I had the privilege — and challenge — of taking some photos for my son and his friends this past weekend. I’ll let them tell they’re own story (link at the end of the post) but the short version is that they are going “on tour” for a month to sing as a quartet, do various service projects, and promote the International ALERT Academy (where they have received various types of emergency response training — paramedic and other misc certifications in my son’s case).
Our only options for shooting were a short bit early Sunday morning and then in the afternoon from about 1-3pm. We did what we could in the morning and left the rest for later. The afternoon sun was as intense as it ever gets in Texas — which makes for lousy natural light in many locations. If I was shooting only one person, had a set of great lights and diffusers, etc. I would have felt better about all this. However, I worked on making do with my single speedlight and whatever shade we could find.
The guys wanted to do some shots on the railroad tracks — no shade there. One of the favorite spots required them to be looking toward the sun, which was *mostly* overhead but off its peak just enough to create extremely harsh shadows when they faced that direction. Nonetheless, we took a bunch of shots and attempted to overcome the sun on five guys with a single speedlight…not quite successful. I told them not to tell anyone I took those pictures
In the shot with the locomotive you can see how turning them out of the sun (and using the single speedlight) doesn’t turn out too bad. While shooting the previous into-the-sun images I broke my sync cord and could no longer use my Elinchrom skyports to control the flash. So for this shot I used a 3′-ish cord attached to my hot shoe and use E-TTL with -2/3 flash exp compensation if I remember correctly. I held the flash above-camera-left as high as I could reach (I was slightly crouched to take the shot). It turned out OK — and the guys seemed happy with this one.
Of course we did the obligatory look-cool-standing-against-some-grungy-wall-album-cover-type shots. We found a random wall with just enough shade to make it work. The sidewalk in front of the wall had a slight slope which made things a bit tricky. If I lined up the frame with the brick, I ended up with a bit of grass where the sidewalk was higher…stuff like that. I think I should have worked my angles more and come up with something better. However, we had already spent a lot of time doing individual shots and various group poses and with it being nearly 100 degrees, all of us were ready to get on with it and finish up.
I had fun taking the photos. I learned a lot. I learned most of all that I have a lot left to learn. It was also fun for the guys (who are not nearly as serious as some of their pictures would imply) to be able to goof around while posing. Most importantly, they got some shots they were happy with.
Their website (still a bit under construction): http://www.servantscall.com
On facebook: Servant’s Call
Had a great Father’s Day this year! We spent Saturday night at our friend’s house in Fredericksburg and I woke up to a fresh cup of coffee and the sunrise in the image below (9-exposure HDR). It was such a cool morning (by Texas summer standards) so I just wandered around a bit and watched the cows graze.
We have so much fun with our friends and Sunday morning was no different as we enjoyed breakfast together and got ready for church. After church we headed home to meet our oldest (married) daughter and have a meal — of my choosing of course — together. The family got me something around 700 shirts which my son said was their way of telling me that they didn’t like my current wardrobe.
Speaking of being a father, we celebrated the birthday of one of our younger sons this past week. Whenever we celebrate our children’s birthdays I’m reminded of how old *I’m* getting.
Our son has become fascinated with cowboys of late (he wanted to invite Roy Rogers to his birthday) so we got him a cowboy hat and used matches for candles on the cake (seemed more like what cowboys would do). He loved it — “Mom, this is the BEST cowboy cake EVER!”. Here’s a shot of him getting ready to blow out his “candles”.
I don’t normally process single exposures (especially of people) as HDRs but I was inspired by Jayme Rutherford’s single-exposure turtle shot which you can view here. I decided that the cowboy theme lent itself well to the gritty texture that tonemapping an image brings about.
(Many years ago) I was born on the south side of the Windy City in the Roseland neighborhood. My family moved to the south suburbs when I was pretty young, then out to a rural area (still close to the city) in high school. I went to lots of Blackhawks games in Chicago Stadium, Sox (and Sting) games at Comiskey Park, and even managed one Cubs game at Wrigley. Incidentally, I never made it to a Bears game — haven’t ever been to a pro football game to this day.
I remember watching Stan Mikita, Pit Martin, and Keith Magnuson play for the Hawks. I loved Sox players like Chet Lemon (when I was really young), Harold Baines, and Carlton Fisk. I had a home run ball hit by Brian Downing back in the 70′s. I wasn’t actually at the game and honestly don’t remember if he played for the Sox or the Angels at the time. I was at the 1983 game where the Sox *could have* clinched the division but they needed a win or loss from someone else so they didn’t clinch until the following night…something like that. I watched every game of the Bears run up to the Super Bowl in 1985 — what a fun season. I practically worshipped Karl-Heinz Granitza of the Chicago Sting.
I wasn’t big into autographs but I had Harold Baines, Walter Payton (got that one at the auto show in McCormick Place), and Johnny Morris (got his in the stands at Comiskey Park the same day I got Baines’).
Although I now live in Texas, the rest of my family still lives in the Chicago area and downtown Chicago is pretty much a yearly destination for our family. We take the Metra in to the Randolph station from the south side, walk the streets, and take in whatever attractions we feel like that visit. The kids love it. I haven’t visited since really getting into photography but I’m really looking forward to it. [Side note: One member of the family lives in Milwaukee but we Chicagoans simply consider that a suburb…those of you from Chicago appreciate this I'm sure]
The picture above was taken as my wife and I were landing at O’Hare en route to Paris. I grabbed the camera a bit late and missed some better shots but I’m still pleased with this one — reminds me of home.
Since our trip to Paris it seems that I’ve never been able to catch up with “things”. Photography has certainly been a temporary casualty but I’ve managed to process most of the photos from the trip. Most pics got the quick exposure/contrast treatment but I managed a few HDRs as well.
We spent our six nights in Paris but included a day trip to London during the week. I booked us in “leisure select” (effectively what we’d call business class) on the earliest Eurostar between Gare du Nord (Paris) and London St. Pancras and then the latest train back to Paris. Frankly the train rides were quite enjoyable and relaxing. The image above was taken in the St. Pancras train station and shows a statue called The Meeting Place by Paul Day. The architecture (interior and exterior) of the train station alone would have made for a decent day’s photowalk. I read somewhere (probably wikipedia) that the station underwent a $1 billion+ renovation in the last decade. There are still some construction fences around portions of the exterior — I only noticed because they ruined some photo opportunities.
The pic below was taken on the bridge at the entrance to the Tower of London. A catapult sits in the long-ago drained moat surrounding the walls. While this image doesn’t really capture the essence of the Tower itself, it certainly helps me re-live that single day we spent in London. Sunny and warm, blue sky with awesome clouds — such a rarity in London. It seemed that everyone we met made some comment to the effect of “You sure got some of our best weather for your visit”.
The Tower was amazing. The history of the place is SO interesting. The Beefeaters tour was quite entertaining as well. We spent about three hours inside and that was skimming a lot of the text on plaques and such. We’d certainly go back and spend more time if we visit London again.
The HDR above was created using three handheld exposures. Tonemapped in Photomatix with some typical contrast, sharpening, etc…no blending with original exposures.
The USS Lexington pictured above is now a museum in Corpus Christi, TX. Also known as “The Blue Ghost”, it was built in WWII, decommissioned after the war, brought into active service again in the ’50s, and finally decommissioned permanently in 1991. This carrier has a storied history but I’ll leave it to other websites to tell that — they do a better job than I would. I thought it appropriate to post this image now to extend our Memorial Day remembrance a few days longer.
As I’ve mentioned before, I really appreciate those who serve in our military, particularly those who give the ultimate sacrifice of their life for our continued freedom. Whenever I have opportunity I try to thank soldiers for their service. As recently as last week I ran across a soldier in the Guard (at the auto repair shop) and made a point to engage in conversation and thank him for serving.
Over the Memorial Day weekend our family hosted several young men who had just completed school with our son Evan. They hailed from Colorado, Maine, Illinois, North Carolina, and Maryland and had recently completed training in fields such as paramedic, law enforcement, and all sorts of rescue-type operations (my son just completed the paramedic school). While in school many of them were in a men’s chorus and one of the songs in their repertoire was “The Mansions of the Lord” which you’ve heard if you’ve seen the movie We Were Soldiers.
On Memorial Day we visited the Texas Capitol and one of our group convinced the young men (six of them) to sing this song in the rotunda. As they began the song — “To fallen soldiers let us sing…” — a hush fell on the crowd, people stopped and pointed their video cameras, and the sound of men’s voices filled the rotunda (which is acoustically awesome). As they finished the audience broke out in applause and my hope is that they were thinking not just about the young men in front of them but also about the “fallen soldiers” about which they sang. I’d love to post a picture of the singing but I didn’t have a camera — I left my “real” camera at home (so I didn’t spend our visit looking through a viewfinder) and my iPhone was being used by the guys for the song lyrics.
As for the USS Lexington image, it was generated by using Photomatix to fuse (not tonemap) 3 exposures that I snapped a month or two ago while at the coast for the Wings Over South Texas airshow. A bit of noise reduction and contrast to top it off and I was done.