Time for Convention Hell!

The annual Halloween bash that is Convention Hell is getting ready to go down at Asbury Park’s Convention Hall. For the past three years Dark City Entertainment has put on what has become, the party of the year. The entire arena is transformed into a gigantic concert hall of spookiness and select local bands grace the stage to cover some of their favorite artists. While song is the highlight of the night, this is the one event where I will bypass the music photos for some step and repeat portrait stylings. Of course with everyone being in costume and when the opportunity presents itself, I just have to play around with the shots.  A little diddy I made up of the hostess and her bill, no this is not the official flyer.

When you have 800 people attend an event, in some amazing costumes, can it get any better for a portrait guy? Me thinks not.  Two of my favorite from last years gala:

I have never been that slick in doing composites, it still takes me forever to cut something out, but the more you try the better you get, I think. One of those things that in person instruction would be a blessing. Online classes don’t cut it for me for this. This next one I think I have used somewhere before, but I really like their look so I popped them on a new background:

These guys are from two years ago and is one of the first composites I did from these shows when I started acquiring backgrounds.

Well, blood and ghoul is part of the mantra of the season…

Turn of the century NY set in London? Little help with this period style please…

Love this dude, The Purge….

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by, See you on the 28th!

Phil

Exposing Moving Water: How long is too long?

After going through all my Waterfall Photographs I began to wonder how long is too long when it comes to long exposures of moving water. What is the right shutter speed to use? Well, there actually is no correct answer to that one, it is all up to the individuals preference. Yes, there is a base time frame you need to achieve to get that smooth look, but i learned the size of the body of water you are photographing also has a great deal of influence on that decision.

As an afternoon group activity, we hit up Seven Tubs recreational area out in Wilkes Barre, PA earlier in the summer.  A small little hike in which the water has carved out its own path through the rocks. The swimming holes are littered about and some of them contain enough room on the run ins to be used as a slide. That is if you are brave and skilled enough to avoid the jagged edges.

This was the most photogenic area of the afternoon for me, but it was littered with people. I set up shop and waited for a few to leave. The last family saw what I was doing and were kind enough to step back and let me do my thing for a few minutes.

I came across this little stream that dumps into a pond/wading area and decided it would be the perfect place to try my little experiment that came to mind when I was shooting the waterfalls a few days earlier.  What do varying shutter speeds look like with rapidly moving water. The first photo is a ten second exposure. Nice, but lacking personality. Way too long in my opinion. 

The next photo is four seconds, a little more appealing, but still too long for my liking. 

Two Seconds.  More of the same. 

One Second. Close, but still doesn’t fit. Some shape is starting to emerge, but still lost in translation. 

Half a second. This is where it started to get interesting. The wisps and swirls of water become pronounced.

Quarter of a second. This is my favorite. I needed to catch up to everyone so I did not go any shorter. 

What amazed me was the big difference between 0.5 seconds and 0.25 seconds.  I bet 0.125 would have looked even better. Beyond that though I would have my doubts. I loved how the layers of water started to come out and you can actually see the different directions of movement it was taking.  Experiment, learn, adapt.

I have yet to get into true long exposures, hopefully sometime soon.  Not my thing, but always good to understand.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

The Ricketts Glen Romp

If you are following along – Meanwhile out at Dance Nationals, we had an off day to begin the week. The girls went and did their thing, and I had a chance to go out and do some exploring. Our base of operations was in Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania, right down the road from Split Rock Resort. The cabin we rented fit all five of our families comfortably and we even talked about what a nice area this would be for a vacation home. And we continue to dream.

Just over an hour north was Ricketts Glen State Park, a destination I had pegged out due to the twenty-two waterfalls located along a seven mile loop. You can’t go wrong with that one. I did enough research of the place to figure out I really only needed to traverse just over five miles to take in all the sights and sounds of nature I could not wait to get a hold of. This place is a photographic gold mine and you can get in a decent work out while wandering about.

Once you figure out your plan of attack grab a snapshot of one of these located in either of the parking areas to help you identify where you are and which fall is which. Unfortunately, I have no idea where my notes went to so I can not remember the names of each of  waterfall that is pictured. Following the advice of the article I took research from I parked in the Lake Rose parking area and proceed to head right at the fork down the Ganoga Glenn side.

My logic heading of in this direction was simple, it was stated to be less steep than other side and I would also get right to it instead of taking the hike cross trail. Right off the bat a challenge presented itself. I have always had a hard time trying to convey the depth of a waterfall when shooting from the top of it. I’ll get it figured out one day. All part of the learning process that goes on every time I press that little button.

I have three different angles on this one. I just could not seem to get one I was very happy with. Being so mesmerized by the landscape and the inability to get a composition I felt good about I did not even pay attention to the small breeze that was blowing. Like, at all. The results from that are blurry branches. Time to bring the iPad for a bigger view perhaps. I am a big proponent of an EyeFi card, this allows me to send tiny images to my phone for the social thing but I am sure it can just as easily be set up with the iPad as well.

This photo looks like it should be Ganoga Falls. A massive beast. If you can zoom in there are a couple of people at the top of the falls to give you some perspective.

On the left of the photo below you can get an idea of what the easy portion of trails are like. Check out those steps though at the top. In many of those cases there was often an alternative route, but it was rarely ever easier. It just looked like it was.

For all the water that was being carried over the falls, I kept wondering where it all went. Just kind of dispersed once it got to the bottom.

My exposures averaged 10 – 20 seconds around f 16. I had 30 seconds on a few of them, this was too long and resulted in the branch blur. I had a polarizer and a two stop ND on the lens. I alternated between the 16-35 and the 24-70 for pretty much the whole hike I believe. I had the grads with me but it does not look like I used them. 

It had been a while since I was out in this element shooting, and you can certainly rehash your knowledge and skills very quickly with the amount of scenery on the hike. We went to one other place during the week and I will go over what I found when I used varying shutter speeds. Thus, when is long to long. It will all come down to personal preference I am sure, but it is going to be interesting for certain. 

If I am remembering correctly, this spot was one of the three on the lower trail and one of my favorite. A narrow stream of water busting out over the top and widening once it started getting to the bottom.

There were not many people in the water which I was thankful for, but there were a few locations where a dip looked doable.

My favorite image of the day, and the one that has made its way to my wall, blurry branches and all. I am glad I go here, learned a great deal.

Thanks for stopping by!!

Phil

 

The recital that almost didn’t happen

Got to keep the train rolling here and see how long it takes me to catch up to present day from a summer of craziness. At the other end of the wedding that kicked it off, the next week we had our last dance recital. Looking back it seems like forever ago, for all the trouble the girls went through, their last time dancing together was a beautiful and heart warming event. To briefly recap the weeks leading up to it, the dance studio abruptly closed and with it any hope of having a recital or seeing the competition team perform at Nationals. However, the parents and teachers called foul and brought a community together. Donations poured in allowing the recital to go off as planned and garnering enough support to send the competition team off to Nationals as well.  An enormous thanks again to all who came through, and much love to Amy Cowley of Jersey Shore Performing Arts Center for leading the way.

The night was full of stars, but this one stole the show

I do not know if she was the youngest dancer of the night, but she was close. The teams youngest dancer had my eye all season. She has so much talent, more than she knows I do believe, and she was rocking it all year-long.

The next young lady has been in front of my lens on numerous occasions, never takes a bad photo and always gives me great material.

As a group it was difficult for me to see the season end the way it did. They all deserved so much more, they all have gone their separate ways now that the studio is closed, but all remain friends and in contact with each other. Mine is off at her first year of college doing a minor in dance, one is concentrating on her beautiful singing voice and the rest are still getting it done with their current dance schools.

And that trip to Nationals, well it resulted in a first overall in their category! The song to which they danced to, most apropos for today, is called No Hate. Check out the theme of month for a shot we set up during some down time. When you have the girls in a setting like we were in you just have to have a little fun.

Love baby. All we need is Love.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

Summer? What Summer…

Summer? What Summer. If anyone knows where it went, please let me know. I do not think I have ever experienced those three months, you know, June, July, August, that seemed to go by so fast. The weather was a bit funky too as August had many windows open days, certainly great for the electric bill but I still missed the whole hanging outside thing. Since it was gone in the blink of an eye I will attribute this to one thing in particular, the full-time job had me losing my mind. One persons decision destroyed three months for me, funny thing is he is no longer employed by us. Go figure.  Now that things are settled down, I am slowly returning to a normal existence and recalling all the good things that happened.

My saving grace has always been the photo gig, my other life, really my real life.  The good part of the summer started off when I was hired to shoot a wedding, on the beach, in the middle of June and with a bunch of friends in attendance. This was a lifesaver for me emotionally and I was riding this high for the rest of the month. By choice I do not do many weddings. I love the smaller more intimate ones the best, the ones where people in attendance mean something to each other. Less than 100 people, preferably less than 50. Give me a private affair with 20 people and I am in my glory. Very chill with enough room and time to get everything accomplished. When it really comes down to it, we all have a close group of people we associate with, they all mean something to the heart and are not just a relative of a relatives friend. The past two weddings I did my wife manned the video for me. We did this as an experiment really to see how it would come out. So far so good and now I need to learn how to edit video.

Over the next few posts I will be sharing a few of the summer shoots, all people aside from one longish hike and some falls. Um, waterfalls.

Donna and Joe have been friends for years and they finally had the opportunity to become one. Both are paramedics, both are parents. Joe is also a Police Officer and Donna is even a grandma! So what it really comes down to, is both know how to relax and both know how to throw party. The weather was beautiful for their chosen day, slightly windy and a bit overcast so no one wilted in their fancy clothes.

I was pregaming with the bride, enjoyed some Mimosas and some killer window light

Did not see Joe till we were at the beach, of course he was doing his best to stay undercover

This next image..the look into each others eyes, no words need be spoken but they are actually both saying – I got you now…

A couple of after the ceremony Beach Portraits of course,

And one that we broke out into song while under the boardwalk

What do you think happened with this? Surprisingly, they both stayed clean

And at the end of the night when the adults were just getting started, the youngest ones were the smartest. Thank You Donna and Joe for kicking off the summer right!

Till the next time, Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

A Community of Love

This one is a little tough for me to talk about. After attending our dance school for 13 years it has closed shop. Three weeks before recital, 5 weeks before nationals. Poof, done. No warning at all. Heartbreak, disappointment, betrayal and lord knows what other thoughts filled the minds of 75 students and their families. The five girls on the competition team have felt it the most, sticking by the studios owner last year while others departed for alternate places to dance. These are the girls that spend hours and hours a week at the studio, performing at competitions, proudly displaying their colors. Their life has been pulled out from underneath them.

When word got out about what had gone down, and it did not take long, the outpouring of love and support was incredible and 60 hours later we were able to get rehearsal space and the recital space we needed to see all of these dancers fulfill their ambitions and to show their families what they had learned during the year. Thank you to everyone who helped in getting this done. One of our teachers and our competition team advisory board are using all of their experience in arranging the show. Me, I am putting in my efforts and will be taking the group photos for all the dances at dress rehearsal. Of course this means I will not be doing my normal routine of shooting the dancers on stage, but I will be on it hard during the actual show.

Our next step is to obtain funding for the competition team to go to dance nationals. The money that had been put out by the teams parents is now gone. We do not know where it went or why it did not reach its destination, but what is done is done. We are hoping it went into keeping the studio open for as long as it could.  Hope and faith are a balancing act right now.

A Go Fund Me page for the girls has been established and lord willing, the goal will be reached and we will get them there. If you can help out just click the link. You will be a part of making five girls very, very happy.

I will check back in after recital. Lots and lots to do!

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

Thoughts of a Teen

My daughter is graduating high school in just a few weeks. The day we all hope for good weather so we can enjoy the outside ceremonies instead of the gym. Although, the way the weather patterns have been this year, if it is outside we just might need to wear our winter clothes. While her major is not yet determined, she will be going on for a minor in dance. All good, I had no idea either when I embarked upon that journey.

One of her final projects for english/creative writing was to pen a series of short stories or poems. I wanted to share with you the one she shared with me. Proud papa moments.

She lived for him.

For the way his eyes sparkle when he looks at her.
For when they’re together and all they feel is love surrounding them, never letting them go.
His soft voice sounded like flower petals flowing in the wind.
His hands felt like a smooth warm blanket keeping her secure.
His lips a velvety touch to hers, nothing like she’s ever felt before.
He made her feel like there was galaxies racing through her body.
Her soul danced for him.
Making sure he never stopped smiling.
When he is sad, her heart crumbles just wishing that she could do something, anything to make him feel the least bit happy.
They laughed together, loved together, were happy together.

There was no place she’d rather be.

But when times got rough, all she felt was guilt, like she wasn’t good enough to keep him happy.
Like she wasn’t great enough to keep him going.
Although, she was his light, she knew she kept him going even though it didn’t seem like it.
For all those times that she felt worthless and like nothing, he made it better.
He made her feel something real.
She felt important and appreciated.
She never felt a love so consuming of her body, mind and spirit.
He had been the one she was always looking for.
She strived to be his number one.
His only one.

Now the question was… did he live for her?

-Brittany Shepherd

 

We have often talked about a major in creative writing, even philosophy. Letting her find her own way on this path, time will tell.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Shout out to Dance Olympus/Dance America for keeping it real.

We have been traveling to dance competitions for the past ten years now, and I continually hear the same thing when it comes to capturing photographs of my girls – “no photos allowed to protect the dancers and the choreography of the dances”. While I have yet to understand how you can figure out choreography from stills, I do agree with trying to protect the dancers. Some joe schmo off the street walks in and starts popping away at the kids, not cool.  While I have mentioned this a few times, restraint and respect has curtailed me from unleashing a spree about the competitions only using this as an excuse to get more money from their attendees by selling them pictures. Which has led me to take a stance of refusing to purchase photos from any of them. Me taking photos of my team will not affect their sales in the least.  As much as this has infuriated me, I have dealt with it and not captured the girls on stage. Openly anyway.

I would like to give a big shout out to the folks at Dance America/Dance Olympus for keeping it real and allowing photography during their events. Their rules are No Video – makes perfect sense as this is how choreography really gets stolen, and no flash.  Absolutely agree there. Despise the use of flash when performing. We used to attend their events every year, and then the past three years or so the studio has had scheduling conflicts coinciding with the DA/DO events. The folks put on a very professional show and the last day is all workshops, which are required of dancers that compete. This is how you make money the right way. I will pay for good education any day. This organization allows me to do my thing, help promote our studio and give the girls a few chuckles while they look at their faces on the back of the camera.

As my daughter and her teammates have grown as dancers, I have grown as a photographer. I owe so much to them, many were my guinea pigs while I learned how to shoot in the studio. Each year we create a book for the dance school from whatever has been recorded, and a few of my prints even grace the walls. As I am sure someone is wondering about this, yes, I have full consent from the parents and our director.

And that is what I do, document our year. It is never easy capturing these dances, a style of shooting I am a bit rusty with. I did “cheat” during the solos and changed bodies to my high-speed crop sensor. When your environment is uncontrolled it is a must. If I was head on and had no distracting objects in my path perhaps I would have made a different decision. Eh, Probably not. Use the tools you have, that is what they are for. I was talking iso with  one of my music photographer friends and he was surprised when I told him that for my music stuff I am always at 5000. I can, it works for me so I do. The dance stuff I never go above 2500, especially with the crop body. Normally hanging around 2000 for this stuff as long as I can keep a decent shutter speed.

Our next competition that policy is in place so I will be gritting my teeth the whole weekend while I deal with that inane rule. My plea would be for the organizations who have this policy to state what it really means instead of hiding behind the attendees. The only thing that is being protected is the company that is selling the photos of a public event in a public place.

Well, I ended up teetering just a little bit there. Do not want to get carried away, so I am going to leave it be.

A few more from the fun filled weekend. This first dancer is the youngest on the team, she put in an outstanding solo hiding behind that mask. I get the feeling she has no idea how good she really is.

I have always loved those looks when you can tell they are fully immersed and invested in the number. Combined with the right music, it often will bring me to fatherly tears of joy. Yup, I admitted it.  My wife says I am a sap….  So be it.

Managed to capture one or two of the daughter that will be going on our walls. “But my arm is not straight” she says, exactly why it works. It is funny when they critique themselves though photos. Don’t do it. At the pinnacle of your movement it may have been perfect, I just did not record that point. Look at the video the organization is going to send you to do a critique. Just enjoy what we have in stills, and don’t worry, the bad ones do get deleted.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

 

The Final Season Begins

The final year for this era of competitive dance is now firmly upon my family as we head towards our first big event of the year. The team is smaller this time around, the daughter is a senior now, and she will be jamming out on stage with her four teammates about six more times before all is said and done. She has already been accepted to the dance program at the college she will be heading to in September, now she just needs to try out for their dance team. Yeah, I am confused about that too. Academic vs Elective?

Spent my normal run up to our first event of the year in the studio with the girls during rehearsals, and sat in for the dress rehearsal as well. I am always envious of the flexibility they have and continually say I need to do something about my own. Goals….

Even though the team is smaller this year the excitement is no less, especially with Britt doing a solo number. If I may have a father moment, I am incredibly proud of my young love, she has grown in to such a kind, caring and beautiful young lady.  Her dancing is full of expression and filled with passion.

On the flip side of this equation is the youngest dancer on the team, appearing quiet and a bit reserved, she has a smile that lights up a room and puts in a great solo of her own.

We have a nice mix of dances this year, a gorgeous lyrical number, couple of hip hop routines, a jazz and a tap in addition to the two solos. The dances are very different from what the girls are used to. For the first time in, well forever, they have a couple of different instructors bringing in some new styles and influences. Loving the fresh approach and I think the girls dig it too.

I actually called Tap predictable the other day. Compared to the other styles, photographically it is. BUT, Tap is incredibly difficult and watching it is a thing I marvel at. Shooting it is easy is all I am saying, still bunches of fun isolating the feet.

 The girls were questioning the gold jackets, but they look really sharp and fit the dance to a tee. I also think they are going to look great on the stage.

The techy, geeky stuff: On camera flash for Laura stretching, bounced off the mirror, Britt has the direct  light with a Rogue Grid attached. No flash while they were doing their routines – 2.2, 1/500th, 2000. I was done shooting when I remembered I had my 85 with me.  So of course I had to break it out and see what I could get. From that, this happened. Hey, I am a portrait guy and no matter if I shoot dance or music, I am always looking at the face.  Jamie has been in front of the lens a bit.  She has such a great look.  I tried to distract her and get her laughing but she was totally engrossed in the theme of the number.

Best of luck girls!

Thanks For Stopping by!

Phil