Saturday, August 28, 2010

EXCLUSIVE! Steve Wozniak's 60th Birthday Surprise Party

Last night, Janet Wozniak (Steve's awesome wife) threw a surprise party to celebrate Steve's 60 birthday. The party was located at The Tech Museum in San Jose, CA. The big challenge was to keep it a secret and to surprise Woz. This is not an easy task from such a sharp guy!

Janet told Steve that the President of the museum was going to show them a new exhibit, which had yet to open. At 6:30pm they showed up to the museum and met with the President. Janet was sending text messages the entire time to let us know their whereabouts. Thank goodness for technology!

They came down the escalator to the ground floor (where we were all hiding in one room - trying to stay quiet. Not an easy task for 100 or more people). Steve looked over at a bunch of people with cameras and thought "Why do all these people with cameras? Is there a press event happening?" and then noticed that the room was full of all his friends.

Woz's surprise entry

Woz is surrounded by friends and family minutes after he arrives at the party.

If you know Steve, you know that he is a simple guy. No fancy catering with stuffy food...he likes his burgers and simple food. He has always loved Bob's Big Boy! All of the catering was based on diner food. (Woz did not eat any of his cake or bread since he is on a diet - Good job Woz!).

Speaking of diets, here is Drew Carey who has recently lost 80 pounds and is looking great! He said that he feels awesome and feels about 20 years younger. Woz met Drew Carey at a Bob's Big Boy down in the Los Angeles area.

Steve Poltz provided the entertainment for the party. He has written songs for Jewel and other artists. Not only is he an excellent musician, he is a funny guy too.

Janet and Steve enjoying the music.

Later in the evening Sarah Palin made an entrance. Nope, it wasn't really Sarah Palin, but was it funny anyways? You betcha! :)

Janet having fun watching Steve and "Sarah".

The few kids that were at the party took advantage of the exhibits. I saw this little guy playing and had to get this shot with the reflection of himself in the mirror. Great concentration!

Then it was time for many of Woz's friends to stand up and tell some stories about the birthday boy.

His goddaughter made a great speech and even broke into tears.

But most everyone else had funny stories to tell about Steve and his practical jokes. I even took a break from shooting images to hop up on stage and tell everyone how my friendship with Steve has been a huge influence on my life (thankfully there are no images of that!)

Janet and Steve reacting to some of the great stories!

You know that there had to be some stories about Steve and his use of 2 dollar bills.

And then it was Steve's turn to take the stage. I got up close and shot a bunch of images of him giving his speech. This is my favorite because this is such a typical Woz pose.

Janet, Drew and Woz towards the end of the party.

As the evening came to a close, Steve Poltz sang a special song to Woz. I went up above and shot this image of Woz and Janet on the dance floor.

I had to get one picture of me with Drew Carey and Woz. I have known Woz for almost 25 years now, but just met Drew for the first time last night. He has a huge interest in sports photographer, and as part owner of the Seattle Sounders soccer team, spends a good amount of time on the sidelines shooting images. It was fun talking photography with him.

It was a great evening for Steve and all of his friends and family. I was great to be there as the "official photographer" and also as a friend. Thank you to Janet for asking me to be involved in this. It was an honor for a truly great friend!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Something very cool! - "The Tease"

Tonight should be a blast. Let's just say that I am shooting a very special event. I can't say what it is, but I promise to post images tomorrow. Oh...the unfair. Stay tuned! :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Macro photography - Trying out some new extension tubes to get a little closer!

A couple of days ago, I was hanging out in the front yard of our house and my wife commented on the huge amount of bees that we pollinating on a couple of our plants. I walked over and saw hundreds of bees and some moths sharing the plants. And of course, what was my first thought? "I gotta shoot these guys!"

I popped on 3 extension tubes onto my Sigma 150mm macro lens and went to work. The hardest part of using a macro lens, especially when combining extension tubes (which let you focus in even closer), is getting the subject in focus. The depth of field is extremely narrow!

I manually pre-focus the lens and then move in and out (by a matter of a 1/16 inch or less) to get these little guys in focus. Did I get a lot of shots where the bugs were out of focus? Yep. But I also got some cool ones to share with you all.

The kids really liked this shot because the eye was in perfect focus. Check out the image below to see a close-up of this moth's eye.

These guys are so darned busy collecting pollen that they do not react to a big ole' lens coming right at them.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Air to Air Photography in Sonoma, CA - From an AT-6 to a Boeing PT-17 Stearman

Once a year, our friends from Target come in from Minneapolis for the Indy car race at Infineon Raceway. And...along with all the fast racing and ecitement at the track, we always mix in some fun in the Napa region. Before checking out some great wineries, we made our now traditional stop at the Vintage Aircraft Company in Sonoma, CA. It was time to put Ryan and Michael to the test!

To try something different, I decided that I would shoot images of them from another plane to get some air-to-air shots of their experience. So...I strapped into the backseat of an AT-6, spun it around so that I was facing backwards and off we went!

Ryan's flight started off nice and easy, allowing him to experience the beauty of the region.

And then it was time to test his courage (and his stomach). The skilled pilots at VAC took him for a great ride and did an awesome job of keeping me within site to capture these images.

Many people get a little disoriented in Napa, but not usually like this! :)

From a photography point of view, these shots were VERY difficult to get. Trying to track another plane (pretty far in the distance) with a 400mm lens, fighting the wind trying to blow the camera and lens out of my hands, sitting backwards in a plane while the pilot is maneuvering to get me into position, bumping all over the place, and trying to keep the focus on the other plane. Whoa! That is tough!!!

As you can see form Ryan's expression, the trip was well worth it and he loved the experience.

Now it was time to throw Michael into the front seat of the Stearman and see how we could handle the challenge.

Again...a nice leisurely start to the flight...

And then the fun began.

This is one of my favorite shots, with the Stearman inverted above the vineyards.

And another shot of them heading back towards the vineyards after performing another roll.

Ahhh - back on the ground! I made sure to have my pilot (Chris) land first so that I could take photos of Michael triumphant return to earth. (Note: one of the challenges with photographing these older propeller planes is to slow the shutter speed to show the movement of the prop. Otherwise you freeze the prop in place and it does not look very good. This makes for better images but also makes it tougher to get your subject perfectly in focus.)

If the smile does not say it all...

...the high five sure does!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Phillip's Bar Mitzvah - A perfect evening and some new photo challenges!

Yesterday was another Bar Mitzvah shoot for me. This one took place at a Temple where I have never photographed before. They had great stained glass windows, nice ambient light inside, but had some other challenges in store for me.

This is a shot of Phillip framed by the stained glass window in the background of the synagogue. I shot this looking up with the 24-105 lens (full frame on the 5D Mark II).

And when walking into the Temple, I saw this awesome stained glass window by the front entrance. I had Phillip stand in front of the window and then popped a little flash to add some fill light in his face.

Masha (mom) was laughing about her son being so much taller than her, so we took advantage of that in this picture. To be fair, I had him stand on his tip-toes so that I could see more of him behind his mom.

Now...back to the challenge at the Temple. They do not allow photographers to shoot images during the service. After some discussion with the Temple, the family got permission to put a camera on a ledge high above the synagogue for some shots. They called me about a month ago and asked if I was willing to shoot from that position. I said, "sure - anything for the shot". Well... When I got to the Temple, I found out that the ledge is about 30 feet high and not very accessible. So, after much contemplation, my son and I managed to get his video camera and my DSLR on tripods on the ledge. I pre-focused the camera and did my best to get a good framing. There was no way to get on the ledge so there was a little guess work and luck involved. I connected a wireless transmitter to the camera, and for the rest of the service, sat down in the back of the synagogue and fired my remote trigger to capture the service. This one of the shots from that high vantage point. (Note to other photographers out there - refrain from shooting images during the silent of very quiet portions of any service.)

In the evening, the family had their party at the Foster City Recreation Center in Foster City, CA. What a great place for a party. They had perfect weather and a great group of friends and family. They had lots of fun things to keep the kids occupied. I had fun shooting this young man blowing bubbles.

Ahhh, this was an active bunch of kids and setting up this shot was a challenge. Once we got everyone in place they had fun! :)

 If you know me, you know that I am always looking for a different, but fun type of shot. I was shooting pictures of the all the kid's shoes and saw them make this star. I had to get a shot of that!

This is one of those "gotta get this moments" during the party. That inital moment when the 13 year-old is lifted in the chair and has that reaction combining elation and trepidation.

And then the dancing got going into high gear.

Being the father of a 13 year-old girl, I can appreciate this moment between father and daughter. Their smiles and emotions really come through in this image. I knew as soon as I captured this shot, that this would be one of my favorites (and I turned and showed the image on the camera LCD to them).

As the evening was coming to a close, I went outside to grab a glass of water from the outside bar, and saw the moon sinking behind the wall of fog in the distance. I ran back for my tripod, mounted the camera with a 70-200 lens, and quickly shot about 8 images before the moon had disappeared for the night. A fitting end to a beautiful evening!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wedding in Yosemite (Tenaya Lodge): Alina and Tony's Big Day

Last year, our good friend Alina, asked me to photograph her wedding near Yosemite. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to capture this big day for a close friend in one of the most beautiful areas of the world. So, last Thursday, the family made the trip to Fish Camp, CA to be a part of her big weekend. My wife was assisting me (and did an awesome job), my son was capturing video for them, and my daughter was helping me shoot some of the detail shots from the wedding. It was a family affair for sure!

On Friday morning, we headed with Alina and Tony (who we had just met for the first time the day before) into Yosemite Valley to capture images of them. Not a bad backdrop for engagement images, huh? For this shot, Annette was holding a diffuser above the couple to avoid nasty shadows and I added some light from my flash.

I projected some of the images at their wedding reception and people asked if these were taken with fake backdrops. That made me laugh.

We took these images on Saturday, before the wedding. This shot is really special, since Alina's brides maids were her sister and 4 other girls who she has been friends with since grade school.

What can I say here? She looked awesome!!

This is a really cool shot of Alina's ear ring. My wife wanted me to key in on these, so we set up the shot to frame the close-up shot with her bouquet. I did not have to edit much in this image but I did sharpen the earring to draw more attention to it.

The wedding took part on the newly constructed patio at the Tenaya Lodge. This hotel is located about 3 miles from the Southern entrance to Yosemite. It has a great view from this vantage point, but the direct sunlight posed a bit of a challenge for photography.

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Tony Black. :)

I shot this image during the Best Man's (Tony's brother) speech. I love the reaction from both the bride and the groom.

About an hour into the reception, the sun started setting, and I started shooting couples shots of everyone who wanted them. Some beautiful cumulus clouds had rolled in and it made for an awesome site in the sky. Of course, I made sure to get the most important couple at the best light. :)

This is the couple's first dance. Somewhere during the song, one of the groomsmen yelled out for Tony to spin the bride, and I caught this moment. I think that her smile says it all.

On Sunday, we met up again for some more pictures. Alina wanted to get a couple more images for the collection, so she donned the dress one more time. Tony was gracious enough to endure more of us, and the four of us went out shooting again. Annette and I had scouted out some other cool locations the day before so we knew exactly where to go. In this shot, we used a nearby birch tree for some fun.

We found this great little area with two old metal chairs under this log frame. Since I wanted to show the couple and the wood structure, I decided to pop on the fish eye lens and got in close on the couple.

This meadow was literally right around the corner from the Tenaya Lodge. Annette and I spotted this field on the first day and knew that it would be a great place to shoot portraits. Luckily, we had an overcast evening, which served two purposes. For one, it gave us nice even light to work with, and secondly, it kept all the bees off of the flowers (which were absolutely swarming with yellow jackets the days before when we checked it out).

While I was shooting the standard portrait shots, Annette found this huge dandelion and set up this shot.

 It was a great idea (and I can't take any of the credit for thinking of it - darn!)

A month ago, I scouted this area while making my way to Yosemite to work with Canon. As I left the Tenaya Lodge, I saw this very cool lake (well...really a large pond) and thought that the rocks on the other side would make for a cool reflection shot. For our last shot of the weekend, Tony and Alina made the walk through the brush, while I set up on the opposite side of the water. Using a Canon 100-400 lens (so that I could grab close-up and wide shots) and a Gitzo tripod I started working. I felt that the image needed a little more fill light. So I put on my 580EX II flash and turned it on. My wife was astounded that the flash would have any effect on the other side of the lake. But, trust me, the flash did travel the 150 feet (or more) and helped make this shot. This is one of my favorites from the weekend.

Some notes for other wedding photographers (lessons learned):

1. Scout out locations carefully and think about the time of shooting for that location (sunlight and shadows).
2. Be willing to adjust your shooting schedule since bride's and groom's schedules change by the minute.
3. Hope for good weather.
4. Have fun with your subjects, since you are spending so much time with them.
5. Always work with an assistant since they are seeing more than you are.
5. Finish the day with pizza and beer!