Tom Bricker: Blog https://www.tombricker.com/blog en-us (C) Tom Bricker tom@tombricker.com (Tom Bricker) Thu, 28 Jan 2021 01:02:00 GMT Thu, 28 Jan 2021 01:02:00 GMT https://www.tombricker.com/img/s/v-12/u646308158-o802498335-50.jpg Tom Bricker: Blog https://www.tombricker.com/blog 120 120 Twenty Years https://www.tombricker.com/blog/2019/6/twenty-years “It’s probably a merciful thing that pain is impossible to describe from memory.” -Christopher Hitchens


I have lived in pain for twenty years now. The effects of which have shaped my life in countless ways. There are good days and bad days—and there are times the pain is so intense, I have to stop what I’m doing. It is frustrating to have such limitations, but I’ve no choice in the matter. Chronic pain becomes exhausting, especially when it affects sleep. It influences what I decide to do and my focus becomes mitigating it as much as possible.

When one goes through something devastating in their life, the cliché is that the person is strong. It is just what we say to make ourselves feel better about the horrible situation. Human frailty seems to be a feature, not a bug. When something tragic occurs, there is a tendency to think of yourself as less whole than you once were. I grieved for a time for the period in my life when I was healthy, but as time passed and it became more difficult to remember myself when I wasn’t limited by my pain. 

The most profound lessons I’ve learned in the past twenty years is you aren’t special, you don’t deserve what you get and the universe is indifferent to your suffering. I thought my injury made me unique, but then you realize that most people will experience a traumatic event sometime in their life. The way in which I became injured was uncommon, but bad things happen to everyone. No one is immune from tragedy and incidents are presumably random. Accepting the inequity of chance excludes the perception that you were the cause of what happened to you. While it may seem to be a way to deny guilt, it is actually more representative of reality. After all, you already won the genetic lottery just by being born and no one blames you for it. 

One gains an appreciation for all the fortunate things that have happened in one’s life in contrast to the number of terrible events. As author John Steinbeck observed, “What good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?” The trajectory of my life changed on June 7, 1999, but I’ve been very lucky have added to my days. As time has gone by, I care far less about what my life would be like without the pain. Just ten years after being injured, I met my wife, Stephanie, who has supported me constantly. Our son, Robert, is such a joy in our lives. These two things make the suffering bearable. I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything else in the world. I am happy.
 

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tom@tombricker.com (Tom Bricker) life pain personal https://www.tombricker.com/blog/2019/6/twenty-years Fri, 07 Jun 2019 16:54:26 GMT
Shooting with Your Hands Full https://www.tombricker.com/blog/2016/10/shooting-with-your-hands-full

Photographing a toddler takes lots of patience and lots of misses. But with tenacity, one can capture amazing images like this I captured this morning in our backyard. Using one hand to hold the Canon 5D and the other hand grasping the 580 EX Speedlite connected via sync cord to the camera, things came together for this portrait of my son. The flash is in high-speed sync mode for a 1/1000 second shutter speed to compete with the sun that is producing a nice flare on my son's face. While the Canon 5D is a decade-old technology, it is still a great system doing some heavy lifting communicating with the Speedlite for proper exposure of the face. It is a good compromise for shooting with flash for a fast moving toddler. Setting up a softbox or umbrella is really impractical when one really doesn't know where my son will be. 

Using AI-Servo focus (Continuous for Nikon) is an important setting for shooting not just sports, but especially for active children like my son. This setting allows the camera to continue focusing while the shutter is half-pressed. With a kid constantly moving, it is near impossible to use single focus, which locks focus with the half-press of the shutter. You'll usually end up with a focus point that was where your child was when it focused. 

I am fortunate to spend my mornings with my son. He is a great subject and I'll often carry my camera with me as we head to a park. But there are times when the camera is far less important than just connecting with him. He wants to look at the images on the back of the camera or press the shutter button. It is during these moments that reminds me that while technical knowledge is important in photography, it is nothing compared to the relationship that you have with your subject. 

 

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tom@tombricker.com (Tom Bricker) AI-Servo Canon flash kid morning photography smile speedlight speedlite sun toddler https://www.tombricker.com/blog/2016/10/shooting-with-your-hands-full Sat, 08 Oct 2016 01:28:29 GMT
2016 Dayton Vectren Air Show https://www.tombricker.com/blog/2016/6/2016-dayton-vectren-air-show The Dayton Vectren Air Show is one event I look forward to every year. I've often rented a lens or teleconverter for the air show, but the past couple of years I've relied on the excellent glass of the Canon 200mm f/2.8 L II lens with a Canon 2X teleconverter. Although occasionally I feel a zoom would be beneficial, most of my shots are within the range of this combo. 

Attendance was down due to the cancellation of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels demonstration team due to the unfortunate death of Marine Corps pilot and opposing solo Captain Jeff Kuss who was killed in a crash in Smyrna, Tennessee earlier this month. However, the weather was perfect to watch the show. An F/A-18 Super Hornet honoring Capt. Kuss was one of many performers of the day. The crowd observed a moment of silence for the lost pilot.

The show began with the United States Navy Leap Frogs parachuting and displaying our nation's flag as the Star Spangled Banner. One member carried a "6" flag to honor Capt. Kuss. It is always a spectacle to see the skill of sky divers in their ability to steer and control their descent to be able to expertly land on their target. 

My two-year-old son has been enamored with airplanes for quite some time and this show was a hit with him. My wife found a die-cast USN Blue Angel for our son a couple months ago. He loved seeing planes fly across the blue sky as well as play with daddy's camera in between acts.

The real star of the show was the United States Air Force F-22 Raptor. It really is a technological marvel and a delight to see fly and be able to turn on a dime. And to see it in contrast to the P-51 Mustang, "Baby Duck," really gave one a view of the role of a fighter over a seven decade period. 

Other performers included Patty Wagstaff, Melissa Pemberton, U.S. Coast Guard, and the Redline Airshows (below.)

Of course, Sean D. Tucker was there with his Oracle Challenger III. Tucker learn aerobatic flying to overcome his fear of flying. And does he ever put on one of the greatest shows in the sky!

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tom@tombricker.com (Tom Bricker) https://www.tombricker.com/blog/2016/6/2016-dayton-vectren-air-show Wed, 22 Jun 2016 13:00:00 GMT
Robert is Three Months Old https://www.tombricker.com/blog/2014/7/robert-is-three-months

Our son just turned three months old recently and I wanted an image that represented a milestone that happened this week. He is now able to roll over onto his stomach. While my wife was at work, I spent the time he was napping to set up the shot. I pulled my background stands out and used gaffer tape to secure this piece of brown quilt to it and draped the rest over our bed. I am using the Canon 200mm f/2.8 L ii lens which I absolutely love for portraiture work. The reason is that Robert's foot in the background looks normal in size comparatively to the rest of his body. Had I used a wide angle lens, his head would look abnormally huge compared to his feet. I also like telephotos simply to eliminate the background and focus on the subject. 

However, with long lenses, it becomes more difficult to work with your subject because the distance becomes a factor. And with Robert, he isn't as engaged with me unless I'm really close. And in this image, I am really close, but just out of frame. To do this, I had to use a radio remote to send a signal to my camera to trip the shutter. This allowed me to just be below the frame. I would pop up and get my son to laugh and smile and would remotely trigger the camera. Since I am limited on radio transmitters, I had to trip the strobe with its optical slave by placing a speed light on the Canon 5D and turning down the power as to not add light to the image. I used a 60 inch Westcott umbrella. While I shot through the translucent umbrella material, I kept the black cover over the top half to reduce scattering light from hitting the ceiling and walls. I also considered getting some window light involved to highlight the back of his head by slowing the shutter speed down to 1/100 second and boosting the ISO speed to 200 instead of 100. This adds just a little rim of light to help separate him from the background. 

Overall, a simple portrait that takes a lot of work. But most importantly, is the relationship between the subject and the person taking the photograph. Recently, I've noticed some professional photographers who have very little interaction with their clients and it shows. One particular photographer shot a bride who seemed to be very self-concious of her picture being taken. Her eyes gave this notion away. Her eyes appeared like the victim of a horror movie that just discovered the ax wielding murder is right behind the door she just opened. I looked through his photo stream and she was not the only one. Another bride is seen smiling, but her eyes show a nervousness that seems she is well aware of this guy with a huge camera in her face that makes her feel uncomfortable. It seemed that more often or not that the subjects were not comfortable with him taking their photograph. 

Some people can really get the technical stuff down. They know f/stops, shutter speed and the inverse square law, but without being able to draw the human element of emotion, personality and gesture from your subjects, the picture just becomes a snapshot. And it isn't easy. It took me a while to learn as Rick Sammon says, "The camera looks both ways," meaning that the portrait isn't just about the subject, but the relationship between the person behind the lens and the one in front of it. It takes an investment in time and putting yourself out there. Some times, I can get right down silly when trying to get my subject to react as is in the case of this image of Robert. Don't be afraid to look foolish. Your job is to get the shot and by any means necessary. 

 

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tom@tombricker.com (Tom Bricker) Robert Westcott baby dimple happy infant lighting photography radio smile three months umbrella https://www.tombricker.com/blog/2014/7/robert-is-three-months Sun, 27 Jul 2014 04:55:38 GMT
2014 Vectren Dayton Air Show https://www.tombricker.com/blog/2014/7/2014-vectren-dayton-air-show Last weekend was the 40th Dayton Air Show and every year it is fun to watch the performance of both modern and historic aircraft. Dayton is the birthplace of flight. It was in 1903 that brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright piloted their glider at Kill Devils Hill, North Carolina. They returned to Dayton and build a stronger and more powerful machine and practice at Huffman Prairie. This would lead to the development of the Wright "B" Flyer, which flies at the air show. If you become an honorary member of the Wright B. Flyer, Inc. and you'll get a free orientation ride on their "Brown Bird" pictured below.

After last year's sequestration prevented any military aircraft from  participating in the Vectren Dayton Air Show, it was great to see the return of the main attraction, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, along with the U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier and U.S. Coast Guard's helicopter. It was also a year after the loss of wingwalker Jane Wicker and her pilot Charlie Schwenker died tragically when the plane crashed during their performance.

I love aviation photography because of the challenge of capturing these really awe inspiring machines. In years past, I have used mostly zoom lenses to capture the action. Last year, I used Canon's 100mm-400mm f/5.6 L lens, which is a great lens to capture planes and still have the ability to zoom out for the stunt plane smoke trails. Normally, I would rent a teleconverter for the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens which turns it into a 140-400mm lens, but I decided to purchased a used Canon 2x teleconverter this year. Paired with my Canon 200mm f/2.8 L ii lens, I had a 400mm lens. I also picked up a used 40D for its 6.5 frames per second for less than a third of the price when it was new back in 2007.

I was heistant to take just a long prime lens, but I have shot a few air shows before and really felt that I could just experiment with one long focal length. Instead of worrying about fitting the plane in the frame and zooming in and out, I just shot when I what I wanted fit within the frame. Of course, not everything fit in the frame from time to time such as the Blue Angels' transport plane, the C-130 Hercules nickenamed "Fat Albert."

The most challenging shots were of the propeller driven airplanes. While using fast shutter speeds for jets is fine, it stops the motion of the propeller making it seem as if the plane should drop from the air. In order to show motion as the propeller spins, you slow the shutter speed to 1/250th or slower. However, this introduces blur of the plane especially with long telephoto lenses. This is where the panning technique comes in handy as well as fast frame per second (fps) rate. As the plane passes, you follow it with the lens and then press the shutter in continuous burst mode. Many of these images will be blurry especially when shooting a slower shutter, but when timing aligns up with the plane, then you can get a clear image of the plane, the propeller in motion and a nice background blur such as the image below of Patty Wagstaff flying upside down or a shot of the very talented Sean D. Tucker. 

I mentioned the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter. The HH-65 Dolphin helicopter is a staple of rescue missions for our Coast Guard. As with the propellor on planes, the rotor needs to be blurred. Since it moves at a slower speed than an airplane's propeller, you'll need to use even slower shutter speeds. I knew I'd only get a handful of sharp images of the Dolphin helicopter as they demonstrated a rescue mission for the crowd.

You can view my images below or purchase prints and other items here. Use coupon code AIRSHOW2014 for 35% off!

 

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tom@tombricker.com (Tom Bricker) Air Angels Blue Coast Dayton Guard Show Vectren air aircraft helicopter jets military planes show https://www.tombricker.com/blog/2014/7/2014-vectren-dayton-air-show Sat, 05 Jul 2014 15:30:17 GMT
Our Son https://www.tombricker.com/blog/2014/5/our-son My wife and I welcomed our son, Robert, on April 23. Both he and mom and healthy and doing well. He was 8 lbs. 5 oz. and 21 ½ inches at birth. He just turned a month old recently and we couldn't imagine life without him. 

Robert Meets RobertGreat-grandpa meets his great-grandson.

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tom@tombricker.com (Tom Bricker) baby baby boy birth born family photography son https://www.tombricker.com/blog/2014/5/our-son Thu, 29 May 2014 23:52:23 GMT