event photographer Tampa

First Communion Photography at St. Paul Catholic Church Tampa Florida with Juliana

First communion for Juliana at St. Paul Catholic Church in Tampa Florida - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/7.1 ISO 200 1/125th - Strobist: SB-800 in brolly & SB-600 in shoot-through-umbrellaI first photographed Juliana and her family in 2010 for her 7th birthday party.  This past weekend I photographed her first communion at St. Paul Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida.  I have now photographed her and her family a total of four times.  It is always great to work with past clients, and there is no family I have been with longer than Juliana's.  Thankfully, since day one, Juliana has been a natural in front of the camera!  The above shot will for sure be one of my five favorites of 2014.  I heard that Juliana's mom cried when she saw this photo.

I first photographed Juliana at her 7th birthday party, now her first communion - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/7.1 ISO 200 1/125th - Strobist: SB-800 in brolly & SB-600 in shoot-through-umbrellaI met Juliana about an hour before the first communion ceremony would begin.  The church had a great mosaic pavilion in a quiet garden that we used as a background for several portraits.  No one was around and there was no wind, so I had not trouble setting up two speedlights on light stands for making strobist (off camera flash) portraits.

While I was setting up another shot, I saw Juliana lean back with her feet up & said hold that pose! - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/7.1 ISO 200 1/250th - Strobist: SB-800 in brolly & SB-600 in shoot-through-umbrellaJuliana almost needs no instruction when I photograph her as she just naturally has an ability to be creative.  While I was moving the light stands I noticed her sitting back and putting her feet into the air and I thought that looked great.  I said hold that and it turned out to be one of her family's favorite shots of the morning.  I may never have thought of it on my own, so creativity of the person in front of the lens is also very important.

Just before the ceremony starts in St. Paul Catholic Church Tampa Florida first communion photography - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/60th - Strobist: SB-800 in brolly & SB-600 in shoot-through-umbrellaThere was not much time to shoot inside the church itself, so I quickly carried in my lights and tried to frame the best shot I could.  After this solo one of Juliana, a few family members joined her before we got the sign to wrap it up!

Speaking in front of the whole church Juliana was calm and articulate - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/4 ISO 1000 1/100th on monopodDuring the first communion ceremony I was not allowed to use flash or move around at all.  So I sat in a pew on the other side of the church, cranked up the ISO, put my Nikon on a monopod for extra stability (and to absorb the weight during the hour I was sitting) and looked for candid photograph opportunities.  To my surprise the priest asked Juliana to get up in front of the whole church (several hundred people) and give a little talk!  She did not know she would be talking either, but did great.  I was impressed with her answers and articulate responses.

Mother & daughter share a warm embrace after her first communion ceremony in Tampa Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/9 ISO 200 1/250th SB-800 hotshoe mountedAfter the ceremony there was a celebration at a restaurant.  I followed them to the second location where it was time for a few warm embraces and then cake!

Deep in thought on her first communion at St. Paul Catholic Church Tampa Florida - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/7.1 ISO 200 1/125th - Strobist: SB-800 in brolly & SB-600 in shoot-through-umbrellaI always like to make a photograph of someone thinking, especially on important occasions such that 20 years from now when they look at the photo again they may remember what they were thinking, thus giving the photograph extra meaning only to them.

Photographing Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis - what it was like

Secretary Solis is not in this image due to restrictions on usage.

(editor's note:  There are no photographs of Hilda Solis in this post because I have not exactly been granted permission to use them in such a way yet, and may not be.)

Last Friday I received a phone call of a sudden asking if I would be available to photograph U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis on Tuesday.  I said, sure I can do it!  She would be the highest level government official by far that I would have the opportunity to photograph.  The previous high was a city level mayor.

Photography-wise, this would not be a new assignment as I have photographed many of these types of roundtable events before.  The Secretary would be attending two roundtables, one at the Port of Tampa (very cool building surprisingly) and then another at Centro Asturiano in downtown Tampa.  My job was just to photograph her speaking at these events with a focus on images of her with the attendees.  

When I arrived at the Port of Tampa at 11:20am it felt like a different photography gig.  I could feel the anticipation in everyone already on site.  I went through no special security or anything like that, and accepting the job was just a matter of saying, "yes, I will do it," in an e-mail reply.  I was hoping to get some kind of clearance badge or something like that to keep as a souvenir!

The Secretary entered the roundtable room with no fanfare or introduction.  She seemed very happy to meet and greet people on her way to her seat.  Now you might think photographing someone sitting at a table is the easist thing in the world to photograph.  It is not.  People make lots of facial gestures while speaking, only about 10% of which are flattering!  Most of the time if you freeze the look on someone's face while they are talking it will look funny.  So it takes quite a few shots to get one to look proper.  

After the discussion, which I enjoyed, it was time for what the Department of Labor called "grip and grin" shots, where Secretary Solis shakes hands and poses for a photo with the various guests in attendance.  I thought it a very funny term.  

All these repeated at the second location of the day.  Then Secretary Solis was whisked away to the airport for a flight to Ft. Lauderdale for presumably another day of meeting with the public like this.  I think it must be a very good feeling for people to be so happy to meet you and have you them tell you their sincere desires for what they need to improve the local community you happen to be in.  It also must be extremely exhausting to have your attention so sought after day after day.  

I was impressed by how carefully Secretary Solis listened to everyone's issues and concerns.  I saw her and her staff feverishly writing notes and making reminders for follow ups with the appropriate channels.  This was most impressive.  

When Secretary Solis returns to the Tampa Bay area I look forward to the opportunity to photograph her in action again.

Numis Network 2011 Annual Meeting Grand Hyatt Tampa Event Photography

Ray Higdon is the top earner at Numis - f/5.6 ISO 800 1/60th SB-800 @ 1/4 on hotshoe - Tampa event photography

Numis Network is a company that sells coins.  I had never heard of them when they booked me less than a week before their annual meeting at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa.  I was expecting a somber affair with lots of dry talk about the details of the coin industry.  However, in the two days (over 16 hours of photography) I was photographing the event the energy level was more like a rock concert rather than a business event.

Numis reps from all over North America in Grand Hyatt lobby - f/5.6 ISO 400 1/40th SB-800 @ 1/4 power hotshoe mounted - Tampa event photographyI arrived at the Grand Hyatt Tampa on a Friday at 5pm, and luckily there was not yet much traffic over the Howard Franklin Bridge.  There were so many people it was hard to get a shot at crowd level so I used a staircase to get some air and the above wide shot of the gathering crowd of reps from all over North America.  Numis headquarters is in Tampa though. 

Numis Network 2011 annual meeting MC Matt - f/2.8 1/100th ISO 800 SB-800 @ 1/4 power hotshoe mounted - Tampa event photographyMatt, also a Numis executive, MCed the entire event and understandably was getting a little horse in the voice by late Saturday night.  I learned that he has had his mustache for thirty years.  I have had mine for less than half that time.  I also sat at his table for (a brief) dinner break Saturday evening.  

Jake Kevorkian speaking at 2011 Numis Network annual meeting - f/4 ISO 800 1/100th SB-800 @ 1/4 power hotshoe mounted - Grand Hyatt Tampa even photographyThe founders of the company frequently took the stage, largely to thank all the reps for their support and promising that the company is only just going to get bigger and better, as well as introducing some new product lines and vacation bonuses.  The crowd seemed to hang on every word of every speaker and there were frequent shout outs.  

Grand Hyatt Tampa event hall - f/4 ISO 800 1/20th SB-800 @ 1/4 hotshoe mounted - Tampa event photographyTo be able to light up the large hall in the Grand Hyatt housing the event stage I had to use some really slow shutter speeds, like 1/20th of a second in the above shot.  There was not a wall or anything to brace myself against so I had to use my most steady shooting technique and really control my breathing.  At this event I used the slowest shutter speeds yet and was still able to produce satisfyingly sharp enough shots.

Distinguished Numis Annual Meeting Award Winners - f/5.6 ISO 800 1/60th SB-800 @ 1/4 hotshoe mounted - Tampa event photographyThe whole 2-day event ended with a (long) awards ceremony where it seemed like everyone in attendance had a chance to hear their name read out loud and to go up on stage.  In fact, the ceremony ended over one and a half hours late!  Imagine if the OSCARS dared do that!  From the above shot you would also have no idea that by this time I was having to battle with dozens of people with camera phones trying to get shots of the people on stage.  It was not a battle I won.  Even though I was standing on a chair for this shot, it was still hard to make sure no random cell phone holding arm was thrust into frame.  

This event was the first time for me to really use my Black Rapid RS-Sport strap which I will be writing a formal review of with photos soon.  However, I can state that even after 16 hours+ of shooting I felt zero shoulder fatigue hoisting a D300 with an 80-200mm f/2.8 lens and 17-50mm f/2.8 lens also with a SB-800 Speedlight hotshoe mounted.

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