in photographing the catwalk in progress. Any subject in motion would be difficult to photograph I might add. The models were walking at such fast pace that, once you have locked your focus on the camera (by pressing the shutter button halfway) just 0.5 seconds later she would have moved half a meter away from where you have originally fixed your focus on, and releasing the shutter just at that instant would render the shots slightly, but visibly out of focus. It did not help that the pace of the fashion show for this Autumn collections at Gardens was a heck lot faster than usual.
There are ways to counter this models moving too fast for your lens/camera to focus and snap problem:
1) Use a really fast focusing lens, and you focus and then you release the shutter just immediately after your focusing.
2) Capture more depth of field, by increasing the aperture F-number, say, F3.5-4.5 to have wider coverage before your subject goes out of focus completely.
3) Adopt higher shutter speed to prevent motion blur. Flash is important in this regard to boost up the speed while maintaining the right exposure, most importantly on skin tone.
Considering I am using the lowest camera model on Olympus’ camera ranking, and the cheapest tele zoom lens there ever was, my autofocus speed is very, very slow, rendering the first option not achievable. The maximum floating aperture for my lens was F3.5-4.5, which I found to be at a very comfortable working range. It provided me fast enough shutter speed, and adequate depth of field for my slow focusing to catch up on the models without becoming out of focus too soon. My camera may possess one of the slowest and most unreliable AutoFocus system in the DSLR market today (with the dinosaur 3 point AF system.. my God) but I still find it working relatively well for me, once I understood its weakness and worked my way around it.
So yeah there you have it, yet another fashion show. It is towards the end of the year now, so I am expecting more series of fashion shows coming up. Stay tuned guys !!