As time permits, I offer my thoughts on some of the events I am able to photograph.
Each year I go through all my photos and pick out my favorite 100. Selecting just 100 photos out of more than 146,000 shots is challenging. I am pulled by memories about taking a particular shot, the difficulty in capturing a particular image, a sense of connection to the subject, the "cuteness" factor, the "wow" factor, and a desire to end up with a set that is representative of the year all make it challenging because often I end up dropping photos that I'd really like to include. Beyond my normal marching arts photography, the year included participation in a weekly photography challenge run by Ricky Tims. This is my third year in the group and I am yet to miss a week, even though I gave myself permission to skip when life was too busy.
I added quite a bit of gear to my collection. The only new Nikon lens was the 16-80 which is a DX lens, so it is similar to the 24-120, a perfect walking around lens for the D500 and D7100. I replaced the Sony A6300 with the A6500 and passed along the A6300 to my son so he can use it for his travels and video taping his wife's opera performances. I added a number of lenses for the Sony - 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8, 70-200 f/4, 16-70 f/4, 18-200 and 18-105 power zoom. I picked up another Sony from LifePixel - the A6000 with Standard (nm 720) infrared conversion. I now have infrared converted bodies for both Nikon and Sony gear. I also picked up some more lighting gear - remote flash triggers (Phottix Strato II), light meter, a continuous light set and a light box.
This blog will discuss some of my favorite photos from 2017 and try to give a sample of the range of activities which captured my attention this year.
Top 100 by Camera:
By Location: The top 100 were taken at 34 different locations, so most places had just 1 or 2 shots. Topping the chart were DCI Championships in Indianapolis, DCA Championships in Rochester and MAIN Championships at South Brunswick with 8 shots each. South Brunswick picked up another shot from the USBands Championships, so that was the top location overall. TOB Hershey had the next highest with 7 over two weekends.
By ISO speed: 32 shots at ISO 3200 or higher, 36 between ISO 1600 and 2500, 18 between ISO 160 and 1250, and 14 at or below ISO 100. Mostly I shoot with a fast shutter with 65 photos at 1/500 or faster. 6 photos were shot at more than one second with 4 at 30 seconds. Most photos were taken "wide open" with apertures of 2.8 or 4.0 depending on the lens.
2017 marked my third year doing a weekly photo challenge with people from all over the world led by Ricky Tims. My challenge to myself was to work as many of the challenges into my normal marching arts photography. When the challenge was paper, I was really excited by Winslow Township's guard who used newspaper as a prop. In the final moment of the show a newspaper is revealed with the phrase "We Need Change" and I caught the paper perfectly as it left the performers hands.
I also used the challenge as motivation to get out to Philadelphia, starting and ending the year with photo outings in the city. The year started with a challenge to come up with a "Year Word" and illustrate that with a photo. My Year Word is "Light." I ran the idea by my wife on New Year's morning as we were driving to church and she thought it was a great idea. The music at church confirmed my choice. The opening hymn was "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing...Jesus, the Light of the World" that includes the lyrics "we must follow the light." The closing hymn was "Arise Your Light is Come." I had several thoughts in mind with choosing Light.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that." - Martin Luther King JR.
On New Year's Day I went out for a photo shoot in Philadelphia specifically looking for light. Armed with my D810, two primes (20mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.4) and a tripod, I spent my time around the Art Museum, one of my favorite parts of the city. I also brought along a flash, something I never use in public and was proud that I put it to use a few times. It was a beautiful day and I arrived about an hour before the start of golden hour. I continued shooting until well after sunset. This is a shot of the Philadelphia skyline from the Spring Garden Street Bridge looking down the Schuylkill River. I was struck by the light from the setting sun bouncing off the buildings and the reflections in the river. This was a 4 frame HDR image.
The indoor season begins in mid-January and runs through the beginning of May. I was fortunate enough to shoot championships for four circuits: Mid-Atlantic Indoor Network (MAIN), Mid-Atlantic Percussion Society (MAPS), Tournament Indoor Association (TIA) and USBands. The indoor activity is a challenge to photograph. Often I'm battling poor gym lighting. The action moves quicker than the outside marching arts because you are so much closer. Plus I shoot hand held, where outside I use a monopod, so it is more physically demanding. I witnessed so many different performances, photographing nearly 350 different guards, drumlines, dance groups and twirlers at 30 different events.
Often the background in the indoor shots is distracting because there are signs and bleachers and sometimes random fans, but under the right conditions the background can be magical. TIA championships in Wildwood is one such venue because they put up black fabric. But sometimes the back stands can be populated with enough people and the performer is close enough to the camera and far enough from the back stands that all the pieces can come together. Here is one such photo of West Orange Guard taken at South Brunswick High School for MAIN Championships.
Philadelphia once again played a big role in my photos this year. I continue to be drawn to the area around the Art Museum. Once again I went to the Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square. New this year was attending the Philadelphia Flower Show with my wife Donna for my birthday. The Flower Show's theme was Holland which I really enjoyed after having visited The Netherlands last fall. This was one of my favorites from the show. There were a whole series of heads with interesting hair.
This was a great year for traveling with Donna for three trips. The year started out with a week in Charleston SC. Our first day there we signed up for a walking tour without really a lot of forethought but we couldn't have been more pleased with the tour guide and his take on the city's history. His basic premise - follow the money and you'll understand all you need to know about the city. Just about every morning I got up early and walked around town and along the Cooper River with my Sony. Just outside the hotel was a fountain and I had a lot of fun with expressing my challenge theme for the week of In Motion.
In June, Donna and I went to California that started with three days in Yosemite. This was Donna's first time in California and it was a lot of fun showing her some of my favorite spots. Our first stop was the iconic Tunnel View.
Our third trip took us to New England in early October. Because of the warm weather, the leaves had yet to turn in most places but it was still an enjoyable trip. The photo at the top of this post is a panorama of Bar Harbor from the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.
Following the drum corps activity took me all over the country. I shot for Drum Corps World and my website Corpsreps.com which merged this year with some other historians and is now called DCXMuseum.org. My images were often displayed on the Drum Corps International website and used extensively in the Drum Corps Associates program book.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my drum corps photography is finding people I know on the field. Usually these are kids I get to know over a few years from the indoor and marching band activities who then decide to audition for a drum corps and spend a summer following their passion. About half of the drum corps photos in the top 100 are performers who I know. Photos of two of the three current or former Penncrest (my local high school) students marching this summer made the top 100. This is Chris Jackson, a senior at Penncrest who made the All American Army Band. Chris spent the summer with Jersey Surf. This photo was taken at the Dallas show which is a lighting challenge to shoot with shadows on the field and back lit bleachers.
Drum corps shows often tell a story. One of the more compelling stories for me this year was The Cadets who performed Bernstein's Mass. Now you might think there wouldn't be much of a story to the Mass but The Cadets used music, costume changes and the guard to take us through an emotional roller coaster from gathering to sin to repentance to praise and worship. For me THE moment in the show was when that transition from sin to repentance begins. It started with a lone baritone player looking out at the rest of the corps reveling in their debauchery. He seems to want to participate but something holds him back. He rips off his red jacket revealing a white uniform and begins to pray. I caught the jacket in mid-removal which to me best captured this powerful moment in the show.
The marching band season goes by quickly. Starting the week after Labor Day and ending mid-November, I shot every weekend, including many Sundays. One of the most enjoyable venues to shoot is MetLife Stadium. With professional quality light and championship level performances, the USBands Open Class championships is a highlight of my fall season. I often shoot wide for this event, trying to capture the MetLife signs and give a sense of how huge the place is while still capturing the bands performing. It is also a lot of fun to play with the video screens and see if I can capture the same action on the field that is being displayed. This is a soloist for Chesire High School.
Several marching band shows this year tackled difficult subjects like racism, equality and homelessness. The latter theme formed the basis of the show by Fort Lee High School from Cumberland MD. The show starts out with the guard members portraying homeless people, mostly holding signs. The band is dressed in business attire and marching around generally ignoring the guard. The narration tells the story - veteran, runaway teen, drug addict. It drove home the point that these are people who deserve to be noticed. The show concludes with a guard member climbing up on the drum major podium and falling asleep at the drum major's feet. When the show ends, he starts to walk down the steps, turns, and covers her with his jacket. There is hope. I was a crying mess the whole show.
Rain played a big part of the fall with some rain at DCA Championships over Labor Day weekend, a huge hour long down pour at a USBands show in Marlton NJ, and finally two rainy Sundays in Hershey for TOB Championships. Sometimes the rain is light enough that you get wet but not intense enough that you can capture it in photos, but when it really rains it can make magical photos. I was really prepared for rain in Hershey with a good camera rain cover and a full body rain suit. Marlton was a surprise, though I do always have a rain cover with me so the gear was fine, but I did get soaked. But if the kids are going to be on the field performing, I'm going to photograph them.
Five rain photos made the top 100. This is my favorite. This is the snare line from Southern Regional. Not only was it pouring but it was windy and cold. Pretty miserable but you'd never know from looking at the performers. I maintained a positive attitude throughout. What better place could there be to spend a rainy Sunday in October?
In looking over my photos from the year, I've realized I am particularly drawn to photos that show I was really paying attention to a performance. Many of my marching arts photos capture moments that exist literally for a fraction of a second. I don't burst when I shoot. I time my shots using musical and visual clues. I try to let the performers speak to me. The closer I pay attention and open myself to being in the moment with the performance, the better I do at capturing the action. At times I find myself drawn to some particular place on the field and then bingo, there's the big moment.
Over half of the top 100 fall into this momentary action capture category. There are quite a few guard members upside down, jumping or being tossed in the air, a number of behind the back rifle catches just before the catch, stick or cymbal tosses, drum major emotions, and momentary facial expressions or actions. The "We Need Change" photo above is a great example of looking in the right place and really being in the moment with the show. That newspaper was visible for a fraction of a second and the message really powerful.
Tossing people in the air can have a surprising impact. By paying attention to where the energy is coming from on the field or floor, I often will find myself ready to capture a throw. This guard member throw by Toms River Independent came almost out of nowhere. I had not seen the show before, so this was not expected.
Capturing someone on the move in a tumbling sequence is technically difficult to acquire and maintain focus. Even when you know a flip is coming, it can be difficult. With so many other things happening on the field, it can be easy to miss completely. This is West Shore High School caught in perfect focus in the middle of a flip. There are a few other similar photos in the Top 100.
The final challenge for my photography critique group was to select our favorite photo from any we took in 2017, whether for the challenge or not. It is hard enough to narrow down a year of photography to 100 photos. Picking just one is nearly impossible. Any of the photos above, as well as others in my Top 100, could be good candidates for the favorite photo. After consulting with Donna and my daughter Amanda, I decided to go with this photo of a member of the Crossmen guard taken for the Altered Reality challenge week 28. The background was taken from Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park over looking Atlanta. I was in Atlanta that week for a couple of drum corps shows and a few business meetings. I was happy to find time to explore a bit of the park. For the challenge, I put drum corps action in unexpected places in the park. This one was my favorite of the bunch.
So, there are a few of the photos I took this year. You can see the Top 100 photos here.
For 2018, I will be continuing with the Ricky Tims Critique Group. I hope that I'll be able to go out shooting with my daughter Amanda as she would like to continue growing in her photography. I also hope to do a lot more with my infrared cameras. I'll be photographing the same four indoor circuits. I expect to be on the road most of the summer and stay local through the fall with two circuits. I hope to continue my learning about flash photography and grow in my understanding of light. And I'll probably acquire more gear.
Each year I go through all my photos and pick out my favorite 100. Selecting just 100 photos out of more than 135,000 shots is challenging. I am pulled by memories about taking a particular shot, the difficulty in capturing a particular image, a sense of connection to the subject, the "cuteness" factor, the "wow" factor, and a desire to end up with a set that is representative of the year all make it challenging because often I end up dropping photos that I'd really like to include. Beyond my normal marching arts photography, the year included participation in a weekly photography challenge run by Ricky Tims. The highlight of my year was a 10-day trip to Europe where I spent most days doing nothing but photography.
I added quite a bit of gear to my collection. Two new cameras: Nikon D500 and Sony a6300. The D500 arrived at the end of April just before TIA championships in Wildwood. I picked up the a6300 (with three lenses) primarily for my trip to Europe given its lighter weight and smaller size than the Nikon DSLRs. The D500 replaced the D7100 which I had converted to full-time Infrared (Super Color conversion by Life Pixel). I added three new lenses at the end of the year: Nikon 85mm f/1.4g, Nikon 20mm f/1.8g, and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 which completes the "holy trinity" of Nikon 2.8 glass. I added the 10-24 as my other wide DX lens (Tokona 12-24) gave me hot spots with the infrared camera. The other new lens this year was the 70-200 f/4 which is smaller and lighter in weight than the f/2.8 version I normally use. I got that primarily for my trip to Europe for the Drum Corps Europe championships.
This blog will discuss some of my favorite photos from 2016 and try to give a sample of the range of activities which captured my attention this year.
Top 100 by Camera:
By Location: The top 100 were taken at 43 different locations, so most places had just 1 or 2 shots. Topping the chart were TIA Championships in Wildwood and MAIN Championships at South Brunswick with 8 shots each.
By ISO speed: 50 shots at ISO 3200 or higher, 14 between ISO 1600 and 2500, and 36 below ISO 1600.
Last year I participated in a weekly challenge with Ricky Tims that was geared toward photography, Photoshop and design instruction. This year graduates from that class continued a weekly challenge but without much instruction. We were given a theme and and a week to take and post a photo. Then the other participants in the group would offer some critique. Some of my favorite challenge themes included Long Exposure, Smoke, Found Alphabet, and Low Key.
I gained a new appreciation for Long Exposure and used that technique quite a bit outside the marching arts photography. The week of the Long Exposure challenge was February, so it was a cold night here in Philadelphia. Armed with my tripod, D810 and 24-130 lens I headed to South Street Bridge and the park along the Schuylkill River. While looking at some reflections of the buildings in the river, I noticed a helicopter and realized that if I could get setup quickly I could capture the light of its movement. The helicopter was heading to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
My daughter Amanda took a photography class in college this fall, so I took her with me on a few of the challenges. One of those was Found Alphabet where we went into Media and looked for objects that looked like the letters of our initials. We were both successful and also found the letters to spell Media. Amanda did a great job in her class and I was really proud to see her portfolio showcasing her work that included photos from a few times we went out shooting.
My favorite photo from the weekly challenges was the theme Smoke. I knew nothing about incense or photographing smoke. After doing a little research, I setup some incense in my office and gave it a shot. The first attempt was a dud but I gave another try a day or two later and came up with some exciting images, including this one which I called Smoke Dancers. This was the only image in the Top 100 where I used flash.
The indoor season begins in January and runs through the beginning of May. I was fortunate enough to shoot championships for four circuits: Mid-Atlantic Indoor Network (MAIN), Mid-Atlantic Percussion Society (MAPS), Tournament Indoor Association (TIA) and USBands. The indoor activity is a challenge to photograph. Often I'm battling poor gym lighting. The action moves quicker than the outside marching arts because you are so much closer. Plus I shoot hand held, where outside I use a monopod, so it is more physically demanding. I witnessed so many different performances, photographing over 300 different guards, drumlines, dance groups and twirlers.
Often the background in the indoor shots is distracting because there are signs and bleachers and sometimes random fans, but under the right conditions the background can be magical. TIA championships in Wildwood is one such venue because they put up black fabric. But sometimes the back stands can be populated with enough people and the performer is close enough to the camera and far enough from the back stands that all the pieces can come together. Here is one such photo taken at Ridley High School.
Philadelphia was a frequent destination for photography this year. I love the area near the Art Museum and the park along the Schuylkill and went there several times, including one outing with Amanda after she got her camera but before her class started. I also went to two special events at Franklin Square. One was the Chinese Lantern Festival. The other was the Holiday Lights. The lantern festival was a colorful display. I arrived early and did a pass through the park, planning my route for when the sun went down and the lights came on. I was particularly drawn to the large dragon that overlooked the beer garden. The location made getting good shots difficult, but I managed to get a few angles that I found interesting. I used this trip to meet the challenge theme Paper since these lanterns are made from silk which was the first type of luxury paper. Among my Top 100 photos was this shot of some of the colorful flowers.
My summer activities took me to 17 states this year, including three states I'd never been to before (KS, IA, MO) leaving just eight states left on my list of states to visit. The past few years I started my summer trip in California at Yosemite National Park. This year I decided to take a different route. I flew to Las Vegas and drove to Mammoth Lakes, California by way of Death Valley where it was a comfortable 118 degrees. I spent a lot of time hiking around the Mammoth Lakes region and then drove to Bodie National Park. On the way to Bodie, I stopped at Mono Lake on the way. Bodie is a ghost town. I spent several hours wandering around the town taking photos of all sorts of abandoned buildings and objects. I shot a lot of infrared images that day. Both Bodie and Mono Lake came highly recommended from one of my photographer friends, so it was great to get to those places. They did not disappoint. After leaving Bodie, I went to Lake Tahoe, my first visit there. One evening I went out for some sunset photography over the lake. I was disappointed by the lack of clouds, but waited out the light until the magical glow came from behind the mountains about a half hour after sunset.
Following the drum corps activity took me all over the country and over to The Netherlands for the Drum Corps Europe championships. I shot for Drum Corps World and my website Corpsreps.com. My images were often displayed on the Drum Corps International website and used extensively in the Drum Corps Associates program book. Because I'm on the road so much over summer and trying to do a full time job along with dealing with all the photos, meeting my photography challenge can be daunting. Fortunately I was able to use drum corps photos for a number of weeks: Serenity (photo of an empty Rose Bowl), Low Key (photo of Blue Knights drum major), Circles (Phantom Regiment euphonium duet), Hat (a Blue Devils shako that was on the ground), Ouch! (the kill scene from the Genesis show), Shadows (Pacific Crest at Allentown), Doors (the door prop in Les Stentors show), Yellow (a guard shot from Buccaneers), and Past Prime (tambourine player in Hamburg Kingsmen Alumni) - 9 out of 10 weeks in a row.
There were several shows that were an absolute blast to photograph. I'm fortunate that I get to see many of these shows multiple times. This can lead to problems when picking my Top 100 because I often have multiple favorite photos of some performers and I try to limit to one per performer. One favorite performer this year was Clyde Forland III of the Madison Scouts. He played Judas in the show titled Judas, so he was hard to miss. I had three photos that I thought belonged in the top 100 so I decided to break my self-imposed rule and picked two of him.
DCI drum majors are often a show unto themselves and my Top 100 includes five drum major shots - Troopers, Cascades, Mandarins, Blue Stars and this one of my favorite DM this season Anna Quenemoen of the Oregon Crusaders.
The marching band season goes by quickly. Starting the week after Labor and ending mid-November, I missed a couple of weeks - one for a church songwriting retreat and one for my Europe trip. Otherwise, I shot every weekend, including many Sundays. One of the most enjoyable venues to shoot is MetLife Stadium. With professional quality light and championship level performances, the USBands Open Class championships is a highlight of my fall season. I often shoot wide for this event, trying to capture the MetLife signs and give a sense of how huge the place is while still capturing the bands performing. Here is South Brunswick High School (NJ).
One of the groups I was able to see several times was Pennsauken High School (NJ). Their creative show featured an airplane and various cloud themed backdrops that made it difficult to get good shots of the plane from field level. I kept at it until I found a good angle that did not have any obstacles (including judges). This was one of my favorites from the marching band season.
For years I've been wanting to attend the Drum Corps Europe championships and this year everything fell in place to make that happen. The DCE event is held in Kerkrade, The Netherlands each year on the last Saturday in September. Having only been to Europe once before (London and Paris in 2008), only speaking English, and traveling by myself, I was a bit apprehensive about the trip. Fortunately I found a great travel agent (Destination Europe) to help me with all of the logistics. I started the trip in London. I figured it would be best to start with someplace where I'd been before and where there would be no language barriers so I could get comfortable. I settled in quickly (I had to as I only had two days). From there I went to Amsterdam for two days and on to Kerkrade. Anyone who knows how I work over the summer (visiting clients that are located near the shows) will appreciate that I managed to arrange a work lunch about 10 minutes from the stadium in Kerkrade. After DCE, I took a train to Maastrict, one of the oldest cities in The Netherlands. From there I headed to Frankfurt and flew home after my two-night visit. All in all I had two nights in each location and spent the better part of seven days taking photos.
For the trip I brought the D500, the D7100 infrared and the Sony a6300. I had all three of my Sony lenses. I brought the Nikon 70-200 f/4 just for the DCE event. My other lenses were the 10-24 and 24-120. In each location I had a photo outing with each camera. I used the D500 with the 24-120 for all the night photography, doing a lot of long exposures with my camera (reasonably securely) positioned on whatever surface was nearby as I didn't want to deal with the weight and bulk of a tripod for the trip.
One of my favorite photos from the trip is this one of the Tower Bridge.
The final challenge for my photography critique group was to select our favorite photo from any we took in 2016, whether for the challenge or not. It is hard enough to narrow down a year of photography to 100 photos. Picking just one is nearly impossible. Any of the photos above, as well as others in my Top 100, could be good candidates for the top photo. After looking over the photos multiple times, I decided to go with this photo of the Crossmen guard toss. I only captured this once. Every other time I saw Crossmen I was involved with photographing something else and would tell myself to remember to get it the next time, only to be distracted once more. Or if I remembered, I'd miss it somehow. Finally everything came together in Allentown. Not only did I get the capture, but the sky was just awesome.
Here is a close up of Jenny.
So, there are a few of the photos I took this year. You can see the Top 100 photos here.
For 2017, I will be continuing with the Ricky Tims Critique Group. I hope that I'll be able to go out shooting with my daughter as she would like to continue growing in her photography. This year I had to skip the Collegiate Marching Band Festival for my Europe trip, but at this point I do not expect to return to DCE so I'll be able to photograph the college band event. I'll be photographing the same four indoor championships. I expect to be on the road most of the summer and stay local through the fall. I'm also planning on learning more about flash photography and hope to start an online class soon.
Each year I go through all my photos and pick out my favorite 100. Selecting just 100 out of 130,000 photos was a challenging but worthwhile exercise. Beyond my normal activities of photographing the marching arts, my photographic highlight this year was participating in a 52 week photography challenge and class with artist Ricky Tims. This gave me even more photo opportunities and a lot more instruction in art, composition, technique and Photoshop. My camera collection ended the same as it began - Nikon D810, D750 and D7100. But I sold some lenses and bought some new ones. My favorite new purchase was the Nikon 300mm f/4 E PF VR which is an awesome compact prime lens. The PF means Frensnel element, so it uses less glass, making it very light for that focal length. A close second was the Nikon 80-400mm AF-S VR which was great to use for a lot of daytime marching band shows. Both the Nikons replaced similar Tokina lenses in my collection. At the end of the year I added the new Nikon 24mm f/1.8G and had fun using it so far.
This blog post will discuss some of my favorite pictures from 2015 and try to give a sample of the range of activities which captured my attention.
My photographic highlight this year was participating in a weekly photography challenge taught by Ricky Tims. Ricky is best known in the quilt world but his talents include art, music, teaching and photography. The challenge was part camera technique, part art instruction, part Photoshop, and part composition. Each week Ricky would post a theme early Sunday morning and we would have until the following Sunday night to post one picture. Besides the theme, Ricky would post an instructional video and a PDF lesson. After the week was over, Ricky picked out 10-15 photos to critique.
Sometimes the themes were related to the technique and other times the themes were more topical. Some of my favorite themes were Composite Montage (blending a photo with a texture in Photoshop), Mirrored Image, Shutter Zoom, Panning, Elements (that was the week I was in Yosemite - perfect!), Old Paint (I visited Eastern State Penitentiary), The Story, and Experiment (where we learned about filters in Photoshop).
My panning photo was selected as the photo of the week. This was shot along Kelly Drive, near the Philadelphia Art Museum in early June.
005-Kelly Drive BikersThis shot was taken along Kelly Drive in Philadelphia. This is the Fairmont Park area just North of the Art Museum. Saturday morning is a great time to find serious bicyclists in this part of town. (Challenge - Panning)
One of my favorite images from the class was my photo for the them The Road. I went to the Memorial Day Parade in Media PA and thought that I could get some shots of the bands, the crowd and other parade participants where the road was featured. I had some shots that I felt would work but nothing that was really exciting me. My daughter Amanda and a friend of hers were walking back to the car with me and I was still looking for that photo when I saw two men walking down the street, I quickly stopped and fired off a couple of shots. I imagined they'd known each other for a long time and have walked together on many roads in their younger days, roads far more dangerous than Media PA.
004-Companions on the RoadTwo veterans walk down the road following the Media PA Memorial Day parade. I imagine they've known each other for a long time and have walked together on many roads in their younger days, roads far more dangerous than Media PA. One of the quaint features of Media is the trolley that runs down State Street. (Challenge - The Road)
For more about Ricky Tims see http://www.photoclassforyou.com/
For my birthday, which fell on St. Patrick's Day as it does every year, my wife joined me on a day trip to Washington D. C. The day was a perfect day, unseasonably warm and beautiful. We walked to most of the monuments and I did my best to get some good photos. We were in the Jefferson Memorial and I was waiting for people to get out of my way so that I could get a clear shot of the statue. Finally I had my shot when suddenly another photographer stepped into the frame and my photo went from ordinary to wonderful. I wish I had the presence of mind to go over to his parents and show them the photo.
The indoor season began in January in Bedford PA and culminated at the TIA Championships in Wildwood the first weekend of May. I had the opportunity to shoot the championships for USBands, MAIN, MAPS and TIA. At the start of the season, I was in Bedford and decided to spend Saturday morning on a photo outing checking out several of the covered bridges in the area (one of those made my top 100). I also went to the Fight 93 Memorial in Stoystown. The indoor season is particularly fun because of the wide variety of performances. The activity includes color guard, drumlines, dancers, and twirlers performing shows in a gymnasium. The shows cover such a wide range of themes from the cute to the profound. You might hear Adele, a children's tale, or be inspired by someone's struggle with cancer, or you might see a show that ends with "Hands up don't shoot."
The drumline portion of the activity is the hardest to photograph. Normally I sit in the stands several rows up. This allows me to see everyone, but the photos often feel very ordinary. At times, I will station myself in the end zone which is a great perspective, but there are a whole lot of performers you can't ever capture, so it is a toss up as to what is best. At the USBands championships at Lehigh University, I had more flexibility to move around than normal and used that to my advantage when shooting Cadets Winter Percussion. From the end zone I was able to capture an interesting cymbal technique where the performer grasped the cymbal in her teeth and rolled around on the floor. It was riveting.
The indoor season ended in Wildwood NJ. Because it ran through Sunday, it overlapped with two photography challenges. The theme for the week I was there was Dreamscapes. This is where you take two photos, one in focus and one out of focus and then blend them in Photoshop. I as particularly pleased with this photo of the Wildwoods sign, something I shoot every year, but this was my favorite so far.
003-Wildwoods DreamscapeI've taken many boring and a number of intesting photos of The Wildwoods iconic symbol at the boardwalk in Wildwood NJ, but this might be my favorite of them all. This is a Golden Hour photo on a partly cloudy day. Two images, merged in Photoshop. Additional edits in Lightroom. (Challenge - Dreamscape)
The last day of Wildwood was the first day of the challenge Loved Ones. For that photo, I got the Penncrest drumline and color guard together for a group shot and then Photoshopped them into various backgrounds. I went into some detail about this challenge in another blog post http://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2015/5/loved-ones-challenge.
My summer activities took me to 12 states following the drum corps activity. Along the way I had other photographic opportunities, with a stop in Yosemite as the highlight. I had three days by myself in the park with a bunch of camera equipment (including my first time traveling with a tripod which I had with me about 60% of the time, including the shot below) and I explored several areas of the park, some new and some familiar. This is a view of Half Dome reflecting in a pool of water in Sentinel Meadow. I was standing in the rocky water to get this shot. Unlike Sentinel Bridge which is a photographer magnet at sunset, I had this location all to myself. This was one of the final shots from my visit. The week was particularly fun because the challenge theme was Elements, which are in abundance in Yosemite. All year long I worried about what the theme might be that week. I couldn't have asked for a better theme for the week.
006-Half DomeI had three days by myself with a bunch of camera equipment (including my first time ever traveling with a tripod which I had with me about 60% of the time, including this shot) and I explored several areas of the park, some new and some familiar. This is a view of Half Dome reflecting in a pool of water in Sentinel Meadow. I was standing in the rocky water to get this shot. Unlike Sentinel Bridge which is a photographer magnet at sunset, I had this location all to myself. This was one of the final shots from my visit. (Challenge - The Elements)
This summer I also spent time in Boston on July 4 (the challenge theme that week was Celebration) and an evening in Oceanside CA (the theme was a "Redo" where we could redo any prior theme, so I focused on street photography).
The drum corps season starts in the middle of June and ends Labor Day weekend. Marching band starts the week after Labor Day and goes through the middle of November. I shot every week except one when we had a church songwriting retreat. Many weeks I was able to connect with the challenge theme. For "The Story" I used a photo from Carolina Crown's show when the brass was under the red tarp (see my top 100 link at the end). For "Silhouette" I submitted a photo of Mandarins drum major Kelley Ho who was my personal favorite for Drum Major of the Year in DCI. For "Power of One" I submitted a photo of drum corps legend Richie Price playing the National Anthem. Labor Day weekend was another Redo week and I submitted a Golden Hour photo of Tuna from Govenaires with the Kodak building in the background.
My of my favorite corps to photograph this year was the Blue Devils. This shot was taken in Bristol RI. The lights on the trees in the background added some dramatic impact. The photo was initially published on the Drum Corps International website. It also appeared in an online newspaper in Minnesota.
007-Backlit Blue DevilsThe Blue Devils performing in Bristol RI with some lights brightly highlighting the trees in the background. This photos was picked up by a newspaper somewhere along the line this summer.
Toward the end of the drum corps season I "discovered" my 50mm prime that I always carry in my camera bag but almost never use. I started playing with putting the camera on the ground with that lens, setting a wide depth of field, prefocusing, and capturing the action. I had a lot of fun with this technique and used it through the marching band season. This is a shot of Dominion High School taken at the Herndon VA show in September.
008-Dominion High SchoolI took a lot of these low perspective photos during marching band season, particularly daytime shows when I could shoot with a smaller aperture. This was one of my favorites using this technique.
I've shot several drum corps shows at PPL Park, which sits right under the Commodore Barry Bridge and enjoyed getting shots with the bridge in the background. This year I used the bridge for several photo challenges. I found the area around the bridge a nice quiet place early in the morning. The bridge lights up beautifully with the morning sun. For the HDR (high dynamic range - technique for merging several photos when the range from dark to light is quite broad) challenge, I set out early to the bridge. I arrived just after sunrise and spent a good bit of time looking for shots that wouldn't have worked well as a single frame since the theme was HDR. Shooting into the sun seemed like something worth trying with this technique. I took 6 shots but only used 4 in the HDR processing.
009-Sunrise at the Commodore BarryI spent several outings for my weekly challenge exploring the Commodore Barry Bridge. I arrived just after sunrise and spent a good bit of time looking for shots that wouldn't have worked well as a single frame since the theme was HDR. Shooting into the sun seemed like something worth trying with this technique. I took 6 shots but only used 4 in the HDR processing. (Challenge - HDR)
I went to Philadelphia for several of the challenges (Shutter Zoom, Golden Hour, Red, Old Paint, Text Overlay, Panning, Street Photography, and Silence) this year and discovered some wonderful areas I didn't know much about. For Shutter Zoom I went to the St. Patrick's Day parade. I discovered a wonderful park along the Schuylkill River when I went looking for a place for the Street Photography challenge. The Art Museum area was a favorite destination and the location for several challenges. This photo shows Boat House Row all decorated for Christmas and was a candidate for the Silence/Silent Night challenge.
One of the unexpected benefits of the challenge class was it got me to explore several area parks. I spent time in Ridley Creek Park, Glen Providence Park, Rose Tree Park, and Valley Forge National Park. I went to these places for the challenges Abandoned, Flowers, Autumn, Color Schemes, Decay, Silence and the bonus Winter Solstice challenge. This image is section of Ridley Creek running through Ridley Creek State Park in Delaware County PA. The day of the solstice was a very rainy day, though fortunately not too cold. I spent about 45 minutes walking along the creek taking photos.
011-Winter Solstice FallsA section of Ridley Creek running through Ridley Creek State Park in Delware County PA. One of the things I've come to appreciate this year are all of the state and local parks in my area. The day of the solstice was a very rainy day, though fortunately not too cold. I spent about 45 minutes walking along the creek taking photos. I selected this photo to post because it is something I couldn't have done last year at this time. This is an HDR image. I knew that HDR was a thing but didn't know why or how it worked. (Challenge - Winter Solstice)
For the final challenge of the year, I went to my local town to see what I could find. Other than the Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades, I had not spent much time in Media with my camera. The night I chose was a little rainy which added to the drama. One of the quaint things about Media PA is the trolley that runs through State Street. One of the great things about the town is our professional theater company. (The production of Billy Elliot was excellent.) I was pleased to capture both in this image. The artistic director for the theater saw the photo on Facebook and wants to use it for promotional materials.
012-TrolleyOne of the quaint things about Media PA is the trolley that runs through State Street. One of the great things about the town is our professional theater company. The production of Billy Elliot was excellent.
So that is just 12 of the 130,000 shutter clicks this year. You can view my top 100 photos at http://photos.corpsreps.com/p467127075.
Be sure to "like" the Corpsreps Facebook page to keep up to date on my summer drum corps activity and browse around the http://photos.corpsreps.com to see my other photos.
So what does 2016 hold for my photography? Well, to start I am going to do a second challenge with Ricky Tims. Many of us who did the first year will be continuing in a critique group. Ricky will issue the challenges, but we will not have the kind of instruction that we had in 2015. Our job will be to critique other photos from the group. It promises to be a fun time. We've already started with a special New Years challenge. The first real week is a challenge to create an abstract image from an automobile. Looking forward to the challenges and getting to better know the people in the class.
As for the rest, it should be a lot of the same - visiting old and new venues for the marching arts, hopefully improving and definitely being inspired by the creative energy of the thousands of performances I will get to witness.
I am participating in a 52 week photography challenge led by quilter and artist Ricky Tims. Each week we receive the challenge topic and lesson on Sunday morning and have until the following Sunday at midnight to submit one photo. On May 3 I checked the class website to see that the challenge was Loved Ones. May 3 was also the final day of the indoor colorguard and drumline season. I knew immediately what I wanted for my photo and had just one chance to get it in just a few hours. Before I get to the photo, there's background needed to understand why the photo of people unrelated to me and some of whose names I don't know are the subject of this photo challenge.
In 2004 I was on the marching band staff at Penncrest High School in Media PA. Late in the season we had a Saturday rehearsal. I was talking with a couple of the snare drummers who were bemoaning the fact that the season was coming to a close. I told them about the indoor activity and they were very excited. The band director agreed to let me start the program and I set about figuring out how to make that happen. I recruited my good friend Bill Ives who was also on the marching band staff and found another friend, Tony Perez, who agreed to write a show for us.
The first season was a learning experience but we had a successful start. I left the program in other hands after a few years. The program has changed hands a few times since and I am grateful to all those who have led the group for continuing what I started which I think has been very beneficial for the participants and the music program generally.
The colorguard program grew out of the drumline program so I feel somewhat responsible for its existence. Not only did the drumline pave the way for the Penncrest guard to participate in the indoor activity, but I helped connect the current director, Leighann Fields, to the school. I have been a fan of the guard and loved watching them grow the program. I spend a lot of time around this activity and hear so many positive comments about this group.
The drumline program this year was all original music written by the current director Tim Knowlton and portrays the story of Medusa. Five of the members are private students of my son who was a founding member of the group. Many are good friends of my younger daughter who participated in drumline for her senior year of high school in 2014. Primarily a woodwind player, she was really welcomed into the group.
The colorguard show was an emotional powerhouse. I cried from the first time I saw it in rehearsal to the final performance on Sunday May 3. The show was inspired by the story of Zach Sobiech who had osteosarcoma at age 14, a bone cancer. Rather than being defeated, he used his musical talents to tell a positive story, including writing the song Clouds that went viral on YouTube in 2012. Zach died a few months later.
So, back to the challenge. When I saw Loved Ones as the theme, I thought I have to get everyone from both programs together, but doing so was not going to be easy. Everything would have to fall into place. Both groups arrived at the Wildwood Convention Center since they each help the other to get onto and off the performance floor. Today was guard finals and they had to go through their warmups. I was at the Convention Center in the warmup area doing general photography for Tournament Indoor Association (the circuit running the competition) when they arrived. I took a number of candid shots and some posed shots but getting everyone together couldn't happen at that time. The group lined up to enter the performance venue and I went in with them.
The guard performance was outstanding. I followed them out and everyone was hugging and crying. The end of a season that started in November can be emotional under any circumstances, but after this particular performance the emotion couldn't be contained. I asked the guard director if I could get a group picture before they left the area. She helped me gather them. I spoke to them first to say how much I loved their show and how it made me cry from the first time I saw it. Then I called the drumline over. The staff joined in as well. It worked...I had everyone together.
After getting everyone in place, I told them that I was participating in a weekly photography challenge and the theme this week was loved ones and this would be my first shot for the theme.
So that is why a group of kids and their instructors, none of whom are related to me, are my loved ones for this challenge.
(The actual photo was taken in the warm up area which had no good walls for background and things all over the place. When I got to work on the picture later I thought that it needed a better background. So I cut the group out of the photo and put it on a photo of the performance venue that I took earlier. Once I had a cutout of the group, I also played around with a lot of other backgrounds, putting them in fun locations in Wildwood. The photo chosen for the challenge used a shot of the iconic Wildwoods sign.)
2014 was a good year for my photography pursuits. I had ample opportunities to photograph great performers and travel around the country over the summer. I sold some equipment I wasn't using or wanted to replace and added two new cameras (Nikon D750 and D810, though the D810 wasn't purchased until after marching band was over) and several new lenses (bought used on Ebay) including a Tokina 300mm that came from Japan. This blog post will discuss some of my very favorite pictures out of the 120,000 I took in 2014.
The indoor season began in January in Bedford PA and culminated at TIA Championships in Wildwood the first weekend of May. I was involved with the TIA Championship photography, so I took a trip down to Wildwood in April for a site visit with others on the photography team. I got there a little early and decided to walk down toward the beach along side the Convention Center when I thought to take out my camera and caught this view.
While the whole indoor season provided ample opportunity for great photos. the Wildwood event was particularly great because of the black backdrop and high quality of the performances. My clarinet/flute playing daughter Amanda decided to join the indoor drum line at Penncrest High School and I got this nice shot of her the week before Wildwood at the TIA Chapter 3 Championships in Avon Grove.
One of my favorite performers to photograph is Brian Rosa, who is a guard instructor at Penncrest. Two photos of him made my top 100. This shot was captured at TIA Championships in Wildwood. I caught the same shot a few weeks earlier by simply reacting to the movement. I was pleased that I could remember when this moved happened and be focused on him at just the right moment.
My summer took me to 15 different states following the drum corps activity. Along the way I had other photography opportunities. For the third year in a row, I spent time in Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is a glorious place to spend time. I only had two days this year and tried to get to some parts of the park I had yet to visit. One of those areas was Mirror Lake. The walk to the lake was not terribly interesting, but was uphill and I wondered if it was going to be worth it. I got to a lake area and thought that was it. Took some pictures, but nothing special. Then I kept going ahead, past the crowds and walked right into THE view I was looking for. This shot is the background for my name tag at church.
After Yosemite, I caught three drum corps shows and then had a few days to attend to work and to explore the San Francisco Bay area. For the first time I stayed north of San Francisco and crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge. On one outing, I took a ferry over to Angel Island and hiked around there. The island provide some great views of the bay.
The drum corps season ends with the Drum Corps Associates championships, which this year was in Rochester NY. Because this was the 50th anniversary for DCA, the schedule included participation in the Rochester Labor Day parade, which was a much bigger deal than I was expecting. They really take the Labor part of Labor Day seriously with several unions and civic groups participating. I was there to photograph the drum corps who were marching, but after the parade I took the opportunity to stroll around downtown. I had fun looking for picturesque views of the city like this one.
The drum corps season started in the middle of June and ended Labor Day weekend. Marching band started the weekend after Labor Day, though that first weekend was a rain out, and continued through the middle of November. I shot events 23 out of 26 weekends, only missing that rainy weekend, a weekend my wife in Jonesborough TN for the National Story Telling Festival (where I did put my camera to good use), and a church musician/songwriter weekend.
I enjoy trying to capture unusual action. While tossing members in the air isn't exactly novel, they can be tough to capture because it all happens so quickly. For the first several times I saw Crossmen I didn't even notice that there was a guard member being thrown in the air. I saw a photo taken by another photographer and started to look for when it happened. It took several more shows before I could get this shot of the "Jenny Toss" at the West Chester show.
Fusion Core really stepped up the quality of their program this year. The guard and cymbals were both great to photograph. One particularly great move was this one where the guard member is rotating his body as he moves across the field. I saw him start to move and locked focus on his face and followed him to get this shot.
My daughter's boyfriend, Alec Scully, marched in the Caballeros this summer. I got pretty good at spotting him on the field. In his first show of the season - his first show as a Caballero, I got a nice shot of him which I sent to Drum Corps World and which they published. At championships I caught this pose, which I hadn't noticed before.
The final marching band show of the season was the US Bands National Championships at MetLife Stadium. MetLife is a wonder venue for photography. With really interesting backgrounds, large video screens, and great lighting, it is a fun place to spend a day with a camera, even when it is freezing cold. Of course as a national championship the performances are first rate. One of my favorite shows that day was Weehawken High School's rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar. JCS is quite an emotional show and Weehawken performed exceedingly well - they came in first in their class as I recall. I caught sight of the drum major who, like me, was crying. As I took her picture, she gave her band two thumbs up. It seemed a special moment between her and her band. It was an honor to observe it. This photo and memory still choke me up.
So, that is 10 of the 120,000+ photos I took in 2014. You can view the my top 100 photos at http://photos.corpsreps.com/p524889360. Be sure to "like" the Corpsreps Facebook page to keep up to date on the summer drum corps activity along with daily features and browse around the http://photos.corpsreps.com site to see my other photos.
So what does 2015 hold for my photography? Well, to start I am doing a 52 week photography challenge under the direction of artist, photographer and quilter Ricky Tims. I hope to use that opportunity to explore areas of photography I would not otherwise pursue. I'm working with Bill Ives to do photograph his drum corps collection of uniforms and other memorabilia for a special drum corps history project. That type of product photography is something new for me. I also have plans to learn Photoshop, which I'll need for both the challenge and Bill's collection. Finally, I hope to visit old and new venues for the marching arts.