Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Teaching photography to a good friend in San Francisco

A little while back, my wife and I made a trip up to San Francisco to visit good friends of ours, and to teach photography. We have known Mike and Jeannie for many years, and we were incredibly sad when we heard that Mike had cancer. This really rocked me, since Mike is that one person who I grew up knowing as the incredibly active and bulletproof guy across the street. I figured that nothing could sideline this guy!

For almost a year, Mike was quarantined in his own home and not allowed to see anyone. Not even his own grandchildren! Since the doctors had taken his immune system to zero, he could not be exposed to any germs. But we could communicate via the phone and email. During one of our conversations, he told me that he was ordering a new Nikon D800 and that he would love to learn to use it better. I promised him that as soon as he got better, I would come up and spend the day with him to give him some pointers (and to get together for some good food and wine).

The good news is that they found a bone marrow donor for Mike and he is feeling better. It turns out that an incredibly generous man in Chicago was a perfect match (even German and Greek just like Mike), and after suffering a loss to the same cancer in his family, decided to be a donor and save someone else's life. Now, a year after those 3 million cells were transfered to Mike, the two men not only share the same DNA but the two of them have a newfound friendship. The two of them have corresponded and plan to meet, once Mike can fly again. What an amazing gift!

After being in seclusion for all those months, he is now able to leave his house and get out into the real world again. Since he is regaining his strength, I figured that this would be a good time to reach out to him to see if I could make good on my promise.

We started shooting at Ocean Beach. Mike was not able to navigate uneven surfaces, so we stayed up on the cement for the first lesson (using long lenses).

I ventured down onto the beach to get some closer shots (using the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 100-400 lens).

I turned back to shoot some images of Mike working his camera. I like the him standing over the graffiti.

I shot this image to talk about composition with Mike. I wanted to show how the eye is attracted to the rider (and his reflection) but also how the viewer's eye is drawn up to the multiple kites.

I liked this image, not so much for the subject in the middle, but for the power of the wave behind her.

Another photo highlighting the kite surfer and his reflection.

After shooting at Ocean Beach, we then drove over to Lands End to get some shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. As it turned out, the harsh lighting and the bald skies made for boring images of the bridge, so we concentrated on other areas for the time being.

We turned the car around and went up the hill to the Legion of Honor museum. It was in this location that I taught Mike about perspective. I used this location to show him how different photos would look when taken from 6 feet vs. shot from a lower vantage point.

I also wanted to explain the advantage of controlling the depth of field in our images. So, for any of you who have ever watched me teach, you know that I like to demonstrate this with the pointing finger example (where I focus on the finger and then the face to show focal control and narrow depth of field).

The next lesson was done inside the museum and concentrated on color. I had my wife sit in front of this painting and then replaced her with Jeannie.

I wanted Mike to see how different the image was, with Annette wearing red as opposed to Jeannie's neutral colored jacket.

The next lesson concentrated on using wide angle lenses. Mike owns a really nice Nikon wide angle lens, but had never used it. Time to break that thing out and use it! For this image, I wanted Mike to get really close to the globe, making it huge in the frame, but also include the surrounding paintings in the room.

As you can tell from his expression, he really loved the results. Afterwards, when we were enjoying a nice dinner together, he told us that this was his favorite image of the day.

And one of my favorite images of the day was taken after we left the museum and headed back to shoot evening images of the Golden Gate Bridge. Mike and I saw the sun dropping behind this grove of trees at the nearby gold course, and I thought that this would be a perfect place to teach him how to get starbursts effects from the sun using a small aperture. We pulled over, and with me helping Mike navigate the grass surface, we went onto the course, positioned ourselves into the shadows and shot this. We used our wide angle lenses (with me using the Canon 16-35mm) at f/22, moved just enough to get the sun coming through the trees, and worked the scene. I shot this at -1 exposure to exaggerate the dark shadows.

The last of the sunlight was hitting the bridge as we pulled up for the last shot of the day. It was a perfect ending to a great day of shooting. And then we were off to a great dinner, not because of the food (although that was good too), but due to the great company. The four of us shared a bottle of wine, recounted the day, talked about our favorite moments, and just relaxed.

A couple of days later I got an email from Mike telling me that this was one of the best days he can remember. To me, that is better than any photograph I have ever taken!


Jeff said...

Jeff, Great story with a number of good tips along the way!

patsjazzpix said...

Nice humanistic story and pictures-be kind to humankind~Good stuff Jeff Cable.

Unknown said...

I am so glad to meet someone like you. Thank's you choose this planet! You are a very nice person! God bless you and your family. Here your brazilian fan in Germany.

Shutterhappy said...

What a great story! The gift of time helps renew the spirit in a way that material things can never accomplish. You're a good friend.

S. Ravi Kanth said...

great story Jeff...God bless you.

bonphoto@earthlink.net said...

It is a great story and I am so glad that Mike's really well enough to keep up with you for a whole day! You packed a lot in and looks like you had lots of fun as well as learning! Thanks for sharing!