Favorite Images 2016

January 18: The Martin Luther King Freedom Train: Off to a bad start. This is actually my most embarrassing photo because I didn't realize its significance at the time I made it. The event was centered on the arrival of the Martin Luther Freedom Train at the San Mateo train station. I submitted two photos that, for all intents and purposes, had nothing to do with the train, and ultimately submitted this one when my editor made it very clear that my first images, in spite of their superior technical merits, failed to hit the mark. This one just squeaked by, if only because of the prominent "MLK" in foreground and the train at the left edge of the image. Next time, I'll ask them to cheer!

February 20: Great Women in California History: For this shot, I arranged to make the photograph at a dress rehearsal so I could include their period costumes in the shot. They were actors, and with very littler persuasion, I was able to get them "in character" for the shot. I was also determined to the the stained glass skylight in the background, so I shot from a relatively low angle. I used seven speedlights for the shot: two in a softbox, one with a shoot-through umbrella on the floor for fill, one aimed forwards towards the camera to provide some background separation, and three CTO gelled units on table stands aimed at the walls behind my subjects.

March 9: San Francisco Mint Commemorative Coin: The event was the minting of a new coin commemorating the 100th anniversary of the the United States Park Service. Creating this composite was something of a last minute dodge, as I was having difficulty getting my subject to orient the half-dollar properly. I thought that I might be able to do a close-up of the coin with my subject out of focus and  in the background, but the opportunity never presented itself. Instead, I shot for a reasonably good expression, and made a closeup of the coin in a static display. I then layered the two in Photoshop Elements.  I tried to make it obvious that the photo was a composite. It ran the next day, without comment.

April 20: Citizenship Ceremony in Oakland: There was a Citizenship Recognition Ceremony at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. I brought three miniature flags with me to use a props , one for each of the three new Citizens from our service area. Unfortunately, they were seated in different parts of the theater, making it difficult to attempt a group shot. This subject was chosen because was seated next to a wall in an isle seat. Using a bounced flash and a long exposure, I was able to get both the details of the ceiling medallion (that's what it's called) and suitable facial lighting.

April 25: ACSA Awards Ceremony:   For this shot, my key light was a shoe-mounted flash, bounced off of a projecting screen hanging from the ceiling behind me. For accents, I placed two CTO gelled and slaved SB-800s on the tables behind my subjects and pointed them toward the ceiling. It was my intent add some light to the ceiling to help separate my subjects from their background. The effort was fairly successful, as the additional light gives the photo some additional depth. If I had an infinite number of assistants with an infinite number of speedlights I am sure I could have made a spectacular shot, but all in all, two speedlights were just enough.
April 25: ACSA Guest Speakers: I was surprised how well these shots turned out. I used an SB-900 aimed at the ceiling behind me. The lens was a 70-200mm 2.8, so I was able to stand about ten feet from my subjects. From that distance the light was soft and even from front to back. It also gave me some great catchlights. This kind of shot needs a high ISO setting and full value flash exposures and a battery pack to reduce recycle times.Why did they place the podium in front of the emergency exit?

I generally shoot my podium shots from the speaker’s left side because more people are right handed, and if they “speak with their hands”, they’re less likely to inadvertently cover their faces when they talk. In this shot, I rotated the flash head so that the light would come from camera left, essentially producing a subtle butterfly lighting effect.
May 29: Carnaval in San Francisco: The music and the costumes make this a "must attend" photo event. I usually concentrate on finding performers with expressions that reflect the excitement of the day. Sometimes there is a bit of a disconnect, especially with the kids.
June 15: San Mateo Adult School Graduation:  These two young ladies had a lot of admirers. When I saw them together with all those flowers, I had to get a shot. The two are standing beneath a second floor walkway, which helped to contain the light I bounced off of the wall behind me.

June 17: Citizenship Ceremony At The San Mateo Library:We had a citizenship ceremony at the San Mateo Main Library, and the Journal had sent a reporter to do a story on this young mother. After taking the oath, her daughter stepped up to give her mom a kiss. I was working with a 10-24mm F 4.0 on a Fuji X-T1.  When using a wide angle lens, you’re going to get a lot of background, which in this case helps to add excitement of the image.

Since I had the attention of both of my subjects, I asked the girl to “Give Mommy another kiss”. That she did, and Mom smiled and looked directly at me. I made the shot and now had two good suitable shots to choose from. I liked this second shot better, even though it didn’t meet my “candid criteria”: If the subject looks away from the camera, it’s a candid photograph; otherwise it’s a posed photo. Besides, it was a sweet smile. I submitted the full frame so that my Editors could crop the image if they chose. Since the shot was illustrating a story, it would automatically run on the front page.

The e-mail that followed was a bit of a surprise. My editor loved the people in the background making selfies and the crowd behind my subjects lining up to photograph some another new citizen. At first I thought the shot lacked any event context. But my Editor saw the emotional context, something I hadn’t thought of, let alone noticed.
July 4: Celebration In Foster City: This shot was all about waiting for the wind to provide full extension for the flag. As you can see from the shot, there are no errant fingertips caught in the act of helping to extend the flag in the background, a conscious effort on my part. This is another Fuji X100S shot that took advantage of the high flash synchronization speed provided by the leaf shutter. Simple on-camera fill flash did the trick.
 July 11: Boy Scout Troop 175 Family Picnic: This shot shows scouts in a team-work exercise. Wide angle lens and a Hail Mary* camera position made the shot possible. Again, on-camera fill flash serving as a key light, since most of the scouts are actually standing in the dappled light beneath a grove of trees. The live-view capability in my mirrorless Fuji X-T1 allowed me to accurately frame the shot without actually looking through the eye-level electronic viewfinder.
August 13: Obon Festival At The San Mateo Buddhist Temple: Made outdoors in the temple parking lot, this shot was lit with two speedlights bounced off of a white building behind me. High ISO setting and fast primes can do wonders when using a flash, so long as the synchronization speed is reasonable for the ambient exposure.
August 22: San Mateo Adult School Retreat: In this environment, ceiling bounce with the built-in bounce card was the ticket. There was just enough light to give a twinkle to the eyes and a slight increase in shadow detail. Best of all, it was slam-dunk easy. One other thing: the meeting room had neutral density film on all of the windows, so I had very little ambient daylight flooding the room.
September 7: Wisnom Family Honored: The Wisnom name is prominent in San Mateo history. Here, members of the family, along with representatives from the Historical Society, posed kitty-corner from one of the buildings built by the family near the turn of the century. A single speedlight mounted in a Lastolite EZBox held aloft on a paint pole provided the necessary lighting. The leaf shutter of my X100S helped bring the background/ambient exposure in balance with the speedlight. I used a Fuji WCL-X100 Wide Conversion Lens  to give me the same perspective as a 28mm lens in a full-frame format.

October 31: Halloween At The Adult School: I used the same setup here as I did for the Wisnom shot. By underexposing the ambient exposure slightly, I was able to get some cloud detail in the sky. So long as you have an assistant, the EZBox on a pole, properly placed, makes for easy shooting.
December 21: Bethlehem A.D. 2016: Let's see. I've submitted photos of King Harod, produce merchants, and metal smiths, but never one of a four-horned goat. Some kids in the background and some visual perspective and human interest to the shot. By dragging the shutter, I was able to add detail and depth to the background.
I included this final shot because so many things came together. The single, direct speedlight coming from camera right gave my subjects a three-dimensional look, while the hint of detail provided by the ambient background light and a glowing twilight sky gave the shot a more intimate appearance, or so I thought. Unfortunately, the kids are acting like kids rather that pilgrims in an ancient land. Fun shot, though.

Fun year. 2017 will be better.

*Camera held high overhead without any way to preview the image. Point and Shoot in the pure form. Also called "spray and pray".

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