Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gambling on having a great Bar Mitzvah

Yesterday I had the good fortune to spend the day with another family celebrating a Bar Mitzvah. I arrived at the Temple early in the morning and, for the first time ever at this Temple, we had rain coming down from the skies. It wasn't heavy rain but it was just enough to make it uncomfortable for the family if we were to try to shoot photos outside. But, when I saw the amazing fall colors in the tress, I knew that we had to get some images with this as the background.

I found a great spot in the entryway to the Temple. I opened both doors, and we had an area that was covered, but open to the trees. And there we shot for the next hour. I shot some of the images at an aperture that blurred the background...

...and sometimes I would narrow the aperture to show the background in more detail. (Photographer note: In order to bring out the family members, I used an on-camera flash at one stop under, to light them evening but not blow them out. If I had not done that, they would have been silhouetted by the bright background. )
 
After shooting some additional family pictures in the front of the Temple, I walked back in to find Ethan practicing for the big moment. He was just finishing up as I walked in, and flashed me two thumbs up. I love this moment!

For the first time, I decided to try the new Sigma 85mm 1.4 lens for shooting the sequence when the child walks with the Torah. I really like the way that the wide aperture separates Ethan and the Rabbi from the background. (Photographer note: The disadvantage of using a prime lens in this situation is that I could not zoom with the movement of the child. The advantage of this lens is that, not only did I get great depth of field, the wide aperture gains me shutter speed, letting me shoot at 1/400th at ISO 1600.)

I always look for those key moments during any event that I photograph. This was one of those moments when, in the middle of the service, Ethan's parents made him crack up.

And then, later in the evening, it was party time. This was the first time that I have photographed a "casino night" theme for the kids and it was fun. There is nothing like watching 13 year old kids playing roulette, craps and poker. 

The kids were having a great time and I had a great time trying to capture their intensity. Here again I used the fast Sigma lens to grab the fast action even in the low light.
 
I got down on my knees, low to the table and focused on the child's eyes and waited until the child was ready to throw the dice. Right as they threw the dice, I hit the shutter to get the dice in the air in front of them. Fun stuff for them and me! :)  

(Photographers note: Any time you are shooting with a lens at 1.4 or 1.2 and your depth of field is very narrow, it is critical to get the focus on the subject's eyes and let everything else fall into place.)

A.J. (the DJ) was breaking the kids into teams for a challenge, and I saw them standing around in groups of 8 or 9 and thought that this would be a perfect time to shoot up on them. So I switched to a 16-35mm lens, put on a flash diffuser and convinced the kids to huddle above me as I laid down on the ground. I tried this a year ago at another Bar Mitzvah and loved the end result, and it continues to make me smile.

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