Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Bat Mitzvah - Hollywood Style

This past Saturday was another mitzvah photo day for me. It was Sarah's big day at Peninsula Temple Beth El, which is a pretty Temple located just South of San Francisco. I had just returned to the SF Bay Area from another trip out of state, and was worried that my lack of sleep would effect my shooting concentration. But, as it turns out, I think I should shoot while sleepless more often!

OK, to be fair, my photographic skills were good, but my subjects and the environment is what really made this special. All I had to do was take control of the camera and be creative, right?

The inside of this Temple is very modern with blonde wood and amazing colored accents. I have photographed here before, and I love shooting the images at a wide aperture to blur the background and draw attention to the kids and their family.

It is important to get nice individual photos, but equally important to get a nice family shot as well. As I look at these images, it just makes me so happy to do what I do. I feel like the luckiest person in the world, to capture family history for all these families.

This is a photo from inside the Rabbi's office. Rabbi Eisner spent quite a bit of time with the family before the service and emphasized the importance of the day. As he spoke to the family, I stayed in the background and grabbed some shots at those moments when I felt that it would add to the story of the day. Yep, that is what this is all about. We need to tell the story of the day through images. I especially liked this shot since it shows the smiles, the admiration, and the love of the family.

After the service (which I am not allowed to photograph at this Temple), it was party time. And let me tell you, these people know how to throw a party! The theme of the party was "Hollywood", because Sarah is really into acting. They had rolled out the red carpet at the entrance to the party and also included mirrors with lights, like you would see inside a green room. Before all the guests arrived, I saw Sarah looking in the mirror and asked her to hold that pose for a minute while I captured this shot. I am SO glad that I did! I also had her strike a bunch of other poses for me (hey - she is an actress, right?!) which also turned out nicely.

And since I liked Sarah's "mirror shot" so much, I asked her parents to stand in this spot as well. (Photographer's note: There are a couple of key elements in this image which I used to my advantage. First of all, I wanted to shoot wide enough to include, not only their faces, but also their backs, so that the viewer understands that this is a mirror shot. I popped a little bit of on-camera flash to make sure that there would be a little bit of light on their backs to separate them from the background. I then manipulated the image in Adobe Photoshop to darken certain areas, lighten their faces, and clean up the dust spots on the mirror. I also noticed that one of the light bulbs was not lit, so I cloned a bulb from a different spot and fixed that. After I had retouched the image completely, I ran it through NIK DFine to remove digital noise and voila!)

After shooting the other mirror images and letting the video team steal my idea (but I love Andy and his crew so we are all good), I had Sarah turn towards me for a side shot. For this photo I did not use any additional flash, but relied on the light bulbs to light the front of her face.

Did I mention the big party? Oh yeah, this place was decked out with all kinds of Hollywood details. And the kids came ready to dance. Linda and Gary, from the Pinnacle Production Group, were incredible. Their attention to detail made my job that much easier. As many of you know, having a good background is almost as important as having a good subject and foreground. The decorations in this venue made this a perfect place to shoot!

I am always striving to get a different shot of the party. Do I have a bunch of images of the kids dancing? Yep. But, I also wanted to get a shot showing Mark (the tireless DJ from Denon and Doyle) and Andy (the king of event videography from Blue Moon Productions) working the crowd. So I held my camera above my head and shot an image over Mark's head and down at the crowd. I used Andy's light to highlight Sarah and my diffused on-camera flash to light up Mark. (Photographer's note: My flash actually made Mark's arms a little too bright, so I darkened them in Adobe Camera RAW so that they were not the brightest part of the image. The human eye is drawn to the brightest area and I wanted that to be Sarah. But, notice how the position of Mark's arms frame the action and draw your eye right to the center of the photo - right where Sarah is standing.)

I have photographed many speeches from the parents, but having this amazing background really made a huge difference. The statues and Hollywood sign frame mom and dad perfectly.

After the parent's speeches, some of Sarah's friends surprised her with a tribute. I knew this was coming, so I positioned myself behind Sarah to include her in the photo. You don't need to see her face to feel her emotion in this shot.

And the surprises kept coming, as Sarah surprised most everyone with a song. It is so cool to see 13 year old kids (or young adults) who have such poise and confidence.

As a photographer, it is easy to get captivated by the main subject, but it is also important to be looking around at all times. As I photographed Sarah singing her song, I noticed her parents standing off to the side of the stage, thoroughly enjoying her performance. I quickly moved over to get some shots of her parents, to show the pride and joy in their faces.

Towards the end of the evening, it was time for the father/daughter dance. But this time, dad decided to dance with both of his girls. It was an amazingly emotional time for them and I did everything I could to grab this image. I must have shot 25 images of this dance to get that one perfect shot with both girls visible and dad feeling the moment. After shooting these images, and seeing this one on the back of the camera, I knew that my day was complete!

1 comment:

Jodi Rosenthal said...

I was really moved by the photos and captions you blogged about at Sarah's Bat Mitzvah. You could feel the warmth in the room.

Great Work,

Jodi Rosenthal