Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A beautiful Bat Mitzvah outside in the Santa Cruz Mountains (at Maison Du Lac)

Many months ago, I was approached to see if I could shoot a young lady's Bat Mitzvah on August 13th. I talked with the family and their coordinator for quite a while to get all the details. One of my first questions is always, "Which Temple do you belong to?" This time the answer was totally different from the normal response. They told me that they were doing the service and party outside, up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. At this point, I almost insisted that I be their photographer! This was such a cool opportunity to shoot something totally different. If you know me, you know that I live for this type of opportunity.

A couple of weeks before the event, I drove up to this amazing private property called "Maison Du Lac" to scout the area. As I walked around the grounds, I realized that this place was so amazing that I would have to resist the temptation to shoot portrait shots at every great spot. There were too many!

We met at 8:45am to allow plenty of time for family portraits. I did this for two reasons. First, I knew that there were a lot of cool locations on the property which would make for great family pictures. Secondly, I never like shooting images right up to the start of the service. This causes too much stress on the family (and me to a certain extent).

I picked this location by the large redwood tree, because Emily wore this light colored dress which really popped against the dark background. I used my flash to help light her and separate her even more from the foliage. (Photographer's note: Most photographers do not use a flash when shooting outdoor, especially in the shade, but adding just a small amount of flash helps to even out the small shadows under the eyes and nose. I usually set my flash at -1 stop and stand back pretty far so that the added light is very subtle. You never want your images to look "flashed". )

A nice family portrait in the same location. I could have moved them back into solid shade, but I liked the patches of sunlight on the grass by their feet. It adds a bit of contrast to the image and also gives a hint to the viewer that the morning was progressing and the sun was rising above the trees.

The family had a quick rehearsal before the service started, which allowed me some time to shoot images directly in front of the makeshift bema. One of my favorite shots is to get low and shoot a detail shot of the torah and the child at a wide aperture. I usually shoot this in portrait format, but really liked the star of David in front of the scroll, so decided to do something different. (Photographer's note: If you click on the image to see it a little larger, you will notice that the focal point is very narrow and directly on the end of the yad (pointer). I do this to draw attention to the yad and torah, but allow enough detail in the foreground and background to keep the image in context.)

I have photographed many mitzvahs but never had a chance to take photos with a natural background like this. I stood in the back of the tent and used my 100-400 lens to get in nice and close. And...for the first time ever...I used a flash during the service, with permission of the Rabbi. (Photographer's note: Since my subjects were in front of a very bright background, without the use of a flash, they would appears as silhouettes. BUT, I really did not want to draw attention to myself or pop a flash directly at the participants. So, using the white ceiling of the tent as a giant reflector, I pointed my flash directly up and bounced the light from above. Since it was in the middle of the day, nobody could see the flash, but it really made a huge difference to the final images.)
At one point, I walked outside the tent with my other camera and took some shots from a different vantage point. I was really glad that I did this because it sets the scene.

In any Bar or Bat Mitzvah, there are certain critical moments which have to be captured. When the child reads from the torah, this is a key moment that can not be missed.

But...it is the unscripted moments which I REALLY love to capture. This is one of those shots. During the speech from the parents, something was said that cracked them all up, and I fired off a couple of shots (hoping that the flash would keep up) and grabbed a couple images which highlight this great moment. Yep - this is why I love being a photographer!

Once the service was over, it was time to break for hors douvres, lunch and party. It was during this time that I saw this gentleman shooting images and video with his iPad. Hey, I have seen countless people taking pictures with their point-and-shoot cameras and cell phones, but this was a first! I had to get a shot of this.

Another key moment during a mitzvah party is the horah, when they put the child (technically now an adult) on a chair and lift them high in the air. I have photographed this many times, but never with a grove of redwoods in the background.

There was a nice pond on the property, and I saw these two young girls off by themselves having a chat. Too priceless not to photograph this. :)

This image just proves that it does not have to be nighttime for the kids to dance and have fun.

At 4pm, the party had ended and I was packing up all my gear, when Max (the very awesome DJ) held up this centerpiece. I quickly unpacked one of my cameras and took some fun shots of him. This is why I never leave a party before it is over. There are always fun opportunities to photograph right up until the end...and somethings even after the party has ended.


Eleonora Tonoli said...

Beautiful shots and very interesting your comments !:)

Bar Mitzvah Invitations said...

She is indeed so pretty.