Thursday, November 7, 2013

Making the best of a bad situation...

Last week, I heard there was going to be an eclipse that would be partially viewable by the East Coast of the United States shortly after sunrise.  The only downside to this, so far, was that I don't like mornings.  But, not wanting to miss a rare photo opportunity, I made it a point to make it out to the beach.  As seen in the photo below, I wasn't the only one.  :)

Sadly, though, there were clouds on the horizon, so I didn't see the actual eclipse.  It's ok though.  There will always be times when things doing don't go as planned.  You can either get frustrated and let it impact your work, or make the best of the situation and come away with some good images.  Here are some photos of the sunrise.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Photographing Volleyball: Part 2

Last weekend, I photographed my second volleyball game for the University of North Florida.  I learned a few more things and have some new insights.

  • push the ISO a little higher and try to shoot at an aperture around f4.  It is more forgiving than lowering the ISO and shooting at f1.4.  While I would like as little noise as possible, it doesn't matter how much (or how little) noise is in a photo if it's not in focus. 

  • For the last match, I switched to the 50mm lens and shot a bit wider.  I was initially concerned about it being too wide, but was happy with the results.  Not only did I still get some great action, but I was also able to capture the emotion of the game in the other players' faces.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Guide to buying camera gear

In this day and age, there are plenty of places to get new camera gear.  But how do you decide if you want to buy new or used?  Online or in a store?  What equipment should you get?  These are all good questions.

First, start with what to get.  This is not an easy thing to answer since not everyone's needs are the same.  I generally wait until I have a need before I buy a new piece of gear.  I started out with a mid-range dSLR and the kit lens that it came with.  This worked well for me until I photographed my first concert.  Out of approximately 750 photos, less than 25 were usable.  I quickly realized I needed a better lens.  That's how I ended up getting the Nikon 70-200 2.8 lens.  That was many years ago and I still have that lens.  For the general consumer who isn't sure what they want, a great place to start your research is SnapSort.  This site will allow you to do side-by-side comparisons of a wide range of camera gear.

Second, now that you know what you want, where should you get it?  A local big box store?  The internet?  Random guy (or girl, no need to discriminate.  :D )  I don't recommend the random person on the corner.  Who knows what could be wrong with that gear.  I tend to avoid the big box stores for camera gear since they don't have much in the way of higher end stuff.  Two of my favorite places are B&H Photo and Adorama.  They have good warranties for their merchandise and are reputable sales companies in the camera business.  You can also check Ebay and Craigslist, but be careful.  You generally don't get a warranty from these sellers, and there's no real guarantee that you're getting what you pay for.  If you do choose either of these, check the prices at other dealers first to make sure you are actually getting a good deal.  I've seen a few cameras lately on Craigslist that are more expensive than if I were to buy them from B&H.

If you have any questions, let me know and I'll try to help.  :)

And here's a random photo I took of a body-painted model in a suitcase from John Shippee Photography.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tips for photographing horse jumping

When you're shooting a horse jumping competition, it's all about freezing the action in your photo.  I shot a horse competition for the first time not too long ago and here's what I learned.

1. It's all about timing.  The ideal time is when the front hoofs are tucked underneath the horse. 


If you are a little slow on the shutter release button, you'll end up with an image closer to this one.  

Notice how the legs are coming down and getting ready to land.  This image doesn't have the same visual impact as the one above it.

2. Horse move quickly.  In order to got shots like this, I recommend shooting at a shutter speed no slower than 1/500th of a second.  Because the shutter speed needs to be so high, I was shooting at 2.8 and had the ISO cranked up to 8000.

3. If at all possible, shoot horse going over obstacles that conceal their hind legs.  There are times where their back hoofs are still on the ground as their front legs start coming down for the landing. 

This image does not have the same impact as the one below because you can see the back hoofs still on the ground.

This horse's hind hoofs are probably still on the ground, too, but because you don't see them, the overall image is more striking to the viewer.

This is one of my favorite images from the set.  The timing was right, I like how the rider's position matches that of the horse, it all came together nicely.

If you'd like to see more shots from this event, check out my site, John Shippee Photography.  If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Friday, September 27, 2013

3 Tips for photographing concerts

Photographing concerts can be crazy fun or it can be super frustrating. Sometimes it's both. Whether it's trying to get access to a show, something/someone obstructing your view, or equipment failures, it seems like there's always something not going quite right. But that's all part of the gig.  You can either get upset and "throw in the towel" or adapt and move on. I like the challenge and it feels good looking at great photos, especially after a particularly challenging show. Here are some tips for having the best experience possible.

  1. Get there early. Not all venues have press areas, so you're going to be lumped in with everyone else.  Everyone else may not be as courteous as you and will most likely have their cellphones high in the air to get what they expect to be the best (cellphone) pic ever.  Sadly, this means that they're going to have their arms and phones in your line of sight unless you are in front of them.
  2. Research the venue. Is there a large space between the stage and the crowd?  Is the stage really large?  What's the best place to be to get the best photos?  These are all important questions.  One of the local venues that I shoot at is a very intimate venue.  The stage is only about 6 feet deep and maybe 12 feet wide and the crowd can be right up to the edge of the stage.  Because of all this, I never bring a lens that is over 50mm.  Anything with more zoom than that, and I would be photographing close-ups of their faces and other detailed shots.
  3. Equipment. 
    1. Make sure your battery in the camera is charged and the memory card is empty. The last thing you want is to have gone through all this planning and halfway through the first song have your battery die, or your memory card be full.  I always bring an extra of each just to be on the safe side.
    2. Earplugs are also important.  If you're going to be really close to the stage, chances are, you'll also be really close to loud speakers.
    3. Lens and camera body.  Obviously you need these to shoot a show, but I recommend as fast of a lens as you can get.  Fast meaning wide aperture.  I generally shoot with either 2.8 or 1.4 depending on the venue.  As for camera body, find one that has a high ISO.  It's going to be dark in the venue and you're going to want a fairly fast shutter speed to freeze the action.  That leaves you with the option of bumping up the ISO and/or increasing the aperture.  Sometimes you have to do both.
    4. Just like you'll want to have the right camera and lens, you'll also want to have the right attitude.  Don't stress out and be nice to people around you. If you're nice, they may be more accommodating to you and willing to either switch places with you, or at least make sure that they aren't lifting their arms into your line of sight.  Also, stressing out doesn't solve anything. Take a deep breath and improvise ways to work with what you've got.
Canary In The Coalmine at MOCA Jax

Hank and Cupcake at Jack Rabbits

The Airborne Toxic Event at Freebird Live

Check out more of my concert shots at John Shippee Photography.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Pretty Reckless at Jack Rabbits

I have been wanting to shoot The Pretty Reckless for quite some time.  I almost had the chance a few years ago when they were in town.  I'd worked things out with a friend of mine that works the door so that I would be able to bring my camera into the venue.  Then the day of the show, he called to let me know that the band had strict instructions that no cameras were going to be allowed.  :(

When I found out they were coming back to Jacksonville, I quickly contacted the band to arrange for a photo pass to the show.  After some communications back and forth, it was all set and ready to go.  Now the hard part; waiting the few months to pass between getting approval and waiting for the actual show.

The show was yesterday, September 25.  My calendar had it as this coming Sunday.  OOPS!  Fortunately, I was looking at Facebook and saw a post from the band that alerted me to my error.  I quickly grabbed the camera and headed out the door.  There was a small line outside, but at least I didn't miss the show.

Louna, a band from Russia, went on first.  This was their first show in the US, which made being there a little more special.

After Louna's set, it was time for Heaven's Basement.  They are from England.  While I don't recall them specifically saying so, I think this was their first time playing in the States, too.  They kind of reminded me of a young ACDC.

Then it was time for the headlining act, The Pretty Reckless.  Their set was particularly difficult to shoot.  There was more use of fog machines.  The lighting was harsher.  People kept crowding and pushing in front of me, and then raising their phones in front of my view to take photos.

Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless

Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless

Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless

While it was a difficult show to shoot, I think they turned out pretty well.  More pictures from the show can be seen at my site John Shippee Photography.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Another great burlesque performance

Vita DeVoid (, a jack of all trades, hosted and performed in a burlesque show at Eclipse in Jacksonville, Florida, this past weekend.  I've seen her perform a few times and she always puts on a great show.

Not only did she dance and MC, but she also did a brief sideshow.  Here she is having a nail that she nailed into her nose removed by an audience volunteer's mouth.

This is probably one of my favorite shots.  From a distance, it looks sweet and romantic, but upon closer examination, you see the nail he's pulling out of her nose with his teeth.

And the fire play!  Let's not forget about the fire play.

More images from this show can be seen at