Yosemite - my yearly pilgrimage.

This year, with the investment in our new high resolution camera and large format printer, one of my decisions was to spend more time outdoors photographing. So far, I've done more of this sort of work in the last six months than I had in the last several years combined.

Right around this time each year, as high school and college volleyball start to calm down, I get the opportunity to head out of town and visit a friend of mine, John, who has an apartment in Yosemite Valley.

This year, rather than spending only a couple of days, I stayed an entire week. And rather than spending pretty much all of my time lounging about and watching movies, I actually spent a good portion of the time photographing.

Most landscape photographers will tell you the best light of the day is at dawn or at dusk. I enjoy dawn more because there are fewer people out and the landscape is quieter - everything is just waking up. However, much as I like dawn, I've never been all that great at getting up for it when I visit. So, this time, rather than getting up for dawn, I just stayed up for it. John has a pretty good movie collection going, but he usually introduces me to a few TV series while I am down there. Last year I started watching "Dexter", a Showtime series. This year it was True Blood on HBO and Supernatural (John is big into vampires, werewolves and other scary stuff).

So I occupied my nights watching movies and, as the sky lightened, would head out to photograph.

The first morning I headed out, there was a beautiful ground mist throughout a large portion of the valley.

It made for some nice, moody images.

Heading down the valley, I went to a popular valley overlook where you can easily see El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks with Bridalveil Falls.

Usually, at this time of year, the Falls have all dried up. And, as of a month ago, they were. However, the big storm system that dumped a couple of inches of rain in Sacramento, also dumped a good amount of precipitation in the high country, causing the falls to start back up again.

This image was the result of catching a fleeting glimpse of the river and El Cap as I drove the circuit of the valley. I pulled over the the shoulder and headed down the hillside towards a cliff about 20 feet high overlooking the river. The morning light on El Cap reflected into the waters of the river and made a really striking image.

Throughout the rest of my stay, I didn't look for grand vistas, like you would normally associate with Yosemite. Sure, I drove to Wawona tunnel and photographed the valley at sunrise and sunset, but ultimately I was more interested in smaller images.

I've always really liked water. When I lived in Yosemite years back, I realized I like photographing water in all of its state - solid, liquid or gas. I like snow and ice formations, streams, rivers and the ocean and clouds. So it's not uncommon that I find myself down at the river, and that's where I spend a good deal of my time this trip: the Merced River.

I spent my last evening wandering around the valley. I noticed some nice light on Half Dome and thought I might try for an image of it. However, I wasn't seeing anything worthwhile, so I kept wandering the river and wound up in a very quiet spot where I saw some incredible ligth on the water. It was a golden sparkle - a reflection from the light of the canyon wall behind the river that made the water look like molten copper. It was really gorgeous and I spent the last 45 minutes of the evening just sitting there watching the light change and listening to the water, occasionally making an image.

Though I did enjoy myself a great deal, I got stir crazy after a while. I was keeping up on my emails, but couldn't tell get any phone messages via my cell phone or office line and I had some work that needed doing, so I headed back home after a week in the valley.

There are shorter routes in and out of the valley, but I like to take Highway 140 from Merced because of how pretty it is. This trip that really paid off. About 5 miles outside of the park borders, I spotted a beautiful cascade in the river. Before what I had seen really registered, I had the car pulled off the road. I spent about 35 minutes on the side of the road photographing this one really spectacular spot, and walked away with some of my favorite images from the trip.

University of New Mexico Soccer

Well this was a refreshing change.

Today I got the chance to photograph some college soccer - my first time photographing it at this level.

My subject was Chris Wright, older brother to Taryn Wright who plays volleyball for University of Montana and who we photographed playing against Sac State earlier this year.

Well, it was back out to Sac State to photograph Chris. Today was a gorgeous Fall day - the temperature was perfect and the quality of the light was really nice. Unfortunately, Sac State's soccer field is surrounded by a chain link fence along one side and backed by some light colored buildings which reflect the sun - a difficult situation when most of the field is in shadow, but there were certain angles which were really nice.

Chris is a Sacramento native, having graduated from Jesuit high school. He's been a standout soccer player for University of New Mexico and it sounds as though he's got a potentially bright future in the sport after college.

Today's match was a 2-1 victory over Sac State, with Chris supplying the game winning assist towards the end of the second segment of sudden-death overtime play.

I enjoyed photographing the match today - hopefully I'll have more opportunities like this in the future.

Clovis West HS Volleyball

Well it was down to Fresno today to photograph a volleyball match for Clovis West high school. In spite of the 3 hour travel time, we've started photographing them a few years back after they included me in a trip to Hawaii to photograph them playing in the Ann Kang Invitational volleyball tournament on Oahu - along with team pictures, and Senior portraits for three of the team members on Waikiki beach. It was definitely a memorable trip and I've been down to Clovis each year since to continue photographing the team.

That trip made me some great acquaintances in the Clovis area and since then, my main focus of last few years has been a young lady named Mikayla Pierce. We've been photographing her since she was in eighth grade and she graduates next Spring. We're set to do her Senior portraits when the weather warms up and she and her mom decided three years ago that they are going to get one of our Senior Albums, so I make sure that to get images of her each year. Her album will have from eigth grade through graduation, club and high school volleyball as well as her Senior Portraits. It should be quite a book!

After the stomping Salesian gave Kennedy in my visit there, I had checked the win-loss records of Clovis' opponents and selected this team because I thought it might be a competitive match. Unfortunately, Madera wasn't up to it. Clovis won easily in three straight sets. However, many really nice images resulted, here are a few.

Thomas and Pam's Wedding

You've got to be kidding - something other than volleyball?

That's right - a wedding!

This time it was my kid brother, Thomas's, wedding. He and his new wife, Pam, have been together for a number of years and decided to make it a formalized union this Fall.

I don't know how they did it, but they managed to pick the one and ONLY weekend it has rained in Sacramento since last February. Really, that takes some serious planning skill. And it wasn't just a light drizzle - it was two inches of rain over a couple of days, so it was a nice, steady fall.

The wedding was outdoors (of COURSE!) at Rusch park off of Antelope. It was a very small, family sponsored affair - I provided tables and several canopies from our outdoor event supplies, as well as Jason and I photographing (Thomas has a friend, Ken, who is just starting a photography studio and he photographed as well).

By the end of the day I was completely soaked - I mean drowned rat soaked. The first thing my neighbor said to me when I got out of my car upon returning home was ... "Your WET!" ... uhh, yes I am.

I had to pull the equipment into the office, lay everything out and let it dry before putting it back to avoid electrical or mold problems down the road.

In spite of the rain, it was a beautiful location and great to see Thomas and Pam get married.

There was one in the family that was thrilled with the rain ... her name is Aedyn! Yes, my fun loving niece who has been to town three times this year for family funerals has finally made it back to town for a more happy occassion, her uncle's wedding ... and she just loved the rain.

And this is Cadie, my wonderful sister who will probably want to kill me for sharing this picture of her. Isn't she a beautiful mom? Even when she's been standing in the rain!

This was one of my favorite pictures of the day. Aedyn just LOVED the rain and her cousin, Sierra, just LOVES Aedyn, so they wandered the park with an umbrella and spent some time hanging out on this park bench. I like the color contrast, the rain drops and the two pairs of feet poking out from the umbrella!

Sheldon HS Volleyball

As I've mentioned before, this may not be club volleyball season, but it's still volleyball season and we're photographing plenty of it (anyone want a family portrait or senior portrait done? - we love volleyball but are happy to photograph other subject matter too!).

Tonight it was out to Sheldon high school to cover their Seniors in action against Pleasant Grove. We've been creating Senior collages for Sheldon for about six years now (hard as it is to believe that that many years have gone by!)

The match didn't go so well for Sheldon, with them dropping the match in four sets 3-1. They showed some good life, winning the second set decisively, but seemed to fall apart communication-wise the 3rd and 4th matches.

All in all, some good images were to be had.

Nevada Union HS Volleyball

Nevada Union is another of the high school teams that we have been photographing for a number of years now.

It started when Bob Rogers, the NU coach who retired this year, asked us up to photograph Senior Night and provide pictures to the families about four or five years ago.

Unfortunately, with his retirement this season, we did not arrange to photograph the Senior Night portraits this year, but we did make it to photograph the match.

The Nevada Union team is always a fun one to photograph - they're a really solid squad, having made it to State Championships the last three out of five seasons. We've photographed them at State Championships twice, and the images from last year are still on our volleyball site.

We've sorted at posted all of the images from this match as well as those that we photographed at the Super 8 tournament on our vbpics.com volleyball website.

Hopefully this next season we'll be back out for the Senior Night portraits and we can add a few more Senior portraits like we did for Nevada Union #2, Taylor Japhet.

St. Francis HS Volleyball

What did we shoot today? You guessed it ... volleyball. :) After finishing the Elk Grove team pictures, it was straight out to St. Francis for their match, while Jason headed out to Granite Bay for a match there.

We recently photographed the St. Francis hosted Super 8 Tournament and sold a whopping $35 in pictures (yeah, ouch ... but a lot of the high school families don't know us all that well and - for some reason - have little enthusiasm for great volleyball images).

Anyway, one of the Seniors didn't play during the Super 8 tournament, so it was back to St. Francis to make sure we had images of her. Each year we do Senior collages for the graduating athletes. This started with Granite Bay about five years ago, but this will be our fourth year doing the same for St. Francis.

The match was another lopsided one - the St. Francis vs Florin matchup isn't much of a matchup with St. Francis winning easily in three straight sets.

However, St. Francis always has a solid team and a great gym, so it did allow for some nice images. I processed these for printing at 20x30 images and they would look incredible.

One fun thing about these images is that they will print BIG really well. They were photographed on the 21 million pixel Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III that I picked up at the end of club season this year. The camera is not considered a sports camera because it doesn't have a super fast frame rate (5 frames per second versus the 10 frames per second of the sports version 1D Mark III), but the fact is that - if your timing is good - you don't need a whole lot of frames to get good action. Volleyball is typically a single image per touch sport anyway, so 1Ds Mark III works well. Another accusation is that the 1Ds Mark III doesn't have good enough high ISO performance to photograph indoor sports. However, it performs very well up to its top ISO of 3200 and it has plenty of pixels - noise will be very minimal in prints.

Elk Grove High School Team Pictures

Well, even though it isn't the season for club volleyball, if you've been vising this section of our site, you know it's still volleyball season in high school and that means we see ourselves doing team pictures and covering highschool and college matches.

This afternoon we photographed Elk Grove High School's volleyball team pictures. We've been doing this several years running now - Elk Grove park is adjacent to the school grounds and is a beautiful location to photograph. I'm still waiting for someone from the Elk Grove area to schedule a session so that we can do Family or Senior portraits there.

I'm really happy with hose the images turned out. Here are a few, I hope you enjoy them!

Sir Francis Drake High School

Each year, one of our goals is to continue working with the schools we already regularly work with and to add at least a few more.

This year, we were happy to photograph Sir Francis Drake high school. This came about due to a recommendation by one of our club volleyball customers that we photograph for regularly, Kim Silva. Kim's daughter, Chelsey, plays club volleyball and we've been photographing her the last three years. Here is Chelsey at the 2007 & 2008 Volleyball Festivals.

Chelsey plays for Sir Francis Drake high school and, when a parent asked about her collages, Kim recommended us and we were hired to photograph the team.

Drake is another Bay area team, so there was more driving involved (I wish I was this popular with Sacramento area teams!) and - after a few wrong turns, some mumbled (and not so mumbled!) bad language - I made it to the school to photograph the match. I had intended to make it in time to photograph full matches for both JV and Varsity, but was only able to photograph the final match for JV.

It's always nice to see familiar faces at high school matches and I saw plenty on both of the Varsity teams.

The matchup between the teams was good - even though Drake won in straight sets - the competition allowed for a good number of images. I walked away with 560 good images of the Varsity match.

The images have been sorted by athlete and posted to our vbpics.com website. If you're interested, we invite you to check them out.

Salesian High School Volleyball

While we do photograph much more than just volleyball this time of year ... we still photograph an awful lot of volleyball.

Today it was Salesian High School in Richmond.

I made the drive to Richmond to photograph the match and to go over Stephany Leonard's Senior portrait proofs with the family. A week or so prior to the match I exchanged emails with Steph asking if that night's match would be a good one to photograph. "Yeah the Kennedy game sounds good." was the reply she emailed from her iPhone, so I packed my gear and headed down.

Once I showed up, Stephany's parents, Michelle & Tom, were both happy to see me there, but expressed disappointment at the match selected. Mildly confused, I surveyed the other team ... on average, they were about 4-5 inches shorter than Stephany's team. The uniforms were old, and the athletes were obviously not as practiced. This was clearly not a high level team fielded by a school with a dedication to volleyball. And it showed in the scores. Salesian won in a strait set sweep: 25-12, 25-7, 25-6. Ouch.

After the game Michelle asked Steph why she said this would be a good match when I asked about it ... "I wanted to see the [Senior Portrait] proofs!"

OK, good enough - I guess I didn't phrase my original question quite right. :)

In spite of the rather undramatic win against a completely overmatched opponent, I did get some nice images of the match.

So, while the match wasn't all that dramatic and I only walked away with 134 good images (I usually have anywhere from 400 - 800 from a match, particularly if it goes a full five games of good competition) I got some really nice ones of Stephany on the court and we had a great time going over her portrait proofs later that night.

Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved Micheal Hall Photography