Monday, November 7, 2011

Photographing a Bar Mitzvah for the Rabbi's son (no pressure!)

Saturday was an amazing day! Almost a year ago, the Rabbi at Temple Emanu El in San Jose, CA asked me if I would photograph the Bar Mitzvah of his son. I was so honored that he asked me to capture this important day for their family, and I was excited for the opportunity. Rabbi Magat is an amazing guy and I have always loved shooting at his temple. He has this easy-going attitude and a genuine passion for what he does, and I knew that this day would be a key moment for him and his family.

Now that the day is over, I will admit that I did feel a bit more pressure on this day. I can only imagine the pressure on Raya, his son, who had to stand in front of a full synagogue and try to manage the expectations of his father and so many others. But, not only did Raya exceed expectations, he showed maturity and countless emotions during the day. It really was a photographer's dream job.

We started with family photos in front of the temple. I was happy to wake up to a cloudy morning with no rain. To a photographer, this is perfect weather. It is like having a giant soft-box in the sky, with perfect diffused light and no harsh shadows.

It was pretty cold outside, so we quickly moved inside to shoot all the shots with Raya and the Torah. While I was photographing the family with the Torah, it seemed like most other mitzvahs, but as soon as we entered the Rabbi's office, that all changed. This was the first moment when Raya's dad had to juggle being the Rabbi and a very proud father. I have photographed him with other children in his office before, but this time, it was his own son!

After shooting images facing the parents, I quickly moved behind mom and dad/Rabbi, to get some shots of their son facing them. I love the this perspective and it really helps tell the story.

This was not your normal turn out to a mitzvah. You would have thought that it was the high holidays with all the people who came to see this momentous event. I grabbed my fish eye lens and took this shot to show the crowd in the temple.

I mentioned the emotions that Raya exhibited during the day, and this is one of those moments when he broke into a big smile. I captured endless photos of him embracing the day.

What I love most about this image and the images that follow, is that you can see the loving relationship between, not only his father, but with the Cantor too.You have to remember, this boy (now a man) has literally grown up within the walls of this building.

Comfortable with the Rabbi and Cantor? Yep - I think so!

This temple is notoriously dark inside, and I have photographed here enough to know that I would be pushing the camera to it's limit. So this time, I came armed with the new Sigma 120-300mm 2.8 lens. This is a 6.5 lb beast of a lens, but it was amazing! All of these shots were taken from the back of the synagogue with the Sigma lens.

Not every moment was filled with a smile. There was time for some other emotions too. As I stood in the back of the temple and shot these images, I realized how much more emotion was being presented in front of me, and I cherished every moment to capture this in camera. 

These last three frames show totally different emotions, and yet all of them were captured within a 40 second time span. This gives you an idea of the magnitude of the day, and the level of intensity that was up at the bema.

Then, later that evening, it was party time.

I love this shot of Cheriel (mom) dancing at the party. (Photographer's note: I purposely slowed the shutter of the camera for some motion blur shots. The works best when panning at the same speed as your subject. The flash will typically freeze them while blurring everything in the background. Why do I do this? It gives a sense of the action and motion in the dance.)

While everyone else is watching the photo montage of Raya growing up, I watch for the reactions of the family and friends. I love the expression on the bar mitzvah boy's face. There is no way to fake this! (Photographer's note: I try to get the DVD from the family earlier in the day. I do this for two reasons. The first reason, is that I want to test the DVD in my laptop to make sure that everything plays correctly. Secondly, it gives me a chance to preview the photos and guess at the one's that will get the most response from the guests. I then key in on different family members, trying to remember when those "key images" are coming up and capture their reactions.)

The mother/son dance with dad / daughter in the background.

Cheriel having a great time at the party.

It is not uncommon at the end of a mitzvah party to have something called a "closing circle". This is when the child (well...I guess they are an adult now) goes around and thanks everyone for coming. I usually shoot images from within the circle, but this time decided to go outside the circle to shoot. Just as I moved from inside to outside, I saw Raya pick up his friend and spin him around. I quickly raised my camera over the heads to the kids and fired off 4 or 5 shots and caught this.

Then...the party was over and I started packing up my camera gear. Raya's mom came up to me to thank me and then said that she had to hurry down the hall to her husband's office, where Raya's grandmother was about to give him a special gift. Unfortunately, Raya's grandfather had passed away 3 weeks ago and his grandmother was about to give him her late husband's shofar (Ram's horn which is traditionally used as a horn during the high holidays). This was a key memory in their amazing day and I knew that I could not miss this moment! I quickly threw together a 5D Mark II and a 24-105 lens, popped on a 580EX II flash (with diffuser) and followed Cheriel to the office.

I captured numerous images from inside the Rabbi's office, but this moment was the most precious. I think the image speaks for itself.

1 comment:

Bar Mitzvah Invitations said...

Congratulations! you have a very wonderful party.