Sunday, October 23, 2011

The most interesting Bat Mitzvah in the world

Yesterday was a chance to photograph a really fun Bat Mitzvah in San Francisco. And, you might be wondering why I titled this "The most interesting Bat Mitzvah in the world". you read this blog entry, you will find out why!

I had been speaking with the family for more than a year, but met them for the first time a couple of weeks ago when we shot Aidan's portrait for her signature board. Not only did we have a great time, but it is a great chance to get to know each other before the big day.

This was the first time that I had the pleasure of photographing a mitzvah at Temple Emanu El in San Francisco (one of the largest and oldest temples in CA). We had a beautiful sunny day, which is not a guarantee for San Francisco in October.  We started our family portraits in the temple courtyard, where I captured this image of Aidan and her parents.

And then it was time to capture images of the service. Whenever I photograph a mitzvah, I am always looking for those special unscripted moments, and this is one of those. Aidan's parents were giving their speech to her and got choked up. Without missing a beat, both Aidan and her mother reached out to dad to give him that much needed support. Love that!

I really like this image of the rabbi and the bat mitzvah girl. The combination of her expression and his gesture help to tell the story. I also really liked the colors in the rabbi's talit (shawl), which really stand out against the wood background.

As I mentioned...the service was in San Francisco, but the evening party was located across the Golden Gate bridge in a small town called Larkspur. My son (who was shooting the video) and I decided to head directly over to the other side of the bay to grab some lunch and build the evening slide show. As we approached the bridge, we were amazed to see how perfectly clear it was. For those of you who have been to this area, you know that this bridge is frequently fogged in, even on the warmer CA summer days. We just had to stop to shoot some images of the bridge and the city. (Photographers note: As I photograph during the day, I am always looking for background images for the family's album. Since this family's mitzvah celebration spanned across both sides of the bay, and required everyone to make this glorious trip, it made sense to have some of these images for them - and me too of course!)

Then it was time to party at this really amazing venue (Tavern at Lark Creek). I grabbed this image of the family in front of the house later in the evening, but thought that I would show it to you now so that you could see the party location. (Photographer's note: In order to capture this image, I metered for the building, which would normally leave the family silhouetted, and then manually popped the flash - which I was holding in my hand - to light the 3 subjects. It is important to remind your subjects to stay very still for the 3 or 4 seconds of the exposure, even after the flash has popped.)

I shot this photo right after Aidan showed up at the party. You can see her great smile as she greets her friends and relatives.

When I got to the party venue earlier in the evening, I looked up and saw this large skylight with bright light above and thought "hmmmm...this could be challenging for the photo of the horah", which is the classic shot of the child in the chair. so many other things that came together yesterday, the family was running a little late in the schedule and the horah happened just after the sunset and we had this amazing blue light in the sky. I could not have planned that any better if I had tried. Perfect timing!!!!

OK - now is the time that you get to understand the title of the blog entry. It turns out that Aidan's uncle, Jonathan Goldsmith, is the actor who plays "The most interesting man in the world" in the Dos Equis commercials. He was gracious enough to let me shoot this portrait of him during the party.

I asked Aidan to give me a pose when everyone had sat down for dinner. I love this shot of her having fun.

It is quite common at mitzvah parties to have a candle lighting ceremony. I absolutely love this shot of the family lighting the last candle. What makes this image so special is that I did not use a flash to get this shot. I used the ambient light from the candles to light their faces and used a very fast 50mm lens to grab the image.

While everyone else is enjoying the video montage, I am looking for the reactions of the family members. 

If you have read my blog before, you know that I like to try different things with my camera. This is one of those shots where I twist the camera during a slow shutter and pop just enough flash to freeze the subject. This makes an already fun shot even better!

This was the last shot of the evening. I saw this last group of girls saying goodbye as the music ended. I quickly threw on a 16mm lens, grabbed a flash and diffuser and asked them to huddle above me as I lay on the ground. They formed a nice tight circle above me (and I got lucky with the light centered above them).

It was a REALLY long day. We left the house at 7am to drive to San Francisco and left the party at 11pm that evening. We were both exhausted as we headed off for the hour plus ride to our home, but were summoned by the Golden Gate Bridge which was amazingly still crystal clear. Connor actually convinced me to head back up the Marin Headlands to get some night shots. Good call Connor! It was a perfect end to a perfect day of shooting.

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