Photographing the AAC’s Gala Dinner is our biggest challenge during their National Convention. The Gala Dinner is the same day as the Fellows Meeting and it is held offsite. This year the dinner was held at the Waldorf Astoria Disney World which is just a short drive from the Marriot where we were staying. We needed to be ready by 5:30 PM for group shots with the dinner scheduled to end at midnight.
The staff at the Waldorf were really great to work with.
We use three camera / flash setups for the Gala Dinner. We have studio flashes setup in the front corner of the ballroom with the AAC signage for posed shots we trigger the flashes with Pocket Wizards. For the presentations on the stage we have one portable flash set up to left of the stage for fill light and a nice big Nikon SB-910 on the camera for our main light. We use the Nikon Creative Light System to meter and trigger the flashes. We can also take the flash off the camera and use it handheld with the camera’s built in flash controlling it. This gives us some options to add a little variety to the images. The third setup is for the food shots. We setup a soft box that we can quickly put the SB-910 in. We like to side light or back light the food shots to add depth. We use two small white boards taped together for bounced fill-light on the opposite side of the plate from the flash. We also switch to the 105 Micro lens. We can some really nice close-up shots with that macro lens. The last time we were at the Waldorf we got a little caught off guard when the lights went down in the ballroom for the sorbet course. Once again this year the sorbet for each guest was served on an ice carving with a LED light underneath to illuminate the ice carving. For this we put the camera on the tripod, attach the remote shutter release and shoot in aperture priority mode.
The ballrooms at the Waldorf / Hilton are one story about ground level with the hallways around the ballrooms along the outside perimeter of the building. There are windows along the hallway overlooking the golf course and pool. There are locations near each of the ballrooms where you can walk outside and down a set of stairs to ground level. We used the stairs the last time we were here for the group shots and that was our plan once again. It had been raining all day and still had not stopped at 5:15 PM with group shots scheduled at 5:30 PM. We were getting ready to set up flashes at an interior stairway when Chef Stafford showed up with the guests. As luck would have it, it just stopped raining and we were able to go with plan “A”.
Once we finished the group shots we headed to cocktail reception area for candid photos. When we came into the banquet room there were these amazing, huge ice sculptures in the center of the room and two bars, one at each end of the room made completely out of ice with an ice luge on top. We grabbed the tripod and photographed a five image bracket of each of the sculptures. We could then the five images to create a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image of each one to really bring out the texture and details. Keeping people out of image during a 30 second exposure is a little bit of a challenge but we made it happen.
We photographed candid images for most of the cocktail hour before heading to the ballroom to photograph the room setup. Once the guests were seated a military honor guard presentation of the American flag. Each new AAC inductee was presented with their metal followed by the first three dinner courses being served. The rest of the evening alternated between photographing the presentations on the stage, photographing the dinner courses and photographing posed images at our on-location studio setup in the front of the ballroom. As always the night ended with Waldorf’s culinary staff coming up on stage for a thank you.
All the photos from the event are below. We also have posted a selection of these images on our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/michaelkocherphotography/ . The photos below are in chronological order. You can scroll down through the thumbnails then click on the images you are looking for to view a larger version. You can also navigate forward and backward using the right and left arrows on the larger versions of the images. If there is an image below you would like posted to Facebook let us know what image number it is (the last three digits of the file name) and we post it to Facebook for you. If you “tag’ yourself and friends the photos will show up in your news feed and on your Facebook page.