Garrett Atkins – Pitching In By Giving Back

The days are getting longer and warmer. Winter is creeping away. It is time to start thinking about Baseball. Spring training is a couple of weeks away and while most major league players were heading to Arizona, Garrett Atkins came to Irvine.  

Garrett Atkins in PSA

Garrett Atkins for the Irvine Public Schools Foundation

A product of the local school system, Atkins, was asked to star in a Public Service Announcement that is trying to raise money for the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, a nonprofit group fighting to maintain the norm in this sinking economy. It was not the first time he had helped out his old high school and probably won’t be the last. He has donated baseballs, bats, shoes as well as his time. He bought a home near his old school so his kids can play on the same field.  

I was asked to produce some photography for this project by some friends in the P.R. business that I have not worked with in a while, Kathleen Freed and Bill Rams.   I had the pleasure of working with Kathleen when she was with the Irvine Company and hope to work with her again now that she is a Principal with Cornerstone Communications http://www.cornerstonepr.com/ .  I worked with Bill Rams when he was a writer at the Orange County Register and again when he took his skills to the Irvine Company. He now has his own P.R. Firm, Rams Communications http://ramscommunications.com/ .

Garrett Atkins pitching to little leaguer

Garrett Atkins pitching to little leaguer

In these days of economic general malaise and foreboding it was uplifting to see a Major Leaguer giving back and old friends not only surviving these days, but working hard and prospering. Good examples in trying times.  

Now if the Angels could get a good left-handed reliever…………

Fear and Loathing in a R44

A friend of mine has been awarded a contract to photograph a construction project. They want in-progress photos from the ground as well as photos from a thousand feet up. This naturally involves the use of a helicopter. He goes up about once a month and last week said there was room for me if wanted to take a ride. In fact the helicopter could hold 4 people and I could invite my wife along also. Cool!

It was a beautiful day when we arrived at the heliport. Warm for late winter and not a cloud in the sky. I was impressed with the first ‘copter I saw, a giant Huey, I was told that we would be in “something smaller”.

Although an R44 is not the smallest helicopter I have been in, it was not exactly roomy either. About the size an old VW bug, maybe smaller. Sure it could fit four people but it was obvious there would be no drinks or meal service on this flight.

We went over some safety issues on the ground first. Like if you are able to walk away from a crash, go to the front of helicopter and not back into the rotor. And since I would be sitting in the front, if needed, I would be in charge of the fire extinguisher. Like everything, it was a very small fire extinguisher. 

Aerial Photography

Laguna Beach from the air

They pilot seemed very capable and assuring, even as he was removing the doors. Of course you can’t photograph with the doors on. I knew that. But it was a little unnerving at how quickly parts snapped on and off this thing.

So we pile in and take off. Although I had a seatbelt on (only one!) I still wanted something to hold onto. Grabbing the stick in front of me or the pilot’s shoulder was not an option. I think the pilot sensed some apprehension from me and asked if I was having fun. I am sure the last thing he needed was a passenger going into freak out mode.

We circled this construction site a few times and the work part was done. Since there was time left on the meter we cruised over to the ocean and flew down the coast. This was fun again. I figured I probably wasn’t going to fall out, and it was very likely there would be no need for the fire extinguisher.

I remembered I had brought a camera (of course) and made a few nice snaps of the multi- million dollar views. My wife saw some dolphins playing below. Life was good.

Photographing in the Snow

Andy Templeton Photographer

Andy Templeton Photographing at Bear Mountain

I love snow. It is cold and wet and fun to slide on. Cameras don’t like snow. It is cold and wet and not so much fun when they go sliding on it. Lenses get fogged up in the cold. Batteries don’t last long. It’s nearly impossible to change your ASA while wearing mittens. Getting a good exposure photographing on snow can also be a challenge. Bright snow, blue skies, sun – no problem you’d think. Actually yes, problem.

This is where a light meter comes in handy. It is a small hand held device that measures the amount of light falling on a subject. Most people don’t bother with them. To a professional it is invaluable when shooting in high contrast situations. Most amateurs just put the camera on automatic and hope for the best. What they don’t know is that a camera, even today’s high-end digital, sees everything as 18% gray. Snow is no where 18% gray. Photographing on automatic makes everything, the snow, the skier, the trees, everything underexposed. Not good enough for anybody’s photo album.

Monoskiing at USARC

Monoskiing at USARC

I was reminded of these fun facts last week when photographing Mono Skiers at Big Bear practicing for the upcoming Paralympics. The Paralympics follow the regular Olympics by two weeks in Vancouver this year. Enjoy the games on TV. Cheer on Team USA. Buy a light meter (and use it). If you can find the Paralympics on cable somewhere check them out also. The athletes are truly world class and wheelchair curling has got to rock!

Professional Bowling Really is Professional

Not everyone takes bowling seriously. Kind of like Curling in the upcoming Winter Olympics. Remember the movie Kingpin?  Anyone can go to the local lanes rent a pair two tone shoes and toss a ball at the pins. Might even get a strike once and a while. You are encouraged to drink beer, or maybe White Russians. “The Dude”

Mike Fagen at Dick Weber Open

Pro Bowler Mike Fagan

Last Sunday the Pro Bowling Association held the Dick Weber Open at Fountain Bowl, in Fountain Valley, and as in the past they asked me to be their photographer for the event. Some of the best bowlers in the world came to compete. Mike Fagan picked up his first individual tour title and a check for  $25,000 beating Walter Ray Williams Jr. in the finals. Pete Weber, Bill O’Neill, and Ryan Shafer also competed.

It was very professional. ESPN was covering the action from with at least 5 cameras. I rented a 200 mm 1.8 lens that I would love to own but truly only need once every blue moon.  It made for some nice actions photos in a not all that bright bowling alley even with the TV lights. Oh, and the sound of a camera firing off during a bowlers backswing in a no-no. A young lady from a local newspaper did so and was admonished for it live on TV. Flash, forget about it.

Mike Fagen wins Dick Weber Open

Mike Fagan wins Dick Weber Open

I admit that photographing this sport is fun. There is not a football size stadium full of fans to negotiate. I did not have to walk 18 holes lugging 50 pounds of equipment. The chances of getting hit by a foul (bowling) ball were minimal. All the action is predictable and happens in a small designated area. For the most part I was sitting in a chair.

Most of all it is always a pleasure to be front row photographing athletes competing at the top of their game, no mater what the sport.

Going pro on the snow

Ok so this post is really not about photography, but life is more than work.

Andy Templeton with a Biskier

For the past several years I have been a volunteer at United States Adaptive Recreation Center (USARC) in Big Bear. I show people how to enjoy the sport of skiing using equipment available for those with physical disabilities.

Volunteering allows me to give back to the sport and gets me out of the city and up to the cleaner air of the San Bernardino Mountains where I have been skiing since high school. Now I am turning Pro. This year I am going through a series clinics and taking the exams – that should I pass – will qualify me to achieve the rank of Professional Ski Instructors of America, Level I Adaptive.

Why do this? It is not for the money. I will still be a volunteer at USARC. It is not for the chicks. I am ecstatically married to the most wonderful woman in the world. It is not for the glory. Level I Adaptive is kind of like being a private in the army. I get a nice little pin for my vest. Basically, I have been talking about it for years and have convinced my ski buddy Matt, who introduced me to the program, that he should do it also. Now there is no going back. I will post again in April if I pass the test. Until then look for me on the slopes. I will be the guy trying in vain to keep up with the paraplegic that is kicking my butt down every run.

Next week, who said Pro Bowling is not a sport.

Lighting, Learning from the Masters

Lighting does not just happen. It has to be wielded like a paintbrush onto the canvas that is a photograph.

Bambeck portrait by Rembrandt

Consider the paintings by the Dutch Master Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669). His portraits are today some of the most prized paintings ever produced. Studying his work you would have to argue that it was not the subjects that he painted, most often the common person of the time, but rather the technique that he used in portraying them.

I am far from suggesting that any photographer I know, including myself, should be compared to Rembrandt, but there are some similarities in approach.

Executive Portrait

Executive Portrait

One of the first things I was taught when learning the techniques of photography was “Rembrandt Lighting” or “Chiaroscuro” which is simply lighting a person so that there is a bit of shadow on one side of their face creating the effect of depth and softness. Look for it in when viewing well done portraits and fashion magazines.

With the ease of digital photography anyone can “take a picture” these days. It is the knowledge of the use of light that makes a photographer an artist.

Living Dangerously in Irvine, California.

If you are not from around here you might not know Irvine has the reputation of being a very safe, well planned, kind of boring city in safe, boring Orange County. Families live here. Their children have blond hair. Their dogs are Golden Retrievers.  I was there last week and I was nervous.

Craig Montelih, FBI Informant

 I had an assignment to photograph a man Craig Monteilh. A man who claims to have been working undercover for the FBI, and he was talking about it.  Cue up “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” by The Hollies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CP9-6fjSg88

 He preferred we meet in a park, not his house. He could not give up all his secrets. I wish I could tell you it was midnight and foggy but no it more like noon and very sunny. Birds were chirping. Squirrels were squirreling.

Craig Montheil, Undercover

 He was wearing a trench coat and dark glasses. I was wearing Dockers and maybe a shirt by Tommy Bahama. We met under a tree near a bridge. He kept look around like he was expecting someone else to show up invited or not.

 As you know I really enjoy photographing people and using light to make them stand out in the photos. I was thinking this might be fun after all.

 We started out photographing in a stand of trees. They were good but I knew I could do better. I suggested we try some shots in the shadow and light of a pedestrian tunnel not far off. As we walked there I asked if he had any reason to worry about going public with his clandestine past. He just smiled.

Craig Monteilh

I was right about the tunnel. I used an off camera strobe and made some fun images. As we parted I shook his hand and thanked him for his time. I wished him luck in the future and drove home thinking I might enjoy a martini that night. Shaken, not stirred.