Well, this was the first real instance where I had to take a substantial amount of gear onto an airplane. I was a tad worried about FAA rules, but surprisingly, my camera bag got past security quicker than my regular backpack, which happened to be packing a PSP. As those of you know, I’m a camera bag whore, but when it comes to a single bag that can hold (most) of what I need, it’s the Expedition 7. Now for those of you who clicked the link, you may be asking yourself, “Gee, that bag sure looks big and heavy”. Well, yes…yes it is. It’s big, bulky, heavy, and since I’m short, I look like a complete idiot carrying a backpack that’s twice my size. And…to top that off, since the good manufacturers and marketers of Tamrac were so kind enough to plaster their name all over the place, it does have an additional feature of ‘please steal this bag’ written all over it. So I guess my review of the bag for any long term travel would be…. travel with less equipment. But in the event you can’t…it may be the way to go.
The Bag is weather resistant, but I would still feel uneasy during a good heavy rain.
Off to the wedding! San Francisco, is actually a very very very (yes I wrote that three times) beautiful. If anything, it has a lot of character. And the one thing I regret not being able to do, but will definitely get to it next time, would be to get landscape shots of the downtown skyline, and the golden gate proper.
Started the morning by going to two destinations. One was the Palace Of Fine Arts. For those of you unfamiliar with that name, it looks sorta like this:
Yes, when I found out I was going to shoot there, I nearly wet myself, and my mind raced with a thousand different ideas. But I’ve only been there once, and the only other time I’ve seen it was during the movie “The Rock”, with Sean Connery. So needless to say I was trying to recall those scenes with the benches, and tailor my shots to that. When I got there, it was a different story. We only had time for a few locations, and it was kind of muddy, so we kept to the front. So rule #1. No matter what you try to plan or envision, don’t worry. Life never works that way, and you’ll always end up with something else. Plan too much, and you’re gonna set yourself up for failure. At least when it comes to more dynamic events, like weddings (that doesn’t quite apply to contrived shots, where planning is essential). But they really can’t escape Murphy’s Law.
As you can see Mitch, the groom is in full military (navy) regalia…and needless to say, his outfit is more white than the bride’s. I know I harped on a student earlier this much and said, when the dress or outfit is too reflective, always stop down. This way it’s easier to bring out details in a slightly darker image, than to lose the information entirely in an over exposed image. Ahhh…if only I heeded my own advice. I tried to get them into the shade as much as possible, but wow, there were some embarrassing overexposed shots in there. Shhhhh…. Rule #2. “A good photographer never shows’ his crappy photos”. (Technically this should be rule #0, it’s kinda implied).
The 2nd location is a a park called Crissy Fields. It over-looks a little bridge called “The Golden Gate Bridge”. Well there were 2 problems that I could visibly see. A) The bridge was surrounded by haze. B) It was super bright, and I had no shade to speak of to block the harsh shadows. Rule #2. Don’t panic. (I think this was the title of a Douglas Adams Book). If you can’t alter your environment to your favor…screw it. Live with the consequences and ask for forgiveness later. Absolution can sometimes be found during post process (Note the sometimes). But never panic. Panicking is for beginners….and ooh do people smell fear and insecurity a mile away.
Which does segway nicely to Rule #3. People like are like sheep. They want to be led into some direction. Despite what anyone says, you are in control, you dictate the shot, to some extent the pose, mood, and general art direction. And it’s nice that someone can take control of the situation, especially since the couple generally has a ton of other things on their mind that day. The least of which should be, how or where should I stand during a photoshoot). So even if you don’t know what you’re doing… make believe you know what you’re doing. Truth be told, half of the time I’m in la la land. I’m worried about what settings to use, lighting, i kinda give the stance, pose, and other things a fraction of a thought. That’s where assistants do help out tremendously. They help worry about the little details that I often overlook, but shouldn’t. Like…oh the flower on your lapel is slightly crooked. Once in awhile I’ll get to that, but generally…trust me, I have way too much other crap going on in that little head of mine to worry about the small details…But as that cliche saying goes. “The devil…is in the details”. So yes, there’s plenty of things for me to improve on.
This one above isn’t one of my best work, (I’ve violated rule #1, but it’s to prove an interesting point). Always know, or at least try to know what you’re getting into, and prepare accordingly. I knew I was going to be in the sun with no assistant to hold a reflector to mitigate shadows. So, I brought along an external flash for fill. I knew it was going to be sunny as hell. So, I did bring along a .6 neutral density filter In other words, glorified sunglasses for my lens. This helps me able to achieve lower apertures in bright sunlight without having to worry about the 1/8000th of a second limitation on shutter speed. As you can see, the flash (kind of helped) fill in the frame. Both of them wearing white did throw it off, and it’s slightly clipped in some parts, but as a whole, it’s not bad.
The Art of Black and White
So I often get asked when or why do I convert something to Black and White. Ok fine, I don’t ‘often’ get asked anything, but I do sometimes like to make myself feel important so I thought I suppose it’s only appropriate I used that sentence. Anyways, I digress. So…Onto B&W. I first used B&W as a crutch. When I totally missed the exposure, or the colors are so out of whacked I have no choice but to convert over to a single 2 tone. But lately as I grew in experience, I convert to B&W for an entirely different reason. And that is, whenever I feel like I want color to not distract the viewer from the image. What do I mean by that? Well, take the image below for instance. It in essence is a boy and his mother. More accurately, a boy, carrying holding on to his mother’s dess.
If I kept it in color, people would notice the green foliage they’re walking by, or the strange brown and blue windows that are in the entry way. or perhaps maybe even the tan stone/tile blocks they were walking on. Well, in the absence of any color information, the brain tends to be less inundated with extra information, and focus moreso on that is important….The subject…. So that does cross my mind whenever I decide to convert something over from color to B&W. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I eschew color. It’s just sometimes, I find, depending on the situation, color can be more of a burden than an attraction.
The full set can be seen here on my flickr account
SF, is a beautiful city and I would love to come back to try to capture it now. It’s funny, I used to go there every year, but this is really the first year I do see it with a different eye.
A few of the shots that I liked from the baptism. Anyone out there in Southern California who has kids or relatives that are getting baptized and wants to dish out some dough for pics, let me know! =)
Basically a 2 camera setup. A 1DMKIII and a 1DMKII, fitted with an 85L 1.2, 35L1.2, and switched off between the 200L 2.8. I really should of brought the 70-200, but wanted to travel light and not draw too much attention to myself.
The entirety of the set can be seen here on my flickr.
I’m a sucker for kids hands, I always try to keep an eye out for shots like these. Sometimes you get them, some times you miss them. The trick is to always have the camera ready so you literally just aim, compose, and shoot when they occur.
This series of shots here was really the low point that day. If there was a single blunder that I wish I could roll back time this would be it. So the front courtyard was beautiful, as I walked through it I’m envisioning shots that could be done using the main fountain as a centerpiece with umbrellas to boot. Or some of just the couple using the benches surrounding the fountain. Well, that was in a perfect world under perfect lighting that danced around in my head.
As we all know, the real world is not as forgiving. It was still early and the light that was shining in the front at the fountain area was unforgiving. The picture posted below was to prove a point. So positioning 9 bridesmaids and a group of people up front was just plain wrong on my part. But I was stubborn because I wanted to use the fountain the backdrop. Little did I know it would just go downhill from there. Positioning 9 bridesmaids was difficult enough, let alone the sun that was glaring down. After about 3 frames, shuffling people around, I decided it was time to throw in the towel and move out back where the shade from the houses made for much much less harsh conditions.
Something, I should of just done in the first place instead of losing precious 10 minutes or so out front. The bride/groom were on a schedule and we had to keep it. If I had to do it again, I’d tell myself to abort the front. The schedule doesnt’ permit it to go out here when conditions are better, just move on. I think there were a lot of good shots that day, but it doesn’t hurt to beat yourself over the few mishaps so you know what not to do the next time!
The sun was so bad, and the umbrellas took up so much space that the bridesmaids had to be spaced further apart to keep the umbrellas from hitting eachother. Again, in hindsight. I should of got rid of all the umbrellas except for the one, which goes to the bride. Normally the umbrella shot would work if there were 3-4 bridesmaids….not 9. Unless I had a crane, in which case I can rise up about 9 feet to take a cool shot, alas no crane was available.
So in post production, I looked at this and cringed….then hit myself. then repeat. So instead of just throwing it away like I really should have, I decided to put it in there just as a reminder to myself that To err is human….just don’t errr twice =) So as it stands this shot made the cut and will be delivered to the client. Which I guess is the complete opposite of what one should do. There’s an old saying, “Every photographer takes crappy shots. A good photographer, just never shows his crappy shots”. With that being said, I should only show my best, not sneak in my worst shot of the day. But I felt the need to do so, simply so that I can shame myself into doing better next time.
But I couldn’t leave well enough alone. The shadows on the faces plus the really bright sun ( aka super worse nightmare mixed lighting conditions) just made me decide to take a different approach to the image. Enter the LOMO
or LC-A camera. A poorly designed Russian camera that
that was a knock off of another camera. It is a bad picture taker as well. However, this along with the Holga camera surprisingly are the two most used post process effects I think to date. Yes, spending 4 thousand dollars on a camera, and putting a 1.8k lens in front of it, only to try to achieve the same effect as a 50 dollar toy camera. Yippeee for technology! =)
For those interested this is how to sorta get the LOMO effect I was going after.