Tag Archives: Nikon 17-55 f2.8

Honoring Access with Restraint

Ms. Gloria Steinem, speaking at the Orfalea Foundation Downtown Center on February 13, 2014

Ms. Gloria Steinem, radiating optimism and radicalism in equal measure at the Orfalea Foundation Downtown Center on February 13, 2014

In the eyes of the IRS, I’m a professional photographer because I get paid to make photographs. In the eyes of certain friends and coworkers, I’m a professional photographer because I’m “good enough” and the right price. In my own eyes, I am an eager-to-learn amateur who lacks certain qualities I associate with professionals, including the presence of mind and resourcefulness to walk into any situation and find a way to accomplish the mission.

That sort of professionalism comes from experience, and nothing in my photographic past prepared me for two hours as the sole photographer at a reception for Journalism and Feminism icon Gloria Steinem.

Strong backlighting was a challenge throughout. Here, Ms. Steinem chats with Sage Publishing founder Sara Miller McCune.

Strong backlighting was a challenge throughout. Here, Ms. Steinem chats with Sage Publishing founder Sara Miller McCune.

I had shot in the room before – unsuccessfully – so I came into the situation nervous but with a plan. There is no ceiling to speak of, and the eastern and southern exposures are picture windows. Ms. Steinem would be backlit for the entire event, but I would have no ceiling on which to bounce flash. I chose to shoot the entire event with on-camera flash units and diffuser domes.

I've shot receptions before, but never for an intellectual rock star. The energy level was very high, and I found it hard to keep my attention or my cameras focused.

I’ve shot receptions before, but never for a rock star. The energy level was very high, and I found it hard to keep my attention or my cameras focused.

I had liberty to roam the room and shoot at will, but I had a responsibility to Ms. Steinem and the attendees too, didn’t I? I couldn’t just keep clicking and firing flashes during their discussion, as much as I wanted to. Ms. Steinem is one of the most photographed people in the world – I wanted my chance to make a special image of a special person, but it was a reception for her, not me.

Here is Ms. Steinem with several of my coworkers, celebrating the conclusion of a very uplifting event.

Ms. Steinem with several of my coworkers, celebrating the conclusion of a very uplifting event. I still plan to retouch the flash hotspots, which of course appear in every picture of the day.

I made one photo that I like (at the top of the post) and several that will serve the purposes of my employer and possibly help some of the other community members who participated in the event.  I got to spend several hours listening to a fascinating person. And I got experience, which is sometimes defined as what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.

Regular readers will recall my post about "the fourth light." I may use one or two or three flashes in my portrait work, but it's the light radiating from the subject that makes the picture. Ms. Steinem absolutely glows with passion, empathy, and intellect. Quite fun to be near, frankly.

Regular readers will recall my post about “the fourth light.” I may use one or two or three flashes in my portrait work, but it’s the light radiating from the subject that makes the picture. Ms. Steinem absolutely glows with passion, empathy, and intellect. Quite fun to be near, frankly.

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Filed under Lighting, Portraiture, Professional vs. Amateur

How I Missed THE Shot

In the following series of images of Bryce Canyon, you’ll see that over a very few minutes as the sun sets, the sky changes colors and darkens significantly, and that influences the canyon’s relative tonality.  As I explained to my son (featured in one of these pictures and lit with fill flash), “In a few minutes the sky’s overall tonality will match the land’s, and that’s going to be THE moment.”

We waited a bit, and the sky got darker, but did not turn red as I expected.  I decided we should call it a day and go to dinner. Besides, I was getting cold.

From the lodge, about two minutes later, John pointed to the clouds, which had turned a glowing red. I don’t know how the canyon looked, because there was now a forest and a bunch of cabins between us and the rim, but I know I missed the opportunity despite expecting it to happen.

Just two days before, we chatted with a Park Ranger at Natural Bridges National Monument, who told us that the professional photographer who worked the park reminded him of a fisherman: he waited as long as necessary, then acted quickly when the conditions were right. Landscape photography requires either excellent planning or exquisite patience, and that is why you don’t see much of it on this page.

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Filed under Lighting, Nature Photography, Travel and Vacation

Non-Photographic Vacation: Day 5

Very slow wi-fi here at the Bryce Canyon Lodge, which can be forgiven because everything else is exquisite. We started the day at Capitol Reef National Park, then meandered along Route 12 (an awesome motorcycle road, but pretty nice in a car too) to make our way to Bryce. Tomorrow we go exploring, weather permitting (we arrived during an impressive thunder storm).

Turn in any direction in any part of Capitol Reef National Park for a beautiful view.

Turn in any direction in any part of Capitol Reef National Park for a beautiful view.

When he was a little boy, this behavior drove me crazy. Now it's kind of amusing.

When he was a little boy, his need to climb everything drove me crazy. Now it’s kind of amusing.

Making friends everywhere we go.

Making friends everywhere we go.

Bidding farewell to Capitol Reef.

Bidding farewell to Capitol Reef.

Taking a break on Route 12, which took us through deserts, forests, mountains, canyons, and all the way to Bryce.

Taking a break on Route 12, which took us through deserts, forests, mountains, canyons, and all the way to Bryce.

The view right outside our cabin at Bryce Canyon Lodge. Tomorrow we explore!

The view right outside our cabin at Bryce Canyon Lodge. Tomorrow we explore!

At the Kiva Koffeehouse outside Escalante. After we return I'll blog about the many photographic lessons I've learned on this non-photographic vacation, but the most important lesson so far is this: I thought that I was taking this trip for John, so he could see this part of the country that I love so much. But I realized today that he is also taking this trip for me.

At the Kiva Koffeehouse outside Escalante. After we return I’ll blog about the many photographic lessons I’ve learned on this non-photographic vacation, but the most important lesson so far is this: I thought that I was taking this trip for John, so he could see this part of the country that I love so much. But I realized today that he is also taking this trip for me.

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Filed under Just for FUN, Nature Photography, Travel and Vacation, Uncategorized

Non-Photographic Vacation – Day 4

Another driving day. Due to late coffee and middle-of-the-night work ghosts, I didn’t get much sleep and we got a late start on the day, which involved driving from Kayenta, Arizona to Torrey, Utah. The landscape was magnificent but the light was not, and there were precious few places we could have stopped on many of the narrow highways, so not a lot of photos. Still a good day listening to music and enjoying the magnificent vistas, many of which were recorded as neurochromes.

The rock for which Mexican Hat, Utah is named.

The rock for which Mexican Hat, Utah is named.

Yield to friendly ghost clouds. Shot near the northern end of Lake Mead, which is no longer a lake at all. We drove over the Colorado river and it was a trickle.

Yield to friendly ghost clouds. 

Natural Bridges National Monument, which is very difficult to photograph in midday light.

Natural Bridges National Monument, which is very difficult to photograph in midday light.

I've enjoyed the clouds very much on this trip, except when they shoot lightning at us.

I enjoy the clouds very much on this trip, except when they shoot lightning at us.

There are a bazillion different types of landscape in Utah. Later, as the storm clouds overtook us near Capitol Reef, we passed through a reasonable facsimile of Mordor, but didn't take any pictures.

There are a bazillion different types of landscape in Utah. Later, as the storm clouds overtook us near Capitol Reef, we passed through a reasonable facsimile of Mordor, but didn’t take any pictures.

John at Mexican Hat.

John at Mexican Hat.

 

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Filed under Just for FUN, Nature Photography, Travel and Vacation

Non-Photographic Vacation, Day 3

We started the day with a hike into Canyon de Chelly, which was followed by a much less pleasant hike OUT of Canyon de Chelly. I’m no spring chicken. Then, after a brief visit to some north rim overlooks, we made our way to Monument Valley, right around magic hour. Here, I really felt the sting of this being a non-photographic vacation, but even if I had all my gear and a lot more time, I don’t know if I could have captured what I saw in my mind. I have several hundred images that should keep me busy post-processing for the foreseeable future.

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The view from the White House Overlook, where our descent into Canyon de Chelly began.

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Between my age and my sedentary lifestyle, I find it very comforting to hike with an excellent wilderness trekker who also happens to be trained as an EMT.

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A little ways down the trail, I stole a rest break by asking John to take my picture.

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The White House ruins – our destination.

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On the way back up, I took many breaks. “Oh look, a hole in the clouds, let’s drink water and take pictures!”

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This is a photo from Monument Valley. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

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This is one of the better sections of road on the scenic, suspension-busting drive.

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I lacked the long lens I would have needed to compress the moon and monument. In person, the moon looked huge and close. A long lens would have helped me capture that look. Instead, we went for the “John grabbing the moon” shot.

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Filed under Nature Photography, Travel and Vacation