Friday, May 28, 2010

Photography in a cemetery? My Memorial Day tribute

It seems appropriate, as we enter Memorial Day weekend, to post images from the Golden Gate Military Cemetery. I have driven by this massive burial place for most of my adult life (right off of highway 280, near San Francisco Airport) and had never visited. I remember as a kid, seeing this place in the movie "Harold and Maude" and being amazed by the seemingly endless number of headstones. Last week, my flight into SFO was almost an hour early and I thought that this was a perfect time to photograph this amazing place.

Founded in 1941, there are 161 acres mostly filled with headstones of military veterans and their spouses.

Ever since getting the "photography bug", I have thought about photographing this cemetery. The endless lines and the patterns created by the headstones, makes this an interesting location for photography. It also allowed me to pay my respects to all those men and women who served our country.

Black and white seemed appropriate for this image.

Thanks to all that are serving and have served our armed forces, today and in the past!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rules are meant to be broken! - Shooting sports with a slow shutter

Last night, Connor asked me if I would shoot some images at his hockey game. Since I have done this so many times before, and had so many of the "typical hockey shots", I thought that I would try something new this time. Normally I try to aim for a shutter speed of at least 1/500 of a sec to freeze the action, but this time I changed the camera to shutter priority and slowed the shutter to 1/30 of a sec. My goal was to follow the players (panning with them at the exact same speed as their movement) to get them in focus but blur much of the background. This yielded some pretty cool shots.

The goal here was to get a sharp picture of their faces, while showing movement in their legs and arms.

Although some people may be distracted by the out of focus skaters, I like the way that it shows the action on the rink.

This shot was a little different from the rest. Connor's face is not tack sharp, but I really like the motion of his skating stride.

This shot was the best example of what I was trying to capture. There is motion in Connor's body and the background, but his face is perfectly sharp. (If you click on this image, you can see it larger and see what I am talking about)

For those who are wondering, I took about 700 images at this slow shutter speed to get 45 images that I liked. This is not the easiest technique, and not one that I would recommend for all sporting events, but it was fun for a change.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Night in Newburyport, MA

Business travel can be a weird thing. I travel all over the place, but sometimes never get out to see any of the area. Honestly, I really hate the "tease" of being somewhere new and seeing so little. My trip to Massachusetts this week was like this. I flew into Boston, hopped in a rental car, drove an hour away from Boston, and basically spent the bulk of the time in a meeting room. I was in the small town of Newburyport for 3 nights (really two if you don't count the midnight arrival). On my last night there, we went out for a really nice dinner and some drinks, and upon my return to the hotel (more like an old Inn) I decided that, since the rain had stopped, I needed to get some shots before leaving the next morning. So at I went, walking around the town, with my camera and tripod.

This is one of the many churches in town. I took 4 or 5 shots from this perspective because I liked the row of lights leading the viewer's eyes down the street. In this particular shot, I waited for one of the few cars still out at this time to drive by and give me some color on the street.

The marina was so quiet and still. The only sound that I could hear was each car passing over the metal bridge. It made an interesting metallic sound, one that I would surely have not noticed during the day.

This street looked really great at night. I really liked the curve of the road and the lighting.

More use of the old lights on the streets. Since it had rained all day, this gave me a chance to capture some of the nice reflections off of the brick surface.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The tough part of the job: Photographing a bikini model in San Diego

As part of the video project that we were working on last week, I was tasked with photographing a model on the beach in San Diego. I know, I know...but hey, someone has to do it! The following shots were all taken while the video crew was taping me doing my job.

Nicole was a real trooper too, since the sun had left us by 3pm and we started the shoot at 5:30pm. All of us were cold, but we were not standing around in a bathing suit. In between each segment she would cover up with a jacket and towel to try and stay warm.

On this shot, I actually went into NIK Software's Viveza plug-in and brought up the blue in the sky.

We not only had to deal with the overcast skies (with no sunlight), but we also dealt with a tide that was coming in quickly. We were told by someone earlier that afternoon that the tide would be going out by 5pm, but that was not the case. Twice, we came really close to losing thousands of dollars of equipment when a big wave would crash in and flood our little area of sand where we were shooting.

Yep, it was a challenge, but I would do this again any time. :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

3 days in San Diego

I spent the latter part of this week in San Diego to work with a video team, capturing video of both me and some other photographers at work. As part of this, I was to shoot images in different settings while the video guys shot me "at work". Part of this time, I was shooting surfers in La Jolla. Armed with a Canon 100-400 lens and perched on a rock just over the water, I shot these images.

This guy was a really good surfer and gave me some good stuff to work with. I really like the rooster tail of water coming off of his surfboard.

Ohhhhhh - wipe out!

The rolling wave really makes this shot (more than the surfer). It is amazing how beautiful (and powerful) the water can be.

This was the only guy that I saw get inside a tube, but it was pretty cool to see. It must have been pretty amazing inside the wave.

And of course, I can't make a trip to any city without capturing some night images. So, we drove out to Coronado Island and took some night shots on Wednesday night (while scouting for shooting locations for the following days).

Yesterday, we shot pictures of a swimsuit model on the beach. Stay tuned for those pictures. :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Another photo hike with my son

Yesterday, Connor and I decided to go for a short hike in the Cupertino Hills which is only 15 minutes from the house. It gave me a chance to teach him some more about photography, but more importantly, to spend some nice quiet time with him.

Connor really liked this shot through the trees and so we spent a couple of minutes here shooting so that I could explain exposure compensation to him. (For those of you who are new to photography or never heard of exposure compensation, this lets you manually control the amount of light coming into the camera. This is very helpful in scenes like this where you have a lot of contrast between bright light and dark shadows)

Then we both looked up as we heard this woodpecker above us. The lighting was not ideal (since the sun broke out right before we took these pictures) but we enjoyed chasing him from branch to branch and trying to get a good shot of his red dome.

We came across a really nice field of California Golden Poppies and took many shots here. This one made me laugh since it looks like a showdown between the two insects.

This last shot was my favorite one of the day. With so many poppies, it took some time to scan across them with the camera to find the right composition. I like this one best for the following reasons:

* The lighting off the top of the flowers.
* The one poppy stands above the rest, drawing the eye to that flower.
* The bud about to open (to the right) and challenge the one highest poppy.
* Shooting this at f5.6 allowed me to keep my one favorite poppy sharp and blur the rest.

Another fun day of shooting.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Eagles Concert at the HP Pavilion in San Jose

On Friday evening I had a chance to shoot The Eagles band - my first rock concert as an official photographer. The experience was different than I expected and the shooting was tough. Although I did come away with some decent images, I was frustrated by the restrictions set forth by the promotions company.

Basically, most of the promotions companies now restrict photography to only 3 or 4 songs. That means that you are escorted into the venue right before the concert starts, you shoot for 10 or 15 minutes, and then immediately escorted back out of the venue. And...if there are warm up bands, you are walked back to a holding area (in some back office somewhere) where you wait for PR people to come get you for the first 3 or 4 songs of each band. Not very glamorous!

For The Eagles concert, they did not have an opening band, so it was 15 minutes of shooting and "see ya later". To make matters worse, the first 3 songs were all pretty short. I was hoping for at least one long song with some cool lighting or special effects. Nope, not on this night.

This is was from the first song ("Seven Bridges Road") and the lighting was cool for a wide shot. Thankfully, I brought two cameras, one with a 100-400mm lens and one with a 24-105 lens. Thsi was captured at 65mm.

Shooting a concert is not easy, as the light is constantly changing and, like Friday night, the photographers were required to shoot back from the sound board (not in front). That required a long lens and steady shooting in low light. It is imperative to shoot using spot metering, otherwise the image lighting is all over the place. Thank goodness for the ability to shoot at ISO of 2500 or 3200, which is what I relied on.

Like so many other events that I have shot, I end up concentrating so much on the photography that I really don't experience the event. When I shoot a hockey game, I rarely "see" the game as a spectator would, and the same was true with the 15 minutes of the concert. Somebody asked me how they sounded, and I had a tough time answering the question. "I think they were good" is what I said, but I really was fighting with the camera and lighting and not enjoying the music. They ended playing for 3 hours - I saw 15 minutes behind a lens.

At least now, I know what to expect when shooting a concert. Hopefully next time I will have a chance to shoot from the front of the stage and maybe for a little longer.