Postdoc Christmas Formal

Last Thursday the PdOC Society hosted this year’s Christmas formal at St John’s College. We had 210 postdocs and others in attendance, making it one of the biggest events our society has organised. Everyone had dressed up for the occasion but santa hats were surprisingly absent, we did however get paper crowns. Normally I would take a lot of photos, but I have done so much photography lately, so I was trying to hold back a bit and enjoy the dinner instead.

Back home I was deciding whether to bring the new camera or the old one to the formal. The new one has better auto-focus for low light, a bit better dynamic range and ISO, however, the files are humongous. The big file size means that viewing, sorting and editing them afterwards takes a longer time. For that reason alone I decided to bring the old D700 with my trusted 50 mm lens. It also takes beautiful pictures, in a more manageable size. Besides, having good lights matters more than which camera I am using. For some of the photos here I used an external flash triggered remotely from my camera which I will talk more about in my next blog post.

Alix Pochribniak, Sebastian Mueller, Orla Young, Jo Grey, Heïdi Serra and another guy in suit. This was shot with an external flash. What I did was ask random people from adjacent groups to hold the flash. There is a positive side effect to this strategy: it gives the two groups a way to bridge the meter or two separating them, seeding some new conversations.
When shooting from the gallery above I was trying to capture the occasional pair of eyes that would turn in my direction. Some people saw me and waved, others smiled. Here I managed to capture Marleen Forkink.


Paul Coxon gives a very expressive speech. Maya’s face to the right speaks volumes.
When shooting in poor light without a flash I tend to seek out the light sources available to me. Luckily during college formals there are usually plenty of candles that help provide light.
After the dinner was finished the flash came out for a short appearance before the batteries died. Here Dan Credgington posing for a shot. Note that the background is quite dark. When doing flash photography the general guideline is to get the ambient exposure right first, and then dial in the flash power. I was reluctant to open the aperture too much, since I did not want to risk more of Dan’s face getting blurry due to lack of depth of field. What I could have done is to have used a slightly longer shutter time. Mental note for next time.
Last picture of the day. I realised that I did not take a lot of photos of the hall, so here is one from outside with Tüzer Kalkan. To properly do the great dining hall justice I should have brought a wide angle lens, but this time I wanted just one lens with me, which was my nifty-fifty.

Okay, I will cheat and include a photo from the formal hall we had at St John’s College back in April 2013. At some point I will try and go through some of the old photos I have prior to the blog started and share them on the blog.

Photo from April 2013 to show the hall. You can see both my brothers in this photo. Look for the two blond guys in the bottom left hand corner.

It was a great party, organised by Alice Hutchins, Joy Ward and the rest of the social events crew.

– Johannes

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