Comerica Park and a life-long love of baseball

When I add more words and more words to this blog, as I have shown so far, I will mostly be chatting about photography.

And, for good reason.

I love taking photos! I love talking about it, studying it, giving advice to other photographers and getting advice in return. Therefore, I enjoy blogging all things camera, lens and shooting.

However, as we all do, I also have other interests in my life and from time to time I will take up this space to talk about those interests with a few photos added to the mix as well.

One of those interests is baseball.

Like many a young boy growing up in small-town America, I loved playing baseball.

I still remember as a kid on my family farm in Montana, I would impatiently wait all evening staring out the window hoping for my father to come home early enough to beat the encroaching darkness just to play catch and hit around baseballs.

When he made it home in time, I was exhilarated and when he didn’t, I was crushed.

I’ve been hooked on baseball ever since.

Growing up in Montana, I lived nowhere near a Major League Baseball team and therefore I didn’t attend my first Major League baseball game until I was a sophomore in high school when I visited the old Yankee Stadium in New York.

I didn’t attend my second MLB game for another 10 years when I moved to Milwaukee and visited Miller Park, home of the Brewers.

Now, I make it to games as often as I can and with the increased proximity to a variety of MLB stadiums, this year I decided to commit to the audacious life bucket list goal of visiting all 30 MLB stadiums in my lifetime.

Over Labor Day Weekend, I notched my fifth stadium when I visited my cousin, Nick, and his wife, Michelle, and newborn baby girl, Aurora, in Detroit.

I hadn’t been to Detroit since I was young, before the recession, so I was very curious about the city and barely thought of the game until I walked into the gates.

Large Tiger statue at the front gates.

Large Tiger statue at the front gates.

The outside of the stadium wasn’t all that impressive as there were just a few small parking lots leading up to the stadium and we took an angle that took us through construction, so the surrounding neighborhood left something to be desired as far as fan gatherings or Tiger-themed party areas.

However, the stadium itself was fantastic and it gave the visitors a fan-friendly experience made for the fan and not for money or just an assembly-line production of moving thousands of people from the gates to the seats and then out the gates.

Me posing quite well, in front of Comerica Park.

Me posing quite well, in front of Comerica Park.

I took my picture in front of the giant Tiger at the main gates and in front of the Ty Cobb statue copying his sliding into base pose, as I made my way around the entire stadium.

merged photo

The causeways leading around the seats were all fantastic. You barely felt like you started walking away from your seats before you reached multiple vendors for food and drink. They also had a great open-air food court with a baseball-themed ferris wheel. And, it all was made in an old-timer baseball approach that a baseball lover like me thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated.

The entrance to the fun outdoor hangout spot inside the park.

The entrance to the fun outdoor hangout spot inside the park.

As for the view from the seats, the field was closer to average than spectacular, but we did really feel like we were on top of the action.

The in-game atmosphere was uninspiring with the crowd being less than enthused. But, this may have been more to do with the 85 degree heat in humidity than anything else, so I have to give the crowd a pass.

As for the game itself, the Tigers won after surviving a bases-loaded jam in the 9th inning and ended on a force out, which was challenged by replay. You don’t have a better ending to a baseball game, so that happy coincidence was also an exciting plus.

Panoramic photo with my cousin Nick.

Panoramic photo with my cousin Nick.

In totality, I almost enjoyed everything as much as Wrigley Field as my favorite stadium, but for completely opposite reasons. Wrigley had the best atmosphere and in-game experience, but weaker facilities and attractions, while the Tigers stadium was perfectly opposite in it’s strengths and weaknesses.

Comerica Park

Stadium: 10/10
Food/Drink: 7/10
Seats/Game Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall Rating: 8/10

(All photos were taken with my Iphone, so please forgive the quality)

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Building a Ring Light for Portrait Photography

Here is a full-blown confession of mine. Photography isn’t just what I do when I strap a camera around my neck and snap away at fascinating people and awe-inspiring scenes.

Yes I do that in plenty as I work as a wedding photographer, portrait photographer and senior photographer for Milwaukee and all of southeastern Wisconsin.

However, I do also find myself from time to time being just a plain nerd about photography. When I’m not shooting or editing photos I also like just reading up on photography, what’s new in the industry, new gear I haven’t heard of or used and different photography techniques and methods to get better or just more interesting shots.

I love it and therefore I watch plenty of videos on YouTube.

As such I see my fair share of Do It Yourself photography projects, ways to save money but making devices that can give you a lot of interesting and intriguing effects popping out of your photos.

The latest project was a ring light.

Basically the principal of a ring light is that it creates a main light source which illuminates and shines in a square pattern. Portrait Photographers use this to create a beautiful circle of light in a model’s eyes, reflecting in the pupil and back at the camera.

I have never heard of this technique before and hadn’t paid attention to certain portraits to catch the fact that this circle kept showing up, but once I saw the tutorial I was intrigued enough to try the method.

As far as DIY projects go, this was relatively quick and cheap.

Other than the normal items you have around the house all I needed was four sheets of foam board, binder clips and a plastic table cloth.

For the items around the house, I needed a knife, tin foil, duct tape a yardstick or ruler or just something straight and scissors.

Now, for the building.

First you take the foam board and score it into three long sections and bend it so it forms a u-shape. Repeat this with all four foam boards and then duct tape them into a square with the hole in the u-shape pointing in the same direction. Cut out a squared section in the ends of the boards so the u-shape has a continuous opening or as I thought of it so a mouse could complete the maze if the boards were laying down.

Once done, fill the u-shape with tin foil you first crumpled then smoothed out again (this makes it more shiny and therefore more reflective for light).

I duct-taped some of the ends down, so it would stay more flat.

The final part of the project was making the diffuser.

Lay the plastic table cloth over top the foam boards and cut out a model of the ring light leaving a 1-inch extra layer around the outside of the plastic.

Then stand up the foam boards and put a flash on the bottom corner and then another atop the opposite corner.

I use remote triggers on my flashes, but others may have different methods.

Once I set my flashes I clip the plastic table cloth using the binder clips in place over the ring light to act as a diffuser.

I then stand on the non-hole side and shoot through the hole in the middle of the flash at my subject on the other side, using the remote atop my camera to fire the flashes.

It then creates a perfect square in the eyes of my model. It’s easy and it’s a cool effect. As a bonus it casts even light on my subject giving them a flattering look, which works great for portraits.

For those of you, that want to see the source of where I found the instructions. Here it is on petapixel. I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed making.

Here are a couple portraits I got using this at my home in Milwaukee.

Mina dutifully posing for the ring light effect.

Mina dutifully posing for the ring light effect.

Mina enjoying the model life.

Mina enjoying the model life.

A close up of Mina's eyes, which shows the reflection of a square beam of light.

A close up of Mina’s eyes, which shows the reflection of a square beam of light.

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Working a scene

If you ever happen to stumble upon a professional photographer on a job, they’re usually in constant motion.

They might be standing on a chair or laying on the ground or might be constantly moving closer and further away from their subject.

It’s working a scene, something I always think of when I’m photographing a certain subject.

This is especially true when I’m photographing which seems simple or something that I think could turn out to be truly special.

Did I try every type of shot I could think?

Did I discover every angle?

Am I finding the right moment?

These are just some of the questions, which help me work the scene.

It makes me try a wide-angle shot of the entire environment and then forces me to move up and isolate a tiny subject with a closeup.

I try everything, because many times you don’t know fully how a shot is going to appear until it’s on your computer screen and although experience helps you discover the most dynamic shot earlier in the game – it’s always better to have the shot in your camera then to not have it at all.

I played out this exact thought-process at the last wedding I photographed.

Usually I’m taking pictures in Milwaukee, but for this wedding I got to travel a little bit and see some of the beautiful more-remote locations of Wisconsin.

The ceremony started in the country church the couple grew up with in Beloit and then everything moved to this beautiful lake-side location in Janesville for the reception. The reception location was Camp Rotamer and it bordered Spauldings Pond (just a bit of specifics, in case anyone ever wanted to see it for themselves or book it as a venue).

With the setting sun and the colors flying off the water, this setup was a dream for even a novice-hobby photographer.

As the day grew old, the couple and I made our way out on to a deck, which T’d off into the water.

I have to shout-out to the bride for being willing to hike up her dress enough to brave a somewhat-rickety gangplank connecting the main deck with the shore.

Once we were out on there, I knew this was something special and I wanted to make sure I got it right.

Since the whole environment was beautiful and perfect, I started the shoot with my wide-angle, capturing the couple, the deck, the pond and the dark blue sky.

I got lower to get more sky, which simultaneously cleans up the background, and this has been something that is usually a go-to move of mine.

I get lower and it makes the subject seem more powerful and dynamic. It works great to get more sky in the picture as well (a wise move, considering my name is Big Sky Photo).

However, it can also be unflattering and as is quite obvious, people at weddings want to look good!

So what do you do?

Pictures are best when you have a clean, simple background.

That’s why I usually get lower than my subject and never shoot straight on, but it works just as well getting higher.

This is perfect for weddings, because a shot taken from above is also the most flattering. Millions of selfie takers know this very well.

I then moved closer and above, framing them in the deck with just the water visible.

With a quick look through my shots, I realized things were looking really good, so I moved around them and then moved them to the edge of the deck.

I then took my favorite shot of the whole night, by holding the camera above my head and getting the couple kissing with only the water ringed by a tree-filled shoreline in the rest of the frame.

When you work a scene, sometimes your best shot is the first, but as I already mentioned sometimes that that last creative juice you threw at a situation really pays off.

I think it paid off here, but I’ll let you judge for yourself.

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Posted in Big Sky Photography

Walking down the aisle

I’ve always heard you don’t remember much you learn in college. You forget much of what your professors say and what was written in those oh-so-expensive books you buy every semester. However, I still remember one story my photojournalism professor told us when he was explaining sports photography.

He was talking of one of the all-time best sports photographers and how he would sit on the street and practice tracking cars with his lens, keeping them in focus as they drove closer and further away. He would do this over and over again for hours on end. 

“Yeah, not fun,” is what my professor said.

“But, that’s what it takes to be the best.”

Well, that stuck with me as I started my photojournalism career and I was zealous in my manual focusing for the first two years.

No matter, if it was basketball, softball or football, I would manually focus.

Sometimes, I would be right on track and get great shots, but I would also miss and there would be many between shots where my focus was just a little bit off and I would miss a key moment.

In my third year on the job, I then learned a very critical piece of information from another photographer who woke me up from my own high-minded notion of sports photography.

That notion was “it’s OK to use automatic focusing.”

After that, I switched to automatic tracking with center-point focus area and it hasn’t let me down since.

I immediately cashed in on the dividends and started catching three in-focus peak action shots ever minute and my sports photography started being much more dynamic.

An example of a time when I was autotracking the players and then got a peak action shot.

An example of a time when I was autotracking the players and then got a peak action shot.

Now, in most situations I usually begin by trusting the camera’s focus before my eye. If it’s not sports and the object I’m shooting is in a static location I’ll usually autofocus and then flip it off and keep shooting. That way I know the focus is right on point and the camera won’t change it every time I push down the button and thereby lose time and shots.

It’s treated me very well, but there’s always certain situations when the autofocus won’t help you.

I’ve known this and had the lesson reinforced to me on a wedding shoot in Milwaukee recently.

As most photogs know, weddings are usually located in non-ideal venues for actual photography. Yes, I know it’s surprising that the couple chooses the location based on wanting a beautiful ceremony and not what the photography finds easiest to work. Usually the lighting ends up being very poor.

This particular wedding was darker than most, set in a church in Milwaukee that used to be a factory building with very small windows and little to no-natural light coming in. The main source of light were scattered candles around the room and then whatever stage lighting would bounce across the room. Many times I’d have my autofocus spinning back and forth and not being able to find a point to focus on in the dark.

This happened right during the processional and as most people know the processional is a very important part to a wedding and not the part where you want to find yourself taking out-of-focus pictures.

Fortunately, I knew exactly what to do and after manually focusing on the first couple down the aisle, I immediately focused on a row of chairs right next to where I wanted to get the shot of the people walking down the aisle.

With my manual focus set, I then waited for each couple to hit the mark and then pressed the button, letting my flashes around the room light the couple up, getting a shot that was well-exposed and in focus.

Obviously, a better-lit venue is much more ideal, but if you ever find yourself helpless in the dark hopefully this can help you still come away with some great images.

At this moment I had the autofocus off the camera and had manually focused on the spot and waited for the couple to cross the marker before taking the shot and letting my flashes around the room light up the couple.

At this moment I had the autofocus off the camera and had manually focused on the spot and waited for the couple to cross the marker before taking the shot and letting my flashes around the room light up the couple.

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Posted in Big Sky Photography

Humboldt River



Here is the Humboldt River in Elko during sunset. We have a footbridge next to our house. Normally, the Humboldt doesn’t offer much of a sight since it barely has running water most of the year, but in the early spring it had enough water to give off a nice blue sheen. I’m usually not much of a landscape and scenery photographer. Those people usually have to be incredibly patient. Here I didn’t spend too much time, just snapped it while I walked past, but I think it definitely turned out well.

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Shootin’ Hoops

In the spirit of March Madness and the Final Four on Saturday, I decided to share a photo of the basketball hoop I grew up with as a farmer’s kid in Eastern Montana. I remember watching plenty of basketball games and then taking my joy or frustration out on this hoop hanging from the barn. I shot hoops on this for hours it seems like. It was a good set up, hooked up to the side of our family’s barn on our farm where my parents still farm and ranch. There was always beautiful outdoor pictures everywhere and it was a great place to grow up with seemingly endless lands to explore on foot or as in my case on a four-wheeler. I look forward to going back and visiting the place in July.

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Posted in Big Sky Photography

Up close and personal

I took this photo last fall when I got an incredible opportunity to hike up the Goshute Mountain south of West Wendover, Nevada. I met up with some people involved with a Migration Project. Although it looks like this sharp-shinned hawk was out by itself in the wilderness it was actually captured and held by a member of the project. This was all about using a telephoto lens and making sure the angle left out any human hands.

Here’s the original story.<br />

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Posted in Elko Daily Free Press Photography, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |

Sunset stretch

Property of the Elko Daily Free Press

Here’s a photo I took at the recent Ruby Mountain Relay. I was really excited, because the runners run all through the night and I thought I could get some really cool photos with all the different lighting situations. This one I ended up taking right at sunset in the middle of a lonely highway. This runner was stretching before his leg and I hit him with the flash and got the nice lighting on the horizon.

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Intense Elko mine training

So I got the chance to check out the Elko Safety Olympiad a couple weekends ago. It’s a competition where all these different gold mines around Elko bring their emergency responders and compete to see who’s best at saving lives. I had out my wide angle lens and when I saw these shoes on the ground I decided to get really low. It was an added plus that the girl on the board, who was pretending to be injured, also had some fake blood on her arm. I felt like this photo had a lot of interesting elements in it.

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A little bit of fashion

Copyright Elko Daily Free Press

So I took this photo last week for an advertisement for Haleys in Elko. The store sells jewelry as you can see she’s wearing a bunch of jewelry. One of my coworkers brought the cowboy hat, and at the time I was thinking that it might look a little hokey with her grabbing the hat like that. But once I looked at it on camera it sure looked pretty cool especially with the clean background which is an alley on fifth street. It was a good chance for me to shoot a photo that was more fashion and modeling orientated. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do more of these shots in the future.

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Posted in Elko Daily Free Press Photography Tagged , |