Remember your Hula Hoop! Memorial Day BBQ Photography…

Happy Memorial Day weekend! Remember someone special, consider the serious side of the holiday but one thing you can’t forget when going to the big BBQ is to absolutely make sure you pack along your camera to photograph whatever crazy or cool stuff goes down this weekend, reverent or irreverent, serious or silly. This is a weekend for both silly and serious photographs. Get out in the lovely spring weather and have a blast making pictures!

Fun moments often “just happen” around the BBQ, so take your favorite couple lenses, plenty of memory cards and go with the idea anywhere people gather, picture opportunities are bound to go down. Carrying a camera everywhere has been my eternal life habit so, as a result, at least half of my favorite portfolio images were made…at BBQ’s. Encourage your friends and family to act silly or have fun in front of your camera or nail them in poignant scenarios, as you actually remember all the good folks Memorial Day was meant to honor. In either scenario, consciously consider THIS IS A BIG PORTFOLIO WEEKEND!!!

If you’re heading off for a big event, consider taking along some toys adults can’t resist. (tongue twister: I did not say adult toys…) Like…a hula hoop – or any number of fun toys all those too-stressed, too-serious adults can’t resist! You can’t go wrong with a hula hoop to get adults up off the sofa at a BBQ. If you drop by a toy store on the way to your destination, a quick look around will reveal many fun toys – but don’t forget 2-3 hula hoops! Not much is more fun than watching adults attempt to hula hoop after a couple decades of not having touched one. It seems gravity changes over years and that hoop gets harder and harder to keep a-spinnin….

These fun snapshots were made totally spontaneously at a BBQ last Saturday evening at our good friend Mary’s place. On top of Mary’s fantastic gourmet chef culinary skills, good fortune struck when I noticed a hula hoop at the same time the light was getting interesting, just at last light, so I instigated a competition. (instigater – good keyword for this kind of photography) Fun, spontaneous moments followed and were captured, simply because a camera and a photographer’s attitude was handy. Captured in memory of that particular night when we hula hooped at Mary’s… Btw, in this case “hula hoops” is both literal and a metaphor intended as a reminder, motivation perhaps, to JUST MAKE PICTURES of whatever you see, trusting your gut!

Capture some memories this weekend! Be safe, remember to remember and MAKE LOTS OF PHOTOGRAPHS! (no hula hoops required – shoot whatever gets you going!)

This hula hooping session reminded me of a non-BBQ hula photograph made from the cliffs over the site of the famed “Mavericks” world level big-wave surfing competition where 30-50′ waves make the competition a very big deal in surfing. On this day, though, seas were calm and the beaches were mostly void of people except for this one, lone hula hooper who never stopped hula hooping the entire hour or so we sat and checked out the view… Probably a world class surfer’s way of staying in shape for those monster waves… Hula hooping is a blast but really tough physical exercise IF you can keep it going long enough…

If you take a hula hoop to a BBQ where mixed ages are present you’ll discover the undisputed champions tend to be…9 year old girls…but fun will be had by ALL!

Kimberly Parker | - May 31, 2013 - 4:42 PM

[…] Parker has found her hoop bliss in this great Memorial Day photo by Gary Parker. More shots over here. They live in San Jose, California, […]

Lighting Sermon: Stripped naked – Portraits without pro gear…

What do you do when you’re out with friends, without your “real” camera, and someone says “Hey, this looks like a nice spot for a LinkedIn picture! Will you make a picture of me here?”

Uh…ok but the light stinks and your sweet Canon, Nikon or whichever camera you use for serious photography is back home because you broke your own “always carry a camera” rule – so all you have is your iPhone….

On top of that it’s noon so this picture has to be made using the yuckiest, nastiest, grossest light of the day…. (for photography, at least) But….your friend is serious about actually wanting a portrait in this location so it has to be done with my iPhone YET, as a matter of professional pride, the photograph cannot suck…

During a recent mountain bike ride on a lovely spring day, we ended up at a 1800s-era cemetery, a remote spot that requires climbing a few steep, sweaty hills to get there. The historical cemetery has a visually appealing white picket fence around it – great for graphic appeal and intriguing diminishing lines – yet the midday light my good friend Bernardo wanted to be photographed in was tough. The question was HOW do I make a nice portrait with only a phone – in nasty light???

It would have been nice to have a diffuser or reflector but we were miles from nowhere so I positioned Bernardo in a backlit position, always my method for shooting people in harsh midday light. Backlight creates even light on the subject’s face so it is always far preferable to having people face the midday sun which typically creates nasty, hard shadows. Especially with hard backlit, tho, some sort of reflector to bounce fill light onto the subject’s face is always nice. But I was not on a per se Photo Ride so there was no handy mini-reflector in my CamelBak Hydration pack, a terrific water pack for outdoor sports with nice cargo space for gear.

Perspiring from the ride, I reached into my pocket to grab the sweat-towel I always carry on long rides to clean the sweat off my glasses and ponder the scenario for a moment.

Then it hit me! It was a WHITE towel and, even though terry cloth is not a highly reflective surface, it absolutely did bounce light well enough!!! I could use my sweat-towel as a reflector to help overcome nasty noon light!

I also noticed bright light was directly striking one area of the white picket fence so I positioned my friend near that fence so his face would get a bit of bounced light from it.

I had Gunnar, our 79 year old partner, an amazing athlete, hold the white towel near my subject’s face and, voila, we nailed a decent iPhone picture with our ReflectoTowel/ReflectoFence combination!!! What a thrill!!!! (no expensive gear required…) I love it!!!

This was the first time I’d used a white towel as a reflector but what the heck, it worked fine and the resulting portrait, though created using a cheap camera and a rag as a reflector, looks pretty good on LinkedIn!!!

Moral: When you find yourself in any vaguely similar situation, remember that ANYTHING can be used as a reflector, in a pinch. Your white shirt, a piece of light-colored junk laying in the weeds, a bright wall or any object being struck directly by the sun can serve as a reflector when you find yourself photographically stripped naked, needing to make a portrait when all your fancy camera and lighting gear is back home. Simply position your subject so that reflected light –FREE light – illuminates the subject.

I’ll be conducting a recurring lighting workshop called “Simple Lighting Solutions” starting up soon. Lighting solutions can be store-bought gear or, as in this case, any number of simple methods can be employed. In this workshop we’ll be talking about all kinds of simple methods to bend and manipulate light, from small strobes to, well, sweat towels… Come join us if you feel a need to See the Light a bit more brightly!

malcolm bramwell - May 18, 2013 - 7:33 PM

OK Gary, some of us might figure out that a white towel would be a stand in reflector, but what most of us would not be able to visualize is the pose low down by the bike with the white picket fence as background. Most of us just don’t see the potential picture like you do.