Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From the Winter Olympics to High School LaCrosse

It has been a couple of months since I have returned from the Winter Olympics and I really have not photographed any sporting events since then. It is not that I was tired of it, I was just too busy doing other things and did not have a chance to get out to any games. So...this last weekend, my son asked me to go with him to watch his friend, David, play LaCrosse. I shot the game with a Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 100-400 L series lens and I gave Connor a Canon 40D with a Tamron 28-300mm lens so that he could shoot the game along side me.

You can tell by the shadows, that the game was right in the middle of the afternoon with the sun high above. Not the best time to shoot sports outside, but most leagues don't plan their schedules around shooting conditions so you have to make do with what you have. :)

That is Connor's friend, David, jumping off the ground to defend a play.

Like shooting some of the games at the Olympics, I was photographing a sport that I had never seen before. This is not ideal, since it really helps to know the game to get the best shots. But the kids played hard and showed some great expressions as they competed. Connor and I had a great time shooting together and he got some very good shots too.

Photo notes: All of these shots were taken with the Canon 5D Mark II in Aperture Priority mode at an ISO of 400. Depending on the lighting, the shots ranged from 1/1000 to 1/2000 sec. I used AI Servo focus mode (center dot only) to track the kids. I used a 32GB Lexar 600x Professional CompactFlash card and did not even get close to filling it since I was shooting in SRAW.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Capturing family history

Yesterday was a really fun day of photography. I was capturing images for this particular family for the second time. I photographed their older daughter's Bat Mitzvah almost 3 years ago and yesterday was, their middle child, Maggie's big day. It was really amazing to see how much the kids have changed in the last 3 years, and it made me think about how I am capturing their family as they are growing up. What a great honor to be invited to do this for them.

The three kids having some fun before the service.

This is still one of my favorite shots...yep the Jeff Cable patented "Yad Shot". :) But this one is even better than most because of the great colors in Maggie's dress. For those photographers out there, I shoot this wide open at f2.8 and make sure that the focus is directly on the tip of the yad (pointer). The narrow depth of field draws the eye right to the Torah.

I typically capture hundreds of images of the service, but my favorites are always the ones where I can easily see the emotions of the family. In this shot, I love the fact that everyone is having a good laugh.

And then, in the evening, it was time to party. The reception was at the beautiful Hayes Mansion in San Jose, CA. Big smiles all around!

And...the start of the show is...Maggie. I love getting all the kids together and taking a kids-only picture.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yosemite - One trip...Two seasons

For the last couple of days, I have been having fun in the Yosemite Valley. We were there to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday (happy birthday mom!) and, of course, I had to make time to shoot some images while there.

I got up very early on Monday morning and started my drive to Yosemite, but since I was running ahead of schedule, I decided to make a quick stop at the Altamont Pass to get a couple of shots of the windmills. I have driven by these hundreds of times but never taken the time to shoot images there.

And then, after meeting up with my brother in Manteca, CA, we headed towards the National Park. He was anxious to learn about photography, so we made numerous stops on the way into the park. We came across a couple of creeks and waterfalls and so I thought that this would be a good time to teach him how to slow the shutter of his camera to show the flowing water.

This shot was taken at with a one second exposure (on my trusty Gitzo tripod of course) at ISO 100. I also used a Tiffen circular polarizing filter to knock out the reflections.

We finally got into the Yosemite Valley at noon and had to make the stop at the Tunnel View. Yep, this is the spot where everyone in the world (or so it seems) had taken a picture. One of the park rangers told me that this is the most photographed landscape in the world. We had sunny weather which was nice, since we knew that a big storm was approaching later that evening. I shot the image above and thought that, in the spirit of Ansel Adams, I would turn it into a black and white image. I used the NIK Silver Efex Pro software to make the conversion.

Then we hit the valley floor and shot some more "tourist shots". The sun was still out and it got a little warm. I actually got sunburn on my face and neck. We were having fun and my brother was learning a lot (I think), so all was good!

The next morning we woke up to totally different weather. Seriously, I have never seen snow flakes the size of a silver dollar. These things were HUGE and really wet. But that did not stop us from venturing out and checking out the sites. Since my mother had a handicap placard, we were able to drive up to Mirror Lake and get some shots in the snow.

And then...after lunch...the snow stopped falling for a couple of hours and we had just a teeny bit of clearing. Just enough to get this shot with the clouds hanging over the big rocks.

As we were driving through the valley, I saw this cluster of trees and rock formations with the clouds intermixed and I knew that I had to capture this. I was especially drawn to the two large pointed rocks that you can see pointing up just to the right of the middle of the image. I did convert this image to B&W but even the original was very monochromatic, due to the heavy cloud cover.
I took this shot as we were exiting Yosemite this morning. The park is so beautiful, that I could have stopped a hundred more times. When I got home this afternoon, I was edited the images from the trip. This image was a tough one for me. I still can not decide if I like the B&W version of the color version better. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My largest printed images!

This is a BIG time of the year for the San Jose Sharks as they start their playoff run. Tonight at 7:30pm is the first game of the 2010 playoffs and the Shark Tank is decorated and ready to go. Speaking of BIG, they have printed two of my images and skinned the front steps of the arena with them.

This is the South (Main) entrance of the arena, with one image on each staircase.

I shot these images approximately three weeks ago. It was not the most exciting assignment, since I was basically shooting images of the guys on the bench for the whole game, but the end result is pretty cool. (You can click on the images to see them a little larger)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Three years of blogging - wow!

I was filling out a questionnaire about blogging the other day and one of the questions asked how long I have been actively blogging. I really had no idea how long I have been at this, so I looked back at the first blog entry (an entry from Mexico City). I looked at the date and realized that, as of yesterday, I have been blogging for 3 years now. I am really glad that I started this, mostly to share my experiences and photos with all of you (whoever you are) but also for me to go back in time and relive my experiences. I was never the type of person to write in a personal journal, but this online journal has become part of me. As I sit here writing this, I am wondering where the next 3 years will take us!

Spring time in California

A couple of weeks ago, we made a day trip to the Northern California coast. We started at Pacifica and then drove South, down Highway 1, to Half Moon Bay. While my family was looking for agates on the beach, I was searching for some nice shots. Since I have photographed in this area many times before, I decided to break out the fish eye lens to try and get a different perspective of this landscape.

The best way to use the fish eye lens is to get REALLY close to your foreground object, to emphasize the object. For this shot, I was basically parked right up against the rock wall to my left.

When we got to Half Moon Bay, we walked out on the pier to see what the fishermen had caught. Since I was teaching my son some shooting techniques, I wanted to find some nice subject matter to shoot. Positioning ourselves on the pier, right where the waves were breaking below us, we were able to capture the beauty and power of the water. I love the lines in the waves.

You know what they say, "the best camera is the one that you have with you...". As we were walking to a restaurant to grab some lunch, I came across this beautiful bush and started shooting images of the flowers. Just as I was framing my first shot, this hummingbird flew over and basically asked to be in the shot. I love these little guys.

Speaking of pretty flowers and good subjects... Towards the end of the day, we were driving back towards our house and passed this amazing field of mustard flowers. It was too good to pass up, so I turned around (with our relatives in their car behind us - probably wondering what the hell I was doing) and grabbed the camera and flash. I asked my niece and her new baby to trek through the field so that I could get this shot of them.

And then Laura, my sister-in-law asked if she could get a picture with her grandson in the same field. Heck yeah!

As requested...here are some notes for those photographers out there. I shot the image of the wave at 1/5000 to freeze the motion of the wave. I shot the image of the hummingbird at 1/800 to freeze the body of the bird, but also show some movement in the wings. For the first image in the mustard, I shot that picture of my niece and her baby at f3.2 to limit the depth of field. I really only wanted them in focus with the flowers in the foreground and background to be out of focus. For the second shot in the mustard, I shot that at f9 to show more of the flowers in focus. All of these images were shot with the Canon 5D Mark II with the 70-200 f2.8 IS lens. And..all images were shot on a Lexar Professional 600x CF card.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fun with a green screen!

This past weekend, we had more relatives at the house and after they had played their shoot'em-up game for countless hours, the kids walked around the house complaining that they were bored. It was raining outside, so I decided to set up the new Westcott green screen and have some fun with the boys.

First thing was to get on the computer to see what background image we wanted to use for the shot. We looked at a bunch of the standard images that came with the green screen software kit but ultimately decided to use one of my images from a year ago. The kids wanted to be inserted into our refrigerator, so it was time to shoot the image and shrink them down.

I positioned the kids in the center of the green screen and had them look up as if they were looking at me or the soda can. We shot numerous images to get one that we all liked. (For best results, it is good to smooth out the wrinkles in the fabric and avoid lots of shadows.)

Then we masked the kids from the background, dropped them to this image, moved and resized them to fit. (It reminds me of that old TV show, Land of the Giants. Yeah, I know, I am dating myself again. Ughhh.)

Then we went back to the green screen and shot some more images to fit different backgrounds. The kids really liked this graffiti background and it seemed to fit the teenage mentality...so...we dropped them into this one.

You do not need to have a green screen to create this effect. You can shoot images of your subjects against any solid background. A white wall would work just fine. Then you can either manually cut them out using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, or use special software for this effect, and add them to your favorite image. I guarantee you, the kids were not bored when we were doing this! It makes for a good time and a lot of laughs. Try it some time!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Shooting images while moving the camera!

Most of the time, photographers and regular picture-takers are trying to keep the camera as still as possible when we shoot our pictures so that they are in focus and as sharp as can be. But there are times when I like to move the camera to create special effects. Last Saturday was one of those evenings where I couldn't resist the urge to play around with the light.

We were at our relative's house in Roseville, CA and they had a party in their backyard. When it started to get dark, my brother-in-law turned on some lights that he had strung in one of the trees. And, since I had all my camera gear for their daughter's wedding, I started convincing my relatives to come over to the tree and let me create some fun images of them.

For this shot, I used my Canon 580EX II flash on the camera and fired the camera at 1/3 sec. I start twisting the camera, and as I am twisting, I fire off the shutter. What surprises most people (including me) is that the flash freezes the subject but the long shutter still gives you the motion in the background.

Now, the first thing that happens when you shoot like this is, your subject will look at you like you are crazy. You get that quizzical look that basically says, "Hey, dummy, you are moving the camera while you are shooting me!"

For this picture, you can see that the streaks of light are longer. The shutter of the camera was open for 1/2.5 of a second (which is actually a little quicker than the shot above) but I twisted the camera faster for this shot of my daughter and my nephew.

Then I decided to try a similar effect by keeping the camera still but zooming the lens to create a different streaking effect for the lights in the tree. And I got this image...

This image was one of my favorites from the evening. Why? Because my nephew asked me if I could combine the twisting motion of the camera and the zooming effect at the same time. I had never tried that before. So, I gave it a shot and got this images. I really like the way that the lights seem to surround Jake, another nephew. This is why I love photography...there is always a chance to try something new!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ten new Apple IPADs to give away FREE today!

Get this everyone! As part of my affiliation with Apple Computer, they have given me 10, yes that is TEN of the new Apple iPads to give away FREE today. All you have to do is go to my Facebook Fan page for more information! (Link top right of this page)