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. ūüė¶¬† 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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Snap Shot Series #1

Excited to hopefully bring a fun twist to this blog. I already kind of did a post that pertained to how I created a specific image but I want to make this a series. Therefore the first official image in the Snap Shot Series should be my most well-known wedding image. I’ll take you step by step how I photographed this image, how I used the lighting and the location to achieve the look I wanted.

If you follow me at all you have at one time or another seen this image. They say rain on your wedding day is good luck and I would have to agree. Brent and Krystal now have two lovely little kiddo’s running around the house. Back in 2014 November 8th to be exact, they were just about to tie the knot. The wedding was at The Oaks At Windsong. A really cool wedding venue. The ceremony takes place with the couple and the bridal party on a small tiered dock. The guests are across the pond. This really allows for unique shots.¬† One downside to the location is they have no backup plan for rain. When I got to the hotel where Krystal was getting ready I found out from Caitlin, one of her bridesmaids and the day of planner, that they got a tent for the reception the day before or something crazy like that. It wasn’t a question of IF it was going to rain but WHEN and for how long. I managed to get all of the groomsmen pictures done and a most of the bride and bridesmaids images done before the rains came.

The ceremony was quite beautiful even with all the umbrellas up in the crowd. My assistant for the day was my buddy, and stellar wedding photographer himself, Marc. Nikki couldn’t help me for some reason this day. Marc got some great shots from across the pond while I hung out in the trees behind the couple to get close-ups of the ceremony. The rain persisted for what wound up being the rest of the night. I will say Brent and Krystal handled the weather like champs. I knew the weather was most likely going to play a role in the day so I broke out all the camera weather gear. I have these bags for the camera that are made specifically for shooting in in-climate weather. That took care of the camera but I needed to protect my light. I lucked out with this. My mother is a nurse at a hospital and they have these giant, and I mean giant. Nearly 10 feet long clear bags that they use to keep all the instruments sterile. They generally get thrown away right after that. I started to have mom stockpile some of these for me as they can slide right over my entire light setup. This came in handy later in the night.

The rain persisted all night but was between a drizzle and a light rain until shortly after we got family photos done. I knew I needed to get some more shots of Brent and Krystal by themselves. This is where being friends with the couple since elementary school helps. I didn’t really ask them to take this photo in the rain but kind of told them we were going to do it. I knew I needed to show the rain in the photos. It was a part of the day, a big part of the day. My job is not to take pretty pictures, it is to tell a story through my pictures. Knowing I wanted to incorporate the rain I knew I needed to back light them. This would show all of the rain. I also knew I wanted to show off the pond. It is the focal point of the venue. As far as most pictures go, this one wasn’t very complex to set up. Executing everything to get a usable image,¬† that is a different story. I put my tripod down on the far side of the pond with the camera bag over the camera and walked with Brent and Krystal to the other side. I put them on the dock where I thought they would be framed by the railing and the tree behind them. Then I put the light behind them so that they are now between the light and the camera. Before I walked back over to the camera I told them the basic pose idea. Hide under the umbrella and look at each other like you love each other. Simple enough.

When I got back to the camera the rain was coming down the hardest it had all day. I was lined up to take the shot at 5:10pm. Sunset on that day was 5:42pm. It might as well have been 11:45pm because I could not see a damn thing. Looking through the camera was pointless. I had my glasses on, because I am blind without them. They had water drops on them. The back of the camera bag is a clear plastic, it too, covered in water drops. Then out through the end of the lens was another 40ish feet of rain before I even got to where Brent and Krystal were standing. All I could do was hit the button and hope everything was close. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. For the most part everything was really close to perfect. I guessed on a light power and just about nailed it. I did make a small tweak to the aperture from 7.1 to 5.6 to let in a little more light. I also slowed down the shutter speed for two reasons. One that brought a little bit more ambient light back into the image, and it gave the rain a little bit of motion. I only took 8 shots of this set and got really lucky to get such a great image. I wish I could have seen more of the image because there are two things I wish I could have fixed. One you can see the light coming through them just a little bit. You can also see the bag covering the light if you look very closely. It became white because of the flash so it might look like a shirt or the dress. I got away with one there. The other change I wanted to make was to have Brent lean in towards Krystal a little more. That is me being very nit picky. All in all I got a fantastic shot. 4 and a half years later and people still talk about this photo to me more than any other image.  What made it work was being able to handle that situation and know what I wanted and how to get it. The biggest part was having Brent and Krystal be willing to do it. Also it was great having Marc there knowing I could leave him to cover the reception while I took Brent and Krystal away to get the shot.  BDP_3683 sample 20x24.jpg Settings:
Nikon D800   70-200mm @112mm   f/5 1/40th ISO 640

 

As always thanks for taking time out of your day to check out the blog. If you liked this post, check out some of the other ones and give the blog a follow. Also follow me on social media. Billy D Photography (facebook) Billydphotography (instagram)

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440 miles in 3 days for work.

Pulling 400 miles on the car in three days for work is a great problem to have. I love the I have clients that are outside of the Bradenton area, or send me to places outside of the Friendly City. For someone to send me across the state to photograph a building, or to have me drive an hour to cover their wedding when I know there are photographers in their area speaks volumes to me. They like my work, and they trust me to get the job done well.

My last three days have been a blast. It’s been a lot of work, and a lot of driving. Both jobs could not have been more different. On Saturday I headed down to south Venice to cover the wedding of Warren and Sharon. It was a backyard wedding. Warren and Sharon were both incredible to work with. They were very laid back which isn’t too normal for a wedding day. It wasn’t my typical wedding day. They didn’t need or ask for many of the what I would call traditional wants. There wasn’t a big bridal party. Just a best man and a maid of honor. The pre ceremony shots consisted of light makeup application shots and a shot of the groom. The ceremony spot was underneath this massively beautiful tree. The sun being low in the sky made the light magical. The couple threw me and the video crew, my friends and past bride and groom, Lee and Mia for a small loop when they lined up on opposite sides of the aisle as we would deem normal. Another difference was I shot this wedding alone. No Nikki, no Marc, no anyone. I knew it was a smallish wedding and Nikki had her kiddos showing off some animals at the fair. Another different thing was they went from the end of the isle immediately into¬† their first dance. I digress for a moment. I tell people wedding photography is about getting the shot and getting it right the first time. Keeping the day as stress free as possible and telling the story. However more importantly than that, the biggest skill I think a photographers needs is to be able to overcome and adapt on the fly. Every wedding something happens that is unplanned. The time line is a lovely suggestion but they are almost never right. I call them a suggestion line. This all being said I had no idea they were going into that dance. No problem. I scooped up both cameras and started snapping away. I decided to go on the other side of the dance floor and shoot back into the crowd. I did this for a few reasons. 1. It was a lovely backlight scene. 2. The guests are just as much a part of the story as they are. If I stayed where they were I wouldn’t get them in the picture. Instead all i would get would be this ugly tent in the background. The last part of the wedding I’ll talk about here that was fun for me was photographing the rings. If you follow me you know I love to photograph the rings. I like to try to incorporate part of their day into that photo. A lot of photographers put the rings on the cake or on the flowers. Don’t get me wrong I do that too, but that’s easy and everyone does it. For this wedding I decided I wanted to try to balance the rings on the back of a boot on the spur. Thankfully his ring was the perfect diameter for her rings to slide into it and stand almost upright on their own. The rest of the night was so smooth going. Even got tipped by the band for dancing. They wore me out. Cupid shuffle Cha Cha slide and the wobble back to back to back.

The second part of my intense travel was for a commercial photography job. I am lucky to have some great clients and one of the best is Oden Hardy Construction. They have been a client of mine for almost 4 years now. Anytime they finish a project in the state I head over to it and photograph it so they can keep their website and marketing materials up to date. You should do this too. Monday I drove to Lake Park. If you don’t know where this is it is on the East Coast 35 miles south of Vero Beach. Which meant, no I-75 for me. SR70 all the way across. The weather was great and traffic wasn’t too bad at all. Jamming out on the radio and windows down for part of the drive. I got to the building around 6pm. Part of my homework for these jobs is to find out which way the front facade of the building is facing. This will dictate what time I need to photograph it. This one faced west so I knew it would be an afternoon shoot. Now 6pm is still too early to shoot the outside but the office closes at 6 and I still need to get interiors. The office space of these storage units (which is what I was photographing today) are all very different but the interior storage units are all very much the same. To try to be different with these is not easy. I have photographed 40 or so of them, I know what works and what looks good. I know that OHC likes those shots so I don’t want to mess with them too much. However this time I did do something for the first time. As I was waiting for the elevator doors to close I saw a shot I never saw. Shooting from the back of the elevator out into the space really added a lot of depth. It was interesting to me that I had never seen this before. I try to train my eyes to actually long around and not just be in the space but SEE the space. This shot made me feel good because I SAW the space. Hopefully that makes sense. The money shot for these guys is the exterior. This building was finished less than 10 days ago so it is pristine.¬† The color of the building in that sunlight was also beautiful. I took 25 shots of the exterior and was just about to leave when the exterior lights came on. I knew I couldn’t leave. I recreated basically every shot I had just taken to had one with the lights on. I had to look like a crazy person. On the other side of the street was a gas station. In the back of this gas station was a tall green box, I am guessing for some kind of electrical thing. When you photograph a multi story building from the ground with a camera the lens tends to stretch the walls. They aren’t perfectly vertical. That’s a problem when you are photographing a building for a construction company because they want to show that the walls are straight. One way to help with this is to get off the ground. I often stand on top of my car to help with this. I also used this box for the same effect. When all was said and done I was really happy with the results for this structure.

That’s how in three days you go from photographing a wedding to photographing a building with not a person in the photos. Commercial photography, wedding photography, whatever it is I am there. Happy that the rest of the week doesn’t have any major planned road trips. If you enjoyed this blog post, please subscribe to the blog, Also follow me on facebook and instagram @Billy D Photography

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An afternoon at the track meet.

Sometimes the assumptions we have about things are so far off we can’t believe how wrong we were. Before I photographed my first track meet this was me when it came to the expectations of photographing it. I though it would be boring and wouldn’t interest me. I was wrong, really wrong. It has become one of the things I look forward to the most. There is so much going on. You have field events, at the same time you have long jump, high jump, triple jump and pole vaulting all going on simultaneously. Seems impossible to capture all of those. At this meet I skipped a lot of the throwing events , still managed a few discus throws. I knew I wanted to cover long jump. At Manatee high the sandpit is back-light. When an athlete hits the sand it goes everywhere and it creates stunning images. I used the 400mm and stood about 20 yards away from the end of the pit. The way the jumpers explode off the stripe and fly through the air looks kind of comical when you freeze it.

 

As I was walking back to my tripod I saw that there were pole vaulters competing. I have NEVER photographed this before. New is exciting. I don’t get to do many things in the photography world for the first time anymore. It takes me back to a time when I have no prior experiences to lean on. Starting new figuring out what mistakes are there to be made to get better. The one major downfall is that the area they were doing this event could not have had a worse lighting scenario. 90% of the run up was in shade, even the start of the ascent to the bar was in shade. Only the bar was in sunlight. I had wanted to shoot from the base of the landing area to really show all the height they were getting. The lighting issue made this unfeasible. There was a fence about 10 feet off to the left of the bar. It was a pretty tall fence too. I decided I wanted to shoot from up there. I climbed up on the fence and just sat there. I was there for a decent amount of time and got some cool expressions as they cleared or hit the bar, but I didn’t have much room to be creative. BDP_4851¬†Going from pole vaulting to one of the most exciting events. the 100 meters. These are non stop action. Great facial expressions, and at Manatee they run right into the sun so the lighting is pretty stellar. The typical shot is sit at the finish line with the big zoom lens and snap away. I did that, but typical isn’t me. I knew I wanted to pan (move the camera during the shot) the runner to give them some motion blur. I also took another camera out with me that I had set on a remote trigger. I set this one really close to the starting blocks with the camera REALLY low. As soon as I heard the gun go off I was pushing the remote trigger. A little black and white to that image and I really liked the feel it gave.

My favorite shot of the day was after the sprints. The 1600 meter (1 mile) was next. I had remembered this shot I saw in a nat geo magazine of the shadows from camels in the desert. They shot strait down on them from a helicopter and the sun was so low in the sky that the shadows looked exactly like the camel was the right way up. I wondered if I could get anything near like that. I knew I couldn’t get directly above the runners. I took my tripod raised it up as high as I cool and then put the tripod legs inside my pockets to keep it from falling over. I would guess I managed to get the camera about 12-13 feet off the ground. As the runners went by I just pushed the remote button and hoped. I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. BDP_8485.jpg¬†Next up on the list of events was the 4×100 relay. I had three shots in mind for this but only managed to get two of them. The first heat was the ladies. I had a few people from BCS running in the race and they all wanted pictures. How do I manage to photograph 4 people in one race all by myself. Well I didn’t lol. I tried. I decided the only way I could do this was to camp out at the relay points. I would photograph the exchange between the first and second runner and then use the remote camera to shoot the exchange between the third and fourth runner. Great plan but being almost 100 yards away from the remote camera I had some interference with the signal and it never went off. The other shot I wanted was the start. The lines of a runner coming out of the blocks is really beautiful. Plus they are straining like crazy to get going. This checks all my boxes on okay this is cool to shoot. I took the 400 and laid down 25 yards or so away from the runner. Not too much more to it than that. I heard the gun go off, and pushed the button.

The last event that I really focused on was the hurdles. I got caught up talking with some people after that. Hurdles are what I probably would have ran if I would have done track in high school. There’s a regret for you, I wish I did more in high school, oh well. The shots I got here are as follows.¬† The first one was just a in the right place at the right time. They have a bunch of hurdles to jump in the 300 meter race. This was the leader and he happened to hit this one. When he clipped it he also snapped it in half. He also did not fall and still won his heat. The second shot was from the remote camera, going for the really low angle. Just kind of funny that it worked out that the light was directly behind his head and hair.

I am looking forward to getting to another meet here in the next few weeks to try a couple more ideas I have. Anyways if you liked the blog go ahead and subscribe to never miss a post. Also follow me on FB and Instagram.  @Billy D Photography

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A day at a (St Patrick’s) wedding.

St Patrick’s day is normally a day where you wear green, hang out with friends, possibly drink a lot and just overall have a good time. This day last year I did a few of those, but while photographing a wedding. Let me walk you through that day.

When Ashleigh called me to ask me about photographing her wedding she told me it was on March 17th and I immediately thought she was having a St Patricks day themed wedding. She wasn’t it was just where everything fell into place. After talking to her and her mom about her day we all realized it was going to be a long day. When all was said and done it would wind up being about a 17 hour day.

Call time for me was 7:30 am in Tampa, if I remember correctly. This meant a wake up time for me of about 6am. If you know me at all you know I am not a morning person. I have my phone alarm set, my regular alarm clock set, and I took another clock from mom’s house just to be extra sure. On my way out to the car that morning I saw my interior light on! I had forgotten to turn it off the night before after checking my car for a piece of equipment. Thank God my car started.

Ashleigh started her morning with hair and makeup at 6am at one of my favorite locations in Tampa, Le Merdian.  It is a historical building, it used to be a courthouse. Since it is a historical  site, they are limited on what they can change in the building. All the doors still have the old name plates for what part of the courthouse it was in its previous life.  Back to the wedding. I had done some studying of pintrest for some getting ready shots that I wanted to try. There are your typical looking in the mirror shots, and the lipstick getting applied. Well I wanted to try something different, so I tried this.

blog.jpgIt came out pretty cool but there are a few things I might do differently next time I try this. Although the make up artist LOVED it. Along with this shot I also had to photographer her dress, her bridesmaids dresses, and all of her jewelry for the day.

After this Nikki arrived she grabbed a few shots of the guys next door at the church and them headed over to help me out with the rest of the girls pictures. Again Le Merdian has some fantastic areas for photos. The front of the building is hands down my favorite. It has beautiful columns. This was a great place to grab some formal shots of Ashleigh but also a great place to do a reveal of her all dressed up for the first time for her Dad and her bridesmaids.

After we grabbed these shots, we walked the ladies and the parents of the bride across the street to the church. What a church it is. If you haven’t been to Sacred Heart in Tampa, you are missing out. It is STUNNING. I had been to this church before and I knew I wanted to grab a shot from the balcony. Nikki was with me so I could have sent her up there but I didn’t want to limit her to the one shot I had in mind so I used a remote camera. I put a wireless trigger on the camera. I went up in the balcony and tied it down to the tripod and set the focus and the exposure. When it came time for everyone to walk down the aisle for the processional I was actually firing off two cameras. BDP_8924BDP_2063There are those little moments during the ceremony that you manage to catch that are just so sweet or cute or funny. This ceremony was no different. It was a beautiful ceremony. The ceremony started at 11am right on time. Not exactly normal to start on time to the minute. About 10 minutes into the ceremony a few people who I think just wanted to see the church decided to sit in on the ceremony. All in all it was beautiful and I got to watch these two tie the knot. BDP_2128BDP_2161DSC_9966BDP_2167¬†After the ceremony we took the normal family photo and bridal party images. We even managed to have enough time to do some of Chrstiaan and Ashleigh together. Little did we know we would have a lot of time. The plan was to go from the church back to Sarasota where the reception was. Knowing it was a holiday and that traffic may be bad anyways they gave their guests tons of time to get there. I was to say it was 4 hours. The bride and groom were going to be back an hour earlier than that for the videographer and myself to capture some portraits at College Hall. Every wedding has a hiccup, some are really small and some happen to be bigger. This wedding was no different. They had arranged for a 1961 Rolls Royce to take them from the ceremony back to Sarasota. Well my understanding is the car broke down. They had called for a limo which got there pretty quickly for day of order on a holiday but this gave Nikki and I some time to play around. The sun way bouncing off of this tall building across the street and was producing beautiful light. One of the shots I took was one of Ashleigh alone. I would have never had the time to do this if the car didn’t break down. It would wind up being one of my favorite¬†shots from the wedding. I entered in it numerous competitions and it always did well.

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For a couple to give you time after the ceremony and then give you even more time before the reception is rare, but man it is greatly appreciated. It really gives Nikki and myself time to do things without rushing. We have kind of perfected the art of getting the job done when being rushed but we’d prefer to not have to. We had enough time to get singles of Ashleigh and Chrsitaan plus a few more bridal party pictures.

The reception was just as gorgeous as the ceremony. Dinner was announced with a quartet band. The food was also remarkable, although I’ll be honest, I don’t remember what I had. I do remember that I had my buddy Todd show up to the reception to just help add a little more photographic coverage. The rooms decor was so elaborate that they ran around setting up almost to the last-minute before they let guests in. We did managed to snap a few shots of the room before it was overcome by all the guests. We also took this time while they were eating to get a few shots of the cake and other little details.

After toasts and dinner the end of the night was starting to come into focus. We still had a lot of work to do though. There was still cake cutting, first dances, bouquet toss, more fun dancing, me dancing, and then after all of that, the exit. The dance floor was outside on the back lawn which was gorgeous but was also a little sketchy. The humidity and the due made the dance floor a little slick. Enough so that we had to take two dance breaks for the crew to wipe it down.   The decor on the back lawn was also really pretty, no surprise there. I was able to add the decor into some of the shots during the father daughter dance that I just really liked. Nikki and I also use this time to grab what is becoming our traditional selfie with the bride and groom. I would have added Todd into this one too but he had already left. The exit was also fun to photograph. Even though the exit was around 11pm and everyone had been going for about 12 hours not many of the guests left. This is important if you want to have a sparkler exit, obviously you need people to hold those fire sticks. The rolls had also made it back to Sarasota and was ready to take the newlyweds off.

 

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Anatomy of a Photograph

Decided to go in a little different direction with this blog post. I decided I would tell you step by step, in depth detail what I did to make just one image. From Picking out the location, to the break down of the pose, to the framing, to the lighting. This is basically what I do for EVER SINGLE IMAGE I ever take.

 

This particular night was one of those where I just wanted to go shoot for me. Try to be creative and come up with something without any expectations from a client. I happen went to a spot where I know some train cars sit. This shot was the last one of a series I did that night and I am glad i waited till the end to do this one.

First things first. Anytime I am taking a picture I want to be in control of the light. Normally this would entail me finding the light, i.e. the sun. Is it bouncing off of anything near me. Is it a harsh or soft light. Am I going to use it as a main or a kicker or a background light. This is the most important step to me. If you don’t have good lighting,, you don’t have a good image. More often than not I’ll use the ambient light as a hair light or a kicker light. A kicker light separates you from the background. However for this shot, I had zero ambient lighting, it was¬† 1:07am when I took the first shot.¬† blog1.jpg

Not a very pretty image here, but a very important one. This is what will become my main light. It is what is going to light up my model. It is on a light stand about 10 feet in the air. I need to have it be higher than my models eyes. If you don’t do this you get flat lighting, or worse, monster lighting. I will admit one flaw I have as a photographer is I don’t own a light meter. A light meter would tell me exactly what exposure the light is at. Through endless shoots and lighting situations I can pretty much guess what I light power needs to be at, and what distance away it needs to be to get a proper exposure.

My settings for the first shot was   F 1.8  50mm  1\15th second exposure ISO 400. What does this mean?  It means the aperture on the lens (the pupil part of our eyes) was as wide open as possible, letting in as much light as it could. 1/15th of a second is how long I left the sensor exposed to light. again letting in as much light as possible. The ISO was 400. Opened up from the normal daytime 100 to let more light in. The higher the ISO the more light but the higher you go the more grain your image will get. The flash was set on 1/8th power.

 

The pose wasn’t anything fancy. semi wide stance, push the hips away from camera (great tip to make you look thinner in photographs). Left hand and right hand at different levels. Right hand on hip, left on the rail. Chin back towards the light to sculpt the face. Part of the reason I went with a basic pose was because she had to stand there with as little movement as possible for what would end up being 30 seconds at a time. The more she moved, the less in focus it would be.

 

Now that the spot and the pose are locked down, now I need to get the lighting locked down. I know what the main light is at, now I just need to light the rest of the scene. How am I going to light an entire train car and the surrounding area? Easy, run around with a flash light. Okay so not easy, but that is what I did. The camera is on a tripod so i know I can use a self timer to start the shot and I can literally run around in the image and “paint” where I want the light to go. I tried a shot with the exposure still at 6 seconds. The self timer was on a 10 second delay. There are a few things I should mention about painting with light. I am wearing all black so that I don’t show up in the photograph. A camera really only sees light, so as long as I keep the light off of me I wont be seen. Another thing is I cannot let the light face towards the camera at all otherwise the jig is up and you will see me and the flash light.

This is how my sequence went for the first try.

  1. Hit the shutter button and run over to the train car. Once I hear the click start painting the side of the car.
  2. Turn the flash light on and start to paint the length of the car for the entire 6 seconds.

Flash.

Strange that the flash is at the end of the sequence right? I do it that way to avoid ghosting and blur. It’s a technique called Rear Curtain Sync. All that means is the flash goes off at the end of the image instead of the beginning. This also allows me to be in the frame at the start and not be seen.¬† This was the result of the first shot.

blog 2

After going back to the camera and seeing this shot I knew I needed to paint behind the train as well. This is my sequence for the second shot. Also I extended the shutter from a 6 second exposure to a 30 second one.

  1. Hit the shutter button to start the self timer. I have ten seconds to run from the camera, jump the tracks and get behind the train car.
  2. Once I hear the click I start painting. I turn the flash light on, and start panning the light through the windows of the train. The whole time counting so I know how much light I have given a specific area.
  3. I start to move back towards the camera lighting up the wheels and the ground to give separation to the car from the background.
  4. Turn off the flash light, jump back over the rails and start painting the side of the car facing the camera.
  5. Run the entire length of the car. Wait for the flash.
  6. Flash.

blog 3

After this shot I decided I was too zoomed in and wanted more space around the train. I also saw that I didn’t do a very good job of keeping the light completely away from the camera. Also note the flash did not fire. The fog was getting heavy and moisture in the air sometimes makes the radio slaves not work as well.

For the next shot I zoomed out and re framed the shot. I also had to re focus. At night the auto focus will not work unless you have a bright light on the subject facing the camera. After all of these were done I re did the steps from the previous shot but was more aware of where my light was pointing. This was the result of that shot. blog4

Almost perfect! After this shot I noticed that one the camera was slightly not level. Easy fix. Also I noticed the space between the model and the back of the train car was kind of dark. I decided I wanted just a touch of light in there so I flashed the flash light in there for 2 clicks as I ran by.  Time for the real one, the final one, the keeper. blog5.jpg

This was the result. I took this final image at 1:23am. This one shot took me 16 minutes of trial and error to execute. Crazy when I look at this image to know that technically it was only done using two lights. One that flashed on the model and everything else was me running around with a led flash light.

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Standing out at the diamond.

I have a love for sports and photography, you already most likely know this. I grew up playing baseball, it was my first love. In high school I was a manager for the softball team. I have probably shot more softball games than anything else. Although ultimate frisbee is catching up to that. I digress. These stick and ball sports are quite repetitive. That being said the photography can very easily be stale and repetitive too. The challenge? To be different.

I always have a mindset when I go into anything photography related, a sporting event, a wedding, a commercial shoot. They are all very different in nature but one thing is the same no matter what. My job is to tell a story. That is what photography is. I am a story teller through imagery. Going into a baseball or softball game I know they story lines generally aren’t what they are at a college or pro level. The players are high school aged, maybe a senior is highly touted and is a big prospect that will garner a little more attention. For the most part the story is just the game. As the game progresses it may start to tell more of a story that I can begin to craft. My mindset is to make sure I have enough images to tell that story. The “boring” shots. By boring I mean the ones I do all the time. A hitter making contact, a shortstop making the throw to first. Once I have those then it is time to play, get creative.

Creative is a lovely word. It can be construed it a multitude of ways. My favorite adaptation of  creativity is looking for emotion. For the longest time I lived for that action shot. The one of the player leaping into the air and making the catch. I still love that moment, however now I look for that emotion. That agony of defeat and that uncut, raw, unfiltered happiness of winning. Those tell the story way more than an action photograph. As a photographer, that feeds my soul.

The second part of being creative is looking for different angles to take the viewer to a place they normally can’t get to. This may be in the dugout, or right in a players face with a long lens. I almost always have a rule, I want my camera to be as close to the ground as possible. I do this for a few reasons. One not many people lay down to watch a baseball game. Secondly it makes the players look bigger, more intimidating, just a better look.

The “easiest” shot to get on the diamond is the pitcher. By easy I mean you don’t have to guess or try to react to where the ball is going to go. You know they have it. you can easily time their motion and get numerous shots of them releasing the ball. How do you make something that happens hundreds of times per game different? You change perspective, you change camera settings, you create art. These are the most recent things I have been playing around with, I must say I am extremely happy with the results so far.

In baseball you are a great hitter if you can get 3/10 in play. When I am trying these different styles of imagery I’d say if I get 1/10 I am doing something right. Striving to be different. Just keep growing as a photographer, as an artist. If you enjoyed this blog post let me know! Go ahead an subscribe to the blog!

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Manatee County’s Favorite Photographer

award.jpgI have really been quite lucky to win some spectacular awards in my photographic career. Most of these have been based on my merit or skill as a photographer. Those have also always been chosen by other photographers, which is very cool. However this past weekend I received the 2019 Readers Choice Award for Favorite photographer in Manatee County. This one feels different and I would say more special than the others. This one wasn’t given to me by other photographers but yet but my clients. I must be doing something right for them to vote for me considering I didn’t even ask for votes. I didn’t even know about this contest till I got the email telling me I won. That was really cool and unexpected.¬† ¬† ¬†If you want to read more about some of my other awards keep on reading. Otherwise, thank you for being a supporter, friend, client. I appreciate you more than you know.

If you know me you know I have a love for sports and competition, this definitely carries over into photography. I LOVE to compete in photographic competitions. I compete in a yearly statewide competition every September with the Florida Professional Photographers Association (FPP).  I also compete in a local-ish group monthly in our print of the month competitions and twice a year in our salon competitions. Occasionally I will also enter other competitions if I hear of them. The most prestigious one I earned is my Florida Degree of Photographic Excellence (FDPE). This is only given to photographers who have achieved 30 merits. 16 of those must be earned in print competition, the other 14 can be earned via service awards. I got a majority of mine in the print competition. I believe 22 of my 30 were from competition. Since the FPP was founded in  1933 less than 200 photographers have been awarded the FDPE. It took me longer than I would have liked to get this but after 9 years I get to wear a fancy medallion now.fdpe Here I am with my sponsor Sandra Pearce and the FPP President at the time Carol Walker.

Following that on the prestigious list of awards I’ve managed to receive is the Bay Professional Photographer Photographer of the Year award. I was awarded that 4 times. 2011, 2012, 2013, 2017. This is an award that is mostly awarded based on the cumulative points awarded throughout the year in the monthly and two salon competitions. Along with the 4 wins I haven’t placed outside the top 2 since 2009. IMG_0200

Next on the list of holy crap I can’t believe I won this is my two Top 10 Rankings in the state. At the end of the competition in September the association tallies up all the scores for each photographer and comes up with everyone’s average. This alone is what determines the Top 10. I was honored with this in 2015 and 2018.¬† In 2015 and 2018 I also placed first in different categories at the state level. No easy feat. In 2015 I placed first in the Illustrative Open category. Basically they have no rules, you can enter whatever you want, it’s also a catch all category for if your image doesn’t seem to fall into one of the many other categories or doesn’t fit a typical image.¬† The image i entered was called “Broken.” This is the only image that I won something this big with that wasn’t a client shoot. My friend Steven and Mikela stood in for this image. I had photographed them both numerous times but never together. I had a vague idea of the photo I wanted to convey but didn’t have it set in stone. The location was the home of an artist I have known for years who lets me photograph in her house. Pretty cool lady. I mean her kitchen has a pink stove. I digress. this shot was in her bedroom and the only light I used was the window light to the right and a big reflector on the left. When I said I had a vague idea of what I wanted this was not it at all.¬† I had planned on trying to create something more sexy and intimate but when Steve was sitting on the bed naturally I could see this shot coming into my mind. I ran with that instead and was really happy with the result. It scored an 82 and placed first. A shock to me. broken.jpg

The next first place I won was in a year I didn’t place in the top 10, 2017. This one was more unexpected than the previous first place. This one was in the Electronic Imaging category, or basically crazy photoshop. This was the first time I had even entered this category and there are some heavy hitters that enter it every year. Two in particular place on the national level every year, not just place but win. Sandra Pearce, my sponsor for my FDPE, is one of the nations best photoshop artist hands down. A few years ago she won photographer of the year, artist of the year, peoples choice and had a 100. She literally swept the competition. Needless to say I didn’t expect to beat her. Being mentioned in the same breath as her is a compliment in itself. This image was called “Battle Cry.” I was over at Manatee high school photographing the football team, just trying to create some content for the social media handles. One of the seniors was a player named Sir. He was a true leader and was always very vocal in huddles and pregame talks. I wanted to figure out a way to capture this. What did I have him do? I had him yell at the top of his lungs during the shoot. Sounds crazy but if you don’t have him do it for real, it will look so fake. The image came out pretty cool but it was just run of the mill nice. Nothing to write home about. I started playing around with a technique I had learned a few years back but never really implemented just because it was so time consuming. After about 8 hours in photoshop on this one image I was pretty happy with it. I entered it at the local level and it scored an 82. A good score but nothing to make me thing it was going to win at state. However at state that is exactly what it did. It became my highest scoring image to date. It got an 89! That is huge! At the awards banquet when they announced my name I though it was for third place. Battle CryThe first place in 2018 was in the wedding category. There are these brother in Miami, the Munoz brothers who again, normally just sweep the whole category most years. This image was actually shot in 2017 during the insane weekend in October where I had two weddings on back to back days in different cities. The first was at a private residence in Parish and the second was at Disney! The night before was Jason and Olivia’s wedding however the image that won had Jason Olivia and George in the winning image. More on that shortly. The wedding like most, didn’t go off on time. For once it worked out for the better. I was worried about the ceremony spot, it was behind the open barn but I thought the shadows during the ceremony were going to look awful. Since we were delayed starting the sun got low enough that not only did we not have shadows but the ceremony took place during the golden hour. Another thing that played into me getting the shot that won was both Jason and Olivia’s families were so easy to work with. I didn’t have to hunt anyone down to get family shots done. This aloud Nikki and I to blast through them and the bridal party shots. After that it was time to get to the good stuff, the bride and groom shots. Now for the third member of this photo George. He was a massive hairy important part. He is Olivia’s horse. She wanted an image with both of her guys. Jason was a great groom he just wanted Olivia to be happy so it wasn’t hard to get Jason on board. Nikki is also a country lady, she has horses herself which came in super handy. That aloud me to just worry about the composition and the lighting and Nikki posed them and tried to get George into place. I knew I wanted a semi dramatic shot of them and my style is kind of a back light kind of deal. I put a light behind them and hoped for the best. I only took 7 or 8 shots, the best one was dumb luck. George decided he needed to throw his tail in the air. I hit the button and magic. I titled this image “Unbridled Love.” It scored an 81. horseweddingThe competition season for a photographer never stops. I already had my first local competition of the year. Another monthly competition is coming up in 13 days. If you made it all the way to the end of this post I applaud and thank you! If you enjoyed it make sure you subscribe to the blog and let me know if there is anything else you want to know about!

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Perspective.

per·spec·tive

Dictionary result for perspective

/p…ôrňąspektiv/
noun
1.
the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point.
If there is a word that is more important to photography I’m not sure what it would be. Most people (not photographer) just pick up the camera, aim at what they want to take a picture of and press the button. The actual act of taking a photo is the same, but everything else behind it is so much different. The challenge I have is how do I keep growning. What do I need to do to make sure I don’t become complacent? If you aren’t growing you aren’t going to succeed.

The best part about my job, among many things, is that it is also my hobby. I legitimately love what I do. Some days I’d rather lay on the couch and watch tv, and somedays I dread spending multiple hours on the computer in photoshop, however those days are rare. What I like to do is at least once a week I schedule something for me. Where I have ZERO expectations. I do this so I can try new things. I go to the same locations all the time. It is easy to get in a rut or just do the same thing time after time. I mean the people are different so who would know? Me, I know.
On Valentines day, or the better title for it, singles awareness day, I lucked out and got to have a very spontaneous shoot¬† with Chyenne. I am not sure what it is about her but she challenges me to be different. She is a stunning model and really makes taking photos easy. We decided to go downtown, a place I have done at least 50 portrait sessions, if not more. I know the lay of the land. I am almost on auto pilot when I go down there. That is not what I want to do. I told myself with her, I am going to make sure I photograph in different places. I am going to force my eyes to look at this as if I haven’t been here a billion times.
I walk into the alley and this doorway smacks me in the face. I have walked right past it every time to go further into the alley to shoot. I sat her down here and the light was GORGEOUS! I am actually upset that I never saw that spot at the light before.   (complacency)

I moved from this spot 7 feet to my next spot. This tiny 3 foot by 2 foot wall with sone greenery growing out of it, I have shot this spot almost every time I go down there. It was difficult to be different in this spot. Ive shot it from a ton of angles and poses. I almost always light it the same way though. The little red shed behind it through a small shadow area which is just stunning. The only way I though I could be better here was to try to make the light better. I threw my gold/silver reflector on the ground to kick a little light back in and it was really nice.

The next few spots I went to I didn’t do anything different so I won’t bore you with the details. When we were driving to the next location we passed the house that Snooty built, RIP Snooty. On a whim I said I’ve done a bunch of weddings here but never a portrait. New spot for my eyes. These columns had a base that connected them creating a window of sorts. It was backlight which wasn’t an ideal lighting situation but the columns also were bouncing light back into her face. I looked like a crazy person but I opened my reflector again, balanced it on my foot and knee to bounce light back into her face, Came out really really nice. Then I thought just turn her face into the light and do a profile shot. This might be my favorite one from the whole shoot.

After this spot I decided to go to this rundown building a few blocks away. If you are thinking wow you shot a lot on this session you’d be right. We took over 300 images and shot for two hours and twenty minutes. Amazed someone could put up with me that long.¬† ¬† I digress. When we got to this red building again I am still wanting to be different. Even though I have only been to this spot maybe three times. I realized the south side of the building was aluminum paneling and had some broken windows. If you know me at all, you know I LOVE rundown abandoned looking places. This became the last challenge. At this point in the day it was just way too easy for me. The model was stunning, the background/location was amazing. Lastly it was the golden hour of the day. This is when it is nearly impossible to screw up a photo. For Chyenne not really being a model but someone I photograph she has a knack and the little details of posing. She poses hands well which is good because that is easily what I am the worst at. She also never had a dull expression on her face. Add those things into the previously mentioned reasons these photos rocked and you get nearly perfect photos.

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Can I judge a judge?

Can I judge a judge? I am going to go ahead and say I can. Refs are given job rating after games so I feel I can do the same with this.    I give the judges at this competition a D+

Let me give you a back story so you know what I am talking about. Twice a year my professional photographer guild has a photographic competition. We are aloud to enter up to 6 images in a variety of categories. There are a lot of great photographer but over the last 5 years only two of us have won photographer of the year. This rivalry has changed the way salon is “played.” I put played in quotes because that what it has become, a game. We each do what we can to better our chances of winning. However some of the things done I think skew the line of playing and cheating. Thats for another day.¬† These competitions are known as salons. The association brings¬†¬†in three qualified photographers to judge the others. The judge each image on its own merit from a scale o 69-100. We aim for at least an 80 as anything 80 or above is considered a merit image. This is important because every merit image is then qualified to place 1st 2nd 3rd and best in show.¬† Each judge gives a score and they take the average. If any judge, or the moderator feels the image didn’t score what it should have, higher or lower, they can challenge it. The print is then talked about and re scored.¬† They used the 12 elements of a merit image to score these prints. This is that list in order of importance.

  1. Impact
  2. Technical excellence
  3. Creativity
  4. Style
  5. Composition
  6. Presentation
  7. Color Balance
  8. Center of Interest
  9. Lighting
  10. Subject Matter
  11. Technique
  12. Story Telling

Sadly degree of difficulty is not one of the elements of a merit image, although some judges will say they take that into consideration.

 

On to tonight and why I am disappointed/angry. Art is subjective, you can have 10 different people look at one image and have 10 different thoughts on it. The same happens with these judges. We had two judges who have been judges many times before and a third who I personally havent seen judge before but has quite a resume. To me on this night, they really lacked consistency. Prime example, we had a small competition before the salon called creative quarterly. The same three judges picked one of my wedding images as the winner for that. Then 15 minutes later that SAME EXACT IMAGE was in salon. They gave it a 79. They just told everyone in the room, this image we just picked as a winner, isnt even deserving of a merit. Only one of the three judges currently photographing weddings. I think there is a top down issue in the photography world of how wedding imagery is judged. The image in question will be at the bottom of this post. It wasn’t posed. It was a moment captured. When they got to talk about the image they said they wished I was taller so I could see everyones face. I am sorry I didn’t have the time to set up a ladder and tell them all to do that over again. Wedding photographers and portrait photographers create similar images but could not do them in any more different ways. Portrait photographers have control over every aspect of an image and have all the time and no stress to create that image. Wedding photographers sometimes only have one shot, on the move to make the correct image. However this isn’t taken into consideration, and I think it should.

Another adaptation I would like to see at some point will be when we are able to separate images that are created on photoshop vs actual images. What I mean by that is there are makers who create everything digitally. Backgrounds, props, lighting, literally everything. When you do that you should have everything perfect. I still think that those are beautiful pieces of art, I just think they should have their own medium to be judged on.

I’m not sure how there will every be a perfect scenario for the last one but it is frustrating to see judges judging you on something they dont do. Kind of back to degree of difficulty. I entered two prints into to Commercial Category because that is where the photojournalism lives under. I entered a football player and a rodeo. The judges raved about how sharp the images were are the impeccable timing used to create the image. One of my biggest rivals entered an image in the commercial category of a baby holding a doughnut. In the past you had to have a tear sheet (the actual image used in whatever publication it was in) along with the image. This rule has kind of gone to the wayside now that so much advertising is digital. Sadly for me, when it came to picking a winning of the category. The sleeping baby beat out the bull and the football player. Apparently cute beats technique everytime.

I am trying to keep my mindset positive and not sound like a whiny photographer but I don’t lose well. I care way too much and I am WAY too competitive. I would LOVE to challenge any of those judges or that other maker to come out to a sporting event with me and try to keep up.

I guess they say iron sharpens iron. I’m coming out swinging hard next salon, don’t get in the way cause it’s all about winning now.

 

The football image was title Touchdown, It scored an 84 an 80 and a 79.  Would love to know which judge gave it a 79!    Averaged an 81

The Bull scored 84 81 and 79    Again would love to know who scored it a 79.

The house was called Jimmy Hoffas Hideout. It scored an 81

The Groomsmen was titled Pure Elation. It won the creative quarterly competition and then scored a 79. Deemed not worthy of a merit.

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