One Drop, One Pop, One Shot

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I have loved skateboarding since I first stepped foot on one almost 20 years ago.  When life took over and I no longer had time to progress at the sport, I turned to photographing it to keep a hold of something so dear to me.  The problem with that is that if you don’t know anyone that skates, it is a little difficult to photograph it.  I still have friends in San Diego that skate and when I get down there we sometimes meet up, but where I am currently living I do not know anyone that skates.  Because I have a past involvement in skateboarding I do know what to look for in a skate spot so when I spot one I will mark it on a map.

For this shot, however, I did not need to search for spots; this was taken in San Francisco at a spot that has been frequented for many years and, coincidentally, was just downstairs from the hotel I was put up in for a job in The City.  This brings me to why it is one of my favorite shots.

I was photographing a week long conference for a large company that put me and a fellow colleague in a hotel in San Francisco for a week.  The first night I was there (eager to photograph something) I noticed the popular skate spot easily; I had been through that area many times and had seen skateboarders there 99% of the times I had driven past.  As soon as I was checked in and dinner was comfortably in my belly I made a beeline in hopes to get some fun shots.

The first half hour I was wondering around the area I did not see anyone trying anything that I was interested in photographing; there is a certain line in skate photography of the difficulty of the trick relating to the excitement drawn from the photo.  If the trick is nothing too special, the photograph will mirror that.  There was one guy I saw skating smooth, fast, and with a good array of tricks.  Before I approached him I wanted to make sure I had an idea of where and how I wanted to take a shot…  That is, if he even obliged.  I finally had an idea that I approached him with (something he was already trying of course, and close by) and with my luck of course he was exhausted and ready to leave.

So this is where the business side of my business came in handy.  I have talked with many different clients, from social to commercial, and I felt I was pretty good at conveying my ideas in a way that got others on board.  He didn’t seem too into it, but saw that I had my gear all ready to go and set up of lights would only take a minute, so he said yes.  I got everything up, popped off a shot or two to adjust exposure, and gave him the ok.  He dropped his board, popped his trick, and I shot the shutter…  DONE!

One try for the skater, only one shot taken by me, and this is the result.  Because of the circumstances, this is one of my favorite skateboarding photographs I have taken to date.  No more than three minutes before this was taken all of my equipment was in my camera bag, and no more than two minutes following it we were each going our separate ways!  I really feel the story behind this one gives a new intrigue to all who view it.

Enjoy!

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The Spirit of a New York City Cab

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When I was little, I remember saying once that I wanted to be a New York City cab driver when I grew up.  That sounds very odd for a young boy to say but to this day I always remember having a love for people watching and seeing how different people react to different situations.  Where else is there as much interesting people interaction than in a cab in New York City?  They have made TV shows (plural) on different aspects of New York City cabs!

Anyway, this image is on my website, and it has been posted a few other places.  It is one of my favorites not only for its visual characteristics, but for the story behind it as well.  I will mention the technique first.  This is a typical panning photograph.  If you are not familiar with that technique, it is where you shoot at a long exposure and pan the camera at the same speed and direction as a moving subject in the hopes to get the subject sharp and give the background a good motion blur.  If you are familiar with this technique, you know that you will pop off endless exposures only to POSSIBLY get one good one.  I think I was successful.

I shot this back in 2007 when I was in New York for the annual PDN Expo & Conference.  If you ever get the chance to go to this, I highly recommend it.  There is a wealth of information in different classes that you can attend in a variety of photographic subjects.  They also have a tradeshow that runs the entire week with vendor booths exhibiting many new products.  This night in particular was after the last of the classes on my last night in the city.  My buddy and I had visited Ground Zero and walked back to Times Square.  It was a four hour walk which had us returning to our hotel around 3 am; that was when this was taken.

Before we went up to our room, we noticed so many taxi cabs flowing down the streets and proceeded to take shots of as many as we could.  Some cabbies stopped or slowed down to “pose” while others (the ones we preferred) just continued on their night as did we.  I must have taken close to two hundred shots myself.  It was a good night of photographing, to say the least, to top off a wonderful trip to a great city!

How to Learn Photoshop?

So it has been a while since my last post; I have been a little busy. In addition to my photography, I also substitute teach High School. It is part of a process to obtain teaching credentials in hopes to teach photography at some point. Over the past six weeks, I have had a long term sub job in a photography class and it has been quite eye opening in regards to how people understand photoshop from a beginners point of view. Not only was I (hopefully) teaching the students, but I was learning as well.

It has been close to 15 years since I was starting to work with photoshop, and not only has there been major improvements in the program itself but in my ability as well. A lot of what I do has become second nature while I am working; keyboard commands, color correction, workflow, etc. These are things that I take for granted when I hear about someone just getting started with the program. I like to think that I am a good "teacher" of photoshop when I'm helping a friend dig a little deeper with the program and their photos, but how well can I teach someone who isn't doing it for fun, rather, as a requirement? What if they have absolutely no interest in photography at all? This was my mountain over the last few weeks.

In the nearly 80 students that I was teaching photography to (it was a photography class but while the regular teacher was out, the cameras were not to be checked out so most of the assignments were PS based), there were a handful maybe that we're interested in learning the subject and had fun doing it. This made for some disheartening moments since this is something I love and have a passion for. To see them treat this as if they were studying ancient civilizations or algebra was like a dagger in my heart. However, I kept my passion and tried to convey that passion through every project.

After all was said and done, the students for the most part enjoyed me being there and most completed the projects given to them. I didn't have any real discipline complications aside from one student cussing at me, not in a threatening way, just frustrated with me. That stuff I can handle fine. The hardest part was figuring out why they couldn't see this class as being a fun elective to participate in.

The most touching part was seeing the students I did connect with, seeing those that overcame the complications of a difficult challenge and fight through it, and accepting those that were set in their ways of this being just a requirement to graduate.

After my last day there I ran into one of my students at the fairgrounds. He came up to me and shook my hand and showed me the bracelet he just bought. It was a rubber New Orleans Saints bracelet. I had not hide the fact that I was a San Diego Chargers fan and actually talked football with a couple of the students on Fridays. This was two days after the Saints had just beat the Chargers! I laughed with him about it and he went on his way. I won't forget this moment!

Do You Have Backup Equipment?

I know it may be common sense for a professional photographer to have backup equipment be a high priority on their must have list, but you would be surprised how many shoot events with only one camera…  Even if they have more than one in their arsenal.  All photographers will always say backups are a must.  Not just for cameras but for memory cards, lenses, batteries, etc.  Not one will say “you don’t really NEED a backup” even if they never have backups.  However, even a casual shooter should have some kind of backup unless they are not worried about missing the photo opportunity due to broken / malfunctioning equipment.

Now, I am not just writing about this topic to have something to write about.  I have been photographing weddings, events, portraits, and more for about six years and not once have I had a major camera malfunction…  Until a couple weeks ago.  Not only did I have a camera failure, but it wasn’t at a lesser important job like a family portrait shoot, it was at a wedding!  Talk about needing to remain calm and composed; this was the epitome of needing to stay calm.

While at a wedding, right at the end of the ceremony (after the kiss thank god), my Canon 5D locked up and would not continue to shoot.  No error message, no reasoning, just gave up.  I always use two cameras simultaneously at weddings so I continued with the other until I had a chance to check out the issue.  When I had a minute (and you rarely have that much time to stop at a wedding), I looked over my 5D and found that the mirror had detached itself and lodged into the lens track.  I managed to get the lens off, get the mirror out, and secure all the pieces.  Then finished the wedding with one camera.

Everything the rest of the day went smooth, but my main concern was that I was leaving for an out of town job a day and a half later and kind of needed two cameras; that was what was nagging at me the rest of the day.  I was racking my brain of what to do.  Risk shooting with only one camera body, rent another body and cut into my profits, find a fellow photographer to borrow a body from?  Luckily, my answer was simple.

I had just upgraded my old Canon 20D to the newer 50D and sold the 20D to my parents who had wanted something better than a point and shoot.  The wedding I was at was 3 hours from my house, but partially on the way to my parents house who lived 6 hours from me.  I called them up and explained the situation, and they drove to meet me half way to deliver the old 20D.  That camera body has been through a lot with me being my first professional camera so it was only fitting that it was the camera to save me.  Now with sufficient backup, I felt a little more at ease leaving town for the job.

Now, this situation played out and resulted in no major business repercussions.  But needless to say, it could have been a lot worse.  I have great parents, I have great colleagues, and I have a great camera system in Canon (who reattached the mirror at no charge).  But not everyone has the same at their disposal.  Which brings me back to the topic of saying ALWAYS HAVE BACKUP EQUIPMENT!  No excuses…  Always!

The final verdict on the 5D camera body (which hasn’t come back from Canon yet) was not only the detached mirror but the shutter was way over it’s maximum shot count and had to be replaced.  That could have been the reason for the mirror detaching.  Until then, my old, trusty 20D is getting me through the jobs I have lined up currently.  So, do I need to say it again?  ALWAYS HAVE BACKUP EQUIPMENT!  No excuses…  Always!