Raleigh Finally Figured Out Fireworks

This year for Independence Day fireworks, I went with a group of friends just south of downtown Raleigh. No one wanted to deal with the crazy traffic so we went with a non-traditional spot.

We parked on the shoulder off the highway not a half mile south of downtown and set up in the grassy area in the middle of the exit ramp!

Since the revitalization of downtown Raleigh, they have moved the fireworks from the fairgrounds (flat and viewable from miles around) to downtown on Fayetteville Street. Love the idea. Have people downtown, get dinner, drinks and then hang out on the street to live music as the fireworks go off.

However there was a maximum height limitation on the fireworks. So unless you were on Fayetteville Street, the fireworks were blocked by the buildings.

In order to solve this problem and make the fireworks more visible, they shot off fireworks on Fayetteville Street, and just outside the “skyscrapers” by Red Hat Amphitheater at a greater height.

The view from south of downtown that illustrates the firework setup this year.

The view from south of downtown that illustrates the firework setup this year.

Perfect! Worked out just great and opened up viewership to so many other people from many other angles. Well done City of Raleigh!

Here are some of my favorite shots from that night. I was on a tripod with my D600 and a remote release and exposures ranged from four to ten seconds. See the full gallery here and buy some prints!

Fireworks in downtown Raleigh.

Fireworks in downtown Raleigh.

Fireworks in downtown Raleigh this year.

Fireworks in downtown Raleigh this year.

Being in on the Secret

I love my job.

I love taking pictures, but luckily my job is more than that. It’s relationships, it’s people and capturing a portion of their life.

What I find really cool about it, is that often times I am brought into an intimate part of my clients’ lives. And more specifically, I am one of the firsts to be a part of that experience and I get to capture it!

Weddings clearly come to mind, whether it’s a father seeing his daughter for the first time in her wedding dress, or the couple praying together before the ceremony, or even the first one to high-five the bride and groom after they walk back up the aisle!

Sean and Caroline pray together before their wedding ceremony.

Sean and Caroline pray together before their wedding ceremony.

Recently I had the opportunity to photograph a proposal (another post to come on that soon) and was one of three people to know about it! Not only that, but once he had proposed and pointed me out to his fiancée, I was the first one to congratulate them and give them a HUGE hug.

Jordan proposes to Kristen in downtown Raleigh and reveals where I am.

Jordan proposes to Kristen in downtown Raleigh and reveals where I am.

Not to say this is a power complex or makes me cool because I know something you don’t, but rather it’s incredibly humbling and makes it that much more of an honor to serve my clients in such an intimate way.

There’s something about that moment, once the surprise is revealed, that connects all the people present. And there I am, jumping in to capture it, and very much connected to the group because of your invitation.

So thank you in advance, to all those future friends who will be inviting me in to capture the surprises in their lives and all those involved.

Thanks for letting me in on the secret!

Bouquet Toss THROWDOWN, Back Story

 

Many of us have seen a bouquet toss and maybe a little jostling at a wedding before, but have you seen this kind of tenacity? It’s next level.

Here’s the story:

The two girls in the video are (in the freeze frame when the photo flash happens) Elizabeth Jones (left) and Stacy Laue (right).
They have been friends throughout their time in college at Elon University and since graduating have gone after bouquets with every ounce of their being. Both competitive in nature, they’ve only met on the same toss 5 times before, this was the 6th.
Coming in on this particular wedding of their good friend from Elon (to whom they were both bridesmaids), Laue had 7 catches and Jones had 8. The bride knew all too well what was about to happen that evening. At the sound of “Single Ladies,” Jones and Laue ran to change out of their mint bridesmaid dresses and into their “jerseys” for the toss, which is why you see Jones comes running in from the left of the screen.
When they are on the ground and a male figure in the vest comes in and hits his hand on the ground, ending the catch, that is the groom.
Why did I bring the camera? 1. I knew that this was indeed going to be a showdown, that included smack talk for MONTHS prior. 2. I knew that the very talented videographers (Good Earth Films) and photographers (Blest Studios) would have a couple weeks before they got the footage turned around, so I jumped on the opportunity as a guest/off duty photographer!
Until the next toss…

Second shooters: why they are worth it

Sean Junqueira captured this celebrity-esque moment as I step out of the 1976 Corvette Stingray.

Sean Junqueira captured this celebrity-esque moment as I step out of the 1976 Corvette Stingray.

As photographers, we find ourselves shooting events/gigs solo because often times it’s just not in the budget to pay someone else to shoot with us.

I totally understand this mentality. And currently that’s why I still shoot most of my events solo.

Cost aside, here are some great reasons why a second shooter is worth it.

First, about your shooter: It’s important to hire someone you can trust. If you haven’t built up a relationship with a new second shooter yet, bring them on to a less essential shoot. That way you can see what they are capable of and work out the wrinkles in a less stressful situation before the big event. Your relationship with your shooter(s) is very visible to your employer, so it’s important that you communicate clearly and establish expectations in advance to the gig.

Why a second shooter

They can be where you are not: pretty simple, you can’t be in two places at once. Unless you’re Hermione with a Time Turner (please let me know if you have one, I could use it). This is one of the biggest reasons to have a second shooter. They can shoot from the back of the sanctuary wide while you shoot tight up the aisle. They can work the photo booth while you capture candids of the crowd dancing. Then there’s just the fact that they will get a great shot that you couldn’t because you were across the room getting the “main action.”

Two minds, two different pictures: very simply, by having two people shoot you will generate two different sets of images. The details you are drawn to will be photographed differently by your second shooter. You can learn to see things a whole new light by bringing in another perspective.

Second shooters can be more creative: while you are getting the “necessary” shots, they can try for the shots that are more creative/experimental. This is sometimes where the best work can be produced. Since the pressure is off of them to get “the” shot, they can approach a scene from a different angle and generate a perspective you would not have been able to produce shooting solo. 

Subject relaxation: sometimes to get the most natural and realistic portrait of someone, it takes making them laugh and relax in front of the camera. Often times that can come from you and your second shooter laughing and having a good time! The best example of this was when I worked for Cole Gorman of Blest Photography, as a second shooter, as we did bridal portraits for one of his clients. The bride to be had a killer “schmize” (no smile, straight face) look, but the smile could seem forced at times. However, her genuine smile was BEAUTIFUL. So if Cole was shooting her, I’d be there talking and laughing with her to get that natural smile to break through. Most of the time the joke was at mine or Cole’s expense, but all clean and in good humor. That’s the key.

The best smiles are brought on by laughter, which your second shooter can help with.

Sometimes the best smiles are brought on by laughter, which your second shooter can help with.

It can be difficult shooting solo to maintain laughter while focusing on getting the shot, so bring on that second photographer to help relax the scene.

Cole has some fun while showing the bride what pose he has in mind.

Cole has some fun while showing the bride what pose he has in mind.

Two’s company: it’s just flat out more fun to have someone else there to shoot with you! Whether it’s to share in a funny moment that just happened with your client, or to pass the time in a slow patch of the event, having a second shooter makes it more enjoyable. It also generates more energy! As long as one of you is always positive, you can really help each other have fun and push through an event.

Sean Junqueira doing whatever it takes to get the shot of this 1976 Corvette Stingray.

Sean Junqueira doing whatever it takes to get the shot of this 1976 Corvette Stingray.

Shots of yourself: sounds a little selfish, but hopefully your second shooter will get some shots of you working. This door goes both ways as well. Get some shots of your second shooter! We are behind the camera all the time, so to have a high quality shot of ourselves (usually candidly) while working is a gift. Focus on getting the shot your clients are paying you for, but when time allows it grab a shot of your co-worker.

Very grateful for this candid shot Cole Gorman snapped of me at a wedding I was second shooting for him.

Very grateful for this candid shot Cole Gorman snapped of me while we were working.

Post production: try something extreme

Where red cars look better white or black.

2013 Charger SRT red converted to white and black.

2013 Charger SRT red converted to white and black.

The other day I did some HDR (high dynamic range) shots of this 2013 Dodge Charger SRT for Auto Imaging at Lake Johnson.

When I started editing those photos, I didn’t love the results. I was using a combination of Photomatix Pro (to merge and adjust the five exposures) and Adobe Lightroom 4 (to adjust settings of the composite image). Once in Lightroom, the image didn’t have the pop and intensity I was looking for.

2013 Charger SRT Red

2013 Charger SRT Red

Since the color wasn’t doing what I wanted it to, I got rid of it. I made a virtual copy of the image and started going extreme with my settings. I clicked the “Black & White” button and started adjusting the B&W Mix. I thought, “It’s all digital, let’s see what happens if I move each color slider from one extreme to another?”

I moved the Red Slider to +100 and the red became white…Hmm, that looks pretty cool! I began tweaking from there to make the white look best. Below is the final product.

2013 Charger SRT red converted to white.

2013 Charger SRT red converted to white.

Then while writing this post, I went back to Lightroom to check which settings I adjusted, and took the Red Slider to -100…The car turned black and looked SICK! So I created another virtual copy and tweaked it to look best as a black car. Below is that completed image.

A 2013 Charger SRT converted from red to black.

A 2013 Charger SRT converted from red to black.

You never know what your final image could look like until try something crazy, so give it a shot and share with me what you create!