Category Archives: Photo Friday

Photo Friday: Watch Out for that A/C!

Fogged out

Fogged in

See the photo above? That was my first shot of last Friday’s high school football game. And, yes, it is really foggy. Do not adjust your monitors!

The photo is foggy, but the playing conditions weren’t. That’s because I wasn’t thinking straight when I stowed my Nikon D300 and Nikon 70-200mm lens in my Honda Pilot for the trip to the stadium.

Sidebar: “Wasn’t thinking straight” is a nice way of saying that I was stupid.

The fog is starting to lift.

The fog is starting to lift.

When I put my camera and long lens in the car, I try to secure them in the back under my car seat so they don’t get jostled. But what I didn’t realize was that the back air conditioning duct is right where my camera equipment was. When I got out of the car at the stadium and reached for my camera, my first thought was, “This is freezing!” My second? “Oh, oh!”

Tackling in the lens fog

Tackling in the lens fog

I knew that when I took the cold lens out into the warm, humid air that I would have a fogged-up lens. I had my cleaning cloth ready, but it took what seemed like hours (but was more like 10 minutes) to have a clear-enough lens to shoot through. Foggy photos at high ISOs (I was at 1600) make for some of the most butt-ugly pics ever. Not a proud moment for me as a bogus pro, that’s for sure.

Post-processed first photo

Post-processed first photo

This is kind of what that first photo should’ve looked like; it was the best I could clean it up in Photoshop. I believe the proper response to it is one word: Ugh!

Eric (left) and Zach wait for the kickoff.

Eric (left) and Zach wait for the kickoff.

I finally was able to shoot the rest of the game once my lens warmed up enough to stop fogging. But I must admit it was nerve-wracking for awhile. I vowed that I would never put my camera and lens by that back air conditioning duct again (and don’t you do it, either!).

And I didn’t for almost a week . . . until I was going to the #2 son’s cross-country meet. Yep, old habits take a long time to die, apparently. Well, at least more than a week! Fortunately, I remembered midway to the park and was able to move the camera before it froze over. Once I got there, I made sure to turn off the air conditioning in the back.

Sometimes this middle-aged mind of mine gets a little too fogged up . . . like those football photos! Wish it was easy to clear up in Photoshop, too!!

Photo Friday: Meeting the High ISO Challenge

Kaityln tries to spike past Ashley B.

Kaityln M. tries to spike past Ashley B.

When photographers talk about the toughest sport to shoot, one activity in particular gets our Nikons and Canons a-quaking: Volleyball.

Ah, I could wax rhapsodically about volleyball as a sport to play or watch until the Chick-Fil-A cows come home. Believe it or not, I actually played on the volleyball team my freshman year at the venerable University of Illinois (pre-NCAA days) until I realized that I was a much better writer than player. After that, I opted to be the varsity team’s manager, so I could travel with the squad and write about them for the school newspaper (“The Daily Illini” was award-winning back then, but probably not because of my contributions).

Kaitlyn B. jump sets Mary Ellen.

Kaitlyn B. jump sets Mary Ellen.

And watching volleyball? A good match, like the one pictured here featuring our high school versus a fierce rival this past Tuesday night, is like watching poetry in motion. Looks like its choreographed even though it isn’t.

Breezy gets her fingertips on one of the mighty Ashley B.'s spikes, as Kaitlyn M. tries to help.

Breezy gets her fingertips on one of the mighty Ashley B.'s spikes, as Kaitlyn M. tries to help.

But shooting volleyball? Ugh times 150! Hmmm . . . where to start with the reasons why volleyball is so tough to photograph well?

Savannah is ready to pound the ball past the defense.

Savannah is ready to pound the ball past the defense.

First of all, it’s a fast-moving, indoor sport where you often don’t know where the ball is going. PWCs (Parents With Cameras) using a point and shoot? Take a seat on the bench; you’re never going to stop the action. I use my Nikon D300 and the Nikon f/1.4 85mm lens (the f/1.8 model works well, too).

Second, the lighting usually is terrible plus it’s the bulb type that cycles through the color spectrum. It’s hard to get a consistent white balance—some photos look great, others have a little too much magenta, while still others are too yellow. That leads to some frustrating post-processing in Photoshop.

Our team celebrates a good block.

Is it a tribal dance or is our team summoning some voodoo magic?

You need to use high ISOs (almost all these photos are at IS0 1600 and cleaned up with, what else?, Noise Ninja) to help stop the action. Flash isn’t allowed.

Our coach takes a timeout to talk strategy.

Our coach takes a timeout to talk strategy.

Of course, I love a photographic challenge, plus I’ve been shooting volleyball for several years now . . . not that that makes it any easier. This particular match was played at a local fieldhouse with high bleachers and a walkway above the court, not in our dimly lit, small gym (thank goodness!). The view from up top and the side made it easier to get compelling photos.

Our cheerleaders try to motivate our team.

Our cheerleaders try to motivate our team.

My strategy was to shoot from above in basically the same spot for the first two games. That enabled me to get good photos of both teams. Then I roamed around for the final game.

Kelsey W. serves.

Kelsey W. serves.

Normally, I don’t like a lot of shots from behind; I prefer seeing faces. But some of the volleyball action is more interesting from that backside view.

Kaitlyn M. and Mary Ellen signal their teammates.

Kaitlyn M. and Mary Ellen signal their teammates.

Kelsey M. digs the opponent's serve.

Kelsey M. digs the opponent's serve.

Even though volleyball is a photographic challenge, it’s a great sport to watch with wonderful action to try to capture. It may be high-ISO, wacky-lighting action, but it’s still delightful to see!

Photo Friday: Twist and Shout

Patrick tosses his disc.

Patrick tosses his disc.

Today’s Photo Friday is about a disc golf player (Patrick), his disc, and a photographer (yours truly) . . . and a test of how fast my (shutter) trigger finger truly is.

Still tossing . . . .

Still tossing . . . .

At Tuesday’s disc golf mini tournament, I noticed Patrick tossing a disc into the air as he waited to tee off. While airborne, the disc would twist, looking pretty cool. So I decided to see if I could capture the action photographically with my Nikon D300 and 70-200mm lens.

The toughest part of the assignment was keeping Patrick in focus and the disc pretty much in focus. For the top two photos, I went with my standard wide-open f/2.8 aperture (ISO 200) and a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second. The shutter speed wasn’t fast enough to not blur the disc, but I love the fluttering effect!

Still tossing . . . .

Still tossing . . . .

On the photo above and the one below, I closed the aperture a bit to f/4 (still ISO 200) and slowed the shutter speed to 1/80th. With that slower speed, you almost can’t tell that it’s a disc that’s being tossed in the top photo, it’s bending and twisting so much.

The final toss!

The final toss!

In this final photo, it’s easier to tell that it’s a disc due to the angle. But as for capturing that bending and twisting effect?

It’s definitely something to shout about!

Photo Friday: Just a Doggone Cute Photo

Hank

Hank

While the #2 son was running his garage sale last Saturday, my neighbor Melissa walked past with her dog Hank. Isn’t he cute? Some might say “doggone” cute, but not me. I’m so above puns. Well, except in my blog post titles.

Sidebar: “Melissa” is pronounced “Me-lee-sa,” with the accent on the second syllable. Is that a Texas thing? Years ago I met a woman named Nina whose name was pronounced “Nine-a.” Made me extra-cautious when I said the name of someone new. Of course, you would think that it would be hard to screw up an easy name like “Susan,” but you’d be wrong. “Suzanne” anyone?

The minute Melissa told me the name of her dog, I immediately thought of “Hank the Cowdog.” Anyone else think of that? Got to know your children’s literature!

the literary Hank the cowdog

the literary Hank the cowdog

Of course, the literary Hank, who is the top dog at his master’s ranch in west Texas, doesn’t look anything like my neighborhood Hank, the top dog at Melissa’s house here in south Texas.

the neighborhood Hank

the neighborhood Hank

But both sure are cute! Doggone cute!

Sorry!!

Photo Friday: Shoot the Periphery

The #1 son bowls.

The #1 son bowls.

What if you don’t have a digital SLR to help you take fantastic photos?

#2 bowls, too.

#2 bowls, too.

Or say you do have a dSLR, but you don’t have a low-light lens like the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 (which I used for these photos) or f/1.8? Should you forget about taking difficult indoor action pix?

Of course not!

#1 reacts to missing a spare.

#1 reacts to missing a spare.

First, if you do own a dSLR but only have the 18-55mm kit lens, be sure to increase your ISO, so you have a faster shutter speed to stop the action. And try to have steady hands, too.

Gutter ball sadness for #2

Gutter ball sadness for #2

If you’re frustrated because you’re not able to stop the action or you’re using a point and shoot camera that can’t stop the action, relax! Just try to shoot the periphery, e.g., everything that surrounds the activity.

I took my sons and #2’s friend Daniel bowling yesterday, and, as usual, it bothered me that it’s a sport that features more butts than faces. I don’t know about you, but usually (well, unless it’s George Clooney, my second husband), I prefer to photograph faces when I shoot sports.

#2 should've had a V8!

#2 should've had a V8!

But then I realized that there’s always more to sports than just the action, and that’s what I needed to concentrate on documenting. It does mean that you need to anticipate when your “athletes” are going to show that emotion and be ready and steady on the shutter.

Daniel gets a high five from #2.

Daniel gets a high five from #2.

The lighting tends to be funky in the bowling alley, but I think that just adds to the photos’ uniqueness. Or it could be that my Photoshop skills just aren’t good enough . . . that’s too often the case, unfortunately.

No movement here

No movement here

Don’t forget to take photos of everything involved in the sport, especially anything that doesn’t move (easy to shoot!). For bowling, of course there are the bowling balls. You might want to turn off your flash for these kinds of close-ups.

No movement here either

No movement here either

Fingers in a bowling ball can convey the action almost as much as rolling the ball down the alley.

Stylish!

Stylish!

Bowling shoes? Gotta wear ’em and gotta take a photo of ’em.

#2 is happy after picking up a spare.

#2 is happy after picking up a spare.

Even if you have to have them pose, be sure to get some good expressions from the athletes to help tell the story.

Those eyes!

Those eyes!

I couldn’t resist getting a photo of my contact-lensed high school senior heartthrob!

Love the electronic scoreboards!

Love the electronic scoreboards!

Back in the day, we had to keep score at bowling alleys by hand. Now the electronic scoreboards are great, and they’re easy to photograph.

The Terminator (#1), Daniel, and #2 pose.

The Terminator (#1), Daniel, and #2 pose.

If all fails indoors, don’t forget to snap a photo or two of your subjects outside. It’s all part of shooting the periphery when you’re an action photographer!

Photo Friday: I Should Be Ashamed (But I’m Not!)

A birthday tribute from my sons

A birthday tribute from my sons using discs, of course!

Today’s Photo Friday is an unabashed cry of attention from your humble blogstress. When I’m telling you that you should try to take photos of the unusual to illustrate the usual, I’m really using today’s post to let you know that tomorrow is my birthday!

Yes, on August 15th (a blog day off for me) I’ll turn 56. Fifty-six. Doesn’t that sound old? When I was in high school, I was sure that those ancient, cranky teachers had to be at least in their 50s if not their 70s. . . when they probably were no older than 30. It’s hard to have the proper perspective on age when you’re in your teens.

Now I’m smack dab in the middle of middle age, enjoying the thrills and chills and frequent naps as an older parent of two teenagers. And I wouldn’t trade this life for anyone else’s. Although I wouldn’t mind someone giving me some energy supplements.

But on to Photo Friday. It’s fun to use photos to convey birthday messages. In the past I’ve taken photos of the boys holding up signs with numbers on them to give to the birthday recipient. But that seemed to be too easy for this assignment.

#7096-(disc-56)

So I asked the #1 and #2 sons to come up with a creative way to illustrate the 56 that I’ll be turning. They asked me to leave the family room and then scurried about gathering the discs and putting them together just so. Brilliant! Thanks, guys!!

Then it was my turn. When I was thinking about how I would illustrate the 5 and 6 in an unusual way for this post, I naturally went to Walmart.

Sidebar: Actually, I had some shopping to do. But I did bring along my Olympus Stylus-Tough 6000.

#P8120720-(5)

Walmart uses really big digits on their price signs, so it was easy to get the pix I needed. I remembered to turn off the flash (an option available on almost all point and shoot cameras), so the light wouldn’t reflect in the number. First, I saw the number 5 and snapped its photo.

Is someone trying to tell me something?

Is someone trying to tell me something?

When I took the photo for the number 6, I didn’t notice everything pictured . . . until I looked at it in Photoshop. As I got ready to crop out the dollar sign, I checked below it and saw the tell-tale bottle of calcium supplements. Sigh! Calcium is good for old bones, right?

Much better!

Much better!

This photo truly is a wonderful illustration for my 56th birthday!

Photo Friday: Make the Most of Pro Photo Ops

Where's my focus?

Who's my focus?

Last week’s Disc Golf World Championships in Kansas City wasn’t only about the amateur players like the #2 son. The pro world championship was conducted at the same time. On our last full day in KC, the Mister, #2, and I went to the very-long and hilly Blue Valley disc golf course to watch the top four male pros—Avery Jenkins, Josh Anthon, Matt Orum, and Cale Leiviska—battle for the $5,500 prize and the right to call themselves the best pro male disc golfer in the world.

I, of course, carried my Nikon D300 and Nikon 105mm lens to capture the action. But there was one teensy problem . . . well, okay, one big problem: About 1,500 people also were watching, and I think they all wanted to stand in front of me!

The leaderboard . . . just like in the Pro Golfers Association!

The leaderboard . . . just like in the Pro Golfers Association!

On the first couple holes, this photo of the leaderboard was the best picture I snapped. People were all over the course surrounding the players as they teed off, threw upshots, and putted. Frustrating! What was I to do to get decent photos of the pros?

Fourth-place finisher Cale Leiviska putts.

Fourth-place finisher Cale Leiviska putts.

Simple! I moved around and tried to anticipate where the players would be. If you snooze, you lose when it comes to being in the right photographic place at the right time. I didn’t always guess right, but I carved out my spot enough times to get some good photos. Of course, I was pretty winded by the end; those hills are especially torturous when you’ve got a lung infection!

Avery Jenkins putts for a birdie (that he missed).

Avery Jenkins putts for a birdie (that he missed).

As much as I didn’t like the crowd blocking my shots, I did want them surrounding the players. Having all the people in the photos helps to tell the story of the finals—there’s so much pressure on these top pros to perform well amidst these loyal minions.

Matt Orum putts.

Matt Orum putts.

This is a much better photo of Matt Orum than the first one. I only wish he had used a colored disc; it was unfortunate timing that I stopped the action of his white disc against a white truck in the background.

Sidebar: A note for the Texas A&M fans—Matt is not an Aggie! He’s from Alabama, as in the Crimson Tide. I must admit, though, that “Aggie” was the first thought that popped in my mind when I saw Matt dressed in maroon.

The Mister and the #2 son watch the action.

The Mister and the #2 son watch the action.

It’s nice to get a photo or two of some faces in the crowd to help document the event. These are two usual suspects who I love taking pix of!

Avery putts downhill from my location.

Avery putts downhill from my location.

The setting for the finals was a beautiful, scenic park in Kansas City. It was nice to show some of that beauty when I stayed up on a hill and took photos of the players putting at a basket that was next to a lake.

Sidebar: Quite honestly, this was just a lucky photo. I was too tired to walk down the hill to get closer to the action. In the Houston area, almost every disc golf course is flat; you don’t need to be in great shape to take photos. KC was a challenge for me!

Josh Anthon watches his clutch par putt soar towards the basket on hole nine.

Josh Anthon watches his clutch par putt soar towards the basket on hole nine.

Even though there were four guys in the finals, the real drama was between Avery Jenkins and Josh Anthon. Avery had taken a two-shot lead into the nine-hole final, but Josh caught up, and the two were tied going into hole nine. Avery threw and hit the bottom of the basket, putting the pressure on Josh to make his par putt and force a sudden-death playoff.

Relief and happiness for Josh!

Relief and happiness for Josh!

The Mister and I had walked ahead to hole nine and claimed our spots where we couldn’t be blocked to watch and shoot the action. I was in the right place when Josh canned his putt and showed a mix of relief and joy afterwards.

Avery bested Josh on the fifth hole of sudden death to become the world champ. And because I was able to move around the crowd, I was able to get photos of the top four in action that always will be memorable to the Mister, #2, and me.

So remember that if you want to make the most out of pro—or any—photo ops, be on the move with your camera!