Friday Night Lights

I photograph a lot of things. Weddings, families, buildings, sports, high school seniors, trains, doors, the list goes on and on. Each other them intrigue me for one reason or another. Doors for example, they have tons of charter and can really tell a story for such an inanimate object.  The thing that I enjoy the most however is photographing high school football. Not just any high school football, but football for Manatee High School. They say Cane Pride Never Dies and that is the case with me. Friday nights in the fall there is no place I’d rather be than Hawkins Stadium. The school has been playing football for over 100 years.  The stadium hasn’t changed much in the last few decades, minus a new giant jumbo tron and a new concession building on the west end. I find it to have its own aura. Sometimes I go and run stadiums there. The stadium is empty and I can image the place, full to the brim back in the 90’s 90′ and late 2000’s. Growing up I could actually hear the games from my house, it was just under a mile away from the stadium. I could hear the unmistakable voice of Mr. Forssell echoing through the night. I could also hear the dull roar of the crowd and the band. There wasn’t much I knew about Manatee football as neither of my parent were from the area. I sadly didn’t go to games until my 8th grade year at Sugg Middle School. The band got invited to two games that year. One at Bayshore, and one at Manatee. We got to go in the stands with the band and perform with them. I couldn’t tell you who Manatee was playing during that game but I know they won, and I was hooked. I couldn’t wait for the following year to be apart of that. Little did I know that 5ish years later I would be taking pictures on the field. I made up for lost time from those early years, After 2002 I only missed 7 games.

(This photo was shot from my drone pregame during a coin toss, sadly the stands aren’t what they once were but hopefully were heading back in that direction)

The first few years after I graduated I wasn’t full on into the photography yet. The way I kept going to the games was to help out and volunteer with the marching band. It was a simple job, helped the band kids figure out where to go and how to get there for the halftime show. I stood in the stands with the band for all of the 06 season and most of the 07 season. 2008 I started to bring a camera to the games and get into shooting more. Those shots leave a lot to be desired. Image may contain: one or more people and outdoorImage may contain: people playing sport, american football and outdoor

(Top Photo: Ace Sanders getting up field after catching a pass.)

(Above Photo: Brion Carnes setting his feet to throw)

2009 things started to get more fun. The team was good, really good. Coach Kinnan was back and getting work done. We had talent all over the field. We had a rematch with some old rivals. Those stupid raiders from Ft Lauderdale.  The had kicked us out of the playoffs twice before, once when they were the better team, and once when they weren’t. A sour taste in the mouth with them is an understatement. In 2009 they were the #1 team in the nation. They were on some crazy win streak at least 30 wins in a row. They were coming back to our house. Back to Hawkins Stadium.  We packed them in like standing room only. Had to be 10,000 people at the game. That Manatee Magic struck, not that we needed it, we were flat out better then them. We beat them, put us back on the national radar for football. We had another game to play for the state title the next week. That did not go well. We wont talk about that. Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sport, grass, american football and outdoorImage may contain: one or more people, crowd, night, sky and outdoor

Still not the greatest shots but I am getting better here.

2010 was a year unlike any other. We played a game on ESPN and throttled Plant 48-10. We left the state for the first time to play a game and beat up on Woodland Hills up in PA. We got to #1 in the Nation for a bunch of weeks in a row. We were rolling. I don’t remember a game being close. We beat Venice twice, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs. Then those damned kids from Ft Lauderdale ruined it. We had to go down to their place and they just beat us.

2011 We weren’t going to let that happen again. We had a gauntlet of  a schedule, an IMG like schedule before IMG showed up. We had the #1 team in the nation on the schedule, we had another out of state game, and our general foes. We started the year out 2-2. The most dangerous 2-2 team in the country. We lost on a BS call in Maryland. We started on the 25 in overtime and got to the 15 yard line, the ball is sitting on the 15 and they said we didn’t get to the yard to gain. We lost in overtime. We came home licked our wounder and took it out on Riverview winning 48-6. Then we had the #1 team in the nation. A day game, strange I know. We lost to them 22-16 but we shot ourselves in the foot with special teams blunders. We were the better team, just not that day. We crushed the rest of the teams outscoring them 565-185. We didn’t lose another game the entire year. We played one helluva game against Dwyer in the playoffs. They had beat STA (the boys from Ft Lauderdale) the week before. We had built our schedule to be ready for that game vs them. Then this kid Bauta their QB played the best game I’ve ever seen a high school kid play. He single handled almost beat us. If it wasn’t for the efforts of Cord Sanderberg late in the game we wouldn’t have won. That year I was confident we could play and beat anyone. Late in that game I wasn’t so sure. The following week we got to go to states. We played a team from Jacksonville. First Coast, they didn’t score/ We won 40-0 No photo description available.No photo description available.Image may contain: 1 person

The rest of this blog post I’ll just touch base on a few specific memories from a photography standpoint.

One of those games where I wasn’t sure it would going to end well turned out to be a great night. We were playing University School from Ft Lauderdale. They were a good team with a great QB. Sean White, who eventually went to Auburn. Early in the game we made some mistakes and they didn’t. They were up 21-0 in the first quarter. We tightened up started playing some Manatee football and came back to win 28-24.

Another great memory I have is when we were #1 in the nation and the Palmetto coach said something about if we were so good how come we didn’t have more shut outs. That our D line was only fast enough to run to the refrigerator for snacks. We beat them that night 62-0 in front of a packed house. Not only was it a packed house, but it was on Bright House network TV.

Another favorite memory was from 2012, we had to travel to Fort Pierce Central for a Regional Semi Final Game. The year before was a close game we won 13-10 and Coach said he called a bad game and wouldn’t do that again. We went down there and beat the daylights out of them. We won 51-0. I will never forget their fans leaving at HALFTIME.

One player I miss from a photography point of view was Travon Walters. He was always keen to make someone miss, or flip into the end zone. You never knew what he was going to do but you knew you had to watch. I’ve had a few dynamic guys like him since but none that leave their feet like he did.

On that note, I am going to bring this blog post to a close. I could keep talking Manatee football and the endless amount of memories I have. Positives and negatives. That all being said if you need me on a Friday night in the fall you can almost bet I will be wherever the big red machine is playing football.

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Lightning, mosquitoes, and a change of plans.

You ever have everything planned out, or so you think, only to have it seem as if everything is conspiring against you? That is how I felt with Chyenne during our last shoot. Let me preference that by saying Chyenne was fantastic per usual. This shoot was a spur of the moment idea, which in it self seems counterintuitive to thinking you have everything planned out. We decided on a location and I left the wardrobe up to Chyenne. She always picks out a good outfit. Normally she goes and buys something new, she says that a shoot is her excuse to go shopping, I digress. Here is how the shoot went down.

We decided to do a late evening sunset shoot at a local preserve near the beach. We were going to meet at 7:45. That would still give enough light in the sky but the light wouldn’t be harsh at the time either. It should give us about an hour of really nice light to work with. Well Florida weather in July is anything but cooperative. I got the the preserve at 7:40 and Miss Chyenne for the first time ever was late. It gave me a chance to go walk the location and plan out what I wanted to do. My first idea was to use the 400mm lens and shoot across this pond and capture a cool refection. Chyenne showed up about 10 minutes later, however in that time frame Zeus decided it would be a good time to throw some lightning around. I have a healthy respect for lighting, even though I photograph it all the time I am normally either in a covered building or my car, To do these portraits that wouldn’t be the case. We waited it out for a good 15 minutes or so. The first shot I didn’t get to take until 8:19pm. Wasted a little bit of light but no big deal. There was also a drizzle going on at the same time. This meant I was going to cover my camera and my light with some rain gear. Thanks to my mom I have these 8 foot tall clear trash bags from the hospital. She got me about 20 of them. The fit over my entire light stand which lets me use flash in the rain. As I mentioned before the first shot was going to be with the 400mm. This means I was going to be REALLY far away from her. My radio slaves are what make the flash go off when I hit the shutter button on the top of the camera. These things are essential to shooting. Without them I simply cannot do my job. Normally they can work from over 100 yards away. With the rain the radio slave on the light was probably a good 80 yards away or so and I think being under that bag at that distance hampered the performance of the slave. Chyenne got to see me run back and forth multiple times to try to get this light to work. Finally I got it to work long enough to get one shot. BDP_3558   The 400mm was still too much lens to get the shot I was envisioning so I swapped it out for the 70-200mm. I also stood on the top of a fence which was difficult enough in a normal circumstance but with rain and lightning, not my brightest move. I didn’t shoot many frames of this because it was sketchy and I was imagining I was going to fall off. The difference here in the shot, was I wanted to show a lot more of her surrounding. I was happy with how it came out. BDP_3583 After we got this shot we headed down the pathway towards the beach. There is a wooden walkway that had almost a tree canopy over it. I knew from my walk before she got there that this was a spot I wanted to use. However with the delay by lighting and then my equipment sending me running all over the place, and the clouds from the weather in the area, it started to get dark well before sunset. This meant that I needed to use a tripod. Was unprepared for this and had to run back to the car, killing more precious time. This also meant that I would have to not only light Chyenne but the scene as well. I didn’t want to bring out another light because of the drizzle so I settled for my small SB-900 (on camera flash). This is about the size of my hand. It can sit on top of the camera or be used in a remote fashion. This light doesn’t have a slave to connect to it but instead has a light sensor. It is a small circle that when a flash is detected by it immediately makes that flash fire. The issue here is you have to have a direct line on sight to make it work. The flash that the SB-900 see’s has to be bright enough to make this work.

I’m going to get a little geeky, technical about lighting here so if you want to skip to pretty pictures or the rest of the story go to the next paragraph.    Here is why the line of sight is such an issue in this case. My main light now has two jobs. Not only is it lighting up my model, but it also has to be bright enough to trip the other flash into working. The issue there is caused by the inverse square law of how light falls off. Light will fall lose half of its power every time you double its distance. If light is full power at 1 foot, by 2 feet it is already half as powerful. If you go to 4 feet it is again lost half of it’s power. If you go to 8 feet you are now using about 16% of the light from the point of the flash. Well a 16th of the power wasn’t enough to trip the SB-900. I have to then make it brighter, which in turn makes the model brighter. It is already getting dark outside, therefore when I make the model brighter, the background goes even darker in comparison. This is where the exposure triangle is important to understand. This is also why you need to know how to operate your camera in a fully manual mode. When I make the main light brighter, to trip the SB-900 behind the model I make what isn’t lighted by the flash go darker, i.e. the background. I have to then slow the shutter speed down to pull in the ambient light to brighten up the scene. In this instance I couldn’t raise the ISO to make the scene brighter because raising the ISO would make the flash brighter, which I would then have to turn down, which would make the SB-900 not go off. Therefore this was a very tricky shot to pull off. When you look at the image it doesn’t seem as if it would be so difficult, but it was. BDP_3600I wanted to keep shooting in this little area, esp because I worked so hard to get the lighting right but the next wrench started to show up. The damned mosquitoes. They were hungry and we were getting destroyed by them. The lack of breeze in the little canopy wasn’t helping either. We decided to book it to another location near by that I knew about.

When we got to this little spot the sun was already set. We never had a sunset of any kind Just grey, darker grey, really really grey, then kind of a muted orange. This wasn’t the sun though, it was the light pollution. It actually made for some pretty cool imagery. This location has a lot of rocks covered in barnacles which I wouldn’t post 90% of the people I photograph on for safety reasons. However Chyenne wanted to and shes kind of my muse. I put my big light behind her about 15 feet and again needed the SB-900 to help light her face. The camera was on a tripod with a very slow shutter speed. This was done so it could pick up the color in the sky. Chyenne had to be very still as if she moved too much she would start to ghost herself out of the image. I set the camera on a self timer so that I could hit the button and run the the SB-900 over to the side for the line of sight to trip the light. This little shot worked really well and didn’t take much time. We snapper maybe 5 or 6 images and I was happy. BDP_3696  The last shot of the night was another one where I wanted to play with the 400mm I very rarely use it for portraiture work because it is a 16 pound lens and i have to be so far away. This shot I had Chyenne walk out on the seawall and again had my light behind her in the water. The camera was easily 90 yards away. This time though the radio slaves worked like a champ. Again camera was on a tripod with a slow shutter speed. This time the self timer was on 20 second so I could run the 90 yards with the SB-900 to light up her face. I also had the camera set to take 8 images after the self timer went off so I could get more than one image before having to walk back 90 yards.

BDP_3728This was one of my favorite shoots. Not because I have a favorite image from it, but because it was a challenge. It made me think. It wasn’t the normal put the light here the sun is over there push the button. It was okay if this is going to do this, then I need to do this and this to make the image come out the way I want. That is only talking about lighting. That doesn’t take into account the exposure triangle I have to figure out. it doesn’t take into account the pose. I love the challenge. It’s why my job never feels like work.

 

 

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A wedding with 72,000 guests, sort of.

A number of months ago I got an email from a guy named Miguel asking me about photographing his wedding. The first thing I always respond with is “Do you have a date picked out?” I am a busy photographer and I don’t need to waste their time if I am already booked. His response caught me off guard. “It’s the 4th and the 6th of July.” Thinking he was telling me about a rehearsal dinner and a wedding date I responded, so do you only need me for the 6th? No he needed me for both. The ceremony was going to take place on the beach in the morning of July 4th. The reception was going to be on the evening of the 6th. Miguel and his bride, Hope, are both active military. Apparently the 4th is the day they started dating years ago. Seems fitting to pick that day to get married.

It is no secret, I don’t like mornings. I am a night owl. As it is I am typing this blog post at 3am, that is how I operate. For this morning wedding Hope needed me to be at the Beachouse restaurant at 6:30 am. The room for her to get ready is was pretty small. Once you add it 4 bridesmaids, make up people and some more family there isn’t much room for me. The ceremony was to start at 8 am. We got pretty close to that but it started a few minutes late, that was okay, it gave guests time to beat the holiday traffic and make it to the beach. Now the headline is 72,000 guests. Well there was maybe 100 chairs and maybe 120 people with some strangers watching on the beach. How did we get to 72,000 guests then? Well the restaurant has a live stream weather camera for FOX 13 the Tampa news channel. That morning one of their meteorologist noticed the chairs being set out. He made a remark about it live on air and it gained some attention. FOX 13 then put a link to it on their facebook page and boom, next thing you know 72,000 people from all over the place were tuned into this wedding. It had no sound and they had no idea who was getting married, but they watched. During the ceremony we had NO idea that it was being watched by so many people. Thankfully I didn’t become a viral sensation for the wrong reasons. fox13.jpg After the ceremony the bridal party took a boat over to Beercan Island, which isn’t really an island. I drove my car and we took bridal party pictures over there. It was BRUTALLY hot this day, If i remember the heat index was well over 100, I was happy to have a 36 hour break between the ceremony and the reception.

Two days later, this time with Nikki in tow, I went to Mote Marine in Sarasota for the reception. The layout was really beautiful. Mote did a great job along with Nellie who had some fantastic food. With the ceremony already taking place and me being able to get quite a few of the typical pictures out of the way on the 4th, the 6th left a lot of time for one on one with the bride and groom. Hope had a gorgeous dress and a veil, which always makes me and Nikki happy. There was this beautiful greenery area on the back of Mote which lent itself to some stunning imagery. These two did a great job and were really easy to work with. One of the close ups is one of Nikki’s favorites and I have to admit it is growing on me too.

Of course I have to tell you about the last shot of the night. I think Nikki and I really take pride it challenging ourselves and going for shots other photographers don’t go for, or can’t get. Nikki is hands down one of the best at posing people, I would put her up against anyone. Nikki spent years modeling for one of the worlds best wedding photographers back when she started this photography job. She had one of her actual wedding images used as a Kodak advertisement. She reminds me from time to time that I haven’t done that yet, lol. She keeps me in check. Anyways with her posing and my strong sense of lighting we set the bar pretty high for ourselves. At Mote there are a lot of tanks with some fun creatures swimming around. Right next to the repetition spot was two story tall shark tank. We decided to go for a shot that showed them and the sharks. There is really only one way to do this, you have to light the tank up. So we used three different lights in this image. One to light Miguel and hope. A small one behind them to separate them from the background and lastly, one downstairs behind the glass to light up the tank. Honestly my equipment surprised me. The way I trigger my lights is with a radio slave system. One of top of the camera (transmitter) and one on the lights (receiver). The light that was going to light up the tank was easily 35 feet away there was no direct line of sight to the slave except for through the tank. Amazingly it freaking worked, every time i pushed the button. Sadly the space we wanted to put Miguel and Hope was really limited when it came to the types of posing we could go with. We went with a pretty basic pose which I think worked out better anyways with such a drastic lighting set up. I lucked out and managed to get three sharks swimming in the frame plus a school of fish swimming in the bottom left corner of the tank and two sharks sleeping on the bottom. I would say it is a pretty awesome image to end the album with. Untitled-1 (1)

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Seeing the light.

I love when I get the chance to go to a new location. It’s exciting to explore and come up with ideas and images I have never created before. The best part is I have nothing to lean on prior knowledge wise. I HAVE to use my eyes not only to find the angles, but more importantly find the light. How do I manipulate the light to make it do what I want. If it isn’t there how do I create my own light. How do I work the light to help enhance the story I want to tell. This is my absolute favorite part of my job.

Shaping and creating light is the most important part of photography.

The word photography derives from the Greek photos (“light”) and graphe (“drawing”).

Light is the single most important part of an image. Without light you have no shadows, and with no shadows you have no depth. Also if you have no light its just a blank black blob, no one wants that. Light has the ability to create depth, effect moods, make a person look bigger or smaller. If you don’t know how to work the light you are leaving so much to be desired in your images. This means everything from the most important wedding image I take, to the one you may take of your food at Panera. If you take a picture of that plate in the middle of the restaurant directly under the light above your table you will have flat light. Boring, ugly, unappetizing,  flat light. However if you take that same plate over to a table next to a window you have enhanced that image 10 fold already. If a big white semi drives by as you’re taking that image it gets even better. That light is now a soft light, bouncing off the truck. It is also a HUGE light source, that’s a good thing. I digress let me tell you about my trip to Myakka State Park on Wednesday.

It seems I may have found a new muse too, or maybe I’m her muse who knows, but either way Candice told me about the park. I had been there years ago for a Boy Scout trip (proud Eagle Scout, Troop 27!) but I had never done any photography there. I told her I was going to rely on her for location ideas as she knew the lay of the land much better than I. She told me about this cabin. I said sounds good to me. We rolled up on this cabin and it was gorgeous. Old Florida all the way. It was build from 1935-1941. I walked around and inside the building trying to decide where I wanted to shoot. In my world I am not looking for backgrounds I am looking for light. Obviously it I see a background I can’t pass up but the light isn’t good, I’ll just add my own light but that’s for another time.
The first spot I saw in the cabin I saw immediately. This window happened to be throwing massive amounts of gorgeous light into the room.  There also happened to be a bench right there as well, almost like it was telling me, hey stupid, shoot here. It wasn’t very technical. I sat Candice down in the light and did a little bit of posing. I used a reflector to pop a little more light in but that was about it. This was the shot I got. BDP_9465

The next spot I decided to use was another window. window light is king if you know how to use it properly. This time I decided I wanted to shoot from the outside in. Again this wasn’t a very technically challenging spot. The sun was bouncing in an out of the clouds so I just waited to the sun to dip behind the cloud for that soft light feel. It also made for a cooler feel. I happened to have an empty Gatorade bottle in my car. I filled it up with water and splashed it on the window to try to give that sad dreary day feeling. It didn’t work as well as I wanted but nonetheless I was really happy with the image result. BDP_9517.jpg The last image I am going to tell you about was the same window with two minor tweaks to it. This image I decided to shoot when the sun was out, and I opened the window. This one had a much warmer feel to it with the sun coming out. It also was a slightly more difficult image to pose for as I had to figure out how to place her hands around the window. I am not the best at posing hands, that is an art form all in of itself. The other tough part was trying to keep her arm in the window from being too bright. There was no way to fix this in camera, so I had to do the thing I hate doing, fix it in photoshop. BDP_9506.jpg Not a huge difference in the last two images but I think it shows how much the mood changed just by waiting for the sun to come out. These little details, and knowing how to utilize them really put another tool in your toolbox. The job is to tell stories. I want you to look at the images and think, what is she thinking? (Side note, that’s why I almost never have a model smile. If they smile you know that they are happy and don’t spend as much time looking into the photo)

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Chasing lighting.

One of the most exhilarating, and yet dangerous, things I photograph is lightning. I am the crazy person that when the skies light up at night I go out with my camera and try to capture it. The only thing I can think of that makes me as giddy is photographing a tornado. I haven’t even photographed one of those yet. The closest I got was half of a waterspout. I’ll fill you in on the technical side of how I do this.

Most people seem to think backwards about capturing a lightning bolt.  A lot of people seem to think you have to be really quick to capture lightning. They are half right. It all depends on what look you are going for. If you are photographing a thunderstorm during the day then you have to have a higher shutter speed to get detail in the sky. 99% of the time I am not trying to photograph lightning during the day but instead at night. In fact I have only ever gotten one image of lightning during the sunlight hours. IMG_4958.jpg

When I go out at night to photograph lightning it is for one reason only. It is the only way I can do it. When its dark outside I drag that shutter as long as I can. Normally 30 seconds. Seems counter-intuitive to most. Lightning is there and gone in a flash, literally. How does keeping the shutter open for a long time help. Here’s how. When you leave the shutter open, as I do for 30 seconds. Anything and everything that happens in those 30 seconds will be exposed onto the sensor of the camera. Sometimes during 30 seconds I won’t get a single bolt. Other times I’ll get a bunch. This particular shot I got 6 bolts in one shot. BDP_9598bw

Along with the long shutter speed another critical piece of equipment here is a tripod. Without one getting a usable shot is impossible. Even with one sometimes it is difficult. The camera sitting on top of a tripod turns into a lovely place for the wind to hit. Thunderstorms aren’t generally a calm wind event. The slightest bit of camera shake due to the wind is magnified immensely when you have a telephoto lens on. The goal is to lock the tripod down as sturdy as possible. If the situation allows it, I will also try to keep it out of the wind. This becomes even more important if I am trying to do this in the rain. If it is raining the camera gets a protective weather bag the goes over it. This does a great job or keeping the camera dry but it also turns the camera into a giant wind sock. BDP_0104logo.jpg

There are a few technical pieces you can use to make capturing these bolts easier. One is called an intervalometer. It is basically a really smart cable release that will take multiple images for you as often as you set it for. Remember the guy on the infomercials that said set it and forget it? That is basically what one of those things does for you. The other piece of equipment is  basically cheating to me and I highly doubt I will every use one. It is a lightning trigger. It screws onto your camera and when it detects lighting it triggers the camera. Boom lighting every time it happens. BDP_0127logo.jpg

Just having the tools to take the image doesn’t mean you’re going to get a shot. As soon as I hear thunder or if I know of a storm in advance, there are things I start to do. One is obvious, keep an eye on the weather. Bay news 9 has a fantastic website radar with a lighting map, telling where the strikes have been and how recently. These storms can move fast and they can lose the lighting quickly as well. I also try to plan out where I can go to shoot based on where the storm is. I don’t want to get too close to the storm. It is dangerous and lets be honest, it could kill you. I don’t want to die photographing lightning. I will also try to shoot from under cover. Some of the lighting you see over the water I was in the lifeguard tower shooting. If I can’t find cover I’ll set the camera up and stay in my car. I learned my lesson last year. I thought I was safe and far enough away from the storm. I was shooting on the Cortez bridge looking South. There was no rain hitting me. I hadn’t felt the cold air drop as the front passed me. There was no lighting within a few miles of me. I was doing the cool lighting to thunder counting trick. As I was photographing maybe 10 minutes into shooting a bolt hit on the North side of the bridge maybe a few hundred yards away. This is a constant reminder to me when I shoot that I don’t know everything and that those bolts are unpredictable.

BDP_3394.jpg  Back to how to do this. I think the most difficult part of these is keeping them in focus. How do you set focus to something that you don’t know where it will be when it happens? The annoying part is I have to guess where I think the bolt will hit. In order to raise my chances of getting a bolt in the camera view I normally shoot with a wider lens and crop in later. (The shot above this is an exception to the rule, bolt after bolt hit in almost the exact same spot. I lined the camera up there and it paid off.) Not only do I have to guess where in the sky it is going to strike but I also have to set a focal distance. This is tricky. My trick is when I find myself at my location I try to find a light way off in the distance. I set the focus to that light and then turn the auto-focus feature off and leave it there till I capture a bolt in the camera. Once I do that I double check the focus and make adjustments as need be. As I mentioned before I don’t want to be right on top of the storm so more often than not an infinity focus works really well. Also to help with this I set the aperture to a middle to high setting. This has a two pronged reason. If I set the F stop (aperture) to f2.8 I will let in more light but my depth of field, or working focal distance, is much much smaller. Also the lightning bolt will be WAY brighter. Not a good bright, but I can’t see anything but white bright. I will normally set the f/ around 11 and then a 30 second exposure. If you are a camera geek you may be thinking Billy you left out ISO. I am always at 200 ISO. Just from trial and error I have always been most happy when I leave the ISO on 200.  BDP_3310.jpg

These are just a few of the hundred or so shots I have of these beautiful moments created by mother nature. It is such a thrill when I manage to capture one of these. It is a feeling uncomparable to anything else I photograph. The chase and the anticipation of getting one of these shots is a feeling I cannot express. I will always wake up at 2am to go photograph these. If you decide this is something you want to try to photograph always keep safety first in your mind. Shoot from a covered place. Keep an eye on your surroundings. If you feel that air temperature drop drastically, roll out or make sure you are under cover.

 

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O’ Canada indeed!

The way some jobs come to you seems to defy belief. That is how I feel about the opportunity I got to photograph soccer for the Canada National Soccer Association. Last June I got a phone call from a friend of mine whom I knew through Ultimate. Michael who also happens to work for the Tampa Bay Rowdies gave the Canada Soccer Association my name when they asked if they knew anyone that could photograph for the U-17 women’s team at IMG in Bradenton. Clearly I said yes let’s do this.

That first tournament for them went really well. I was ecstatic with the images I was able to capture for them. I got to watch the ladies finish 3rd in the tournament and qualify for their World Cup the next year. That is becoming a trend, but I’ll get to that shortly. I guess I wasn’t the only one really happy with the images. September comes rolling around and I get another email from Canada. This time asking if I was able to photograph the Men’s national team. Big deal. These are the best of the best for Canada. It was only a one match kind of thing but still a big deal to me. Not only because it was the Men’s national team, but because now this was a repeat customer. Possibly one of the coolest repeat customers. After that match I hadn’t thought much about Canada soccer as I didn’t know they were coming back to IMG anytime soon. That changed early last week.

May 5th I got an email asking if I was able to photograph some matches for Canada’s U-17 mens team. They are competing in the Concacaf tournament. The top 3 I believe) teams in this tournament qualify for their World Cup in Brazil. I covered a match for them on Friday. It was an interesting game. The game started early, I presume to try to avoid afternoon showers. The score was 1-0 in the first off of an own goal. Only 10 minutes into the second half and those pesky summertime showers decided to throw some lightning bolts out east. IMG never saw a drop of rain but to be safe they went into a weather delay. It lasted almost an hour, After the delay Canada came out firing. The scored 3 goals in the final 30 minutes to win 4-0. A great result for them and a good one for me as well. It meant I got to cover another game.

canppub

May 12th Canada vs Costa Rica in the quarter final, with the winner punching their ticket to the World Cup. This match started at 10am. It was hot, mostly sunny with a slight breeze and occasional cloud cover. The match was close to start. I felt like Costa Rica had more possession but Canada seemed to have the higher quality chances. In the 22nd minute I got one of my favorite shots. A flying header attempt at goal. The play was ultimately called offsides but still a great moment. CANvsCR BDP_007 In the 45″+3″ of stoppage time, the ref award Canada a penalty kick after the Costa Rica keeper fouled the Canada forward. This put one of their best players in prime scoring position. His name is Jaden and he is a stud. Loads of talent, which is to be expected, but even on the pitch with the highest quality talent around him he still stands out. He stepped to the spot and put the ball in the back of the net to put Canada up 1-0 CANvsCR BDP_034

The second half quickly got turned on it’s head as the Costa Rica team was awards a PK for almost the exact same infraction. The CR player did the same as his counterpart and tied the game up, 1-1. The rest of the match was closely contested. Again I would say that CR held a slight advantage in the possession realm but couldn’t use that to their advantage.  Ironically both teams also put a ball off the post which could have really changed the game in both instances. This was the reaction of the Canadian player after the ball hit the post. CANvsCR BDP_070

Ultimately the match went into extra time. 90″ wasn’t enough to settle it. Canada seemed to have the upper hand to me in the final dual 15 minute halves. I don’t think either keeper was really strongly challenged in the last 15 minutes. You could feel the intensity building on the pitch. The game got a little chippy and the coaches were really imploring the boys to fight hard and finish the match before it went to penalty kicks. I bet most fans like to see PK’s but it really stinks to let such a great and important game come down to them.

After the final whistle blew I saw Lee, who is a media member for Canada who came down with the team. I asked him how his nerves were holding up. He said “Not great but I have confidence.” I am clearly rooting for Canada but I know my heart isn’t nearly as invested as theirs are. The boys locked arms at midfield and the coaches and subs did the same on the sideline. Now if you don’t know soccer well, know that PK’s do involve skill, but there is a lot of luck too. The keeper has to try to make a read, or more likely, a guess on what way the opponent is going to try to go. I think if you hit a perfect ball it doesn’t matter if the keeper guesses right. The goalie is at a huge disadvantage. Normally one spot, or one miss is enough to take the win. Costa Rica had the first opportunity to score. I am solely focused on the Canadian keeper. I take a peek to see when the CR player is going to start his run up to the ball, back to the keeper I go, the shot goes to the keepers right. and low. The Canadian keeper guessed right! He got just enough of his hand on it to make a save! On the first kick the pressure has been placed solely on the CR keeper to make a save and the CR boys to not miss.    This shot is the reaction of the Canadian keeper after his first PK save. CANvsCR BDP_108

The next few players from both squads put the ball in the back of the net. Canada is going their job, just keep scoring. The third player for Canada steps to the ball and smack, another save! All those nerves come rushing back. The lead, gone. We are right back where we just were. Tied up with the game hanging in the balance. The very next player for CR steps to the ball and I heard two smacks, the foot off the ball, and the ball off the crossbar! He missed it. I feel awful for the kid because you know that will stay with him forever. I looked to Lee after that goal and told him “If they win this, I’m rushing the field with them for pictures.” The last Canadian player steps to the ball. It is simple at this point. Put the ball in the net and you are going to Brazil. Miss and we keep going. He was cold blooded, no hesitation, right into the net. Canada wins 1-1 (4-3). The immediate outpouring of jubilation is beautiful. The players at midfield rush towards the goal, the coaching staff and subs to the same. A dog pile ensues around the player that just notched the last goal. There are tears of joy. There are screams of “We are going to the World Cup!” “We did it boys!” A sea of red jerseys surround me.

One interesting thing about being a photographer. A lot of the time when you have a camera in your face, you seem to be disconnected from whatever moment is going on around you. There are times when I tell myself put the camera down, enjoy the moment. This was not one of those moments. I cannot do that. My job is to capture those moments, turn those memories into a tangible item that they can have, hold, keep, remember forever. I started looking through the lens differently. I was looking for the shot, but even though I was shooting their joy was coming through the lens to me in a way I haven’t felt often. I was so happy for them. I’m not Canadian, I don’t know any of these kids. I am just a photographer that was hired to take pictures of them. That being said I could not be happier for them. I felt like I was part of that moment. It was a moment I won’t soon forget either. The last shot I got one of the staff called all the boys over to huddle up. I went right back into shooting mode. Group shots are a thing that happens a lot in ultimate frisbee. Teams get together after games all the time. I know the shot I want. I want to be low, I want to be IN the huddle. I find a player that has a small gap next to him and put my camera on the ground right next to his foot. The next words out of the coaches mouth are, “WE ARE GOING TO THE WORLD CUP!” An explosion of cheers and screams the boys all hyped up jumping around. Now the job is to save the camera, I took either a knee or elbow to the face, about broke my glasses and I couldn’t care less. Now Tuesday Canada plays USA in the semi finals. That’ll be interesting to cover. I just want a good game. CANvsCR BDP_131canppub2

If you want to come out to the USA vs Canada match, it is Tuesday night at 6:30 at IMG. If you liked this blog post, give the blog a follow so you never miss a post. Also follow me on the gram and facebook. Both at Billy D Photography

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Another crazy week.

Over the last 9 days I had 8 shoots, made 27 collages, a 290 image slideshow. Took  4,393 images. Designed an album, working on another. Designed  grad cards. Needless to say it’s been insane. Here is a slightly more detailed breakdown of the last 8 days.

April 30th:

This was a fun day. I have a rule that I try to keep to myself. No matter what my week is like, I make sure I schedule a shoot for me. One that has no expectations, a day for me to just shoot. Try new techniques, re-enforce proper photography techniques, try to train my eyes to see things differently. I got to photograph Sofia. She’s a new model to me, never photographer her before. She is getting into the fitness world and love the beach so a beach shoot seemed like the obvious answer. This shoot should have been super easy, however, our schedules only lined up to where we could shoot at 1pm. A giant turd time to try to take pictures on the beach. The lighting is basically straight down, very harsh light, and then it reflects off the sand and is so bright most people squint. Another issues that made this one harder than it had to be was self inflicted. I forgot to bring the brighter flash and was left with one that had about 1/4th the amount of power. Not ideal at all. This went from what should have been a walk in the park with a beautiful model in a beautiful location, to one where I had to really work. I had to find places where I could overpower the sun. Find places where she wouldn’t squint so much. It wasn’t easy and a lot of the images aren’t where I would want them to be, but I still managed to get some really good shots.

May 1st:

Rolling into May and I am still grinding things out day by day. Finishing up the collages for BCS and running errands all over the place. Driving home through GT bray I saw the Hurricane flags out at the softball field. I decided I needed a break from the computer so I slid over to the fields. Manatee was playing Palmetto in a district playoff game. Even though I have been out of high school for quite awhile now, when Manatee plays Palmetto or SE or BR that switch turns on and I want MHS to not only win but absolutely destroy them sadly that didn’t happen. Palmetto lead wire to wire and it wasn’t ever really close. I did try a few double exposures. I think it has the possibility to be some of the coolest images I may ever take, I need a lot more practice with them though. Palmetto also had a player in Right field who was all out, all the time. She dove for the ball on numerous occasions. People who play the game all out, gas pedal through the floor. I will respect you no matter the uniform. She gave me ample opportunities to get some great shots, which I did. I made a bet towards the end of the game if Manatee hit a homerun I would do cartwheels all the way around the bases. With one out in the bottom of the last inning one of the MHS girls hit the ball maybe 3 feet short from going out. I was bummed that I wasn’t going to do cartwheels.

May 2nd:

The running errands to finish the 22 collages for BCS plus a few extra for Julie was taking up most of my day. As I got my facebook fix I saw a post about BCS playing in a district title game for softball. BCS’s softball team is one of the most entertaining teams to photograph. They are a lot of fun with some characters for sure. I must also admit I love their games because they are still played during daylight hours. More daylight gives me more chances to play with the light. I must also admit that St Stephens has some really nice facilities from a photography perspective. I CANNOT wait for BCS to have their new complex! Sadly BCS didn’t win this game. They started off slow, gave up a few untimely hits, they made a run in the 5th to bring it back but then again gave away a few more runs. They play later this week for a chance to have a re-match.

May 3rd.

This was my crazy super long day. I had a wedding, which was fun  for it to be on a Friday. Fun fact my last 3 weddings were all not on Saturdays. A Sunday, a Wednesday, and a Friday. Before I made my way to the wedding I had to drop off my last collage. Friday night was BCS’s Varsity sports banquet. For the last I don’t know how many years, at least 7, I have been given the task of creating a collage for each senior athlete. It is a freaking task. This year I had to make 22. One year I had to make 41. I love this job more than almost any of them though. BCS does a great job of displaying these collages all throughout the lobby of the auditorium. I was really bummed that I wasn’t going to make it to the banquet. It’s always nice to see the kids reactions to the images. I think when everyone see’s all these collages printed they realize how much work goes into them. This year there was another twist. The athletic director wanted me to make a slideshow that showed off all of the teams throughout the year, not just the seniors. I put together a 287 image 6 minute slideshow. Apparently it went over pretty well. collages2.jpg After I dropped the last collage off, I headed up to St Pete to photograph the wedding of Ryan and Erin. Nikki and I met up at the venue to drop all the equipment off and then headed to the hotel where everyone was getting ready. The bridal party at this wedding was hysterical and I fit right in with them. I knew the groom and a few of the groomsmen from high school which always makes this more enjoyable. Nik and I headed back to the venue but not before a quick stop at the chick fil a where she brought up this hilarious video about this ladies love for said restaurant. The venue wasn’t your typical venue as I think it is also a research facility for marine life. The ceremony spot was the backyard overlooking the inter coastal which was beautiful. It was so nice to be able to do all of the formal images before the ceremony. Makes everything less stressful after the ceremony. Ryan and Erin were great to work with. They took directions well and gave me plenty of time  to be creative and get some fun shots. The end of the night ended not exactly the way I wanted. During the cupid shuffle I was next to a former Manatee Sugarcane and was nailing some high kicks. I told her I knew she still had them in here, and she did, the dance floor however happened to be slightly wet and she hit the deck hard. I felt so bad. Sorry Kristina! 😦

May (the) 4th (be with you)

I had planned on the 4th being a lazy day at house just working on finishing up some photoshop work. That stuff never seems to be done. I suppose that is a good thing. My friend Abbi called me and asked if I wanted to shoot. Against considering this is also my hobby sometimes it is hard for me to say no. Plus I had been bugging her to shoot for awhile. We shot at my house which I have photographed maybe 100 times. It is another great opportunity to test my eyes to look at things differently. The house only has so many places that are worth photographer. Recently I found out that this little hallway/foyer area makes for some great images. I have used this pocket door before too, but never so tightly closed. I also decided that I would go with a really really tight crop in post production.  The image didn’t come out exactly how it was planned in my mind but I still really like it. BDP_4824.jpg

May 5th.

The 5th was a fun one. As you may or may not know, I am the official photographer for the Manatee/Sarasota County Debutantes. The last one I had to photograph on a different date as she was gone on college visits for both of the pre arranged dates. I got to go to her grandma’s house to photograph her. I always love to see the looks on peoples faces when I bring in an entire photo studio to their living room. I also like to see how they react when they see how much stuff comes out of my car. I had to alter the lighting set up a little which I wasn’t excited about. My dumb self had left a soft box at the wedding and didn’t have it back yet. I needed it. I wanted to keep everything exactly the same for consistency sake. That being said, I am a professional and one of the things I pride myself on is lighting. The other is being able to adapt and over come whatever obstacle may be put in front of me, even if it is self inflicted. The normal lighting set up I use for the debs has 4 lights and a reflector. More technically the main and fill light are on the same side with a reflector on the shadow side. The soft box I left at the wedding would have gone on the main light. You don’t have to be a photographer to guess that the main light might be important. After pounding my head against the wall and talking to my buddy Jim and Maria, also photographers. I decided my best bet was to use 3 lights. Combine the main and fill into one massive soft box. Thankfully it worked out well. Miss Anna Shelby and her family made the shoot so easy and a lot of fun. Those are always such a bonus about my job, meeting such nice people. BDP_4915 5x7 May 6th:

Another day another Abby. I’ve been lucky enough to photograph Abby a few times. I did her deb portraits, her senior portraits, and some life style portraits for her. She was in town from college for a few days so we decided it was time to update some images for her. We made it over to Ringling which is free on Monday. Every Monday. Take advantage of that. Ringling has a rule about off camera flash, basically you aren’t aloud to use it. Off camera flash is kind of my thing. There are exceptions to every rule but 99% of the time if you see a photograph with a flash on their camera taking portraits, they have a lot more to learn. What makes a great image is the light. Shadow too. Getting light to have direction, esp in portraiture is everything. It is what sculpts the face. It is what creates detail. Having off camera flash makes this a lot easier to achieve. When you don’t have that you need to find other ways to manipulate light, or find the natural light that will do the job. It’s possible you just need to know where to look. For the second time in a week I am shooting outside around 1pm. Awful. The gardens at Ringling are gorgeous but damn near impossible to shoot at that time. I managed to get a few good ones in the gazebo. In the corner of the gardens was a bench that was in shade, barely. There was also a lot of either cement or light colored rocks bouncing the light back into her. Making some great light for images. I took advantage of that. The next spot that I knew would have great light is a little hallway in the front of the Ca d’zan. Not only did it have great light I though her outfit matched the scenery pretty well. There are a few tricks to window light but it is almost always a great place to take pictures without a flash. The next spot we went to was the shady side of the Ca d’zan. It was barely in shade. This door/window whatever it is, it has amazing color to it. It is almost always a go to spot for me. However the gem of Ringling is the main museum. It is spectacular. It rivals Abby but I think it comes up just a tad short.

May 7th:

The ending point for this blog post. If you have made it this far, I commend you. This was a dual shoot day. BCS had a district baseball game vs The Falcons and Manatee was hosting its Annual Outstanding Alumni Dinner.  The first stop was the baseball game. I was dressed up in a semi formal outfit which looks out of place at a high school baseball game but especially for me. I do love getting dressed up but not when it is near 90 outside. The nice part about this game was again it is during the day time. The sun was behind the batters meaning I could slightly over expose them and get this really clean nice look. Sadly for the panthers they didn’t pull this game out.

BDP_3701.jpgCapping off the evening and this blog post was the MHS Outstanding Alumni Dinner. It is always a pleasure to get to give back to the alma mater. Everyone knows I bleed Manatee Hurricanes. What might not be known is how much love so many other people have for the school. The MHS Alumni association has over 10,000 registered members. It truly is a family. When I walk into that room I see people I have worked with, people who taught me, people I look up to from not only a personal level but a business level as well. The knowledge in the room is immense.  This years recipient was from the class of 1955! Mr. Andrew Economos. He is a brilliant mind. He worked for NASA, NBC, and RCA creating computer technology. He left those companies to start his own. It expanded into 24 counties and became the biggest company of its kind in the world. One downside to having the camera in my hands is sometimes I am disconnected from the moment. I am so focused on my job that I miss details other in the room will pick up on. I wish I would have put the camera down and listen to his speak more than I did. When Mr Vita was reading off Mr. Economos’ bio it seemed as it was never going to end. He must be on 7 or 8 different boards for either science or technology. It was inspiring to hear him speak. (Left photo. Coach Yusif Shakir, Andrew Economos, Bowen Summer)

I have to say I am one lucky photographer to have so much going on. Next week doesn’t slow down very much and I couldn’t be more excited to see what it has in store. If you enjoyed this blog about my photography experiences this week give the blog a follow. Also feel free to follow me on all the social media.
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I’ve been slacking. (A week in the life of Billy)

Trying to keep up with the blog is a challenging issue. The first month and a half I was on top of it. No issues, now it’s been almost two weeks since my last post. I am not okay with this. I will not let it be this long between posts if I can help it. I must say I have a good reason to be behind on it. This last week was bonkers. Let me tell you about that.

Friday, April  19th.

This day consisted of me driving to Sarasota to do a professional head shot in the clients house. This is always a crap shoot. You try to plan out ahead where this is going to take place within the house. I know my studio takes up roughly a 15×10 footprint. Then I need about 5 more feet to have what I would say is a ideal shooting length. Thankfully this house had a living room that laid out almost perfectly. Just needed to move a table and a chair and boom, a studio in the house. Fun thing, you’d never know it was shot in their house.

Saturday, April 20th

I was supposed to have a family portrait this day but the weather was not cooperating. The wind was gusting in the 30mph range which is never good for hair in pictures. We decided it was best to postpone this. This gave me the chance to go out to the Tampa Bay Cannons frisbee game. That’s right, there is professional ultimate in the bay area. You should check it out. I was unprepared when the rain came early in the second half but thankfully a nice little plastic bag did the trick/ It was nice to get back to photographing some ultimate. This was the first gig for ultimate I have done since November. Took a few minutes to get back into the frisbee rhythm. I’m always amazed that each sport has a rhythm to it. You can start to see shooting lanes, and timing up the sequence for peak action. Got some really cool shots and the Cannons won. They are undefeated currently.

Sunday, April 21st.

Took the day off of work to spend time with the family in the morning, and then my best friends birthday, and then ended the day with some tennis where I Zioned my shoe, just blew it out.

Monday, April 22nd.

The thing they don’t tell you about running your own photography business is that some days you’ll never even be near your camera, or photoshop for that matter. Monday was that day. I ran all over the city running errands, paying taxes, ordering ink, picking up packages. Talking to brides, setting up schedules for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, April 23rd.

Back to my home away from home it seems. I am okay with that. Bradenton Christian School sees enough of me that sometimes I feel like a student, or a teacher. Tuesday was senior night for the softball team so I made my way out to their game. It was an exciting game even if it wasn’t close on the score board/ BCS took a lead early in the game and built on it every inning.

Wednesday, April 24th

The long day of the week for me yet it didn’t seem like it. Minus being crazy hot. Wednesday I had a wedding, Yup that’s right, a wedding on a Wednesday. Tony and Kodi were so much fun. This was kind of a destination wedding for them. They are from Ohio and come to Florida a few times a year. This is where they decided to get married. It was a small wedding, maybe only 20ish guests. The wedding was on the beach at The Harrington House. If you have a small wedding check them out, they are great people and the venue is just perfect for that kind of small town beach feel. They also have stellar food! Kodi was a stunning bride which makes my job easier. More importantly than that Tony and Kodi were such sweethearts and a joy to work with. I had a wrench thrown into my plans as I had to find another assistant as Nikki had prior plans. My lovely friend and great photographer in her own right came through in the clutch and knocked it outta the park. Maria and I have so much fun together. She is high energy like me and we bounce ideas off each other well. She is a much more technical photographer than I which is fun because I learn so much from her. Here’s some of our shots from the wedding.

Thursday, April 25th.

Someday’s I just need to leave the house. Along with everything else, most days I spend multiple hours sitting at the computer on photoshop. That is my least favorite part of being a photographer. I enjoy photoshop, but not when I put 25 hours a week into it. I want to shoot, not edit. That being said some days I just need to do something fun and get out of the house. My love for photography not only created my job but it is still my hobby. I had no need to go to BCS on this day and cover the baseball game other than I wanted to. That desire to chase that next amazing shot. That at times is more exciting that getting the shot. Trying to be different, make myself look at things differently. Or sometimes at BCS has my camera taken by a student and let them shoot. Faith and Bailey are the normal suspects when this happens. The baseball game this day was fun from the point that the Bayshore pitcher had a wacky release and at the end of his pitch he ended up looking all the way at first base. BCS ran away with the game and it was over in 5 innings.

Friday, April 26th

I spent almost 6 hours on the road to photograph one building in Orlando. I-4 is, well, no easy way to put it, hell on earth. It is ALWAYS backed up. Slow downs, crashes, people not knowing how to drive. What should have taken me 2 hours and 20 minutes took me almost 4 hours.  Mind you there were no accidents. Just awful traffic. Google maps even gave up at one point and told me to take back roads, which was a nice change until I got stuck behind a dump truck doing 30 in a 50. I digress. Oden Hardy Construction is one of my best, most loyal clients. They are right up there with BCS and the Debutantes. When they send me to a job I want to do better than the last job I was at, every time. This time is no exception. I had actually been to this location a few weeks ago but a misunderstanding had happened and the building wasn’t actually ready. It was a silver lining. Architectural photography is all about lines and light. You HAVE to make sure that the building is perfectly straight. Logical I know. When you take a picture of a multiple story structure from the ground, the building is NEVER square. It is always bowed in and too tall. This one had that issue in camera but the biggest issue was the facade would only get good light from one side. I took some flashes out with me and light up one entire side of the building. I got some strange looks from people passing by, partly because I was lighting the side of a storage building, and partly because I was standing ontop of a dumpster to get taller to lessen the lens distortion.   This building was a little more fun as I went up on the roof to take a few shots too. That doesn’t get to happen often.

This is what my week was like. They aren’t always this crazy, and sometimes a week like this seems like a light week. Thats the joy of being a photographer and a small business owner, never really sure what the next week will hold in store. This coming week I currently have 4 portrait sessions lined up. I have to print and frame 22 posters. Finish a slide show. Send out finished images, edit the shots from last week, and photograph a wedding on Friday. It’s a good thing I love what I do because it keeps me busy.

 

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Photographing the debutantes.

There is a group of young ladies you may or may not know about. If you don’t you should. You’ll probably be working for them or wishing you were soon enough. The Sarasota Manatee County Debutante program is in its 37th year. They are some of the best young ladies these counties have to offer. The are smart. sophisticated, athletic, musically talented, if there is a positive adjective you could you, it probably fits them. The debutante program is also a fundraiser for the Sarasota Youth Orchestra and since the beginning they have raised $1.2 million for them.

How did I get so lucky to be the one that gets to photograph them for the last 4 years? We’ll it goes back a little further than that. When I started my photographic en devour I was working for another local photographer and it was his first year photographing the debs. In the past the photographer role rotated yearly from a Sarasota photographer to a Manatee county photographer. This was because at the time the girls had to go to the photographers studio to get the headshots done. They wanted to keep it semi fair about who had to make the longer commute. After the first year that I was apart of photographing the debs, back in 2008 (if my memory serves me correctly) they committee was so happy with how we handled the ball, and the girls photos that they said we would keep it. Well long story short, that photographer moved out of the state. The deb committee approached me and asked me if I wanted the gig. I honestly wasn’t ready for it yet. I needed more time to gain confidence in myself and my skills to take on a job like that. The asked me if I had anyone to recommend, I did. I gave them the name of the lovely lady Maria. A stellar photographer whom I have worked with both in an assistant role and her assisting me as well .  Maria had the job for a few years and I stayed in loose contact with the debs. I helped Maria a few times under her since I had some knowledge of how things operated. A few years went by and the deb committee said they were ready to see if I was wanting to be the official photographer. This second time they asked, in 2015 the deb committee had decided it was time to change around a few things in the by laws. One of the things they changed was a rule saying the photographer needed to have a brick and mortar studio. With this rule abolished and me being a lot more confident in my skills I took them up on their request. We talked to the Sarasota Orchestra to find out if there was a space I could set up to photograph in their building. This worked out really well for everyone. The debs had a central meeting place to go to and it was at a place they will wind out frequenting a few times through the course of the deb year.

This year was the biggest amount of girls I have photographed in one year. 27! That meant two REALLY long days of photographing. I went to the orchestra on Friday afternoon to set up. I use a 4 light set up. I have a main light and a fill light to the right of the model. I have a light 45 degrees behind the model on the left side, and lastly one light above the background behind the model, to light up their hair. I also have a reflector coming in tight on the left side of the model. This is a lighting set up I saw Tim Kelly use. He is a masterful portrait photographer. I can set this stupid up in about 40 minutes, I’ve done it so many times I feel like I am on auto pilot.  (please forgive the model in this picture)BDP_1376.jpgBefore I go to much further into this I have to tell you about the other member of my team. Cheryl or as I prefer to call her Churryl.  She is awesome, she keeps me on track. Tells me when I am over shooting. She is the one that sprays the hairspray to try to lessen the amount of stray hairs that are always there. She is also the one that helps the girls pick out images and runs the sales for me. Most importantly she picks me up breakfast from Turners in the morning. 🙂

On Saturday our day started at 8:20am. When I say started I mean that was when the first girl was to arrive to shoot. I was there around 8ish. If you know me at all you know I am not a morning person. Each girl has a 40 minute to have all of their pictures taken and then pick out the one for the deb committee and if they want to purchase anything. 40 minutes sounds like a long time until we really start to get into it. After 4 years of doing this Cheryl and I have learned some tricks to save time. I know she’s going to get the girls basically ready. Pears, drape, hair, ect. Once she gets them set down then we double-check hair and drape again, then it’s showtime.

In the act of shooting I am aiming to give each girl 8 unique looks. I am going to make sure for their official deb photo they have two different hair styles to look at. I then snap a quick funny face photo. Then I grab a side profile shot. Then I try to do 2 sometimes if I have time and an idea 3, different poses with their hands in the photo. Then we end with a wind blowing their hair shot.

 

After this Mom and Daughter and Cheryl get to narrowing down images. On average I would said they have to go through 35 images. They have to pick one image that day for the deb portrait. Anything after that is for them. This 40 minute window is vanishing quickly. We have to have enough time to do a quick re shoot if the girl doesn’t like anything. This doesn’t happen often but it does happen.

The third member of my BDP groupies is normally one lady but this year it was quite a few. Jessica the photography chair committee member is a godsend. She does all of the scheduling with all the girls and families and then just tells me when to show up. This year she was unable to sit in with us for the two days so a bunch of different committee members sat in. It was fun for me to get to spend time with these ladies as I normally only see them the night of the ball and sometimes on the dress rehearsal.

Back to the timeline. we started at 8:20 on Saturday and shot straight through till around 5:30. 14 wonderful young ladies photographed.

Sunday we had the remaining 12 ladies to photograph. We started at 9:40! so much better than 8 whatever. Day two was a lot of fun because of the fact that I knew some of the girls. I have one who was a younger sister to a deb a few years ago, that was fun to catch up with them and mom. I also had a young lady who brought her younger sister to the shoot and it was hysterical to ask the older sister a question to only have the younger sister give me the real answer.  I also had a deb whose mom was my photography chair committee member a few years back. It was like old times and lets face it I am still a goofball who wants to have fun. Not everyone loves their picture being taken. If I can make them lose focus on that fact and laugh, and be engaged with the fun atmosphere I am trying to create you can see that come through in the images. One of the funniest moments was towards the end of the day. Having a conversation always revolves around a few questions. Where do they go to school, what do they do for fun ect. Well one young lady divulged the fact that she was a New England Patriot fan. We all know that is a horrible team to be a fan of. Awful to be exact. This is all coming from a Miami Dolphin fan so know its all joking here, kind of. Marissa (the NE fan) had quite the banter session about sports and why the NE Patriots are awful. It was all in good fun and some really hard laughing moments were shared. At the end of the day Sunday we finished up a little late, around 7:30.

Now for the arduous task of editing all of these images. The amount of time spent in photoshop over the next few weeks to edit everything will most likely surpass the amount of time I actually spent photographing. Well worth it thought. I have been lucky enough to make some really close friendships out of this group along with photograph some beautiful weddings from this group as well. Like I said at the beginning these are the ladies you want to surround yourself with. They are remarkable. When they come back as post debs to the ball and you hear their names announced with either the university they are attending or the job they now currently hold. It is a list of whose who is D1 colleges and don’t be surprised to hear the surname of Doctor or Master quite a few times. debs.jpg

 

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Phi Slamma Jamma

Bringing this years basketball season to an end with a bang for sure. I went over to Lakewood Ranch High School Wednesday last week to photograph the Manatee, Sarasota all-star games. They had a girl’s game. a guys game. a 3 point contest for each, and a dunk contest. It was so much fun.

This was the first year I went to this event. Mostly because I never knew about it in the past. The even was also a fundraiser for two local kids who have had some tragedy strike them. One was Jack, a 19-year-old who played at LWR last year who was in an awful hit and run accident. As far as I know he is make great strides in recovery. The other person I didn’t know much about but he was  a BRHS student who passed away. 😦  I normally don’t pay to get into events if I’m working but I gladly paid to go to this one.

 

The girl’s game was first of the dock. I played a little favoritism in this game. COvering the Manatee side more heavily due to the fact that I knew a few of the people playing. The was one girl from BCS and two from Manatee High. It was fun to watch some of the girls I didn’t see during the year. The southeast girls show why they made such a deep run towards the state championship this year. They were dynamic.  I also remember being impressed by a few of the long-range snipers on the Sarasota team. There were also a few very talented girls from Booker on the Sarasota side. The game started out with SRQ taking a big lead. I think it was a 10 point lead early in the first. I managed to get a pretty decent amount of good shots. It didn’t take me long to get back into the basketball rhythm. I find it interesting that each sport has its little idiosyncrasy. I like to hide on the baseline, as low as I can. I always like to be as low as I can when I photograph sports, for a few reasons. One it’s a different perspective than most people get to have. Most people are 15-20 rows up in the bleachers looking down on these athletes. The other reason I like to do this is in my mind athletes are supposed to be strong and bigger than life. The lower I can get, the bigger they are going to look. Basketball is tough because there are three refs that basically run a triangle around the offense. There may only be three but there seems like 100 because they ALWAYS seem to get in the way. Basketball is also tough because it’s very fast paced and not super predictable. You cannot relax for a second during play in basketball or you will miss something.

The girl’s game had a three-point contest during half time which was won by one of the ladies from Booker H.S. The rest of the game was really competitive and close but the Manatee squad couldn’t seem to shrink the deficit. Every time the Manatee team made a big shot the Sarasota side answered. The MVP award for the game also went to a lady from Booker.

After the girl’s game was the guys 3 point shoot out. One of the contestants was Cameron from BCS. He did really well but was beat out in the last round by a guy from St Stephens. The guys game was also a closely contested match up. The Manatee squad started off with a 3 pointer from a guy from Bayshore who looked like he was built to play center, not rain down threes. Even with my favoritism leaned towards the Manatee team again I started this game photographing the Sarasota basket. The Manatee players and the lone BCS player didn’t start for the Manatee side. I was also watching the Sarasota side warmup and they were throwing down some crazy dunks. I was hoping I would get one of those early on it the game. I mean I’ve watched the NBA all-star game, all star games don’t have defense. We’ll that doesn’t trickle down to high school. I guess the joy of dunking is heavily outweighed by not wanting to be dunked on in a gym full of people. There wasn’t a stand out moment in the first half that made me go wow, but I did get a few really good shots that I remember going “Yup that’ll look really good.” One of these was a Northport player going up for a lay up or a dunk, not sure which it was, and getting crushed between this guy Alex, from Manatee, and another player from Braden River. I loved the lines in this shot. The other one I remembered was another Manatee player De’Von was on a fast break but when he got to the basket he hesitated for a moment to get his defender off his feet. This along with the fake created a huge size discrepancy that looked really cool.

During halftime was what I was looking forward to the most, the dunk contest. The athletic director for the event had told us (the media) what side they were going to dunk on so we could be ready for it. I headed over to that side with about 2 minutes left in the half because there was a lot of media. THere was at least 3 news stations there. I think it was mostly because it was benefiting Jack, the one who was in the car crash. It had made national news. There was also a reporter from the paper there and then a literal crap ton of team moms with camera. Okay so maybe only 4 but it still seemed like a lot. I switched from my zoom lens to my wide. I wanted to show the height these guys were going to get. I also wanted to show the gym and the atmosphere. That generally helps tell the story a lot more than a tight close crop image. During the warmup these guys did not miss. They were attacking the rim viciously. The first dunk from the Riverview  guy was a solid dunk but in comparison to the two that followed him, left some room to be desired. The second dunk was done by a guy from Venice. He enlisted some help from a Booker guy to lob the ball of the backboard to him and he crushed it. The guy following him was from Lakewood Ranch. He just had so much height and dunked with so much authority that even though technically I believe it was an easier dunk (says the guy who can’t dunk) it was more impressive. In the final round I think between dunking after half a game and maybe a little nerves, they all started missing, a lot. The final round was won because he was the only one to make a dunk and it was no where near as good as the one in the round prior to it.

When it came to the final half of the guys game Cameron, the lone BCS player in the game kind of took over. He was either the high scoring on his side or the second highest with most of his points coming in the second half. Remember how I said I was hoping for a dunk well I got one. Exactly one (aside from the dunk contest) and it came from Cam. It was off a steal and a fast break. Thankfully I was on the right side of the basket and got a great photo of it. The boys game ended with a Manatee win. At the end of the night I had taken 2,200 photos. It was a really fun night and I hope I get to cover this event again next year.

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