Monday, May 27, 2013

Golden Gate National Cemetery: A Memorial Day Tradition

Since it is Memorial Day, I thought that I would go out and photograph something to commemorate the sacrifices of American servicemen. Three years ago, I made my first visit to the Golden Gate National Cemetery, which is located in San Bruno, CA.  I took photos at this same location, but this time of year the cemetery is lined with American flags to support those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

On Saturday, I was photographing an event located near San Bruno, and my wife suggested that I leave early and shoot images of this amazing location before the evening party. What a great idea! Every Memorial Day weekend, the local Boy Scouts of America go out and put an American flag at every tombstone. I have always wanted to photograph this amazing tribute, but never had the time.

Honestly, I was a little worried about the crowds of people that might be there, but as it turned out, I was one of the only people there. I later found out that the cemetery closes at 5pm (I arrived at 4:58pm) but allowed me to be in there until 6pm.

After shooting photos for 45 minutes, I called my wife and all I could say was "Wow, that was spectacular!"

When first arriving at the cemetery, I saw this tribute and thought that it would be perfect for a fish eye lens. I mounted my Sigma 15mm fish eye lens to my Canon 1DX and started to shoot. Wow! I was just  amazed at the beauty of this scene. So moving!

To get a different perspective. I got down low to the ground and shot right in front of the flags.

This shot was taken while standing. You can see how different it looks from the previous photo.

Amazingly, Adobe Photoshop has a feature called lens correction where you can tell the software which lens you were using and it will "correct it".  This photo is the same photo as the one above it, only corrected in software. Most of the time, I like to leave the fish eye effect, but in this case, I like them both. (Photographer's note: The lens correction feature is found in ACR, 6 buttons over from the left, and is also available in Adobe Lightroom.)

And to try something even more different, I stood tall, pointed the camera down and shot this photo. (Photographer's note: With wide angle and fish eye lenses, the angle at which you shoot is dramatically distorted. This can be used for effect, like you see below, but be careful to shoot straight to the horizon if you want to maintain the most "normal" photo.)

I also had my Canon 5D Mark III with the 70-200 2.8 lens attached, and used this for most of the other photos. It was so beautiful, and yet so sad at the same time. To see this endless sea of tombstones and knowing that so many servicemen were buried here.

 Even the birds were paying their respect...

As I photographed some close-up shots, and looked at the names of each soldier, it reminded me that this was not just a name on a stone, but someone with a family and a story that I will likely never know.

Photographically, I have always been drawn towards repeating patterns, and I had a hard time dealing with the beautiful repeating pattern, knowing what this represents.

I took this wide shot to show you how big this place is, and this is just one section of the cemetery.

This last photo was taken from the top of the cemetery and allowed me to isolate the American Flag against the endless rows of tombstones. I felt that this would be a fitting image for the day and the weekend.

I dedicate this blog entry to all those who have served in the military. If it were not for them, none of us would have the freedom that we so take for granted. Thank you!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Senior portraits: Emma lights up the camera!

The last month has been senior portrait time for me, as many of our friend's kids get ready to graduate high school and head off to college. One of the first senior portrait sessions was with Emma, who was just awesome in front of the camera.

We started off in my own backyard since we had good light and flowers in bloom. Normally, I use this time to shoot some warm-up images to get my subject used to being in front of the camera, but Emma was a natural. (Photographer's note: For all of these images, I did not use any flash, but instead used a Westcott Gold/Silver reflector to bounce some warm light on Emma, thanks to my wife who was my chief lighting technician for the day. All images were captured with the Canon 1DX, with this shot using the 70-200mm 2.8 IS II lens.)

This is a tighter crop of the same images. (Photographer's note: To those starting out in photography, notice how Emma's eye closest to the camera is in perfectly focus. This is critical for these types of photos. Also notice how the half of Emma's face is lit and half falls into shadow. This lighting creates drama in the face. My wife was holding the reflector to the side of the subject and feathering the light to just the right side of her face. This could not have been achieved with on-camera flash, since the flash would have lit her face evenly.)

After shooting in our yard for a couple of minutes, we headed off to a nearby park. This location has some great trees, so we used the patterns of the tree trunks as backgrounds for Emma.

This same park has a raised stage area with this wood supports. I saw the repeating lines of the posts and had Emma peak out from behind them. (Photographer's note: I shot this image at f2.8 so that only Emma's face would be perfectly in focus. With the foreground and background soft, it draws the viewers eye right to Emma's eyes.)

Same image processed in B&W (using NIK SilverEfex Pro)

Whenever I shoot, even if I am returning to a location where I have photographed before, I always look for a new vantage point or perspective for each client. I do this for two reasons: First, I do not want every senior to have the same looking images as their friends, and secondly, to make it more fun and interesting for me as the photographer.

This photo was taken next to the park at a nearby Inn. I walked over and saw this great curved pathway and LOVED it. For this shot, I used the Canon 50mm f1.2 lens wide open at 1.2. So nice!

This is the same image as before, but I decided to have some fun with it. I created two layers in Photoshop (one color and one B&W) and then combined the two using layer masks.

We finished shooting by the Inn, and were walking to our car when I saw this tree in the parking lot. Doing my best to avoid any cars which were parked nearby (which I later removed the little that did show in Photoshop), I had Emma get on the tree for the next two photos.

For the third location, we decided to drive into the hills to shoot images in a small creek that we had seen before.

Remember when I said that I did not use a flash for any of these photos? Well, I lied. This photo was taken with the Canon 600EX-RT flash on-camera. It was actually a test shot since my wife was not ready with the reflector.  I still like the photo, even though the light is rather flat on her face.

This photo was taken using the reflector. You can definitely see the difference in the amount of light on Emma's face and body. You see many more shadows and highlights in this shot. What I really love about these images, is the reflection of Emma in the slow moving water.

Most people think that, in a portrait, the subject should be looking directly at the camera. This is a great example of why that is not true. I asked Emma to look down at the water and just think about this time in her life, as she completes high school and makes the big change to college. She is not looking at us, but you can still "see" who she is and feel her emotion. And that my friends, is what photography is all about!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Silicon Valley Take Steps for Crohn's & Colitis - Our walk to support our daughter, Ali.

This weekend was the "Silicon Valley Take Steps for Crohn's & Colitis" walk to help raise money to fight these diseases. As some of you might know, my daughter was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease 4 years, and so this walk meant a lot to our family. My wife decided that it would be fun to make team shirts for our family and friends. And so was the beginning of "Ali's Crohnie Crew".

We got together in our backyard and took a team photo before heading off for the walk.

Here is Ali with her boyfriend, Marc.

And Ali and my wife, Annette, being goofy.

Here are my wife, my daughter and our best friend, Tracey, who made it all happen. .

We got to the park in downtown San Jose a little early so all the kids found a shady spot to hang out. I rearranged them a bit, and created this perfect photo opportunity.

I was standing by my son and saw the reflection in his sunglasses. I asked Ali and her friends to come over by Connor, and took this shot. (Photographer's note: Always do your best to find creative ways to shoot group shots. This makes the photo different from your standard old group shot, and it will be more memorable.)

After a while the walk got started and we were off trekking around downtown San Jose.

Everyone was positive and having a good time. The collective group raised more than $110,000 which will go to finding for a cure for these diseases.

I was walking with everyone when I saw the "San Pedro Square" sign and thought that this was a perfect shot. I quickly ran a little way down the street and shot this "Abbey Road" type of shot.

Crossing the finish line...

They had a great band playing for the walkers.

A view of the fountains downtown. After walking around the city, I realized that I need to venture into San Jose to take more photos. Wow! This city has changed a lot since I went to college here in the 80s.

After everything was done, we headed back to the cars...

...and we ran into Connor's friend, Nate, who was heading to his prom. The poor guy and his date had to pose with all of us before making a fast break for the dance! Oh...we love to traumatize people! :)

Ali and the rest of the Cable family would like to thank all of you who donated to this cause. We were completely overwhelmed with the generosity of our friends and co-workers. Just like Ali, you are all amazing!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

New York Nights - Times Square and Columbus Circle

A couple of weeks ago I made yet another trip to New York City. On this particular trip, I decided that I was not going to take any Taxis or Subways. My goal was to walk to all my presentations, meetings, restaurants...and when possible, shoot images along the way.

As it turned out, I walked an average of 8 miles a day, but only had free time to shoot images during the evenings, since most of the daytime walking was rushing to get from one location to the next. But, as many of you know, this is my favorite time to shoot photos in cities, so off I went.

If you are a regular blog reader, you know that I usually stay in or near Times Square in the city. I have photographed here many times in the past, and try to capture something different every time.

This time, I decided to photograph some of the characters in Times Square. Here is Bart Simpson looking a lit lost in the city.

Elmo crossing the street (no, not Sesame Street).

I was shooting some slow motion panning shots when I saw these four characters walking across the street in front of me. Knowing that this would be a tough shot, I zoomed to 250mm, (sticking with my 1/2 second exposure since I had no time to change the settings), I panned along with the subjects and got this shot. It is not perfectly in focus but still makes me laugh.

I came across these two ladies who were modeling in the center of Times Square and grabbed a couple of shots.

This photo was taken from my hotel room (on the 41st floor of the Marriott Marquis). I saw this ever changing reflection on a building located about two blocks away, so I zoomed in 300mm and shot this.

The next night, I was walking back from a dinner meeting on 88th, heading back to 42nd Street, when I came across Columbus Circle. I have been to this location in the past, but never seen it look so nice with blooming tulips surrounding the fountains.

At this point, I did not have my 5D Mark III with me, so I used my iPhone to capture the image above.

I liked the composition of the image but really wanted to shoot this at the best time of the evening and with a really good camera. So...the next evening, my presentation ended early enough for me to grab my equipment and make the long walk back up to 66th. This time I made it in time to catch the deep blue skies after sunset.

Much better than the iPhone shot!

Some different perspectives, but equally beautiful.

A view looking down Broadway with the last remaining light in the sky.

For this last shot, I quickly moved to a spot where the blue skies still remained (facing the West) and framed this shot. A friend of mine told me that there was a nice view of this globe from down the stairs entering he subway station. I took his advice (thanks Adam) and shot this photo, which turned out to be one of my favorites of the trip.

(All of the photos were taken with the Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens, Gitzo tripod, 128GB Lexar Professional 1000x CF card)