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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Nose for the Ball

Timing a photo at the just the right moment can transform an ordinary moment into a dramatic picture.

Soccer player takes one on the nose in Lowell, Ma.’s Shedd Park (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo:
This is a perfect example of how a great photo can sometimes come along when you least expect it.  I was searching for an interesting picture, struggling to find something worthwhile.  Twice I passed this young man in the park kicking a soccer ball around by himself.  I didn’t see anything else inspiring, so I decided to see if a compelling photo could come from this lone soccer player practicing.  I got out my long lens and watched him for a few minutes, but really didn’t think there was a good picture there.  Nevertheless, I shot a few pictures, stopped, then began photographing again when he kicked the ball over his head a few times.  I captured several shots of the ball sitting on his head, then rolling down his face.  I figured I had an OK photo, and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered I had this image of him balancing the ball on his nose, a far better shot than I ever expected I had.
3 Tips:
1) Sometimes you get lucky and come away with a stronger photo than you think you have.
2) If someone is practicing their sports activity, shoot the normal activity, but watch for the ball in unusual places, or the athlete doing difficult athletic feats.
3) Balancing the ball or seeming to defy gravity are two of the top pictures you can capture.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Now That's Funny!"

Close-up facial expressions are often the most important element of great kids' photos.

Megan Maher, left, and her teammate laugh while taking a break during the Northern Westchester Swim Conference swim meet in Chappaqua, N. Y. (© Michael Maher).

The Photo:
My daughter Megan was so busy concentrating and having fun when she was participating in sports, she rarely noticed when I pointed the camera at her. At this swim meet, while waiting her turn to participate, she and a teammate were laying by the pool watching the races, when another swimmer started goofing around to make them laugh. This went on for several minutes, and I managed to photograph several expressions of Megan laughing with her teammate, but this was the best. One key to taking kid photos is getting them to ignore the presence of the camera. Fortunately, none of them -- Megan, her friend, other team members -- paid much attention to me, so I could concentrate solely on finding a great photo. If you station yourself in one place, and wait a few minutes, kids will typically start ignoring you. Megan also had a brief moment of fame when this was published in the local newspaper.

3 Tips:
1) Kids frequently show a wide range of expressions and emotions when doing even simple things like watching their friends.
2) Stand back with a medium or longer lens so the kids concentrate on what they are doing, and not you.
3) If you stay in one place and wait patiently, kids will get used to your presence, ignore the camera, and you can take spontaneous photos.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Low Bridge

Shoot a facial close up during kids' play and you'll have a terrific expression. 

Skateboarder can’t bear to look as he rides between his friend’s legs (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo: 
There’s not usually anything exceptional or interesting about a kid riding a skateboard down the middle of the street. However, as I walked to my car, I noticed a girl jumping into the air as her friend on the skateboard rode under her legs. As he went beneath her, he closed his eyes and grimaced, hoping she wouldn’t land on him. It was a very strong photo because his facial expression was so intense. I had to ask him to do it a couple of extra times to make sure I got the photo right and, without any prompting from me, he grimaced every time he went under her legs. Omitting the jumper's upper torso emphasized the skateboarder's expression even more.

3 Tips:
1) Normal play activity can be more interesting with close-ups of great facial expressions.
2) Look for any compelling expressions -- joy, intensity, fear, etc.
3) Your photo should capture both what the activity is and the kid’s face.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Timing a routine photo just right can often create a completely different meaning.

Three swimmers on a lake in Tyngsboro, Ma. appear to be one person separated into pieces on a hot summer afternoon (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo:
As three kids happily frolicked in and out of the water to stay cool, they reminded me of the movie “Jaws”, as different pieces of their anatomy protruded at different times, looking like someone had been cut into pieces. I stood on the shore with a long lens, trying to time my shots so I could capture a moment when they looked like one person dismembered. They stopped playing and returned to shore, but I wasn’t sure I had captured the moment I wanted, so I asked them to continue playing. Finally, I directed them a bit to get my photo before they were too tired to swim any longer.

3 Tips:
1) Simple play can often be photographed to convey an entirely different meaning.
2) Watch kids playing for an extended time and from different angles to see if there is an unusual perspective or idea.
3) Swimming photos provide many options for creative pictures as the water hides part or all of the swimmers’ bodies.