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Friday, March 18, 2011

Direct Hit

Inclement weather can provide many great photo moments, such as kids having fun in the snow.

Jason Wood, left, ducks and manages to score a direct hit on his friend Shane Fabian during a snowball fight in Westford, Ma. (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo:
When a snowstorm hits, photographers usually trek out in search of pictures that will illustrate the severity of the snowfall. After one storm, I saw two young boys throwing snowballs at one another, close enough that I could capture them both in a single photo, which is unusual. They were also playing next to a plain cement wall, which made for a very clean background to make the picture even stronger. I stopped quickly to get their pictures with a long lens, but they stopped momentarily when they saw me. However, I encouraged them to continue, and as I got ready to shoot, their battle resumed. Once they did, one kid got hit straight-on in the face, which hurt a bit. He stopped, yelled something to the other kid, and ran home. I got their names from the boy who remained, and told him to tell his friend I hoped having his picture in the newspaper would make him feel better. I felt a little guilty that the first kid got hurt, even though it was just a little bit, but it was a great photo.. The boy who stayed told me he was certain the fame of being in the paper would help his departed friend get over being mad.

1) Playing in the snow creates many different types of photo opportunities.
2) Snowball fights can make compelling photos, especially if you have both sides of the battle in your picture.
3) Look for a clean, clear background so all components -- the snow and the kids fighting – are clearly distinguishable in the picture.

Friday, March 4, 2011

“Open Wide”

Environmental portraits show people working in their typical professional environment, surrounded by their tools, customers, co-workers, etc.

Veterinarian works on cougar’s mouth at Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo operating room (© Michael Maher).

The Photo:
I elected to shoot a picture story of the head veterinarian who tended to the animals at Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo. Although he agreed I could follow him around and photograph him working, he would not make special arrangements or accommodations to set up photos for me because he was so busy. When he treated this cougar’s teeth, the background was a bright window, which created glare and made it hard to get a good photo, but he would not stop to close a shade or reposition himself to help my shot. However, I was able to maneuver around enough to get a clear shot against the bright windows of him working intently on the cougar. The animal was sedated, strapped still on the table and a device held the cougar’s mouth open, while an assistant also held its head. This is an example of one powerful type of portrait -- people doing their jobs -- for while it is not a facial close-up, the work and surroundings clearly convey their personalities.

3 Tips:
1) Occupational photos are one distinct type of environmental portrait.
2) Not all portrait and personality photos need to be facial close-ups.
3) Show the subject in the act of doing his/her job and, if possible, a facial expression.