Sunday, June 26, 2011

A chance to photograph a very special event

Over the last 6 years, I have photographed many Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, but yesterday was the first time photographing two sisters of different ages. Michelle is 13 and her older sister Nicole, who has down syndrome, is 16. I was honored to be able to capture images of the two of them as they celebrated their big day.

Last month, in preparation of the B'not Mitzvah (not called a Bat Mitzvah when there are two girls - yep, I just learned this too), I took portraits shots of the girls at their home.

Taking these portraits was a lot of fun for all of us and also allowed me to get to know the kids (and the parents), so that yesterday we all knew each other and everyone was at ease in front of the camera.

These images were taken at Temple Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, CA. It is an amazing Temple for photography since the synagogue is surrounded by clear windows and the colors are amazing! As you can tell from this shot, we were having some fun while taking the Torah pictures.

Whenever I photograph these types of events, I am always looking for those moments where the kids (or other participants) show true emotion. This is one of those moments. I am not exactly sure what happened, but Michelle broke into a big smile when her parents were reading a Hebrew passage. Did they make a mistake? We will have to ask Michelle.

This is another one of those moments when the family was all having a good time. Capturing a big smile on one person is really nice, but getting a shot like this, with everyone showing that emotion, is just awesome! (Photographers note: It is very important to be at your camera, ready to shoot images, at all times during a mitzvah, wedding or whatever event you are shooting. You never know when a special moment will present itself, and it is your job to be there to capture that for the family. For this shot, I used a Canon 5D Mark II with a 100-400mm L Series lens mounted onto a Gitzo tripod. This was in the back of the synagogue at approximately 200 feet from the subjects. Settings: ISO 3200, Shutter speed of 1/80, and aperture of f5.6)

At almost every Mitzvah I get a picture of the person lifting the Torah, but I like this one because it was taken mid-way through the lift, and you can see the reflection of the Torah in his glasses.

This is another favorite of the day, because it shows both sisters having a good time. It was so touching to see the bond between these two, and I think that comes out in the photos.

The DJ (Alan Waltz Entertainment) was amazing as always, and had the kids all decked out in paraphernalia. I asked the girls if they wanted to take a fun shot with them all around me and it was their idea to don the glasses for the shot. (Photographer note: In order to get a shot like this, you need to use a wide lens, like a 16-35mm on a full frame camera, and an external flash with a diffuser. Then you lay down on the ground and shoot straight up, focusing on one of the kids faces, making sure that you light everyone evening. This is a great way to set yourself apart from all the other photographers, trying something new and fun.)

This last shot is special, because Nicole spent a lot of time hanging with friends but not dancing too often. Then, towards the end of the day, she got up and joined the fun. This was the perfect time to key in on her and get pictures of her breaking loose. Love that!

When I got home from this long day and started going through the 2234 images, I realized why I love doing this job. For one day I get to become a part of another family and experience the day along side them. I am there to help calm them in the morning, to share the relief and excitement when they have completed the service, and to celebrate with them afterwards. And celebrate they did. Congratualtions to Michelle and Nicole for being great sisters and now great adults.

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