"The pictures you make are like a connect-the-dots game that becomes the line of your life, as real and vibrant as the lines on your face and hands. We tell stories with our pictures.  In turn, our pictures tell our story - what we did, and how well or poorly we did it, and very significantly, if we stuck with it."  -  Joe McNally

 

 

 

Traveling Light, Working Heavy

July 24, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

My last blog post came at the beginning of the most hectic month of photography I've yet experienced.  Two nights of Pops Concerts, a quick editorial/architectural shoot, two dance studio shoots on four weekends, followed by five days of intensive rehearsal and performance shoots, altogether around 9,000 images to sort through, rate and save the best, fulfill print orders, etc., etc., etc.  The day after the final dance performance shoot, I left for ten days in Europe to accompany an incredible choir from the Bay Area on a performance tour in London, Paris, a chateau in the French countryside, Rome, and the Vatican.  I returned from Europe with just under 3,000 additional images.  (I also returned with $15,000 in fraudulent charges against my business account that hit while I was gone, but that's another story altogether.)

I've now culled my 3,000 Europe photos down to a more manageable 500 to share with the participants.  For most professional photographers that's an absurd number.  Professional travel photographers, or portrait photographers, or landscape photographers will all tell you that if you post more than a dozen or so photos to your portfolio, you're wasting your time, talent, and marketability.  But when you're an event shooter, or trying to capture meaningful images of a tour with over 200 participants, a dozen photos just don't cut it.  Welcome to my world.

Am I complaining? About the sheer volume of photos from this amazing tour?  Absolutely not.  About the equipment needed to adequately document it?  Well… yes.  It's often said that nobody travels to Europe, or any other destination, and wishes they packed more stuff.  Traveling daily means carrying luggage and photo gear in and out of hotels, around town, onto and off trains and buses.  Traveling light is a real plus.  And don't get me started on the increasingly restrictive airline policies governing carry-ons.  

So I travel with only those pieces of gear that I know I will use.  For now, here's the packing list: one Canon 5D MarkIII with the "trinity" of fast glass - 16-35mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm, all capable of f/2.8 across the range, plus one Fuji X100S, one speed light with sync cord, batteries, chargers, and memory cards.  I recently purchased a small MeFoto travel tripod, which I really don't need (as a tripod), but it handily converts to a monopod which also fits nicely in the ThinkTank Airport Airstream below (minus the monopod, not shown):

The Airport Airstream is a roller, which is a godsend, as it tips the scale at 25 pounds, loaded as shown.  It fits easily in all airline overhead compartments (and you stroll quickly and confidently past the gate attendants because it's likely to be overweight).  It's great for rolling through airports, along well-paved streets, church floors, and other smooth surfaces.  On cobblestones, gravel, dirt, grass, or other uneven surfaces, not so much.  On one particular event, following a performance at the beautiful Chateau Vaux Le Vicomte in Maincy, France, I had to hand carry this beast around from location to location, as there were no smooth surfaces on the entire grounds, except inside the chateau itself.  Ditto in crowded venues such as Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, where I rolled over way too many toes dragging this equipment around.  The Airstream is not a backpack, so lugging 25 pounds by one hand is no walk in the park (even when it is a walk in the park).

For daily review and editing I bring my 13" MacBook Air, 500GB external drive for backups, a small Wacom tablet (an absolute must for any meaningful editing), and associated power cords, extension cords, international plug adapters, card readers, etc, etc.  All of these fit nicely into a ThinkTank 15" Artificial Intelligence laptop bag.  This 15" bag is made to fit a 15" laptop, but the dedicated and well-padded laptop compartment also accommodates the smaller 13" MacBook Air and the Wacom tablet.  I also carry my iPad mini and Bose noise-cancelling earbuds in it, for in-flight entertainment.

So in the cabin, the Airport Airstream is my carry-on, and the laptop bag is my "personal item".  The laptop stays in the hotel room, locked in my suitcase, which is typically locked to an immovable object.

On sightseeing or travel-only days, the Canon gear stays in the Airstream, and all of my "travel" photos are made with the Fuji X100S.  I lose absolutely no image quality with this camera in comparison to the 5D MarkIII.  The one downside is that it's a fixed focal length camera, so the only zoom capability is my feet.  But it's a joy to use, and absolutely never a problem to access it.  It's either around my neck when I'm using it alone, or in a small belt pouch when I'm carrying the Canon gear in the Airstream.  

Which brings me to the main point: there's a significant migration going on in the professional (and advanced prosumer) ranks toward mirrorless cameras like the Fuji lineup.  Fuji is a current leader in this market, but Sony, Olympus and Pentax are also strong in the marketplace.  In fact, at the temple of high volume photography sales, B&H Photo in New York, there are 320 DSLR's offered, and 263 mirrorless models.  Although Nikon is in this marketplace, Nikon DSLR sales are lagging, and Nikon is frantically looking for additional options to boost sales.  

Why is this?  There are two main reasons.  First, the advancement of mirrorless technology is incredibly rapid, with new models coming out seemingly every month.  Image quality for most photographers and most purposes is practically indistinguishable from that which can be obtained from prosumer and advanced DSLRs, particularly those with crop sensors. (Landscape photographers will vehemently argue this point, and for that specialty, they're probably right.)

But the main advantage is size and weight.  For example, if I were to replace my Canon gear with the same focal length range in Fuji gear, I would buy a Fuji XT1, along with a 10-24, and the eagerly awaited 18-135 zoom lens, and be done with it.  That would cut my size and weight budget by 80%.  80%!  I would kill for that, especially after nearly stroking out at the chateau.  No more rolling luggage, no risk of hernia, and no more monopod; just a small shoulder bag that weighs maybe five pounds.

So why the heck not?  Why do I not have this rig right now??  If it's good enough for David Hobby, Zack Arias, Bill Fortney and a host of photographers infinitely more talented than me, what's holding me back?

In short, I need the reach and the speed of the Canon glass, which no mirrorless system currently offers.  As a performing arts photographer, I live in low light.  I rarely have the luxury of shooting below 1600 ISO, and often need to get upwards of 6400 ISO.  Even at these elevated ranges, I still need fast glass (e.g. f/2.8) to get exposures as fast as 1/125, which is the minimum needed to freeze singing faces, or 1/320 for dancers in motion.  Mirrorless systems like the Fuji can give me that.  But in a performance venue other than a rock concert or jazz festival, I cannot approach the stage; I need to stand off and use a 200mm lens to get the faces I need.  And that's the killer right there.

So there are four elements that combine to give me the shots I need: high ISO, fast lenses, telephoto reach, and reasonably fast shutter speeds.  With my Canon gear, I have all four.  With the current state of mirrorless systems, I can pick any two, sometimes three.  But I can't get all four.  So guys like me crave a fast  telephoto lens in a mirrorless form factor.  But will it ever be available?  It may be that the physics of lens design make it impossible to fit all of the optics required to achieve a fast telephoto in a form factor that fits with the mirrorless aesthetic; I don't know.  

I do know that I love my Canon gear.  I'll probably never replace it for most of the performing arts assignments I have.  But for performance photography that involves travel, I'm hoping that someday, I'll be able to truly travel light. As it is, that Fuji kit I mentioned above is burning a hole in my psyche. 

THIS JUST IN!  On the day I posted this blog entry (tonight) Fuji has just announced a 50-140mm f/2.8 lens, to be released toward the end of this year.  Must have….


Things are Gonna Get Real Busy

June 02, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I haven't posted anything on the blog since March, as things around here have been pretty hectic, including several quick turnaround jobs for Santa Margarita Catholic High School and a wonderful choir trip to Spain with a great group from Tesoro High School.  Well, things are going to get a lot busier during the month of June, with 14 days of shooting, including five days of dance portraits, seven days of recital rehearsals and performances, plus two nights of choral performance work.  The dance and recital shoots will each require about three days of non-stop culling and editing, plus print order fulfillment.  By my math, that means 29 days of full-tilt project work, a few hours after which I hop a red-eye to Europe to join the Monte Vista High School (Danville, CA) choir on a performance tour to London, Paris, Florence and Rome, with performances in Notre Dame, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel.

So I'm taking a few minutes to post some images from yesterday's dance portrait shoot at Pacific Ballet Conservatory, the first of two weekend shoots there.  I brought a new, very large Studio Dynamics backdrop, which I unrolled for the first time at the dance studio.  It's so big (12' x 30') I have no room at home to even look at it.  Why so big?  I want the ability to move the subject far enough away from the back of the backdrop to enable me to control the light on the subjects independently of the backdrop.  I did that to some extent on Sunday, and I like the way it turns out.  But there are other reasons for picking the photos I've selected to show here.

Sometimes a costume makes a huge difference in how a dancer looks.  This is Carol, who has great technique and a real stage presence about her.  But this brilliant blue dress flows with an elegance that accentuates Carol's technique, and provides a dimension to the photograph that other costumes might not.

 The same is true with the photo below of Kendra, whose form and technique are augmented by the same blue dress.

My lighting approach for weekend-long dance studio shoots has to be broad and flexible, because I need to be able to shoot individual dancers ranging from very young, inexperienced children to accomplished and technically proficient older dancers.  I also need to shoot groups as large as 20+ dancers, followed immediately by individuals, with no time to change the lighting grid.  So one way I can adapt to rapidly changing subjects is to design the grid to selectively use the lights.  The change that makes the most immediate difference is to either kill or drastically reduce the fill light, which is placed on axis with the camera and is used to provide lighting for the backdrop and to open up shadows on the opposite side of the key light.  Then, by placing the dancer either in or just behind the spread of the key light, I can get some dynamic images primarily lit with the back rim lights placed at a 45-degree angle behind the dancers.  You can't light a five year-old with this, but a proficient dancer certainly benefits from this approach.  Here is Amanda, lit by the feathered rear edge of the key light, plus the rims:

And here's Jenny, lit similarly. The feathered edge of the key light, combined with the right rear rim defines her jaw and neckline.

I really like it when a dancer wants to try something new.  I often tell them that the best photographs are usually made with dancers doing something relatively simple but executed perfectly.  But when a good dancer wants to try something new for her, I'm certainly game.  Here's Carol again, trying this move, and nailing it on the fourth take.

I also really like it when a young dancer who is new to me takes the set and just kills it.  This is Makenzie, and this is her first frame in front of my camera.

Seriously, her first frame.  So later she comes in and gives me this, again, on her first frame.

Can't believe it...

On a long day, things can get a bit routine, shuttling in dancer after dancer.  So sometimes I look for other opportunities to make a picture with some impact, something out of the ordinary, something not designed to be "perfect" dance form.  Often it's of younger dancers.  Here's Rachel, trying to decide which pose she'd like to do next.

This is totally candid, and not to take anything away from Rachel's dancing ability, this was her best picture of the day.  Everything from her facial expression to the curve of her foot tell a story.  There is always a place in the family archive for images like these.

Sometimes you create these looks.  This is absolutely posed, but with no technique to worry about, it's a lot more natural, especially for a youngster like Ivey.

This is what you do late in the day when you, the photographer, try to decide what pose to try next….

Finally, here's Mackenzie, tying up her pointe shoes.  This shot has been made thousands of times with variations by just about every dance photographer. So I finally jumped in that pool.  She had no idea I snapped this one off, but she liked it a lot and wanted it in black and white.

So, back now to culling, editing, order fulfillment, and the wheel goes around and around.  That's June for me.  Back after Europe.

 


Emily

March 23, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Back about ten months ago, I posted a tutorial on how to achieve three different looks from one headshot lighting grid.  This past week, Emily came over to update her headshot portfolio to submit to her agent for occasional work.  Based on Emily's requirements, I decided that the same basic approach would work well for her, with a little tweak.  In May, with Halley, I decided to warm things up just a bit, and to render the white background significantly below clipping, but still apparently white, or nearly so.  For Emily, I wanted just a touch under "blow out" white, so there would be no question as to the color of the background.  As always, I flagged the two speed lights lighting the background, to prevent any kind of blowback from robbing the subject of contrast.  And in keeping with that decision, I wanted to open things up a bit more, and cool things down just a bit, and present Emily in a bright, snappy light, perfect for her skin tone and choice of wardrobe.  So this is about 1/3 stop brighter than Halley, and the same 1/3 stop over my Sekonic meter reading of the beauty dish-mounted Qflash.

Although we started out with a portrait orientation, I also showed Emily and her mom what a landscape orientation could do for her.  In this particular frame, however, I manufactured the 10x8 aspect ratio by adding "canvas" to the right of the edited, retouched photo above, matching color, and recropping.

 

From there, Emily changed her shirt and we moved on.

This look, achieved by having Emily simply cross her arms across her chest, has the natural effect of causing her to lean back a bit and drop her right shoulder.  Normally, I wouldn't recommend anyone leaning back for a portrait.  Rather, you want the subject to project the face forward, by leaning forward over the belt, actually more than the subject would normally find comfortable.  In a photo, however, it projects strength and accentuates the jawline.  Here, with Emily leaning back, it's a more relaxed look, and her classic facial structure, lit carefully with the beauty dish, takes care of the jawline just fine.

Next, we simply switched off the backdrop lights, letting the white backdrop go gray.  I love the flexibility of using a white backdrop, whether muslin (as here) or seamless paper.  I also like it when the client sees how simply turning off the backdrop lights creates a totally different look.  No other changes to the key light or camera settings were made.

And finally, we turn the white backdrop around to the black side, take it off the stand, and move it to Emily's right side.  I move my position to Emily's left side, leaving the light just as it is.  The look is now radically different, but just as beautiful.

At this point, it's all about expression and mood, and minor facial changes and orientation toward or away from the light make all the difference.

Emily and her mom came in with the expectation of getting something akin to the first look above.  In the end, they chose all of these.  

 

 

 

 

 

 


And Now for Something Completely Different: A Geology Question Asked and Answered

November 25, 2013  •  1 Comment

Karen and I had the brilliant idea to spend a nice weekend in Tucson, Arizona, watching the Ducks of the University of Oregon defeat the Wildcats of the University of Arizona on their march to the Pac-12 championship.  It would be a mild, sunny weekend in the desert capped by a big Oregon win.  Too bad that I'd have to miss a chance of a lifetime to photograph the great Al Jarreau performing at the McKinney Theater at Saddleback College, but choices had to be made.  Well, crap, if it didn't turn out to be a major embarrassment for the Ducks, who got hammered 42-16, knocking them out of the BCS championship consideration, the Pac-12 championship, and quarterback Marcus Mariota from any consideration for the Heisman Trophy.  And it wasn't a mild, sunny weekend either, until we got the hell outta Dodge.

 

Which brings me to the La Posta Pluton, which rises like a wall from the eastern edge of the Coachella Valley as you come westward on Interstate 8 into San Diego County along the Imperial County line.  Or conversely, it forms the backbone of the mountains east of San Diego, home to a half dozen Indian casinos and the troops from the Border Patrol.  My first exposure to this weird and wonderful geology was in high school 40+ years ago, when my church group spent a Spring Break week helping to build a one-room schoolhouse just across the border into Mexico from the tiny town of Jacumba.  We stayed in Jacumba and walked the hundred yards or so across the border into Mexico every morning to build the school.  My fondest memory of that trip was a communal dinner prepared for us one evening by the local Mexicans, including a stew of chicken complete with feet (chicken).  Today, there's no way to walk across the border, which is hermetically sealed off by that giant metal wall, equipped with forests of communication infrastructure, and Jeep-mounted Border Patrol agents who eye you warily, because after all, there's no reason for anyone to go to Jacumba anymore.  Except, perhaps, to explore the geology of the La Posta Pluton.

When you come along I-8 from either direction approaching the vicinity of Jacumba, the landscape turns magical.  The mountains are no longer forested by scrub (from the west) or tamarisk and cactus (from the east).  Instead, the mountains are literally covered with giant, weathered granite boulders.  Millions and millions of boulders.  The kind of boulders you might expect to see along alluvial river banks draining the San Gabriels, the San Bernardinos, or the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada.  But these boulders have not been deposited by alluvial runoff.  They occupy steep slopes from the bottom of the mountains to the very tops.

It's as if they were scattered along the tops of the mountains like chopped nuts on a hot fudge sundae.  How can that be?  Boulders don't roll uphill. And if you examine a road cut, of which there are many along this stretch of I-8, you see that the underlying layers of granitic rock are (more or less) solid.

I had to figure this out.

Fortunately, Karen and I stumbled upon one of those roadside "attractions" that are so unique to the desert southwest: this one by the name of the Desert View Tower.  Built in the earliest decade of the 20th Century, Desert View Tower was meant to be a visual reward for travelers who made the arduous trip over the mountains or across the desert and up through the maze of rocks.  For those heading west, it was a memory of what they had endured; for those heading east, it must have been a warning of things to come.  But for me, Desert View Tower was the answer to my question, "how did those rocks get there?"

As we wandered around this property, complete with rocks painted to resemble animals, a guy selling handmade knives, and assorted other memorabilia, I wound up talking with the current owner of the place (I wish I got his name, but unfortunately I didn't).  He told me the story of the La Posta Pluton.  And as someone who's had a lifelong interest in geology, it made perfect sense to me.

This region lies astride the San Andreas Fault, the border of the North American Plate (seen in the far distance in the photo at the top of this post) and the Pacific Plate, on which we stand.  As we know from Geology 1, the Pacific Plate is subducting under the North American Plate, except that along the California coast, it has largely been stopped in its subduction, and instead is grinding past the stable craton of the rest of the USA, and is moving more or less steadily north.  That grinding is the work of the strike-slip fault known as the San Andreas.

Where the fault erupted, approximately 100 million years ago (give or take a few million), some pieces of the North American and Pacific Plates broke off the main basoliths and subducted down into the hot mantle below.  This molten rock then "burped" back up in the form of a chain of plutons running roughly from Riverside down into Baja California, of which the La Posta is the largest.  A pluton is a belch of rock emerging from below, cooling as it heads back up the tectonic equivalent of an esophagus. It's not a volcanic eruption of molten lava.  Rather, in effect, the earth hacks up a mountain, or in this case 1700 square kilometers of mountain.  The mineralogy of the pluton is complex, but basically it's granitic, and not especially dense.  It's easily worn down.  So the processes of erosion by wind and weather over eons have stripped much of the sand and softer elements and sent them eastward to the dirt bikers, ATV riders, and other denizens of the desert of Imperial County, leaving what are now boulders in place.

 

With the answers to my questions in hand, Karen and I left Desert View Tower, as the late afternoon sun rapidly faded to twilight.  The place got cold and eerily silent.  At the base of the entrance, we found the perfect accompaniment to Desert View Tower: "Coyote's Flying Saucer Retrievals and Repairs Service".  The only thing missing were the all-seeing eyes of the Border Patrol.


My First Exposure to Wheelchair Tennis

November 15, 2013  •  1 Comment

Several weeks ago, I was asked by Steve Bell, Community Services Manager for the City of Mission Viejo, to provide official photography services to the City for its upcoming wheelchair tennis tournament.  Well, I've never shot tennis before, I said to myself, but hey, how tough could it be?  I shoot dance pretty well, and am reasonably competent at high school football, so I know how to capture peak action.  I have that going for me.  Plus, these athletes would be in wheelchairs, so following them shouldn't be all that difficult, right?  

Little did I know at that time that these 38 men and women would be world-class athletes who happen to be in wheelchairs, and that if given the opportunity, they could beat the pants off you without breaking a sweat.  I didn't know at the time that these athletes compete at Wimbledon, at Roland Garros in Paris, at the US Open, and other elite venues around the globe.  I didn't know that the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters and the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Doubles that I would be shooting are considered Grand Slam events in the wheelchair tennis world, and that tennis organizations around the world would want my photos, pronto.  In short, I didn't know anything.

Eight days after the tournament began, I ended my work proud, happy, and exhausted, but most of all, blessed.  Covering this event was one of my most fond photographic experiences, one which enabled me to exercise my best skills, learn new ones, and best of all, just be with these amazing athletes and the people who help promote their sport.

 

Just to get the technical stuff out of the way, this is how the week went.  In addition to covering the two draw parties (singles and doubles), I covered all matches I could (I missed the Friday night matches due to other commitments).  Until the Finals, there were usually two, three, or four matches going on at once, so I had to bounce back and forth between them.  I sat in a very low folding three-legged stool at the net across from the umpire, enabling me to swing right or left to focus on one or more players.  I knew that shooting low would be absolutely necessary to capture the best angles.  The last thing I wanted to do was to shoot down on these athletes.  I found the most versatile lens in my bag to be the 70-200 f/2.8 IS L, and stuck with it for all of the matches, pulling out my 24-70 for some portraits, and the 24-105 for the Finals awards ceremonies.  (On a couple of occasions, the local paper sent out photographers to cover the event.  They'd bring 300-400mm bazookas and wind up standing at the top of the bleachers to get a single player in the frame. One guy even brought a 1200mm behemoth. I have no idea what he thought he'd get with that thing.)  Each day, I'd shoot anywhere from 800 to 1500 images, go home, and spend about 6 hours culling, editing, and pushing the selected images to the International Tennis Federation, the United States Tennis Association, the City of Mission Viejo, and various paralympic organizations in Canada and Europe.  These were 18 hour days, and I operated with very little sleep for a week.

Once I got over my initial shock at the spectacle before my lens (the shot of number one-ranked Shingo Kunieda above was one of my very first frames), I settled in to work on the goals I had set out for myself as I planned for my coverage.  

 

Convey Motion

It's pretty obvious that wheelchair tennis would involve motion, just as able-bodied tennis does.  What impressed me right off the bat was the speed and dexterity these athletes brought to the game.  The best of them hit just as hard as anyone else can, and that means getting from one place on the court to another with speed, and stopping just as quickly.  So conveying speed and motion were actually pretty easy to do.  For me there was no compromise between freezing motion and conveying motion (which is usually captured by slow shutter speeds); I opted to freeze the action and let the athlete's body positions convey motion as in the frames below:

A side note to this:  Consider the strain on the back muscles of these athletes, who are strapped and immobilized in their chairs, putting all the torque on their back as they push, pull, twist, turn, reach, hit (violently hard), and react.  It has to be more straining than an able-bodied tennis player who can move his or her lower body.

 

Convey Emotion

A good sports image needs to convey not only the action, but the athlete's reaction to the action, either in the intensity of the moment itself, or immediately after.  (There's a different category here, the jubilation [or "jube" as sports shooters call it] of a great shot or victory and we'll get to that later.)  Facial expressions during play can convey the joy or difficulty of competition, the energy required to compete at this level, or other factors.  So I needed to be aware of these, search them out, and compose the finished image to place focus on them:

 

Show the Sponsors

The organizers and sponsors of an event like this are paying you to bring back great shots.  But for them, what makes a good shot great is when you incorporate their logo into the frame.  Fortunately, the two main courts were ringed with sponsor logos (though other courts weren't).  So putting the logo into a photo wasn't exactly difficult.  The best shots, however, were a blend of great action, the athlete's emotion, and careful placement of both against the backdrop of the sponsor's logo.  You can't plan for this kind of thing, but when it happens, you'd better be able to get it.  This is where experience in anticipating peak action really helps.  It also helps to pull back a bit, to give yourself some room to crop effectively in the finished image.

 

Catch a Break

Here's a category that absolutely can't be anticipated, but it's wonderful when it happens.  An interesting framing of a body part in the composition, something that only a super fast exposure can catch, or some other anomaly can turn an ordinary photo into an eye-catching image.  Sports Illustrated runs these all the time, and while I have no illusions that my captures are worthy of SI, it's great when you get them.

Lucy Shuker and Marjolein Buis have their eyes on the ball:

I don't think I could have asked Maikel Scheffers to frame his head within the racket as perfectly as this:

An exposure of 1/2500th of a second froze the fuzz being knocked off the ball by Joaquim Gerard:

 

Catch the "Jube"

This one's so easy, but also easy to miss, as many photographers do when they stop shooting when the crucial play is over.  Sometimes the most compelling images are made after the play, as the athlete celebrates his or her accomplishment with jubilation.

 

Wipeouts

Here's a category I was totally unprepared for when I first started.  I quickly gained an appreciation of the speed and agility of these wheelchair-bound athletes, but it took me by surprise when I saw how fearlessly they pursued a volley, even when it meant a certain crash into the fence.  They're strapped into their chairs, and at that point, they're pretty much passengers.  But they get back up quickly, as if nothing happened.  At one instance (on a court other than the one I was covering at that particular moment) one of the competitors actually came out of the chair; I'm not sure I wanted to see that.  But these frames show the commitment they have to getting the point.

This one was a near rollover by Michael Jeremiasz during his match point victory in the Men's Doubles Final:

 

Make Some Portraits

I guess, at bottom, I'm a portrait guy.  As the tournament progressed, and I had made thousands of images, I began to focus more and more on the faces of the athletes and others associated with the sport who were there.  Some of the images made during the matches almost rise to the level of portraits.  For them, I ignored the goal of sponsor inclusion and got in very tight, either by cropping in camera, or after in post.  As the best sports shooters will tell you, "Get in tight, and when you do, get in tighter."

Others were made with specific portraiture in mind.  Here's David Hall, six-time World Champion from Australia, whom I posed seriously (he's not a very serious guy) to show off his artwork:

Brad Parks is credited with inventing the game of wheelchair tennis in 1976.  He joined David Hall on one of the side courts for a few minutes of friendly banter and volleys.

One of the more interesting people at the tournament was Mike Box, who builds custom wheelchairs.  He was there to provide repair and maintenance services for the athletes.  He would work on their chairs right there on the court, where I first saw him, or in an EZ Up shelter away from the crowds, where I made this portrait during the "blue hour" after the sun went down on Saturday:

 

The clear crowd favorite of the tournament was San Diego's David Wagner, defending Quad Champion.  Several family members and friends were enthusiastically supporting David, including his grandmother, sporting a larger-than-life-size cutout of David's face.

 

It has taken me about three days to recover from this project.  But was it ever worth it!  The City of Mission Viejo, particularly Steve Bell and Jason Harnett, did a masterful job of planning and organizing the event, with extensive support from the rest of the City family and community volunteers.   I heard many unsolicited comments from the players how much they enjoyed competing in Mission Viejo and the support that was offered to them in transportation, lodging, food, and other needs of daily life.  I hope the event comes back to Mission Viejo next year, and that I'll have another opportunity to play a part in it. Now, the challenge will be to bring this exciting sport to the general public, and fill those stands!