Gymnastics Photo Essay

chalk dust
Shutter: 1/1000, Aperture: ƒ/1.6, ISO: 2000, Lens: 50mm

To skip straight to the final Photo essay. The following is a blog post about some of the photos I chose, and the experience.

Many of you may know that my biggest career goal is to cover the Olympic games. I’m working to build up my portfolio of sports photos, and try again a little closer to Rio, but also thinking long term for applying to future sporting events. So I worked with my area NBC affiliate to get an assignment to cover a local gymnastics team to try and get some experience. NBC said they didn’t simply want 25 cool pictures from a meet. They wanted a full essay, complete with characters, a plot, a beginning and an end. That was a complete change from my approach to rock concerts. But I wanted to do this, and being a journalist was my only way to get in to shoot the gym. I took the challenge head on.

I kept an eye out for detail shots, and this was the one I was looking for before I even began. I really wanted painted fingernails in the shot. I thought the chalk dust vs painted nails would illustrate that conflict between being a dedicated athlete and being a normal teenager. I shot at f/1.6 and really got a magical quality. I’m not sure anyone sees the nail polish and thinks about the conflict, but it’s a shot that has a lot of energy.

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Mary Catherine in the Studio

Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: ƒ/5.6, ISO: 100, Lens: 24-70mm

You may recognize Mary Catherine from my Auto Show guerilla shoot, or the nighttime city shoot in DC. Now we wanted to get some proper headshots in a studio. Plus, I have tons of experience shooting outdoors with natural light, and concerts with stage lighting, but I have very little experience with studio lighting, and I need to learn. My colleague Paul opened up the doors at Studiowerks DC and showed me a few different effects we could get from different equipment. Click below for more.

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Come with me now – Kongos at 9:30 Club

Shutter: 1/500, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO: 1600, Lens: 50mm

It’s been just over a month since 2015 kicked off and I’m finally getting back into the pit. Kongos performed at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC this week, and I had a great time capturing these guys. The four Kongos brothers have a great mix of owning the stage and rocking out, without being full of themselves. I had the extra opportunity of photographing their radio interview in the green room before the show. Click below for more.

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Cold War Model Shoot in the Missile Silo

Sarah Fighter in the Missile Silo
Shutter: 1/160, Aperture ƒ/2.8, ISO: 640, Lens: 18-35mm, Remote flash

As I mourn the demolition of my beloved abandoned missile silo, I realized I never finished the blog post about the time we took a model down there, and she dressed like a Cold War era Russian spy. Whoops! So here it is. We had a lot of fun with one light, one reflector and a couple of costumes. I tagged this as guerrilla because we had to get in and get out, and we had a minimal amount of equipment.

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Guerrilla Model Shoot at the Auto Show

2015 Mustang
Shutter: 1.500, Aperture: ƒ/3.5, ISO: 1000, Lens: 24-70mm, remote activated flash

I’ve been trying to pull off this shot off for a couple of years now. I love visiting the Washington Auto Show each year and taking photos of the new cars, but the lighting in the convention center is not intended for taking pro photos, it’s to show off the cars. I wondered, would it be possible to bring some minimal lighting, and create studio conditions on the fly with a model, without getting kicked out? Check out what we did for this and other shots below, as well as the equipment and techniques involved.

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GWAR in Baltimore

Balsac the Jaws of Death
Shutter: 1/500, Aperture: ƒ/1.8, ISO: 2500, Lens: 18-35mm, Lots of plastic wrap

Hooray I got to shoot GWAR again. I’m not a huge fan of their music, but it’s an incredible show live, and if you have the opportunity, you have to go at least once. The first time I got to shoot GWAR, it was in DC, with Oderus leading the invasion. Since then, Dave Brockie passed away and two new leads have kept the band going. I was excited they were wrapping up their tour in Baltimore, but I was also psyched that I’d be able to christen my new camera bag. The best feature of my old camera bag was the GWAR blood, and I was said to have to retire it. Click below for more, including a snaplapse of my entire shoot!

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Ink Drops in Water, with the Grim Reaper!

Here comes the reaper
Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: ƒ/10.0, ISO: 640, Lens: 18-35mm

I’ve always wanted to try photographing ink drops in a tank, and a recent photography club challenge seemed to be a good motivator. We were challenged with the single word “black,” and this was my answer. It was tricky in that I wanted to get this image without using photoshop to composite the elements. Check out my set-up for getting this image below, as well as some tips when attempting your own.

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My Pic of 2015 Miss America in Today’s Washington Post…

Kira and Nina meet
Shutter: 1/320, Aperture: ƒ/2.8, ISO: 100, Lens: 24-70mm, Flash

As you know, I am a big fan of the Miss America Organization. For months now I’ve been trying to get “in” with the organization to be “their main dude” to take photos when they come to my area. Though it would be the most awesome job in the world, there is no dedicated photographer that travels with Miss America and documents all her appearances. So they depend on some random person at each event to take a few photos. I want them to call me when they’re in DC, and yesterday was a great “in.” Both 2014 Miss America Nina Davuluri and the recently crowned 2015 Miss America Kira Kazanstev were at a private luncheon yesterday and I was on hand to take photos. My pics appeared on Miss America Org’s official Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds, and another photo was in today’s Washington Post. And this all happened by the time I got out of the cab back to the office. Click below for more.

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Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens

Shutter: 1/30, Aperture: ƒ/3.2, ISO: 1600, Lens: 15mm

Late last year I was asked to shoot pics of all the Christmas decorations at Busch Gardens Williamsburg for the company that outfits the park with all the seasonal large-scale decorations. That shoot was successful, so I was asked to see if I could shoot all of the Halloween features at the Howl-O-Scream attraction. Mainly without guests around. I immediately said yes. It would be a challenge… most of the haunted houses are specifically dark and full of fog for maximum impact, but I was up to the challenge with my new 25,600 ISO Canon 6D. This was going to be awesome!

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Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike

Shutter: 1/400, Aperture: ƒ/2.8, ISO: 100, Lens: 70-200mm

Since it’s almost Halloween, I wanted to share this creepy abandoned section of the PA Turnpike. My buddy Joe called me up and said there was a derelict tunnel and section of highway in Breezewood that was almost equi-distant between he (in Pittsburgh) and I (in DC). To be clear, it’s open to the public, and not trespassing. In fact it was used to film The Road. I was also anxious to try out my new Canon 6D complete with built-in GPS, and a 25,600 ISO. Woot!

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Street Fashion with Mary Catherine

Mary Catherine
Shutter: 1/200, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, ISO: 320 Lens: 50mm 1/200

I recently had the pleasure of shooting some fashion/editorial shots with Mary Catherine. You may remember her as the Miss DC contestant looking in the mirror in my Miss DC write-up. She was a joy to work with, and we talked about going out and get some head shots and fun fashion style pics. I told her that I was shooting the Black Keys at the Verizon center, however I get kicked out after the third song and we could meet up after that. I don’t mind when it gives me time to do stuff like this! All of these photos were shot with available light from street lights, electronic billboards, etc. We didn’t use a flash. Keep reading for more.

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I want to get better – Shooting Bleachers

Jack Antonoff
Shutter: 1/400, Aperture: ƒ/1.4, Lens: 50.0 mm, ISO: 1600

I got to test out my new Canon 6D at the Bleachers show. The entire day was a rollercoaster of emotions. Let’s start in the morning. I’ve been enjoying the Bleachers’ songs I want to get better and Rollercoaster, and was anxious to shoot their show at the 9:30 Club. DC101 was doing some giveaways, so I assumed I was a shoe-in to get credentialed, but I wasn’t letting myself get excited until I had certain word that I was on the list. In the meantime I secured a seat at their lunch table at Ben’s Chili Bowl for a meet and greet DC101 was hosting. At 10:30am I got the email saying I was on the list to shoot that night. Whew! Then it gets weird from there.

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2014 Preakness

California Chrome
Shutter: 1/250; Aperture: ƒ/7.1, ISO: 100, Lens: 70-200mm

Last year I shot Preakness as a runner for USAToday. This year I wanted a more forward role, so I applied to shoot for DC101. My primary goal was to cover the live music at the Infield Fest, which included Switchfoot, Nas, and Lorde. I was then to build up a gallery of attractive revelers, and if there was any time left, shoot some of the races. The above photo is my best race shot, that’s California Chrome pulling ahead after the fourth turn. More pics and experience below!

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Miss DC Pageant – Don’t Mind if I do

The 2014 Miss DC Contestants wait for final tally
Shutter: 1/640, Aperture: ƒ/2.8, ISO: 1600, Lens: 15mm

As you’re aware, I absolutely love shooting the Miss America pageant, but I longed to get in on a more individual level, so I reached out to the people behind the Miss District of Columbia pageant to see if I could shoot this one. The winner from this night’s event would then go to Atlantic City in September to compete for the title of Miss America. The first added bonus of shooting a local pageant is getting to tell the winner that we’ll meet up again at the big pageant. I love knowing someone on the other side of the ropes. Also, this is the first time I had images published on our local NBC affiliate. I had to pick out fifteen images from the entire night to tell the whole story. Click below for more.

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Playing “Journalist” on the Red Carpet

Katherine McPhee
Shutter: 1/320, Aperture: f/1.8, Lens: 18-35mm, ISO: 640 (no flash)

I’ve shot several celebrity news events before, like Miss America and various press conferences, but this was my first A List Celebrity Red Carpet job. Hollywood came to DC this past weekend for the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. If you’re not aware, it’s a once a year event where real celebrities come rock out with local “celebrities” and listen to the President riff on himself and others. I got credentialed to shoot the Netflix/Google Pre Party on Friday night. I decided to go for a unique look to my coverage and even had a run-in with “real” journalists! You know, at a red carpet event. Click below for more.

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Paper bag challenge

Shutter: 15 seconds, Aperture: f/5.6, Lens: 18-35mm, ISO: 6400

This week’s challenge was to take a photo of a paper bag using only one light source. We could do whatever we wanted as long as you could still tell it was a paperbag, and we used only one light. Also, preferably in a manner never done before. Above is my take. I did a long exposure of a life sized glow-in-the-dark skull. The only light source was the light coming off of the skull. Click below for the set-up.

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Photo Challenge: Shoot from the Hip

Shutter: 1/80, Aperture: f/6.3, Lens: 15mm, ISO: 100

Our latest photo challenge in my local Lens Group was to nab a great photo, shooting from the hip. To take it further, we instituted a “no chimping” rule. Meaning you can’t look at what you shot, until you got home and unloaded all the photos on your computer. This was a challenge to force us to think about composition and timing, by stepping outside our normal methods. Click below to see my thought process.

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GroupLove & I got a “bucket-list” photo!

Christian Zucconi
Shutter: 1/400, Aperture: f/1.8, Lens:18-35mm, ISO: 1600

This is my second time shooting Grouplove, as they headlined the New Years Eve party I shot two years ago. I loved the energy and enthusiasm they brought to their show, and I wanted the chance to capture that in a proper club setting. I got some great stuff, but I finally nabbed one of my elusive “bucket list” items. Ever since I started shooting concerts, I was convinced you could not get a kick-ass photo of someone on a keyboard. Then I saw this shot and realized that I had just simply given up, and it was still achievable. So for the last two years I’ve been trying to get a great photo of keyboardist. And I think I finally nailed it. This was an itch that was too tough to scratch, but I got it. Apparently you need smoke and lights. Check out the rest of my shots from this show below.

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Shooting the Neighbourhood in B&W only

Shutter: 1/80, Aperture: f/1.8, Lens: 18-35mm, ISO: 6400

I had the pleasure of shooting The Neighbourhood again last week. You probably know their songs Sweater Weather and Afraid. I shot them once before as they opened for Imagine Dragons earlier this summer. So here they are headlining their own tour, and they had a very unusual request that I had never heard before. Black and white photos only. This was written on my pass envelope and conveyed to me in email. So all of my photos are in b&w. It doesn’t matter too much, as their set was very spartan, and the lights were only white spots anyway. After going through all of my photos, I don’t think I got anything that would only work in color. I’m actually pleased with a quite a few of these, let’s check it out.

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National Zoo with a 100-400mm f/5.6

Om nom nom nom
Shutter: 1/160, Aperture: f/5.6, Lens: 100-400mm, ISO: 6400

I rented the Canon 100-400mm f/5.6 for some wildlife photography this weekend. My travels took me to the National Zoo in Washington DC. This is my favorite shot from the day. The golden tamarins are my favorite animal at the zoo (especially when the red pandas are off getting prepped for breeding). I love the expression and moment that I captured (it’s hard, these guys scamper off very quickly), and the colors complement each other great. This was my first time shooting at 400mm, so let’s see what I got.

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