Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TNT Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Training Update

First I would like to thank everyone that has donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) thus far. Your donations are going to a truly worthy cause. For those that haven't heard, I have joined the Team-in-Training (TNT) to raise money for LLS research and patient family support by collecting donations as I prepare to run the Shamrock Half-Marathon in March.

I am excited at how much you have contributed and the support that you have provided. As many of you know, a few weeks ago I suffered what was thought to be tendinitis in my ankle. A visit to my doctor confirmed as much and I was advised to lay off of it for a week before starting back up on my running. When the pain didn't subside after a couple more days, I decided to pay the Atlantic Physical Therapists (APT) a visit for a second opinion. I'm glad I did! APT has a stellar reputation in Hampton Roads.

This past Saturday morning I met with PT Jenn Cigna for an evaluation and after a series of tests, she advised me that the ankle pain was a symptom of a much worse lower back injury. I'm not really surprised as I have had issues with the lower back for years; however, I thought my regular workouts were mitigating it. Turns out that during my workouts I was compensating for weaknesses in certain muscles by placing more stress on others. This caused my running mechanics to be way out of whack to put it technically. The issue didn't really raise show itself until I increased my training runs to 8-miles. The weaker muscles finally gave out with the constant pounding.

So for the next 3 to 4 weeks, I will be undergoing physical therapy 3-days a week plus daily workouts to strenghten the weaker structures, stretch the tight muscles, and correct my form. When I renew my running program, it will be a short 2-months out from the main event. Oddly enough, this gives me even more incentive to cross the finish line on March 22.

Here's the thing... I can quit and within a few weeks, the pain would naturally subside and I can go about life as usual; however, the whole reason I started on this journey was to support those fighting a horrible form of cancer. It is painful and life draining and they do not have the option of saying "that's it, I quit, I'm just going to take it easy from now on." Instead they wake everyday knowing that they will have to face the pain of the disease and the sickness brought on by the treatment.

I had the chance to meet a few of our honorees and what overwhelmed me most was the strength of their spirit and the positiveness of their outlook on life. Simply put, I can't quit, it's not an option. Whatever it takes to get me to that finish line pales in comparison. So if that day in March comes and I'm still hurting, I will still finish regardless of how long it takes me to get to that line.

All I ask of you is that you support the LLS with a donation. The easiest way is to click the Donate Now button on My TNT Page. Become a member of a team trying to find a cure so that those with LLS may one day cross there own finish line free of the disease and live long, healthy pain free lives.

I wish everybody a Merry Christmas and wonderful holiday season. May the new year find you in great health and with the love of your families and friends.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Merry Christmas - 200 Santas Style

If you ask me a couple of days what I was doing this weekend, you probably would have received the answer that I was thinking of bailing on a volunteer photo job in order to ice and stretch a sore achilles tendon I strained earlier in the week. Thank goodness I didn't or I would have missed what has got to make the top-5 events that I have photographed. 200 hundred Santas, 7 bars, and unseemly amounts of alcohol converged into what has to be one of the funnest and funniest events of the year. The 2nd Annual Santa Granby Street Bar Crawl was founded to raise money for ALS. It truly was an awesome night out.

Iso 800, f/4.0, 1/80, 29mm

What is amazing about photography is that every shoot I end up learning something new, either technical, technique, or simply creativeness. Last night was no exception. The first thing I learned was to be seriously humbled by the power of the Nikon SB-900 (coupled with the D300). We (and when I say we, I mean me and 200 Santas!) started off at Hell's Kitchen (and yes, the irony of a Christmas function starting at Hell's Kitchen is not lost on me) before moving on to Velvet. In between, I was thrown a curve ball. My buddy Shawn that invited me to this little soiree had told me that he wanted a group photo. I assumed that he meant OUR group. Imagine my shock when 200 Santas grouped up across the street from the bar for a "group" photo. Snikeeessss!

Iso 800, f/3.5, 1/60sec, 18mm

I took a couple of deep breaths and stepped into the middle of Granby Street armed with only the camera and a single strobe. Even more, the strobe was pointed straight up and being bounced off of a Lumiquest diffuser. I thought momentarily about taking the Lumiquest off, using straight flash; but for some reason, I didn't, not really sure to be honest. While we held up traffic, I snapped 4 shots, hoping to heck that there may be something I could salvage after the fact or bury depending on just how bad it turned out.

Iso 800, f3.5, 1/60, 18mm
Wow! That's really all I can say about the true power of the SB-900! A single strobe, BOUNCED off of a Lumniquest reflector, lit the entire group perfectly. I've seen - geez, I've done - group photos on a smaller scale with multiple strobes that did not turn out nearly as good as these shots did. I'm utterly amazed!

As for the rest of the night.... you can check it out in the 2008 Santa Bar Crawl gallery. Next entry should be on using rear-sync flash for event photography. You would be surprised that a large number of the photos in this gallery were shot using a shutter speed of 1/3 seconds, not to mention the rest were at 1/40 sec! Very cool. Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Learning the Hard Way - Sara, Richard, and Family

All right, here's the background. A few weeks ago I did portraits of a friend's twin 4 month old infants and they loved the photos so much that they invited me back to shoot their family portrait. When I say family, I mean husband, wife, and SEVEN kids ranging from the twin infants to college students. The first thing that threw me was the height difference between the children. There are pretty big age gaps between them as well. I now I understand why you find very few posing books with illustrations of how to handle a group like this diverse.

Iso 200, f/8.0, 1/30 sec, 18mm

I manage to get them in some sort of order and begin shooting using the setting sun and a single SB-900 thru a Photoek Softliter for fill when I notice that my exposures are all over the map. At the start, I metered the background, set flash to TTL, and dialed the flash down a stop, a routine I'm getting comfortable with. Except, I fire the shot it looks very overexposed. I adjust the flash to -1.3 and shoot again only to find it overexposed again. I adjust to -1.7 and fire. Holy mackerel Batman! It is seriously underexposed! At this point the babies squirming, the younger kids are getting restless, and the older ones are having texting withdrawals. I adjust once again back to -1.0, fire, and perfect exposure. I'm feeling good until the next series of shots totally flake on the exposures.

Iso 200, f/8.0, 1/30 sec, 29mm
Have you guessed what is going? C'mon, take a second, I'm sure it will come to you. tick tick tick .... got it yet?

Iso 200, f/8.0, 1/20 sec, 48mm

Of course it didn't hit me until I left their house and was driving home. In the chaos of getting them set, I totally forgot to follow my little checklist with one of the items being the bracketing compensation. My last shoot was HDR brackets of 5 stops. Ugh! I never reset it. Actually, didn't even think about it. 80% of the photos went straight to the recycle bin. Another 10% found there way there in the last 48 hours. I didn't shoot that many to begin with so I'm now seeing if I can salvage the few remaining.

Yea! We are DONE!!!!!

Iso 200, f/8.0, 1/60 sec, 18mm

Lesson learned: Reset the camera to a standard setting at the end of each shoot. Don't wait till later, don't pass go, don't collect $200 - if you do, you may end up in jail. Okay, that was a horrible use of the Monopoly rhetoric; however, in all seriousness, it can save you from an incredible embarassment!