Monday, April 18, 2011

Jessica's Bat Mitzvah - Amazing eyes, amazing family and one fun day!

On Saturday, I was lucky enough to photograph Jessica's Bat Mitzvah in Walnut Creek, CA. I shot the images for her brother's Bar Mitzvah a couple of years ago and was thrilled to be capturing images for this awesome family once again. It is one thing to photograph an event for a family and yet another when you feel like you are part of the family.

This image was taken in 2009 at her brother, Alex's Bar Mitzvah. I remember photographing Jessica because she had striking eyes back then, and now they are even more awesome.

As you can see, Jessica has grown up in the last couple of years and become a beautiful young lady.
For a photographer, when you have a subject who looks like this and with SO much personality (like her mother), it makes life really easy. (Photographer's note: I shot numerous portraits around the Temple, with different backgrounds and colors. When driving up the road to the Temple I noticed these cool plants with red and green leaves. And they were in the shade, so I could avoid the harsh morning sun. I knew that her eyes would absolutely pop against this background, so we walked down the road to grab this shot. Always think about your backgrounds and how they will compliment your subject and their outfit.)

Here is Susan (the proud mother), Alex and Jessica. Since this Temple is surrounded by beautiful trees, I made sure to capture images with them in the background.

The key element to good photography is what? Come on - you know this! It is light. At certain times during the service, the light came in through the windows and hit the people at the front of the synagogue. I was standing in the back thinking "oh yeah - this is amazing!" and shooting away. When I downloaded the images and saw this shot, I was psyched. The tallit (the Jewish prayer shawl) and Jessica's hair were perfectly lit by the sun, highlighting the significance of the moment.

I was not supposed to shoot any still images during the service, except for the 5D Mark II which was mounted on a tripod and in "video mode". When I saw the lighting in the synagogue, I could not help myself and had to capture one fish eye shot for their album. I grabbed my second 5D Mark II, mounted a 15mm fish eye lens and headed towards the back doors. As I made my way out of the synagogue, I quickly turned and grabbed 2 or 3 images. I hate to break the rules, but this was too darned good to pass up.

If you follow my photography, you know that I am always looking for something different at each event that I shoot. This is that "different" shot from this weekend. I had finished shooting images at the luncheon and was heading back into the synagogue to pack up my gear when I noticed this reflection in the Temple windows. I went and asked Jessica if we could shoot a couple more images and she readily agreed. I had her stand in the sun and shot right into the glass. Very cool! She liked this so much that she grabbed her friends and we took a whole bunch more of these "ghost shots".

Then at 7pm, it was time to party! As usual, I had the DJ help me round up all the kids for a group shot. As soon as I saw this cool sculpture, right out side the party room, I knew that this would make a great group shot location. (Photographer's note: I got to the venue about an hour early so that I could walk around and scout good shooting locations. This is really important, especially if you have never photographer at that location before. I pre-visualized individual and group shots at certain locations. This way, when the family arrives, you already have a plan.)

I also saw this tunnel of trees and took numerous family pictures at this location. This picture is of Jessica and her god mother (who delivered her at birth). 

I took this shot when everyone was watching the photo montage. At one point, Jessica stood up, and I caught this shot of her standing out from the crowd of kids. Even though she was brighter than the other kids (from the flash on my camera), I used Photoshop to brighten her a bit more to really draw the eye to her.

My first question to any DJ (Denon and Doyle, who are amazing!) is, "Are you guys setting up cool lights for the party?" Multi-colored lights or lasers can really make for interesting party pictures. For this image, I purposely stood so that I was standing directly in the path of the light, and caught Susan busting a move. Does it break all of the rules of photography? Yep! it really cool and does it tell the story? Yep!

Towards the end of the evening, it was time for the candle lighting ceremony. I shot the "safe" images with my 50mm 1.4 lens and a flash, but I also shot images with the Sigma 85mm 1.4 with no flash. I love using the ambient light (from the candles) to light my subjects. (Photographer's note: Use a flash on camera to make sure that you get the shot for your album, but don't be afraid to use another camera to experiment and get creative. I will typically push my ISO to 3200 and use a 1.4 lens wide open to gather as much light as possible.)

I even used the same technique here for this group shot. Sure...many of the kids are dark in this image, but my main subject is nicely lit, right in the center.  

This is another one of those "available light" shots. I had to include this shot in the blog, not only because of the image, but the story behind it. Jessica was trying to light one of the candles and could not get it to light. As you can tell by her expression, she was in a bit of a panic. But, surely, like so many other times in her life, mom was there to help out and everything worked out just fine.

Lastly, I should mention that I received the ultimate compliment from the family, when they told me that I was their "official family photographer". I am honored!

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