Ravens Inspiration

I decided to rent a wide-angle lens the weekend of the Ravens’ first 2013 home playoff game vs the Colts.  My plan was to find a high vantage point on gameday, where I could capture a nice shot of the stadium, so I could have something to frame on my wall and remember the day by.

That Friday, I stopped off at Service Photo and picked up a Nikkor 17-35mm lens that I had rented for the weekend.  I was lucky to get it, since I had only called in the previous day to reserve it.  Nice pieces of glass like this are rented well in advance.  I was told that it had just come back from Nikon after being repaired.  Apparently the Baltimore city mayor’s office had rented it and dropped it.  I didn’t even ask what the repair cost was since the lens retails for 2K, and the store doesn’t offer insurance when you rent.  One of the drawbacks of renting from Service Photo.  But, it’s a great store and the staff is friendly and helpful, so I take my business there when I can.

Being Purple Friday in Baltimore, I figured I would drive around the city and find something cool to photograph. For the playoffs, Baltimore painted the city in purple lights, with many of the buildings downtown changing out their bulbs for purple ones.  Same thing was done for the Orioles when they went to the playoffs this past season, except the lights were orange.  I really couldn’t find a location that jumped out at me, except for city hall, which was decked out in purple.  But, anyone with a camera was taking that shot, so it was really nothing special.  I also grabbed the token tourist shot from atop historic Federal Hill, which provides a great view of the Baltimore skyline.  That Friday was bitterly cold with a whipping wind on top of the hill, making it tough to keep the camera still on my tripod.  After a few pictures as the sun went down, I was done.  My whole body was frozen and eyes were tearing up from the bitter cold.

Baltimore Skyline

Saturday I went to scope out areas to grab my stadium shot the following day, and to try for another shot at the city in purple lights.  The buildings I wanted to get atop were older industrial ones on the west side, and were closed for the weekend.  It was too late to try and talk to someone about getting on their roof. I then went to my favorite spot in an attempt to get a nice shot of the harbor with the purple reflections coming off the buildings.  Unfortunately I didn’t love what I was coming up with.  There were too many colors being reflected off the water.  But, I liked the composition.  The foreground pier that extended out into the water did not have the usual cargo ship docked, which would have blocked much of the skyline.  I rattled off a few more pictures then went back home.

Lucky for me, I was on a black and white kick and thought I would give the shot that treatment. It worked.  Everything I didn’t like about the color exposures were no longer apparent.  Turning it into a black and white gave it some character. My eyes were drawn away from the crazy colors reflecting off the harbor, and to the foreground pier.  I really liked it.

Inner Harbor Reflections

As it turned out, I didn’t attempt the shot I rented the lens for.  Traffic was going to be a nightmare that Sunday, and I couldn’t find a good spot to take the picture I envisioned. Maybe I was just looking for an excuse to stay home and watch the game on the big screen with some good Maryland beer. As we all know, Baltimore wound up winning the game.  Flacco outplayed media darling Andrew Luck.  No luck involved.

More often than not, the picture I initially envision capturing is the not the one that winds up being my favorite.  A valuable lesson learned.  If things don’t turn out how you plan, keep plugging away.  You never know what can happen.

Good Vibes

Back in 2010, when I was still living in CT, I was lucky enough to attend the Gathering of the Vibes music festival in Bridgeport.  Thanks to Cory Sims and the guys at Bronze Radio Return for hooking me up with a pass to the show.  I had just recently bought a Nikon DSLR, along with a Tamron 70-200 lens, to go along with the kit lens that came with the camera.  I always liked taking pictures with my point-and-shoots, but really had no clue what I was doing with the camera I had just purchased. The plan was for me to take pictures of the band, as they were opening up the weekend festival on the Green Vibes Stage.

Bronze Radio Return's Chris Henderson sings at the 2010 Gathering of the Vibes

Bronze Radio Return’s Chris Henderson sings at the 2010 Gathering of the Vibes

I wound up not liking the pictures I took.  The shots were pretty dull.  I snapped off a few decent ones, but nothing like I had planned on taking.  Bad angles, a lens that didn’t work for the close distance I was shooting at, and not knowing how to deal with bad light or how to work my new camera outside of the automated modes.  But, I had the rest of the weekend to work out the kinks, and learn from my mistakes.

A band that played on the Green Vibes Stage sometime after them, Leroy Justice, started playing as the sun began to break through the clouds.  The good light made up for my shortcomings, as my pictures drastically improved.  The rays made for much better pictures, although at the time, I really didn’t realize its impact. I just knew they were more compelling images.  The rest of the weekend involved watching the other acts, and doing my best to take better shots.

Leroy Justice's Jason Gallagher plays at the 2010 Gathering of the Vibes

Leroy Justice’s Jason Gallagher plays at the 2010 Gathering of the Vibes

If you’ve never been to the Vibes, it’s a great outdoor festival.  You get to meet local artists selling their work, while also listening to good, live music.  I found myself wandering through the crowd by myself a lot, with my camera slung around my arm.  I quickly realized, that when you have a decent camera, with a long lens attached, people think you’re part of the press.  People would stop me, asking me to take their picture and ask who I was shooting for.  That got me in the mindset of taking pictures of people in the crowd, and there was definitely no shortage of unique individuals there.

The last day of the festival focused on reggae acts.  By that time, I had spent a good amount of time taking pictures of the Vibes’ inhabitants.  While standing by the food area, I noticed a unique character walking up to grab some food.  He had come from the area of the main stage.  On his walk back, I approached him and asked if I could take his picture.  He was reluctant at first, saying he really didn’t want to see his mug everywhere.  I assumed he thought I was the press.  I assured him that I was shooting for myself, and just wanted to take his picture because of his unique look that pretty much represented the music that day.  Eventually he agreed, in his Jamaican voice, and stepped away from the woman he was with, letting me snap off a few shots.  I extended my hand and thanked him.  He proceeded back towards the stage area, eventually sitting by the Long Island Sound, with his lady friend.  Don’t know who he was, but my impression was that he was with one of the acts that were there.  Real nice guy.

Rasta Man

As it turned out, the picture of my Jamaican friend wound up being my favorite from the weekend.  Not only because it was a cool shot, but because I had sought it out.  I was lucky to have chosen the right aperture to blur the food stands behind him, while also nailing the focus.  I was pretty stoked to have gotten one really good photo that weekend.  It also made me realize that I like taking pictures of faces. Faces can really tell you a lot about who a person is.

I’ve taken a lot of different types of photography since that day, trying to find my niche.  But I’m always drawn back to my favorite shot from that weekend at the Vibes.  It speaks to me, reminding me that I should be taking pictures of people, whether it be athletes, musicians or just people walking around.  It’s also a reminder that if you’re nice to people, you might just get what you want.  Establishing a good relationship with someone, and being nice, can go a long way.

I’ll always be thankful for having the opportunity to attend the Vibes on a pass from the band, although I feel as though I failed them in getting the pictures they probably wanted. I’m also thankful for the conversations I had with Chris Henderson and Rob Griffith, who convinced me that maybe I should be pursuing a career in photography.  I think back to those conversations regularly.  Hopefully I can return the favor someday with better pictures for them.

While writing this post, I’ve had several tabs open in my browser.  Oddly enough, the last few times I’ve clicked over to my Facebook feed, I’ve seen Vibes-related posts.  One from Harold, who I knew from Hartford, and was there shooting for the venue, an update from the Gathering of the Vibes page, and one from Chris Henderson being tagged in a photo.  Maybe this is a sign that I’m doing the right thing.

I’d post more pictures of my time at the Vibes, but most of them are currently stuck on an external hard drive that I can’t retrieve info from.  Another lesson learned.  Always back your pictures up to different locations, or you’ll be shit out of luck.

Playoff-Bound Blast Clip Wings

Saturday’s game was the second-to-last for Baltimore before heading to the playoffs. They honored both the Army with their camouflage jerseys, and Blast Hall of Fame inductee Tarik Walker.  The game recap can be found here.  http://baltimoreblast.com/news/headlines/index.html?article_id=350



Having a Blast before Super Bowl Sunday

I shot the second of back-to-back games between the Baltimore Blast and Syracuse Silver Knights, the Saturday before the Super Bowl.  The Blast won the previous night 10-8 in overtime.  Saturday’s game was very entertaining, with the Blast prevailing 11-6. The Ravens faithful came out to support their soccer team, as there were many purple jerseys in the crowd.

My favorite shot of the night was of a cheerleader silhouetted by the lights of the Blast sign, that’s used during pregame player introductions.  I was purposely underexposing the scene due to the bright lights of the sign.  I realized there was a nice rim light around her, and underexposed the shot a touch more.

These games are always entertaining to photograph, especially since I’m shooting from inside the penalty box.  I get to hear the players bitch when they’re sent to detention.  I was able to grab a shot of a Silver Knights player arguing with an official after he had received a yellow card.   He wan’t very happy, and I got to hear about it as he waited impatiently in the box.

Super Bowl Champion Ravens

I was lucky enough to attend the Ravens Super Bowl parade in Baltimore.  An expected crowd of 80,000 turned into 200,000.  Needless to say, Charm City was in full-blown Ravens mode.


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