East Nicolaus Homecoming Dance

Yes, we've been doing an awful lot of work with East Nicolaus lately - and I say bring it on! I'd love to keep working with them as much as possible. All of the families have been extremely friendly and easy to work with, the students polite and funny, the school administrators have been helpful and accomodating. We've recently photographed their volleyball, football and FFA pictures as well as photographing a couple of their students in the first ever rodeo I have attended - that was fun!

This time, we were invited to photograph their Homecoming Dance. This was a last minute call I was happy to get - apparently the studio that they had originally arranged to photograph couldn't make it, which was to our benefit.

As it was short notice, I didn't have a lot of time to prepare, but the school pitched in and helped us out by setting up a small space for us with some fabric draped about in a somewhat theatrical fashion. The theme was 'movies' so we grabbed a couple of our lights with classic Hollywood style barndoors on them and threw them into the scene to add a bit of a movie set feel.

All in all, the pictures turned out very nicely and I look forward to doing more dances!

With very short notice and a small school, we weren't particularly busy at the photography booth during the dance. But one thing we were doing for the school is making sure that we photographed each couple in the Homecoming Royalty. The Homecoming King was a football player who had needed to go home and clean up before coming back to the dance. This left the Queen hanging out alone for some time ... so, to keep things lively and entertaining, and to see her smile, we dragged her out for an impromptu photo shoot. She was game and entertained us with a variety of poses ...

One other unexpected treat was getting to see Sydney and Juliet ride. Sydney and Juliet are players on the Varsity Volleyball team, they are also in the FFA club and it was Sydney who I was out to photograph in the rodeo I mentioned - so I've been photographing them a lot lately! We had finished setting up our lights and whatnot for the dance photography and I was looking out the gym doors towards their football field, checking things out when I was surprised to see Sydney go riding by! So I grabbed my camera and headed out.

I talked with Stacy, Sydney's mom for a while and found out that she would be participating in a small pre-game ceremony. She and another rider would be circling the field with US flags as part of a dedication to those serving in our military and who have lost their lives serving and then the national anthem would play. After that they would ride off and circle the field once more at high speed.

I positioned myself to photograph and to my surprise the other rider turned out to be Juliet! It was getting fairly dark, and I wasn't using the fastest lens in my bag (a 70-200 2.8), but the 1/160th of a second provided a nice action blur on a few of the frames as they rode away. One of the things I noticed while processing these images was the reaction of the crowd to the riding - there were people cheering, smiling, laughing and holding their kids up to see better - they loved it!

East Nicolaus Football Team Pictures

We recently returned to East Nicolaus to photograph their Football team pictures. I used to do quite a few football team pictures during and just after high school when I worked with a local Sacramento sports photographer, but actually hadn't done any since then. As a part of our expanding work with East Nicolaus High School, I was happy to photograph for them.

It was a nice, bright, clear day (I would have loved some clouds, but you work with what you've got!). The teams were very easy to work with and the shoot went very smoothly. I look forward to working with them again in the future!

Highschool Rodeo

At the recent East Nicolaus FFA shoot I found out that Sydney Reese, one of the East Nicolaus volleyball players and an FFA member, was going to be competing in a rodeo that weekend. Having wanted to photograph rodeo for quite a few years, but never getting around to it, I was immediately "all ears". With an open day on the calendar that weekend, I was interested in heading out and trying my hand at it. I did a bit of research online and found out something I didn't know - there is organized highschool rodeo! Just like football or volleyball, there are regular rodeo competitions between highschool rodeo riders throughout the school year. Sure, for those of you in the know, that's obvious, but I grew up in the 'burbs and it never occured to me that this would be a highschool level sport. I would have been looking to photograph long before this if I had know that!

I was excited by the possibilities and headed out to photograph that weekend. Everyone I met was very nice and welcoming - curious about who I was and who I was photographing for (as expected) but nice enough to point out good vantage points and locations to shoot from. I stood and watched the events for a bit before I ran into Sydney on horseback (naturally!), waiting for her next event to start. I chatted with Sydney, her mom - Stacy - Juliet and Morgan and headed off to get my gear and take some pictures.

I spent the rest of the day photographing break away roping, team roping and barrel racing - it was fun! It was all new to me, so I was interested in everything that was going on and learning the ins and outs of things. I arrived too late in the morning for the pole bending event, which in retrospect is disappointing as it sounds very cool to watch and would be great to photograph - I'll have to catch it next time!

I was totally impressed by what these guys and gals can do from horseback - it's impressive stuff! I love horses - I think they're beautiful, wonderful animals ... but I've not been on one since I was a kid and even then I never rode one by myself. So, seeing kids as young as their early teens (if that!) chasing down a calf and roping from horseback was very cool. I get the idea I missed out on some fun stuff growing up!

I took hundreds of images, but I've prepared only a few. They look incredible in print - I'm very happy with how they turned out and hope to do this again in October.

East Nicolaus Future Farmers of America

I got a fun call the other day from East Nicolaus volleyball player Juliet Conant asking if I would be willing to come out and do an FFA club picture for East Nicolaus ... in a rice field. The answer ... Of course! Love to! I really like requests like this. Something different and a bit challenging for an image that stands our from the usual.

I was put on the phone with the FFA coordinator and East Nicolaus teacher, Laurie Goss, to get some more information and she informed me that she was told I was the person to call - the students had given her the instruction: call Micheal Hall. I love it! That's very gratifying as a photographer; if the students are asking you back, you're doing something right.

So, on a nice toasty day, we headed out a rice field a few miles from the school. I felt for the students - they have an FFA uniform which includes slacks, shirt, tie and jacket for the guys and a skirt, long sleeved blouse, tie and jacket for the ladies. Ugh. But the didn't grumble once over the heat as I had them standing in the sun futzing with lights getting things tweaked. They were all very patient and cooperative and the shoot came off really, really well!

Laurie mentioned that they had a theme for this year of "Bustin' Ours to Feed Yours" which I thought was appropriately expressive and incorporated into the picture - it turned out great!

East Nicolaus Volleyball Team Pictures - 2009

We headed out to East Nicolaus today to do some team pictures for their volleyball team. Last year was our first year photographing for East Nicolaus and we had a great time. The coaches, Chris and Alecia, also work with the Northern California Volleyball Association whom we sponsor.

East Nicolaus is a small school north of Sacramento by about 30 miles or so. It's in the middle of farm land and I really like going out there. Everyone I have met is really nice and easy to work with - down to earth and friendly. My kind of place, so I was happy to return.

Last year we did their team pictures and apparently made the football players jealous, so not only have we booked volleyball, but comeback to see the football pictures when we're done with them in October.

Today was HOT. I don't know what it was, but the heat really wiped me out today. I was surprised. Of course, I stupidly was in a black shirt and didn't bring any water, two things that didn't make the shoot any easier. By the time we were done (well, halfway done) I was dragging and had to push to get through it. It's obviously been too long since I spent a day in the sun!

In spite of the heat and the shiny faces, the shoot came off very well. The ladies are all nice to work with and easy in front of the camera. We had a much better ratio this year for orderers vs. non-orderers, so I guess we made a good impression last year. I aim to keep it up!

My goal is actually to do all of the photography work for this school - as I mentioned, I like the region, I like the people and would be happy to keep coming back out.

Sheldon Volleyball Team Pictures - 2009

Well, another year of Sheldon High School volleyball team pictures! This is our seventh year at it - wow! This year, I went back to my roots a bit and did a very nicely lit, indoor team picture in the gymnasium. I threw an accent light up to highlight the Sheldon Husky mascot on the gym wall. The response was great - the students really liked how it turned out. I first started taking team pictures 17 years ago when I was a Junior in high school and this is how I learned to do them, by a very good photographer here in Sacramento. However, I haven't used this particular recipe for a team picture since then - it seemed too much like his thing. However, it makes for a great image and I changed up the team posing a bit, so it's OK. :)

Stephany's Book.

I've said it before, one of the things I love most about our volleyball and portrait work is being able to take images from years worth of events and merge them together into a keepsake book that will remain in the family for a long, long time to come.

I had the pleasure of designing another album recently, for a good friend of ours, Stephany Leonard. We've been photographing Stephany for several years now and she's a lively, lovely, feisty young woman who is a real joy to know and photograph.

She just graduated from high school and received this album as a gradaution gift ...

The gathering storm.

My daughter Ryan is really getting into taking pictures - she grabs my phone whenever she can and snaps away. I keep an album of her pictures on the phone, so I can check them out because she has a really neat vision and it's a lot of fun to look at them.

Last night, as I drove home from picking her up from ballet, she's taking pictures and I'm pointing out different things for her to see, I notice a beautiful cloud formation to the East. I knew right away what I wanted to do and told Ryan that when we got home, we wouldn't be staying for long - just long enough for her to make sure her hair was brushed and there was no In N' Out on her face and for me to grab my gear and then we were heading out.

So we got our stuff together and hopped back in the car - I needed to find a ridge or hill on which Ryan could perch so that I could frame her against that beautiful sky. I had to do it quickly - the sun was going to set fast and I knew I didn't have a lot of time.

We wandered the neighborhood a bit - the local high school was out. They used to have the perfect spot, but it's fenced in now and I can't get to it. Instead we headed over to a small elementary school and I saw what I was looking for. The school sits on a small plateau that is about 12' higher than the level of the street. A gentle incline from the street to the playing fields was the perfect spot to work. Ryan likes to help, so I let her lug the camera bag (it's a small one for fast field work) while I dragged along a couple of small flashes.

I broke out a flash and umbrella and we set to work. All told, from the time I took my first test shot to the last image taken, we spent about 15 minutes photographing. As I mentioned, the sun was setting quickly and it turned out those clouds I was admiring were moving FAST, I kept having to scoot and change angles as the clouds moved behind her.

Still, I am really happy with what we got. Considering the 10s of thousands of pictures that have been taking of her starting at only a few days old, Ryan is very, very comfortable in front of the camera.

It was a really nice evening. As we were packing up, behind us the clouds turned a brilliant crimson. Though I didn't take any pictures of it (the angles were wrong and houses and trees would have made it not work) we did sit down and enjoy the sunset. There was a cool breeze, the cloudscapes were beautiful and I was hanging out with my awesome nine year old daughter.

Then, it got better. After the crimson had faded from the sky, I loaded the gear back in the car and we were just getting in, when I looked to the east and saw a flash of lightning. It was too far off to even hear the thunder, but it was beautiful. I pointed it out to Ryan and we watched for a few seconds to see if we would see another strike. We did ... and another went ... and another ... and another. It didn't stop.

"Wanna stay and watch?", I asked.

So we sat out on the grass, watched the clouds gather and saw the most incredible display of lightning I have ever seen. It was continuous, non-stop lightning strikes. Clouds were lighting up like they had the worlds biggest strobes in them. Lightning was arching from cloud to cloud and from high in the sky to the ground.

We lounged on the grass in the breeze, with gorgeous clouds bunching and gathering above us and saw a show that beat out any fireworks display I've ever seen. After a while we could hear the continuous, low roll of thunder breaking over us.

The thought of pictures crossed my mind - but I was happy to realize I had left my tripod and the lens I would use back at the house, so I just sat back and enjoyed the show with my daughter.

Eventually, it started sprinkling, was nearing dark and the clouds above us were looking a more and more ominous, so we headed home.

But losing its audience didn't stop the lightning - it's performance continued all night.

Drips and Drops #1

I've always loved water - as far back as I can remember. Clouds, rivers, streams, the ocean ... I just like water.

And I've always admired those stop motion photographs of water drops - the amazing sculptures that result when water strikes water are incredible to look at. As a photographer, I've always wanted to try my hand at that sort of photography, but never bothered to give it a go. Recently, I saw a little few minute video on techniques for that sort of photography and realized how silly I was being - it requires patience and experimentation, but the techniques are quite simple and I have everything I need right here in house to do it.

So, about 1 AM the other night, looking for something to do, I pulled out some gear and had a bit of fun.

These were taken on my dining room table in a 14" frying pan filled with water. Drips fell from a sandwhich bag suspended over the pan. Getting the images was then simply a matter of timing my photographs with the water strikes and varying that timing to get different types of images.

This was the first go and I intend to continue to play a bit. One of the most amazing things about water is its surface tension - it likes to hold itself together. A lot of these images are of cold water with nothing added - this means the surface tension of the water was high, so the splashes aren't as dramatic as they could be. The more you lower the surface tension, the splashier it gets. You can lower the surface tension with temperature or by adding things to water. Also, you can play with things like drop size, impact speed (by raising or lowering the source of your drips), lighting position and color, coloring of the water, etc. So, there will be more to post on this in the future. In the meantime, a few drips and drops.

A Mothers Day Gift.

Well this post marks the end of quite a dry spell. See, for those of you that don't know, we run another site: www.vbpics.com for one of our other specialties, volleyball photography. The traveling involved in photographing volleyball (we've driven through California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado this year) keeps us on the road quite a bit and between organizing our efforts, photographing tournaments, processing orders and keeping up with emails and phone calls makes taking other types of images or updating a blog like this for pleasure a very daunting task.

However, volleyball starts to ease up about the beginning of May ... just in time for a Mothers Day portrait of two very special young women.

Both Ryan and Sierra have been featured here before, last summer. This time, we had a picnic dinner at Gibson Ranch and took the time to do a few fun pictures at sunset in time to give a portrait of Ryan and Sierra to their mother, my ex-wife and good friend, Christina, for Mothers Day.

These two hambones had a great time, giggling, laughing and generally being silly gals. Which meant I had a great time hanging out with them.

There are a number more from this mini-session that I would love to share, but - although volleyball is easing up - it hasn't ended for the year and there's still plenty of work to be done.

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