brian1This past weekend some of my close family (uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews) were in town for a family event. Being the only photographer in the family, I try to bring my camera with me when we get together. Not just for big group photos, but I know how hard it is for families to get nice photos taken of themselves, so I’ll grab a few of my cousins with their kids, and my uncles/aunts with their grandchildren. Plus, as a writer, once you use one family member in a book, guess what. All of the others start to ask when they’re going to get in a book too ;)

Anyway, I took the photo you see here of one of my close cousins, Brian (who I grew up with seeing often) and his son Dean. I used my Nikon D800 with the Nikon 70-200mm lens on and just followed them around as they played, trying to coax Dean into being cute (not a hard thing when you have a cute kid). That’s why I love the 70-200 lens. It lets you stay back far enough from the action, so as to not scare the kids into wondering what this person with this huge camera is doing 2 feet away from them.

The Phrase We All Know And Love
Well, once I showed Brian, he loved the photo. So much so that an older aunt of mine heard, and came over to see it. And wouldn’t ya know it… what’s the first thing she said? “Wow! Your camera takes such great pictures!”. What do you say to that? Especially when it’s one of your aunts. I resisted the urge to say one of my favorite comebacks to that statement. A comeback I heard years ago and have yet to hear a better one: “Gee thanks… and your mouth makes such stupid comments”. But she’s my aunt so I held back. :)

Honestly, it’s not really a great comment to say to anyone. Most people don’t know any better. And if we’re truthful with ourselves, it IS partly the camera right? I mean, I would have never gotten a photo with the sharpness and depth of field with a point-n-shoot. And even with the D800, I’d have never gotten that photo with many other lenses. But still, it’s always something that irks us photographers.
BTW… yes, I’ve heard the response about how you’d never ask a cook what pots and pans he uses. I just like the one I wrote above better ;)

Techie Photo Info
Anyway, that’s my story for the day. As for photo info it’s below.
• First, I position the people between me and the sun, so the sun is behind them. That’s what gives the nice hair/edge light behind them.
• I put the camera on continuous shooting mode, Aperture priority, and set the Aperture at f/2.8.
• I rack out the lens to 200mm (don’t you like the camera lingo? “Racked out” just means zoomed as far as the lens will go) and stand back far enough to compose.
• At 200mm you’ve got some good distance between you and the subject. One last key elements is to make sure the subject is a good distance away from their background (at least 10 feet). All of this separation gives you those beautiful soft backgrounds that really help the people stand out.
• After that, it’s all about luck. I just shoot. I don’t pose much. I just watch them have fun and try to capture some of the action.
• Keep an eye on your shutter speed. Once it starts dipping below 1/250 to 1/125 I start increasing my ISO. As long as they’re not moving too much, and you try to capture the still moments after a movement, you’ll get sharp photos.

Post-Processing
I processed the photo in Lightroom with some minimal shadow and highlight settings. Then I jumped into onOne Perfect Effects and added the Vintage Blue/Yellow preset along with the Big Softy vignette preset. I finished off with some sharpening and that’s about it. This one took all of 3 minutes to work.

Interesting/Amazing Side Story About My Cousin: It’s a miracle that Brian is even here today. He was actually working in the 2nd tower in the World Trade Center on September 11th. He was around the same floor that the 2nd plane hit the tower (extremely close to where the plane actually hit). It’s a long story, but he hadn’t evacuated so he was actually on that floor when the plane hit. Sadly, many people around his immediate area didn’t make it out, and it’s an absolute miracle that he did. The 60 or so minutes our family had to spend wondering what happened to him were some of the longest minutes I can remember.