Category Archives: event photography

Karate Sessions

I shot an afternoon of Karate students at a local dojo and it was pretty interesting. I did the classic white background with dual Alien Bee 1600s with one umbrella and one softbox. I used an old trick of putting gaffers tape on the spot for the talent ( students) to place their feet. That mark made it easy for everyone to get where they needed to be quickly. I ended shooting over 40 students that afternoon. I used Square as my credit card processing and I had made up a demo package of the different types of prints available to the parents.

msmedia-6824 karate child

The toughest sessions were the white on white. Using a flash meter was invaluable in nailing the exposure for the subjects while letting the white background fall a bit to grey for a touch of contrast.

msmedia-6887 karate pose with weapons

Depth of Field was critical to keep all of the subject in focus given some of the angles we were shooting at. F8 was the min F stop I used with my 24-70 Nikon lens and D700 body.

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I worked with the instructors and leaders to get good proper poses that really could show off the students and have a high impact look. One of the options I had offered was a “magazine cover” so getting a good pose that would fit into the magazine was critical.

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The breaking of boards is always a parent favorite and the students too. So we had a supply of boards and let them have at it. The flash was able to stop the motion for a clean action shot.

Also posted in commercial photography, technique

Sand Soccer Team Pictures

Shooting soccer is a lot of fun since it’s a fast paced game and often times, a lot of action. With kids, the action slows down a bit but they are no less serious about their games and just as enjoyable to shoot. There is a different subgroup called “sand soccer” where the teams play on the beach. It’s very intense play on a smaller pitch than normal soccer.

Sand Soccer collage 1

A few things I’ve learned in shooting on the sand, is that you need to get a few neutral density filters if you want to run a reasonably shallow depth of field. If you have one, a circular polarizer filter is even better to be able to knock back some of the glare. Shooting at ISO 200, F 6.3 will be pushing the shutter speed upwards of 1/4000 on a cloudy day. Also remember to add minus one ( -1) compensation to your exposure to help make up for the extreme reflection coming off the sand which acts just like snow and will throw off your metering. I don’t really like shooting with spot metering for this type of image. The spot is promised to be on the wrong spot half the time. I use center-weighted which gives me some forgiveness if I am not aimed exactly where I need to be. The camera is set to continuously focus and also to shoot release+focus. In this mode, the camera won’t wait for the first time to sharp focus but will get it for the second. This keeps me from missing key shots while the camera tries to decide who and what is in focus.

Both of these sets of images were taken with a Nikon D700 and using a 70-200mm F2.8 lens. I’ve tested in both manual and aperture priority modes and honestly, AP mode works just fine and can help with the fine tuning if the lighting is changing a lot like with cloud cover. I try to keep the shutter speeds about 1/1200 to /2000. The slightly lower speed still gives a sharp image but will let the feet/ball blur slightly. It is a balancing act to be sure.

Sand Soccer 2

Post processing will vary quite a bit depending on the lighting but on a cloudy day before prepared to add some black and a touch of red plus crank the daylight balance up a notch. All of this does assume you are shooting in RAW which is highly recommended in order to take advantage of recovering bright highlights even when the exposure is set correctly.

DO NOT shoot this type of game without a sealed camera. The sand will get into the normal consumer camera and destroy it. Do NOT even think about changing lenses out on the beach. You can bag the camera using a zip lock baggie and some rubber bands but the best tip would be to rent the gear and then return it when you are done.

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Make Believe Awards

I wish I was there. How many times have I heard this about the Oscar awards in Hollywood. The Oscar award ceremony is always a popular around the house here. My wife loves to take advantage of the show as her excuse to “dress up” and have some fun with like minded movie folks. What has evolved over the years is that she takes on a costume of something related to the Oscars.  This year she rented a runway dress suitable for the awards and I did fast session against a grey background with the intent of putting her “into the Oscars” or at least in a movie style bake believe setting.

Why grey?  Because while white can look like rim lighting when you composite in your image, I would be working with mixed lighting images and I find that against the lighter dresses, grey works really well to help cut it out. The brightness of a light dress makes it  hard to get a clean edge against the white. And black is too noticeable when you don’t get a nice tight edge.

This image is one of the series I took of Jeanne in the runway dress. I used a single 42 inch octo with a 1600 watt alien bee. I had a V card reflector on the left side.

Jeanne on grey background for oscars

For one background, I used a image I found on Google of the past Oscar awards and chopped a section out of it. I had to do a touch of clean up to remove some feet and so on but I think overall it worked pretty good.
Jason-Sudeikis-stepped-back-take-snap-his-pregnant-fiancée

I then removed Jeanne from the grey background and added to her to my new background at the Oscars. I added a shadow to help add some depth.
Jeanne on Oscar red carpet

I also used a set up image of the Kodak theater and did some cropping and enlarging to get the sizing close.
Jeanne at Kodak theater
None of this compositing was difficult but the tricks like shooting on grey made it a lot easier than it could have gone. Another trick is that I use an average blue layer to blend in the different tones of the two images. That really smooths out the color blending, brightness and such. I also used a slightly different pose with the purse because that better fit the overall “theme” of my base images. If you can get 90% of the image to look right, the brain will fill in the rest without too much difficulty.

Also posted in composites, editing, photography, technique Tagged , , |

Shooting Soccer Games

Summer Soccer Shooting

Most folks that I shoot with know that I will use my iPhone for any number of photography tasks. Even at a wedding because the iPhone excels at macro shots like shooting the wedding rings very close to show off the details. But, there are times that you really need to use the proper camera and lens to get the best picture. Much like a carpenter who has five different hammers, a good photographer will have a few different cameras and knows when it is time to switch it up and change the camera to get the best picture they can. And it IS all about the picture, not what hardware you shot it with.

 Goalie Megan Blocking Ball

This summer, I’ve been shooting soccer games on the weekends. I have to say I really enjoy watching the kids mix it up and a few times, some of the more adventurous will try moves they saw used in the World Cup games. Shooting soccer games, even in daylight has some interesting challenges to work around. You have a very fast paced game, you normally have harsh light which is also directional and you need to be able to stand at one end and still get the shot at the other end of the pitch (field).

To be successful at this type of shooting, you need to balance several competing settings. You need to shoot with a long lens and and after shooting with a micro four thirds and my DSLR, I would only recommend the DSLR in combination with 70-200 mm lens at the minimum. And not any DSLR will do, you need to have a fast focusing system that can track and focus continuously.  My system is a Nikon D700 using a Nikon 70-200 F2.8 lens. Yes, it is heavy but it has the reach along with just enough zoom to track 90% of the action.  The Nikon also has a decent high speed frame rate which can be as high as 8 frames per second with the right grip and battery pack. And yes, you will need this burst mode to really catch the fast action on the field. Also, you will need high capacity cards since burst shooting chews through megabytes of card space in a  hurry. I typically shoot through one 16 Mb CF card per game which is roughly 500 images.

Olivia Chasing the Ball

The lighting will be your curse because most of the time, these games are outside in harsh directional light of morning or afternoon sun. You will need to move to one side or the other to get the best light so the kid’s faces are not in heavy shadow. This means you will be moving around a fair amount so forget the big camera bag. I never change lenses or use a flash during these games so I have a “man-purse” which is a shoulder slung belly pack which has spare memory cards, spare batteries, lens cloth and some gaffers tape. I also keep my light meter in it. And yes, I use a light meter to get my first settings of the day. I shoot the games on full manual mode. Why? Why not use aperture priority (Av)? Because with consistent exposure, my post processing is much faster. If I find that for 20 mins, the lighting was one way, I can set all the images during that window to the same adjustment. My ISO is locked down to 400 and my shutter is locked to anywhere from 1/1000 to 1/4000 of second. As much as I like a bit of blur to show motion, I want the kid’s faces sharp so its a delicate balance. I normally just live with the lack of blur in exchange for a crisp image that will print well for the parents.

I also use a lens hood but not that hard plastic disaster that Nikon gives me. I have a nice rubber Mamiya lens hood that originally was for a medium format lens. It’s black and folds back on itself if I need it out-of-the-way. More importantly is that when something hits it, the rubber bends and absorbs the impact. Think about a spectator on the line not paying attention to where my lens is as they get overly excited. I’ve saved many a head with this rubber lens hood.

When you shot, always try to think ahead of where the action is going. Constantly be aware of where the ball is, where it’s going and who might be kicking it. Use your fastest burst mode and learn to shoot with a gentle touch on the trigger. If you see the player getting close to the goal, start burst shooting to have a chance getting  the actual goal shot. This is ALWAYS a hero shot as the player pushes the ball past the goalkeeper. Conversely, a save of the attempted goal is also a hero shot that is often times overlooked by the photographer.

Attempted Goal

At the end of the day, you will need to sort through hundreds of images but there will be some real gems along with the out of focus shots, just missed shots and accidental shots. There will always be one or two shots that sum up the game’s action for the day. I make up faux magazine covers to showcase a player who has an exceptional image.

Magazine Cover Soccer Olivia

I also give parents a custom app on their mobil devices with images of their child when they purchase a package from me. These images will be downloaded to the mobile device and can easily be shared with various social media sites right from the phone or tablet. For a live demo of the custom app, click here.

Smartphone Album

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Disney on Ice, How to shoot low light with an iPhone

Most photographers panic when they have to shoot low light with fast motion. They start to blubber on about needing uber-high ISO and uber-expensive glass. For those with smartphones like the iPhone, the common thought is “Don’t even bother, it won’t work”. And truly, for most photographers and most common users of the iPhone, that is true. And it’s true because they keep banging their head against the problem instead of thinking smart and letting that smartphone do it’s job.

First, let me show you what you can do with an iPhone when it’s in a dark place with a very bright spot light and something moving fast like the “Disney on Ice” show.

 

Disney on ice,  Beauty and the Beast

So the first thought is “Whoahhh”.. that’s an iPhone picture? You must have special access, special software, special lens blah, blah.. There is NO way I could do that. And you would be completely wrong about your assumptions. I shot this with an iPhone 5S and using an app called ProCamera for a couple of reasons. The app lets me set my exposure and focus points in two different places and it lets me save a TIFF file so I can really work with the image after the fact in something like Lightroom.

ProCamera is a replacement camera app for the iPhone that just rocks it. You get TIFF format, Fullscreen triggering, antishake and more like the separated focus and exposure points. At 99 cents, you cannot go wrong with it

I also use a desktop editor to get the best out of the TIFF files but for fast posting to Facebook, I will use Snapseed then re-edit later on when I get home. That editing with Lightroom or other desktop editor is the magic secret sauce to get the very best out of smartphone image. The TIFF gives you the latitude to work the shadows and highlights to recover details without ruining the image.

A very important trick is to learn to anticipate a slowing in the action to mimize the blurring OR to use the blurring to help tell the story. If you cannot fix a liability then embrace it and make it your own. In this image, I knew there would be tons of movement but I also knew some of the skaters would be pausing so I had the best of both worlds. I had the grand finale with the fireworks which I had set my exposure to and I had motion that made the image dynamic.
Disney on Ice finale

This is the trick, use a liability and turn it into a positive which in this case is the inherent blurring.

When you shoot something like this, don’t be afraid to try a few techniques like using the OEM HDR or alternative camera apps. Also, use techniques like panning to help lock focus on your subject, just don’t whack your neighbor. The flash off the iPhone in an event like this is useless and obnoxious to your neighbors so don’t forget to turn it off. Most of these images were cropped down some since I was not what you would call “close to the action” so keep your subjects away from the edge of the frame as you shoot.

Also posted in composites, editing, iPhone

Holiday Pictures, Santa Claus, Travels and More

Christmas means more than just family time, it is a time to get some really spectacular holiday pictures of the family on the road or with relatives. It’s also a time to see some places all decked out in their holiday best. Disneyland is a special place to my family and we actually stay at one of the hotels every few years as a “stay-cation” for the kids rather than traveling long distances. Trying to fly a family of five somewhere is very expensive and driving is not much cheaper so we just go the 30 minutes or so to Disneyland and leave our troubles behind for a few days.

One of the keys for nice pictures at any park, ship, theme park or even just in front of the Christmas tree is shallow depth of field. You blur out the distractions but leave them clear enough so people can sorta tell what they are and where you are. It makes for a nice background that adds to the story.  I typically keep my camera at an F stop between 2.8 and 5.6 with Aperture mode locked in place. When I’m at Disney with the kids, things move way too fast to be in full manual mode much of the time but I want that F stop locked to control the DOF.

Three sisters at Condor Flats at California Adventure, Disneylan

This particular image along with a relatively shallow DOF also uses the popup flash to throw some light on the faces. I had moved the kids from sun to shadow and I wanted the eyes to sparkle a bit. So up goes the popup flash and I dialed it down -2 so not to over power the nice light reflecting off the cement.

Night shots are the best in my opinion as you get all the color lights and such that people put up. In this case, full manual is almost mandatory as the camera will try to exposure the black sky and blow out the lights themselves. I use a bit more DOF so I’m shooting through the sharpest part of my lens and I crank up the ISO to compensate for this. The ability to shoot clean at a high ISO is one of the big benefits for shooting with either a very HQ small sensor camera or a full frame sensor like my Nikon D700.

Its a small world at Christmas

So get out your camera and shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Holidays are special days and it’s a great time to get some very memorable images of your loved ones. You never know what tomorrow will bring so enjoy today.

Also posted in Articles, portraits, technique, Travel, venue

The fine art of high speed panning

So this post is about few different things. First, it is a test of using SmugMug galleries in my WordPress blog. It’s a nice demo to the art of “Panning” where you track a subject with your camera while swinging the camera one way or another. The subject can be NASCAR race cars or just a kid running at high speed. The idea of the pan is to keep the subject sharp while providing motion blur on the background which gives the image a very dynamic feel of motion.

In the case of my NASCAR images, I was panning with the subject hitting somewhere around 180 MPH. With a 200mm lens on a crop sensor, I was having to pan very fast side to side. I was also shooting at a shutter between 1/320 to 1/800 of second which normally would stop the action but given the high speeds in involved, gave just enough motion to the tires and background to keep the cars from looking like models set on a track.

That is the magic for any panning shots like this. You want and need to show motion. With the race cars, it would have looked “Wrong” if the tires were as sharp as the cars and you could read the letters. With the tires blurred, you have a very sense of motion and that the picture looks “right”. This is the same reasoning why when shooting warbirds at an airshow, you want the props blurred some. No blur or not enough blur and the airplane just looks “wrong” to us. Motion can provide visual tension and a very dynamic feel to an image. And it does not have to be alot of motion, just a touch will work wonders depending on the image.

 

[smugmug url=”http://michaelsweeneyphotography.smugmug.com/hack/feed.mg?Type=gallery&Data=11352184_xkV9Hh&format=rss200″ title=”NASCAR%20-%20Fontana” description=”NASCAR%20racing%20at%20AAA%20Raceway%20in%20Fontana%20California” imagecount=”50″ start=”1″ num=”50″ thumbsize=”Th” link=”lightbox” captions=”false” sort=”true” window=”true” smugmug=”true” size=”L”]

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The Great Gatsby Photog Shootout at the Tangled Vine

Our SoCal Photog Shootout group had an amazing time in San Juan Capistrano at the Tangled Vine Florist for a Great Gatsby themed shootout. Why a florist? Because The Tangled Vine has a way cool shop which used to be an old home. The Tangled Vine is on a quiet street behind the train station and has all kinds of fun areas to shoot in. They had some of their wares on display to use as props for the models and to be used to help decorate the sets.

tangled Vine Flower Arrangements

I was asked to be a leader for the first time,  so I decided to cover image composition and using things around you as “frames” for the subject. Also, I went over some fun things like using alternative crops, using negative space and more.

We had pretty models and gorgeous vintage clothing plus jewelry to really set things off. And as it happened, we had a classic car of the correct vintage crash our party and the owner let us use it briefly as a prop. How cool is that?

The models had some amazing hair and makeup done by some of our favorite make up artists. And they pulled out the stops for this shoot. Everybody really got into the theme and had alot of fun with it.

This would be an amazing idea for an different kind of wedding session and would be relatively easy to pull together.   Themed weddings are so much fun for both the bride and groom plus the guests. They make for awesome memories that are very unique and everybody likes to see even years later.

 

STYLIST:

Hope Stanley

MAKE UP

Amanda McDaniel
Joyce Luck

Hair

Diego Ortega

Assisted by:

Heather Renee
Jenny Sims
Brissa Watson

FLOWERS:

The Tangled Vine

LEADERS:

Matthew Saville
Kaylee Sizemore
Brett Hickman
Michael Sweeney
Brian Hamilton


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Also posted in editing, lightroom, photography, portraits, venue, wedding photography Tagged , , , , |

Mad Men Themed Photography Shootout

I’m a member of a local of photographers that gather every couple of months for a “shootout” where we have a themed photography event. This month, the event was a Mad Men themed “shoot out” where the group brought in  models, make up artists, photographers and rented a venue for a shoot that was a bit different than the normal “bridal” shoot. This Med Man shootout was held at “The Casino San Clemente” and offered a very different look and feel for the event.

Why are these events important? Because they offer a chance for local photographers to network with each other, to meet fresh faces for models, work with  talented and local make up artists plus to work in a venue that we might otherwise be unaware of. I had never heard of this Casino venue in San Clemente but now I know about it and what it can bring to my own clients looking for something unique.

Our shootouts would be considerably lacking if it were not for our stylists and make up artists. Here is who put together the awesome styling and make up for Mad Men

THE STYLISTS:
Heather Skelton   thesoundoflace.blogspot.com

Kaylee Sizemore   www.thetangledvineonlosrios.com

THE HAIR:

Diego Ortega – Lead Hair Stylist diegoortega.com  Assistant: Tricia Marie

THE MAKE-UP ARTISTS

Jennette Pulecio – Lead MUA and Casting www.jennettepulecio.com   Assistant: Amanda McDaniel

We had the perfect venue for this type of shoot and I highly recommend the venue for any affair that you want space and a cool vintage feel to the style of the venue.

The Casino San Clemente www.thecasinosanclemente.com

 

Here are some of my images that I made at the Mad Men shootout. When shooting this event, I tried to keep storytelling in mind and I tried visualize how they may have looked in the time frame that the series Mad Men is depicting.

A "film still" from Mad Men Shootout[pinit]

Blond bombshell admired by male admirer[pinit]

Don Draper Character from Mad Men photoshootout[pinit]

casino san clemente ball room[pinit]

[pinit]

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Disneyland Photowalk in October

So Scott Kelby is having the 4th annual photowalk on Oct 1, 2011 and in the spirit of that event, I am a leader for a photowalk at Disneyland. Why Disneyland? because it offers a way to involve the entire family in a photography event. Too often I find myself at some shoot or another without anyone from my family.  The kids are too young, it would require babysitters for my wife to tag along and truthfully, she would be lost at some of the events I go to.

So with the photowalk at Disneyland, we will be starting the walk at 8AM when the park opens and ending the official walk at 11AM which is just in time to grab a bite, meet up with the family and continue on the day at Disneyland, possibly with new friends.
Cotton Candy Face by Canon Point and Shoot
You can sign up here for my walk. You will need a season pass OR you need to get your tickets ahead of time. We will be meeting at the Compass Book store and cafe then walking into the park on Main Street.

All levesl of photographers are welcome to come but I can tell you from experience to leave the big zooms at home. Most times you will be shooting somewhere from 11mm to about 100mm. My favorite lens on a crop sensor body is the cheap 18-55mm VR nikon lens. If I feel ambitious, I will shoot with my D300 and my 17-55mm F2.8 lens which works out to be about an 80mm lens due to the 1.5x factor. The 70-200mm F2.8 is rarely out of the bag and tends to draw too much attention. If you want to go light, then just bring a 50mm lens and use your feet to “zoom” 🙂

 

 

 

Disneyland E TicketEnjoying Big Thunder Mountain

Disneyland Classic Star Tours Trifecta

 

Riding the Rockets

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