When one photo is needed from an event

Chick-fil-A Dwarf House in Newnan is renovating, but while renovations are taking place there is a new shipping container restaurant for drive thru only service. [Nikon D5,AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ƒ/2.8, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/200]
This week I have had a few assignments that each one needed one main photo that would work with an extended caption.

While I shot hundreds of photos all around these locations it comes down to one main shot that if there was space for just one photo then I had to have one that summarized the event the best.

I like this first one for showing a brand new shipping container modified for temporary drive thru restaurant.

The Georgia Historical Society put a historical marker at the Original Hapeville Dwarf House. [Nikon D5,AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1100, ƒ/16, 1/500]
On Tuesday there was a dedication ceremony where they unveiled the historical marker at the Original Dwarf House in Hapeville, GA. I arrived early and put my Nikon D5 with a 14-24mm lens on a monopod and hoisted it up high to capture this shot. The fire the shutter I just used the timer on the camera to trip the shutter release.

Now I had hundreds of photos of speakers and people gathered around the historical marker, but all of them didn’t make the simple statement that this photo does. There is a historical marker in front of the Dwarf House.

The key to finding the photo is knowing the storyline. Now you cannot tell the entire story, but can you come close. Just think of what the audience needs to see.

Vince Dooley, the chairman of the Georgia Historical society and advisory board member of the Chick-fil-A Foundation was one of the speakers. Being the famous UGA football coach I continued to think of fun captions for this photo where he is commenting on playing between the hedges. [Nikon D5,AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 320, ƒ/9, 1/500]

Creating the Publicity Photo for the Musical Oklahoma

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 500, ƒ/4, 1/8000

This morning we spent the time shooting promotion shots for Roswell High School’s Theatre performance of Roger & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma. We were shooting a variety and then we will pick the one favorite we all have for the 12′ x 8′ banner that we will put in front of the school.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/400

This is me and the setup for shooting the first photo that Dorie my wife took of me. Now I am shooting High Speed Sync of 1/8000 to make the sky go darker and create more of the “Big Sky” look you would have in Oklahoma.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 400, ƒ/6.3, 1/4000

This was the first photo we started shooting.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1400

Here you can see my setup. I am using [2] Alienbees B1600 for the lights. To power them I am using the Paul Buff Vagabond batteries. To trigger the lights I am using Pocketwizard AC-9 pugged into the Alienbees B1600 and then into the Pocketwizard TT5. This is receiving the signal from the Pocketwizard TT1 with the AC-3 to dial in the exposures on the camera.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/8000

I am shooting low again to emphasize the big sky.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/640

I tried to keep it simple by not moving all around the farm but rather make use of more time at the same location and vary the camera angle.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/4000

Last night we watched the movie of Oklahoma with Shirley Jones starring as Laurey Williams. I feel like this last photo has that same look and feel of the movie.

I wonder which of these might be the banner photo we use to promote the musical Oklahoma.

Here you can get a feel for what we are creating when all the type is added.

My coverage of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl FCA Breakfast

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

My morning started off early with the annual Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s breakfast.

They had surprise guest of Heisman Trophy Winner Hershel Walker being interviewed by Ernie Johnson Jr. at the end of the event.

This year the event was moved to the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

For many this is a fun place to come in Atlanta. Seeing all the memorabilia was just an added bonus that the football fans loved in addition to hearing from the football legends.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

The emcee for the event was Ernest Thorwald “Ernie” Johnson Jr. is a sportscaster for Turner Sports and CBS Sports. He also interviewed Dan Reeves.

Dan Reeves spent  23 years coaching for the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons. He played or coached in a record nine Super Bowls – five with the Dallas Cowboys, three with Denver and one with Atlanta. Prior to coaching, he also spent 16 years in the Cowboys organization – five as a player, three as a player/coach and eight as an assistant coach.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 4000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

The keynote speaker was Benjamin Watson. In the 2005 AFC Divisional Game against the Denver Broncos, he made perhaps one of the most notable plays in NFL history, when he tackled Denver cornerback Champ Bailey one yard short of what would be a 101-yard interception off Tom Brady. Bailey intercepted the pass one yard inside of the Patriot end zone and proceeded 100 yards before Watson, the only Patriot within ten yards of Bailey, hit Bailey violently, knocking both the ball and Bailey out at the Denver 1-yard line. This play is of note due to the fact that Watson was on the other side of the field when Bailey made the play. He had to sprint an estimated 120-yards, run through a referee and never gave up in the chase.

My job this morning was to document the event. I got some overall shots to establish the location of the event and then also had tight shots of the speakers and everything in between.

I shot the event with what I use on the sidelines of the football field, because the distance to the speakers without standing right down in front of the lectern is a good distance away.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

My tip for covering an event as this is to plan ahead. Which lenses will you need? Will you need a tripod or monopod? I used the monopod.

Take the time and think all through the event. If you can go early and scout the location.

Wedding tip is as close as your smart phone

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 220, ƒ/8, 1/100

I just got back last night from the west coast. I enjoyed shooting a friends wedding and getting to meet all of his friends.

The weather in Portland was perfect for the wedding. Cool enough that a coat was not too hot to wear, which was perfect for all the guys.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/200, 2- Alienbees B1600 strobes

This is one of the bigger group shots I have done for a wedding. They had everyone turn around just before they walked out of the church for a group photo. What a really cool idea.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 160, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

My second shooter for the wedding Laura Deas Espeut showed me a great tip. She had on her phone a collection of wedding photos like a Pinterest album and used this for ideas to help in a moment when you start to run dry. The second bonus is she can show people the concept so they can execute it a little better.

That is what we did for the first look photos.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 160, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

I did find that this couple was great because they wanted more spontaneous moments rather than posed. This meant just getting them in good light where the background was good and then just shoot.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/100

We did a good number of posed shots, because that is about the only way to be sure you see everyone and get a good expression.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 180, ƒ/6.3, 1/100

The cloud cover gave us pretty even light for all of the photos outside. It had just rained so all the sidewalks were not bright. Actually just like they do for most movies and TV shows they wet the pavement to keep it from being too bright.

My tip from this wedding is to create an album on your phone of photos you like to use with weddings to show your bride and groom on the wedding day when you are trying to get everyone excited about participating and making the photo work.

Do you love your job? You Should!

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 18000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Did I ever tell you how much I love my job? Every assignment is meeting new people and capturing their personalities and hopefully introducing them to you.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1800, ƒ/4, 1/100

I love meeting a teacher that looks like one of the NFL linemen showing the tender side of caring for children and wanting them to learn all they can.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1250, ƒ/4, 1/100

With children I get a chance to watch their personalities forming. Watching children work is one of my favorite things to see. You can just picture them working their minds.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G,  ISO 900, ƒ/1.8, 1/100

Peaking in on them working is how I often feel when I am asked to photograph children for organizations. I see me being the fly on the wall as they work and play. Here you can see the sensitive moment of the child tenderly placing her Lego block.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 6400, ƒ/10, 1/100

This little girl is having to re thread the needle on her sewing machine. Catching a child super focused and apparently enjoying herself. Now to capture things like this I believe my personal experiences come into play.

My grandmother sewed all of her clothes. I remember watching her work. Today my daughter is doing costume design for theater. Capturing a passion requires you to first understand it is a passion.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

I also love to capture the group dynamics going on. I love this photo of the boys playing ball. I watched as each of them found their role while one of them was batting. They were learning how to play ball with the school’s baseball coach.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Now what is fun to watch is how patiently the coach is with all the kids and then taking the time with them individually teaching them how to be their best. I could also see where the coach couldn’t teach everything they needed to know, but took it one step at a time.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 45600, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000

The older kids were more coordinated in their sports. Here I was able to capture this young girl spiking during their win over a rival school.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 110, ƒ/4, 1/100

I had my first opportunity to capture these young girls learning manners. Here they are learning how to introduce themselves. How to make eye contact, shake hands, greeting with a smile and have good voice as well.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/11, 1/100

While I was shooting something, these two little boys were asking me lots of questions. They wanted to interact with me and hopefully I captured their curiosity here and eagerness to engage with others.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 280, ƒ/4, 1/100

I will end here with another moment that just took me back to our oldest son. When Pokémon came out our son Nelson was the age of Ash Ketchum. In 1997 when it first was on TV our son was 9 years old. These guys were very serious about Pokémon as I remember our son Nelson.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the founder of Chick-fil-A S. Truett Cathy said:

“Love what you do, and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

Interviewing Techniques for Kona, Hawaii Multimedia Storytellers

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 280, ƒ/8, 1/100

When I teach students photography, multimedia and/or storytelling I often find myself reflecting over the content.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250

When I was down at South Point on The Big Island of Hawaii you see how all the trees are bent in one direction.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/200

When I say all the trees I really mean all the trees are bent from a constant wind. The wind is so constant and good that they put windmills here for wind power.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/800

While this strong wind is great it will affect the landscape. Well when I teach I am trying really hard to not make so much of an impression it looks like my students are too over powered.

Some of the things we discussed today was interviewing techniques. Now when I taught with my friends Jeff Raymond and James Dockery we compiled a list of tips that we give to the students. Here is that list plus some that I have added this week:

INTERVIEWING TECHNIQUES
  1. Remember the audience doesn’t know the question from the interviewer if they are not recorded or on camera. Remind the subject to phrase their answer so that the question is understood in their answer, sometimes by repeating the question.
  2. Write down at least 5 good questions beforehand
    1. Listen to their responses and be ready to deviate from your list
    2. Listen as if you only hear their words, not the question you asked
  3. Ask open-ended questions
    1. Ask questions that CAN’T be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’
  4. Ask “how” and “why” questions
    1. If the person speaks in the abstract, ask “Can you give me an example of that?”
  5. Dig for anecdotes and details
    1. Ask the person to tell you exactly what happened moment by moment
    2. Ask specific details along the way.
  6. Understand them and their story
    1. Try to see the world through their eyes
    2. Remember, it’s not your story. Get their story right.
  7. Ask your questions then be quiet. Use silence and don’t be afraid of it. No noises to affirm them. Affirm with gestures. Your noises will distract from the sound quality. 
    1. Don’t finish their sentences.
    2. Be a good listener. Sit quietly as they wrestle with what they are trying to say.
  8. Coach the person to speak with the passion they feel about the subject.
    1. Can you say that again, but with more feeling?
    2. Remember they may be pretty up tight in front of the camera and need to not just relax but bring the emotion through their voice.
  9. Get the basic details right
    1. Get the spelling of their name (business card, or have them write it down).
  10. Clarify
    1. If something they said didn’t make sense, ask for clarification.
    2. Review your footage while you’re still overseas, where follow-up is much easier than after you go home.
  11. Get to know your subject before interviewing them. This will not just help them be more relaxed but help you know how to interview them and perhaps help them relax.
  12. You can do the interview at the end of the coverage and not the beginning. I find it is easier to have someone sum up what we saw today than have them talk about a lot of stuff that by the end of the day I never caught on camera. This helps you from lacking in b-roll or images. 
  13. Ask the subject to summarize what you have seen that day. While you may not use all of this, it will help you with a starting place for the narrative.
  14. Mirror them. Keep them going by nodding and smiling.
  15. Keep them on topic. If you have two or more interviews in your package planned, then each person needs to know what they are covering. Sometimes I break it down as to let one person tell me why something happened and the other to explain what they did to make it happen. 
  16. Help them revise their comments. Often i need about 30 to 45 seconds of comments and a person may talk for more than 5 minutes. If I were to edit it later their will not be a good flow. I try and help them summarize what they just said or even edit. When I say edit–I mean cutting content.
  17. Get variety. I like to often record a longer comment and then follow up with them making it really short. Sometimes I use the longer comment. Get another direction just in case. After doing this for a few minutes often this gets their minds engaged and they find a new way to articulate themselves. Allow for this to happen.

    Now just remember that you don’t need them to tell you everything in words. You will help communicate a good part of what they do also with visuals that you will capture and use as b-roll. You need get them to tell you the things that the visuals don’t convey. While you have a visual that shows something happening, it often doesn’t help the audience know why.

    If you do a good job interviewing then the story will be unique the branches of the story can be like Angel Oak Park on Johns Island near Charleston, South Carolina. Angel Oak is estimated to be 500 years old. The character of the subject will shine through and be who they really are rather than all the wind forcing it’s power on the tree.

    Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/250

    Nikon D5 comparing ISO 800 to 66535

    Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 800, ƒ/11, 1/200–4 – Alienbees B1600 w/45º reflectors, PocketWizard Plus 

    I shot this group photo of 400 musicians and to get the most even light I ended up bouncing 4–Alienbees B1600 strobes with 45º reflectors bouncing off the ceiling. I also used the ExpoDisc to get a custom white balance.

    This is pretty heavy crop of the above photo.

    Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 7200, ƒ/5, 1/200

    Now this is a performance shot with available light. If you notice the light on the orchestra at the bottom wasn’t very even and this is why I shot with strobes rather than using available light for the group photo.

    Now just to give you an idea of how good ISO 7200 looks here is a enlargement of similar size to the first photo.

    Pretty awesome if I say so myself.

    Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 66535, ƒ/5.6, 1/200

    I was blown away with the ISO 66535 quality of the french horn player.

    Shoot some with other photographers so you can grow

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 500, ƒ/8, 1/500

    Just the other night our instructors got on a conference call and talked through our plans for one last time before our trip for Storytellers Abroad workshop in Managua, Nicaragua.

    This was the first draft and all that pink and green is our time shooting our stories. All the light blue is class time and editing time.

    One of the best things you can do to improve your photography is to network and shoot some things with other photographers. Plan an outing soon where you can get that immediate feedback from others.

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/30

    I will be teaching techniques to help steady one’s DSLR as they are shooting video. All these tips and tricks are to help the students capture the stories of the people in Nicaragua.

    Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

    I am looking forward to helping the students as they shoot with tweaking their settings on their cameras to get a better image.

    Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/125

    Maybe you would like to learn how to tell stories using video/audio/stills and need someone to help you navigate all those settings on the camera and all the possibilities of using software like Adobe Premier.

    While the trip next week is sold out you can join Gary S. Chapman and I in Honduras. Spend a week with us getting to know the people and countryside of Honduras as well as having time to show us your work and get some feedback and tips.
    Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/25
    At the end of the week we all gather with the subjects and some in the community for them to have the big reveal of all our stories. We show them what we put together that week on them.
    Well I am off to buy some more bug spray to be ready for the mosquitos in Nicaragua.
    Check out how to go with us to Honduras here http://workshop.stanleyleary.com/

    Storyteller tips before you leave for your coverage

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1800, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

    Last June I was in Bucharest, Romania teaching the Storytellers Abroad Workshop. In just a few days I will fly to Managua, Nicaragua to teach the same workshop with my friends Jeff Raymond and James Dockery.

    Let me give you a few tips for doing storytelling that we are doing this week before the class goes to Managua.

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

    I have never traveled for any story that I did not have an idea of who and what the story was before I left my house. You need to go prepared as much as you can and if things change that is OK, but don’t go unprepared.

    Each and everyone of the students will have a person/story that they will be given before they leave. Typically for the working professional if you are traveling overseas you most likely will have a month or more time to prepare for your story due to the logistics of traveling.

    Once you have the contact information of your subject do all you can to correspond with them as soon as possible. Sometimes I have not had the luxury of working directly with the subject. In those times I was working with the NGO staff person on the ground in that country. Often with church organizations this was the missionary.

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

    Most of the time someone with an organization has identified a person and tells you their story. While this often changes from what you hear till the time the story is done, I always use this storyline as a way to formulate questions to help “flesh out” the story. To flesh out something is to give it substance, or to make it fuller or more nearly complete.

    There have been a few times in my career that I was able to do so much research before I arrived that the story was pretty much set. I had asked enough questions that I felt comfortable and had even been able to tell the story as I understood it back to the subject to be sure I was on target.

    When that happens I have an outline which had the text/verbal part of the story being told and then a visual shot list that I would use as b-roll. In interviews and documentary films it may describe secondary footage that adds meaning to a sequence.

    Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1100, ƒ/4, 1/100

    Now besides interviewing the subject I also spend a lot of time researching all I can about the country and the region I will be going. Before the internet this meant going to the library and pulling all the books I could find and periodicals on the country. Today with Google this process is so much easier.

    I also love to read if I can find them documentary novels on a culture. One such writer who view history with a visitor’s eye is Sarah Vowell. She wrote Unfamiliar Fishes, which is the short and awful history of Western intervention in Hawaii, up to U.S. annexation of the kingdom in 1898.

    Sometimes a novel can really help you feel like you have been somewhere even before you have experienced it. I know many people who have read Pat Conroy’s book South of Broad feel like they know that area of Charleston, SC just from reading the book.

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1.6 sec

    Now the other thing that is cool with Google is when you research a location like Seattle, Washington you can narrow that search to just see images.

    This is a great way to get ideas on some establishing shots for the beginning of your story. When I did all this homework before I show up in a city I have already got the street addresses and know what is the best time of day to shoot that skyline shot. It is on my calendar with all the other appointments with the subject before I leave for the trip.

    Tips Summary

    • Identify the story/subject before you go
    • Contact your subject and find out all you can before your trip
    • Research the area you are going
    • Find as many photographs of the area before you go

    How to give light to the darkness with volunteers working with NGOs

    Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/100–Neewer TT850, Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel transmitter [Exposure Bias: -4/6 EV]

    This morning I was shooting volunteers that were pulling nails out of 2’x4’s. We started early because is was actually sprinkling and a down pour was on it’s way. This was a nasty overcast day.

    Now when people bend over and have on ball caps well this is the worst possible situation I can think of shooting where the natural light is actually working against you.

    This morning I avoided getting this type of photo that I had at a football game. See how you cannot see their faces. The light is from above and when they are facing down you have total black under those helmets just like you have under the visor of a baseball cap.

    My assistant took one of the Neewer TT850 flashes and I had the transmitter which controls the power on my camera. Sometimes I was at 1/8 power and other times only needed about 1/64 power to fill in those shadows of the people working.

    My camera is pretty much on the ground so I can see their faces and so is the flash. I asked the assistant to try and stay 45º to 90º from me to create a triangle. I am one corner the subject is another and the flash is the 3rd corner of the triangle.

    I am also slightly under exposing from 1/3 to 2/3 and even up to -1 stop under. The flash is kicking in and becomes the main light on the faces.

    Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 180, ƒ/8, 1/100–Neewer TT850, Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel transmitter [Exposure Bias: -4/6 EV]

    Had I used on camera flash I would have gotten much better results than without a flash, but by getting the flash off the camera I create more modeling of the skin and creating depth.

    Just remember to always have a flash in case you need to do something similar to help the audience connect with the subject.