Well it's high time I got around to writing some more blog posts. Yes I've been bad recently and frankly have been so busy that blogging was always the next thing on the 'to do' list but it never seemed to get to the top.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of shooting the Alberta version of Tour for Kids. The tour is a three-day cycling adventure through the Alberta Rockies covering some of the most picturesque scenes anywhere in the country. Of course the purpose of Tour for Kids is to raise funds to support the work of the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta. This is a great charity not only for their great work, but also with the riders and sponsors covering the cost of the event all the money raised goes to support the foundation.
Being a three-day shoot has several challenges. The first was the long days. The first two days averaging 18 hours the last day was a mere 12 hours. This shoot was part sports photography and part photojournalism. The goal being to tell the story is a compelling and meaningful way.
The first day started off on an ominous note with seriously heavy rain all night and the three-day forecast did not look good calling for rain, rain, and more rain. It was not going to be an easy three days. Mercifully the rain stopped long enough for the group of volunteers and riders to get organized and loaded up for the trip to the rides starting point in Banff National Park.
Shooting cycling is fun and at times can be challenging. The first day was no exception as the thick clouds blocked a great deal of sunlight and obscured visibility. The only good point with it being overcast was that the light, although poor for shooting action did produce a nice soft lit look.
With the weather not cooperating, normally the views are spectacular along this road, I decided to shoot up close and personal. The wonderful thing about shooting cycling is that you don't always have to show the whole rider and bike. As long as you include enough key elements your viewers will know that it is a person on a bicycle.
Of course an event list this is far more than just a bunch of people cycling, there is a hoard of volunteers that make everything possible. The volunteers are the first ones up in the morning and the last ones to stop at night. They truly are the heart that keeps the event beating.
Fun with volunteers. Since being a volunteer often involves long hours is always fun to spend some time and see if they have a fun and crazy side. To help make the event fun the coordinators set themes each day for the volunteers. Day one was tight and bright, day two Christmas in July and finally mustache bash. By day three the volunteers were still in high spirits and needless to say were having a ton of fun.
Did I mention rain. On day one just as dinner was being served (outside) the rain started and it poured down in a relentless stream which lasted all night and through most of the morning of day two. Tome to break out the rain cover. It is impossible to have a rain cover keeps all the rain off of your camera. The best that one can hope is keeping the camera and lens from getting soaked. Now in the world of digital cameras there is a lot at stake. You can have any number of failures, anything from memory cards to condensation on the sensor and shutter release malfunctioning and permanent equipment damage. Today's modern digital cameras are pretty good but as we know from observing nature, water always wins. My trusty cleaning kit saw a fair bit of use drone the weekend cleaning spotted lens' and wet camera bodies. Thankfully I did not need to pull out my back up gear.
What is that...the sun? At the end of day two and after yet another rain storm the sun finally made an appearance. This meant it was go time to capture some background images of Camp Kindle. For those not familiar Camp Kindle is a world class camp that is operated by Kids Cancer Care and allows the kids with cancer as well as their families to have a camp experience. Not being sure what what weather the morning bring I rapidly ran around the camp to get as many different views as possible while the evening sun was shining. To my surprise and delight the sun made another appearance the following morning. This was incredibly lucky as sone areas of the camp favored the evening light and others the morning light.
I arrived back home very tired and with a hard drive full of images. All in all it was a great three days.
Tamara Lackey Portrait Photographers Workshop in San Francisco
Ladies and gentlemen we recommend that you keep your seat belts fastened for your own safety. Although this is most commonly heard onboard your flight shortly after takeoff the same could be easily said about The Tamara Lackey portrait photographers’ workshop that I attended last week in San Francisco. It was three days of hold on to your hats, non-stop instruction and hands-on practice and networking. By far the best workshop I have ever attended.
For those who are not familiar Tamara Lackey is a very well known family and portrait photographer from Durham, North Carolina. Her resume includes a list of outstanding credentials not to mention a long list of philanthropic and humanitarian projects.
The three-day intensive workshop was held in the fantastic offices of Chronicle Books, a specialty publisher of children and young adult literature. It was the perfect location, close to good outdoor locations and the interior design that reflected the imagination from an independent publisher of creative books - a veritable playground for photographers. Looks pretty plain from the outside.
The workshop schedule included sessions on the technical considerations of photography, lighting and staging of the scenes, posing, post-production and well just about every other aspect of the business.
Our first day started out with breakfast. WOW… WOW… WOW… Now that is the way to start a workshop. Did I mention the food? The catering was from a restaurant called Herbivore, if you are in the San Francisco area I can highly recommend the place, I know I’m going there the next time I’m in town.
After some introductions we got down to business, with such a full schedule there was not a minute to waste. Before our first shoot there was a review of the technical considerations of photography. It is often easy to get caught up with the moment and forget a few critical elements of the setup.
For the first shoot we had the great pleasure of working with Millie who has to be one of the cutest kids you’ll every meet. To make our studio we slid the boardroom tables to the side and rearrange the blinds. Followed was a progression of lighting scenarios from simple available light to portable strobes and even a little high-speed sync. Tamara convinced the whole family to join into the shoot. Here is the production shot of the high-speed lighting set-up using the Profoto B2 off camera flashes.
A break for lunch before getting into post production and digital workflow. I always hear people saying “oh you Photoshop’ed that,” well my answer is yes, it’s been in and out of Photoshop, but what most people don’t understand is that Photoshop is todays digital version of the analog darkroom. In the darkroom the image would come alive, the exposure, toning, color balance, cropping, etc was set when the image was printed. Learning how to be efficient and effective and to improve the look of the image was the session’s goal.
Our models for the afternoon showed up so we grabbed our gear and headed out to a nearby part. Photographing children is always a challenge. Watching Tamara work the shoot is amazing. The photojournalist in me had a hard time deciding on what to shoot. Although we were in the part to photograph the kids it was hard to ignore Tamara, sorry it was impossible to ignore Tamara (and I mean that in a nice way). Here are a couple of images from the afternoons shooting.
After the shoot we wrap for the day. It was a very full day, a very engaging and valuable day. Back at the hotel I downloaded the cards from the cameras and ran thorough the images. Exhausted I had to shut off the computer and go to bed. It was one of those days that leave you exhausted and energized.
The next morning started off with another stunning vegan breakfast from Herbivore. When we were finished licking our lips it was down to business with a review of the images from yesterday and some image critiques from the participants along with a talk about marketing. Before we knew it it was time for another delicious lunch (do you see a theme here). The afternoon shoot was all about families and larger groups. Working with groups pose special problems for composition as well as positioning and expression. Keeping the group focused, smiling and natural looking is a tricky art. The choice was to go to the park and pier just behind the AT&T baseball park. There was a treasure trove of great spots to stop and shoot. One of my favorite from the day is the big world small group styled shot.
The last day of the workshop started off really early for me. Being in the habit of getting up early really paid off in a couple of ways today. I was up early enough to be able to take the cable car to the workshop – how cool is that, taking the iconic San Francisco cable car instead of a bus or taxi. But the real bonus of the morning was realizing I had not set my alarm for the morning. I’m going to split this one 50/50, half for the body clock working right and the other half for being excited and wanting to get back to the workshop.
The first line of business was a headshot party. Photographers are often the worse when it comes to pictures of them; it’s kind of like a plumber always having a leaky faucet. For the head shot party we used Chronicle Books common area which is like a photographers playground – in the span of a few it was possible to capture portraits with a wide variety of looks. Moving from the quiet and conservative approach of the headshot party our next assignment was a shooting clinic complete with a gang of children. It is a big jump to shift gears from calm and composed to the frantic and frenzied and unpredictable approach of young children. There were half a dozen children, each of whom required a different approach. What became very apparent was that some children (probably most) require time to warm up before they were comfortable. I photographed one young lady just after she arrived and quickly discovered that fact, but once she became more comfortable with the gang of snap happy photographers she became the life of the party. Handling the technical side of the shoot is simple compared to the skill required to get the best out of the subject. Here are a few images from the chaos of the morning.
Before I forget I must mention Tamara’s charity. She and her husband Steve operate a charity called Beautiful Together. They work to identify and complete specific and measureable projects to improve the life’s of orphaned children in the United States and Africa. Check out their website at www.beautifultogether.org
Thank you Tamara Lackey and your fantastic associate Sarah Coppola for your gift of your knowledge, skills and energy. The workshop was excellent and I can highly recommend it to other portrait photographers wanting to widen their experience and skill base.
This past weekend I had the opportunity and pleasure to capture some of the Sears National kids Cancer Ride, a.k.a. #SNKCR. I feel honored to know a couple of the riders who are among the group cycling across Canada from White Rock, British Columbia to Point Pleasant Park just outside Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Saturday was a perfect day for the riders to transit from Lake Louise north along the Ice Fields Parkway. In my opinion this is the most beautiful stretch of highway in Canada. It was wonderful to see reactions of the riders, many of whom have never been through the area before. The Ice Fields Parkway runs through the middle of two mountain ranges and connects Lake Louise to Jasper - yes this is a bucket list type of road.
The day started very early as we had a two hour drive to Lake Louise. Starting out in Calgary the temperature was 17 degrees and with a little nudge I changed into shorts - how cold could it be in the mountains. Well by the time we arrived in Lake Louise the temperature outside was 2 degrees, but with all the energy and excitement the cold was barely noticeable. Before heading out for the days ride the group went to the edge of the lake for for a photo opportunity. The spectacular scene of Lake Louise rarely disappoints.
Want a copy of this photo. Get your own copy 16x35 inch panorama print: Click Here!
So a while ago I wrote a blog post about backing up your photos. As we all know (or should know) back up copies of images are an essential part the photographic process in the digital world. But what happens when you are in the field and your equipment breaks. Normally I like to have a bare-bones set of spares for travel.
<< If all you want to read is the funny story I have that at the bottom of the blog...and yes I'm not offended if you skip the long winded preamble to get to the funny part and the pictures >>
Traveling or at least taking your gear into the field can pose a number of technical issues. Typically photographers travel with extra cameras, batteries, lenses, etc. in case something breaks in the field you have a spare and if not have something on-hand to suffice as a work around until you can get a permanent fix.
The focus for redundancies almost always focuses on the camera gear. How many photographers travel with a laptop? What is you plan if it breaks? Do you have a plan 'B'? What happens when your power adapter breaks while in the field?
<< The funny story is still coming but first a few things about power adapters for laptops. >>
For almost as many years as I have been traveling with a laptop I have tried to follow a few simple rules to help ensure success while while on the road. There is two tips that will not necessarily guarantee success but will take care of the top things that I have experienced while on the road.
First thing you need to get is a second power adapter for your laptop. Take the second adapter and stuff it in your travel bag and leave it there. If you plan to travel to foreign countries get yourself a set of wall plug adapters - stuff those into your travel bag and leave them there. A number of years ago I acquired a power adapter for my laptop that was perfect for traveling. it operated on 110-220 volt AC power as well as being able to be connected to a 12 volt DC cigarette lighter. The adapter was actually designed for a different computer but had been adapted to work on the Macbook Pro. So here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when looking for a second power adapter for your travel bag. Almost all power adapters work on 110-220 volt power systems but it is worth double checking just in case. Power systems in North America operate at 110 volts, power systems in other countries often operate at 220 volts. The old joke is that size matters but in the case of power adapters 'length' matters. Anybody that has stayed at hotels for any length of time has discovered that some rooms are well appointed with power outlets and others are not. With that in mind you want to get a power adapter that has a fairly long cord. The OEM Apple adapter comes supplied with a nice long cord but be careful if you are buying generic brands as these can have shorter lengths. The general rule of 'if it sounds too good to be true it probably is' generally holds true.
For travel outside of North America (or outside of your home power system) you will generally require plug adapters in order to connect to the wall outlets. By buying the 110-220 volt style power adapter all you need to add is a small plug adapter. I have a set of plug adapters which include Europe, Asia, Australia and the United Kingdom. Other than the U.K adapter they are very small and easily stuffed into your travel bag. Leaving these in your travel bag will help ensure that they are there when you need them. It also helps by saving you time not looking for the adapters when you are packing for a trip. The only other essential item that I travel with is a power splitter. Often hotel rooms, meeting rooms have a very limited number of power outlets so a splitter becomes a life saver. My splitter was acquired in the Denden town area of Osaka, Japan. Although not immediately obvious it has a secondary purpose other than being just a splitter. The secret functionality allow a three prong plug to be inserted into a two prong wall outlet. The Japanese do not have a third (ground) plug on their wall outlets. If all you have is your three prong North American power supply you are in for a rough ride when you try to plug it in in Japan.
The funny story: So without further ado here is the funny story. While in Frankfurt a few years ago we were returning to the hotel after being out all day and I decided to start to download my CF cards from the days shooting. Immediately there was a problem, the power adapter was not charging (or supplying power) to the laptop. We were set to leave the following morning to a rural area of Sicilia the chance of finding a power adapter there was slim to none. After a few minutes of panic the plan was to make a mad dash over to the Apple store before they closed. Being within an easy walk I laced my shoes shoes and headed out. I knew the way to the store, the route was simple, just up the street a few blocks then head west for a few blocks. However it did not take long before coming on a road block, a real big road block! There was protesters demonstrating at the European Central Bank building occupying the Willy Brandt Platz area. To keep everything under control or to stop the protest (not sure which) there was a large police presence. In round number there was no less than 500 police officers and nearly as many vehicles. The numbers of officers and support equipment that they had mustered for the protest was truly staggering.
Some police had green uniforms, others were navy blue. Not sure of the difference although my first thought was the they were all picked because they appear to be very similar in height and build. Must be just a coincidence.
Every where I turned there was another 20, 30, 50 police vehicles. They seemed to come from every direction and in a nearly endless stream.
It would have been great to get dug in a bit deeper and hunt for some good editorial images. Not speaking German and not really understanding what potential problems the police were expecting the decision was made to cover just the exterior of the protest and police presence and then move along. Besides I needed to keep focused and get to the Apple store before they closed. Too bad as it sure would have been fun to get on the inside.
Oh and yes I eventually got the the Apple store and got the adapter and the rest of the trip went very well.
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