Monday, November 29, 2010

Cruising to Mexico - Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas - Part 2

On the third night of the cruise, we had our first formal dinner. Yep, it was times for all of us to get dressed up.

Since we rarely get formal, we took advantage of this and took a family picture at sunset from our balcony. You probably know the drill...set the camera on a tripod, set the timer, and run into the picture.

Every time you get off the ship, you are hounded by people trying to sell you something. Ali really wanted her picture taken with this parrot so we sprung the $1 and got the shot. :)

As we walked away from the Oosterdam on the way to our excursion, I saw this nice shot of the ship with some interesting foreground.  

In Puerto Vallarta we decided to take the family zip lining. This trip started with a short boat ride, and then a one hour ride in the back of a truck, in order to get to the mountains. As we proceeded to get on the boat, we looked down (by the rocky shoreline) and saw a bunch of iguanas sunning themselves.  

It was fun to see these guys in the wild and not behind a pane of glass in an aquarium.

We got to the zip line place and I had to turn over my camera (since we really did need both hands for the ropes). And I almost brought one of my GoPro video cameras on the trip. Bummer! Before handing over the 5D Mark II, I did get this picture of Dean, Connor, Blake and Ali (my kids and their cousins) with their bandannas on.

As we were hiking through the forest, from one zip line to the next, we saw a bunch of these giant spiders. Once I got my camera back, I made sure to capture a shot of these creatures.

We then left Puerto Vallarta and cruised on the Cabo San Lucas. We arrived at port early in the morning. I woke up as we were pulling in and saw me wife out on the deck, enjoying the view. I took this one with her knowing that I was there. An unspoiled moment for her. :)

More images to come....

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cruising to Mexico on the Holland America Oosterdam ship - Fun times!

We have just returned from our family cruise to Mexico, with stops in Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas. We departed from the port of San Diego on Saturday evening for a week of fun.

As we pushed away from the dock, the tug boats swung the ship around and I thought that it would make for a cool photo. I leaned my tripod against the railing from our balcony and shot this image. I made sure that the shutter was slow enough to show some turning motion in the city skyline.

We made our exit from San Diego, leaving a behind rain and cloud cover (which is very rare in this city at this time of year). Shortly after leaving the port and heading out to sea, I looked back and saw that the moon had risen and was lighting up the clouds.

We had a couple of days at sea before getting to our port. I really enjoyed the view from our balconies and was transfixed by the cool patterns in the water below. Much like shooting smoke or water drops, no two shots are alike, and the colors are really beautiful.

On our 2nd night at sea, there was an announcement that we had to make an unscheduled stop, just outside of Cabo San Lucas, to offload a passenger who was having heart problems. I joined the kids who were watching the boat-to-boat maneuver, and shot this image of the security boat when it intersected the moon reflection.

The next morning I woke up just as we were pulling into Mazatlan and shot this image, of their well known cathedral, from the boat.

We departed the ship and hired a driver to take us around the city. We visited all the standard touristy areas and even watched some cliff-divers doing their stuff. These guys are crazy, diving more than 50 feet into water that is only 5-8 feet deep.

We visited the cathedral in the center of the old part of town. As we walked around perimeter of the building, I saw this pretty tree and thought that it would make a nice foreground for a photo. (Photographer note: Any time you are shooting an image of a building or landmark that is popular with tourists, you should try to find a unique perspective so that it is different from the "typical tourist snapshot" photo.)

More photos from the trip to come...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Photographing a very fun wedding (with a stop at a bar in between)!

On Friday, I had the opportunity to photograph the wedding of Shannon and Mar in San Jose, CA and it was an amazing day. They were the perfect subjects to photograph; really nice, great looking, and most importantly, they had fun and made their special day their own. Sure...they did many of the standard wedding day rituals, but they also spiced up the day with some planned and unplanned moments. And if you know me, you know I live for those!

The day started at the De Anza Hotel in San Jose and we photographed the couple getting ready for the wedding. Annette, my awesome wife and acting creative assistant, suggested that we borrow the bouquets for some outside shots. I liked this one the best.

Shannon wearing her veil for the first time.

 Just after seeing each other for the first time of the day, we got the couple together for some photos.

For this shot, I stood on the nearby fountain so that I could shoot down on Shannon. It makes for a really nice composition.

I mentioned that this couple likes to have fun (which was very apparent at the reception), and that they do things their way. Well...after shooting some images in the downtown area, we had a little extra time so they thought that a local bar would be a good stop before the church. Love that! It isn't often you can get a picture of the bride and groom doing shots at a bar before the wedding.

Luckily I had hopped into the limo with them and so I was there to capture this part of the day. If I had missed this, I would not have captured who they really are.

I had just finished shooting a couple of images of the bride and her sister when I noticed that Mar was watching from the back of the bar. I quickly refocused and got this shot.

And because I am a crazy photographer who will do anything for a shot, I climbed on top of a couch and then onto a window ledge and shot this image of the wedding party.

We arrived at the church about an hour before sunset and, as I shot some images of the wedding party getting out the limo, I saw the flower girl walking down the street towards us. I saw this amazing sunlight behind her and asked her to stop and hold out her dress. I leaned down low to make sure that the sunlight was directly behind her head and shot this backlit image of her. She was SO cute!

This is one of my favorite shots from the wedding since the angle of the photo helps to accentuate the flow of the wedding gown.

And then it was time to party, and they did! They had people fly in from all over, but there was a large group who had come in from Hawaii and they set a whole new standard for partying. They were an absolute blast.

Towards the end of the evening, Mar surprised Shannon with a song. I knew that this was coming and also knew that this was going to be a key moment to capture. I put on the new Sigma 85mm 1.4 lens and grabbed these shots of that very special serenade.

As hard and exhausting as it is to shoot for an entire day, it is capturing the emotion in the images like this one and the one above that make it all worthwhile! You can see the absolute love and happiness in their faces. Nothing is better than that!

Congratulations to Shannon and Mar!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A rainy day photo opportunity: A little one playing in the puddles!

Last weekend we had a house full of family members for my wife's grandmother's 95th birthday party. Along with all the grown-ups, we had my niece's two year old son, Silas, who flew in from Texas. Before their flight home, we all thought that it would be good for him to run around and get his energy out of his system (and he has A LOT of energy). The problem was, it was raining outside. And then we what...lets let him be a boy and have fun in the rain. So the fun began.

He started out relatively dry as he explored the street. I had just come back from shooting portraits of some friends at the local park and had all my camera gear in the truck. I saw Silas in action and quickly grabbed the 5D Mark II and the 70-200mm lens.

 Puddle jumping - you gotta love that!

And then he decided to plop down and become one with the gutter. There is nothing better than capturing images of an innocent child just being a child. No direction, just following the action.

 He was watching me watching him.

And then he was back to playing with his little toy. (Photo hint: When kids are playing, just let them play and capture the moments as they unfold. If you have a mother behind you trying to get them to smile or get their attention, politely ask them to refrain from the cues and try to get the real emotions of the moment. Trust me, they will appreciate this later when they see the final images.)

This is one of my favorite images for two reasons. First of all, I got down on my knee and shot the image at his level, which helps to bring us closer to him. (Photo hint: When photographing children or pets, try getting down to their level to really see them in their world.) Secondly, I love the concentration on his face as he trudges through the water.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fall in Salt Lake City - The Courthouse, The Capitol, the Temple and The Skyline

I just returned from a photo and video shoot in Salt Lake City. I flew in and arrived late on Tuesday afternoon and made a beeline for downtown to beat the sunset. I made it just in time to capture some shots in that perfect golden hour.

My first stop was the old courthouse which is in the center of town. I walked around the perimeter of the building and took a fair number of images, but none of them stood out as truly original. But, as I was heading back to my rental car, I noticed this cool reflection of the old courthouse in the windows of the new courthouse. Bingo -This is what I was looking for!

After shooting images around the courthouse and the Temple Square area, I drove up to the Capitol Building to grab some shots of this beautiful structure surrounded by trees with their fall colors. As I was shooting images from the front lawn, I noticed my long shadow (since it was getting close to sunset) and thought that this would make for an interesting element in the photo.

To help show the season, I got down in the grass to accentuate the fall leaves in this photo. (Photo tip: Some photographers out there might be wondering how I was able to meter the foreground and the background correctly. even though they are very different in lighting. I actually processed the leaves and front lawn separately from the rest of the image, using Adobe Camera RAW, by adding half a stop of light. Also, getting down low to the leaves helped make them a larger piece of the composition.)

As the sun set, I drove around searching for a good spot to shoot night shots of Salt Lake City. I found a couple of nice spots in the hills behind the Capitol. While I was mostly shooting images of the city skyline, I also turned the camera around and took shots of the setting sun over the great salt lakes. (Photo tip: Always look around you when you are shooting. Even though there are certain subjects which might grab your attention, many times there are interesting shots behind you, above you, at your feet...)

This is a tight shot of the Capitol Building and one of the major streets in Salt Lake City. I took this from a vantage point a little lower on the hillside with a 400mm lens.

Two nights later, I found a spot on a freeway overpass which gave me a different vantage point. 

A night view of the Mormon Temple and some of the other buildings downtown. My goal was to shoot the skyline while it was still light enough to see some of the snow capped mountains in the background.

This is McKell, our new friend turned model. We were shooting a video segment for Lexar and needed a "customer" for a couple of scenes. I met her at the Marriott hotel and thought that she would be perfect for the part. She agreed to help us out and in trade I taught her some new photography tricks. She was awesome.