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2009 Texas Renaissance Festival - Nikon D5000 Photo Shoot

November 28, 2009 – When the Nikon D5000 debuted last summer it looked like the perfect camera for me. It has the image processor of a D300, along with a 2.7” title/swivel LCD screen. The fact that video can be recorded at 720p, it allows for interchangeable lenses and can shoot at 4 frames per second were just icing on the cake. Since I like to shoot both down low and high over head, I have come to rely heavily on the tilt screen in my Panasonic FZ50. So I felt the D5000 (on paper anyway) should give me everything I needed for just about any shoot I would have to do.

Besides, my Nikon D200 was starting to show its age, and a quick review of recent sales on eBay confirmed I could sell my D200 outfit (body, winder and a couple of accessories) for about the same price as a new D5000. I listed it, and seven days later sold it for $55 more than I needed for the new camera. Amazon was among the first online stores to have the new Nikon in stock, so I bought it just slightly under its list price (shipping was free).

Over the next several months I had a chance to use the camera, but in each case, it was usually an important shoot and I didn't want to risk any problems.  I just did not feel confident enough with the D5000, so it came to each shoot as my backup camera, and typically saw only light duty. The Panasonic did all the heavy lifting. I have used the FZ50 so much over the past two years, I don’t even have to think about it – it has truly become an extension of my hand. What I really needed was a full day with the D5000 in a real world, non-critical shoot.

Last year, my wife and I volunteered for the Woodlands Wine and Food Week, and we got to know some of the performers from the Texas Renaissance Festival. After filling his glass several times, “King Arthur” (I believe) was kind enough to give me two complementary tickets to the 2009 Ren-Fest. The tickets were for the Friday after Thanksgiving. This would be the perfect venue to see what I could do with this camera and decide if it was a keeper or not.

I headed out for Plantersville around noon.  The day was slightly overcast, with the sun making an occasional appearance. Most of the time I had very flat lighting to work with. To supplement the daylight, I decided to use a Nikon SB-800, with a 3’ extension cord that allowed me to get the strobe off the camera and position it as I liked. Juggling the D5000 and the hand held SB-800 (that is a big, heavy flash) took a while to get used to. I found if I put the flash in my upper shirt pocket, I could zoom and compose the shot with the camera as I liked, then at the last minute point the flash to create a highlight or fill a shadow.

The last time we went to the Renaissance Festival was 20 years ago when our children were both under 4.. So I decided to visit their web site and plan out my day to catch as many shows as possible. 

When I arrived at the site, I was really surprised to see how much the festival has grown over the years. The number of attendees, vendors, performers and activities was a Disneyland-like experience. Once I entered the gates, it was difficult to stay to my plan, because every time I would hear the roar of the crowd, I naturally drifted towards that particular stage or venue.

The photos to the right are just handful of those I shot. The crowds made it difficult to compose a shot without getting some annoying distracting elements in the background (even at long focal lengths). But with some processing using ACDsee Pro Photo Manager (my preference over Photoshop) and tight cropping I came away with a couple of shots I will add to the epic portfolio.

Will I keep the Nikon D5000? The jury is still out, and will remain that way until I get a Panasonic GH1. The Panasonic is smaller, and currently has the best video capture capabilities in a DSLR. The interchangeable lenses (unfortunately not many at this time), will allow me to do things I can’t do with my FZ50, yet using it should feel very familiar.

In any case, enjoy the photos – your comments and suggestions are always appreciated and welcomed.

Posted by Vic Cherubini on November 28, 2009

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The costumes worn by many of the performers were incredible in both detail and authenticity.

Some of attendees were also decked out in Middle-Age garb. Ren-Fest is a great place for people-watching.

This is the Dragon Lady and she was nice enough to pose while I adjusted my camera and flash.

Kodak Moments abound throughout the park with costumed actors everywhere.

You could hear a pin drop as this sword swallower begins the task of downing a 20” Italian bayonet.

He let the  sword slowly descend by gravity alone - it was very dramatic.

For his finally, he bends forward, 90 degrees!

The grounds were filled with beautiful women.

I am not sure if this is how they dressed in the Middle Ages, but she had lots of admirers this day! Her mesh outfit did not leave much to the imagination...

Just outside the gates this fair lady dons a costume rented for the day.

Many lasses dressed in period outfits that brought out their...er...assets.

Hats and head wear were an important part of most costumes as you can see on this lady in red.

The theme for the weekend was -Celtic Christmas-. Here we have Frosty and Santa Baby in the spirit of the holidays.

A pretty smile on a pretty lady.

What does your future hold?  The answer may be found in the Tarot Cards.

In any photos shoot, I always try to come away with at least one photo we can add to our portfolio.  This is the one from this day's shoot.

Sometimes art mirrors life.

This man was covered with tattoos.

The Mud Men perform by diving head first into a pit of Texas clay.

The crowd loves his enthusiasm, so he challenges the other Mud Man to do something even more outrageous in the mud. And he does not disappoint!

One of -The Other Brothers- performs atop on a bowling ball while balancing 3 torches on his head and juggling the other 3. Amazing!

A lovely lass and her beau pose for the camera.

Face painting was very popular with the young people at the festival.

This young man appeared to be quite happy as this Henna artist applies a decorative design to his chest.

At the Tomato Torment booth  folks hurled ripe tomatoes at a guy yelling insults at everyone in the crowd. This one hit the mark and the crowd went wild.

This instrument weighs over 2 tons and the haunting music that comes from it goes right through you.

The Bell Ringer is very reminiscent of something you might see/hear in a Phantom of the Opera performance.

This stage act used fire as a theme, She put all 10 torches out with her mouth. Ouch!

I visited this performance at 2:30pm, but the 5:30pm show came at dusk and was more dramatic to shoot.

Both performers extinguish their torches in unison.

One act I remember well from years ago was -Birds of Prey-.  This years show was just as dramatic.

This owl was found on the property badly wounded and covered with fire ants.  He was nursed back to health and is now part of the show.

The owl's big eyes allows it to hunt for prey at night.

This vulture is nature's garbage disposal. In this demonstration the crowd counts down as he eats a chicken leg in less than 15 seconds.

It is believed that William Shakespeare was a falconer.

The group Wine and Alchemy performed European melodies while a sultry belly dancer dominated the stage.

This violin player weaves a Gypsy tune as the audience claps to the beat.

As the sun begins to set, the belly dancer appears to almost float around the stage.

This dancer went on for over 15 crowd pleasing minutes.

Sometimes a simple image can be made more dramatic with a little post production processing.