Thursday, May 10, 2007

Fire, Ice, Aaron, Michael and George

(The shot above is the event ice sculpture. I was trying to capture colors to match the event name ("Fire and Ice Ball"). The red "Fire" at the top are the lights of the stage shining thorough. The white behind the word "Ice" is where the frost on the surface of the sculpture hasn't completely melted away yet.

This past Saturday night was the Fire and Ice Ball, put on by the American Red Cross of the National Capital Area. I managed to weasel my way"volunteer" as an event photographer. In attendance was former VA Senator George "you know the word" Allen, former MD Lt. Governor Michael Steel, a bunch of wounded soldiers fresh off of the front lines at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and Aaron Neville providing the evening's entertainment.

Shooting this kind of evening event always *always* proves to me just how good the guys who shoot this kinda stuff for a living *really* are. This stuff is hard. The light is dim. It's constantly changing. Lots of times, there's no clearly defined subject to shoot (how do you shoot a group of people where half of what you're seeing are the backs of heads?). On top of that, there are things that I never thought to consider that totally affect your photos. At one point, I was shooting a small group in a "backstage" room. I snapped off a couple, moved a little, then snapped off a few more. When I reviewed my shots, the two sets had totally different exposures. It turned out that the ceiling height over my head changed by 6" or more between the two sets of shots, affecting my flash's intensity (it was pointed up to bounce off the ceiling). Who thinks to check the ceiling when they're shooting a group of people collected together in front of them for 15 seconds? Not me, I assure you. And that's why the pros are the pros, and I'm still a rank-amateur.

Of the dozen or so shots I snapped in the backstage room, I did manage to get a few that worked. Most are of Aaron Neville and his brother Charles standing next to random people. This one is Aaron, Charles, the vets from Walter Reed, and their significant others. It might be my favorite of the evening...even with it's problems.

(Click the image for a larger version)

So, a couple of problems exist(ed) with this shot. One: there were a couple of photographers in the room, so the subjects didn't know where to look. For this shot, most were looking at somebody else.

Potentially worse, the soldier on the far left totally blinked the instant I snapped. And the guy on the far right was holding an unsightly water bottle.

So I decided to use my budding (slowly...very slowly) PhotoShop skills to try and make things better. I found another shot where blinky-soldier had his eyes open. I copied them from that image, and pasted them into the final shot. I then spent some time cloning out the water bottle. Finally, I cropped out a bit of the background yuck, and added a bit of sharpening. Here's the original. What do you think? I know, I still have a lot to learn in PS, particularly about how to modify with a delicate hand.

(Click the image for a larger version)

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