Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The 2015 UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Prom - The most rewarding and inspiring photography of my year

Many of you know that daughter has Crohn's Disease. And because of this, she has spent way too many nights in the hospital, especially for someone who is only 18 years old. For the last 6 years, she has been a patient at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, and they have treated her so well. For the second year in a row, they asked me if I would volunteer my time to photograph their annual prom. Last year I photographed (and blogged about) this. And this year, without hesitation, I agreed to do it again! You see, they have a prom for all the kids that can not go to their regular school prom. Either they are connected to various medical devices, in the middle of treatment, have a compromised immune system, or countless other reasons. They also invite previous patients to come and celebrate as well.

This year was especially cool, since it was the first prom at the brand new hospital location, and 12 of the San Francisco 49ers donated their time to share with the kids.

As the kids entered the hospital (via red carpet), they were greeted by the 49er players and escorted into the dance. Their parents are not allowed into the dance, but were invited upstairs for adult activities.

The 49ers would walk the kids over to a table to get their corsage or boutonnière.

The flowers, along with many of the clothes, food, DJ, and other entertainment were all generously donated by other organizations.

Here are a group of the San Francisco 49ers welcoming this beautiful girl, who is a cancer survivor.

They were very gracious and interacted so well with the kids.

As you can see from this photo, the parents were enjoying the athletes as much as the kids. (Photographer's note: It is important at events like this, that you look for the "other stories". Sure, the kids are the main subject of the story, but this photo, even from the back of the 49ers, helps to show another angle of the evening.)

Sometimes the family members would jump in for a photo as well.

This was a special shot for me, since this is my daughter Ali and her good friend Jamie (on the left). Last year my daughter was in the hospital during the prom but not allowed to go, since she was too sick. It was heart wrenching last year, but equally exciting this year that she could go.

Ali being escorted into the dance by Dillon Farrell (center for the 49ers). I love the way his 6' 5" and 300 pound frame makes Ali look so small. And what a great smile on both of them!

After escorting all the kids into the dance, the players joined in on the fun.

The kids thought it was so cool to have all these big guys on the dance floor with them.

As you can imagine, there were many selfies being taken during this time.

One moment which really stood out for me, was when one of the athletes went over to a girl and asked her to dance. Not only did she light up, but her best friend was just as excited, saying "my best friend just got asked to dance with a 49er!" Way to go guys!

This is a photo of my daughter and her friend dancing with some of the other kids. I was shooting this photo as a photographer and a proud father.

It was great to see these kids who have faced so much adversity, thoroughly enjoying themselves.

At one point in the evening, I decided to break out the Sigma 15mm fish eye lens to get a different perspective of the evening. I asked the DJ if he could encourage all the kids to raise their hands in the air, and grabbed this shot.

Another shot of Ali with other patients.

After the event was over, people starting packing up. But since I wanted to tell the whole story with my photos, I asked all volunteers if they would join me for a group photo. I took this last shot to show how many people it took to make this happen (and many others were not available at this time). One key person was late for the photo, and added in later. Can you find that person?

Overall, it was another amazing night at the hospital and one that I will never forget. These patients are an inspiration to all of us. And I can not wait to do it again next year!

For those photographers out there wondering what equipment I used to shoot this event, here is my list:

* Canon 1DX with the Canon 24-70mm II lens
* Canon 5D Mark III with the Canon 16-35mm II lens and Sigma 15mm fish eye lens
* 3 Canon 600 EX-RT flash units (one diffused on each camera and one remote on a 12' Manfrotto light stand)


If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.

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Unknown said...

This is very impressive! Not just that you were there to record images for the night but the fact that the 49ers and you would attend and make it a lifetime memory for the patients. Really well done!

danielkehoe said...

Hey Jeff, Good for you and good for the kids. I don't think I could shoot something like that. I have enough with shooting legion events. Hope you are giving photos to the kid's parents and to the 49's that were there.
The guy on the far right I think. Anyway keep up the good work.