What a Weekend

Whew…

        I say that for two reasons. Firstly, I got a chance to break from my 3-month saga of eating “clean” and pigged out on wonderful, tasty, delicious, fattening Thanksgiving foods (I really, really, really missed breads and pastas). And now that I feel fat again, and Thanksgiving has passed, and the stores are being overrun by Black Friday shoppers whilst finally being legally allowed to play Christmas music because we all freaking hate that they start the promoting/advertising/brainwashing/bombarding in September nowadays, I have a chance to write about the weekend leading up to the week of the Turkey and college rivalry football (this would be considered the second reason for “whew….”).

        Last weekend was jammed full of photography. YAAAAY! I say, “yay,” because I hadn’t done anything photography related for about three weeks and when that happens, I get sad.  Anyways! Last weekend was originally planned to only have two photo gigs. For about a month I was scheduled to shoot my gym trainer and his company for their new website and advertisement campaign. No big deal, right? Then the previous week, a coworker asked me if I could take some pictures of a mural he painted that coming Saturday. The mural was a gigantic piece of artistry dedicated to Florida Football (he was making it for a co-worker). I said sure, and we scheduled it before the Georgia Tech home game so that timing wouldn’t be an issue. Then two days later, I talked to a friend about doing an outdoor shoot to experiment with a concept I wanted to practice that required fall foliage. Only time my friend Jessie would be available? The very same Sunday as the gym shoot, but two hours before it. Sure! I could make that work. The locations were literally 5 minutes apart from each other, so I wouldn’t have to worry about time or traffic. I figured three shoots, separated apart pretty adequately, a Saturday afternoon on the couch watching college football, and a trip to Stone Mountain on Sunday could all work without breaking a major sweat.  Well, that did not last long at all.

        Saturday morning I woke up at around 8AM, because well, when you work a full-time job that has you up at 6AM every morning, 8AM starts to feel like sleeping in and I hate wasting the day. So I got up and looked over my gear to make sure I had what I would need for the mural shoot at 11:45AM that day. About halfway through loading up my camera bag, I got a call from my buddy John at Georgia Tech. John, if you’ve been following my blog, was the guy who got me the photo pass for the GT vs. VT game a few months earlier. That post is located HERE.  Guess what he was offering? A photo pass to the GT vs. Alabama A&M game at 1:30PM that afternoon. Did I want to shoot it? Hell yeah! “What time do I need to be there John?” “Oh about 12:30.”

Wait…. Mental math kicking in…

Mural shoot at 11:45AM + 30 minutes to shoot = 12:15PM

Time to drive to GT from Marietta with game traffic = 40 to 50 minutes.

12:15PM + 45 minutes = Not enough time!

        I immediately called my coworker and explained the situation. He was awesome enough to let me drive over to his place at 10AM and take pictures of the mural. It’s a gorgeous piece of work and I almost feel like my pictures didn’t do it justice. Really great stuff! I’ll be covering his mural dedicated to Kansas Jayhawks Basketball next! With that finished, I hit the highway and drove down to Atlanta.

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        For this game, I didn’t get the opportunity to shoot with a long telephoto lens obviously, so I decided to change up my approach. I had shot previous football games with my 70-200, but I generally stood in the end zone and tried to shoot the backfield each play. This works, but it takes a lot of cropping with a shorter focal length, and that leads towards pixilated images. Thus I would shoot from the sidelines each play (minus red zone opportunities). I have to admit, I had so much more fun taking pictures from the sidelines than from the endzone. The action was certainly much harder to capture, and it was almost useless if the play went towards the other sideline. However, I was all over the plays that stayed in the center or towards my sideline, and the images came out wonderfully. Now, because we were playing Alabama A&M, we were expected to win pretty easily. By halftime it was 52 GT to 0 AAMU, so I was able to spend a lot of time taking pictures of the players on the sideline and bench, of the cheerleaders, and of people in the stands. I really enjoyed that aspect of the day. It was nice to see and capture that extra bit of magic that is a college football game. Not to mention, kids are freaking cute and allow for some great portraits. One more thing I’d like to add about this game, was Alabama A&M’s marching band. Holy crap! They were phenomenal and had the entire stadium standing up, dancing, and applauding. I felt bad for the GT marching band, but AAMU’s was just a blast. I was very heavily reminded of the movie Drumline. Alas, the game ended with a comfortable win, with plenty of reps for our 3rd and 4th string players and me with a ton of great images. I raced home (as much as possible with post-game traffic) and immediately started working on my images. Even though I’m an alumnus, I’m still responsible for turning in the photos to the school paper, and the deadline happened to be Monday. That night was spent furiously sorting and editing photos into the late hours, until I finally got to bed with the images being uploaded to a Dropbox folder.        

         Sunday finally rolled around and the insanity simply continued.  I know I could have passed on going to Stone Mountain, but you know what? I wanted to see my friends and climb a stupid mountain! I got to do half of that… Due to shenanigans that usually occur with partially thought out plans, we were able to have a picnic for an hour before I had to leave for my shoot with Jessie. No big deal, minus the $10 I wasted on parking (Lame). I hopped on the highway again, drove the full hour back to Kennesaw, grabbed my gear and drove to her house at 3:25PM.

          I met Jessie from a musical I did over the summer when she played Babs, a mobster, in Give My Regards to Broadway. She’s one of the reasons I was able to finally check off “bad-ass mobster shot” from my concept book, which can be found HERE.  Since then, we’ve become solid friends and she generously agreed when asked if she could be my guinea pig. The look I wanted required the fun colors of fall in the background, but a strong, warm color cast on the subject typical of a setting sun. I really wanted to get that dreamy, late afternoon look with a flat, cross-processed after-effect. Well, I got it for the most part.

        For the record, it was absolutely freezing that Sunday. I think I owe Jessie at least 4 cups of hot coffee/chocolate or soup. While I was bundled up and ready for 35°F weather, she was in clothing more suited for 65°F because of the look I wanted to achieve. In between each take of shots, she would quickly put on her jacket and try to warm up while I made adjustments.  The shots in themselves came out pretty well, except that my 7D had some serious issues focusing at times. I tried using three different lenses in a span of 10 minutes and could not get a properly focused shot. My guess is that there wasn’t enough contrast (AKA shadow) on Jessie’s face because of the ambient light; therefore the camera couldn’t lock focus.  Because I was trying to get a shallow depth of field, I couldn’t use another focal point on her person and still get her eyes properly focused. Eventually the sun drifted down a bit more and shadow reappeared, thus allowing in focus images again. For my set up, I used a single flash in a 24”x24” softbox and a full CTO gel so that the flash would match the orange ambient light. After we wrapped up, I threw Jessie my extra set of gloves and let her warm up while I packed up the gear. A car with heat blasting felt great after 40 minutes in the cold, and I can imagine Jessie enjoyed it way more than I did. I made sure to promise Jessie that next time, we’d be shooting indoors!

        I’m still working on the flat, cross-processed look to the images. I’m not a post-processing guru by any stretch and it’s been an informative, tedious, and at times infuriating, learning experience. I’m sure I’ll get it figured out at some point, but in the interim, I’m pretty happy with the images as a whole for a first time venture. Good news is that Jessie got some new headshots out of the deal!  After saying good-bye to her, I hopped into my truck and made the 5-minute drive to the gym for the final shoot of the evening.

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        I’ve been working out at a local gym for about 5 months now and been lifting with a trainer, Kevin, two times a week to make sure I get the best work-out possible. When you spend two hours a week with someone, you start becoming good buddies. Kevin works for a company called DreamBody, which is run by another trainer, Seth. Through our conversations, Kevin knew I was a freelance photographer and I knew they were working on really promoting their group. I figured, well why not put the two together? I offered my services for their next publicity/advertisement shoot and was hired shortly thereafter, which lead us to this 6PM meeting at the gym.

        I thought this would be the easiest shoot of the weekend. Get a couple portraits of each of the trainers separately and in various group combinations, and then snag some pictures of them lifting weights. Sounds pretty simple right? For those who don’t know, taking pictures in a gym is really freaking difficult. There are mirrors and weight machines everywhere. That translates into some serious creativity with flash placement. One of the big rules of flash photography is to avoid having the flash reflection anywhere in the image; you should only see the light output itself.  For the portion of the shoot with weights, I was hiding lights all over the place. On top of watching where the lights were, I also had to keep an eye out for the other people in the gym and make sure I couldn’t see them in the mirrors. I originally asked for a black sheet to cover up the mirrors, but Seth wanted to see the trainers’ reflections while lifting. Boy, did that keep things challenging. Thankfully, all the trainers were incredibly chill and the pace was nice and relaxed. Seth had a shot list prepared at my request, and that made the entire evening roll smoothly. It was really nice to ask what he wanted, set-up, snag the image, and then ask what was next and repeat. Exactly how a photo shoot should go!

        And now we’re back to the present. A full week later and I’ve managed to edit 75% of the photos. The football pictures are at the Technique, and I’ve selected my “favorites” of the lot. Jessie’s are done, minus the flat-processing mystery that still eludes me. I have yet to touch my coworker’s mural photos because those had the loosest deadline. I spent almost all of Monday evening, Tuesday evening, and Thanksgiving Day working on the DreamBody images. At the end of Tuesday I was already saying to myself, “I’m spending way too much time staring at men’s naked chests.” Anyways, the weekend was a big success and I learned a lot! Still have more work to do and hopefully I can master that flat-processing look in the near future. I really hate leaving things unfinished. So back to Photoshop!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday filled with food, family, and memories.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Mike Glatzer

Mike Glatzer Photography, Marietta St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318, United States