No Boundaries with the Bokeh Master

Photographing Ron B’s show, No Boundaries Up Close and Personal with several Nikon lenses and the Sigma 105mm f/1.4

Photographing Ron B’s show, No Boundaries Up Close and Personal, with Sigma 105mm f/1.4 ART

Guess what? Recently I was, yet again, on No Boundaries Up Close and Personal, an MNN show hosted by HIV and trans advocate, actor and celebrity host Ron B. And, as it always happens on the panel, we got to talk some more about HIV, AIDS and related activism, among others, as well as A&U–America’s AIDS Magazine vital role in covering the AIDS epidemic since 1991 and counting. Being on the show is always a humbling experience, this time even more because on the panel was the amazing HIV and trans activist, and award-winning performing artist Reverend Yolanda.

Knowing that both Ron B. and Rev. Yolanda were going to perform after the panel discussion, I brought with me my camera, and also my Sigma 105mm f/1.4 and Nikon lenses.

Actor, HIV and trans advocate, and celebrity host Ron B. at MNN, during her show, No Boundaries Up Close and Personal. Photographed with a Sigma 105mm f/1.4 @f/1.4. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Rev. Yolanda performing. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Rev. Yolanda performing on Ron B’s show, No Boundaries Up Close and Personal, at Manhattan Neighborhood Network, in NYC. Photographed with a Sigma 105mm f/1.4 @f/1.4, 1/200s. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

While this was was the first time for me shooting the performances with the boker master, here’s my take on that experience:

It can be difficult to focus, even if the performers do not move too much.

Shooting with the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 in these circumstances can slow you down, quite a bit.

#1 One, because you have to shoot from a certain spot or not allowed to move too much or in certain areas of the studio (which is common sense). On top of that, using only a prime lens, in these circumstances, might limit the number of angles and vantage points from where you can shoot quite a lot.
#2 Two, because I find it quite difficult to handhold the lens and shoot verticals (portrait oriented images), especially when the subject is moving, even if slightly. Same or similar goes for shooting verticals during a portrait photo shoot. Hence, there could be a lot of missed or blurry shots. And, as a note, you might or might not be allowed using a tripod, depending on the event. Therefore, it would be a good idea to…try to become a human tripod yourself, if possible, hold your breath when pressing the shutter button, etc.
#3 Three, because of #1 and #2 mentioned above, it can be quite tricky to focus where you want to focus, while shooting stage performances with a Sigma 105mm f/1.4.

Rev. Yolanda performing at MNN, on Ron B’s show No Boundaries Up Close and Personal. Photographed with the Nikon 28-300mm. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Therefore, once these kinds of shoots are doable with a Sigma 105mm f/1.4 and the results could be quite interesting, it’s also a good idea to use a zoom lens as a main lens for the photo shoot, and the prime lens as an additional lens. For example, zoom lenses, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 allow for capturing pretty much everything from wide-angle to close-up shots.

Ron B. performing on her show, No Boundaries Up Close and Personal, at Manhattan Neighborhood Network, in NYC. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Rev Yolanda MNN performances.

Rev. Yolanda performing at MNN on Ron B’s show, No Boundaries Up Close and Personal. Photographed with the Nikon 28-300mm zoomed in all the way. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Ron B performing on her show, No Boundaries Up Close and Personal. Photographed with a Nikon 28-300mm zoomed in all the way at 300mm. Photo by Alina Oswald.

The close-up shots posted above were taken with the Nikon 28-300mm zoomed in all the way to 300mm.

Rev. Yolanda performing at MNN, on Ron B’s show, No Boundaries Up Close and Personal. Photographed with a Nikon 28-300mm at f/5.6. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Ron B. performing on her show, No Boundaries Up Close and Personal. Photo by Alina Oswald.

To reiterate, from what I’ve noticed so far, the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 can slow down the photo shoot quite a bit, especially when photographing shows like the one mentioned here, and even when photographing portraits, in studio and/or on location. On one hand, that’s a good thing because it allows photographers to focus more on the image at hand; on the other hand, there are situations, such as events and in particular sports, when being slowed down doesn’t help the photo shoot. That said, it was, indeed, an interesting experience photographing No Boundaries with the bokeh master. Such an experience, in a way, opens the mind to new ideas and possibilities in terms of how to best photograph such a show. And that’s a good thing!

Also, last but definitely not least, I’d like to thank actor, advocate and celebrity host Ron B. for having me on the show yet again, and for allowing me to talk about issues I truly care about. A big thank-you goes also to artist and advocate Rev. Yolanda. Both Ron B. and Rev. Yolanda are amazing, talented and inspiring individuals that I call “angels” for many reasons. I met Ron B. back in 2007, when covering a World AIDS Day event. “I was in Angels in America,” she told me then, and had me right there and then, at Angels in America, one of my go-to, favorite movies. And Rev. Yolanda, she’s gracious, funny, and inspiring. I met her in October of last year, also on Ron B’s show, where she performed “We Are Angels” (“struggling to be human”). Her voice and the song, itself, touched a chord and I ended up interviewing and photographing Rev. Yolanda for A&U Magazine. So, to both Ron B. and Rev. Yolanda, a big thank you!

And thank you, all, for reading this blog.
Appreciate it!
Alina Oswald

  1. I just want to say you never cease to amaze me with your capturing of the moment unposed and raw I want to personally thank you for capturing the essence of all of the past guests You are an amazing photographer and journalist xoxox Ron B No Boundaries Up Close And Personal MNN

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    1. Omg! Ron, thank you so, so very much! I really needed this. Thank you for your kind words, for having me on the show, and for always being an inspiration. Appreciate it! xo

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  2. Love this series, Alina! You really captured the atmosphere here! Awesome work!

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    1. Thank you so very much! Appreciate it. It’s always a wonderful experience being on the set, photographing No Boundaries. Thanks again!

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  3. Hi Alina
    The Sigma 105mm is the sharpest lens I ever had. I’m trying it out for many different things at the moment. The other day I was shooting in a church and had my old D810/70-200 VRII together with D850/Sigma 105mm art – and I was very surprised about the good results that was easy made with the D810/70-200 combination – so much easier to archive a good shot than with the 105mm combo.
    Boy if only Sigma has considered VR in their 105MM art, it would have been a killer.
    Gonna shoot some corporate portraits next week.
    The 105mm will be with me along with the 70-200mm – let’s se which one wins hand down.
    I don’t question that the 105mm wins when it comes to sharpness, but if it’s complicated to work with and you miss a lot of shots what’s to gain then?

    Looking forward to you next post

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    1. Hi Ole,

      I appreciate your post! Thank you! I’ve shot a few more editorials/portraits in studio and on location (indoors) that should be able to share soon.

      Agree with you completely! With Sigma 105mm ART, you really have to nail the focus. I found it more difficult to hold the camera/lens (D750/Sigma105mmART) still, when photographing (without tripod), at least for me. Also, there were times when I had to lean against a wall, in the corner of the room, to get the shot/composition I was after. If the room is too small, aka not enough distance between camera/lens and subject, the Sigma lens might show its limitations. You can definitely work around that, but just wanted to mention it (and will write more about it in an upcoming post), just to kinda be aware of it. …Also, the Sigma 105mm ART does not focus when too close to the subject.

      I used to own a 70-200mm f/2.8. Nice lens, but had to sell it, as I had to sell other gear, too. I think the 70-200mm (or any zoom lens, 17-55mm f/2.8 Nikon or 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikon or Tamron or etc) allows you to work faster, and in some situations, you might need that. You’ll have a lot to carry with you, between the D850 and the Sigma 105mm and the 70-200mm! All heavy stuff! Add to that all the lighting gear. I’m sure you’ll come up with some amazing shots!

      Look forward to hearing all about it!

      Thanks again,
      Alina

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