Six Holiday Photo Tips – Tip #3

Tip 3. LET THEM KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT.

Shooting a big group can be challenging. Let’s face it, most people don’t like getting their photo taken and when you put them in a big group, a few of them can get impatient with the process. Let them know what to expect; tell them how many shots you’re going to take. If they know that you’re shooting a dozen shots to make sure their eyes are open and they all look fabulous it helps – everyone wants to look good.  If it’s a simple shot with one pose – take about 10 shots.  If you have an energetic group that wants to have fun or you have a few poses or actions to do, take 20 or more.

If you have an action; like, for instance, everyone jumping or a specific theme in mind, get them on board with it. Sell your idea,  get them to visualize the photo.  I find that if they know what’s coming and they understand where you’re coming from they will have more fun with it.

Be open to suggestions – you may know exactly how you want to shoot a group but if you stay in the moment, sometimes the energy and suggestions of the group can uncover some really fun photo ideas.

Make sure they all know to look directly into the camera – I know that seems obvious but once I’ve downloaded the photos, you’d be surprised how many people are looking off to the side or distracted by something.

Make the process fun for yourself and for everyone in the group and you’ll end up with some really exciting photos!

Next post:  POSES.

Six Holiday Photo Tips – Tip #2

Tip 2. TAKE SOME TIME TO SCOUT.

Do some scouting before you gather your group. It can be a little stressful to wrangle a small group for a photo so if it falls upon you to take the family photos, take some time, go outside and scout for the best places to shoot. I actually like this process quite a bit.  It kind of meditative and it gives me a little time to feel centered and visualize the shots.  Plus it gives me a little break from the energy of the group.  Find the best light and the nicest backgrounds. Take a look at the background to see if anything will be sticking up or across people’s heads. Take some test shots to see how you like the background and the quality of light (See tip #1 for finding the best light).   Maybe find one willing test subject and put them in different locations for test shots.

A few other things to pay attention to:  If the background is really overblown and too bright.   Are there poles, branches or signs that might stick out of the top of people’s heads when you crop the photo?  Simple backgrounds are usually the best.

Advanced tip: Play with depth of field. If you can, pull your subjects away from the background far enough so it falls blurry behind them. You want to make sure everyone is in focus so make sure your F-stop is at least 5.6 or higher but keeping the background far enough away will help in making it soft focus.

 

Next week:  LET THEM KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT.

Six Tips for taking the best family and group photos for the holidays.

It’s the time of year; your family and friends are getting together to celebrate the holidays! Whether you’re a professional amateur or prolific Instagramer on your iPhone; if you are the designated photographer this holiday season I have a few tips that will help you make the best of your photo opportunities.   Every Tuesday and Thursday in December I’ll update this blog and give you a new tip. Stay tuned!

 

TIP #1 . FIND YOUR LIGHT.  

You can’t beat beautiful diffused natural light for getting beautiful photos.   If you’re lucky enough to have some good weather get your family and friends outside for some shots – later in the afternoon when the sun is low is the best time to shoot.

If you have to shoot mid-day, look for a nice shady spot so the sun isn’t dappling on peoples faces or creating unflattering shadows. If you’re shooting later in the day, put the sun behind your subjects so they have a lovely back light and then adjust your camera to expose for your subjects. For iPhone users: Put you finger on the screen over your subjects and hold it. This will lock in the exposure and focus point. You’ll see a little slider on the right; slide that up until you like the exposure and the take the photo; it’ll make sure they are exposed properly.   If you have a flash on your camera don’t be afraid to use it to fill in the darker areas.   Again, for iPhone users there is a little ‘lighting bolt’ icon on the top of the screen, press it and you’ll see three options – the default is “auto”. Press the “On” button to insure the flash fires.

Also, if you’re shooting indoors, look for a big window as a great source of natural light. It’s great for shooting one or two people.

 

UP NEXT:   TAKE TIME TO SCOUT A LOCATION….

Professional Photo Shoot day at STRUT in the CASTRO

I’m doing a photoshoot fund raiser for Strut health clinic in the heart of the Castro in San Francisco.   Strut is a non-profit organization and offers free and low cost health care to the community.  The staff at Strut does some amazing things for our community and I want to be able to do what I love and give back!

Here’s a link for all the information:  PHOTOSHOOT DAY

Sat, Nov 3, 2018 10:30am – 5:00pm
WHERE:
Strut
470 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114
USA
CONTACT:
 Baruch Porras Hernandez

Joe Mazza wants to take your picture!

Need new head shots? Want to update that Linked in Profile? Queers are always out and about doing things and making waves in the community and often they don’t have professional head shots! Who has the time? Or the money right? Well join us Nov 3rd to get your portrait taken by professional photographer Joe Mazza for only a minimum suggestion of a $25 donation!
All donations go to support Strut and out mission of queer sexual health and wellness!
(No One Turned Away from Lack of Funds)

Come get a serious picture taken, or a silly one! BYOT, Bring Your Own Tiara!

Come sign up, this will be a first come first serve basis, sign up list will not be put out until 10:30am, on the dot. 

•Up to two people per shoot.
•Your shoot will last about 10-15 minutes and will have a variety of poses and crops.
•A link to a private proof page will be provided so you can download your photos 10 days after the shoot. The proofs will be fine tuned for contrast, tone and color, and be cropped 8×10.
•Copyright usage: You are welcome to use any of the photos taken during your photo shoot to promote yourself either professionally or on social media for fun! You may not give permission or license any 3rd party to use the photos for any purpose.
•Wardrobe suggestions: If you just want to have a fun shoot, come as you are and have fun! If you’d like shots to use professionally, we want people to focus on your face and eyes and not your wardrobe so wear solid muted colors that you feel good wearing.

If you have any questions feel free to contact our community events organizer Baruch Porras Hernandez at bporrashernandez@sfaf.org

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a leap of faith

Planned Route

Planned Route

A leap of faith can take many forms. Sometimes we take them when our survival depends on them while other times it’s a leap to live more fully, more authentically in our lives. I’m taking a little detour from my usual photography posts to write something a little more personal about an experience I had recently that made me think about the little leaps of faith we all take in different aspects of life. I made a decision to take a month off and ride my motorcycle from San Francisco, through the Sierras to tour Canada and then back down the coast. I realized that I had traveled all over the world but I had never been to Oregon/Washington or Canada. It’s the adventure I’ve wanted to do for years.

The trip was more than I could have imagined, not just for the leap of faith it took to leave my business for a full month, but it highlighted how the journey we take after that leap can often look very different than originally thought. It was a metaphor for me about faith, expectations and then letting go, about staying present, open and trusting on the journey.

 

I’ve taken quite a few leaps of faith in my youth; those leaps seem much easier when you’re young. I was much more fearless. Maybe it was because it felt like, if I failed, I didn’t have as far to fall. When you’re young you feel invincible. I was a bit of a daredevil in my youth, I’ve jumped out of planes, climbed 1,000 foot cliffs, traveled the world and even moved to San Francisco with no job prospects simply because I loved the city. What I loved most about those decisions back then was that every time I made one, it seemed like all the pieces magically fell into place to help me follow through with my goals. As I look back, there was a lot of struggle and hardship along the way but the signs that I had made a decision to live more authentically were always there.

As I got older the fear of taking those big leaps got more intense. They became more about survival than they were about whimsy. Walking away from my business for an entire month was frightening. As a freelance creative person, or any small business owner can testify, there is a paradigm that exists in the way you approach your business; it develops over a long period of time. Unlike a job with a steady income at a big company, the entirety of your income falls on your ability to keep generating it. There are no paid vacations. You are called upon to always be working, thinking, growing and producing new work. Owning your own business is gratifying. It allows you to experience an awareness, a deep satisfaction that you are truly creating your own life but it also makes you keenly aware that if you’re not working constantly you’re not moving forward. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to take a break, to allow yourself to unplug without fear that you’ll be missing opportunities.

Humbolt Redwoods

So the leaps of faith I’ve taken as I’ve gotten older were quite different than the ones I took in my youth. I focused instead on building my photography business. I focused on stability; increasing my client base, on advertising, better equipment and bigger and more creative jobs. While incredibly rewarding, I also felt something was missing, like had lost or forgotten a part of myself along the way; that part of me that took leaps of faith … for whimsy. It has taken some events in my life to shake me enough to realize that life is short; that you also have to seize the moments when you can and live your life more fully.

 

Kawasaki Versys 1000

On my 50th birthday I took a whimsical leap; I learned how to ride a motorcycle. This was no small feat for me; I’ve always been terrified of them. Have you ever examined some of your fears in life and tried to trace them to their origin?   When I was seven years old my mother grabbed me, looked me in the eye and told me to stay away from motorcycles; I was never allowed to have one. She had a friend whose son had died in a motorcycle accident and as a mom; she wanted to protect her son. There it was, the origin of one of my biggest fears. A grown man afraid of motorcycles because his mom told him he should be. It’s actually funny when I think about it. But at 50 years old, it was time to face that fear, to at least take a class and learn how to ride. When I made the decision to learn it felt right, all the pieces feel into place but what I didn’t know was that when you first learn to ride it’s about 90% terrifying and only 10% pure exhilaration! But like most journey’s, as time goes by, that ratio slowly changes and flips; peace, freedom and exhilaration dominates the terror and it becomes your happy place and I’ve been riding for over six years now. What I also didn’t know was how much I would absolutely LOVE long motorcycle trips. So this one leap led me to take 2-day trips, then 3 and 5-day trips; each one a stepping-stone in the big decision to take that one month off and ride to Canada.

When you finally decide, I mean really decide to take that leap, whether it’s for survival or whimsy, things began to happen. Once again, just as I had experienced in my younger days, I began to see all of the little pieces that started to fall into place to allow me to go; a few advertising clients and big jobs waited until I returned, a good friend supported me in my preparation to leave, friends rode with me along the way or gave me a place to sleep on the journey. All of my fears about loosing business or not being able to survive began to fade, not right away but they did fade and in their absence was the feeling that I was doing exactly what I needed to do. Just making the decision was the scariest part. Once you decide, it’s not so scary.

Oregon Barn

The trip itself was nothing short of amazing; not just for the scenery or interesting people I met along the way. It was life changing because when it was over I began to see how much the entire experience was a metaphor for taking leaps, experiencing the journey and having it look nothing like you had imagined. It reminded me that there are hardships along the way but staying open throughout the experience allowed me to see the bigger gifts; and those gifts rarely disappoint.

Lava Beds Road

Sometimes, from one day to the next, I didn’t know where I was going to sleep. I was truly making it up as I went. There were days when this kind of gypsy life made me weary but after a while, I began to trust that the perfect spot would reveal itself and it always paid off. The ride through the Sierra’s took me through some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. I rode through Lassen National Park, Lava Tubes Monument, Crater Lake and Mt. Saint Helens. It was kind of a “volcano tour” of California. Every one of those destinations felt earned because there is no escape from the elements when you ride; the weather and wind, much like life, are just part of the journey. Riding 200 miles a day on twisty mountain roads on a motorcycle takes stamina. Some days I was feeling strong, balanced, and one-with-the-bike. I love those days! Other days I just didn’t have it, every hairpin turn was awkward for me. You feel every gust of wind, every bump and every uneven surface in the road. In a car you may not notice the thin twisted tar patches that they use to cover cracks in the roadway, but for motorcyclists, we call them ‘snakes’. Every time you go around a curve that’s covered in those snakes is to feel your back tire slide ever so slightly before it eventually grips again on the solid part of the road. This happens over and over and each time, even though you know it’ll probably be ok, your fear and adrenaline spike. There are days when those snakes take their toll on your nerves. This was a daily part of the journey I hadn’t considered when I imagined my trip, but it was those damn little snakes that made me realize that you eventually have to trust, not to dwell on them because while it’s scary, your back tire does find it’s grip, and when you ride around a big curve and see a glacial lake surrounded by old growth forests, the entire struggle it took to get there just melts away.

Crater Lake

The roads in Oregon are packed with huge logging trucks. When you’re behind one you’re being pelted by pieces of bark being blown off of the logs, and trust me, there’s a difference between bark hitting your car windshield and when it hits your leg at 70mph on a motorcycle. When you pass a big semi, there is a back draft that can violently buffet you when you approach it. As you start to pass, that back draft wants pull you into the truck. The only way through is to gun the throttle and get past it as quickly as possible but once I passed it I also realized I could smell the differences between pines, redwoods or spruce trees because you can smell everything on a bike. Then you finally turn off the interstate and on the next road is a volcano turned into the deepest fresh water lake in the country and it takes your breath away.

Hoh Rainforest

On a month long ride you go through some very extreme weather. It can be 45 degrees in the morning and 95 degrees in the afternoon. Those extremes are intense, very uncomfortable but it allows you to pull over, put on or take off some layers and you end up meeting another rider at a rest stop who clues you into a road you may not have planned to take. When you ride in the rain you can feel it on your body, you can hear those raindrops echo in your helmet the same way you can hear them on the roof of your house. If you’re dressed for it it’s not so bad. But in a torrential downpour like I experienced in Vancouver and Washington, it’s terrifying. You can’t see very far because, of course you have no windshield wipers on your helmet and the road fills with water very quickly. Sometimes you can pull over for a little while until it passes but other times, you have to slow way down, turn on your hazards and pray that you wont hydroplane or that a car won’t come up behind you too fast. But pulling over in that rain allowed me to find a fun local diner and try Elk. That rain is why Washington and Olympic National Park is a rain forest. When you finally arrive, get off your bike and walk through an actual rain forest in the rain, it is one of the most peaceful and spiritual experiences you can have.

Rider buddies

Deception Pass

Next time you’re following a motorcycle in your car, see if you can spot the bond between riders; when we pass each other, we give a little wave, an acknowledgement to be safe, that you’re not alone. It’s a comforting gesture and one I always enjoy when I ride. One of my biggest goals on this trip, one that I reminded myself every morning was to stay open to meeting new people and connecting with other riders really added to the experience. We chat each other up at rest stops or restaurants. We are fellow travelers, swapping stories, giving each other tips on great roads to take.  I met some really nice Canadian riders on the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles Washington that told me about the road to Cape Flattery, the most northern part of the U.S. and another rider and friend that told me to take the ferry to Whidbey Island and through Deception Pass as way of by-passing the logging truck laden I-5 to Vancouver. It rained on that leg of the journey but I got to take my first ferry ride, park my bike at the front of the line and just enjoy the ride. I was able to experience rain on a less traveled road and saw some of the most beautiful views. There is a camaraderie between travelers and when open to it, takes you to some pretty amazing places.

All in all, I rode over 3,000 miles on my trip. I stayed in 20 cities, camped in some amazing spots, made countless detours just for the adventure. I rode further north than I’ve ever been, stayed in a haunted hotel, had to hold up for three days in Portland because of a storm in Canada, found the most peaceful lodge in Ucluelet, BC. The journey, once I decided to take that leap of faith was nothing like I thought it would be.   It was epic, life changing, terrifying, exhausting, exhilarating, peaceful, tedious, sweltering, freezing, wet, beautiful, awe-inspiring, magnificent, strange and wonderful. It was a constant reminder to me that taking a leap of faith and staying open and present on a journey, however it unfolds, will give you more than you ever could have imagined.