Saturday, March 27, 2010

Irvine vs University High School Lacrosse

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I shot my 2nd lacrosse game this week. This time Irvine went up against University High School. I mainly used my canon 400mm f5.6 lens with my canon 7D. This time I brought a picnic chair, used a monopod and camped out in the corner of the field behind the goal. If you shoot from a low perspective, I find that it helps to give cleaner shots. Plus you can see the players faces better. I honestly don't think I need the monopod because the canon 400mm f5.6 is very easy to handhold. Anyways, I tried to concentrate on getting more long distance shots on the other side of the field. I wanted to get full body shots so that I did not clip their feet. For mid field shots, I just went for the tight close ups from the waist up and concentrated on getting their clear shots of their faces. I think that is a key point in sports photography. The photo is so much more powerful if you can see their faces and expressions during those action moments.

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Getting a good exposure is very tough given the bright white jerseys and darker green jerseys. I shoot in partial metering mode and for the most part had set my EV to -1/3. I regularly checked my histograms after a burst of shots and adjusted my EV as necessary. I shoot in aperture priority mode with the aperture wide open at f5.6. I then adjust the ISO to keep my shutter speeds above 1/1000 to freeze the action.

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I was definitely more conscious of not taking shots while the players had their backs to me. A new thing that I learned from this photo shoot was to be mindful of the backgrounds and shooting angles. I deleted a lot of shots this time because there were a bunch of spectators on the other side of the field. When I was shooting the action on the other side of the field, the backgrounds of the shots were filled with these spectators and the shots looked terrible. Delete, delete, delete...

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Goat Hill Junction Miniature Trains

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Last weekend, we took the kids to Goat Hill Junction Miniature Trains. Its located at a park in Costa Mesa across the street from Estancia High School. Every 3rd weekend of the month, they have free train rides. We met up with Sandy's friend, Janet and her two kids Kevin and Kayla. The kids had a great time riding the miniature trains. You literally sit straddling the trains while it takes you on a leisurely ride around the park. The park is staffed with volunteer railroad train enthusiasts. There is a donation box out front which helps to support this great attraction. Ethan's favorite show is Thomas the Train and so he really enjoyed our morning there.

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I brought 2 lenses for this photo shoot. I used my tamron 17-50 f2.8 for the group close up shots. I also used my canon 70-200 f4 IS to take the shots while the kids were riding by on the train. I tried to run ahead of the train and pick a spot where they were coming around a corner. The light that morning was quite difficult to work with. It was overcast but very bright due to the midday sun. This made everything overly bright but the colors came out muted and flat. The conductor told me that there was no photography allowed while riding the train. It was very relaxing to sit on the train and view the green grassy fields passing by. There were a lot of wild flowers blooming as well. Hopefully the next time we visit the miniature trains there will be better light to shoot with.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cycling and parenthood

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It's spring time and the weather is warming up. That means it's time to get my fat ass out of the house and back onto the bike. One the many challenges that comes with parenthood is finding the time to exercise and keep in shape. Most of the time we are so busy with our work and taking care of the kids, that we just either do not have the time or the energy. Slowly but steadily this lack of exercise and poor eating habits leads to what I like to refer to as middle age bulge. What started out as "cute lovehandles" has rounded out to a full on belly that jiggles. Oh the horror. FYI, some of the follow pics were taken by my buddy Danny Dedeaux.

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I love cycling. There was a time when I actually cycled 100 miles per week. Well, that was before the kids came. After having our 2nd child, I figured out a solution which worked very well. The Quick 'n EZ Bike Trailer. On the days I was watching the kids, I would strap them into it, hook it up to my road bike and off we went. The kids had fun looking at the scenery passing by on the bike trail and daddy got some much need exercise and fresh air. In the last 2 years, I have put over 800 miles on that bike trailer. Not too shabby considering I bought it at Target for $80. It has developed a couple of tears here and there, but the trailer has held up very well considering the extreme mileage I have put on it. I did end up adding a piece of blue fabric over the top so that it would shade the kids better.

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The challenge this cycling season was the addition of Noah, our 3rd child. The bike trailer was already maxed out. I didn't want to get another trailer and have Sandy pull that one. She has a tough time as it is just pedaling her own bike by herself. Hahahah. I came up with an idea after seeing some cyclists down on the boardwalk at Huntington Beach. I needed to get a baby seat that fits behind the handle bars. I searched on amazon and came up with the iBert. I also decided it was time to invest in a 2nd bike. I really love my speedy road bike and abhorred the idea of putting an ugly green plastic infant seat on it. It's like putting a baby seat in a Porsche. I needed another dedicated bike to haul the kids around town in.

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I contacted a friend of mine named Will who is the general manager of a bike shop in Costa Mesa called Two Wheels One Planet. It's an awesome bike shop. They have a great selection of bikes. Their staff is super friendly and knowledgeable. If any of you guys are looking to get back into fitness, I highly recommend getting a bike and checking out Two Wheels One Planet in Costa Mesa. Will hooked me up with a great deal on a hybrid bike. Now a hybrid bike is something in between a road bike and a mountain bike. It is designed for riding on pavement but is much more comfortable than a road bike due to its higher front stem and handlebar position. It also has skinnier tiers and a lighter frame than a mountain bike which makes it lighter and faster on the road. For hauling the kids around time and getting exercise, it was perfect for my needs. I installed the iBert infant seat behind the handlebars and attached the Quick n' Easy bike trailer behind my bike. Now I had the ability to fit all 3 kids on a bike trip. The iBert was surprisingly easy and fast to install. It seriously only took 15 minutes to put on and I didn't have to take anything apart on my bike. I have taken Ethan out on 2 rides with it and he LOVES it. He gets a great view of the world around him and we are constantly chatting. "I see an airplane...I see a rabbit!" He is very outgoing and will say hello to pretty much everybody that we cross paths with which is a lot of fun. I make sure that he wears a helmet, sunglasses, a jacket and jeans. Safety is of course paramount. Since we haven't hit the full on summer heat wave yet, it still gets chilly in the evenings. Since I like to bike down to Upper Newport Backbay, it gets very breezy down there. Since Ethan is right in front, he gets all the wind and since he is not cycling, he is not generating any extra heat, he needs a jacket to stay warm. Next time I will also put mittens on him.

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Riding with the iBert definitely takes some getting use to. I would not recommend it for someone who is new to cycling. With all the extra weight behind the handlebars, it is very easy to over steer. When you turn the handle bars just a bit, the extra weight pulls the bars with momentum and it is easy to turn more than you really wanted to. Its not a big problem. You just have to always keep two hands on the handle bars and make sure you don't make any fast or sudden turns. The other problem is that the iBert prevents me from getting off my seat and straddle the bike like at a stop light. There is no room for me to stand over the top bar of the bike. This made getting on and off the bike challenging since it was naturally unbalanced with all that extra weight up on top. The only solution for me was to lower my bike seat. I can now reach the ground with my feet while sitting on the seat. However, this compromises my cycling position because I am losing a lot of my pedaling power and this makes going up hills much more difficult. But then again, the purpose of this bike is to haul my 3 kids, not to win the Tour de France. All in all, I love my new Trek Fx 7.3 hybrid bike. It is so light, quick and comfortable to ride. Ethan loves riding in his iBert infant bike seat. As soon as Noah our littlest one gets to be 1 year old in June, I will strap him into the bike trailer with Megan. Sandy is going to dust off her road bike and then the whole family will get to enjoy our our weekend bike rides again. Say bye bye to my jiggly belly. Buh By!

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

High School Lacrosse

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Back in 1988, 2 college lacrosse players from UCI showed up at my high school freshman PE class to give a workshop on the sport of lacrosse. Despite being a hugely popular sport on the east coast, it was absolutely unknown here in orange county. Intrigued by the idea of getting to run around in shoulder pads and a helmet and getting to hit people with a stick, I signed up for the team. On that fateful autumn day, the very first high school lacrosse team in Orange County was born.

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Now a days, I do a lot of sports physicals at my clinic for the local high school athletes in the community. Whenever I come across a lacrosse player, my eyes light up with enthusiasm as I mention my story. However, it does make me feel like an old fart to say "when I was a kid..."

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Recently, as I drove around town running errands, I have noticed kids carrying lacrosse sticks. With the spring finally upon us, lacrosse season was back in full swing. I felt a strong urge to reconnect with my heritage. I wanted to combine the my passion of lacrosse with photography. Sports photography shares a lot of common elements and shooting styles with wildlife photography. They both focus on action shots and freezing a dynamic moment in time. For this photo shoot, I brought out my sharpest lenses, my canon 400mm f5.6 and my canon 70-200mm f4 IS.

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A lacrosse field is about the size of a soccer field. That is a lot of ground to cover photographically speaking. As I have mentioned before, I like to get in tight with my subjects when shooting action shots. I want to capture the moment with National Geographics like sharpness and clarity. A lot of professional sports photographers shoot with a 400mm f2.8, a 300mm f2.8 or a 70-200mm f2.8 lens. Since this is just a hobby for me at this point, I can't yet justify dropping $5,000 on just one lens.

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I was very happy with the images that I got from my lenses. The 400mm f5.6 allowed me to shoot the action that was happening way on the other side of the field whereas the 70-200mm f4 was great when the players came in close to where I was standing on the sidelines. I was then able to zoom out. It would have been great if I had just one lens to cover these focal lengths. There is a canon 100-400mm, but I am not convinced that it delivers the same crisp and sharp image quality as my two other lenses. Other photographers may disagree with that last statement though. Hahah.

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It was very interesting shooting with 2 cameras. I am now accustomed to the quickness of my canon 7D body. When I switched to my old trusty 20D, I was shocked at how slow and sluggish it felt. I serious stopped shooting one point to check all of my camera settings on my 20D. It was fine and worked properly. There was nothing wrong with my 20D, it was just old and outdated. Ah well, I still love it and will continue to use it on occasion as a back up camera body.

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Watching these lacrosse players run around brought back a lot of nostalgia for me. It made me want to suit up and run out there with them. However, I have already had my glory days and now it is their turn. One thing I noticed was that their equipment got a well deserve make over. Back when I was playing lacrosse helmets were quite...oh how should I put it...dorky looking. They literally looked like you had a big white bucket on your head. Now a days, lacrosse helmets are quite stylish and attractive. I also noticed that their gloves are much smaller and sleeker. The image of the lacrosse player is much cooler and stylish now.

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I always scrutinize my pics after a photo shoot. I am probably my toughest critic. I always look for ways to improve my photography. The biggest thing that I noticed from all of my shots after I uploaded them onto my computer to view was that there were a vast majority of shots where I had the player's back to the camera. I have no idea why I took so many of those shots because they were pretty much worthless. I ended up deleting all of those shots. I think next time I am going to have to position myself in one corner of the field so that I can get more frontal shots as they players are running towards to goal. That way I can see their faces better.

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Luckily I had bright afternoon sunlight to shoot with. This allowed me the luxury of shooting at ISO 200. That gave me clean, noise free images while getting a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action. The only tough part was getting a good exposure with the white jerseys. It was very easy to blow out those bright whites. As I have mentioned before, always check your histograms while shooting so that you can adjust your EV to ensure a better exposure. Nothing worse then coming home with great action shots that are unusable because the exposure was too far off to fix in photoshop.

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Lacrosse has grown exponentially since I played. Back then it was considered a club team and despite our petitions, our high school would not recognize it as an official school sport. We had to raise our own funds to purchase all of our equipment and to rent a local field in the park next to our high school to play in. Despite the fact that we never got letterman jackets or any support from the school, we still loved the sport. We did everything we could to continue playing lacrosse and growing the league. To this day, I still consider playing lacrosse in high school as one of the best experiences that I had growing up. There was a camaraderie among my teammates and I that was unforgettable. Even though we have each gone our separate ways in life since high school, I still remember fondly my teammates and what we went through. Back then, we were more than just lacrosse players. We were a band of brothers.

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