Fireworks Over the Campus of Purdue University

I really was having some trouble coming up with a place to make a fireworks photo this year. With the construction in Lafayette nothing there was really going to look good. I looked around at other towns and ideas before finally coming up with something that I thought would work. I went up to Slayter Hill on the campus of Purdue to go through my idea in my head. I was not sure exactly where the fireworks for Lafayette and West Lafayette would be set off, but if they were where I thought they were I would have a cool shot. Of course they were not where I thought they would be so I had to scramble west of get a better shot of them. They didn’t line up the way that I thought they would, and I was not impressed with what I came away with. Last year I liked what I came away with on the 4th. This year I made some nice images, but nothing that I would scream and shout about. That is okay as it gives me the fuel that I need to do something really cool next year.

Setting Your Expectations Too High

One thing that I do all of the time is to set my expectations too high. I came up with my idea for this photo at around noon. By one I was up on campus to scout things out. I spent the rest of the idea thinking that I had found something cool. Of course that was not the case. One thing that saved my butt though was getting to the scene early in the night. I was able to photograph some of the local fireworks before the big show. It is from that time that everything that made the blog today came from. I think that I may have something from the real show, but I want to try something with that before I show it to the world. The photo directly above is not photoshopped at all. It is a look at what was going up in the air over an eight second span just after sunset. Playing around early really paid off in the end as it gave me some options when the main idea did not pan out.

Having A Backup Plan

Earlier in the day I made sure that I had a visual on the bell tower up and down the top of Slayter in case I needed it. I never dreamt I would have to move so far west, but that is what I had to do. In the end this was the best that I could frame the situation. It is not the epic shot that I had in mind, but I was able to come away with something. As soon as I saw that I was way out of position, I grabbed my tripod and made a beeline to the furthest point I could shoot from. I took the 1.4x tele off of my lens and started making photos. I made this one shortly after setting up in my new spot. Knowing where I had to go if things went bad helped me when I needed to move quickly. At this point I have shot these fireworks from a couple of angles. I should be able to figure out where I need to be for sure next year. I just need a way to shoot from a great height then.


My Favorite Sixteen Photos From 2016

Each year I get another year older, but I get to add a photo to my year end countdowns. It is hard enough to cut photos down to sixteen for my break out categories. To get a list of the sixteen photos that I like the most from 2016 overall is nearly impossible. I decided to go with the photos that I remembered the most, and had a special meaning for me. You can view more of my favorites from the year by clicking here to see my Exposure page. Below are sixteen photos that I believe tell a story about what a fun year this past year was.

16. The countdown starts with a photo before the LaPorte Slicers took on Michigan City for the Duneland Athletic Conference title. Many years ago I played for the Slicers, and it was fun to get back and photograph one of their games. It was even more fun to see them win the conference up close and personal.

Fireworks over Lafayette

15. This year on the Fourth of July I tried to get as high as I could over Lafayette to shoot the fireworks over the city. I set up my camera and listened to some good music as I waited for the fireworks to start. One thing that I like about this photo is the large amount of fireworks from other towns and people in the background. Next year I would like to take my drone up to see what I can do on the 4th.

14. One city that I have seen many pictures of is Austin, Texas. This year I was able to visit the city, but I spent most of my time at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. I did not have time to do the normal sightseeing. One photo that I was able to make that I think sums up the city right now is the one above. The city is growing rapidly. There are new buildings going up everywhere. Here was a view from the building I was staying in downtown.

13. Our trip to Boston this fall was one that let me cross a couple of items off of my long standing travel list. I have been wanting to visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum for quite some time. I know that by reading this blog you know that I am obsessed with sports and photography. I also love learning about the Presidents of the United States. They all have a unique story, and they all end up holding the highest office in the land. Kennedy was one President that I heard a lot about growing up, and it was great to get to visit his library.

12. Speaking of crossing some items off of the bucket list this was a great moment for me. After photographing my first NASCAR race at the track where I watched my first race I was getting in position to photograph victory lane. I looked up and saw my two favorite drivers running side by side coming right at me. Both racers were competing in their last race at the Brickyard, and I was very lucky to get a chance to see them race. It is not the most technically brilliant photo that I made last year, but it was one of those moments that you are thankful for.

11. Each year I make portraits of the Lafayette Brawlin’ Dolls for their program. My job is very simple that day. I point the camera at them, and let their personalities come out. It is a highlight of the year for me as I can make some great photos. This was one of those moments that you would consider an outtake, but it becomes one of my favorites.  Continue reading “My 16 Top Photos of 2016”

Happy New Year!

Now that 2017 is finally upon us we can close the door on 2016, and move forward. 2016 was a very good year for me. The business really started to move in the direction that I have wanted it to for a while. I have been working with a few schools that allow me to try some things, but also to make some photos that you cannot make if you are not in with the teams. As 2017 unfolds I will be able to share some of that work at some point. There are some exciting things happening, and we will just see how far we can go this year. With the new year comes great optimism. Much like Opening Day for baseball. The slate is wiped clean so to speak, and you can reset. You don’t have to wait until the new year to make changes though. I am typically not a person to make resolutions. I do like to set goals for myself and now my business for the new year. It gives me something to strive for, and a way to evaluate myself at the end of the year.

So Long 2016

I have seen many people saying how terrible 2016 was. There were setbacks. They are a part of life. For the most part though 2016 was amazing. I am doing what I love, and starting to really see the hard work pay off. Now that 2016 is in our rear view mirror we can move on to 2017. Just because 2016 was a success does not mean that I can slack off in 2017. I want this year to be even better so I must work even harder.

Back To Myself

This blog has kind of veered off course for a while now. When it started it was me sharing my personal thoughts, and emotions from my shoots. As things improved for me I had a lot of people telling me that I should not be myself on the blog. I have a very self deprecating sense of humor, and people worried that things like that could give the wrong impression. As I watched what I wrote it seemed much more mechanical everyday. The readers apparently noticed that as well. What makes this blog fun for me is that I can have some fun with my subjects as well as myself. I am a photographer. I am not perfect. I make mistakes. Any photographer who says that they do not blow shots is lying. Things happen during a shoot. What makes a good photographer is how you react to your mistakes. As this year begins I think that you have already noticed that I have kind of gone back to my older style of writing. That will keep this blog going more than anything else. When I have fun writing I look forward to making content. When I am just going through the motions I don’t feel as inspired to write.


Victory Field

Watching the Fireworks Over Victory Field

This year I was able to spend a couple of months shooting some games at Victory Field. It is a great place to photograph some baseball, but my schedule has not really allowed me to make time to get there lately. One shot that I want to try again is this one from the parking garage across the street. I liked the idea of the photo, but I did not have enough time to set up my tripod before the show started. I was hoping to see the Indians get a walk off win in extra innings that night so I stayed in the dugout ready for that to happen. It did not, and the Indians dropped the game. By the time I made my way through the crowd to the garage across the street the display had started. I just made my photos without the tripod as it would have taken too long to set up. I was able to get a couple of shots without it. I like this idea, and would like to blur out the cars a little on the street below. Maybe that can still happen again this summer.

The Week in Photos

Each week I take a few of my favorite shots from the past week and place them on one Exposure page. I like to take a quick look back to see what I have done. It kind of helps me as I keep striving to get better and better. The past few weeks have been a bit different as they have not had any sports photos in them. Two straight four day tournaments combined with my schedule filling with other events have led to a mini sports draught. That will change next week, but for now enjoy some photos of things other than sports. You can view this weeks Exposure page here.

Fireworks over Lafayette

Watching the Tippecanoe County Fireworks Display over Lafayette, Indiana

This year I wanted to try something new for the annual fireworks display between the cities of West Lafayette and Lafayette, Indiana. Last year the fireworks were moved forcing me to find a new spot. This year I wanted to do something different. I had an idea that might work, but I needed to see if I would have a vantage point. I went to a very old photo that I made from the top of the Levee parking garage about four years ago to see. If I could see the Krannert parking garage then I would be in business. I could see the garage so that meant that I would have a shot of the fireworks over the city of Lafayette. I had something in mind, but would it work? Of course when I pulled up to the garage well over an hour before the fireworks it was already pretty crowded. The spot I thought that I ‘found’ was in fact a spot already with several photographers on it. I still set up my tripod to come up with an image.

While I was waiting for the fireworks to start I was making photos of the smaller fireworks all around the scene. Just after dark  pocket of really good fireworks were seen behind the courthouse, and they would be in my photo. I knew that the first couple of bursts from the main fireworks would be my chance for the best photos. I wanted as many bursts in the photos as I could get. The shot above was of the first couple of bursts that lit up the sky. I was able to make the photo that I had in mind right off the bat. That is good as the smoke from previous fireworks would not show up in this photo as it was the first couple of bursts. Now that I have my photo from here I need to think of a new spot next year. Of course that one will probably have several tripods at it as well.

Finally Able to Photograph Some Fireworks

This year I have been able to photograph more fireworks than I normally have been able to. The year started off with the New Year’s Eve display at Disney World. That was all handheld because it was a family trip, but I was still able to make some fireworks shots that I liked. I also shot some fireworks handheld at an Indy Indians game earlier this season. I had a plan to be out across the street in the parking garage waiting for the fireworks, but an extra inning game kept me in the stadium too long. I could only get out there with my camera in time for the display. The last few days were the first days that I was able to get out with my camera and tripod to photograph fireworks this year, and I had a blast doing it. I may have a couple more sessions ahead of me this year. I have a couple more ideas to try.

The Night Sky Lights Up With Fireworks Over Lake Freeman

A couple of nights ago we went up to stay with family on Lake Freeman for the night to watch the fireworks. The weather was not good leading up to the show so we stayed at the house instead of going out onto the lake to watch them. I had an idea before the fireworks started to make a shot where the fireworks filled the sky. Little did I know that the residents of Lake Freeman would do that for me. On the far left of the photo is one of the bursts from the large official lake display. The shot on the far right was part of a grouping of fireworks that I think must have come from one powerful box. The middle display was a single shot mortar. I love it when things turn out right for a picture. I got the shot that I wanted without having to do crazy things.

Setting Up To Get the Shot

A couple of days ago I updated my post on how to shoot fireworks. It was ten tips that make shooting the explosions a little easier. Some things though you have to play by ear. I had a shot lined up the way that I wanted it when the house on the far left of the picture above started shooting their fireworks off. I moved my camera over to compose the shot this way to get all three bursts in the frame. I also changed my camera settings to allow for my shutter to be open longer to make it easier to get multiple bursts in the shot. I wanted it to be open for around 30 seconds, but what I found was that I could wait until all three bursts happened and then close the shutter. This was a fun experiment that helped make a gloomy night when the fireworks were not so great look like it was a great night.

Ten Tips For Making Better Photos of Fireworks

In the past I have made a few posts with some tips for making better photos of fireworks. Over the course of the last few years I have found some things that have made my fireworks pictures better as time goes on. These rules are not iron clad. In fact rule number one is to always use a tripod, and in a couple of the photos featured here I did not have a tripod with me. The photo above showing the fireworks at Disney World was shot hand held. The tips are things though that will help your photos get that extra wow factor. With the 4th of July just a couple of days away this is the perfect time to take a look at shooting fireworks.

1. Use a tripod – This is probably the most important tip on this list. You can get good results without a tripod, but it is very hard to do so. A tripod lets you keep your shutter open longer, and therefore get the long trails of the fireworks. A couple of quick tripod tips here. Always keep your tripod as low as possible. Remember when the fireworks start it will be dark where you are. Keeping your tripod low reduces the fall if it is tripped over. If you are in a crowded area make sure that you are not putting someone in danger with your tripod. Your eyes will be in the sky so get some help here.

2. If your camera has one set it to bulb mode – Setting your camera to bulb mode allows you to control the length of your exposure. You can start the exposure when the mortar is in the air, and end it when you want. This gives you the flexibility to shoot one blast or several. If you do not want to be in bulb mode you need to be in manual mode. Your camera will try and expose for the dark sky blowing the fireworks out.

3. Use a cable release or the self timer to release the shutter – If you are using bulb mode you will want to use a cable release. You will introduce movement into the photo if you try and press the shutter button twice during the exposure. A cable release will allow you to get your hands off of the camera.

4. Use the lowest ISO that you are comfortable with (ISO 100) – Using a low ISO at night will give you a longer shutter speed and also reduce noise.

5. Before it gets completely dark focus on an object very far away and then switch your lens to manual focus (If you have tape you can tape it down here as well so that it doesn’t accidentally get bumped). Your camera will find it hard to find focus in the dark so make sure that you have that taken care of before the sun goes down.

Victory Field

6. While you are there early you can pick out a good spot to photograph the fireworks from. You can always just photograph the fireworks, but the shot may be much better if you have something of interest in the foreground as well. Local buildings or landmarks give your pictures place and scale. In the photo above I wanted to show Victory Field along with the signage outside of the ballpark in the fireworks shot. Continue reading “10 Tips For Better Photos of Fireworks”

Ringing in the New Year With Mickey

In case you have not figured it out over the course of the last few days we spent some of the holiday break at Walt Disney World in Florida. When we first were planning the trip I was not too sure about heading down there during the holidays. It is the busiest week of the year in between Christmas and the new year. We ran into some crowds, but it did not seem as bad as what we experienced in June. The spirit of the holidays really made it a fun time to visit. Our last night in town was New Year’s Eve. We had a blast watching the early fireworks show inside of the Magic Kingdom. I made a few photos of the fireworks, but then stopped to watch how much my family enjoyed them. Here is one of the early fireworks shots that I really liked. The early show was great, but the shows the resorts put on around midnight were amazing. Watching the fireworks from our room near Epcot we could feel every firework, and there were many. The books may say to stay away at this time of year, but I say go for it and go. It is a great experience.

Help Out My Friend Chad

I don’t ask for a lot on this blog. Last year I begged for votes for the MiLB photo of the year. Thankfully you guys came through and helped me win the vote. Usually when I ask for something though it is not about me. One of my childhood friends is going through a tough time. A freak farm accident has left him unable to work, and fighting for his life. A GoFundMe page has been set up for Chad to help defer the large expenses of his treatment and travel during this rough time. You can find that page here. All I ask is that you go to the site and read about the incident. You don’t have to give, but if you could help spread the word that would be great.

My Favorite 15 Cityscapes of 2015

Over the course of the past year it seems as if I have spent more time in cities than out photographing the landscapes. In fact I decided not to even do a “best of” post for my landscapes this year as I was not happy with what I was able to capture. It seems like my travels have taken me into cities this year where I made some very interesting photos. One thing that is really missing is my own town. There are many interesting things in Lafayette/West Lafayette to photograph. When it is right in front of you it is easy to put off going out to make the shot. This year I need to go out and make the shot a little more often locally. As it is though I made some photos that I am very happy to share with you from the past year. Here are my fifteen favorite cityscapes from the past year.

15. I like this photo for all of the reasons that I originally state in the original blog post. It is a little slice of my hometown. The building this is in front of was one that I used to spend quite a bit of time inside. I once thought that I would be the mayor of LaPorte. Now I think that I can make it as a sports photographer. I think it is easier to become a mayor.

14. This is the outside of Music Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio. This was an amazing building that we were inside for two nights of great music last year. I cannot wait to see who they have playing this year for the Music Now Festival. More photos from the two concerts can be found on my concert countdown from a couple of days ago.

13. Here is another shot of my hometown of LaPorte, Indiana. You would be hard pressed to find two more iconic symbols of the city than the courthouse and the indian sculpture. They used to be separated, but now they have been placed together.

12. I absolutely loved Michael Jordan as a kid. I once thought that I could grow up to be like him (the song wasn’t far off). Of course now I am attempting something even more daunting, and that is to become a sports photographer. This was part of an exhibit showing some of the iconic work of Walter Iooss Jr. in front of the Field Museum. I thought that this photo showed Jordan and the city that he helped to six world championships.  Continue reading “Top 15 Cityscapes of 2015”