Occasional Moments of Brilliance

Photography that is always great, and occasionally brilliant.

Posts tagged ‘photojournalism’

By Candlelight





When I heard that Church of the Resurrection was relocating to what used to be a manufacturing facility, I wondered how a factory could work as my new church home.

Last month I volunteered to photograph the Christmas Eve candlelight service at Church of the Resurrection. Founded in West Chicago in 1954, the church eventually relocated to Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn where they held services for years. Last year they were able to purchase a building just west of downtown Wheaton that was formerly belonged to the Alcoa Corporation. Soon after, I learned that the building was a gem of modernist architecture designed by David Haid who was a student of renowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Once the remodeling was finished, the first services were held on December 8, and I found out that it was indeed possible to transform an old factory into my church home.

I chatted with Trevor the Communication & Media Arts Manager as I loaded memory cards, adjusted lens hoods and watched people file into the sanctuary. The sun had long since gone down before the 7pm start, so I knew to be ready for an evening of high ISO, low light shooting. Typically while shooting events, I try to be as invisible and unobtrusive as possible so that I don’t detract from the moment. There was a constant mix of intensity and type of light as the main house lights rose and fell throughout the service. I wanted to capture the ministry team and the order of worship in addition to reactions from the congregation that genuinely told the story against the background of the modernist interior. I was excited about incorporating the new cast bronze baptismal font, but it was a challenge to get the sort of surface reflection shots that I was hoping for.

Towards the end of the service, a flame was shared one by one to candles held by each member of the congregation. Somewhere in my mind I registered how beautiful it looked as I hustled to get good coverage of the scene. A father shares a moment with his daughter. The look of wonder on a boys face. A prayerful moment. Wide shot of the overall scene. Most of the shots during this part were ISO 1600, and aperture f4. It would’ve been nice to open up further for a more manageable shutter speed, but I didn’t want to lose the depth of field.

Events are one of the few opportunities outside of my personal creative work where I feel like the 10.5mm fisheye lens is appropriate. I used it for a few shots during the middle of the service to show the overall feel of the new building and again at the end to capture the candles.

A Voice Above the Storm






It was easily the windiest day of the season, and definitely the windiest outdoor portrait session I’ve ever had.

The leaves outside were zipping past the window as we sipped coffee and discussed our shot list on that Sunday afternoon. Her eyes kept going to the window, coming back with questions. Was this really going to work? How many shots could we get in this gale before the inevitable downpour?

Katelyn Beaty had contacted me a few days before about getting an updated headshot to coincide with her recent promotion at Christianity Today. Founded by Billy Graham in 1956, Christianity Today is a leading voice of the evangelical movement and seeks to address real world issues from a biblical perspective. In her new role as Managing Editor, Katelyn is called to comment on Biblical issues in print, online and in speaking engagements. She’s excited about this opportunity to be more involved with their eponymous magazine as well as oversee aspects of their web presence including the women’s site Her.meneutics and the This Is Our City project. Katelyn as been applying her writing and editing talents to Christianity Today since shortly after graduating from Calvin College in 2006.

As we finished talking over a shot list, I told her that I thought we could get some good shots before the rain. I hoped that I was right. We ended up in a brick alley that I’d walked past for years thinking it would make a good portrait location. I set up a flash 10ft. high pointed at one wall as she posed on the opposite wall. This gave me a large diffuse light source that picked up a slightly warm cast as it bounced off the bricks. The alley was only 4ft wide and allowed just enough wind through to give a slightly windblown look…until the rain started. Fortunately we had agreed beforehand on an alternate indoor location, which we made it into just as the deluge began.

As the rain pelted against the windows and I set up the lights, we had a brief conversation about trust. A great portrait requires mutual trust. One of the things I enjoy most about photographing people is creating connections and capturing real, honest moments. It can be intimidating to put the responsibility for creating ones distributable visual identity into the hands of someone else. Sometimes you can see in the eyes, or the pose if the model and photographer haven’t made a connection, if they don’t trust each other. The model needs to trust me to portray them in the desired fashion.

Eye contact is vital to communicating and connecting with others. Often in a portrait session, that connection is broken when one end is replaced with a cold, unblinking lens. If there isn’t a good connection they won’t open up and put their true character and personality into the images. Fortunately this wasn’t the case and we had a successful session in spite of wind, rain and alternate locations.

I decided to use a large softbox as main light source, and translucent umbrella as fill. We tried several different poses and had fun arranging a few pieces of vintage furniture to use as props.

We ended up not only dry, but with a series of images that both of us are happy with.

Technology Entertainment Design

When I first entered the auditorium at Grounds for Hope Café for the TEDxNaperville event, it took me back to my first experience with TED. I was living in Seoul and stopped in to see my friend Jeffrey who lived in my building. After chatting for a few minutes he put on Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk about education and the role of creativity in it. I was riveted. When it ended less than 20 minutes later, I hoped it was just a commercial break.

This was my first time attending a TED event, and I was there as a volunteer. As the auditorium began to fill with speakers, musicians, dancers, teachers and learners I quickly jumped in and got involved. I spent most of the afternoon doing backstage production, liaising with the speakers and coordinating with other volunteers. I stayed busy in between presentations, but while they were going on, I was able to focus on all of them, and be inspired by most.

Wes Douglas of Maddock Douglas was scribing visual notes to go along with each. These boards were on display during intermissions as reminders of key points of each message and as kick-starters for conversation.

All in all it was a very cool, inspirational, educational and motivational afternoon and I look forward to being involved next year. Volunteering was a great way to network with speakers, guests and other volunteers. In addition, I was able to use my own presentation and production skills to support this amazing event.

Check out their homepage at www.tedxnaperville.com.