Of Things to Come - Tuscany

I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Tuscany recently to work with one of the photographers who has been a major inspiration to me: Damien Lovegrove.  How often can someone say they had the chance to learn from someone who’s inspired a major portion of their work?  I’d never been to Italy, and since I had the time and the funds set aside, I went for it!

Our base of operations was a villa just outside of Volterra, Italy.  Most of us had gathered on the patio of the villa after having checked in.  And as the sun was going down, Damien encouraged us to take some photos at sunset.  I saw these two glasses set up on a barrel, and with the sun going down, I took the shot.

ISO 200 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 50mm f/11 1/240sec

ISO 200 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 50mm f/11 1/240sec

I liked the above shot a lot! But Damien came over to me and saw what I was doing. He asked one of my fellow photographers to pick up a wine glass, and Damien took the other one, then he told me to take this next shot.

ISO 200 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 110.6mm f/4.5 1/240sec

Voila!  Damien looked at the shot on my camera’s screen and said, “There! You just took a wonderful editorial shot!”

That was all Damien.  I had no idea what I was doing.  Or at least I wasn’t cognizant of it at the time.  During the following three days, I learned a lot from Damien about photography and light, some of which I’ll be blogging about over the next few weeks.  It was a wonderful three day workshop and a dream come true for me.  Damien is a generous person, freely giving his knowledge away.  Our model, Terez, was one of the best models I’ve ever worked with.  And my fellow photographers were such a joy and pleasure to get to know.

More to come on the workshop, and — of course — there will also be an “On The Run” blog entry as well, because … hey, it’s what I enjoy!

Tender, by Flyaway Productions

Imagine dancers zipping about above street level and that's what happened over a two week period outside the Cadillac Hotel.  Just like music has had power since the beginnings of human history, so has movement and dance.

What happened above the street that day was an aerial performance titled "Tender", by Flyaway Productions.  As always, I was there with my camera, not to document the event for Flyaway Productions, but for Kathy who hosts the concerts at the Cadillac Hotel.  "Tender" describes Kathy to a "t".  She's kind and giving, and cares deeply for the people who live at the Cadillac Hotel.  The final dance set -- there were three -- was named and dedicated to her.

I used the Fuji 50-140mm f/2.8 lens exclusively and shot wide open at f/2.8.  I set the shutter speed to auto since it was bright outside and the shutter speed never dropped below 1/1000sec.  The 50-140mm lens has the equivalent field of view of a 70-200mm lens on a full frame camera.  Shots were taken over two days.

Normally, I comment about each photo, but in this instance I'll let the photos speak for themselves.  Hopefully you'll see the story unfolding in the photos and come to the end of this blog entry with as much awe and respect for the work that went into this production as everyone who witnessed it did.

An Unexpected Visitor

How often do you get this lucky?

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/680sec

I don't remember what I was doing at the time, but I just happened to look out the back window of my apartment and outside was this massive bird, a Great Blue Heron.  It just stood there, looking at something.  I'm not sure what it was looking at.  It could have been a gopher, but if there was one, I didn't see it.

I quickly grabbed my X-T2 and mounted the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens, which has the equivalent field of view of a 70-200mm on a full frame camera.

The bird stood still for me for several minutes while I snapped its photo.  Have a look at the detail of the above image, now cropped.

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/680sec

Amazing detail, eh?  I'm continually impressed by the sharpness of the Fuji glass.  The beauty of the heron’s feathers — especially the lines — are amazing!

Here's one more, just before my friend took off into the sky...

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/1250sec

I'm not sure if this is a fighting stance or what...  But the heron wasn't looking directly at anyone in particular that I could tell.  There was no one directly in front of it, but something got it to ruffle its feathers!

Hopefully this heron will come back once in a while for more shots!

Captured Memories - Stars & Stripes 5K

The "Captured Memories" blog postings usually just focus on a single photo, but this time around I couldn't help myself.  Just like last year on July 4th, I volunteered as a photographer at Brazen Racing's Stars & Stripes 5K race in downtown Concord, CA.  It's a wonderful location for race.  American flags flying everywhere!  I had run the Armed Forces Half Marathon there at the end of May and the whole community seemed to be out there to cheer us on!

This first shot was taken early in the morning with the 16-55mm f/2.8 lens mounted on my Fuji X-T1 while the race was being set up.  I wanted to try to get the officer while in motion so that I could capture an image of the flag unfurled.  I got pretty close to doing so.

ISO 400   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 38.8mm   f/2.8   1/80sec

ISO 400   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 38.8mm   f/2.8   1/80sec

The next shot is the kid's run.  It's an approximately 100 yard dash that goes around the perimeter of Todos Santos Plaza.  I shot it with the 50-140mm f/2.8 lens mounted on my second Fuji X-T1.

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 124.3mm   f/2.8   1/220sec

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 124.3mm   f/2.8   1/220sec

It's not just the bigger kids though who get to run the race, but the little ones as well.  I'm touched by the moms and dads carrying or walking with their babies, especially when the little ones start grinning from ear to ear.

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 54.1mm   f/2.8   1/250sec

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 54.1mm   f/2.8   1/250sec

After the kids race, the 5K race started.

The next three shots each spoke something interesting to me that can each be encapsulated in a few simple words.

This one says FRIENDSHIP.

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 54.1mm   f/2.8   1/350sec

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 54.1mm   f/2.8   1/350sec

This one says VICTORY AFTER THE STRUGGLE.

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 115mm   f/2.8   1/450sec

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 115mm   f/2.8   1/450sec

This one says WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER.

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/480sec

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/480sec

This next shot was totally unexpected.  I had been taking photos of the runners as they were lining up at the post-race refreshment table and saw this lady chatting with various folks in the crowd.  At first I thought she was a nurse, but she was with Body Love Cafe, who were providing free sports massages after the race.

I'm not sure what her name was, but we locked eyes and then I brought my camera up and she posed.  As soon as I took the shot, I knew that I had a nice, impromptu, portrait on my hands.  It was taken with the Fuji X-T1 and 16-55mm F/2.8 lens wide open.  The lighting is all natural with no flash, and it just has a simple elegance about it.

ISO 200   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 36.5mm   f/2.8   1/180sec

ISO 200   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 36.5mm   f/2.8   1/180sec

And that's a wrap for Stars & Stripes 5K 2018!

You're probably wondering why I used the X-T1s for this event and not a combination of the X-T1/T2.  I decided a few months ago that for sporting events like races, I'd stick mostly with the X-T1.  The color rendition is amazing, and even though it's "only" a 16MP sensor, it captures images very well.  For sports, having something tack sharp is necessary if you're taking photos for publication.  But for a race like this, not so much because it's a community event, and most folks will download the photos and post them on social media vs printing them up.  And as you can see from this blog posting, the photos turned out appropriate for the medium that they're being used in!

Captured Memories - Hold My Hand, Dad, and Lead Me

It's Father's Day -- yes, this blog posting is a day early -- and I wanted to share this particular shot which I took during a race three months ago.  It was taken a few moments after the runners took off on their 5K out and back in Pacifica in March 2018.  I have no idea who this father and son are, but the image says so much about fathers and their children.

While I can't speak from personal experience since I'm not a dad, I do know that fathers are the ones who serve as the authoritative anchor for their children.  It's a tough job, especially when some fathers are under-appreciated.  To all the fathers out there, we see you and we thank you for being that anchor in our lives, for showing us what justice and mercy are.  And thank you most of all for leading us, for holding out your hand to us and moving us forward, wherever the road may go.

Bethlehem AD - Angels We Have Heard On High

Probably the most popular part of Bethlehem AD is the stable and manger, and the angels above it.  And it's a magnificent sight to behold.  Fourteen angels dancing above and around the manger itself, with music the brings back memories of 2000 Decembers ago.  (If that sounds like a song by Joy Williams, it is.)

This first shot was actually taken from the roof across the street while I was with the rooftop angels.  This was opening night.  The color temperature is correct, as that was lighting scheme that night.  I normally shoot photos with the X-T2 using the Pro-Neg Standard film simulation, which mutes the colors.  But since colors are important for this event, I shot with the Standard film simulation for both the X-T1 and the X-T2.  The X-T1 had the 50-140mm f/2.8 lens mounted, while the X-T2, during performance nights, had the 16-55mm f/2.8 lens mounted.  Some of the shots below are intermixed with the full dress rehearsal as that was the night I could get up close to the angels and give each one their own personal close-up.

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 115mm   f/2.8   1/60 sec

This next shot is what the perspective of the angels is like looking at their counterparts across the street.  You can see that I'm really pushing the ISO this time around with the X-T2.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 1600   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125 sec

Next are a few close-ups of the angels, all shot during the dress rehearsal night using prime lenses.  Again, you can see that I'm going a little crazy with the ISO, but the results are still pretty good!

Fuji X-T2   ISO 2000   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125 sec

Fuji X-T2   ISO 2000   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125 sec

Fuji X-T2   ISO 800   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/160 sec

Fuji X-T2   ISO 800   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/160 sec

Of course, more important than the angels is the manger itself, and the Holy Family seated there.  Each night, it's a real family and a real baby laying in the manger.  It's admirable that these volunteer families will stay there for over three and a half hours, playing their roles with dedication and diligence.

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 50mm   f/2.8   1/60 sec

This next shot was one of the few moments where I was able to get all of the angels in motion.  I had to shoot from the side because this was on closing night and there were huge crowds watching off to the left of the frame.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens   f/2.8   1/50 sec

Of course, I have to end this blog posting with my key photo for the 2017 event.  This shot wasn't planned.  But when I was on the roof, I saw and had to go for it.  As you can see, I used the 56mm lens for this shot, which I think helped preserve the sharpness of the angels in the distance.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 800   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125 sec

That may be it for Bethlehem AD 2017, but 2018 will be its 26th year!  May it continue on and on!

Bethlehem AD - Romans

Yes, Romans!  If there's one group that really catches the attention of the crowds visiting Bethlehem AD, it's definitely the Romans.  While the villagers are within the walls of Bethlehem AD, the Roman soldiers and dignitaries are everywhere.  You'll find them walking the line of people waiting to get in -- just as in the photo below -- or walking through the village.

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/60 sec

For the most part, the soldiers are always in motion, and thus hard to capture, except for moments like the next photo where they stopped and posed for the crowd.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 800 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 28.3mm   f/2.8   1/60 sec

There's even a small Roman camp located within the walls of Bethlehem AD.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

Along the line of the crowd, one of the more interesting things is how some of the actors interact with folks.  Below is an actor playing King Herod's valet.  He's asking the little boy if the little boy has any information about the one called "the King of the Jews".  In his left hand, he's got some pieces of silver.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 17mm   f/2.8   1/50 sec

And the next shot are King Herod and his entourage.  Herod and his valet have to stay in character for the photos!

Fuji X-T2  ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 24.9mm   f/2.8   1/50 sec

Next is a neat shot I took of the Roman soldiers just before the gates of Bethlehem AD opened.  I used just the available light and really cranked up the ISO because I knew the flash wouldn't make things look too good.  I wanted to make the shot looked natural.  I also used the 16mm Fuji prime lens for the shot.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 2000   16mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.4   1/125 sec

The high ISO and the slightly higher shutter helped me freeze them in action, and most importantly, eliminate any camera-shake on my part.  They were standing as still as possible for the shot, but I needed that extra buffer just to make sure because it really was dark.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 25.7mm   f/2.8   1/60 sec

Next week we'll take a look at the stable and the manger itself!