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Friday, August 27, 2010

Alone At Last

Body language often makes for a powerful picture, as in this example of a loving couple in a lonely stadium.

Couple exchanges long, loving look against background of empty stadium prior to Olympic Festival in Durham, N. C. (© Michael Maher).

The Photo:
Arriving early for a track meet at Duke University stadium, I was assessing the shooting angles, backgrounds, and levels of sunlight at the football stadium. There were scarcely any spectators in the stands, but I spotted a couple walking around together, hand-in-hand, looking for seats. I watched on and off as the man and woman slowly climbed the stairs to the middle of the empty seating section and sat down. They looked amorously at each other, began to hug, kiss, and I noticed how alone they were in their section of seats. Though I shot several close-ups of them interacting (feeling a bit like a voyeur), it was clear the more interesting visual would show them alone in the row after row of empty horizontal benches surrounding them. It was funny to see a couple finding solitude in such a public space. The only question was where to place them in the frame of the picture --- top, middle, or bottom. Since it is never good to place subjects in the middle and make a picture too symmetrical, I framed them at the bottom of the photo, so the viewer’s eye would go to the seemingly endless rows of empty bleachers first and then to the couple.

3 Tips:
1) Not all portraits and personalities are close-up facial expressions – some can be shot from afar if they convey human interaction.
2) People can express love and affection in a number of different ways, often through body language.
3) Photo composition is more interesting if it is not symmetrical – place the main subject to the side, top or bottom, but not in the center.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

“You Can’t Tell That Guy Anything”

This week I'm sharing three photos because I won't post while I am on vacation for the next few weeks. Here a sports official and coach spar very heatedly, creating powerful expressions and body language.

Boston Celtics player-coach Dave Cowens argues too forcefully and is ejected by NBA referee Richie Powers during the fourth quarter of this season-ending game at the Boston Garden (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo:
This was the last home game of a very disappointing season for the Boston Celtics, as they missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year. The only reason I photographed this game, which would have no effect on the standings, was to get a picture of Celtic #1 draft pick Larry Bird who attended the game in Red Auerbach’s courtside seats with his agent Bob Woolf. Photographers swarmed around Bird to shoot pictures of him with Auerbach, but nearly all departed when Bird left early. I chose to remain for the game’s completion, looking for an emotion shot or unusual angle, and positioned myself between the two teams’ benches. After a questionable foul call against Boston, an infuriated Celtics’ player-coach Dave Cowens jumped off the bench and began jawing with referee Richie Powers. They yelled, bumped, got more and more irate, and Cowens was ejected. I was perfectly positioned for the entire confrontation between Cowens and Powers. I had so many good shots of their emotional discussion, it was difficult to select the best pictures. These photos later won many awards, but the big story from the game was Larry Bird’s first Boston visit, so the mundane photo of Bird was displayed large on the newspaper front page, while the phenomenal Cowens shots ran small inside.

3 Tips:
1) Confrontations with officials provide terrific displays of emotion and facial expressions.
2) Periodically position yourself near the player benches, especially when a coach is animated or agitated.
3) Stay alert and ready to shoot because this type of photo op is often very spontaneous and unexpected.