Corpsreps Photography: Blog https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog en-us (C) Corpsreps Photography chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Sat, 01 Jan 2022 22:55:00 GMT Sat, 01 Jan 2022 22:55:00 GMT https://photos.corpsreps.com/img/s/v-12/u317591433-o827841573-50.jpg Corpsreps Photography: Blog https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog 120 75 My Top Pictures of 2021 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2021/12/my-top-pictures-of-2021 035-Lipan Point035-Lipan PointThis panorama of the Grand Canyon was taken from Lipan Point. Some of the Colorado River is visible at the bottom of the frame.

Each year since 2013, I go through all my photos and pick out my favorite 100. 2021 turned out to be a great year for photography, though with some significant adjustments to my normal schedule. I continued with my weekly photography challenges with the Ricky Tims critique group, finishing out my seventh straight year – 364 weekly challenges without missing a single one.  

This blog post will give an overview of my year of photography with a focus on my top 100 photos. I reviewed about 140,000 photos from the year to identify the best ones to tell the story of my year.

Equipment

I spent the year fully in the Sony ecosystem, having sold or put away my Nikon gear. I switched out some Sony gear and added new cameras and lenses. The A9 and A7Riii were sold. In their place I have two of the new flagship model A1. I still have the A7iii as a backup along with a full spectrum converted A6600. Lenses added in 2021 include Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM, Sony 400 f/2.8 GM, Sony 50mm f/1.2 GM, Sony 70-200 f/2.8ii GM, Sony 14mm f/1.8 GM, Tamron 70-180 f/2.8, Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 and Tamron 35-150 f/2-2.8. 

Top 100 By the Numbers

By Camera - nearly all the top 100 were taken with a Sony A1. Three were taken with the full spectrum A6600, two with the A7Riii (which I no longer have), one with the A7iii and one with a cheap action camera. 

Lenses - More than 20 lenses are represented in the top 100. The most popular lens was the 400 f/2.8 prime having 21 photos. The versatile 24-105 f/4 came close with 20. The 70-200 f/2.8 and 200-600 were the only other lenses in double digits at 12. 

Locations - 40 different locations were represented in the top 100. One quarter of the top 100 were taken in June while I was on a two week long photo trip. Nearly half (48) of the top 100 came from the fall marching band season. 

 

Indoor Guard and Drumline

The indoor guard and drumline season, much like the 2020 marching band season, involved video recordings for competitions. That allowed me time with different groups where I would spend a day photographing rehearsal and the video performance. It was nice getting to know some groups on a more intimate basis and to keep my head in the marching arts world. 

011-Evie Upside Down011-Evie Upside DownFlips are always fun to catch.

 

Drum Corps

The two US drums corps circuits took different approaches to 2021 but both had something resembling a season. DCI had a three week non-competitive tour ending with a three day celebration in Indianapolis. In order to keep the performers safe, outside photographers such as myself were restricted to the stands. I attended just two DCI shows - one in La Crosse WI and one day in Indianapolis. 

DCA had a competitive season but fully by video. My objective was to visit each of the competing corps during a video recording session. With 14 corps and 8 weeks, everything had to go perfectly which was a pretty high bar. I only missed two corps. One corps folded during the season before I got to visit. Another corps had to cancel due to a hurricane. There was one corps whose video recording time was rained out though I did spend hours with them during rehearsal. 

Certainly the best part of the 2021 drum corps season was getting to know each of the DCA organizations up close and personal. Not only was I there to photograph the corps, but I also conducted interviews and wrote articles for Drum Corps World about my visits. 

044-Toss and Catch044-Toss and CatchBushwackers guard rifles have a challenging toss and catch moment.

 

Summer Travels

With the summer drum corps season starting in July and vaccines opening up the world for seemingly safe travel, I took the opportunity to visit some national parks in June. My trip started and ended in Las Vegas. In between, I visited seven national parks and two state parks. You can read my trip blog Part 1 and Part 2 for more information about the trip which was all about photography. The photo at the top of the blog was taken at the Grand Canyon. 

Of all the national parks I visited, my favorite was Bryce Canyon. The scenery was unique and I was fortunate to be able to stay inside the park, plus the weather was great especially after the heat wave at the start of my trip. 

018-Hoodoos018-HoodoosA view of the hoodoos from Bryce Point.

 

Photography Summit

At the end of September, I traveled to La Veta, CO to meet a group of my photographer friends for a four day summit with Ricky Tims. Many of these people have been part of the journey with me since 2015 and even more had joined along the way. A few I had met in person before, but for most it was the first time meeting. The Summit including a dozen challenges that we had to accomplish around town or the surrounding area. We also had a number of educational presentations by members of the group as well as Ricky. Among the many highlights of the trip was a session on astrophotography by Warren Lee followed by an evening trip to photograph the Milky Way. Living in an urban/suburban area, I've never given much thought to astrophotography so it was really amazing to see this spectacular sight and to realize how much more the camera could see and capture. 

050-After Dark050-After DarkThe Milky Way shoot was a highlight of the Ricky Tims Photo Summit in LeVeta CO. This was my first time ever seeing or photographing the Milky Way. None of my shots were as in focus as I'd like but I was amazed by what the camera's sensor could capture. This one took some extra post processing effort but I liked that it included Jupiter. I'll have to find a way to try this again. Thanks Warren Lee for putting together this photo shoot!

 

Marching Band

The marching band season was almost normal. I had shows every weekend, often two and sometimes three. USBands moved their New England States Championships to two weekdays due to weather, so I added an extra trip to Connecticut. That made for a really crazy final 10 days of the season with 7 shows in 10 days and about 1,000 miles of driving. The most striking thing about the 2021 marching band season was the rain. With several rain events, it was difficult deciding which rain photos to include in the top 100. The rainiest event had to be the Penncrest Senior Night. Not only was the rain relentless but it was cold and windy. It was miserable and memorable. The band sat through the first half singing the stands tunes. For the field show, everyone sang their part except one snare drummer to help hold it all together. As is the tradition, the band stopped part way through the show so the seniors could come to the track, greet their family and be recognized. My primary job that night was to take the family photos. The rain and lens flares made for some dramatic shots.

I did almost no composite work this year and only one composite made it into the top 100. This is Penncrest's drum major Jacob Bartowski with the main image captured during the senior night performance. 

076-Leader of the Band076-Leader of the BandA composite of Penncrest's drum major Jacob Bartowski. The image in color and the other shots in the raincoat were from a very rainy band senior night. Jacob's twin brother is also in the band. The two of them, along with sister Mandy, are with their parents in the lower right.

 

For the Birds

Beyond the summer travels and marching arts, I found opportunities to try some bird photography. I am fortunate to live close to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. I visited this urban refuge several times and tried my hand at bird photography. I found it quite challenging. A few weeks later, I visited the Conowingo Dam in Darlington MD where bald eagles can often be found, particularly in March/April and November. I went for the first time on March 30, the day of my second COVID vaccine. I arrived before 7am and found a lot of cars in the lot with a bunch of photographers with big lenses lined up along a fence overlooking the river. This juvenile eagle had just grabbed a fish out of the river. 

004-Lunch Time004-Lunch TimeOn my first visit to the Conowingo Dam I found this juvenile eagle doing some fishing. Eagles typically do a quick visual check to make sure their meal is secure.

One exciting bird photography opportunity came at the beginning of my national park trip as I spent a morning photographing hummingbirds with my friend Warren Lee. I don't think I'd ever seen a hummingbird before, let alone tried to photograph one. All of these opportunities were fun, rewarding and frustrating. 

013-Hummingbird013-HummingbirdMy friend Warren Lee took me to Cornerstone Park in Henderson NV. This was the first time I'd seen a hummingbird. They move quickly and I didn't really have the right equipment but it was fun none-the-less.


New Things

The year included visits to many new locations but also an opportunity to try new things. Inspired by one of my photography challenges (Pins and Needles), I figured out how to use my Pluto Trigger in sound mode to capture an exploding water balloon. 

003-Pins and Needles003-Pins and NeedlesWater balloon exploding using a Pluto Trigger on sound mode. It took some work to get all of the pieces in place and adjust for sound sensitivity and the right delay. I attached a balloon to a boom stand with a clothespin, setup a bowl to catch the water, the trigger was attached to a flash, camera on a 10 second exposure and my cellphone connected to the trigger over Bluetooth. The cellphone captures the sound and tells the trigger to make the flash go.

 

Receive

My weekly photography group always starts the year with a challenge to pick a “year word” which will define our year and to illustrate that with a photo. My word for 2021 was Receive and grew out of the Abbey of the Arts class I took in 2020 called Eyes of the Heart: Photography as Contemplative Practice. One of the ideas we learned was to think of photography as receiving images rather than taking pictures. I tried to bring that attitude to all of my photography this year. 

002-Gazebo at Night002-Gazebo at NightI wandered around the Longwood Gardens Christmas display one Monday night in the spirit of receiving images. As I was turning from what I thought was the last shot to start walking to the exit, I was suddenly struck by the lighting on the gazebo. This was the last shot of a wonderful night of receiving images.

 

Video and More

I continued creating videos for online church worship through the end of June after which the church began meeting in person. I was tasked with figuring out how to livestream. I spent a solid month researching options and finally settled upon a software platform called vMix and a PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) camera. I was able to leverage some of what I learned in video production during the pandemic shutdown to making the livestreaming work. 

The church video work continued through the first six months of the year at the same pace as 2020. My family recorded four songs every other week and the band members submitted two videos every week. As I learned more about Premiere Pro, the quality of the productions improved and I tried incorporating my photos into some of the videos. Among my favorite videos of the year are:

Rain of Justice - music by Erin Maher, lyrics by Peter Graham

Jesus Passing By - my Palm Sunday song that incorporated video clips from members of the congregation submitted for last year's video which was accompanied by an existing audio recording of the song. This video showed the progress made in video editing over the past 12 months. 

Peace is Flowing Like a River - a traditional song incorporating my photos from Pennypack Park in New Jersey. I had the opportunity to visit there in between spending time with two indoor guard groups in April. 

Psalm 150 - a song I wrote over a decade ago. I incorporated a variety of photos (including a couple marching band or drum corps shots) and some of my photos of eagles from Conowingo Dam. I was pleased that I could find photos to represent each phrase of the song. 

 

Best Shot

Our final photography challenge for the year was to pick our Best Shot. After narrowing it down to eight candidates, I went with this shot of Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. The hike to Mesa Arch was harder and longer than I expected. The return trip also posed challenges with finding my way back. But I did manage to see the arch with the red glow from the rising sun. This is a popular spot for photographers but I got here a little past the prime time and only had to contend with a few other tourists who very kindly stayed back so I could get my shot.

029-Mesa Arch029-Mesa ArchThe hike to Mesa Arch was harder and longer than I expected. The return trip also posed challenges with finding my way back. But I did manage to see the arch with the red glow from the rising sun. This is a popular spot for photographers but I got here a little past the prime time and only had to contend with a few other tourists who very kindly stayed back so I could get my shot.

 

The Top 100

So, those are some of the photos I took this year and a bit about this year's photography journey. You can see all of the Top 100 in the gallery.

 

2022?

A few months ago it seemed like 2022 would be pretty normal but then came Omicron driving up case numbers and threatening many activities. I hope to have a full indoor guard and drumline season. Will schools allow groups to come in their buildings? Will the groups be allowed to travel out of state? So much is unknown with the season ready to start in just a few weeks. Drum corps are planning for a normal season. I am continuing with the Ricky Tims Critique Group for year number 8. The weekly photo challenges are a way of life now and help get me to explore other kinds of photography and new locations. Hopefully there will be opportunities for travel to new places and experiment with photo and post processing techniques. 
 

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Arches Bryce Canyon Canyonlands Color Guard Composite Infrared Photography Longwood Gardens Marching Band Media Mesa Arch Photoshop Ricky Tims Sony Zion National Park https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2021/12/my-top-pictures-of-2021 Fri, 31 Dec 2021 20:17:38 GMT
June 2021 National Park Tour Part 2 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2021/7/june-2021-national-park-tour-part-2 Arches National Park

I arrived in Moab Utah late in the afternoon on Thursday and decided to stay near the hotel rather then venture into the park. The drive and the goblins were enough of an adventure for the day. I was out early and in the park around 6:00am and drove straight to the end of the main road to Devil's Garden where there were three arches, all requiring a short hike. 

Devil's Garden

Devil's Garden-028Devil's Garden-028Devil's Garden

Tunnel Arch

Tunnel Arch-009Tunnel Arch-009Tunnel Arch

Pinetree Arch

Pinetree Arch-015Pinetree Arch-015Pinetree Arch

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch-027Landscape Arch-027Landscape Arch

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch might be the most famous arch in Utah as it appears on their license plate. There are two view points. I went to the much closer Lower Viewpoint but most of the crowd climbed up the hill to get a closer view from above. 

Delicate Arch-040Delicate Arch-040Delicate Arch

Panorama Point

Panorama Point-041Panorama Point-041Panorama Point

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock-045Balanced Rock-045Balanced Rock

Windows and Turret Arch

I wasn't sure I was going to find a parking spot in this large lot, but someone pulled out and I set out to Turret first. When I got there a family was taking photos in the arch with their guide who was saying how great it was they had the arch to themselves. I patiently waited and eventually they cleared the area. 

A view of the North and South Windows.   Windows-051Windows-051Windows

The North Window Windows-055Windows-055Windows

Turret Arch Turret Arch-053Turret Arch-053Turret Arch

 

On the walk back to the parking lot, I came upon a couple from North Carolina who were Sony shooters. We talked cameras, gear and travel for a good 20 minutes. They were traveling by RV. 

Courthouse Towers

Courthouse Towers-059Courthouse Towers-059Courthouse Towers

More of my photos from Arches National Park can be viewed here

Dead Horse Point State Park

I signed up for a photography tour that was supposed to take me to some great locations in Moab for sunrise and then pick me up for an evening session. Unfortunately, the tour was canceled because the guide was sick and none of the other photographers were interested in an early morning assignment. The guide told me that if he went to bed soon, he'd probably be well enough to do the tour but I wasn't about to spend hours with a sick person in a car. So, I had to get myself to Dead Horse Point State Park (45 minute drive through dark and unfamiliar roads) for sunrise. 

I arrived, the first car in the lot, with a few cars behind me. The others, though, were interested in the eastern view of the sun. I was interested in the golden light on a western view, so I headed in the other direction and staked out a spot with my tripod. After about 45 minutes, I put the tripod in the car and did some more photography before leaving. 

Dead Horse Point-007Dead Horse Point-007Dead Horse Point Dead Horse Point-021Dead Horse Point-021Dead Horse Point

More of my photos from Dead Horse Point State Park can be viewed here

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands is very close to Dead Horse Point, so it was a quick drive to the park entrance. At this early hour (around 7:30) there was no line to enter and no one was even at the entry station. 

Mesa Arch

My first stop was Mesa Arch. The photography guide said that this arch gets a lot of traffic at sunrise but it will still be interesting light for a while after that and I managed to catch it with some good light and with few people around. The hike was about a mile with lots of elevation changes. 

Mesa Arch-002Mesa Arch-002Mesa Arch

Green River Overlook

Green River Overlook-021Green River Overlook-021Green River Overlook

Upheaval Dome

I hadn't researched this location, so I wasn't sure what to expect but the .6 mile round trip hike was harder than I was expecting but the views were amazing. 

Upheaval Dome-028Upheaval Dome-028Upheaval Dome

Grand View Point

The "Grand" in this name refers to the Grand River. 

Grand View Point-032Grand View Point-032Grand View Point

Orange Cliff Overlook

Orange Cliff Overlook-039Orange Cliff Overlook-039Orange Cliff Overlook

Buck Canyon Overlook

Buck Canyon Overlook-042Buck Canyon Overlook-042Buck Canyon Overlook

Shafer Canyon Viewpoint

My last stop was close to the visitor center. As I left around 11am, I saw a very long line of cars waiting to enter. I was glad to have gotten in early when there was no line at all. Again the benefits of staying on Eastern time were apparent.
Shafer Canyon Viewpoint-048Shafer Canyon Viewpoint-048Shafer Canyon Viewpoint

More of my photos from Canyonlands can be viewed here

 

Colorado River in Moab

I mostly kept to an East Coast schedule, so early morning photography was easy - not so much with the evenings. But I thought I should get out on Saturday night and do a short drive along a stretch of the Colorado River near Moab. This was a place the photography tour would have gone before heading to Arches for the evening. I just did the river and headed back to the hotel. Two things were interesting about this stretch of river. One is the presence of petroglyphs. The other is sections of walls that attract climbers. I was there mostly for the reflections in the river and the overall scenery. 

Colorado River-005Colorado River-005Colorado River Colorado River-014Colorado River-014Colorado River

More photos of this section of the Colorado River can be viewed here

Mesa Verde National Park

My original plan was to visit Antelope Canyon near Page Arizona but I discovered shortly before leaving home that it was closed due to COVID. I struggled looking for an alternative and happened to notice that Mesa Verde wasn't too far away in Southwest Colorado. The park came up in a couple of discussions I had with others during the trip, so I went to see what it was all about. 

The park documents many of the early inhabitants of the area and the evolution of their housing, starting from pit houses up to houses build into the cliffs. The park was more interesting than I anticipated and I spent hours there. 

When I first arrived, I stopped at the first viewpoint to get out, stretch my legs, and use the bathroom. I pulled behind another car and got out. I noticed they had a Philadelphia Eagles license plate frame and PA tags. They were from Delaware County (my county) and were driving a car back from Portland for one of their kids. These three guys had done a similar trip over 40 years ago and they were enjoying their time being on the road together. Because Mesa Verde is largely a one way road where you drive a bit, stop, get out, view the site, and return to your car, I stuck with them through a good portion of the morning before our paths separated. 

Here are some of my stops in the park. 

Montezuma Valley
Montezuma Valley-002Montezuma Valley-002Montezuma Valley Navajo Canyon
Navajo Canyon-006Navajo Canyon-006Navajo Canyon

Pit House

Pit Houses and Pueblos-016Pit Houses and Pueblos-016Pit Houses and Pueblos

Fire Temple

Fire Temple-033Fire Temple-033Fire Temple

Square Tower House

Square Tower House-012Square Tower House-012Square Tower House

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House-052Spruce Tree House-052Spruce Tree House Cliff Palace

The most well known part of Mesa Verde. It is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. There were two different stops where this city could be seen. 

Cliff Palace-039Cliff Palace-039Cliff Palace

Sun Temple

Sun Temple-036Sun Temple-036Sun Temple

Park Point

Park Point-057Park Point-057Park Point

More photos from my visit to Mesa Verde National Park can be viewed here

Horseshoe Bend

I drove to Page AZ from Mesa Verde. It felt like the longest drive of the trip. At one point my rental car asked me if I wanted to take a break. I did but there wasn't anywhere to stop. Page was in my itinerary largely because of Antelope Canyon but the other attraction was Horseshoe Bend. I wished I had the motivation to have gone out for sunset but I did manage to get there for sunrise on Monday morning.

Precarious 

My photography challenge for the week was Precarious and I figured I'd find people in precarious situations standing too close to the edge at the Grand Canyon but I ended up going with this photo as my submission. Is she checking her email or taking a photo? Either way, she seems much more relaxed than I was seeing her on that cliff. 

Horseshoe Bend-001Horseshoe Bend-001Horseshoe Bend

Sunrise at the Bend

Here is the Colorado River bending as it moves though the area south of Page. 

Horseshoe Bend-010Horseshoe Bend-010Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend-005Horseshoe Bend-005Horseshoe Bend

More photos from sunrise at Horseshoe Bend can be viewed here

 

Grand Canyon National Park

I returned to my hotel after sunrise at Horseshoe Bend and left shortly thereafter to head to the Grand Canyon. I would be entering from the East entrance. My plan was to stop at all of the viewpoints along the way to Grand Canyon Village where I would be staying at Bright Angel Lodge for two nights. Day 1 I spent time at the different vistas along Desert View Drive. Day 2 I spent my time along the Hermit's Road vistas. In those two days, I was able to get a good sense of the South Rim. 

Desert View

Shortly after entering the park from the East entrance, I had my first view of the Grand Canyon at Desert View. It was grand. 

Desert View-004Desert View-004Desert View

Navajo Point

Navajo Point-010Navajo Point-010Navajo Point

Lipan Point

Lipan Point-016Lipan Point-016Lipan Point

Moran Point

Moran Point-028Moran Point-028Moran Point

Grandview Point

Grandview Point-034Grandview Point-034Grandview Point

Unnamed View Point

I found this view point but didn't see it with a name on the map or any signs but it was less populated than other stops, so I used the opportunity to get out the tripod for a self-portrait.

Unnamed Viewpoint-045Unnamed Viewpoint-045Unnamed Viewpoint

Duck on a Rock

At this stop, the signs said that the rock on the left resembles a duck and emphasized that these formations change slowly but if you were to come back in 50 years this might look like something else. 

Duck on a Rock-049Duck on a Rock-049Duck on a Rock

Sunset on the Rim Trail

After finishing up with the Desert Road vistas, I stopped at the Visitor Center and then drove to my hotel to check in. I stayed in Bright Angel Lodge in one of the Rim Cabins. My cabin was just feet from the Rim Trail. This made it very easy to get out for sunrise and sunset both days of my stay. 

Sunset-060Sunset-060Sunset

Sunrise at the Rim Trail

Sunrise-073Sunrise-073Sunrise

Trailview Overlook

After sunrise, I walked to the shuttle bus for Hermit's Road and took the bus west, getting out at many of the stops. The first was Trailview Overlook where you get a great view of the Bright Angel Trail that goes down into the canyon. 

Trailview Overlook-088Trailview Overlook-088Trailview Overlook

Powell Point

Powell Point-091Powell Point-091Powell Point

Hopi Point

Hopi Point-110Hopi Point-110Hopi Point

Mojave Point

Mojave Point provided a great view of the Colorado River rapids.

Mojave Point-117Mojave Point-117Mojave Point

Hermit's Rest

The final stop on the shuttle route is Hermit's Rest. A storm was starting to brew off in the distance. 

Hermit's Rest-130Hermit's Rest-130Hermit's Rest

Hermit's Rest-135Hermit's Rest-135Hermit's Rest

Pima Point

I skipped Pima Point on the way going West since it was a stop where I could catch a but going East, so I hiked the mile from Hermit's Road to Pima Point, noticing how much the storm was picking up intensity. We never did get any rain on the South Rim but there was some lightning off in the distance. 

Pima Point-142Pima Point-142Pima Point

Rim Trail

With my cabin right near the Rim Trail, I spent a lot of time along the trail. I ran into a couple of other Sony users both of whom had the 12-24 f/4 lens and were really enjoying the ultra wide view. It made me question my decision not to bring my 12-24 f/2.8 GM lens. One of the things that surprised me was the extent to which there were often clouds, which are really helpful shooting wide landscapes. From checking the weather before I left, it seemed skies were going to be clear the whole trip. But there were plenty of places where zooming in gave me the composition I was seeking. 

Rim Trail-145Rim Trail-145Rim Trail

The Final Morning

My last morning at the Grand Canyon started with waking before 4am, so getting out for an early 5:15am sunrise was easy. I walked further down the Rim Trail than the previous morning. I was going to grab breakfast at the Maswik Lodge but there was a long line when I got there so I hit the road to the next destination. 

Sunrise-164Sunrise-164Sunrise

More of my photos from the Grand Canyon National Park can be viewed here

Hoover Dam

My route back to Las Vegas was going to take me right past the Hoover Dam, so I thought a stop would be worthwhile. The weather was not great - very overcast and a little rainy - so I was surprised by the large number of people visiting. The dam was very interesting. Not everything was open due to COVID but I toured the visitor center which included a movie and a slide show. Getting a good photo of the dam was a challenge but I was able to stitch two photos together to get the whole dam in one picture. 

Hoover Dam-007Hoover Dam-007Hoover Dam

More photos from the Hoover Dam, including shots of Lake Mead, can be viewed here

Las Vegas

I arrived back in Las Vegas in time for my 8pm Eastern call with Drum Corps Associates staff. In the call I mentioned where I was and found out one of the people on the call lived in Henderson, so I met up with Pat Bocker, her husband and a friend for lunch the next day. My only photography that day was getting out on The Strip for some street photography early Thursday morning. This photo shows my hotel (Planet Hollywood) right across from the Aria where I stayed on my last trip to the Las Vegas Strip for a conference. 

The Strip-021The Strip-021The Strip

Additional photos from my morning on The Strip can be viewed here

Leaving Las Vegas

The flight home was uneventful and pleasant. The trip was great but it was good to be heading home. I'm grateful for the people I met along the trip, particularly since I was traveling alone while most people were part of a couple or group.  It was nice to have some people to talk with particularly during long waits in line. I'm grateful for the opportunity to see so many wonderous sights and to receive these images. I'm grateful for a company that was able to carry on without me for two weeks, so work took up a very limited amount of my time. Finally, I'm beyond grateful for my wife Donna for encouraging me in taking this trip and for spending hours on the phone and Zoom talking about my adventure. 

 

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Arches Canyonlands Dead Horse Point Grand Canyon Hoover Dam Las Vegas Mesa Verde The Strip https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2021/7/june-2021-national-park-tour-part-2 Wed, 07 Jul 2021 00:07:45 GMT
June 2021 National Park Tour Part 1 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2021/7/june-2021-national-park-tour Hopi Point-102Hopi Point-102Hopi Point With a delayed start to the summer drum corps season and being fully vaccinated, I took the opportunity to do some traveling in June 2021 that would take me to 7 national parks along with 2 state parks and other locations. It took some planning to figure out a trip that made sense but it all came together really well.

Gear

Since photography was at the core of the trip, the first thing to figure out was what gear to bring. I hoped that my new Sony 14mm f/1.8 lens would arrive in time, but alas shipping was delayed. Here is what was in my camera backpack. 

Cameras - Sony A1 and Sony A6600 converted to full spectrum. I used both cameras extensively, though the A1 did the bulk of the work. I used the A6600 when I wanted to shoot infrared or where I wanted to lighten the load. I also brought along an Akaso Brave 4 action camera which I used for one particular hike and as a dash cam. 

Full Frame Lenses

  • Sony 24-105 f/4 G - This was my most used lens as it has a very versatile focal length. About half my shots were taken with this lens.
  • Sony 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 G - The next most used lens, this was great for when I needed the extra reach. It worked well with both bodies. 
  • Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM - I like shooting with prime lenses, so this was useful but not truly necessary. I thought having a fast lens with a 1.4 aperture would be helpful. 
  • Sony 20mm f/1.8 G - I could have left this home. The few times I used it, I could have just as easily used other gear.

ASP-C (crop) Lenses

  • Sony 18-105 f/4 G - this is my primary lens for infrared photography. It's never quite as wide as I'd like but it performs well with no hot spots.
  • Sony 10-18 f/4 - this little lens was my widest lens. While I used it primarily on the A6600 there was one occasion where I used the A1 in crop mode. 

Other Gear

  • Extra batteries and memory cards
  • Remote trigger - I brought both the wired and wireless versions but only used the wired since I also could control my camera with the mobile app on my phone. 
  • Camera strap
  • Tripod mounting plate
  • Tripod

Trip Summary

I flew to Las Vegas on July 18. After a day there, I went to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon (South Rim) National Park and back to Las Vegas with a stop at the Hoover Dam. I flew home on July 2. Most stays were one or two nights so the trip moved along rapidly. 

Las Vegas Part 1

I arrived at my Las Vegas hotel later than planned due to flight delays, baggage claim delays and a very long line for the rental car shuttle bus. Getting in about 11:30pm (2:30am as far as my body was concerned) was tough but I had a 4:45am plan with a friend for some early morning photography. My friend Warren Lee was wide awake and waiting for me as I came out of the hotel. I've known Warren for a few years as we've both participated in the Ricky Time Photo Critique Group but we had never met in person. He drove us to Cornerstone Park in nearby Henderson for sunrise and the opportunity to photograph hummingbirds among other critters. From there, we went to the 180-acre botanical garden Springs Preserve where we were focused on flowers since that was our photography challenge topic for the week. 

Hummingbirds

Here is my very first attempt at photographing a hummingbird. Given that I only had a 300mm lens and the tiny size of these birds, I felt fortunate to have a few successful shots. It's only in the past year that I've even done much bird photography. I can see the appeal but it's tough work. 

Cornerstone Park-005Cornerstone Park-005Cornerstone Park

My settings were all wrong for this shot as my shutter was only 1/320. As the light improved, I increased my shutter to 1/4000 and got these shots.

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Cornerstone Park-031Cornerstone Park-031Cornerstone Park

Cornerstone Park had many other sights including the rising sun, birds and other animals. Here are a few of those images. Other photos from Cornerstone Park can be found here.

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Springs Preserve

This beautiful garden presented a great (and only) opportunity to get a flower photo for the weekly challenge, particularly since I didn't have an opportunity earlier in the week and the photo was due the next day. I found the ants crawling over this one to be interesting, so this was my submission. 

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Here are a few more photos from our time at Springs Preserve. More photos from this Springs Preserve can be found here.

Springs Preserve-062Springs Preserve-062Springs Preserve Springs Preserve-070Springs Preserve-070Springs Preserve Springs Preserve-076Springs Preserve-076Springs Preserve Springs Preserve-083Springs Preserve-083Springs Preserve Springs Preserve-091Springs Preserve-091Springs Preserve Springs Preserve-096Springs Preserve-096Springs Preserve

A Chance Encounter

I planned to meet my Aunt Betty and Uncle Jerry at a restaurant in Henderson for an early dinner, so I drove over to the shopping center, parked the car, and started walking to the restaurant. I pass two young people and hear one of them talking about holding up his horn. I stop them and ask if they are drum corps. They were! 

I quickly found out that they were going to march Pacific Crest and they were being picked up in Las Vegas by my very good friend and fellow drum corps photographer Russell Tanakaya. Turns out, Russ was there and they had just left the restaurant I was heading to. They give Russ a call and tell them they just met Chris Maher in the parking lot. We head over to the restaurant where I have a quick visit with Russ and meet his sister. 

It also turns out that one of the drum corps performers is Luke Guthrie who I've photographed in the past with his high school and in the Raiders. He had taken the train from Maryland to Las Vegas. 

 

Zion National Park and Springdale Utah

I left Las Vegas early on Sunday morning, making a stop in St. George UT to buy food for the rest of the day and get gas.

Kolob Canyons

I decided to start in the West side of Zion at Kolob Canyons. Located about 40 miles North of the main Zion Canyon, this area of the park includes a 5 mile scenic drive with stops along the way for viewpoints and hiking. After making a few stops for photos, I continued to the Timber Creek Overlook Trail. This one mile roundtrip hike offered some wonderful views of the area. 

Kolob Canyon-003Kolob Canyon-003Kolob Canyon Kolob Canyon-016Kolob Canyon-016Kolob Canyon

As I started the hike, there was a serious looking hiker behind me. I would move out of the way to take a photo and let him pass but generally he kept behind me. Eventually he passed by and was at the main outlook when I arrived. I noticed he was shooting Sony, so I struck up a conversation. He was a serious hiker, having already completed 7 miles today. He continued along and eventually I caught up to him. We talked photography more and then stayed together for the hike back to the parking lot. 

A few times during the trip I set up my tripod to take a self-portrait. Here is the first of those. 

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I made one other stop for a hike at Taylor Creek Trail. The trail starts with a long flight of stairs and then a walk along a creek. I only did about a mile of the 5 mile route, knowing that I would have to walk back up those stairs. 

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On to Springdale and then to Zion

I left Kolob Canyons and headed to Springdale to check into my hotel - the Driftwood Inn - which was right at a shuttle stop (which it turns out I never used) and just a couple of miles from the park's South entrance. I planned to tackle the Narrows Hike the next day, so I stopped at Zion Guru to rent shoes, socks and walking stick for the hike. The store was great in helping me get the right gear and learning how to use the stick in the water. 

Zion Canyon is mostly closed to private vehicles. You have to take a shuttle from the visitor center along the 9 stops - about half of which were closed due to COVID or rock slides. I wanted to get a better sense of the park and the shuttles, so I drove to the visitor center after 5pm. I spoke with a park ranger who advised me that the line for the shuttle can be very long in the morning and that I'd be better off coming later to do the Narrows. I took that under advisement since my plan had been to get to the park early. 

I spent the next couple of hours hiking the Pa'rus Trail and other areas close to the visitor center that did not require the shuttle. The landscape along the whole trip was very conducive to creating panoramas. My panorama technique is to shoot a series of shots left to right and then take a picture of the ground, so that when I'm reviewing images and I see a ground shot, I know that the preceding photos were intended to be a panorama. 

Pa'rus Trail-051Pa'rus Trail-051Pa'rus Trail Pa'rus Trail-052Pa'rus Trail-052Pa'rus Trail

Since my photography challenge for this week was Contrast, I made use of the shadows from the setting sun. 

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Pa'rus Trail-055Pa'rus Trail-055Pa'rus Trail

The Narrows

My big adventure in Zion was to do the Narrows hike. Ignoring the advice of the ranger, I arrived at parking lot way before sunrise and was in line for the shuttle by 5:30. The busses start running at 6 and run every 10 minutes. There were about 150 people ahead of me in line. It was going to a long wait, so I struck up a conversation with the couple behind me. They were from San Jose. They really helped me pass the time. We caught the fifth bus about 6:40am. 

This hike starts at the last shuttle stop for the Temple of Sinawava. I was on the trail about 7:30. The first mile runs alongside the river on flat dry land. Before long, I reached the spot to enter the water. 

The Narrows-071The Narrows-071The Narrows

I bought an inexpensive action camera for the trip. It came with an underwater housing case. I had the camera easily accessible in the pocket of my shorts. The camera performed amazingly well. 

The Narrows-075The Narrows-075The Narrows The Narrows-076The Narrows-076The Narrows

I had a dry bag with me where I kept my snacks, an extra bottle of water and my Sony A6600 with the 10-18mm lens. As conditions allowed, I would pull out the A6600 for some photo opportunities. The camera did a much better job with the dynamic range of the landscape of the Narrows as the action camera had a tendency to blow out the highlights. 

The Narrows-083The Narrows-083The Narrows The Narrows-085The Narrows-085The Narrows

Because I was there so early, there were not many people on the trail which made it easier to get photos without people in them. But there were enough people that I had others to watch for navigating the water as the hike involved moving in and out of the water. 

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I wasn't sure how deep the water would get. For the start of the hike it was ankle deep.

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But it wasn't long before the water was up to my hips at times. It was shortly after this spot that I fell for the first time. The fall wasn't too bad, mostly a damaged ego but by that point I had seen a dozen falls. 

 

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My goal was to make it to the "Confluence" where the Wall Street begins and there is a branch off to the right to see Veiled Falls. I made it this far but fell again. An older woman near me also fell and we both made the same decision - to turn back. I stopped on the side for a while to grab a snack (pretzels) and then started the hike back. I had hiked three miles, two of them in the Virgin River. 

The Narrows-102The Narrows-102The Narrows

I figured the hike back would be easier, since I wasn't going against the current but there were so many more people and I was going in the opposite direction of most of them. Plus there was sun, where the hike in was in the shade. I fell again in the water. Then, I fell on the dry land trying to navigate over a fallen tree. I sat on the tree, swung my legs over and then somehow I lost my footing on the slippery rocks. That was the fall that hurt. I came away with four scrapes - two on each leg.  

The rest of the hike back was tough but I made it without further incident. I was concerned about the open wounds given that the water in the river contained toxin-producing cyanobacteria and there were signs warning not to swim or drink the water. I was able to get some first aid supplies when I got back to town. 

After completing the hike, I returned to my car on the shuttle. I stopped at Zion Guru to return the gear and then took a long bath. 

Springdale Sunrise

The rest of Monday I stayed in and worked on photos but I was up early for a wonderful sunrise walk in the town of Springdale. I was feeling better after a good night sleep. 

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Leaving Zion

The final leg of my Zion trip was driving through the park and going out the East exit on my way to Bryce. I hit the road about 9:30 on Tuesday morning. The drive through the Eastern part of the park was wonderful. I made a few stops at pullouts for photos. Close to the Eastern entrance, I stopped for this panorama that includes the Checkerboard Mesa. 

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More photos from Zion and Springdale are here

Bryce Canyon National Park

The drive to Bryce was pleasant and short. I first stopped at the visitor center and followed the advice of the park ranger to take the Scenic Drive to Rainbow Point and then work my way back North to Bryce Canyon Lodge where I was spending one night. The views were beautiful with interesting rock formations and colors. It was as very different visual experience from Zion. The route turned out to be a great strategy as I could find parking at each stop. 

Rainbow Point

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Black Birch Canyon

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Ponderosa Canyon

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Agua Canyon

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Natural Bridge

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Farview Point

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The Lodge

The Bryce Canyon Lodge was a great place to stay, particularly if you want to be disconnected from the world. With no cell coverage from my room and unable to connect to the Internet (which wasn't that good even if it had worked), I was a little off the grid. The location was great, right in the middle of the Amphitheater and easy access to the Rim Trail, Sunrise Point and Sunset Point. The General Store was a .3 mile walk and I hoped to get some first aid supplies. In addition to my wounds from falling, I was developing a blister on the bottom of my left foot. Unfortunately the store was lacking in any inventory, so I went into town to the store there. While in town, I grabbed dinner at the diner. 

Bryce Point

Earlier in the day, Bryce Point was full. I decided to go back there in the early evening and then drive to Sunset Point. Bryce Point is among the most popular view points in the park. 

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Sunset Point

Even though the view point was close to my hotel room, I decided to drive since it would be dark heading back, plus it would make it easier to have more gear with me. I used my tripod but moved around to different vantage points. The sunset was not spectacular but it was a very pleasant place to spend the evening. I spoke with a number of other photographers trying to find someone who knew the best place to be but everyone else was there for the first time too. 

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Sunrise Point

I woke up early on Wednesday and easily made it to Sunrise Point for sunrise. However, it was very cloudy and even rained a little so there was not much opportunity for photos. I enjoyed chatting with the other viewers there as most were doing the same trip I was but in reverse, so they were coming from Capitol Reef, which is where I was heading. 

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Queen's Garden Trail

My big hike at Bryce was the Queen's Garden trail. This 1.8 mile round trip hike offers the least difficult descent into the Amphitheater and a chance to see a rock that looks a bit like Queen Victoria. 

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More photos from Bryce Canyon can be found here

Scenic Byway - UT Route 12

Several of the people at Sunrise Point at Bryce mentioned a treacherous stretch of the Scenic Byway where there were drop offs on both sides of the road with no guardrails. This had me feeling a little nervous, so I did some more research watching some videos on YouTube. That put me a bit at ease and I gave it a go. It was not bad as scary drives are concerned. 

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Since I knew taking photos would be impossible in some of the most interesting spots, I decided to set up my Akaso Brave 4 as a dashboard camera. Here is some of that footage. The scary part happens about 10-12 miles South of Boulder UT. More photos from the Scenic Byway are here
 

Capitol Reef National Park

Scenic Drive

I arrived at Capitol Reef and found the visitor center lot full, so I started the 8 mile (one way) Scenic Drive. Unfortunately the light was not great as it was cloudy and raining part of the time. Still I was able to appreciate the beauty of the landscape. 

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After the drive, I stopped at the visitor center and got some advice from the park ranger. 

Petroglyphs

The first recommendation from the ranger was to stop at the petroglyphs. This was an interesting exhibit but one which I found hard to follow. I asked a couple who seemed like they were getting it, and they pointed out some of the drawings that could be seen on the rocks. They could not only make out that there were drawings but seemed to know what they represented. 

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Chimney Trail

After the petroglyphs, I decided to go check into the hotel which was 12 miles west of the park. On the way exiting the park, I made a quick stop at Chimney Trail. 

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After I checked in, I decided to get some dinner but it was raining pretty hard now, so I ate at the restaurant on premises and left the rest of the Capitol Reef adventures for the next day. 

Hickman Bridge

The previous day when I went past this trailhead, the lot was packed with cars all over the road but when I pulled up a little before 7:30 in the morning there were just a couple of cars. There was a guide for the trail that led me through 17 points and explained what I was seeing. This helped with the senses of making progress. Capitol Reef National Park gets its name, in part, from the Capitol Dome which was easily viewable from the trail. 

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The first half of the 1.8 mile hike went along smoothly. I passed one couple coming out and they said there was no one ahead and I'd have the view of the 133 foot natural bridge all to myself. I got to the bridge and it was quite a sight. 

Hickman Bridge-037Hickman Bridge-037Hickman Bridge After a bit, I realized I wasn't sure exactly how I got into this part of the trail nor was I sure how to get out. This was a lollipop design where most of the hike is the same out and back, but you are supposed to circle around. I started hearing some voices, so I decided to wait. Eventually a family from Bucks County PA arrived and I confessed I didn't know how to get out. They weren't sure either, so together we found out way back to the trail. In chatting with them, they were doing roughly the same trip as me only in less time, spending at most one day per park. 

Grand Wash

The next hike the ranger recommended was the Grand Wash. This was a dry riverbed (the Grand River) which in may ways resembled the Narrows, just without the water. The trail was mostly quiet and seemed to go on forever. Eventually I turned around having gone about 2 miles in and I was about half way through my water, so I figured it was time to return. When I got back to the parking, I met a couple from Lancaster. It seems everyone from Pennsylvania had the same idea this week. 

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Goosenecks Point

My final stop in Capitol Reef was Goosenecks Point. This involved driving on an unpaved road for one mile and then a short hike up a hill to the view point. 

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More photos from Capitol Reef can be found here

Goblin Valley State Park

On the recommendation of my friend JoAnne Parente I stopped at Goblin Valley State Park. This park was about 15 miles off the main highway, so I figured since I was passing right by on my way to Moab, why not stop? I wasn't sure what to expect. The park features thousands of hoodoos which look a bit like goblins, which are formations of mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles. At first I thought you had to view the goblins from a distance but then I realized there were stairs leading down into Goblin Valley and I could go down there and walk among the goblins.

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After I was there for a while, I decided the environment called for some infrared black and white photography, so I walked back up the stairs to change cameras. 

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More photos of the Goblins can be found here
 

I planned to do the whole trip in one blog, but when I had everything together, I couldn't save it because it was too large, so please continue to Part 2

 

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Bryce Canyon Cornerstone Park Goblin Valley Hummingbirds Springs Preserve Zion National Park https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2021/7/june-2021-national-park-tour Wed, 07 Jul 2021 00:07:32 GMT
My Top Pictures of 2020 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2021/1/my-top-pictures-of-2020  

064-Webb Farm House064-Webb Farm HouseWith all the time I spent at Longwood Gardens as restrictions started easing, I caught a lot of different views of the Webb Farm House, but this infrared one was my favorite. 665nm

Each year since 2013, I go through all my photos and pick out my favorite 100. Even in 2020 when much of my normal marching arts photography opportunities were canceled, I still had a hard time picking just 100 photos to represent over 58,000 photos from the year. I continued with my weekly photography challenges with the Ricky Tims critique group, finishing out my sixth straight year – 272 weekly challenges without missing a single one. With travel limited, I spent a lot of time at Longwood Gardens and in my own backyard.

This blog post will give an overview of my year of photography with a focus on my top 100 photos.

Equipment

A lot has changed with my equipment since my last annual reflection. I ended 2019 feeling committed to Nikon, but by mid-February 2020 I made the switch to Sony. I finally got to where I was able to get the photos to look like I wanted them to and simply enjoyed the shooting experience more. The thing that sealed the deal was purchasing a Sony A9. I only had a few weeks of serious use before everything shut down, but it was a fun few weeks.

I sold a few of my Nikon lenses and the D750 I purchased at the end of 2019 but I'm still holding onto the D850, D500 and many of my top Nikon lenses. I’m not sure when or if I’ll part with them. Time will tell.

I added a number of Sony lenses – the 200-600 G, the 100-400 GM, the 28mm f/2 with fisheye adapter, the 24mm f/1.4 GM, the 70-300 G and the newly released 12-24 f/2.8 GM.

Top 100 By the Numbers

By Camera

  • Sony A9 - 53
  • Sony A7Riii - 18
  • Sony A6600 full spectrum conversion - 11
  • Sony A7iii - 9
  • Nikon D850 - 7
  • Nikon D500 - 2

Nearly half of the top 100 photos were taken with the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 with 48 photos. No other lens was in double digits, so I really distributed the work across my equipment with 20 different lenses represented.

The Top 100 included photos from 32 different locations, which is not bad considering how little I traveled. The top spot was no surprise - Longwood Gardens with 19 shots. I visited once just before the lockdown. Once things reopened, I went nearly every week. South Brunswick for the two day WGI Regional was close behind with 17. No other location was in double digits. Quite a few were shot in my own backyard.

COVID-19 Strikes

Of course, as everyone in the world knows, 2020 was a year of limited activities and travel. I spent time in just 3 states including my home state. I went to Delaware once and New Jersey a few times both before and after the start of the pandemic restrictions. In a normal year, I visit at least 15 states, so this was a big change. With the March 15 shutdowns in the PA/NJ area, I had a short indoor season, no drum corps, no summer travel, no airline flights, no hotel stays and just a few marching band events in the fall. This made for a very different year and a very different Top 100 photos.

But rather than focus on what I lost, I’m focused on what I was able to do, much of which was pleasantly surprising and much appreciated.

Indoor Guard and Drumline

My indoor season started on January 11 and continued through March 14. By March 7, the virus was on everyone's mind and within a few days all my events were canceled. I was invited to photograph end-of-season final events for United Percussion and AMP on March 14. I spent a few wonderful hours with UP, photographing both ensembles and then some group shots. As I was leaving, I received a message that AMP had to wrap up early and exit the building. It would have been nice to end my season with AMP, but I’m glad I got to see them a few times before the shutdown.

One of the very best moments of the short indoor guard season was watching AMP Junior perform at the AMP home show. Normally junior guards go on first, but the organization decided to put the junior guard on last - after the World Class group. The place was packed and those kids gave an amazing performance. It was literally the best thing in the world that evening.

018-The Best Thing in the World018-The Best Thing in the WorldNormally the junior guards perform at the beginning of a show to rather small crowds, but at the AMP Home Show they made the decision to end the evening with their junior guard. The group performed to the music of The Greatest Showman, and it was literally the best thing in the world watching those young performers with a full house of enthusiastic fans. I was a teary mess trying to capture what I was experiencing. Even today, reflecting on that moment is an emotional experience.

After spending the early shows going back and forth between Nikon and Sony, I decided to put the Nikon gear away and see how the year would go with just the Sony. Would I be confident enough with it in difficult conditions? Would I feel comfortable shooting awards and in other situations? I never really found out because this was such a strange year, but when I made the decision to pack up the Nikon gear, I bought a Sony A9. The next day, I went to the WGI Regional in South Brunswick to try it out. I stayed as long as I could on Saturday before leaving for a drumline show. I returned on Sunday after church. Here's one of the shots of the host school from that event.

027-Running on Air027-Running on AirSouth Brunswick Visual Ensemble's show featured these ramps. They would run up and down them. I caught this member with both feet off the ground, confidently running down a steep ramp.

As noted above, the indoor season ended for me on March 14 when I got to spend the day with United Percussion. It was a lot of fun being able to move around, change lenses, and see the same chunks of show run over and over. The group practiced in costume, so this yielded a lot of great shots, quite a few of which nearly made the Top 100. Here's one that did.

055-It's Over055-It's OverI was honored to be invited to photograph United Percussion's final performance. Due to COVID restrictions, friends and family were not allowed in the gym. This was March 14, and the group wanted to do one more run of the show, which they livestreamed. I was impressed by the group's hard work in rehearsal in preparation for this final run. I got to photograph all through the World group's rehearsal, their final run and the final run of United Percussion 2. Afterwards I did some group and section shots. Not long after this shot, the season was over.

Marching Band

I did not expect to have anything resembling a marching band season. Each weekend that we had perfect marching band weather did not go unnoticed. I was aware a number of groups were learning shows and recording them for competitive or evaluation purposes. I wasn’t sure there was a place for me, as I expected most schools would not want someone from outside coming onto their campus. But after I was invited to photograph Edison High School by Alfred Braza, I reached out to a few schools where I felt comfortable to see what they were doing. As a result of that outreach and other connections, I managed to see 16 marching bands. Mostly these were single band events, but there was one small festival I was able to attend as well.

While I wish the season had been so much more, particularly for the students, what I experienced at each of these events was a group of people working hard for very little outside recognition. I was impressed by each band and the commitment of the staff to provide as normal an experience as possible, while working hard to keep everyone safe. It was inspiring.

Here are a few of the marching band photos that made the Top 100.

079-Baritone079-BaritoneMy first marching band event for 2020 didn't happen until October 19 when I was invited to Edison High School by my friend Alfred Braza. This is one of the shots I captured that evening.

091-Masked Bass Drummer091-Masked Bass DrummerI spent a lovely afternoon at Timber Creek High School on the first Saturday in November. The small group worked hard all day and put on a nice performance for their family followed by a senior recognition ceremony.

094-Soloist094-SoloistA soloist with the Hillsborough marching band. With the daytime event, I was able to try some of my long but slower lenses than I usually use. This was taken with a 200-600 variable aperture lens.

One of the bands I visited was Southern Regional High School. I'd been there once before for an indoor Dayton send-off event and know many of the staff and parents. The drive was one of my longer drives for the year, so I figured if I'm driving almost to the Jersey coast, I might as well drive a few miles further and see the Barnegat Lighthouse. My challenge that week was Ominous or Suspicious. I hoped to find something. After looking at my photos from the lighthouse shoot and from the band event, I decided to create a Sci-Fi poster.

082-Attack fo the 200 Foot Drummer082-Attack of the 200 Foot DrummerThis composite was created for a photography challenge theme of Ominous or Suspenseful. Despite the pandemic restrictions, I've managed to find a few marching band photography opportunities this fall. One was a Tuesday night at Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin, NJ. The school is about 10 miles from the Barnegat Lighthouse, so I went out there early to do some photography. It was a glorious day. I mostly shot infrared at the lighthouse and had some ominous, ideas but after looking over my photos from the day, I thought a composite movie poster was in order. The lighthouse is 171 feet tall, so I went for a 200 ft drummer. Names of some of my photography classmates were used for the credits.

One group with whom I had no prior connections reached out to me because they wanted their students to get professional action, group and individual shots. They told the kids they had a big surprise. Then they pointed to me and said that they had hired the official TOB photographer because they wanted them to not miss out on that part of the normal experience. Seeing the reaction of the students made it all worthwhile for me.

Longwood Gardens

I'm not sure what I would have done without Longwood Gardens. I visited 21 times - once before the pandemic and nearly every week starting with the reopening June 20. My wife Donna and I went there several times, as it was the only outdoor dining environment where we felt safe and knew the rules. We'd arrive mid-morning and walk around different parts of the gardens and end with a lunch in the Beer Garden. A lot of the time I went by myself, sometimes with ambitious photography plans and other times for a more contemplative experience. In the early fall, Donna and I took a seven-week course through the Abbey of the Arts that was about contemplative spirituality and photography. Several of our visits there revolved around that class. Each time I'd go, I'd bring different equipment. Often I would bring the full spectrum camera, allowing me to take infrared photos at a variety of wavelengths along with visible light shots.

One of my favorite infrared shots is the top photo on the blog of the Webb Farm House. Another favorite was this butterfly who waited very patiently for me to figure out my settings to get this shot with the fisheye lens. I had to get in really close and was very surprised that the butterfly did not fly away.

078-Butterfly078-ButterflyI was amazed at how long this butterfly waited for me to get a decent shot. This was taken with a fisheye lens, and I was able to get very close to the butterfly to capture this shot.

I went to Longwood twice during the Christmas display - and might still go again before it is over on January 17. For my second visit, I brought the tripod and did a lot of long exposure photography, which can make the people walking by invisible, at least as long as they keep moving. When I got to this light tunnel, I really wanted a clean shot. But there were people there, and a small group didn't move for a good 10 minutes. Eventually they left, and a normal level of traffic flow allowed me to get this shot.

099-Tunnel of Lights099-Tunnel of LightsEven though I was shooting long exposures (30 seconds), I still needed people to keep moving through the tunnel. I setup for a shot, and a small group of people decided this would be a good time to take selfies. They stood there for a good 10 minutes, which I patiently waited. Finally they moved and I got my shot. Others did walk through, but they kept moving so they did not get picked up.

Create

My weekly photography group always starts the year with a challenge to pick a “year word” which will define our year and to illustrate that with a photo. My word for 2020 was Create. When I did the initial photo, my focus was on using Photoshop to create more imaginative images, but I also mentioned wanting to do more with creating music. Mostly my music involves church, and most weeks I play drums, so my guitars don’t get as much use as I’d like. So, I commented that I'd like to play my guitars more. Here's a photo I did for my photography challenge Initial Inspired (CM=Create Music) which worked well with my year word.

096-Create Music096-Create MusicI had a challenge to create a photo that used my initials, so I went with Create Music. My year word was Create, and I thought I'd be creating a lot of photo composites. Turns out, most of my creative efforts have been with video and music rather than photography. So, it seemed appropriate to photograph myself working on music. The sheet music on the stand is a song I wrote called Together for Joy. It is inspired by Psalm 98 and is being used for my church's pledge drive campaign this year. Our church band members each recorded their parts, and I put together three different arrangements of the song, including one that made use of my photography.

Once we went into COVID-19 lockdown, our church had to quickly pivot to providing a worship experience entirely online. I tried to help with the music. Since wife Donna and daughter Erin are both in the same household with me, the three of us set out to do some music videos, not really knowing what we were doing. We moved the PA system to the living room and did some recordings in real time. Having so many cameras, I tried doing some multicam videos. It was fun making music together, but I really wanted to include others. Over time, we refined the approach. Over the course of the year, I produced 85 music videos. Most of these involved the church band, but some were my family or other ensembles at church.

Donna, Erin and I have been recording about four songs every other Saturday. Erin selects the songs, makes sure they are notated correctly in Finale and creates a modified click track from the Finale file that includes the chords and melody. We record guitar, flute and voices. Then with Erin’s help, I get the tracks lined up and I generate a reference track for the band. The band members have 2-3 weeks for each song. They do their recordings and send me the videos. With Erin’s expert ear, we get the tracks lined up. Then I do the audio and video editing in Premiere Pro.

While not really a part of my Top 100 photos, the videos were certainly crucial to my desire to create in 2020 and worthy of mention in this recap of the year. Here are a few of my favorite videos from 2020.

Personent Hodie - performed by the whole Maher family.

Take Up the Story - written by my daughter Erin and performed by the church band.

Together For Joy - an original song (the one I'm working on in the photo above) for our church's Stewardship campaign.

Never Doubt - an original song of mine and using the photos of my friend Raymond Fudge, which captured some of the powerful images from the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, DC.

As things stand now, we’re likely to continue this virtual band adventure for a good portion of 2021.There are currently 12 videos in some stage of production.

Favorite Photo

The final photography challenge of the year is to pick our favorite photo. It was hard work to narrow the photos down to the top 100. Trying to pick just one photo is tough, but that's why they call it a challenge. I decided to go with this photo of Chris Jackson performing with United Percussion. This was taken on March 7, just before everything locked down. It was the last group performing in the last show of the season - only we didn't know that at the time. Chris went to my local high school, so I've followed his career in the marching arts since he was in 8th grade. It's been wonderful to watch him grow as a performer and into a magnificent young man.

053-Searching053-Searching....United Percussion's 2020 show Searching... was something special. Here is Chris Jackson starting off the final competitive performance of the show.

The Top 100

So, those are some of the photos I took this year. You can see the top 100 here.

2021?

Well, after seeing how quickly the world can change, I’m hard pressed to make any promises for 2021. The one thing that feels certain is I will be continuing with my weekly critique group with Ricky Tims. I am hoping that I can photograph some individual indoor ensembles, much as I did this fall. Groups will be competing by video in most circuits, so the possibility is there, but indoor activities are different from outside, so it remains to be seen what will be allowed and what will feel safe.

I am hoping that there will be some kind of drum corps this summer. DCA plans on a video season with hopefully a live championship for Labor Day weekend. If all goes according to plan, I hope to get to as many of the DCA recording sessions as possible. If travel feels safe, I hope to get to the corps in Minnesota, Georgia and Alabama. DCI is planning on a three-day event in Indianapolis, so that is a possibility. A lot depends on the local and national restrictions, along with the progress on vaccine distribution. I'm sure everyone is hoping that by the fall marching band season, there will be something resembling normal.

So what will 2021 bring? I'll let you know in about a year.

 

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Color Guard Composite Infrared Photography Longwood Gardens Marching Band Media Photoshop Ricky Tims Sony https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2021/1/my-top-pictures-of-2020 Sun, 03 Jan 2021 13:32:24 GMT
My Top Pictures of 2019 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2020/1/my-top-pictures-of-2019 010-Downtown010-DowntownLight Brigade Senior guard put out quite a show with their Magnificient 7 performers. I took their train prop and placed it on train tracks from a shot taken in Philadelphia and then added a shot of each performer on top. Such a fun and talented group.

Each year since 2013 I go through all my photos and pick out my favorite 100. Selecting just 100 photos out of more than 197,000 shots is challenging. There are a lot of factors to consider as I do want to end up with a collection that is representative of my year. I often end up dropping photos that I'd really like to include. This year an added challenge was consideration of a number of Photoshop composite creations and how to rate them compared to "regular" photos. Beyond my normal marching arts photography, the year included participation in a weekly photography challenge critique group run by Ricky Tims. This is my fifth year in the group and I am yet to miss a week. That's 260 straight challenges. I also had some great photography trips.

This blog post will give an overview of my year of photography with focus on my top 100 photos.

Equipment

This year I added three new cameras and sold one. I traded in my Sony A6500 for an A6600 at the end of the year and immediately sent it off to LifePixel for a conversion to Full Spectrum. This will allow me to take both visible light and infrared images with the same camera, just by changing the external filter. I decided to get the A6600 because it uses the same battery as my full frame Sonys making it easier to travel with just one kind of battery. I probably won't have the camera back until the end of January. Earlier in the year I bought a used infrared converted Sony A6000 from someone on Facebook. That was my third infrared A6000, each at different wavelength. I also added a Nikon D750. When I got my D850, I gave my D750 to my daughter Amanda but missed having the option to go all full frame when shooting indoor guard, so I took advantage of the great sales Nikon ran this holiday season.

I rented the new Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 lens for a weekend but decided I like the version I have better. The new lens flips the zoom and focus rings. I found that to be quite awkward. I had my Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 repaired which was almost like getting a new lens. The zoom ring has been very stiff for years.

The rest of my lens purchases were all Sony. The 70-200 f/2.8 GMaster was a great upgrade from the f/4 I had been using. Not only are the ergonomics much better with the built-in lens collar, but the aperture difference is huge. My favorite new lens this year was the Sony 135mm f/1.8 prime. The lens is big and heavy (so much for the size advantages of mirrorless) but it takes awesome shots with a nice creamy background. I also picked up the 16mm f/2.8 (with fisheye adapter), 55mm f/1.8 and 35mm f/1.8 primes as well as the 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters. I sold the ASPC 50mm f/1.8 lens.

After several years of shooting with Sony and a year with the essential 70-200 f/2.8, I do definitely prefer my Nikon gear. I'm equally comfortable with both camera systems. I simply like the look of the Nikon images better. I'm a JPEG shooter for 95% of what I do (don't listen to those bloggers who tell you that you have to shoot RAW) and both camera systems have some features that only work for JPEG that I really like. Sony has Clear Image Zoom which is a kind of digital zoom that does not lose resolution. This is like having a built-in teleconverter that doesn't lose light. Nikon has Active D-Lighting which boost shadows and I just love the look. The comparable feature for Sony (DRO - Dynamic Range Optimization) doesn't come close. The Sony has a completely silent shutter. I expect to do most of my local events with the Nikon and use the Sony primarily when I'm traveling.

Top 100 By the Numbers

By Camera

  • Nikon D500 - 34
  • Nikon D850 - 23
  • Sony A7iii - 22
  • Sony A7Riii - 14
  • Sony A6000 - 5
  • Sony A6500 - 2

By Lens

  • Nikon 70-200 - 25
  • Sony 70-200 - 24 (9 with the 1.4x teleconverter)
  • Sony 24-105 f/4 - 11
  • Nikon 24-120 f/4 - 7
  • Nikon 300mm f/4 - 7 (1 taken with the Sony A7Riii using an adapter)
  • Nikon 70-200 f/4 - 6
  • Nikon 16-80 - 5
  • Nikon 80-400 - 4
  • Sony 18-105 f/4 - 3
  • 1 each with Nikon 10.5 fisheye, 24-70 f/2.8, 35mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.4
  • 1 each with Sony 16-70 f/4, 16mm f/2.8 with fisheye adapter, 18-200, 16-35 f/4

The Top 100 included photos from 36 different locations. Indianapolis for DCI Championships tops the list with 12 shots. Allentown, Hersheypark Stadium and MetLife Stadium have six shots each. Five shots were taken at Penncrest. Four were taken at Annapolis (USBands and DCI), Spring-Ford (MAIN and MAPS shows), Wildwood (TIA), and Williamsport (DCA Championships). Three shots at quite a few locations - Central Dauphin , Delsea, Longwood Gardens, Media, San Antonio, Sioux Falls, South Brunswick, West Shore and Woodbridge. AT&T Stadium, Marion IN, Montgomery AL and North Penn HS all had two. Fourteen locations had one shot.

The most common ISO setting was 3200 with 26 shots. The most common shutter speed was 1/800 with 28 shots. The most common aperture was f/4 with 23 shots.

Travels

I took photos in 16 different states. While this was the first time since 2006 that I did not go to California, I did visit four new states - NM, NE, SD and ND - to complete all of the lower 48. I'm not sure when I'll be able to visit Alaska or Hawaii to complete the 50 states. Normally my trips to Texas revolve around drum corps but I made two trips this year to the Lone Star State, neither for drum corps. I decided to take a trip to visit clients in NC, SC and TX at the end of May during the lull between my indoor and drum corps seasons. The trip spanned Memorial Day weekend, so I worked in a stop in Albuquerque. The main draw for my second Texas trip was a USBands competition on Veterans Day at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. I spent the rest of the week in Dallas visiting clients.

On my May/June Texas trip I spent a Sunday along the Riverwalk in San Antonio. Despite going to San Antonio nearly every year for the past 25 years, this was my first time spending any significant time on the Riverwalk since my first visit to the city in 1987. I also visited the five missions that make up the Mission Trail. This is an infrared shot of Mission San Jose.

029-Mission San Jose029-Mission San JoseDespite visiting San Antonio many times over the past 30 years, I never ventured to the South side of the city to the various missions along the Mission Trail. This year I spent a Sunday afternoon driving the trail and visited five missions. I took a lot of visible and infrared light images of each. This is an 590nm infrared image of Mission San Jose. It was a beautiful daya and many people were about. Some, like me, taking photos of the building. Others doing graduation or family photos. Still others enjoying the contemplative atmosphere of the historic structures. It took a lot of patience waiting for clear shots.

Of all the new places I visited, my favorite was Sioux Falls SD. I wasn't sure what to expect but I rolled into Falls Park and was immediately captivated with the town. There were three distinct parts of Sioux Falls that captured my attention, each represented in the Top 100 - Falls Park, Public Art and the July 4th Parade.

I wasn't planning on going to the July 4 parade but decided I might as well go. Much of the parade reminded me of a typical small town parade like I see in my hometown Media PA. I was thrilled to see the South Dakota Democratic Party participating in the parade. It seems to me that it takes a lot of courage to carry signs promoting gay and trans rights, racial equality, and environmental justice in a public setting but especially in a rather conservative state. Even now I choke up a little viewing the photos.

033-South Dakota Democratic Party033-South Dakota Democratic PartyI was thrilled to see the South Dakota Democratic Party participating in the Fourth of July parade in Sioux Falls. It seems to me that it takes a lot of courage to carry signs promoting gay and trans rights, racial equity, and environmental justice in a public setting but especially in a rather conservative state. I found this group very inspirational and wanted to see them represented in my year of photography. This is one of several photos that captured some of the group and their signs. Even now I choke up a little viewing this photo.

After the parade, the whole city goes to Falls Park for a free picnic lunch. I decided to follow along, just to see how it works to feed 5,000 people. I arrived after most had their food, so I walked right up and was given a pork sandwich, bag of chips and bottle of water. They also had free ice cream. There was a concert happening and everyone just seemed to be having a great time.

Here is a photo of a portion of Falls Park.

031-Falls Park031-Falls ParkMy first time ever in South Dakota started with a stop at Falls Park in Sioux Falls on July 3. I really enjoyed the park and the whole city. I took many visible light and infrared shots. I returned to the park the following day. After the July 4 parade, the whole town walks down to the park for a free lunch and an afternoon of concerts. I arrived late as I really wasn't planning on going to the picnic. I was intending to just get in the car and start my drive to Fargo. But I decided to see what the event was like and arrived after most had gone through the line, so I walked right up and was given a pork sandwhich, a bottle of water and bag of chips. Then I discovered they had an ice cream line. Of all the new places I visited this year, the one I most would like to return to is Sioux Falls.

The public art in Sioux Falls is spectacular with over 50 sculptures throughout downtown. I found most and photographed most of them. One shot made the Top 100.

032- Spiral Dance By Harold Linke032- Spiral Dance By Harold LinkeOne of the truly wonderful things about Sioux Falls South Dakota is the SculptureWalk, a series of more than 50 works of public art. I found and photographed nearly all of them. This one was probably the most striking to me. It took a while looking at it from different angles to get the composition just right with the building in the background. My favorite sculpture was called Keep Your Balance By Ray Kobald, but sadly there was only room for one SculptureWalk photo in the top 100.

While I had been in Alabama before, this year was my first visit to Montgomery. I was really captivated by the Civil Rights history there in a number of museums including the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, The Legacy Project, and the Civil Rights Memorial. I'm looking forward to a return trip in 2020 with my wife Donna as part of a civil rights tour vacation through four southern states.

Imagine

I again participated in a weekly photography challenge group for the fifth straight year. The group led by artist Ricky Tims includes people from all over the world. Each year our first challenge is to select a "year word" that will define our year. I chose "Imagine" as I felt it applicable to several areas of my life - work, church and my photography. I really wanted to get into compositing but felt like I lacked the imagination needed, along with some practical Photoshop skills. Rather than choosing imagination for my year word, I went with imagine. I felt like imagination is something you need to have but imagine was something you could choose to do. I spent a lot of time this year asking myself crazy "what if" questions, many of which led to interesting composites.

With some 150 composites among my 197,000 photos, it was even harder to pick a Top 100. At times I was tempted to create a separate Top list for the composites but forced myself to stick with the self-imposed rule of picking only 100. There are 21 composites among the top 100. Most of my composites were done during the indoor guard and percussion season. Here is Brian Rosa as a vampire performing with AMP.

004-Brian Rosa Vampire004-Brian Rosa VampireAMP did it again with an amazing visual product, this one based on vampires. I caught this shot of Brian Rosa in midair and added some drama in Photoshop.

One of the ways I learned compositing skills was a course by Matt Kloskowski which included a tutorial on how to create an underwater room. I thought "imagine a color guard show underwater" and came up with this composite of Southern Regional.

007-Southern Regional  Underwater007-Southern Regional UnderwaterI created an underwater scene with this guard member from Southern Regional. She just did a flag toss which released a bunch of rose petals which are the larger objects floating in the water.

Marching Arts

Most of my photography involves the marching arts. My year starts with the Indoor season which includes color guard, drumline, twirlers and dance groups competing in a gym. The season runs from mid-January through the first weekend in May. It is the longest of the three seasons and the most fun. I shoot for four different circuits - Mid-Atlantic Indoor Network (MAIN), Mid-Atlantic Percussion Society (MAPS), Tournament Indoor Association (TIA) and USBands. 22 of the Top 100 were from the indoor season and most were composites.

Flips are always fun to capture, especially when you don't know the show so you are just reacting to where you feel the energy and looking for clues that something will happen. I caught two images of this Spring-Ford performer but in neither did I get each leg completely because she was too close to fit fully in the frame at 70mm (one shot missed part of her left leg and the other her right), which is as wide as my lens goes. So, I took a leg from one shot and put it on the other to create this image I called "Some Assembly Required."

008-Some Assembly Required008-Some Assembly RequiredThis is a composite of two images of this Spring-Ford Blue guard member's flip. I had to pull her leg from the second shot because even at 78mm she was too close to get her whole body in one shot.

The drum corps season runs from mid-June through Labor Day. I covered Drum Corps International (DCI) and Drum Corps Associates (DCA) shows for the Drum Corps World publication and my drum corps history website DCX Museum. I was also the official photographer for DCA. I enjoy capturing moments of performer interaction and loved getting this shot of the Bushwackers snares.

062-Throwing Down062-Throwing DownThe Bushwackers snare line enjoying a moment of their show. I love the interaction of the performers here.

A dozen of the Top 100 photos were taken in Lucas Oil Stadium. This is a really fun venue. The lighting is fantastic and the drum corps are at their peak performance. It's also a fun place to shoot wide and try to really capture the environment, like with this shot of Carolina Crown.

055-What a Catch055-What a CatchA great moment of the Carolina Crown show with a great rifle toss and catch in front of their incredible brass line.

Drum Corps season rolls right into Marching Band season which starts immediately after Labor Day and continues to Veterans Day. I shot for two circuits - Tournament of Bands and USBands - and the Collegiate Marching Band Festival. Rain seemed to be the big theme this fall with four weekends in a row (7 events) having rain and a rescheduled mid-week show that also had rain. The worst day of rain was the TOB Region 1A Championships. The stadium had a grass field, so it was a muddy mess. There are two ways you can approach a cold, wet and windy day. You can be absolutely miserable, which is completely understandable and natural. Or you can choose to go all in and enjoy as this performer from Maple Shade illustrates.

074-A (Wet) Moment of Joy074-A (Wet) Moment of JoyWhen your region championship happens on a day of miserable weather, you can choose to be miserable or put 100% into your performance as this Maple Shade guard member decided to do.

Shooting in the rain can be fun. I figure if the performers are going to be out there, I might as well be taking their photos. The rain shots are unique and memorable. I suit up with rain gear, so it is easy to kneel, which is how I like to shoot. I shoot with just one camera instead of two and cover my camera with a covering, which can make it a little hard to see, so I rely on my instinct. I saw Southern Garrett earlier in the season and knew this tumbling sequence was going to happen but seeing it in the dark rainy night was nearly impossible, still I caught her in mid air at several points in the tumble.

081-Upside Down in the Rain081-Upside Down in the RainI saw Southern Garrett earlier in the year and caught this tumbling sequence that seemed to come out of nowhere, so at chamionships I was ready but between the rain and a judge who was nearby I worried I was going to miss. Trying to see through the plastic rain cover was a challenge so I wasn't sure until I looked at the photos later if I was even close. Fortunately, I caught the whole sequence including this upside down capture.

 

Favorite Photo

The final photography challenge of the year is to pick your Favorite photo. It was really hard work picking a Top 100. Trying to pick just one is really tough. Since this year was about Imagine and composites, I decided to go with this composite photo of a key moment in the AMP show. I imagined what would it look like to capture the sequence all in one shot and then worked out the details of the composite that involved lots of layers, masks and other edits. At the start of the show, a deceased Natalie Tarman is carried over to this big black chair and then Dustin Michael-Joseph Donaldson bites her, bringing her into the world of he undead.

018-The Bite and The Chair018-The Bite and The ChairOne of the key moments in AMP's vampire show was Dustin Michael-Joseph Donaldson biting a deceased Natalie Tarman. I tried to convey the whole sequence in this composite.

The Top 100

So, those are some of the photos I took this year. You can see the top 100 here.

2020?

I will be continuing with my weekly critique group with Ricky Tims. I am hoping to do more traveling this summer and possibly get back to California. I'm not expecting to work Alaska or Hawaii into the plans, but who knows? The indoor season starts soon and I will be splitting my time across four circuits. I expect to do more with infrared photography once I get my full spectrum camera back. I plan to do more composite work. I signed up for a subscription at Creative Live and hope to go through many of the Photoshop classes. And, I'll probably acquire more gear. I'm not sure what but both Nikon and Sony have my number. In September Nikon announced development of a 120-300 f/2.8 lens but still no idea of when it will be available or what it will cost. Still, it's at the top of the list.

 

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Color Guard Composite Drum Corps Infrared Photography Marching Band Media Nikon Penncrest Photoshop Rain Photography Ricky Tims Riverwalk Sioux Falls Sony Wildwood https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2020/1/my-top-pictures-of-2019 Wed, 01 Jan 2020 18:11:05 GMT
My Top Pictures of 2018 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2019/1/my-top-pictures-of-2018 051-Grand Prismatic Panorama - Midway Geyser Basin Yellowstone051-Grand Prismatic Panorama - Midway Geyser Basin Yellowstone

Each year I go through all my photos and pick out my favorite 100. Selecting just 100 photos out of more than 180,000 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 fourth year in the group and I am yet to miss a week. With several opportunities to spend time in a couple of national parks and joining Longwood Gardens, I tried to expand the subject matter of my photography even more.

This blog post will give an overview of my year of photography with focus on my top 100 photos.

Equipment

Each year I recap changes in equipment in this blog as a way to remind myself how much the gear changes. This was a year to buy camera bodies and go deeper with mirrorless. I added three new Sony mirrorless cameras. I got the A7iii on the day it was first available. I called Cardinal Camera a few days before to see if I could get on the list and they had one coming in that wasn't claimed yet. I picked it up when it arrived and gave it a try at a Great Valley colorguard rehearsal. LifePixel added a new infrared conversion, so I added another A6000 and had it converted to Hypercolor IR. Finally, I added the A7Riii during the Black Friday sale. Beyond the manufacturer reduction, the camera store was paying the sales tax, so it was a really great deal.

I added several new Sony lenses. 30mm Macro, 90mm Macro, 16-35 f/4 and 24-105 f/4. I sold the APSC 50mm f/1.8 and bought the full frame version. The 24-105 turned out to be an amazing all-purpose lens and spent a lot of time attached to the A7iii. I have yet to purchase the 70-200 f/2.8 (I have the f/4 version) but did get to borrow a friend's for a bit this summer. It is on my list for 2019.

On the Nikon side I bought a D850 just before Labor Day, sold the D810 and gave my daughter Amanda the D750 after having a warranty replacement of the shutter which had over 280,000 actuations. I didn't add any new Nikon lenses but I did sell the Tokina 80-4500 and Nikon 10-24. I also sold my D7100 camera which had been converted to infrared. I much prefer the mirrorless cameras for infrared.

Top 100 By the Numbers

By Camera:

  • Sony A7iii - 32
  • Nikon D500 - 24
  • Nikon D850 - 16
  • Nikon D750 - 15
  • Sony A6000 - 8
  • Sony A7Riii - 2
  • Sony A6500 - 2
  • Nikon D810 - 1

By Lens:

  • Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 - 36
  • Sony 24-105 f/4 - 21
  • Sony 70-200 f/4 - 9
  • Sony 18-105 - 8
  • Nikon 24-120 f/4 - 7
  • Nikon 300mm f/4 - 7
  • Sony 70-200 f/2.8 - 3 (borrowed)
  • One shot each Nikon 10.5 fisheye, Nikon 14-24 f/2.8, Nikon 16-80 f/2.8-4, Nikon 20mm f/1.8, Nikon 24mm f/1.8, Nikon 80-400, Sony 16-70, Sony 16-35 f/4, Sony 18-200 OSS LE

By Location: The top 100 photos were taken at 33 different locations. Yellowstone National Park topped the list with 13 photos. 9 shots at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square PA, 8 each at MAIN championships and DCI championships, 7 each at TOB indoor championships in Wildwood and marching band championships in Hershey, 5 at DCA championships in Williamsport PA and 5 in Yosemite National Park. The other locations include Allentown PA (3), Annapolis MD (2), Bozeman MT (1), Chester PA (1), Sports Authority Field Denver CO (2), Eastern Regional HS (1), Governor Printz Park (1), Hillsborough HS (1), Jamestown NY (1), Mankato MN (2), Media PA (2), MetLife Stadium (2), Michigan City IN (2), Mount St. Helens (1), Old Bridge HS (1), Old Mill HS (1), Pennsauken HS (1), Perkiomen Valley HS (4), Philadelphia (1), Portland OR (1), Reading PA (2), Seattle WA (2), Spring-Ford HS (1), and Woodbridge HS (1).

By ISO Speed: Everything from 50 to 4000 with the most at 3200 (19). I definitely went above 4000 on a number of occasions this year, going as high as 32,000 for an evening parade.

By Activity:

  • Drum Corps - 28
  • Indoor Guard and Drumline - 23
  • National Parks - 18
  • Marching Band - 11
  • Longwood Gardens - 9

Ricky Tims 52 Week Critique Group

2018 marked my fourth year doing a weekly photo challenge with people from all over the world led by Ricky Tims. I tried to incorporate the challenges into my normal photography. One week the challenge topic was Horizontal.

When I saw the challenge topic, this was exactly the situation that came to mind. At the start of the show - or perhaps at other times, sometimes band members lay on the ground. For these shots I set the focus and then put the camera on the ground and blindly shoot. It is way too difficult to line it up with Live View, particularly since I usually have very little time to pull off the shot. I've gotten pretty good at these over the years. I knew this group was performing on Sunday and was my best chance since I had seen the show two weeks prior. As it turned out, there were only two other bands (out of 38) who gave me anything that would work.


086-Horizontal - Delran086-Horizontal - DelranNikon D850 with 70-200 f/2.8 lens at 100mm
1/2000, f/4, ISO 250

When I saw the challenge topic, this was exactly the situation that came to mind. At the start of the show - or perhaps at other times, sometimes band members lay on the ground. I try for these shots where I set the focus and then put the camera on the ground and blindly shoot. It is way too difficult to line it up with Live View, particularly since I usually have very little time to pull off the shot. I've gotten pretty good at these over the years. I knew this group was performing on Sunday and was my best chance since I had seen the show two weeks ago. As it turned out, there were only two other bands (out of 38) who gave me anything that would work.

I cropped the original to get as much of the grass out and keep the 4x6 proportions. The top of the frame is the original and the cropping was right in the center. Other than that, just my typical LR edits. There is a certain amount of luck with these shots. The way the stairs blend right into the flag and then her legs was not something I even noticed because I never saw the scene from that low. Besides the subject, the horizontal bleachers, the flag and the red line all contributed positively to the horizontal emphasis. The green banner being fully in the shot and stopping just past her head was a plus.

This is Delan High School from New Jersey performing in the Tournament of Bands Atlantic Coast Championships in Hershey PA. Their show was called Tribe (or something like that) an

The first challenge of the year was to come up with a Year Word that would provide focus and definition to the year. I decided upon "Transform" as I felt it encompassed a wide range of things that would define my year. First I hoped to do more with infrared photography, in part for its ability to transform an ordinary or boring scene into something other worldly. Second Photography, generally, transforms scenes through different views, lens choice, depth of field and post processing. Third my primary photography interest (marching arts) is all about transforming ordinary kids into superstars. Fourth my business had embarked on a big transformation of our insurance software system to give is a much needed facelift, so I expected to (and did) live transformation all year. Finally, the world is always in need of transforming agents but perhaps a bit more than usual in 2018. I hope, in my own small way, that I was an agent of transformation.

One way to Transform a scene fit nicely with the challenge Unique Perspective where I went to a local park with a fisheye lens to take photos of the Christmas lights. Here is one of those shots.

100-Unique Perspective100-Unique PerspectiveNikon D500 with 10.5mm Fisheye lens
1/40, f/2.8, ISO 1600

As I thought about the idea of unique perspective, the obvious things were get low, camera on the ground, shoot from above - stuff I've done before. Then I thought about my rarely used fisheye lens. I thought that could add some interesting perspective. First I did some wandering around the house and then decided to head to the local park which is all decorated for Christmas. I had a great time looking at the world through this wide and distorted lens. Mostly I was shooting on a tripod but for this shot I took the camera off and put it right on the tree, thus the higher ISO and faster shutter. Mostly I was doing 30 second exposures with a narrow aperture. I'll have to make a point to get this lens out more often.

I picked this shot because I loved the view looking up at the trees but on the bottom are the trees on the ground. The white star at the bottom above the green lighted tree is the moon. My other shots on the tripod were shot at f/16 and this lens gave great stars - check out some of the other photos. I'm wishing I came back to this tree later in the shoot and used the tripod with a narrow aperture.

I love a challenge that gets me to do something I would not have otherwise done. But for this challenge, the fisheye would have stayed in the drawer the rest of the year. Thanks Ricky!

Summer Travels

As usual, my summer travels revolved around the drum corps schedule but unlike past years I did not make any effort to see clients. My down time from the activity was spent at national parks and new cities. I visited 12 states and three National Parks. I've been to Yosemite 8 of the last 9 years but this was the first time I stayed in the park at one of the private condos available for rental. I was 8 miles from Tunnel View, so getting out for sunrise was easy.

031-Tunnel View Sunrise031-Tunnel View Sunrise

For the first time I took a photography class at the Ansel Adams Gallery. The class was called In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams. We walked all over the valley floor and learned about where he took certain shots. We got to see his house where you can see both Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. Imagine waking up every morning in a place like that. We also learned about his work in the dark room. I'm convinced Adams would have loved Photoshop. This is an infrared shot of Half Dome that I took while on the tour.

030-Half Dome in Infrared030-Half Dome in Infrared

While Yosemite is very familiar by now, 2018 marked my first visit to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park. Both were amazing experiences. I flew into Bozeman MT from Seattle and then drove down to Yellowstone. I stayed in the park in Grant Village which made it easy to get out early to all the places I wanted to see. The photo at the top of the page is Grand Prismatic Springs in Yellowstone.

One of the most unusual things I saw was these bubbling lakes of mud. Each burst created a unique pattern. While the smell was not pleasant, the action photos were a blast. I had the Sony A7iii with 24-105 with me as I walked around but I wanted to get in closer, so I went back to the car where I had the A6500 with 18-200 lens (I generally kept that in the car in easy reach in case I needed a camera quickly). The crop body and longer focal length worked perfectly for the scene.

045-Mud Volcano - Yellowstone045-Mud Volcano - YellowstoneHad a great time capturing these eruptions - each one totally unique

Grant Village is right next to West Thumb Geyser Basin so I was able to get out early for sunrise. I had the place to myself. It was a chilly 40 degrees but the cold coupled with the hot springs made for great steam. The sun colored the steam yellow for some brilliant shots.

 

048-Sunlit Steam - West Thumb Geyser Basin Yellowstone048-Sunlit Steam - West Thumb Geyser Basin Yellowstone

Indoor Season

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 more than 300 different guards, drumlines, dance groups and twirlers at 27 different events.

One of the great things about indoor is capturing people doing amazing things - flips, being thrown in the air, splits. Several shots of that nature made the top 100. One of my favorites was this shot I called Pajama Flip by a performer with Turbulence Dance.


023-Pajama Flip - Turbulence Dance023-Pajama Flip - Turbulence Dance

Indoor drumline poses a number of challenges for photography. Normally the setup has the marimbas and other stationary instruments up front with the marchers behind them. That means there's a lot in the way of the action. You can sit up higher in the stands but then the shots seem rather ordinary. I've gravitated to sitting in the third row with the rows below me blocked off. Then I look for the spaces where I'll be able to shoot, listening to the music so I know when those holes will open. (notes getting higher the performers are moving to my left). I'm drawn toward the emotion and love capturing shots like this one of a Perkiomen Valley Indoor Percussion Ensemble performer.

013-Percussion Intensity - Perkiomen Valley Drumline013-Percussion Intensity - Perkiomen Valley Drumline

Drum Corps

When Indoor finishes in early May, I get a few weeks off before the drum corps season starts in the middle of June. I shot every weekend through Labor Day except one where a show was rained out. Rain was a theme both in the summer and fall marching band events. Often shows get called but you do have times when the show goes on. I do my best to keep myself and gear dry and tell myself that the shots will be worth it. This expression from this player, from the appropriately named Hurricanes, is what I want to see when photographing in the rain.

071-Timp in the Rain - Hurricanes071-Timp in the Rain - Hurricanes

Guard equipment flies through the air all the time but drum sticks usually stay in hand. But when drummers toss sticks, it is difficult to photograph but rewarding when you do. I managed to catch this trio of bass drummers from the Oregon Crusaders tossing their mallets in unison.

065-Tripple Stick Toss - Oregon Crusaders065-Tripple Stick Toss - Oregon Crusaders

Marching Band

The marching band season seems to fly by. Starting right after Labor Day and continuing through the middle of November, I split my time between two circuits, working two days most weekends. In addition, I was one of the photographers for the Collegiate Marching Band Festival in Allentown which featured 20 amazing college bands. One of the really powerful shows of the season was West Deptford High School. Here is a shot of their soprano soloist.

084-Soprano Sax - West Deptford084-Soprano Sax - West Deptford

Longwood Gardens

I live about 30 minutes from Longwood Gardens but hadn't been there in many years. On New Year's Day I decided to go visit the gardens. I brought two infrared cameras and had a great time. I always take off from work for my birthday, which fell on St. Patrick's day as it does every year, but since it was a Saturday, I took the Friday before to make a second trip to Longwood. I spent hours wandering around. By April, I decided it made sense to join. I was worried I wouldn't go back (like the time we joined the zoo which was the last time we ever went) but I went may times including one evening to photograph the amazing holiday light display.

Not being very comfortable with using a tripod in public, I ended up going as part of a workshop. I thought this would be helpful to see how others managed their gear and working with a tripod in a rather busy place. The instructors made suggestions about certain shots and encouraged creativity using techniques I've done before with my challenge photography (shutter zoom, intentional camera movement, panning). I was quite pleased with my results with five photos from that shoot making the top 100.

096-Tree in Motion - Longwood Gardens096-Tree in Motion - Longwood Gardens

099-Bridge at Hourglass Lake - Longwood Gardens099-Bridge at Hourglass Lake - Longwood Gardens

Favorite Photo

Each year I try to pick out that one photo that I like the best. 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. I really like capturing athletic moves in the marching arts and found this one to be particularly impactful. I didn't know this was going to happen but paying attention to what was going on I was able to catch her right at the apex of her jump as she soars above the heads of those around her. This is Courtney Tapper of the Bluecoats. Her expression says it all.

034-Above the Crowd - Courtney Tapper - Bluecoats034-Above the Crowd - Courtney Tapper - Bluecoats

The Top 100

So, those are some of the photos I took this year. You can see all the photos that made the top 100 here.

2019?

I will be continuing with my weekly critique group with Ricky Tims. I'm going to be starting a monthly photography challenge group at my church. We have about a dozen people participating. I will be selecting a church-related theme each month and the participants will take and post a photo within the month. I am hoping to do more traveling this summer and hit a few more states I haven't been to yet (just 6 to go). The indoor season starts soon and I will be splitting my time across four circuits. I am hoping to do more with infrared photography and learning more about all aspects of photography. 

 

 

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Color Guard Drum Corps Grand Tetons Infrared Marching Band Wildwood Yellowstone Yosemite https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2019/1/my-top-pictures-of-2018 Tue, 01 Jan 2019 16:42:32 GMT
My Top Pictures of 2017 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2017/12/my-top-pictures-of-2017 084-Bar Harbor panorama084-Bar Harbor panorama

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 the Numbers

Top 100 by Camera:

  • D500 - 52
  • D750 - 27
  • D810 - 14
  • Sony a6300 - 6
  • Sony a6000 - 1 (infrared)

By Lens:

  • 70-200 f/2.8 - 57
  • 300mm f/4 - 8
  • 85mm f/1.4 - 6
  • 20mm f/1.8 - 4
  • 50mm f/1.4 - 4
  • 70-200 f/4 - 4
  • 28-300 f/3.5-5.6 - 2
  • 35mm f/1.8 - 2
  • 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 - 2
  • 14-24 f/2.8 - 1
  • 16-80 f/2.8-4 - 1
  • 24mm f/1.8 - 1
  • 24-120 f/4 - 1
  • Sony lenses 10-18 (3), 16-70 (2), 18-200 (1), 16-50 (1)

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. 

By Activity:

  • Drum Corps - 42
  • Indoor Guard and Drumline - 23
  • Marching Band - 13
  • Challenge Group - 11 
  • Yosemite - 3
  • Charleston SC - 3
  • Philadelphia Flower Show - 2
  • San Francisco - 1
  • Bar Harbor ME - 1
  • My front yard - 1

Ricky Tims 52 Week Critique Group

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. 

006-We Need Change - Winslow Township006-We Need Change - Winslow Township

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.

  1. Light is fundamental to photography.
  2. Since I have little ability to control the light in most of my photography, I don't notice light as much as I should. I hope to be better at that this year.
  3. I very much want to gain a better understanding of using flash, even though I can't use flash in most of what I do.
  4. The world seems rather dark to me these days and I want to notice where there is Light. Hopefully I can be that light some of the time too.

"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.

001-Year Word - Light001-Year Word - Light

Indoor Season

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.

020-Rifle Toss - West Orange Guard020-Rifle Toss - West Orange Guard

Philadelphia

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. 

011-Big Hair - Philadelphia Flower Show011-Big Hair - Philadelphia Flower Show

Travels

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. 

004-Fountain in Charleston facing Cooper River004-Fountain in Charleston facing Cooper River

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. 

034-Tunnel View034-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. 

Drum Corps

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. 

055-Chris Jackson - Jersey Surf055-Chris Jackson - Jersey Surf

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. 

057-Repentance - The Cadets057-Repentance - The Cadets

Marching Band

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.

097-On the Big Screen - Cheshire097-On the Big Screen - Cheshire

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. 

090-I'm Missing Life - Fort Hill090-I'm Missing Life - Fort Hill

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? 

091-Three Amigos in the Rain - Southern Regional091-Three Amigos in the Rain - Southern Regional

Moment in Time

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. 

017-Throw - Toms River Independent Guard017-Throw - Toms River Independent Guard

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. 

087-I see the ground - West Shore087-I see the ground - West Shore

Favorite Photo

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. 

050-High Jump over Atlanta050-High Jump over Atlanta

The Top 100

So, there are a few of the photos I took this year. You can see the Top 100 photos here.

2018?

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. 

 

 

 

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) art museum atlanta charleston color guard crossmen flower show jersey surf light madison scouts marching band media philadelphia photography photos rain photography ricky tims southern regional the cadets yosemite https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2017/12/my-top-pictures-of-2017 Sat, 30 Dec 2017 03:12:57 GMT
My Top Pictures of 2016 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2016/12/my-top-pictures-of-2016 Mein River, Frankfurt Germany

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 the Numbers

Top 100 by Camera:

  • D750 - 45
  • D500 - 39
  • Sony a6300 - 8
  • D810 - 4
  • D7100 - 4 (infrared)

By Lens:

  • 70-200 f/2.8 - 59
  • 300mm f/4 - 11
  • 24-120 - 8
  • 80-400 - 4
  • 70-200 f/4 - 3
  • 10-24 - 3
  • 16-35 - 2
  • 105 f/2.8 macro - 1
  • 35mm - 1
  • Sony lenses 16-50 (5), 10-18 (2), 55-210 (1)

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.

By Activity:

  • Drum Corps - 39
  • Indoor Guard and Drumline - 29
  • Europe - 11
  • Marching Band - 10
  • Challenge Group - 6
  • California - 4
  • Kansas City - 1

Ricky Tims 52 Week Critique Group

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.


Long Exposure011-Chris Maher - Long ExposureLong exposure over the Schuylkill River. The white light is a helicopter going to Childrens Hospital.

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.

001-Smoke DancersSmoke Dancers

Indoor Season

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.

Main Line Independent Guard - Hayley MaltaisMain Line Independent Guard - Hayley Maltais

Philadelphia

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.

Chinese Lantern FestivalChinese Lantern FestivalThe lanterns are made of silk which has been used to make paper. Acording to Wikipedia paper made with silk became the first type of luxury paper.

Summer Travels

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.


Sunset at Lake TahoeSunset at Lake TahoeZephry Cove at Sunset

Drum Corps

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.

Clyde Forland III as Judas with Madison ScoutsClyde Forland III as Judas with Madison Scouts

Judas HangingJudas HangingClyde Forland III as Judas with Madison Scouts

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.

Oregon Crusaders Drum MajorOregon Crusaders Drum Major Anna Quenemoen

Marching Band

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).

South Brunswick High SchoolSouth Brunswick High School

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.

Pennsauken High School - Jasmine MagalongPennsauken High School - Jasmine Magalong

Europe

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.

Tower Bridge - LondonTower Bridge - London

Favorite Photo

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.

The Jenny Toss - CrossmenThe Jenny Toss - CrossmenJenny Brittle tossed in the air

Here is a close up of Jenny.

The Jenny Toss - CrossmenThe Jenny Toss - CrossmenJenny Brittle tossed in the air

The Top 100

So, there are a few of the photos I took this year. You can see the Top 100 photos here.

2017?

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.

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Art Museum Color Guard Crossmen Lake Tahoe London Madison Scouts Marching Band Media Philadelphia Photography Photos Ricky Tims Smoke Photography Tower Bridge Wildwood https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2016/12/my-top-pictures-of-2016 Tue, 27 Dec 2016 03:42:41 GMT
My Top Pictures of 2015 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2016/1/top2015 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.

Ricky Tims 52 Week Photography Challenge

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 Bikers005-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 Road004-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/

Washington D.C.

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.

001-Jefferson Memorial001-Jefferson MemorialI was waiting for the view to clear of visitors and started to take the shot when a young photographer entered my frame and made the picture way better.

Indoor Season

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.

002-Cadets Winter Percussion002-Cadets Winter PercussionNot sure about this cymbal technique. The performer rolled around on the floor with the cymbal held with her teeth the whole time.

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 Dreamscape003-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.

Summer Travels

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 Dome006-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).

Drum Corps and Marching Band

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 Devils007-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 School008-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.

Commodore Barry Bridge

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 Barry009-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)

Philadelphia

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.

010-Boathouse Row under Stars010-Boathouse Row under StarsBoathouse Row in Philadelphila with stars added using Topaz filters (Challenge - Silence)

Local Parks

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 Falls011-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)

Grand Finale

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-Trolley012-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.

2016?

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.

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Art Museum Commodore Barry Bridge Marching Band Media Penncrest Philadelphia Ricky Tims Trolley Wildwood https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2016/1/top2015 Mon, 04 Jan 2016 19:33:36 GMT
Loved Ones Challenge https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2015/5/loved-ones-challenge My "Loved Ones" Photography Challenge.

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.

Penncrest High School Indoor Drumline and ColorguardPenncrest High School Indoor Drumline and ColorguardThe Penncrest Indoor Drumline and Colorguard by the Wildwoods sign.

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.

TIA Atlantic Coast Championships-TIA Atlantic Coast Championships-On the performance floor for the TIA ACCs, the Penncrest Colorguard and Drumline.


(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.)

 

 

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Penncrest https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2015/5/loved-ones-challenge Sat, 09 May 2015 15:22:18 GMT
My Top Pictures of 2014 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2015/1/top2014 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.

Indoor Season

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.

Top2014-1Top2014-1Wildwood view from the Convention Center, taken in April 2014

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.

Top2014-2Top2014-2My daughter Amanda performing with the Penncrest Drumline. A woodwind player, she decided to participate in drumline for her senior year of high school.

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.

Top2014-3Top2014-3One of the guard instructors at Penncrest, Brian Rosa is a great performer. I caught this pose twice during the season.

Summer Travels

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.

Top2014-4Top2014-4My third visit to Yosemite and first time taking the hike to Mirror Lake.

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.

Top2014-5Top2014-5Spent a week in the San Francisco bay area in June and took the ferry to Angel Island. Spent hours walking through the island paths. Really loved this view 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.

Top2014-8Top2014-8A view of Rochester at night. Not normally the kind of photography I do, so this was fun and memorable.

Drum Corps and Marching Band

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.

Top2014-6Top2014-6I saw pictures of this move from another photographer but completely missed seeing it happen the first half dozen times I saw the show. Finally got a good capture in West Chester. I'm told the move is called the Jenny Toss.

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.

Top2014-7Top2014-7The position of the body, the facial expression, the colors - I loved everything about this shot. Fusion Core liked it so much they used it in their updated website. 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.

Top2014-9Top2014-9My daughter's boyfriend, Alec, in his first year with the Caballeros. I got pretty good spotting him on the field, but this shot was his favorite.

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.

Top2014-10Top2014-10US Bands Open Class National Championships at MetLife - Weehawken was toward the end of a very emotional Jesus Christ Superstar show. I was in tears myself and caught the drum major giving her band an emotional two thumbs up. I still tear up looking at this shot.

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.

2015?

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.

 

 

 

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Angel Island Caballeros Crossmen Marching Band Penncrest Wildwood Yosemite https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2015/1/top2014 Sat, 03 Jan 2015 03:54:11 GMT
Crossmen stuff in my office https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2014/12/crossmen-stuff-in-my-office I was playing with my cameras tonight and started taking photos of various stuffed animals, coins, and batteries I found around my office. I quickly got to my drum corps knick knacks and then decided to focus on everything connected to Crossmen I could find in my office. With my son marching there for three years, plus being a long time fan, I found a lot to keep me busy. My new Square Perfect SP200 Studio Kit arrived today, so that provided for nice backgrounds to try with the various items.

I found quite a few pins for the Jazz Club.

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There was one of these wrist braces.

-008-008 Quite a few mugs.

-012-012 A number of patches

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Several years of Crossmen Yearbooks

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A number of CDs (somewhere around here there should be tour DVDs but I couldn't find them)

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And, of course, Bones.

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Here's the full gallery of images.

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Crossmen https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2014/12/crossmen-stuff-in-my-office Fri, 19 Dec 2014 04:15:07 GMT
Top Pictures 2013 - Part 3 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2014/1/top-pictures-2013---part-3 The marching band season started the week after Labor Day. I shot events for Tournament of Bands and US Bands. I also spent a good bit of time photographing the Penncrest Roaring Lions Marching Band where my daughter plays clarinet in her senior year. So a football game every week and one or two competitions each weekend made for a busy fall. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the marching band season.

Monsignor Farrell

The Monsignor Farrell High School is a 1-Open band who competes in the USBands circuit. Their show was "Sound & Fury of the Skies" and was basically about the weather. There were a number of props to convey the theme. The band is small and had just one guard member who was very captivating. It wasn't obvious to me until I saw them again that it was just one person doing all that guard work. Early in the season I was at a show in Delran NJ on a dark and rainy night. At one point the one guard member holds up an umbrella and happened to be positioned perfectly so that I could get this shot. The dark night made for a completely black background and the rainbow colors of the umbrella really stand out despite the difficult stadium lighting.

009-Monsignor Farrell High School - Staten Island NY009-Monsignor Farrell High School - Staten Island NYMonsignor Farrell High School - Staten Island NY

Nazareth

The Nazareth Area Blue Eagle Marching Band 2013 show was titled "Tales of Love: Triumph, Tragedy, and Trickery" and included music by Glinka, Puccini and Rossin. I always enjoy their shows and usually find a top picture from their band. This year the band hosted two competitions on October 12. At the show in the afternoon I was shooting through the pit and caught this flute player with a great blurred background as the back stands were filled with students who performed earlier. I really liked the composition and colors on this shot.

010-Nazareth Area High School Blue Eagles - Nazareth, PA010-Nazareth Area High School Blue Eagles - Nazareth, PANazareth Area High School Blue Eagles - Nazareth, PA After the day show, I ended up leaving and going to a Cavalcade of Bands show where Penncrest was competing. I was supposed to stay at Nazareth but there were other photographers there and I wanted to see Penncrest. That turned out to be a good decision.

Northern York

The most fun I had this fall was shooting at MetLife Stadium. The stadium was so interesting compared to most of the places I get to shoot. It was fun trying to capture the environment. I know many of the students will be excited to watch the Super Bowl this year and will say "I marched on that field." I tried to get pictures of each band that showed some part of Met Life that clearly identified the location. One of my favorite such shots was this one of Northern York. The guard member was on the podium and struck a pose perfectly positioned between the jumbotron and MefLife sign. I quickly switched to my second camera which had the 24-70 on it to get the shot.

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Urbana

One of the great features of MetLife was the jumbotron. I tried to keep some awareness of what was being shown there and trying to use it creatively as background. There were several video cameras in operation, including a mobile one on the sidelines. I tried to keep an eye on where the field video camera was focused so that I could possibly find a shot where the video and the video subject were both in my shot. This shot of the Urbana High School Drum Major was the best of those shots as the video camera was right next to me focused on the drum major.

011-Urbana011-UrbanaUrbana

 

 

 

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Marching Band Monsignor Farrell High School Nazareth Area High School Northern York High School USBands Urbana High School https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2014/1/top-pictures-2013---part-3 Fri, 03 Jan 2014 21:35:44 GMT
Top Pictures 2013 - Part 2 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2014/1/top-pictures-2013---part-2 For the drum corps season I shot for Drum Corps International, Drum Corps Associates, Drum Corps World and my drum corps history website corpsreps.com. My travels took me to California, Texas, Indiana, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Over the course of the season, I was able to watch shows progress and see some exceptional performances. Here are just a few of my favorite pictures from the drum corps season.

Blue Knights

There were many corps that were fun to shoot but none more than Blue Knights. The stunning guard costumes, unique marching style, acrobatic moves, a small stage and a giant blue ball - not to mention incredible performers - made for great pictures. The NoBeginningNoEnd theme carried through the music and visual presentation. While the great action provided opportunity for great shots, this shot was particularly fun because the performers were very aware that I was taking the picture. I walked down to the end zone, knelt down and made eye contact, then took the shot. I believe this was the first show (Minneapolis) they started this way with the giant ball carried in a sack onto the field.

004-Blue Knights004-Blue KnightsBlue Knights

 

Madison Scouts

The Madison Scouts 2013 show "Corps of Brothers - 75 Years of Survival" included many interesting visual elements. Brass players using their horns as machine guns, a helicopter, the May You Never Walk Alone logs, the Drum Majors conducting the crowd in singing the corps song, a rotating company front and these two images. The first is a guard member walking across the snare drums. I got this shot several times from different angles including one straight on where I shot the whole sequence which you can find on Tumblr http://corpsreps.tumblr.com/post/57176043650/a-run-across-the-drums. This picture was from the DCI show in San Antonio.

005-Madison Scouts005-Madison ScoutsMadison Scouts

I found this image to be particularly striking as the fallen soldier is carried off by his friends as the corps plays May You Never Walk Alone with the crowd singing and corps alumni in the crowd standing for their corps song. It was a very powerful moment in the show.

006-Madison Scouts006-Madison ScoutsMadison Scouts

Reilly Raiders

The Reilly Raiders are an alumni corps who perform in exhibition with a style reminiscent of the 1970s when I marched. At the West Chester show they performed their Irish themed show. As tribute to the Crossmen, the corps played Russian Christmas Music and invited several Crossmen legends to play with them. As the show concluded the Reilly Raider snare line was joined by a rather young man in uniform. As soon as I caught sight of him, I ran over to where he was and got down to eye level, and was ready to shoot when he struck this thoughtful pose. At the DCA Alumni show a month later, Brody came on the field with a snare drum and as soon as the photographers caught sight of him, we were all there taking his picture. He is a genuine photographer magnet.

007-Reilly Raiders007-Reilly RaidersReilly Raiders

The Cadets

The Cadets "Side by Side" show made use of these large column props all season but mostly they were not having much impact - for me at least. At the West Chester show they found a way to create excitement with the props by having guard members climb and hang on them. Even better was the mellophone player who climbed up, played her closing solo and dropped her horn to the hands of a guard member below. The sequence of events took me a bit by surprise and though I did get a great shot of the soloist playing her horn, I did not get the horn drop. Two nights later at Allentown I was ready and caught the horn on its descent perfectly.

008-The Cadets008-The CadetsThe Cadets

 

 

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Blue Knights DCI Drum Corps Madison Scouts Reilly Raiders The Cadets https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2014/1/top-pictures-2013---part-2 Fri, 03 Jan 2014 00:32:24 GMT
Top Pictures 2013 - Part 1 https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2014/1/top-pictures-2013---part-1 2013 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 and added a new camera (Nikon D7100) and several new lenses (bought used on Ebay) including the Nikon 24-70 f2.8. This blog post will discuss some of my very favorite pictures out of the 90,000 I took in 2013.

Avon Grove High School

The indoor color guard and drumline season ran from January through May. There were many great shows but one of my favorites was the Avon Grove High School color guard. The show was called Blinded By Grief and the soundtrack for the show was Abide With Me as performed by Emeli Sande at the 2012 Winter Olympics. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jj2LqGvKsLw Through the show different guard members walked around with a blind fold - as shown in this photo. I found the visual to be very moving, especially in combination with the music which is a favorite hymn of mine. This page http://aghsmusic.weebly.com/indoor-guard-2013.html has some information about the show including a video of the performance.

001-Avon Grove Guard001-Avon Grove GuardAvon Grove Guard

Black Watch

Black Watch is one of the top indoor guards in the activity. I have the pleasure of seeing them a few times a year. Their shows a filled with amazing equipment work and great visuals. Their costumes are always interesting and make for great photographs. At the conclusion of their show they added this move which I was all prepared to capture when I suddenly discovered my camera was not focusing. I quickly manually focused and got the shot. I later figured out that I hit the Manual/Automatic switch on my lens by mistake. But I was pleased I did not miss this shot. Here is a link to some clips from the show which ends with the move captured in this picture. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6lg5wFuAr8

002-Blackwatch002-BlackwatchBlackwatch

 

Yosemite National Park - Half Dome

Just before the start of the drum corps season, I had an opportunity to spend three days alone in Yosemite. I had a great time exploring the park and taking pictures of things that were not moving. One of my favorite pictures from that visit was one of Half Dome as the sun was setting. This was taken on my last day there. There were a number of photographers setting up for a shot when I arrived at a little bridge. I found a good location and waited as the sun began to set. I was very pleased with this shot, getting the golden color on Half Dome but still getting good detail and color in the water and trees.


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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Avon Grove Blackwatch Half Dome Yosemite https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2014/1/top-pictures-2013---part-1 Thu, 02 Jan 2014 02:49:39 GMT
Penncrest at Garnet Valley https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2013/10/penncrest-at-garnet-valley Garnet Valley PA 10/4/2013 - With both football teams 5-0, the game promised to draw a huge crowd, so my wife and I arrived at the stadium about an hour and a half before game time. People were already in the stands. The away stands filled up pretty quickly as a group of enthusiastic students dressed in white (some in white body paint) occupied a large section of the stands.

The band arrived and chased out a few who refused to believe the rest of us that the band was going to need that space. Then the game got underway. Some bad calls and some mistakes put Penncrest in the hole early and by half time there didn't seem to be much hope of a comeback. Fortunately I was there for the band and not the football team.

The band did their "No Matter the Weather" show and performed very well. I was excited to find things happening in the show I hadn't noticed before, like this cymbal visual.

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I found out today that has been there all along. I was just in the right place to catch it this time. Now if they would really polish up those plates, there would have been a great reflection of Sally. I was also happy to find my daughter in a place I hadn't found her before. You would think with only 9 clarinets and just two with senior medals, she would be easier to find.

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The Garnet Valley band came out next and did a Pirates of the Caribbean show. The Penncrest band director's daughter was easy to find this year as part of a lovely trio.

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A nice GV band parent came over to me and said "the crew will be coming to life soon" and pointed me in the right direction. Normally at away games I stay back a little and pretty much in one spot, so I might have missed the moment were it not for the heads up.

Garnet ValleyGarnet ValleyGarnet Valley

After both bands finished their half time shows, the two bands got together on the track and played the Penncrest favorite "Hey Baby!" demonstrating that friendship can exist even among rivals. Unfortunately I only had my 70-200 so I didn't get any good pics of that performance. I also understand the GV students made cookies for Penncrest. We hung around a bit for third quarter and then got a jump on traffic. It didn't seem like the game was going to turn around and with the huge number of people there, it would have taken forever to get out of the parking lot.

Penncrest and Garnet ValleyPenncrest and Garnet ValleyPenncrest and Garnet Valley

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Football Garnet Penncrest Valley https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2013/10/penncrest-at-garnet-valley Sat, 05 Oct 2013 19:36:57 GMT
The Lightning Game https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2013/9/the-lightning-game Media PA 9/12/2013 - The weather forecast kept getting better as the day went along. Game time was supposed to be free of rain and wasn't supposed to arrive until after 10pm. As the band was just finishing up on the practice field, rain began to fall heavily. I tried to help with the pit equipment, while keeping tight hold on my backpack containing my D7100, D600 and a bunch of lenses. We were soaked by the time we got to the band room where we found out there was going to be a 20 minute delay to the start of the game. Shortly after the rain stopped.

Other than a few sprinkles, the first two quarters went smoothly. The band played to an appreciative crowd. PenncrestPenncrestBand plays a "stands tune"

Half time came and both Conestoga and Penncrest performed their shows. Conestoga donned their raincoats, but Penncrest was in full uniform. As the third quarter was nearly over, suddenly the Conestoga football team ran off the field. We were then informed there was a lightning delay. This meant a mandatory 30 minutes. The game finally resumed and Penncrest was victorious. By the time we got home it was well after 11pm. That wouldn't be so bad if the game weren't on a Thursday night.

 

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chris@corpsreps.com (Corpsreps Photography) Conestoga Football Penncrest https://photos.corpsreps.com/blog/2013/9/the-lightning-game Sat, 14 Sep 2013 01:29:04 GMT