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Friday, January 20, 2012

Picked Off

Pickoff plays can provide some of the best baseball action photos.

Medford High base runner stretches in vain to get back to first base as Arlington second baseman tags him out during Arlington’s 5-4 win at Medford (© Michael Maher).

The Photo:
This was my best pickoff photo ever, even though it was one of the first baseball games I photographed. Because I understand the game, I can anticipate where action will likely occur, and use the time between pitches to stake out the best shooting position for the plays I’m expecting. As this game progressed, I frequently aimed at the bases where I thought plays would unfold, and shot several action pictures. When a fast base runner reached first with another runner on third, he took a big lead, so the pitcher threw over to first repeatedly to prevent the runner from stealing second. I positioned myself between home and first with a 200MM lens to have the option of shooting an attempted pickoff at first or a play at home. I focused on the first base bag and set my shutter speed to 1/500. On the first pitch, the batter bunted in the air to the pitcher, who quickly threw to the second baseman covering first and picked the runner off for a double play. I luckily timed the pickoff picture perfectly to capture the runner’s fingers just off the bag with the ball inside the fielder’s glove touching the runner’s body. It was an ideal pickoff shot, a direct result of anticipating the play, and putting myself in the best position to photograph it. Note that the field’s layout forced me to shoot this picture into the sun.

3 Tips:
1) Anticipate the next plays and where they are most likely to occur.
2) Reposition yourself and aim your camera to capture the plays you expect.
3) Ideally, try to avoid shooting into the sun, but sometimes it is unavoidable.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Prom Pose

Taking a good prom picture can be a big responsibility, but lighting can ensure you get the best shot possible.

Colleen Maher (L) and Danny Kane pose for their prom pictures in Chappaqua, N. Y. prior to departing for the Horace Greeley High School prom festivities (© Michael Maher).

The Photo:
How do you take the best possible prom photo? Proms are an important event in a teenager’s life, so you want the picture to be outstanding and spur fond memories in future years. It is a lot of pressure for a parent to do a stellar job of shooting the prom picture, which is why some hire professional photographers to do it. There are really only two things that matter in a prom picture – the people’s faces and their dress clothes. Capture happy expressions and show off the clothing, and you’ll have a great photo that the participants will cherish forever. Therefore, when it came time to photograph my own daughter and her prom date, I made sure it was well lit by using a technique called rim lighting. With the sun high in the sky behind the subjects, I positioned the two prom-goers against a dark background, so a halo of light surrounded their heads and well-dressed torsos. Because the sun was shining from behind, and not on their faces, I could show the joy and excitement in their expressions, which I repeatedly reminded them to display, while I took many pictures. As a father, I was delighted and relieved we managed such an outstanding prom photo. Rim lighting does result in slightly duller colors than if the sun shines from the front, but the advantage is beautiful highlighting and clear facial expressions. This technique also works well for close-up facial portraits.

3 Tips:
1) Rim lighting is a superb lighting technique for portraits.
2) Keep the sun behind your subject, high in the sky, and line up your picture against a dark background.
3) The result is a halo of light around your subject’s head and torso, with a clear view of the facial expression.