White balance you say?

You know what I like about taking photographs with my iPhone? Simplicity.

At its core there are no settings. You select the Camera app…. it selects the focus area (or you can do such if so inclined)…. you press and release the virtual button. And you’re done.

Granted, there seems to be millions of apps by which to edit your image, but the actual act of snapping the photo is brain-dead simple. And this is a good thing as I’m pretty brain-dead a lot of the time. But for every moment the iPhone is just fine for capturing something in a lovely stream of 1’s and 0’s there is a moment when a dSLR (or something relatively equivalent) certainly comes in handy. But the price we pay for shooting with fancier cameras is complexity. And complexity, my dear readers, opens up opportunities for mistakes.

But this isn’t necessarily always a bad or undesirable thing. For example…

West Milton Falls in Fluorescent White Balance

West Milton Falls in Fluorescent White Balance Setting

I snapped the above a few days ago while re-visiting a local waterfall, which is actually part of a city’s drainage system. I had thought I ‘fixed’ all my various settings to the appropriate… uh… settings, when about half way through the shoot I realized the white balance setting was still on Fluorescent (I had been shooting in my kitchen a few days previously).

Sigh.

I quickly made the necessary adjustment to Cloudy and continued shooting knowing I could easily alter the white balance setting in Lightroom as I shoot in Raw. Notice I said I shoot in Raw and not in the Raw, which would be a completely different matter altogether.

When I returned home and popped my pictures onto the computer I finally had the opportunity to see them on the large screen which allows for a better view. I moved along through all the pictures with the incorrect (Fluorescent) setting and then came upon the ‘correct’ ones. And you know what? I was disappointed with them. Yes; they were much more accurate in terms of color, but they seemed to have lost something. And so I tried an experiment.

I created a virtual copy of the above image and set its white balance to Cloudy within Lightroom and obtained this result…

West Milton Falls in Cloudy White Balance

West Milton Falls in Cloudy White Balance

So… is it just me who thinks the image with the much more appropriate white balance setting is less appealing or what?

I confess I prefer the foliage in the corrected version, but the focal point of the image is and should be the waterfall and there I find the incorrect white balance setting to offer a much more pleasing effect. Perhaps more importantly is the fact it was my intention all along to work my final selection of photographs such that any greenery showing would be fairly desaturated as to take away its potentially distracting qualities and help keep the viewer’s focus upon the water.

Once I factor in my additional editing plans I can’t think of a single reason to not use the incorrect white balance setting on all my keepers and let the work speak for itself with those who view them. However, I elected to seek some opinions from others and shared these two images with a handful of friends and family. The consensus? None.

There were those who liked the correct white balance and those who preferred the incorrect one, AND they were evenly split. Good grief. It’s bad enough when I myself have difficult selecting for more impact, but when everyone puts the decision up in the air…. Wow.

So where does this leave me? Well I’m going to work the keepers with the incorrect white balance and edit as previously mentioned. However, I think I will include at least one copy with the same edits, but with the corrected white balance and see what folks on flickr say about the choice. Can’t wait to see where the choices fall.

When life gives you lemons…

Yeah… so… I have this thing about photography wherein I tend to have something in mind which I wish to accomplish. I call it project photography.

Instead of simply picking up my camera and photographing stuff I get an idea into my head, plan it out and then go and do it. I meet with varying degrees of success as is painfully obvious when one views either this blog or my Flickr account. There are those who strongly support the shoot every day mentality, but I can’t get behind that for myself. It’s like those 365-projects you see so often on Flickr. The pictures often seem forced, if that makes any sense and I’m not into forcing myself to snap pictures if I’m not inclined. But I sure do love setting up for a photography outing and so it was I did such last month.

I had been searching for a new model when at a local art festival I ran into a young lady my daughter knows. I had thought about asking her before, but never got around to it, but here she was. And I was. And there you go. Numbers exchanged I began making plans for a project with her. And I had it all planned out… the location, time of day, what I wanted to actually shoot, etc. And so it was the day came and I arrived early to scout the location, which I had been to before, for our photographic get-together.

But there was a problem. Actually… two problems.

First, the incredible graffiti, which covered a lot of the walls around this set of buildings in downtown Dayton, was gone. Painted over. And fairly recently. So much for my cool-as-shit backdrops. Second, my model was late. By over an hour. Not really being a model she wasn’t aware of the great importance of the waning daylight I had intended to make use of. We were off to a poor start. But instead of being dejected (too dejected I mean) I opted to make do with what I had of the remaining daylight and the fact I had brought my single-light kit.

And so it was we tackled my first selected location with the now fading ambient daylight…

Sarah in Doorway I

Sarah in Doorway I

I had noticed this tiny green door surrounded by the red-painted bricks and thought it might make for a nice background. And I think I was right, but I had no small amount of difficulty figuring out how to arrange her within the space. So many of the poses looked tense or even awkward… as if she was just a bit too big for the small doorway, but we continued in hopes of finding some sort of magic.

Sarah in Doorway II

Sarah in Doorway II

While I’m not certain I was actually aware of the thought-process, I eventually came to settle upon two styles which seemed to work better. The pose in the above picture seemed to work well. I mean, if the space is vertically challenged then go horizontal, right? Seems pretty self-evident in hindsight, but at that moment in time I was having issues with seeing this. And the other style which appeared to work better was to get in close and let just a part of the doorway be the backdrop.

Sarah in Doorway III

Sarah in Doorway III

Alas… the sun was setting quickly and at this location we were already shooting in strong shade brought about from the shadow of the building. I was loath to let my model go after such a short period of time… hell… I had been there longer in advance of her than we had been shooting thus far. And so I suggested, if she didn’t mind, we try and make something of the evening with the flash, stand and umbrella I had dragged along.

Sarah being game she helped me get the equipment out of the car and we moved on to another spot I had selected. And here was where things became more complicated as I hadn’t planned to shoot with just the flash and I’m really not adept at it in any way. I mostly use the flash and umbrella for fill-light and the like and not as the sole source of illumination. Add this to the general complications which come from photographing a model when you don’t really do that sort of thing anyway and it’s more-or-less a recipe for disappointment.

Still….

Sarah on Escape Ladder

Sarah on Escape Ladder

I think the above is my fav of the entire evening. It may not be my most favorite pose, or lighting, or framing/composition, but I think it possesses the best overall qualities. Kudos to Sarah for having been so cooperative too as we spent most of the rest of the evening working on the escape ladder, which couldn’t have been particularly comfortable.

The ladder had presented a unique problem in so much that she was up fairly higher than I and my light, while on a 9-foot stand, just wasn’t tall enough to throw light on her in a more or less 90-degree angle to the plane of her face. In other words: I was often throwing light up to her at an angle, which led to some really weird and undesirable results. In the above image she had come down onto the steps and I was able to get the light thrown more directly upon her.

Eventually we wondered off to one last spot in front of a solid brick wall. Just her and I standing there with me trying to find a way to get light on her in a way which might be pleasing. I didn’t want her to be lit face-on as she was in the last image, but nor did I want anything which cast large portions of her face into too much shadow. After a great number of attempts I finally found a pose and positioning on my part which seemed to work.

Sarah at Wall

Sarah at Wall

There are still some things I could do to this image in editing which I think will make it even better (like adding some light to the dark side of her hair), but in general I’m rather pleased. Of course this sort of thing gives me just the excuse I need to dump the file into my recently purchased Adobe Photoshop CS5 and try and make the image more the way I really want it to be.

But boy… CS5 sure is a complicated bit of programming.

Pimpin’s hard work…

I see I have, yet again, been a completely lazy sod of a blogger.

Sigh.

But hey! You get what you pay for, am I right?!

However, let us not equate a lack of blogging entries to mean humble narrator hasn’t been taking pictures. Nothing could be further from the truth my dear readers. To be both frank and honest I’ve been taking more pictures over the past month than has been the norm throughout much of the summer. Unfortunately, one of my more recent photographic projects did not go quite according to plan, but instead followed my usual tried-and-true route of revealing large gaps in both my skills and talents.

And so it was humble narrator become a bit dejected. After a few days of sulking it suddenly occurred to me that my so-called ‘failure’ wasn’t actually a failure at all. Nope. Perish the thought. A ‘learning experience’ it was rebranded and suddenly all was right in the world. Lesson learned: models may be late, especially if they aren’t really models and don’t understand the value of available daylight.

Like I said… lesson learned.

Reinvigorated with my learning experience I opted to take a more casual approach to photographing of late and came back with some pleasant results.

Falls @ West Milton, Ohio

I was actually turned onto this small waterfall by some fellow Flickr friends in my area, but took great advantage of a then recent thunderstorm, which I had anticipated would swell the creek and turn this otherwise quiet fall into something more interesting. I think I was right, I might add with a just a hint of self-satisfaction. I even got a little crazy with the processing in that I dropped the Vibrance pretty heavily in Lightroom so that the green foliage would be more muted, thus making certain the viewer’s attention remained more focused upon the actual water.

Another evening I found myself suddenly struck by the urge to go out and snap some night time pictures, which is something I have rarely done. I had actually wished to grab a particular shot of a sign in the downtown Dayton area of which I had a nice daytime picture. I had hoped the neon lighting would be all lit up and that it would be… well… awesome.

It wasn’t.

The sign wasn’t lit at all. But instead of being dejected and resigned to this fate I elected to drive around the area and look for another opportunity. And could you believe one presented itself?

Firefly Building

This is actually a triptych (duh!) of some of the pictures I took that evening. It was a complete fluke that I came across this building’s entrance way as it’s not quite visible from the main drag. Regardless, I thought it so unusual it merited at least an attempt by me to get something out of it. Long exposures… tripod… not so bad results. Actually, my fav from this particular building is this image…

"NG"

Please do not ask me to explain why I like this one so much, but I do and that’s enough for me.

Now… keeping in mind my aforementioned issue with my lack of talent and skill, I elected to take part in a free class on flower/garden photography offered at one of my local parks. The price was right. The weather reasonable. And I have no problem sitting through a lecture which helps reaffirm what I’m doing right and makes me question what I’m doing wrong.

After the lecture I, along with many in attendance, ventured into the garden and snapped away merrily. I hadn’t really intended for this to become a major deal, but before I knew it almost four hours had passed (including the 1.5 hours of lecture). As I hadn’t gone to the garden with the intention of photographing flowers, insects, etc. I had become very relaxed about the entire event. It wasn’t one of my projects, where there is a built-in need to feel as if I’ve successfully accomplished something, but a simple afternoon of photography. A simple afternoon of trying to incorporate the things the instructor had discussed.

I must say I think I had some pretty nice pictures come from it as well…

I need more days like that one.

Timing is everything… and I’ve got nothing…

This is not a new subject matter for me, your humble photography narrator. Not by a long shot, but it has been a while since I’ve encountered this particular gem of a let down…

You know what this is?

It's a tree

YES!

It is a tree.

Good job.

But do you know what makes this particular tree special?

No?

Well let me tell you…

This morning I was enjoying my breakfast in the t.v. room. I chanced to look out the sliding glass door towards this very tree and what did I see, but two juvenile squirrels playing. I don’t know if it was simply play or courting or what, but it was very, very cute. They would scamper around the tree and pounce upon each other just like kittens do. One or the other would often wind up upside down on the grass while it’s paws playfully coaxed the other to attack. They raced around the tree, up its base a bit… back and forth.

It was one of those moments which would melt the heart of the most jaded soul alive.

And so I watched them for about four or five minutes before I realized I should get up off my ass and grab my camera, which was at the time residing in my car. I put down my glass of milk, raced to the garage, grabbed the camera and began making settings adjustments on the way back to the television room. Upon completion of my task I reached for the handle to the sliding glass door so that I didn’t have to shoot through it when I noticed the squirrels… were… gone.

Shit.

I myself wasn’t gone but maybe 30-seconds and in that particular span of time the lovely squirrels had decided enough was enough and taken off for other squirrelly pursuits.

Some days I hate being the owner of a camera.

And so it sweats…

My last post discusses the beginning salvo of my SoBoFoMo project revolving around the feral and homeless cats I watch over and feed. Since then I have encountered two bits of ‘fun’ I thought I’d share.

Here’s fun number one:

The weather...

Yeah. It says “90” right now (and ‘right now’ is almost 9:30p.m.), but it was 96 at the peak today with a heat index of around 110. You know… I left Florida to escape this sort of thing.

(sigh)

It has been like this all week and will remain like this through tomorrow, as you can see in the above picture. While things will cool-off over the weekend and into the week it’s still scheduled to be warmer than average. Just not stupid-hot. Needless to say working with a dSLR in this heat, with this humidity, in a small wood which only serves to trap the humidity under the leafy canopy (and between the two humidity is far worse than direct sunlight) I’ve been reluctant to shoot pictures.

The cats look and act distressed (lethargic) and I don’t blame them. It’s nasty. I myself looked as if I had just stepped out of the shower as I returned to my car to come back home. And into a real shower.

(heavenly sigh)

So this first week of photography has yielded precisely three-days of photographs when I had planned at least six. Kid you not… the camera actually slipped out of my hand the other day as both it and my hand were so covered in sweat.

Gross… I know!

But I did learn something yesterday while out with the camera and I apologize for not having the pictures to prove it as I’m entering this blog post from a different computer. What I “discovered” is when trying to photograph cats in a small wood with a flash attached to the camera there is a very good chance the flash will highlight… even over-expose… the leaves and branches that lay between the cat and me; the humble photographer.

This does not lead to the sort of results one had hoped for. It also begs the question: does forkboy have the slightest clue what he’s doing?

It’s probably best we don’t answer that…

Not according to plan…

It was supposed to be a perfect day. The weather, while warmer than I like, was very nice. A good breeze. Reasonable humidity. Plenty of sunshine and enough puffy, white clouds to make it an attractive sky.

You know… a good day.

And when nature hands you a good day you should take advantage of it with your camera and so it was I made some plans. A quick trip south of Dayton to collect a ring I was having re-sized and then a short journey to Cox Arboretum to take full advantage of the very recently opened Butterfly House!

As they say… the best laid plans…

Jeweler was closed for the week. On vacation. I didn’t know about it and I had been saving my trip to the store for post-butterfly house opening seeing how both the store and Cox Arboretum are not exactly around the corner from my house.

“Oh well,” I thought. “The butterflies will more than make up for this,” was the thinking which cheered me up. Except the butterflies were not in attendance at the butterfly house.

Nope.

Maybe four or five small monarchs.

(sigh)

I think this happened to me two years ago. Early July, regardless of the fact the butterfly house is open, is too early for the butterflies. I need to give it until the end of the month before things really start to pick up. (make mental note about such so we don’t have to write about this problem again next year)

Well… adopting the make lemonade mantra when life hands you lemons, I moved on to the various ponds at Cox Arboretum thinking I may grab some shots of the dragonflies. I do love dragonflies. But again it is just a bit too early in the season for them.

Oh… they were out and about. Buzzing to and fro as dragonflies are wont to do. But they were not out in the numbers I have seen deeper into summer. Nor were they very big; most being rather tiny.

Drat. No. Double drat!

But so what. I spent a nice afternoon outside for a few hours and I may have snagged a few decent dragonfly pictures (I haven’t yet checked). It’s still nice to be out and about with the gear doing what I enjoy most about photography: being behind the camera.

And not unlike my last post, seeing how this is a blog dedicated to photography, how about a snap real quick? I’m glad you agree…

Tulip

I didn’t snap many flower pictures this Spring, but when I saw my neighbor’s tulips just past their peak, relaxing in a smattering of dappled sunlight I just couldn’t help myself. Tripod and 70-200mm lens in hand I ventured across the street and threw myself into it. There are two things I really like about this picture: (1) the symmetry of the flower, and (2) the brilliant yellow in the base of the petals.

Like sunshine made flower.

Welcome Surprises…

Being an amateur photographer I’m accustomed to surprises. Unfortunately they tend to be of the un-welcomed variety.

Like the time I first took out my brand new 70-200mm lens. Photographing cardinals in an ice-covered tree I’d press the shutter release and nothing would happen. Then some seconds later “click”. I spent two or three minutes thinking there was something wrong with the lens, when in truth there was something wrong with me: I hadn’t changed the camera settings back from self-timer after my last use.

(sigh)

But sometimes we hobbyist photographers get lucky. Something cool happens. We’re playing in post-processing and chance upon a setting which really makes our otherwise average photo really sing. Or once home and in front of the computer we realize the pictures we took and thought were ho-hum on the camera’s LCD screen are actually pretty good. These are great moments.

But today I’m talking about coming across something within the actual image, which we hadn’t originally seen. For instance, we start with this basic flower picture…

A pretty picture of a pretty flower. But nothing surprising about it. Right? Well when working with this in Lightroom with a large, 24-inch monitor I came across this…

Isn’t it cute?

Sure… this isn’t a big surprise. A bug. On a flower. Outdoors. It could happen. But it was unexpected and unseen when I snapped the picture. Hell.. it was only because I was playing with cropping that I even saw this little fellow in the soft shaft of sunlight falling upon the petal.

And just the other day I was out at a local garden, Wegerzyn Garden (part of the Dayton, Ohio, area Five Rivers MetroParks system), snapping pics of late Spring flowers when I came across a bee. A bee doing its busy bee thing and so I started snapping a series of pics of it on this one particular flower.

When I got home and was going through the images I had, once again, zoomed in to better see the bee when I … well… well see for yourself.

The poor little bee has what I am certain is an unwelcome guest: a mite!

While I’m certain the bee could live without this Faustian nightmare, I can’t help but think how lucky I was to be in the right place at the right moment such that I could capture this bit of nature.

I’ll take these sorts of surprises any day of the week over not clearing previous session settings.

I lied…

I admit it.

I lied.

I promised myself (and others) I would buckle down and get serious about writing on this here blog in a more regular fashion. I notice it’s been three-months to the day since my last entry.

(sigh)

Ok. I suck.

But the fact I suck isn’t really anything new, now is it? Nope. Not at all. It is, if I may borrow a bit of French, de rigueur for the likes of me. So this time I make no promises, but will instead attempt to rectify this problem by hopefully being more diligent. Oh well…. let’s get on to something photography-oriented, eh?

I learned something the other day. No. Let me clarify. I noticed something the other day and with any luck I will have learned something from it. Observe…

Downy Woodpecker

Not too bad a picture really. But it looks a bit soft. A bit grainy. And there-in lies the problem. There’s simply more noise/grain than I would prefer. But you have to imagine the shooting situation to better understand how I came to be shooting at ISO 800.

I ventured out the other morning as it was the first in which sunlight broke through the clouds in probably a week. With still fresh snow upon the ground I hit Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm (a convenient and short drive) early in morning in hopes of capturing some nice shots of the birds hanging out in the trees as they swooped to and from the various feeders.

Birds? Check. Sunlight? Check. What more does a photographer need?

Apparently a lot more.

To not spook the birds I elected to remain at a discreet distance and shoot with my 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens. I had tried my 70-200mm previously and it simply didn’t have the reach I needed. After all, these particular birds I was after are all pretty small. Chickadees, titmouse, nuthatch and downy woodpeckers are pretty small birds if you didn’t already know this. Naturally this meant I would be using almost exclusively the 400mm end of the lens and I anticipated plenty of crop & zoom back in front of the computer.

Now, being Winter the sun never gets particularly high in the sky and so it was there wasn’t a whole lot of great light. Add in the fact that when shooting at 400mm the rule of thumb is to work to keep your shutter speed at or above 1/400 of a second to mitigate camera shake or motion blur. Granted, I was using my monopod and had the lens image stabilization active, but to be on the safe side I adjusted my aperture to around f/9 or f/11 (I wanted to hit the sweet spot of the lens), which required me to bump up my ISO to 800 to make it all work.

ISO 800 compounded by the need to fairly heavily crop & zoom is not a winning combination in my opinion.

See?

White-breasted Nuthatch

Still… it was a nice way to spend a cold morning and with any luck I may actually remember this particular problem and work harder to get around it in the future.

But I wouldn’t bet on it.

The bees saved the day!

Maybe saying the bees saved the day is too strong a title? Perhaps it would be more accurate to say “Bees rescue photo excursion from total disaster”.

No. That actually sounds more dire. It’s also far more accurate.

Being rather lost in the world of photography I find myself open to trying new things and recently was provided with some information which not coincidentally led me to explore a new opportunity. About three weeks or so ago I was seated at a friend’s house having a lovely discussion in advance of our little sojourn to the local butterfly house. During the course of this delightful conversation I noticed what might best be described as an abundance of hummingbirds flittering about her back garden. They were darting too and fro; stopping to enjoy plants and feeders placed specifically for their needs. They are quite tiny and tend to move around quite a bit, but I was intrigued by the notion of trying to photograph them. And so it was I found myself with an opportunity yesterday morning.

My friend is also my neighbor, which made the trek quite reasonable (all of 30-seconds), and this is good because hauling around my 100-400mm lens is a bit of a chore seeing how it alone weighs in at 1,380-grams (3.04 pounds). So, about noon I had set myself up in their back garden selecting a spot that I felt gave me clear line of sight to two of the feeders and afforded me a bit of protection from their seeing me. Unfortunately this position also left me a fair distance form both feeders and even at the full stretch of 400mm the hovering beauties weren’t much more than specs in the viewfinder.

(sigh)

Regardless, I snapped away when they came about looking for the fill of nectar and must have rattled off a good fifteen or so images before I decided to check any of them on the LCD screen. Probably a bad idea in hindsight.

This is actually a not too unreasonable image considering what the rest looked like.

Absolutely nothing went well. First, I was too far away. Second, the only feeder in which they seemed interested had this horribly bright reflection of sunlight coming off the ring of metal whereupon the feeding flower attachments rest. This particular issue was most damning as it made the camera want to underexpose absolutely everything else such that it might properly expose this hot spot. I can’t really blame the camera for when I tried to increase exposure to obtain a better metering of the hummingbirds, I wound up with a huge, blinding white spot instead coming off the feeder.

I experimented with maybe a dozen different settings, all of which failed to give me a decent image of a hummingbird. And it didn’t help in the slightest that my arch nemesis Mother Nature (cruel bitch) saw fit to suddenly bring in the occasional cloud, which, just when I thought I might have nailed the settings, would be thrown off completely by the great big shadow cast by said clouds.

Still, my shots could have been far worse.

However, for all this grief there was a bit of a silver lining. After I had become irritated with my lack of luck …..er…. skill at photographing the hummingbirds I wandered around her back garden for a moment when I came upon a large bed of late-summer blooming flowers. And I had hit a jackpot of sorts.

The flowers were teeming with bumble bees, honey bees and an assortment of tiny butterflies/moths. And I mean teeeeeeeming. This small bed of flowers easily had over 100 bugs zipping to and fro in search of a delicious meal. It was almost surreal. But surreal in a good way for a guy standing there with a camera and fairly monstrous lens!

I easily snapped over 100 images in just a matter of minutes, which sounds like an awful lot, but it really isn’t if you’re familiar with photographing insects. They’re truly difficult to get a good focus on because they’re so small and because they’re almost always moving about. Shoot one-hundred pics and you may be very, very happy with five to ten of them, which is about what I kept.

Naturally, me being me, there was one snafu to this bee-shooting spectacular: I had somehow managed to set my camera to ISO 400, which left a bit more noise than I would otherwise want in these closeups. And ISO 400 was completely unnecessary considering the incredibly bright sunshine during our 93-degree Fahrenheit day (33.8C). I don’t know how it happened, but it is par for the course, as they say, when it comes to me and damn near anything I do. Still, I’m not displeased with the results I kept.

But not all is lost here as I intend to return next week with camera in hand, settings correct, and snap some more pics of the bees, but try something different this time regarding the angle. I spent my entire time standing and snapping away last time, but this time I’m going to get down to eye-level with them and see what happens. Let’s just hope for no stinging of the ‘ol photographer.

At Least I Didn’t Lose Any Money On The Deal

Wow. My very first paid gig EVER! And no; it isn’t the one to which I previously alluded in an earlier post. This one came out of the blue…from left field…out of nowhere. And maybe it should have stayed out there.

Sometime last year I was hanging out at my local camera shop, chatting with my main man Alex, when in came a customer who needed some help with a few questions. This cute little blonde had dragged in her kit and plenty of kit she had! (get your minds out of the gutter) Apparently she has her own family-run photography thing and she had been having some issues with white balance when doing team shots at a local gym.

Oddly enough I thought I might have the answer in my head, but said nothing while Alex outlined his solution. Even more odd was how his solution was the same as mine. Or vice versa. Or something like that.

While they finished up with a conversation and looking at some equipment for her flash, I was thinking, “Damn. I don’t get paid to be a photographer, but I recognized her problem and the solution simply because I’ve read about it before. Maybe this person could use an assistant or such?” And so it was I obtained her e-mail address and fired off a message stating I’d like to chat with her if possible about a photographic opportunity. Alas, I never heard back from her. Until recently.

About five or so weeks ago my guy Alex phones me (you know it’s good when your camera store guy has your phone number) and asks if I remember J (name shortened to protect the innocent) because she’d like to talk to me. “Better late than never,” I think and get the phone number from him. Our conversation brings to light how she and another local photographer have joined forces to take team photos at an upcoming soccer event here in the Dayton, Ohio area. She wants to know if I’d be interested in being one of the on-site photographers.

Naturally I explained how I had never done that sort of thing at all (barely photographed people much less something important like this event) and I confess the meager money she was offering didn’t leave me feeling very interested. But I asked to think about it for a day or two and so I did my readers… so I did.

In the end I figured “Why not?” I mean… here was a chance to broaden my horizons and make a few dollars. Or so I thought.

First though I needed to obtain some equipment. Nothing outrageous, mind you, but some new batteries for the camera and flash unit as well as a folding chair to sit in for the day. If you have a dSLR you know that batteries are not cheap and I needed two (no place to recharge during the day), plus new rechargeables for the flash. In the end, half of what I made from the event went to cover the batteries and chair. Bummer.

So I didn’t bank a wad, but I learned stuff, right? No. Not really. The unfortunate aspect of this entire endeavor was that it didn’t really go as planned. The studios had anticipated a lot more work than actually materialized. I mean a lot more. I was led to believe I would be busy all day long for both Saturday and Sunday. Expectations were running high and we were pumped up as we arrived at our location on Saturday morning at 6:45a.m. Reality struck pretty quickly. Only one team had pre-registered from the night before and as the morning hours ticked away only two more teams signed up. Three teams for three photographers for an entire 12-hour day.

(sigh)

Sunday was no better.

I worked another location (closer to home, which was nice) by myself on Sunday and managed to photograph three teams. At least I was busier this time, but still…. the ladies running the show must have been horribly disappointed in the results (may have been a financial loss for them).

But the real question is: Did I walk away learning anything? And while the big answer is “no” the smaller answer is “maybe”. I photographed four teams over the weekend and I walked away with one distinct notion: girls are so much easier to photograph.

The boy teams were clearly not into having their pictures taken. After their respective games they wanted to go on and watch another match. Maybe one with other family members or friends. But the girls were a completely different story. They spent loads of time thinking up poses and trying different ones until they got the one they liked most. They egged each other on and encouraged each other to try something cooler than the girl before them. They were, in a nutshell, a pleasure and joy to both work with and photograph.

While the event itself was something of a bust I will confess the company was good. All the people I met and worked with over the course of the weekend were friendly, polite and helpful. Many folks were either family or friends of J and I must say her family and friends were truly great. I have zero complaints there.

I guess the big question is: Would I do it again? Well I don’t really know. I don’t know if I would have been happier if it had been busier. I may have been less bored, but I don’t know that I would have enjoyed it any more. The experience was, on the whole, okay, but it doesn’t readily come to mind as one of those “a-ha” moments in life (and I’m not referring to the Norwegian band here). It was an opportunity and I’m glad I took it, but I don’t know that I’m interested in repeating it.

All things considered…. I’d rather be out photographing dragonflies.