The experience was incredibly rewarding, with the countless hours filming and editing resulting in five short films focused on the amazing work of these DC public servants. Their stories are an inspiration and illustrate the amazing things that are done in the municipal government every day.
For me, one of the coolest aspects of the project was photographing their portraits for the award ceremony materials and website. With their work places differing so much, it gave me a (sometimes challenging) opportunity to do something interesting with them in their workplace. Below is a small sample of the shots that I took. They really range depending on the environment. Mixing off-camera flash with ambient light led to some dramatic shots (José at the bottom is a good example of this).
I’ll post the videos of interviews once they play at the ceremony tonight, but for now enjoy the portraits.
Happy Memorial Day, especially to those who have served to protect our nation’s freedoms. Yesterday was the Rolling Thunder 25th Anniversary “Ride for Freedom.” Hundreds of thousands of bikers/veterans gathered at 7am at the Pentagon parking lots and revved up their engines at 12 noon, riding to the Vietnam War/Korean War Memorial area to pay tribute to the fallen or missing in action, and to connect with comrades old and new.
The hogs were loud and the sun was blaring, that that didn’t stop the masses from gathering along Washington Blvd, the Memorial Bridge, and the National Mall to welcome the seemingly endless procession of motorcyclists/veterans.
Speaking to a number of biker-veterans as well as observing from a distance, this was clearly a very emotional day for many, but still a day of joy and celebration as the organization is a close knit brotherhood. I struck a conversation with two biker-veterans (both in their 50’s or 60’s) that were walking together and asked them how long they had known each other, given that one was from North Carolina and the other was from Arizona. They responded that they had just met that day, and that it was common for folks to meet for the first time at a Rolling Thunder gathering and feel a strong bond, just as if they had known each other their whole lives.
This camaraderie truly came across as everyone was friendly as could be—Especially as I asked them if I could photograph their bikes, cuts (the vests they wear), or just them.
Learn more about Rolling Thunder and their commitment to raise awareness around prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action.
They left just as quickly as they arrived–This year’s peak bloom for the cherry blossoms in DC’s Tidal Basin was March 20th, with the total official blooming period lasting just over a week, much shorter than typical. Unfortunately I was away in California at the start of the bloom, and when I returned most of mornings were filled with heavy fog, ruling out any shots at sunrise. Relative to last year, the photos I took of the cherry blossoms were… different–The panoramic shot below gives you an idea of what there was to work with.
Gloomy weather and travel plans this year only served as a reminder that we all (anyone who picks up a camera) have to seize the opportunity to snap a photo when we have it, even if the moment feels all too fleeting or ill prepared. Though in street, sports, or event photography the moment can pass because of an ephemeral human expression or a quick moving action, sometimes there are other factors.
Landscape photography doesn’t (usually) have the element of people changing the scene, but the concept of acting fast still applies for one simple reason: Light. Light is the fundamental ingredient in all photography. That’s not to say that other considerations, like composition and editing, don’t go into a finished photo. But light is the only thing that our camera sensors (or film) see–It creates texture, shape, and color–Without light our sensors wouldn’t see anything. For that reason the quality of light has a lot to do with the quality of a photo; this may seem like a simple fact but it took me longer than you would think to figure it out.
So, unlike studio photography, when photographing landscapes there’s not a whole lot that you can do to change the lighting! That’s why one of the keys to landscape photography is to find the light that’s right and shoot before it changes.
Last year I spent two bitterly cold mornings at the Tidal Basin photographing the blooming cherry blossom trees. It was my first time doing this, and I didn’t really know what to expect. At that early in the morning I wanted to get my time and effort’s worth. What vision did I have in mind for a composed subject? Where would I shoot from when I arrived? I mean, they’re just a bunch of trees, right? Well, I learned another lesson last year that I didn’t realize until much later on: Dumb luck has a lot to do with it.
The first morning I ventured out at 5:30 am into the painful cold. I walked about two and a half miles with my gear (I could have cabbed), pulled out a camera and tripod, and started taking shots. By then there was plenty of ambient light showing up on long exposures, and I realized how amazing the sky would look at sunrise. Unfortunately I hadn’t planned a bit and wasn’t sure where to shoot from–so I started jogging down the path. I knew the sun would be up in a matter of minutes.
Thankfully there weren’t many photographers out, so I had my pick of the territory. I kept going until I found the perfect spot, a branch hanging over head with a view straight east toward sunrise. I setup the tripod, snapped a few shots, and made a few other compositions.
Then the sun began to rise (photo above). To this day I haven’t seen sunrise like the one I saw that cold morning in March. The blue sky mixed with the golden light in a way I hadn’t seen before, or since. And then it was over as quickly as it started. The whole apex of the sunrise probably lasted two or three minutes.
Poor planning, quick adaptation, and good luck resulted in a photo that I still cherish. There were other good photos of the cherry blossoms, but none that looked like the one above. If I had hesitated, even for a couple minutes, the moment would have passed and I’d still be waiting for the the above photo to come along. And this year’s gloomy weather would have been all the more disappointing if I hadn’t gotten the shot that I wanted last year.
Below are a few other cherry blossom photos I took last year. I’ll post a few more over the next few days.
Today was day one of the 2012 Photoshop World Conference and Expo, the world’s largest photography and lighting conference! It provides an opportunity for photographers and designers of all levels to meet each other, learn skills, test products, and exchange ideas. While it’s fresh in my mind and before I get some sleep (things kick up again at 8:15am tomorrow), I wanted to share a few details about the conference.
Adobe gave the opening keynote, presenting new features in Lightroom 4 and Creative Suite 6.
I was really impressed with the presentation delivered by Adobe’s Julieanne Kost on the new features in Lightroom 4 (keep in mind that Lightroom is my main editing tool). New features included video editing within Lightroom, improved control over shadows/midtones/highlights, drag and drop GPS tagging of photos (you literally drop them onto a Google Map to tag them!), and in-application photo book design. There was also a very cool demonstration of countless new features in Photoshop 6.
Classes I attended today covered a wide range of topics including flash lighting techniques, shooting and editing portraiture, design and composition, stock photography, and surviving in today’s marketplace. Each class was very informative, and the instructors were completely approachable and happy to talk one-on-one after their presentations.
Also, the expo floor is very cool if you’re even remotely into photography. Most of the major photography related companies were present demonstrating gear and software, as well as a live models to photograph and test out lighting equipment. As a special note for me, I got to test out the new Canon 5D Mk III (!!!) with a 200mm f/1.8 attached. The combination of the two must have weighted 15 pounds, and my life will never be the same again (it was so fast and quiet compared to the Mk II). The expo floor is open to the public Sunday the 25th and Monday the 26th, and you can register to attend here.
With two more days left in the convention, I’m looking forward to all the amazing tips, ticks, and techniques that will be covered as well as all the creative minds to be inspired by!
To follow more of the conference, check on twitter for posts with the hashtag #PSW12.
For some reason today was the first day that I noticed this patch of dry grass outside my apartment door. The sun was hanging low and the light was warm. “Fresh start” came to mind when I saw it. Happy New Year.