Saturday, July 26, 2014

Published 6:01 PM by with 1 comment

Senior Shots and Some Weirdness

No, I'm not talking about hiding out on the rooftops taking potshots at senior citizens, I'm referring to the ritual of photographing high school seniors. It's a rite of passage for these kids as they step into the precarious world of adulthood. It's a tradition to hire a professional photographer and look as cool as possible.

My daughter Tara is no stranger to the camera. This  shot is from her senior shoot.

In my experience, at least, the high school senior is really self conscious and nervous so my job is a combination of photographer, therapist and cheerleader (stop visualizing me in a skirt). It's a tough job to gain the confidence of a complete stranger in minutes. There's usually no meeting ahead of time (only email or phone communication), so we just meet up at the location and start shooting.

Occasionally, I find a person who exudes confidence and is completely relaxed about being photographed. That makes my job easier and yields more usable shots. Luckily for me, my most recent senior shoot was with Xander Davidson, son of my good friend Jennie. Lucky because he is a natural in front of the lens.

This is one of my favorites from Xander's session

Watch out ladies! Xander was so much fun to shoot

Eat your heart out Pete Townsend! Xander lost points for not knowing any Kenny G songs.

He is also a Star Wars nut and got into the role so convincingly that I think he maybe an actual Jedi. He wanted to do some shots with his light saber and who was I to say no? I added the actual glow in Photoshop.

Xander in all his Jedi glory

I used a 12x12 softbox with a LumoPro 180 Flash for most of the shots. Working with a light meter made the shoot much more predictable. I was able to adjust the flash intensity so that it didn't look too "flashy" and blended nicely with the natural light. 

Halfway through the shoot, my meter began to give me some strange readings so I had to resort to using my eye to figure out exposure readings. I couldn't understand what was going on. Later I realized that I mistakenly hit the memory button instead of the measure button. It kept bringing up the meter readings I had taken previously under completely different lighting conditions. Duhr!

Lights, Camera, Action! A rare behind-the-scenes look at an actual senior shoot (with a Jedi)
What I learned: Know what all the buttons actually do on my equipment!. I never use the memory button on my light meter but I should have been able to figure out the problem. Fortunately, I have a good knowledge of off-camera flash techniques so I was able to continue shooting.
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Published 11:54 AM by with 4 comments

Slowing Down and Being Prepared

Before we begin our big journey across the United States, we have some things to take care of locally so we are camped out in my home neighborhood of Issaquah for a few weeks. 

No slouch in the historical department, Issaquah city was incorporated back in 1885 with mining as its main industry. The name itself has been bastardized from the Native American language meaning either "the sound of birds," "snake," or "little stream." It has a quaint downtown area that I enjoy visiting every now and then.

I wasn't too enthusiastic to go out shooting in a place I had been to many times but I considered it a challenge to go find something fresh and interesting. I have a tendency to rush all over the place, getting things done so part of my challenge was to slow things down and really take the time to "see" what was around me.

All the lines and shadows are clean and stark but the human traces tell some kind of story

I love everything vintage so it thrilled me to see this outside a bicycle shop.
This sculpture is a full-size replica. I loved the dynamic shape. Reminded me of the horse sculpture near The Gorge
How could I pass up this scene? It kinda has a Walter White vibe about it.
I'm always on the lookout for events going on in my area. It's an excuse to mix among the camera-carrying townsfolk and not stick out quite so much with my big ass camera and lens. 

While on the city website one day, I noticed an upcoming event called Burgers, Bikers & Babes. Now, who am I to pass up such a community event? When I got there, they were just setting everything up. It was a really hot day and I didn't feel being a crispy critter in my all-dark clothing. It would be hours before the event really began and I wasn't about to sit around. 

About the only shot I cared about was of this lady on a motorcycle. She was Miss Whatsherface (I don't remember her exact title but the equivalent of a local beauty queen). 

When she posed for this shot, every guy with a camera started snapping. She was amused with her paparazzi attention.

Okay, this guy was interesting too. He was the frontman for a seventies cover band

So here's what I learned about myself.

1. I'm always in a hurry and don't take the time I should to fully notice the world around me. Having tried it on my walkabout in Issaquah, I kinda liked it and simply would not have been aware of some of the things I found worth shooting.

2. I need to be more prepared for the weather. When I arrived at that biker event, I was already roasting and had no hat or sunscreen. If I'd thought about it ahead of time, I probably would have stayed longer and gotten some better shots. 

3. Sometimes I just need to put down the camera and experience life unencumbered by a viewfinder. It's a hard habit to break.
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Published 10:58 AM by with 1 comment

One Last Trip to Pike Place Market

I've lived in the Northwest (near Seattle) since 2000 and have enjoyed every minute of it. My wife and I have recently retired, albeit earlier than most, and decided to swap our traditional sticks and bricks home for one on wheels. Our plan is to live and travel around the US in our motorhome for as long as we are able. As a photographer, this decision brings many opportunities to capture the experience and visit a multitude of new places.

As we prepare for our new life, we wanted to say goodbye to the city. We decided to visit Pike Place Market one more time and gather up the ingredients for a celebratory dinner of fresh crab and coleslaw.

Beecher's - Home of the world's most spectacular mac and cheese. Made fresh on the premises
The Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington was founded in 1907, and has a long and storied history. It is the longest continually run farmer's market in the United States. Although the variety of food is amazing, I usually go along for the photo opps. There is no shortage of things to shoot.

Preparing for a casual shoot like this requires some thought on my part. Sometimes I get stressed out about what lens or lenses I should bring with me. If I limit myself, will I also limit the shots I get? What if I need wide angle and/or closeup options? After much angst, I decided to just take one lens: my trusty Canon 50mm f1.4.

I loved the chaos of this scene. How anyone can figure out all that's on offer is beyond me
While I was happy with a lot of my photographs, I found myself using the lens wide open a little too much. The depth of field is so shallow at f1.4, it made for a lot of out of focus shots. Only towards the end of the day did I close the iris down a little to avoid those focus errors.

Taking only one prime lens along with me presented many challenges and rewards. I had to think a lot more about the shots I took and had to physically move further away or closer to my subject depending on the look I wanted. Zooming in or out was not an option with this fixed lens.

By contrast, the order of this scene attracted me 
In one of the many Chinese-owned gift stores at Pike Place. You've gotta love this stuff, tacky as it is
The variety of fresh fruit and vegetables is a feast for the eyes and mouth. I loved the waterdrops on this corn
One of the musicians from a skiffle band outside Starbucks. It was mesmerizing watching her get lost in the music
This guy is one of the reasons I love this place. He and his grey parrot put on a great show for kids and adults alike

What worked: Detail shots and capturing some colorful characters.

What didn't work: Keeping the lens open for too many shots and not getting enough wide shots.

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