As the venerable “Pomp and Circumstance” starts filling the huge cavern known as Houston’s Toyota Center, I feel myself starting to get misty-eyed. Afraid that the awful ugly cry is on my personal horizon, I quietly admonish myself. “Grow a pair!” I think; now isn’t the time to make it hard to focus on taking photos.
Last Friday was a date that I really hadn’t thought about over the past 18 years . . . until my #1 son and I started looking at colleges his junior year. High school graduation just doesn’t seem real, as you’re working on moving from velcro to learning to tie shoelaces, reading chapter books, learning equations, discovering where the Amazon River is, and understanding chemical reactions.
And then, out of the blue, you’re in the venue where the Houston Rockets play basketball watching your son being honored among only several others of the 520 graduates who had four to six years of perfect attendance (aka, the Mom award). It almost was surreal.
As you might expect, I was as worried about meeting the photographic challenge of shooting in a large building after 6 p.m. as I was getting my #1 son to the ceremony on time. I was able to scout out a diagram of the Toyota Center and, knowing that the graduates would walk across the stage from right to left, I pinpointed two sections (119 and 120) that might be best for shooting. The Mister, our #2 son, and I were able to snag seats in 119 next to my good friend Sue, and it proved to be a great angle for snapping pix of the grads.
Both sections looked fairly far from the stage, though, so I decided to use my beloved Nikon 70-200mm lens with the Nikon 1.4x teleconverter. Because I would be losing a stop of light (from f/2.8 to f/4), I opted for that low-light champ, the Nikon D700, instead of the D300, which has a crop factor that lets you zoom in even closer.
The D700 turned out to be an excellent choice, because my ISO started at 1600 in order to not blur the action and ended up at 2500. What was disappointing for me was that I failed to account for the keylights shining down on the graduates; it wasn’t until after #1 walked across the stage that I figured out that I needed to use negative exposure compensation to tone them down. Photoshop helped, but too many of my photos were a bit overexposed. Live and learn!
I was so busy snapping and chimping that I didn’t have time to get emotional. Which was a good thing given that ever-looming possibility of the ugly cry.
The ceremony moved along at a decent-enough clip, given the 500-plus graduates to acknowledge. It was fun watching kids we had known from elementary school looking so grown up as they walked across the stage to fulfill their destiny as high school graduates. Kindergarten graduation was cute and fun, but this was so much more meaningful.
Speaking of kindergarten, it was great capturing photos of my #1 son after the ceremony with a couple friends he’s had since the beginning of school. One was Karan, who has always been one of our favorites.
The other one, of course, was my “third son,” Chase. What a proud moment for me to see my two “sons” standing side by side with their robes on, looking so darned handsome. Regular readers know that Chase is practically a member of our family; at times he seems to live with us. So it seemed that the right thing to do when my brother-in-law snapped a family photo of us . . .
. . . was to include him, too!
Congrats to both of my high school graduates! May the big dreams you hope to accomplish come true. We’re so proud of both of you!!