So I volunteered to be a volunteer photographer at a sandcastle building contest in San Francisco. Anyone have any tips? I don't know if I'll be the only one and/or how many of us there will be, but I will be getting a shot list in a week or so.
Here's the website for the organization (LEAP) holding the event with pics of previous events.
I'm willing to rent any lens that I might want to take, and practice with it well before going to the event. Will go to the actual beach and try out the lens(es) I should bring some day before the event if I can. Also willing to buy any cheap equipment that I might need (like a circular polarizing filter).
Sometimes that beach is heavily overcast. San Francisco tends to get that way. Sometimes not. I doubt it's going to rain, but I do have some rain gear already if it does.
[Too late to edit original post] I should have linked to the event webpage and not the organization website.
Also important, the event is November 9th, so two weeks from now.
@Anominal: to the best of your ability work with the light to your back or a slight reflective angle around there that yeilds the best lighting without a ton of excessive backlighting. If your forced to shoot into the sun you probably need to throw a flash into the mix. You might also want to consider picking up a multi stop neutral density filter for darkening the light a little more. I have found that the 70D is extremely sensitive to light and needs some help at time outside of just cranking the aperture to the high numbers (which under high amounts of light vignettes a ton). Also helps to have a UV haze filter for your lens, even through it will degrade the image quality a little, its much cheaper to replace that filter than have to spend the money to replace the front element of lenses. Though depending on the lens it can vary. I make good use of uv haze filters on the beach, mostly when Its extremely windy (some days are calm enough you can get do without it).
Lens wise it looks like the beaches are rather crowded during the event, So you might want to have some good wide angle lenses at your disposal.
@TsunamiJuan I should probably mention my gear. The lenses that I have are the kit 18-135mm IS STM, and the 40mm f/2.8 STM. Should I just stick to the 40mm the whole time?
And I guess now would be a good time as any to rent the 600ex speedlite, now that I have an excuse to play around with it. (It's the one I've been waiting on for a good holiday deal before buying. As I understand it, it's the first Canon flash that uses radio rather than whatever line of sight method they previous were using (IR?), so won't need a Pocket Wizard or Radio Popper.)
I was also thinking that maybe I should get a monopod. The sandcastles seem to get pretty large, and I'd like to take some pics from a higher angle. I'll have to play around to see how stable I can get while using my phone to activate the 70D. The problem is I have no idea how to shop for a mono-pod/tri-pod. The whole shopping process for those are a lot more complicated than I expected.
Note: I do have a Black Rapid strap with the FastenR because it sounded like a good idea that its compatible with the Manfrotto RC2 quick release plate. I'd like to make sure that can be put to use with whatever I get, unless the quality of other brands is that much more worth it to buy instead.
@Anominal: I bought a 600ex-rt a few weeks ago, You'll need a transmitter on the camera to use it without having to trigger it opically from the built in camera flash. I don't think they are trigger with Ir (not sure though) I've only triggered mine through either optical with the on camera flash being used, or with a radio transmitter on the horseshoe.
I haven't replaced my tripod yet, but I been shopping for them off two things, max weight, and broken down size, I also like to check stability. Depending on how large of a lens your planning on putting on your camera in the future, depends on the tripod strength you need. up to 10lbs is about average for what most camera tripods are engineered for, while still being extremely mobile. Or atleast the ones I have found. Once you go past about that you have to look at video camera tripods.
http://www.manfrotto.us/compact-lightweight-tripod-for-travel-photography this looks be a fairly good combination tripod, small, light, and has a locking system in the legs for stability and can double as a monopod.
That thing is tiny. Seems like that would be a great travel tripod, and is different enough that it could feel like it's playing a different role if I pick up a heavier duty tripod down the line. My only concern is the height.
From what I've read, it seems like most people recommend to never raise the center column because you lose stability, which means that'd bring me down to 4 feet. But I'm sure Manfrotto knows what they're doing. I suppose this is where the articulated screen on the Canon 70D comes in if I don't want to be bend down a lot? No experience yet, so I'm just guessing at that maybe keeping the center column down is only really necessary during long, night exposures? And maybe Manfrotto made this center column pretty stable when fully extended when compared to other tripods.
I'm just itching to hit that buy button, but I've also been bombarded with warnings about regretting getting a cheap tripod, because a good tripod should last me years.
I can tell you from my first hand experience that raising the center higher does increase vibrations. Its worse when you use a large lens. My 100-400 tends to pogo almost due to a combination of being unbalanced on the tripod, and part from vibrations transfers from the tripod itself and center shaft being raised. I don't notice the vibration much cause it recovers very fast when I am using a normal size lens, But its a different story with large telephotos that put the center off balance. Which is why i am looking at getting a http://www.manfrotto.us/sympla-long-lens-support-system-complete-kit for use with the big stuff.
The articulated screen is rather nice on the 70D, mostly when you want to be infront of the camera :D
Okay, bought the Manfrotto BeFree, it will be arriving on Wednesday. Can't wait!
And thanks to the filter thread getting a nice bump, I remembered I need to actually buy a polarizing filter for my 40mm STM. I'm going to rent the 630ex speedlite from BorrowLenses and play around with everything this weekend at the actual beach. That, along with reviewing the pictures from the previous events, should help me get a good idea of what I should be striving for, and striving to surpass, once I get the shotlist from LEAP emailed to me.
Hopefully everything goes well. I don't feel too concerned. It's not like this is a wedding, and other than the 2009 shots where it looks like the photographer had some kind of remote controlled rig for aerial shots, I feel like I should be able to do better than what's been done in the past.
Seems like a nice, first gig to try out.
I was half tempted to offer to drive down and join you the fun :D However I think I am already commited to a project that weekend.
I love my 600ex-rt, I love it so much I will probably be picking up two more I am using the Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter on the horseshoe mount. So I am not required to use an optical triggering with the built in on camera flash, then I generally Hand hold my flash and remote trigger the shutter from the release button on the flash (which you can get to by going through the different menu groups on the flash).
Btw my local camera shop was very nice when I bought my circular polariser, and pointed out that I should really just buy one for the largest lens I own or was looking to own, and then use step down rings for the smaller sizes. This technique works well, unless your using a lens with a large shade on it, which at that point isn't really a good combination for a circular polariser that is front mounted. (so works on most lenses up until you start hitting 250mm+).
Hah, no worries. Going it alone for my first event is part of the fun... at least while I'm there. I appreciate all the input while I prep. Like the polarizer tip. I had no idea that step down rings even existed.
And the BeFree arrived a day early. Haven't shot anything with it, but I did mess around with it. It seems pretty perfect for the event, and like a no-brainer to take while hiking. Fits my Clik backpack nicely, the height works (*while understanding there can be stability issues with the column extended), and weight is great. Popped on the quick release plate and tested what it'd be like getting my camera high up to take picks of imaginary sandcastles, and it looks like it'll work quite nicely. Love it.
Yeah I been considering picking one of the befree's up, but the more and more tripoding I do I have a feeling that for me a ballhead would be a problem.
Stepping rings a cheap, i think they cost me like 10$ for the several i bought to step up to 77mm. There are obviously different quality levels of them, but really a cheap plastic one is fine, and lighter.
Well, got my filter in the mail today... and I learned that there is a difference between step up, and step down rings. The step down rings are the threaded the wrong way to use the 67mm size filter on my 40mm f/2.8 (52mm thread size. Side note: Figuring out the right way to refer to the lens size versus the filter thread size of that lens is kind of confusing.
Other than that, I have my reservation for the speedlite and transmitter all set to pick up tomorrow, and gonna go play at the beach.
@Anominal: Ack did I pull one of my super dyslexic moves and say the reverse of what I meant for rings?
When i first started messing with the flash and transmitter it took me several hours before I started to smoothly make it through the menues. I made use of the exposure adjustment last night some at a show. Though I haven't go back and looked at my pics i took (a total of 4000 shots I believe), Due to the fact that Soon as I got home It was time to sleep. I must say though there is ton of awesome settings you can play with and it certainly takes a while to get useto using them. (i've generally been shooting in manual mode with the flash, at a preset shutter speed and depending on the shooting situation I might change the flashes cone of light size.
It's okay. $14 isn't much. I was just more surprised at first that such a thing existed. Adapting a big filter to go on a smaller lens makes sense to me. The other way is a bit more confusing. Seems like there'd be less use cases for it. But if I ever need to, now I have the tools to do so.
Also went to the beach, love quite a few pics that I got of flocks of seagulls chilling on the beach, being chased away by kids, finding a new spot. Repeat.
Also learned that I have no idea how to use the 600ex. Picked it up from the physical borrowlenses.com store, but they don't come with a manual. (Time to download.) But at least I now have some kind of feel for the place, feel for the sand, and some actual time going out with with my loaded backpack with tripod, camera, and everything else.
Generally If i am using the flash, I go into a manual shooting mode, The flash will sync with your shutter speed, It will require a tiny bit of knowledge about the lighting situations your shooting it. You can then also go in and set the exposure settings on the flash aswell similar to how you can set the exposure several stops back on the camera. For high shutter speeds you need to enable High Speed sync on the flash. it Looks like a H with a lightening bolt facing down.
You can also control alot of the settings directly from the camera, if you go into the flash settings section of the on camera menus.
As for the wireless setup. You want it to see the radio tower on it, and the flash should be in slave mode, then the transmitter should be in Master. Make sure they are both on the same radio channel. Also make sure that their ID numbers are the same on both devices. The zoom will generally work fine in automatic mode. You only really need to mess with that if your trying to increase or decrease the spot intenisty of the flash, Otherwise it syncs to your current focal length.
That should probably be enough of a point in the right direction for learning how to use the flash.
bit of a helpful chunk of menu nav information
@Anominal : also the reverse direction rings are used for macro photography and photo microscopy, So you can attach a lens to another lens similar to a filter.
Okay, figured out how to set the CH & ID. Did some initial tests to get the Modeling light to work, and the REL to trigger the camera from the flash. (Just googled it, apparently REL means release.)
Now that I have it working. I need to understand how to properly set actual settings. I have High Sync on right now, it says Auto, and the only setting is that it allows me to change the Zoom... but that doesn't quite make sense to me. My guess would be that is changes power level depending on how close or far the subject is?
And a couple posts back you mentioned handholding the flash. Are you doing this with your camera on a tripod and you free roaming with the flash so you're like your own personal lighting assistant? Or are you talking about holding onto both and just keep the flash at arms length to get some kind of light that isn't straight on, with the closer the subject the better the angle of light will be?
The zoom affects the hot spot of the flash basically, It move the flash element in and out of the internal reflector, which is why you will notice the flash makes some humming and whirring noises while making adjustments to it. If you want to affect the overall power of the flash, You generally use the exposure compensation meter, Which is similar to the light meter on your camera, where the center is 0 and it goes down to -3 and up to 3. Its also covered in the book on page 22 under Flash Exposure compensation. (I keep a copy of the flash manual on my tablet for easy reference in the field)
As for remote triggering of the camera from the flash, Since I mostly shoot alone, and I have been spending large amounts of time doing macro level shooting, Which requires a extremely high aperture number to get a broad field of depth. I do hand hold the flash and work as my own lighting assistant. I can't remember if you need to set the camera's drive mode to the remote trigger icon or not.
Right now I am mostly using side angles with the flash to avoid hard front lighting and reduce the level of highlighting on my targets. I also use it to intentionally over expose water on the surface of stuff and to help bring out surface texture. The strobist site that norm linked to in his article and a couple other people have mention goes over a lot more of flash angle setup.
Okay. Got the assignment email. Turns out there are going to be a lot more photographers than I was expecting. 11 photographers (some coming in and out and can't be there the whole day) and video crew of 3-4.
5 "Site" Photographers are assigned 5-7 teams to cover for the whole event.
Roughly from 10am-2pm there are 4 Floaters, then from 2-4pm two of those Floaters get moved to cover just the main stage. (And one "student assignment" with no explanation of what that does.)
I'm going to be one of the floaters. Job description:
As the name implies you will float though out the event capturing fun and exciting moments throughout the day. This will apply not only to the beach, but also the Sandcastle Village in the parking lot. Some shots to keep in mind;
· Leap Media Tent
· Main stage emcee’s throughout the day.
· Leap information and concession tents in parking lot, aka Sandcastle Village.
· Food Trucks in the parking lot.
· Spectators as they come through the event.
· Leap staff, board of directors and volunteers.
· Getting shots from up at the Cliff House.
· If you see any other media crews, politicians or celebrities (you never know) please photograph them discretely.
Please check in with the Media Tent from time to time for any special requests.
So the Site Photographers are the ones ultimately responsible for taking pics of the final sculptures. I don't know If I'll be allowed to do some myself or not, but we'll see. What I do like is that I have the freedom to go where ever I want and am not confined to just 5 teams.
They are specifically asking to not take pics in the LARGE setting. They don't want images larger than 5mb. I also have the opportunity to post-process until Nov. 27th. So I'm wonder if I shouldn't take pics Large anyway, and crop or shrink down to size afterwards.
Things I need some tips on:
- Will a cheap diffuser be useful to me at any point? I picked up one just in case because they were so cheap.
(I guess I'm still going to have to figure out how to use the flash properly in general. I have the day off tomorrow to still practice. I'm thinking I might have some opportunities to set up a tripod and create what conditions I want with so many of us around, not to mention their suggestion of some of us taking some pics from the Cliff House which isn't the closest. (And maybe I should still bring my 18-135mm for at least taking some shots from that far away and/or I still have time to rent zoom lens to take with me.)
- I expect to mostly be using my 40mm f/2.8 and stick to Aperature Priority mode. (Now that I just learned yesterday that the thumb wheel changes exposure compensation. I didn't know how to quickly change that before. In manual I have the "Set" button assigned to exposure compensation.)
- I'm guessing I stay in "One Shot" focus mode, and don't use "AI Focus" or "AI Servo." What I have absolutely no clue about is what the metering modes do. I assume that's important considering it has a prime location dedicated button.
- Speaking of Focus. Auto-Focus zone mode. If I now understand how to use Point Selection mode to focus on my subject, then adjust composition before snapping the shot, is there a benefit to using Zone AF or full auto?
- I'm confused about HDR on the 70D. I know it's one of the Scenes you can choose, and I leave it as the Scn selected. What I'm confused is that changing the Bracketing options don't do anything to HDR mode. Are those two separate things? I've changed the Bracketing options to take 7 pics and go from low to high rather that start at the middle, but HDR mode still takes three shots.
- Speaking of settings, I wonder if there is any special custom setting I should set for "C" mode. Perhaps a high shutter setting.
I think that's all I can think of. One day left to prep before Saturday's event.
@Anominal: I Generally allways shoot in aperture priority mode. Unless I am looking to lock in shutter speed for flash shooting or specialized shooting with synced speeds. You can remap the binds for the exposure compensation to the thumb wheel if needed, to allow you to quickly change exposure compensation on the fly. I shoot -1 to -2 stops back alot of the time cause of the look i want and levels of detail i am looking for.
One shot focus mode is the best for that type of shooting, AI servo is mostly for sport shooting, so that you can keep your tracked target in focus while you follow them and shoot as they are moving. Depending on the plane of movement this is sometimes needed, If they are coming towards or away from you this the most useful, If they are parallel to you its not as needed.
as for focus I always have my focus set to center focus point. Unless I am shooting something slow where i want to reposition the photo that way for a macro shot or something. When it comes to portraiture, Focus first for center point on the eyes of your target with the button pressed half way down than frame the rest of the image as you want and press the rest of the way down to take the shot. This is a technique you generally see professional photographers using when shooting events. Generally cause its much easier to just use the center focus point and find it while dealing with chaos, rather than trying to guess where your focus point is not to mention it can be hard to see at times.
As for HDR and bracketing. The reason why HDR is generally disabled for most modes is that it precombines the multiple exposures for you in the camera, Resulting in a JPG only output and no seperate exposure shots to edit. (ie no raws of individual frames). As for bracketing what it does is as you hold the button down to take multiple shots, It will take the first at the center point of exposure, the next at the Negative point, and the third at the positive point. Resulting in a image stack that can be used to create a HDR image with in post processing. I generally Only use bracketing when I am looking to do a post production shot of an image, Or if i am trying to site in my light settings for the day/enviroment.
I have honestly never Touched C mode on my camera, Since I generally have everything set how i want it between AV and M mode.
I also make the effort personally to turn off Auto Correct Image Brightness. Cause I find that the 70D generally put way to much exposure on the highlights of the images for my taste (in general the default lighting for most of the stuff is overexposed in most situations, So I often shoot around -1 stop)
I think you mentioned questioning metering mode. Depending on if your trying to have a lighting balanced image, or dealing with backlit subjects you can change this. I shoot most of the time these days in Center - Weighted Average, cause it tends to find a sweet spot for the subjects i am shooting without background overexposure so much. (I generally care less about the background in most situations. Best way to figure out the metering mode that you want is to try them, and find out which is most accurate for the situation your shooting in to get the closest to the correct metering of light for the situation. The closer you get this to your situation the less time you generally have to spend adjusting the exposure settings.
As for lens while 40mm is nice, I would think a zoom is gonna be the most useful for you, Cause you are gonna be intermixed with quite a crowd and having to work around it to the best of your ability without being a hindrance. A zoom will give you much more flexibility to get the framing and shots that you are looking for without having to rally quit so much for position or in the case of celebritys be shoving a camera in their face. The More transparent you can be to those around you the better, it also greatly increases your chances of being asked back or being hired for other stuff. Since people generally want good pictures and candid shots but not be constantly blocked by a photographer.
If you got more 70D questions or whatever keep asking I will do my best to answer them before your under the gun.
Okay, yeah, that makes sense now. I knew HDR processed it in camera at one point, but I didn't make the connection as to that being the major difference. After I posted, I started Ctrl+F searching through the manual, and got to do a quick test with it.
About a zoom lens... I'm importing some photos right now (I pulled the trigger and actually purchased Photoshop CS6 to qualify for the photography bundle), and I feel like my favorite photos during my test run were from the 40mm. I got some great shots of flocks of seagulls. Perhaps I should rent a faster zoom lens like the 17-55mm IS f/2.8? Or go the other route if I'm okay with sticking the same aperature range, and rent the 18-200mm IS. The Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 is an option for both zoom and faster lens, but I have no idea which are the sub-par 3rd lenses and which are considered to be pretty close to par with the 1st party lenses.
And I'm charging my battery right now, but I'm hoping that I can set the C mode to do bracketing to play around with that tomorrow and see how it goes. Then I'll have Aperture Priority as the main mode, Manual set to something useful that I can switch to, and then C for bracketing. Otherwise changing in and out of bracketing modes is kind of tedious. You have to go into the menus or turn the camera off/on to disable it.
(Too late to edit)
Photos imported into Lightroom now. And now I'm not sure if I like the 40mm pics I took because of the lens, or because of a combination of the moments and lighting that I took with that lens. Renting the 18-200 f/2.8 might be the way to go... except I bought a 67mm polarizer and that lens has a 72 filter size. The Sigma reviews for that particular lens are making me want to scratch that out as an option.
I guess sticking to the kit lens might not be a bad idea... orrr, I can test the new 55-250mm IS STM lens. It'll fit my filter, and it's cheap for just a three day rental. I think that's what I'm doing. I can test out the extra range I can see from the Cliff House when I go out there tomorrow.
@Anominal: I am not sure of the quality of the kit lens you have, Since I don't own one of that size. I purchased a cheap 500$ Tamron 18-50 f2.8 the otherday, Since my 18-55 kit lens is complete garbage. It made the differance for the night shooting, i was just gonna rent it, but cause of the policy and it was a last minute thing I figure I would just buy it and keep it as a cheap lens for when i am in situations where I might drop a lens or damage one. Cheaper to loose a cheap lens than a L lens.
Though I quickly noticed that I disliked the zoom direction which was opposite of my canon lenses. Also that the focus speed was slow. (but I have been using L lenses for the lasts month or so, which are extremely fast). I find the only time I use the super low aperture numbers is when I am shooting with no flash at night. Otherwise that low depth of field is no bueno. However At the same time lenses with a extremely low aperture number as a base, tend to have a much larger front element for light collection in comparison. I also found out that the tamron that Purchased was about on part with 100-400mm for light collection at 2.8, due to the differance in front element size (67mm on the tamron, 77mm on the canon). So the next lens I pickup is gonna be the canon 24-70mm f2.8 L II USM, which has a 82mm front element and a flourine coating (I love the flourine coatings for keeping stuff clean, I don't use a filter much anymore so I can get sharper Images, and generally they only require a quick blast with the bellows to remove all the small amounts of dust. Oil doesn't really stick either unlike how it seems to stick to my cheaper lenses)
At the beach right now, content are. ing driving through traffic or finding something else to do. Can't shoot anymore because I filled it my SD card!
Good thing I came out again to do a second test run.
And that wasn't the only mistake uke. If I'm in aperture priority should I have ISO on auto? Or select one so only shutter speed will be adjusting? Accidentally started out with ISO of 2000 when I started today, leaving them all overexposed until I noticed.
I'm pretty happy with the 50-250mm test, I think it might be the one I bring. I don't think I'll need to get in 18mm (times crop factor) close to anything. I'll bring the 40mm with me just in case, but I'm going to try and keep everything I need on me, with no backpack. Just black rapid strap, Befree case over my shoulder with flash velcro attached to it, and cargo shorts for cleaning supplies.
@Anominal: I always have my ISO preset. I generally shoot at 100 in most situations, but depending on the light quality I will manually change it some but try to keep the shutter speed decently high and the iso number as low as possible.
When I shoot pictures of birds, I find most of the time I shoot at around iso 400, so i can have a shutter speed in the 1/1000 sec, or higher. Canon generally suggests that your shutter speed at minimum corresponds with your focal length so for 250mm your shutter speed should at mind be 1/250 sec. However I find that generally 1/150-200 sec is work able as long as you shoot in burst so that the shutter vibrations balance will at certain points in shooting cycle cancel each other out allowing for a sharp clean image. I think you'll probably already be shooting in the 1/500-2000 sec range on a good day to begin with. If not adjust your iso in accordance to stay in that easily workable range.
sorry - double posted due to lag
Good News - I actually went through with the event. That's one notch on my belt.
Bad News - It didn't go perfect. (Hey, I can dream!)
Good - I think that moves me up from "just some dude with a camera" to an enthusiast photographer. (Not "Guy with Camera" which means something totally different.)
Bad - There were a lot more photographers volunteering than I expected.
Good - It took pressure off of me and I got assigned as a Floater, which meant I could do anything I wanted.
Bad - I rented a 55-250mm IS STM lens, and while I liked it, I needed some wider shots for the event.
Good - I brought my 18-135mm IS STM lens and it performed beautifully.
Kind of Bad - I forgot to bring the lens hood, but it was no big deal really.
Really Bad - My less than a week old Canon polarizer lens fell off at some point, and that's $200 gone just like that.
Just so Really, Really Bad - It really took away some of the fun from the event. I could not stop thinking about it. Still thinking about it right now. The worst part is not knowing when and where it came off. How can I learn to not do that next time when I don't know what went wrong? Bad images I can learn from. This I don't know how to learn from it, and I don't know that I'm going to buy a replacement. I really need to see some comparisons between the official Canon brand versus the nearly ten times cheaper 3rd party brands.
Back to normal Bad - My battery died.
Good - It died at 3:15pm with the event ending at 4pm, so it wasn't that big of a deal, especially since I was a floater.
Also Good - I filled up my memory card the day before so I was able to go to the event with plenty of space.
Fantastically Good - I love the Manfrotto Befree I bought. It performed like I wanted it to.
Bad - I couldn't figure out how to use the 600EX-RT flash I bought. It would just overexpose things so I put it away.
Also Bad - The sun during judging time was pretty much in the worst place it could have been, creating all kinds of shadows in places I didn't want it to be. If I had known how to use my flash properly as a fill light, that would have helped immensely.
Good - Overall it was a good experience that taught me a lot. I'll go again next year if I can, with a better understanding of the event, and new skills to bring to the table.
Also Good - The work isn't over yet. I went and bought Photoshop CS6 so I could qualify for Adobe's Photography bundle. So now I have Photoshop CC, and Lightroom back at my disposal, so now it's time to learn a whole lot more and see what kind of images I can produce. I'll have some actual images to share next Sandcastle update.
that sucks about loosing your Circular polariser. Maybe you will get lucky and find it tucked in an odd spot in your bag or car, a day later.
I picked up some STK high cap batterys shortly after I bought my 70D, which are stronger and cheaper than the default canon model. I picked up 4 of them, I Find I average about 2500-4000 pictures a battery. Though I swapped to using a battery grip recently, which allows me to put both two of the normal packs, or AA batteries in it. I bought it mostly to help improve my grip on the camera body, and reduce shake that was induced while pressing the shutter button. It's also nice when when your quickly swapping between landscape and portrait mode. Since it supplies you with a second shutter button for the portrait position.
On the best side of things, You now have an event under your belt, and I am sure there are plenty of things floating in your head about how to do things better the next time. Since Improvement is key :D
Yeah, I've debated on getting a battery grip or not. And 1st party or 3rd. Because the 1st party one is pretty expensive, and I'm not fond of the idea of taking the quick release plate on and off for times when I do and don't want the battery grip, and with the grip permanently on it would be a really snug fit in my bag if it fit at all.
Also, I was watching a workshop with Lara Jade on creativeLIVE doing portrait shoots, and I didn't realize turning the camera clockwise for portraits was a thing until I saw that. (Since the battery grip gets you to turn it counter-clockwise, I thought that was how you were supposed to do it even without a grip.) That's been working great for me since I put on a ProDot on my button. I have no idea if it actually reduces shutter like it claims, but I bought it because I didn't like how I had to uncomfortably curl my finger in a "talon" press to hit the shutter. The ProDot raised it so I can comfortably my let my finger naturally fit to the curve of the camera and press with whatever part of my finger is on the button, which as it turns out, is even more useful with the clockwise portrait orientation.
Another good thing that came of this, I have a better appreciation for the range and versatility of my 18-135mm kit lens. That 18mm was great for normal shots of course, but was key when using the tripod to elevate the camera to get a higher angle on the sandcastles. I pretty much got stopped or commented about at each of the 30 pieces, to ask about if I was using my phone to trigger the camera and how cool that was. Some people thought to bring ladders, but I got up higher than even they were able to get while at the same time being so incredibly mobile. It was great. (Just wish I could fix the lighting... or move the sun. Or add instructions to make it so everyone has to build their castles with the front rotated 80 degrees.)
Thanks for the update, glad to see it was a good learning experience!