Monday, November 22, 2021

Another nice article in the Los Gatos Magazine - "Call of Africa"

You may remember an article that was written in the Los Gatos Magazine back in June of this year featuring my Olympic work. During that interview with the writer, we started talking about the other photography that I do and she asked if she could write two articles instead of one. She wanted to write one featuring my sports photography and another featuring images from my photo tours to Africa. I was not going to say no to that!

Maria did such a nice job on the first article that I was excited to see what she came up with for the next one. I got home the other day and saw a bunch of copies of the magazine in my mailbox. Once again, I think that she did a great job with the article. Here is her layout with the text below. 

I hope you enjoy the read.

Call of Africa


A mere two minutes into our Zoom call, Jeff Cable shows me a video of an adolescent elephant in Botswana, giant ears billowing as it challenges his safari vehicle. The bull’s trumpets are as life affirming as they are loud.

It’s an already-interesting morning in late September, and Cable is exhilarated and still a bit jet lagged from his latest photo tour, teaching photography to a small group on safari in Tanzania, Kenya and Botswana.

“You never know what you’re going to see. It’s always different,” says Cable, back in his studio in Saratoga. “The wildlife is amazing, from the large cats to the smallest birds. That’s what makes Africa so different is the variety you’re seeing, the terrain, the light you’re seeing it in—all of those things combined are what makes it so amazing.”

For Cable, the highlight of this last trip was watching, from a gently rocking photography boat, a herd of 80 elephants cross the Chobe River, testing the water’s depth with their trunks. Though he’s been on 10 safaris now, that was a first.

While Cable teaches photo tours all over the world—from the rainforests of Costa Rica to the lively streets of Cuba, Japan during cherry blossom season, and, new for 2022, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia— it’s Africa that calls to him most vividly.

“It’s totally life changing. The people, the culture, the wildlife,” says Cable. “I tell all my friends, before you die, you have to go to Africa.”

To be clear, the envious life of a world traveling professional photographer takes hard work: within the last 48 hours, Cable has shot a wedding, a party, and corporate portraits in the Bay Area. His trip to Africa came just six days after he wrapped up shooting the Summer Olympics in Tokyo for Team USA. On photo tours, Cable shares the professional skills that got him where he is today while also getting a chance to slow down a little and shoot alongside his guests without the pressure of a deadline.

“I’m teaching the whole time,” says Cable. “It’s like any other safari except we’re looking for the best light and the best pictures.”

Throughout the day of shooting, which begins at sunrise, Cable gives camera setting suggestions as the light changes, and communicates in Swahili so that the drivers can help them capture, say, the light illuminating the tawny eyes of a mother lion and her cubs.

“In Africa, it’s easy to take 2,000 pictures a day,” Cable says. Rich orange sunsets, expressive acacia trees, and wildlife out of your wildest dreams—from Tanzania’s Great Migration of ungulates (large hooved creatures including giraffes, elephants, rhinos, wildebeest herds and zebras), to colorful birds you’ll never see elsewhere, crocodiles, and the largest species of cats in the world. “At certain points I’ll stop and say ‘show me your best five images.’ And we do a critique,” says Cable. “I’ll show them editing, work flow, and how to go through their images quickly—because if you’re shooting that many images a day it helps to go through them.”

Every animal has its challenges, he adds. But challenge is something Cable constantly seeks. Whether he’s shooting a chameleon eating a grub with its 200mph tongue, a high diver at the Olympics, or even a Bar Mitzvah, new perspectives and techniques are what keep his passion for photography alive.

Just as he challenges himself, Cable likes to give the group challenges, too. “As a photographer, the job is to tell a story,” says Cable. “Whether the Olympics or wildlife, you want to shoot it in a way that tells a story.” He’ll invite participants to slow things down and practice motion pans on a flying skimmer or a running zebra—a technique that can take hundreds of shots to get, but pays off in spades with its ability to capture movement. “Or sometimes it’s knowing when to get a tight shot rather than always going for the big picture,” says Cable. “Elephants have amazing eyelashes.”

A unique perk to Cable’s tours is that participants get to borrow the latest Canon cameras and lenses at no charge, thanks to his pretty sweet Canon sponsorship.

Wildlife highlights aside, what Cable loves most about photo tours is seeing people improve their photography skills over their time with him. On this last trip, he says, it was “The look on one woman’s face when she posted her photos on Facebook and her friends couldn’t believe they weren’t from National Geographic.”


Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Photographing a wedding: Dealing with harsh light, but telling the story of the day

Last month I photographed the wedding for my nephew and his new wife. Shooting a wedding is always high pressure, but especially so when I am doing it for my own family. Even though I was photographing the wedding as my gift to them, I convinced them to hire my second shooter so that I could be a guest for a small part of the day. 

I can always trust Evan to do a great job, but even with our combined experience we ran into some difficult situations, and I thought I would share this with you all.

The advantage of having Evan there, was that he could cover the men while I photographed the women getting ready. This is one of Evan's photos showing a typical scene with the guys.

While Evan was up in the groomsmen's getting ready room, I was down with Stephanie and the other women as they got ready in the barn area. Instead of getting ready in the small bride's room, they chose to get ready in the large barn area. To avoid the harsh sunlight, I moved them outside for some photos on the shady side of the barn. 

Once Stephanie got her dress on and touched up her make-up, I had her sit down on the chair where they got ready. This area was still shaded but the bright light outside the open barn door created beautiful light on her.  I used the Canon R6 camera with the Canon RF70-200mm lens for almost all the photos that day. I then switched to the Canon RF24-105mm and Canon RF15-35mm lens for the reception.

I did not have to use any flash for these portraits and relied strictly on the directional light coming in through the barn doors.

And then I took them outside to the same shaded area again for their finished portraits before the wedding.

Another advantage of having Evan there to second shoot, was that I could actually be in some of the photos. This is a photo of me and my brother. I am the good looking one! :)

Right before the wedding started, I got all the guys outside their "getting ready room" and had them give me a thumbs-up. Once again, I had them in the shade to avoid the harsh light.

And then Evan and I walked over to the wedding ceremony location, and we both looked at each other like "Uh oh, this is not going to be good!" The sunlight was coming through the trees and blasting right into where the bride would be standing. We both walked over to that spot, looked up, and realized that this was not going to change any time soon. The wedding started and we had to improvise. 

When the parents and wedding party entered the ceremony, the light was behind them and it worked really well.

But as you can see here, the sunlight was only on part of the wedding party and DIRECTLY on the bride. Evan was shooting down the center and he gave me the shrug signaling "I will do the best I can."

While Evan was shooting directly at Dean and Stephanie, he was making sure to meter to protect the highlights. In other words, he had the camera set to darken the scene so that the wedding dress would not be a glowing white mess, knowing we could lighten the other areas in the retouching process. I was moving around to see what other shots I could get in better light. 

I walked behind the gazebo and saw that the light was better from behind the officiant and the couple, so I spent a large amount of time shooting from the back area. 

I was trying to stay low and to the side as much as possible, since I did not want to be a distraction to the guests. But, as you can see here, the lighting was much better from this location. 

I love this shot of Blake (Dean's brother) comforting him during his speech.

The good news was, I could move around and shoot from different angles, knowing that Evan would get the straight-on shots of the ring exchange and first kiss.

For all the formal photos after the wedding, we had very little area to work with, that was not in bad light. 

Eventually the sun dropped to a point where I could get nice portraits of the couple from the spot where they were married.

As you can see from these photos, we now had nice even light at this location, which provided for some really nice golden-hour shots.

We completed all the formal photos, but before heading to the barn for the wedding reception, Stephanie really wanted to get photos amongst the trees in the front of the property. I turned them away from the sun and used my Canon 600 EX-RT flash to light them from the shady side.

Evan suggested that Dean and Stephanie go nose to nose and I captured this shot of them. Truth be told, Evan is better at posing couples than I am!

For the wedding reception, we set up numerous Canon 600 EX-RT flashes around the barn to get directional light on our subjects.

I use a combination of one flash on camera (with a MagSphere diffuser and set up as a master in group mode), and two other remote flashes.

As you can see, the multiple flashes really helps to light the subjects, even in a really dark environment.

This last shot was taken as Dean and Stephanie ran through the tunnel of glow sticks.  Right before this happened, I moved one of my remote flash stands outside the barn. You can see it popping behind and to the left of the couple. It was a combination of that flash (lighting the people in the rear and backlighting the bride and groom) and my on-camera flash (lighting the people closest to me and front lighting the couple) that made this all work.

It was a tricky environment to photograph, but we were really happy with our results. The most important thing is that Evan and I captured the story of their big day and they loved the photos. 

Congratulations to Dean and Stephanie!


Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.