Don CeSar

Baptism Photography at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in St. Pete Beach Florida

Young baby being baptized at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in St. Pete Beach Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/3.2 1/80th ISO 1600This past weekend I photographed a baptism for the first time.  I was referrred to the parents by repeat photography client Vanessa...thank you!  This was also my first time to shoot with significant flash restrictions, which is why you will see in the exif data under some photos ISO 1600.  Fortunately, the windows behind the baptism area were large and facing the noon sun to at least provide back light and some fill light.  I had no idea so much water was used during a baptism as seen in the large pitcher in the photo above!

Proud parents before their baby boy is baptized in St. Pete Beach Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 640 1/60th SB-800 @ 1/4 power hotshoe mountedBefore the actual baptism ceremony there were a few quick minutes I could use flash and photograph the parents with their baby boy.  Baby Oscar was a very good smiler.  

Baptism inside St. John Vianney Catholic Church St. Pete Beach Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 800 1/60th SB-800 @ 1/4 power hotshoe mountedI used significant lens distortion correction in this shot to make the mosaic appear as straight as it really was.  I also decided to split the parents allowing for a more balanced composition to the shot instead of both on one side of the flowers, or even blocking the flowers.

Mom and newly baptized baby at Don Cesar Hotel - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/9 ISO 200 1/250th - Strobist: SB-800 to frame left & SB-600 to frame right rearThe reception for the baptism was at the Don Cesar Hotel where I have photographed many past events.  It was a covered outdoor spot giving us still a peak at the water.  Here I could setup my speedlights on light stands for my preferred strobist style portraits.

Dad and newly baptized baby at Don Cesar Hotel - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/9 ISO 200 1/250th - Strobist: SB-800 to frame left & SB-600 to frame right rearThis is Dad's turn with baby Oscar having fun at the baptism reception at the Don Cesar Resort.  It was a pleasant spring Sunday out on the beach.

Parents in thought during child's baptism in St. Pete Beach - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/3.5 ISO 1600 1/60thI am always pleased when I have the opportunity to make a candid photo like this one showing the subjects in thought reflecting their emotion.  Baby Oscar knew what I was up to though!

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  • First Communion Celebration at Don Cesar St. Petersburg with Isabella

    Isabella dancing at her first communion celebration at the Don Cesar St. Petersburg Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/200th Strobist: SB-800 with diffuser cap @ 1/4 power to frame rightPhotographing Isabella at her First Communion Celebration at the Don Cesar in St. Petersburg, Florida was a lot of fun and allowed me to make what I am sure will be one of my ten best images of the year (above).  Last week it was my pleasure to have two returning clients within a few days of each other.  I really appreciate clients who continue to choose me as their photographer, and from a shooting standpoint, it is great to have that already existing familiarity with the client.  This time, however, instead of just shooting Vanessa during one of her professional flamenco dancing performances (dance 1, dance 2), as mentioned above I was able to photograph her daughter Isabella and the rest of her family as well.

    Isabella (center) and friends with the Don Cesar in the background - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 250 1/200th Strobist: SB-800 with diffuser cap @ 1/4 power to frame leftThe Don Cesar is a great location to shoot at, although at the time of the event (12:30pm to 1:30pm) the midday Florida sunshine was as it always is, harsh and unforgiving to photography.  Further, to keep things simple and quick for the girls in the photo I used only a single speedlight (SB-800) with a diffuser cap on a light stand to make these shots.  Can you spot the ones that were made in direct sunlight and the ones that were made in the shade?

    Isabella showing off the back of her pretty first communion dress, Don Cesar in the background - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/13 ISO 250 1/200th Strobist: SB-800 with diffuser cap @ 1/4 power to frame leftVanessa wanted a photo of the back of Isabella's pretty dress so I tried to make it a kind of model shot by having Isabelle look back at me over her shoulder.  I composed the shot to use the curb as a leading line along with the railing choosing to have more foreground than blue sky background.

    Isabelle twirling her first communion dress at the Don Cesar - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 250 1/200th Strobist: SB-800 with diffuser cap @ 1/4 power to frame leftThe above shot was a rather tricky one to execute, that took quite a few takes, but I am glad we stuck with it and made the photo exactly as I previsualized.  First, Isabelle was standing in complete shade while most of the background was in strong sunlight.  I again used just my single speedlight to put light onto the subject and adjusted my shutter speed to expose the blue sky in the background.  A little Photoshop dodging helped balance out the foreground.  Then it was just a matter of capturing Isabelle spinning exactly centered between the two columns with her dress flowing in a good look.  As I mentioned, a tricky shot, but it turned out better than I thought as Isabelle appears to be still herself while her dress has the appearance of motion creating an unusually dynamic visual.

    First communion dress & veil at the Don Cesar St. Petersburg, Florida - Nikon D300 Nikkor 105mm VR micro @ f/8 ISO 250 1/200th Strobist: SB-800 with diffuser cap @ 1/4 power to frame leftThis photograph is one of my favorite kind to make incorporating a veil in the wind (actually held up by her mom out of frame, shh!) and the subject looking into the distance with a contemplative look.  I asked Isabelle to look to her right and think of her future.  The result is the above image.  This photograph paired with the top image in this post cover a wide range of emotion that I hope Isabelle and Vanessa and the rest of her family will find valuable when they look back at these photos in 10, 20 years from now.  I want Isabelle to wonder what she was thinking at that moment.  I wonder if she will be able to remember . . .  

    Photography Tip - two strobe off-camera-flash setup

    Nikon SB-600 Speedlight on tripod to frame left & Nikon SB-800 Speedlight on light stand to frame rightIt is no secret I am a big fan of strobist photography, which simply put is the use of off-camera-flash.  To me it is the key to great sunset portraits, and really portraits of any kind for that matter.  The photo above (taken on St. Pete Beach, see more here) may look like a big undertaking with a complex setup, but with a little practice and the right gear anyone with a DSLR can be doing it in no time.  That said, here is the gear list I used:

    • Nikon D300 DSLR
    • Tamron XR Di II 17-50mm f/2.8 lens
    • Nikon SB-800 Speedlight (with diffuser cap)
    • Nikon SB-600 Speedlight (with diffuser cap)
    • Yongnuo RF-602 wireless flash trigger and 2 receivers
    • generic light stand with swivel flash bracket umbrella holder
    • basic tripod

    The Yongnuo trigger and receivers only need to be setup once ever, which just involves setting them all to the same channel.  The trigger just attaches right to the DSLR's hotshoe and works automatically.  So that takes care of getting the two strobes to work remotely.

    Setting them up just means screwing them onto the swivel flash bracket on the light stand and the tripod plate.  For positioning, that depends on the angle of composition, the background elements, etc, but mostly I put the light stand at that height above and down onto the subject and the tripod at eye level to the subject in front or to the side.  So that takes care of the physical aspect of the lighting.

    Both strobes need to be setup manually, as the trigger/receivers do not work with any TTL modes.  Put each strobe into its Manual Mode and then select the power, which often is 1/2 power for the strobe on the light stand and 1/4 power for the strobe on the tripod, though of course the power setting is greatly dependent on how much available light there is and the distance the strobe is from the subject.  Sometimes I use much less power.  Now all the lighting is setup.

    All that's left to do is get the settings dialed in on the DSLR.  For the above shot I used: 

    • Manual exposure
    • f/5.6
    • ISO 400
    • 1/60th
    • WB - sunny
    • RAW + JPG mode 

    Again, these settings vary wildly based on available light.  The sun was already set by the time this shot was setup, thus I used a larger aperture than normal (usually f/8 of f/11 for such a shot) and a slower shutter speed and a bit higher ISO (normally I always use the lowest ISO).  I did not want to use any larger aperture than f/5.6 because I wanted to make sure both people were in sharp focus and to be able to get background elements in some detail.  I did not use a slower shutter speed because I know I can handhold 1/60th no problem, but any slower might introduce blur because of my shakiness or the couple's.  Thus, I increased ISO to 400 so I could maintain the aperture and shutter speed limits I wanted to.

    Finished shot edited in Aperture 3, Color Efex Pro 3 and Photoshop CS5

    St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner

    The 2009 award winners.

    This evening I had the pleasure of photographing the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce's annual "Outstanding Business of the year 2009 Awards Dinner."  It was a major opportunity for me to photograph inside one of the premier locations in the city, the Don CeSar Hotel.  There were several challenges in photographing this event.  As is usually the case with indoor awards events, the lighting was not being used anywhere near full power.  I had the added challenge this time of dinner plates being cleared by the wait staff and dessert being brought out while the first awards were being handed out.  I was right in the path of the kitchen doors.  Besides having to concentrate on the timing of the awards handshake, I had to make sure not to backup into someone carrying a mountainous tray of dishes or chocolate cake.

    I was able to meet and have conversations with all the major players in the Chamber organization, including the president and CEO Mr. John Long, a very friendly person with a great, expressive face full of character with the type of personality that makes a photographer's job very easy. 

    I look forward to covering more of the Chamber's future events.

    Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, John Long

    The interior of the Don CeSar.