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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Newborn Lineup

You really can successfully photograph a group of infants, even if they can't sit up by themselves.

3-month olds pose for a group photo during a parental Lamaze class reunion (© Michael Maher).

The Photo:
All the families from our Lamaze birthing class got together for a reunion to show off their babies. I knew if I could put all the babies together, it would make a very warm and powerful group photo. Fortunately, this sofa was the perfect width to fit all the kids side-by-side. The biggest challenge was they couldn’t sit up by themselves, so we had to lean them back just a bit to keep them from falling forward. That didn’t necessarily prevent them from falling sideways, so we kept adjusting them after one or two tipped onto another. The first time we had the picture lined up, the kid on the far left, my daughter Colleen, reached out and touched the baby next to her, and they all tipped sequentially like dominoes. During the few brief moments the kids stayed upright, I took several photos, and this was the best.

3 Tips:
1) Group photos of infants are challenging because they cannot hold themselves upright and they don’t interact with one another.
2) Leaning them or bracing them against something enables them to pose facing the camera.
3) Make some noise or call them, and shoot several photos quickly before any of them become sad or fall over.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rejecting the Doctor

If you know the sports shot you want, plant yourself in the best location, be patient, and you'll usually get it.

Boston Celtic forward Kevin McHale blocks shot by Philadelphia 76ers forward Julius Erving (“Dr. J”) during NBA game won by the Celtics (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo:
The Celtic teams of the 1980s were led by their Hall of Fame frontcourt; center Robert Parrish, along with forwards Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. McHale was known for his tough inside play, where he consistently scored, rebounded and blocked shots, helped by his famously long arms. The Philadelphia 76ers were the Celtics’ fierce rival in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, and every game of the season was important in deciding who would finish first and gain playoff home court advantage. The defense in this game was tough by both teams, so I shot from a sideline spot near center court, trying to capture the defensive intensity with photos of steals or blocked shots. By sitting here, I could see the faces of the defenders as the offensive players drove at them. However, I couldn’t anticipate the plays very accurately, and instead focused on the players most likely to make strong defensive plays. For awhile, I kept my camera trained on McHale playing defense, and when Philadelphia’s Julius Erving (“Dr. J”) drove to the basket, McHale leaped high in the air to knock the shot away, and I had my picture.

3 Tips:
1) Midpoint on the court allows you to photograph defenders’ faces and defensive action at both ends of the court.
2) Concentrate on the players most likely to make defensive plays.
3) Use a 105MM or 180MM lens, depending on how tight you want the shot to be.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jumping for Joy

This award-winning photo shows powerful foreground emotion, symmetrically framed by players in the background each raising their arms in a "v" for victory.

Little League Pitcher Davey Lyons jumps off the mound in victory as left fielder Mike Moriconi, left, and shortstop Gary DiSarcina, right, join in, raising their arms in victory after their Billerica (Ma.) National team won a Little League Tourney game 7-4 over Andover (Ma.) National (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo:
So far, none of the photos I had taken fully captured the intense happiness, excitement, and emotion of the local Billerica players and fans at this regional Little League Tournament game. The players were jumping for joy, the parents were cheering avidly, and most of the spectators were yelling in support. When the last pitch was about to be thrown, I squatted down on the first base line to keep the sunlight behind me and take advantage of a clean background of trees. Using a 180MM lens and a shutter speed of 1/500, I concentrated on photographing a reaction shot from their star pitcher, who had been very animated and emotional throughout the game. The game ended as the last opponent struck out, and the winning Billerica team went crazy with joy, celebrating wildly. The pitcher leaped high into the air and was perfectly framed between the left fielder and shortstop, who both raised their arms in a “v” for victory sign. The pitcher’s arms went out of my viewfinder briefly when he leaped, so I almost missed the photo, but by waiting for the pitcher’s ecstatic, full-body leap to be in the center, symmetrically framed by his teammates, I got the picture. The shortstop, Gary DiSarcina (R), later played for the Anaheim Angels and the Boston Red Sox.

I was very fortunate both fielders raised their arms in victory and stood in the perfect spots to frame the happy pitcher. Several years later, at a college baseball game, I saw this photo again, and lined up the shot the same way. This time, however, the pitcher looked away when he cheered, while the player on the left ran out of my frame. While we can line up a potential photo, we can’t control whether the players react perfectly to create the best possible image.

3 Tips:
1) Emotion photos are usually far better than action photos.
2) Focus on the most emotional, expressive player.
3) Position yourself and aim your camera to get the best lighting and background before the moment and photo occur.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Topsy-Turvy Soccer Toss

Adding an average spectator contrasts and further accentuates this upside-down athlete.

A spectator seems unimpressed as Wilmington player Kevin Bagrowski does a flip with the ball to get extra distance on his throw-in during high school soccer match vs. Billerica (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo:
The high school soccer player took a running start, flipped over, bounced off the ball, and as he came upright, made a long inbounds toss, but this wasn’t a strong picture by itself. The photo needed someone upright nearby to create a clear contrast, make the picture more interesting and add some element of amusement. When he attempted his next upside down throw-in, I backed up and saw this fan who was a perfect counter to my upside down player, and his lack of reaction helped make the photo a winner. Judge for yourself – if you crop out the spectator, it is nowhere near as powerful.

3 Tips:
1) Watch for action that seems to defy gravity.
2) If you miss a shot, plan out how you will be ready next time there is an opportunity.
3) Look outside the field of action for elements you can add to make your photos stronger.