Sunday, May 29, 2011

A High-Tech Bar Mitzvah

Yesterday was another Bar Mitzvah here in the South Bay Area. It started like so many others, with individual portrait shots and family pictures. But, it did not take long to figure out that this family is not like most others. They like to let loose and have fun. Both kids are truly unique and they fully embrace their independence. 

This is one of the more "typical family portraits" from the morning.

I was taking pictures of Max reading from the Torah and then he showed me his special yad (pointer). I focused on the Hebrew words and Max added the personality in the background.

As I mentioned, there is no shortage of personality in this family. Towards the end of the service, Max turned towards his friends and family and gave them a wave. Love that!

I am always looking around me when I am shooting an event. At one point, I turned towards the back of the synagogue and saw this father and son who were trying to stay quiet in the foyer of the Temple. The little guy (Josh) had his nose pressed against the glass and I was able to fire off a couple of shots to capture this moment. You just have to love little kids!

Most 13 year old kids choose to have sports themes or Hollywood themes for their parties, but since Max is a total techie (and even runs his own technology blog - "Good Morning Geek"), he chose technology as his theme for last nights party. Each of the centerpieces incorporated old technology parts and a silicon valley company name.
Standard place cards? Nope - not at this party. They created CD's for each person (and they even had some for Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg who rudely did not show up).

At the entrance to the party, they had a wall of colorful balloons and all I could think of was, "wow - what a killer place to take portraits of the kids." Setting the camera to a wide aperture between f1.4 and f2.0, I was able to diffuse the background and create a really dynamic setting for the kids.

One of the DJs had an amazing afro (and yes I am jealous). I reached the camera high above him and shot this image of the MC working his magic, with the afro in the foreground. Yeah - I crack myself up. :)

The hora "traditional Jewish dance" is a big deal at the party. I love capturing the great expressions on the kids when they get lifted in the chair. I was not disappointed last night.

Both son and father embraced this to the fullest!

Later in the evening, it was time for the family to surprise Max with a montage of images and video of his first 13 years. (Photographers note: This is a perfect time to capture images of the family without them knowing that they are on camera. Even though the family had never seen the montage, because it was put together by another family member, I had watched it in advance to determine key moments that might draw the best reactions from the family. Use a fast lens and key in on each of the family members as their attention is on the screen, and not you.)

I am not sure if this little boy decked himself out in all this paraphernalia or if he was outfitted by some of the other kids, but I could not pass up this shot. Did I mention that I love photographing kids being kids? :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A view into a hummingbord nest (with two baby birds)

Last week I got a call from my wife saying that one of our friends had spotted a hummingbird nest at their home. I grabbed my camera, a long lens and some extension tubes (thank goodness I brought those) and we went for a visit.

I started by shooting images through their living room window since I was not sure if the mother bird would mind me being outside and closer to the nest. You can see from the image above, that there are two babies in the nest, waiting for mom to come back with some food.

After a couple of minutes, the mother came back with some goodies for the kids and I went outside to see if I could get a clearer shot. She sat there and did not seem to mind that I was 3 or 4 feet from her.

You might not be able to tell from the size of the image on the blog post, but I was able to get a nice clear shot of one of the babies in this image. When I grabbed my lenses to go over to their house, I was thinking that the nest would be bigger. The total size of this next was probably about an inch and half in diameter. If I have another chance to shoot images of the nest, I would choose a 150mm macro lens and shoot at f10 and not f4 to get more in focus.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shooting ducks in the front yard

It isn't very often that we get any sort of wildlife in our neighborhood. Sure, we have your run of the mill birds and squirrels, but nothing too exciting to photograph. Last week, my daughter was out in front of the house and came running back in to let me know that we had some visitors. There were a couple of mallards, that must be living in the nearby creek, and they decided to make a journey into the neighborhood. She wanted me to take some pictures of the ducks, so I grabbed the camera with my 100-400mm lens and went out shooting.

I got very low to the ground and shot images from the height of the mallards. I guess you could call this a ducks eye view.

It was just before sunset and I was able to get some images with the golden light from the last rays of the sun.

For this shot, I moved my position so that I could be in a position to line up the male and female ducks to have them face to face.

As with photographing any subject, it is always good to look for images that are not the obvious shots. As I was shooting images of their heads, I noticed the curly tail feathers on the male. When he sat in one position, I framed my shot to highlight the tail. I used a wide aperture to draw attention to the feathers and not the foreground or background.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I have been framed! photos were shot that way.

On the last blog entry, I purposely held back images from the recent trip to Boston. I wanted to focus this blog post specifically on the framing of an image. As many photographers will profess, a good image needs a strong foreground, mid-ground and background. It is also important to frame your images to make an image stronger and to draw attention to your main subject.

Prints can be framed, criminals can be framed, doors can be framed, and using your camera and your eyes, your photos can be framed.

This image, which I did include in the previous post, is a good example of image framing. I could have shot the same image without the arch at the top of the image. But, the curve of the arch and the addition of the staircase adds a frame of darker shadows, which draws the viewers attention to the middle of the image. 

I shot this image through a glass window which was inset into a beautiful door. I could have easily opened the door and taken an image of these people studying, but I wanted to use the shape of the window and the surrounding pattern to frame my main subject. 

And again, in this shot, instead of just showing the main reading room in the library, I backed up behind one of the entries and took this shot of the book cases and clock. As much as I liked this shot, I thought that it might be nice to shoot it a little tighter.

So...again...I backed up a little more, and this time framed the shot horizontally and a little lower. I really like the way that the book case creates a natural frame of the main reading room.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A couple of hours in Boston - The Boston Public Library

I just returned from a quick trip to the Boston area. Knowing that I would have very limited time to shoot images, I got off the plane at 5:30pm, grabbed my rental car, and high-tailed it into downtown Boston while I still had some daylight. 

The first thing that I noticed were these beautiful tulips. I got down low to the ground so that I could get a shot of the flowers without showing the dirt underneath them. (Photographers note: It is always important to have a main subject in any image, so in this image I made sure that the focal point was on the tall purple tulip to the left of this image. I also made sure that the image used the rule of thirds, with the main subject off center of the image.)

Here is a wider shot of the tulips in Copley Square, in front of the main library (left) and the Old South Church. As you can tell, it was a cloudy day, so the skies were rather dull, but at least I did not have to worry about shadows in my images.

Just like my trip to New York a couple of weeks ago, my primary destination was the main public library. Why? Because, like the main library in NYC, Boston has a beautiful reading room and I wanted to capture images in this historic building. This is an image of the entrance to the old library.

Funny thing is, after returning home from the recent trip to NY, I saw an article in the San Jose Mercury News highlighting the most beautiful libraries in the U.S.
Now I can say that I have photographed in two of the most amazing public libraries in the United States.

Just like in NY, I wanted to capture images of the reading room, keying in on some of the people who were studying. 

Then I got back in the rental car and drove to Fanueil Hall to shoot some images during my favorite time of day. The light was fading quickly, so it was time to mount the camera to my tripod and go search for shooting locations.

As I mentioned, it was really cloudy, but you can't let that stop you from shooting photos. In this case, I used the cloudy sky to my advantage, showing how Fanueil Hall was clearer than the tower in the background. 

I came across this cool intersection, with great lighting and nice cobble stone roads. Even though the skies were overcast, the evening light still came through, giving the images a really nice purple background.

This is probably my favorite image from the trip. (Photographer’s note: This image really works due to the combination of colors and lines. Notice how the lights and the curve of the alley draw your eye deeper into the image. I even like the fact that the neon “O” is broken in the sign, giving this image a little more character.)