Thursday, September 24, 2009

Images From Washington DC

I love traveling. It's wonderful going to places I've never been before and experiencing new sights and sounds. Last month I was in San Antonio for work with an insurance company, and I got to see the Alamo for the first time. Last week I was in North Carolina working for a different company, and had a wonderful soul-food dinner in downtown Charlotte.

But I came away with mostly business photos from those trips. Instead, I thought I'd share with you some photographs I took in Washington DC towards the beginning of the summer. Not many people have seen them, and it really was an interesting trip. As always, click on any image to enlarge it-

I was hired to document a business group's legislative trip to DC. I'd been there before, but not like this. I really enjoyed seeing some of the behind the scenes stuff, like the underground passageways that connect many of the official buildings surrounding the Capitol, allowing the senators and congressmen to move quickly from one place to another without fighting traffic.

The group I was following met with everyone they could, both Democratic and Republican. This is Congresswoman Judy Biggert, who was very friendly and engaging considering she had just flown back from an all-female Congressional delegation to Afghanistan, and only had a few hours of sleep before she met with us.

At one point I had an opportunity to get on to the roof of the US Chamber Of Commerce building. It has an amazing view, and many of the news organizations use it when they are reporting from DC because of the perfect backdrop. I also had along my telephoto lens, and captured some images where you can see the four guys dressed all in black on top of the White House with their rifle bags and telescopes. BUT, I suddenly realized that there might be somebody important out there that wouldn't like it if I posted those :) And I'd rather not have the guys in black outfits knock on my door at 3am, ya know?
I was very fortunate to have about 3 hours to myself during one of the mornings. So I used that time to roam around the Capitol, checking out the Smithsonian and many of the highlights. At one point I found myself by the Washington Monument. I decided to amuse myself by trying to photograph it in a way that made it difficult to tell it was the Washington Monument. I put the 15mm fisheye lens on my Canon 5D, and gave myself over to the distortion. I have some interesting ones where it just looks like a giant pyramid. But I like this image as well-
And I kept the 15mm on my camera as I strolled over to the Lincoln Memorial. It's challenging when you photograph something that has already been photographed a million times before.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Day Four- That's a wrap, people!

Ah, Labor Day is here. It's the last day of the Fling, and time to relax a little and have some fun. After a raucous after-party last night, it was good to see so many of the Jaycees up bright & early for the parade. Look how chipper everyone is with their cups of... uh, what I can only assume is orange juice? Or is that Pepto?

We have the biggest Labor Day parade in the state. It's really something to see. My kids usually come home with bags and bags of goodies that are handed out. This year it included candy, toys, shirts, a bag of bread, flags, flyswatters, assorted propaganda... you name it! Of course we have the usual parade fare; bands, politicans, businesses and such.

But there are always a few that make you scratch your head. We use to have the Star Wars appreciation society march in everything. But for the past few years there has been another group with way too much time on their hands:
Yep, they have it all; authentic vehicles, costumes, props... it's the full package.

I went on a number of the rides this year. I don't know why they all have to spin. Enough with the spinning, people! I'm still a little dizzy... I hope that goes away soon. There was one ride that didn't spin. It just went back and forth. I'm sharing this photo of it just so you can laugh with me at the doofus in the middle talking on his cell phone (click to enlarge.)
Dude, you are a teenage boy that is lucky enough to be sitting next to a teenage girl on a carnival ride. Hang up your stupid phone and enjoy that moment. Don't you know that Last Fling is all about enjoying yourself?
It's over. Done. And not a moment too soon. My legs feel like I walked 20 miles this weekend. And according to Lightroom I took 3,864 photos. I think I'll give my cameras a week off. They deserve it.

I don't know how we'll top the success of this one, but I'm sure we'll give it our best shot.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Day Three- Music by Train... we can see the light at the end of the tunnel

Sunday Night- Train. This is the night we've all been looking forward to. It was a sold out show. I'm not sure about the actual number, because every time I spoke with someone else the number kept going up. I first heard 6500 people, then 8,000, then 10,000! So I'm not sure what to believe. All I know is that it was quite a crowd, and it looked amazing from the stage

The band was pretty good, and they get extra points in my book because they actually let us shoot for three (yes, 3!) whole songs. There were twice as many photographers trying to get into the pit area. I do have some admiration for the high school kids who manage to talk their way in by claiming that they're shooting for their school paper. But I tell each of them to please stay out of my way or I will run them the hell over. And bless them, they do.

It's a good thing they stayed out of my way. The lead singer was one of the more active front men I've photographed. He ran back and forth on that stage like his pants were on fire. It was difficult to find that perfect position because he didn't stay in one place for more than a second or two. Luckily I had three whole songs to figure it out.

The sponsor tent was so crowded that I decided to roam around the festival and see what else was going on. I was hanging out with some friends at the other Entertainment stage when I got a phone call. Apparently the Jaycees were going to get some photos with Train right after the show, and the show was about to end. So I hightailed it through the park to the backstage area again- the whole time thinking how glad I was that I brought my flash. I had been cursing the extra weight, but now it was worth the trouble.

The guys in the band were actually pretty decent and friendly. I think we stressed out their manager a bit... but managers are easy to stress out.

But enough about that! Because, the last big night concert was finally over and it was time to kick back and have some fun. My friend Stacy celebrated by demonstrating the techniques that she hopes will win an award at next year's Strongman competition.
And then we blew off some steam like only the Jaycees can do. I'm not sure what that kid's doing there... pretend that he's writing a report, or doing research for some homework assignment.

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Fling- Day Three. Part 1.

Sunday. Today the fling was all about the food; baking contests, eating competitions, etc. It was all quite appropriate since around midnight my stomach made my brain realize that all I'd eaten during Friday and Saturday was bratwurst and beer. I calculated that I'd consumed around 10 brats... and it became quite apparent that I needed to mix up my diet a little.

First up was the apple pie eating competition-

Later there was the macaroni-n-cheese eating. I think we'll have to file this one under 'the agony of defeat'.

Soon after that I met up with a few friends over at the Apple Pie Baking contest. I got to sample a few and the ones I tried were absolutely amazing. Or maybe my body was just happy to have some apples in it. These girls were the servers, and the one they are cutting now was my personal favorite. It had apples, blackberries, and raspberries inside. And that little white bowl had a delicious sauce that was for dribbling over the pie.
These are my friends who had the difficult job of acting as judges. One 12 year old girl took 3 of the 5 prizes.
Now, I am very, very, very lucky to not know who the Wizards of Waverly Place are. But apparently the tween crowd thinks they're amazing, and they flip their collective coconuts whenever a Disney Channel person is around. These girls showed up at 6am to be first in line. I'm not sure of the exact numbers, but I'm guessing that there were around 5 million, trillion, zillion girls in line.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Last Fling - Day Two. Part Two - Jason Aldean

In a matter of minutes my status went from "No pictures!" to "You can take shoot for the first three songs only, but you have to shoot from out in the crowd." Now, the last thing I want to do is take my two cameras and all my gear out in a crowd of drunken suburbanites pretending to be rednecks for an evening (yes, I'm generalizing. There were one or two sober suburbanites.) Still, if that's where I have to be to get the best shot, then that's where I have to be.

As me and two other photographers were moving through the crowd to find the best position, the phone calls started coming in from Jaycees people behind the stage. Luckily one of them convinced Jason Aldean's people to let us be up by the stage for the first song. So we quickly ran up front and settled in again.

The story for me this night was the crowd. The place was packed! I think it was very close to being sold out. And for the most part everyone had a great time.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Last Fling 2009- Day 2. These images are from the earlier part of the day only. I ran back home to download and do some things around the house for awhile. It is nice only living a few blocks from the festival.

Last Fling is chock full o' crazy midwest family entertainment. I thought I'd show you some of the interesting things I've captured so far today. There was the giant tortoise (seen above). But what I would have to say was the most unexpectedly hilarious thing was the baby races, or as the Jaycees dubbed them 'The Diaper Derby."

Parents went absolutely nuts trying to lure their kid from one side of the mat to the other. The jangled keys, dragged their point-and-shoot camera on the ground, yelled, and just about every other thing your can think of to get them moving. One old lady even used her walking cane because (as she kept yelling out), "Here it is! You love Grannies cane! See, that's what he wants!"

And luckily it was sunny and warm because the water balloon dodge ball competition went pretty well too-

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Last Fling 2009- Day 1

Before I even took my first photo, I somehow managed to do something that has never happened to me in over 10 years of photographing events. My beloved 15mm lens managed to fall right off one of the cameras hanging on my shoulder. I can't even imagine the series of events that had to take place for that to happen. Somehow the release button would have to be bumped in such a way that it was pressed in, and the lens rotated in order for it to drop off.

It's dinged up pretty well, and I haven't had the chance to test out it's sharpness. I'm hoping for the best.

But I bravely marched on. Friday night is the easiest night for me. All I was really needed to cover was the bands.

First up was blues legend Lonnie Brooks

The weather was absolutely perfect, and the crowd was really into Brooks

Finally it was time for Robert Cray. There were two things that happened that made it difficult to get a good photograph (besides the usual sketchy concert lighting). First, as was confirmed by a friend that was shooting for another magazine, the stage was about 8 - 10 inches taller than it was last year. It was very difficult to see the whole band and the whole stage from the photographer pit. Secondly, Robert Cray played about halfway back from the front of the stage. I'm glad I'm tall, but I could still really only see him from the waist up. I took a few shots by reaching up and resting the camera on the stage to get a better angle.

The music was good, but to be honest I thought it should have been a little louder. Over in the sponsor tent it was difficult to hear it. I remember really ~feeling~ it the past few years. It wasn't a real rockin' & jumpin' show. BUT, it was the busiest Friday night concert I think we've had for years. I'm guessing that it was a good night as far as the fund raising went.

One last thing- I was happy that unlike Rib Fest this year, at least I was allowed near the stage to get some good images. Robert Cray's management only let me shoot during the first song, but it's better than nothing :)

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

I'm sure I'm like many photographers- I occasionally need inspirational people in my life to help move some of my ideas along. Margaret is one of those people. She was there at some key emotional and creative points in my life. Over the years we created some amazing photographs together. The first one we ever did (you can see here) is still one of my favorites.

Well, she is set to move to Poland soon. But before she leaves we managed to put together a few photo projects just for kicks and to see what we could get out of them.

Margaret was on a women's Rugby team in college. And I had the idea of a rugby girl in an unlikely setting. So that's how we ended up standing in the middle of the LaSalle St canyon in Chicago, trying not to get hit by cars and waiting for a moment when it all came together.

We of course got lots of honks, and many strange looks. One woman driving an SUV actually stopped next to us, rolled down her window and said to Margaret, "Are you OK? Do you need any help?"

As a side note- I'm now the proud owner of a used rugby ball if anyone needs one.

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