Japanese Mariner Sails to New York

I got the news while in my car driving down to Seattle late yesterday afternoon.  Japanese baseball icon Ichiro Suzuki  who played for the Seattle Mariners had been traded.  To the Yankees.  Really?  Those were the very two teams that I was headed off to watch that evening, the opening game for the New York team’s  three-day visit to the Emerald City, the only appearance they’d make here this season.  And I had a ticket to go.  The question was, which uniform would Ichiro be wearing that night?  The blue, green and gray of the home team, or the famous pin-stripes of the boys from the Big Apple?

Whichever it would be, one thing was for certain–this was to be a historic game in Mariner and maybe baseball history.  While the trade would be considered good for the struggling Mariner’s that have been saddled with Ichiro’s hefty salary, the fans would surely miss this big hitter who had become so beloved in this Northwest city.  And Ichiro, while moving to a team where he might still have a shot at the World Series, undoubtedly had to be a bit sad about switching allegiances even though he’d be joining, as my friend Gil quickly pointed out, seven other former Mariner players who are now on the Yankee roster.

A Yankee fan in the Mariner’s stadium ready for the big game.

I was having a hard time visualizing Ichiro in a Yankee uniform. Would he become–#31–just another number in the team roster?  And what about all those great Mariners’ television commercials showing the slugger had a sense of humor.

Even though I’ve been a life-long Yankee fan, thanks to my Uncle Joe, I haven’t followed the team that closely in recent years, except when they visit Seattle or play in the World Series.  Aside from A-Rod and Jeter, I’d have a hard time giving you the names of many, if any, of the other current players.  My memories of the team came when the likes of Mantle, Maris, Richardson, Boyer and Berra were in the line-up.   But now I’d have Ichiro.  That’s a hard one to forget.

Now I’d have the memory of getting to see either Ichiro’s last game as a Mariner or his debut as a Yankee.  What was going to be just my one game a season outing, had taken on greater significance.  I was glad I had brought along my trusty point-and-shoot camera (my pro camera wouldn’t be allowed in the park).  Maybe I’d get a few shots for the scrapbook.  I had photographed him during a spring training game in Phoenix.  Little did I know then that it would be his last there.

Ichiro, Yankee #31, steps up to the plate for the first time for the team as Mariner’s fans give him a standing ovation.

At the ballpark,both Mariner and Yankee fans of whom there seemed to be an equal number, were talking about the trade.  There was a certain suspense in the early evening air as everyone awaited to learn  for which of the two teams Ichiro would be playing.  The answer came when the announcer read the evening’s line-up for the visiting Yankees.  “Ichiro Suzuki, in left field,” boomed the voice.  He would be a Yankee starting tonight.

Then, in the third inning, he stepped up to the plate.  The crowd clapped and cheered, rising to its feet to salute a superstar player and bid him farewell.  In return, Ichiro stepped away from the batter’s box, took off his helmet and bowed, twice, to the fans.  It was a special moment when fans and player showed together to express the mutual respect both held for one another and the tradition of the game.  And I was lucky enough to be there.

So long #51.  Welcome to the Yankees!





On Location in the City of Subdued Excitement

I did a walkabout of sorts this morning around downtown Bellingham, known locally as the “city of subdued excitement.”   I used the time to scout out some new ideas for senior portrait location sessions.

There’s no shortage of great spots for staging a photo session in Bellingham  and its surrounding area.  We have plenty of historic buildings, contemporary new ones, parks, shores and countryside to use as backdrops for a memorable portrait.  But I like to find places where my subject will be comfortable and at ease and not the center of attention for passersby who like to stop and watch us work.  After all, most of my clients aren’t professional models who are accustomed to these distractions.

The spot featuring these local landmark industrial structures was jointly chosen by Sarah and myself for her senior portrait. The timing couldn’t have been better as the train came by to add even more local color to the image.

Sometimes the suggestion comes from  the client.  Often it’s a result of our collaboration.  Sarah, for instance, featured in this image, originally asked to go to a popular local pedestrian bridge for her senior portrait session.  When I asked why, I learned that she wanted a place with Bellingham in the background.  Although the view from the bridge is great, it’s not so great for a portrait because the city and bay are so far in the distance you’d never know it’s Bellingham.  Instead, we came up with this spot featuring a local landmark  structure. There’s no mistaking where she lives.

Working as a journalist in Los Angeles, I got to roam  all over the place and came to know that city better than many who had lived there their entire lives.  It’s a little like that for me now in Bellingham  as a photographer.  Every year, I’m challenged to come up with somewhere I haven’t used before for a portrait setting. Over the years I’ve gotten to know about places that you may have overlooked during your daily life.  And a few very familiar ones as well.

For me, part of the fun of shooting on location is going to new places.  As long as I can get my gear in there without having to bring in a pack mule it’s not out of the question.  (If you can provide one I’d consider it.)  Many times, it’s just a matter of knowing how to make a setting look like somewhere else.  Toronto is frequently substituted in films for New York, for example; Pasadena or Vancouver for a Midwestern town.  If you know what you’re doing, places can look like something they’re actually not in this, the City of Subdued Excitement.

Bellingham’s Music Festival

The Bellingham Festival of Music opened this weekend in Bellingham with a concert featuring pianist Jeremy Denk performing a Mozart Piano Concerto.  This evening, the second in the two-week series of performances takes place with the renown violinist, Joshua Bell, soloing in Samuel Barber’s  Violin Concerto, Op. 14.  To have two concert artists of this caliber playing nearly back to back in a city the size of Bellingham is one of the reasons the Bellingham Festival is so incredible.

The Festival, now in its 19th season, is, in fact one of the reasons that my husband and I chose Bellingham when we decided to relocate from Los Angeles.  Bellingham has many amazing amenities and for us, the Festival was one of the most amazing.  Each year, musicians occupying prinicipal chairs from major orchestras around the country–including former New York Philharmonic prinicpal oboist Joseph Robinson– come to Bellingham to be part of the Festival’s orchestra led by conductor Michael Palmer.

Festival conductor Michael Palmer and guest Michael Yip on board the Fourth of July cruise of Bellingham Bay.
Festival conductor Michael Palmer, in they.

And, each year, maestro Palmer does an astounding  job of bringing these players together with a short amount of rehearsal time to become one of America’s finest festival orchestras.  To top it off, world-class soloists, such as Bell and Denk this year, and pianists Garrick Ohlssen and  Horacio Gutierrez, violinist Stefan Jackiw and vocalists Heidi Murphy-Grant, Josie Perez and  Katie Van Kooten, appear with the orchestra as guest artists.     The Festival is a summer treat for Bellinghamsters and visitors alike who, over the years, have made it part of their summer schedule.  My husband and I are among them.  Many of the concerts take place at Western Washington University’s Performing Arts Center, just a short walk from my studio.  On more than one occasion, when sitting in the audience, I have to remind myself that I’m in Bellingham listening to this outstanding music and not in a concert hall in Seattle or New York or Los Angeles.Consequently, I try to support the Festival however I can.  This year, I was among many donors to its annual fund-raising auction.  I gladly gave a family group portrait as part of the evening’s offerings.    And I was lucky enough to join other Festival supporters and musicians for a Fourth of July cruise in Bellingham Bay, courtesy of two other auction donors, Carol and Bob Snowball.  The Snowballs hosted 18 of us on their beautiful boat.  With clear skies, calm waters and warm temperatures, the conditions, and the company couldn’t have been more perfect.

The Van Horns purchased my family portrait auction donation for a group portrait of their family, including one of themselves with their daughter and dog at their Bellingham home.

Like myself and the Snowballs, the Festival brings terrific music to our doorstep and we are grateful for it.

You can learn more about the Bellingham Festival of Music at its website:  www.bellinghamfestival.org.  Hope to see you at  a concert!

Shooting Fireworks

It’s inevitable.  Every Fourth of July I see someone watching the big fireworks display pull out their point and shoot camera from their pocket or purse, aim it skyward and fire, hoping to capture the pyrotechnic  pageant.  More often than not, they are disappointed with the results.   I’m here to tell you how not to let that happen that to you should you decide that you simply must record the spectacle visually.

First off, turn off that flash!  Can’t tell you how many people don’t and what they end up with is a lovely view of the person’s head sitting in front of them.

Secondly, dial-up the ISO setting on your camera if it has that ability.  The higher the ISO the better chance you have at capturing the explosions as they appear rather than as big blurs that aren’t quite identifiable in the night sky.  A higher ISO will allow you to shoot the fireworks at higher F-stop and shutter speeds but know that the higher the ISO, the more “grain” you’ll get in the final image.

The fireworks display over the Hudson River in NYC was a brilliant spectacle of light. I had the perfect vantage point from my cousin’s apartment balcony!

Of course, results will also depend upon the type of camera you’re using.  Some new digital point and shoot cameras have incredible resolutions (not always related to the number of pixels it can capture) and will produce amazing results regardless.

If you’re using a single lens reflex, and you’re not a steady at hand-holding your camera with a telephoto lens, then use a tripod.  And a shutter release cable.   Years of shooting weddings requiring existing light exposures gave me the ability to get pretty good hand-held results when shooting at speeds as slow as 1/15th of a second (used to be able to do a passable job at 1/8th) but those images would never meet publication-quality standards without a tripod.

In fact, the two images I’ve posted here were made without the use of a tripod although I most likely braced my camera on a railing or something else solid that was handy.   One was made a couple of years ago of the display over Bellingham Bay while sitting at a nearby outdoor restaurant.  The other was made last year from my cousin’s apartment balcony of the incredible fireworks spectacle over the Hudson River in NYC.   It was just too good an opportunity to pass up even though I didn’t have a tripod with me.

Slower shutter speeds will yield the motion of the exploding fireworks as they drift downward.  That can be a pretty dramatic effect in the final image.  I personally like that look because it makes the fireworks look more like fireworks and not just some strange constellation.

My seat at the outdoor restaurant gave me a great view of my city’s annual fireworks extravaganza and provided good framing for a image of the giant bursts.

Also, frame your shot with something in the foreground if you can, but not with the back of someone’s head.  I say that, but if  a couple is sitting in front of you, for instance, you could back off your shot to include their full bodies with the fireworks appearing in the sky above them.  Might look good.

In my shots here, I used a lamppost and the point from where the fireworks were ignited in the Bellingham view and the NYC skyline (what could be more perfect?) for the other.    That will give your image some perspective and context and be much better than just simply dots of light against a black background.These are just  simple tips to help you get better results of this year’s big bang!  Let me know how it works out.