Last Days With Papaw

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Last Days With Papaw

The above portrait was taken in March 2016, a couple weeks after my dad informed me that Papaw had been diagnosed with Leukemia and given up to six months to live. 

That led to the bucket list trip to California to see the great sequoia trees, which was a great last hurrah with Papaw.

The only problem was that it wasn't the last hurrah at all--he went on to live two more years!

My wife and I were due to have our daughter Scarlett in October, and we were really sad about the possibility that Papaw might not live long enough to meet her. Then Scarlett came along and Papaw was doing well and got to meet her. Then the Cubs won the World Series, which was an incredible moment for my Dad and Papaw as lifelong Cubs fans, and I thought man, Papaw got to see his granddaughter AND see the Cubs win the World Series. A heck of an October, and a heck of a way to go out! 

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...but he didn't go out.

He kept traveling and pitching in horseshoe tournaments and generally just lived it up, to the point where we got used to having him around. The fact that he would die soon got pushed to the back of our minds. We enjoyed another Father's Day with him, and more birthdays and Christmases. We not only enjoyed having him there, we enjoyed the most gentle and sweet version of him that we'd ever seen.

That's what made it pretty tough for us when he got pneumonia and began his downward spiral of health.

He'd had close calls and hard days before, but something told us that this was it. Dad was texting my siblings and I about how Papaw was really not doing well, and finally he made the tough call to tell us that yes, we should probably head over to Papaw's house asap. 

Two years prior Papaw was told that his only medical option was an expensive one that might work but would only ease the pain and wouldn't prolong his life. So he said he wasn't going to spend the money just to die anyways, and he famously chose to say,

"I'm gonna live until I'm not."

How's that for an old-school approach to fighting cancer? 

So at this point there was nothing really that the hospital could do for him. He was on hospice and in his own bed in the home he'd been in for nearly 30 years, prepared to travel the very last leg of the path he'd chosen.

Growing up I remember Papaw often had his Polaroid camera out at family gatherings.

I still remember the way he'd pop right in, take a quick shot, and then casually pull the film out as he backed out of the scene quietly. He was the only person in my life who I ever saw use a Polaroid camera, now that I think about it. So that was my nostalgic association with polaroids.

So for a long time I've wanted to shoot with a polaroid camera, but didn't know where to start. Well, I got my start this past Christmas when my parents got me a Polaroid OneStep 2, a super cool updated/revised version of the original OneStep camera.

What a great gift for a nostalgic photographer!

I've had fun learning it and carefully choosing when I want to take a $2 photograph, and as I was preparing to leave my house to go to Kokomo and see Papaw, I decided that this was such a time. I wanted to take a polaroid of Scarlett before I left so that Papaw could hold it and see what she looked like that day. Papaw loved her, and to me having him hold a familiar-feeling polaroid print would mean more than showing him a photo on my phone. 

When I showed it to my Dad he gently tucked it into Papaw's hand, hoping that'd make it easy for him to see if he did wake up. I don't think he ever did see it, but I loved that he held it and that it was in his room with all his other family photos. 

Papaw had moments where he'd wake up and ask for something but for the most part he was laying with his eyes closed, not communicating or responding.

The hospice nurse and chaplain told us that most likely he could still hear us, so we spoke encouraging words and sang songs over him. 

Linda suggested I play "Freebird", and I sang the most meaningful version of it that I've ever sung. We sang several more songs and hymns, including a very sweet and sentimental version of "In The Garden" with his sister Janet. She told me that she thinks the music helped him sleep a little better. 

I'd brought my Nikon D750 but left it in the car, wanting to make sure no one felt invaded by it before I went out and got it. But I also had wanted to just have my own experience without a camera body between me and the sentiments. It was really hard on me to see Papaw like this, and to know that he probably was knocking on heaven's door. I'm very sentimental and I also had regrets about not spending more time with Papaw when he was well, so I needed to process through those emotions without a camera. My sister was sweet in consoling me and encouraging me that we're all going to have some regrets and that Papaw didn't actually need much from any of us.

I finally did go get my camera after asking everyone if that was ok, and I'm so glad I did, because these would turn out to be some of our last moments with Papaw. 

Most of the sweetest and most sorrowful moments didn't make it into my camera. And I'm ok with that.

Like the moment that Uncle Jeffy walked into the room and saw Papaw in this grave state for the first time. My uncles are loving but they're not emotional, and I'd be hard-pressed to remember the last time I saw Jeff cry. Even now it was just watery eyes, but that was significant for him.

It was significant for me, too, because I was still kind of gauging everyone else's response before I decided how I felt, and seeing the look on Jeffy's face when he came in told me that yes, this was probably the end.  

Chris was surprisingly calm and at peace. My dad was at peace too, but still somewhat shaken by Papaw's sudden downturn. I think we'd all thought that Papaw would die more suddenly when he finally did go.

It's crazy how death has a way of shifting the way you see everything about a person.

I looked around his house and realized that I'd never really paid attention to just how many photos he had of his friends and family everywhere. And I realized that most of them had been there for as long as I could remember. He had a large Olan Mills type of photo of him with my sister and I in the corner of his room from when we were probably three and four, which would have been 1988, and had probably been in that spot ever since he got it. 

Papaw wasn't great about articulating the way he felt about the people he loved, but now I saw that in his home he had surrounded himself with images of the people that meant the most to him.

Keenan gave Papaw a last hug before he left, just in case. I began to take photos of Papaw's home the way he had left it, including his signature New Balance shoes where he'd apparently left them for the last time.

I went back to Westfield for a meeting and then brought Karissa and Scarlett back to Papaw's house that evening. 

We realized it was Scarlett's first time at his house since we usually did things at my parents' house. We love that she got to sit in his chair at least once.

The mood was reverent but not dire, as I think we all felt at peace with Papaw. Scarlett provided a nice spark of joy in the living room where our family had some quality time together.

Karissa and I took Scarlett in to see Papaw, and the timing worked out that it was just then that Papaw woke up to ask for something.

He looked up at me and smiled, and very warmly said, "Hi, Cameron!" and then I held Scarlett close to him and he ruffled her belly and said, "Hi, Darlin'!" 

Then we had to step out to let Linda and his nurse care for him, and he went back to sleep after that. 

That brief interaction with him was more than I'd hoped for, as I was hoping that he'd just be able to sense Scarlett's presence as he slept or something. These turned out to be my tender last moments with Papaw, as he would pass away the next evening.

I love that his last words that I witnessed were his expressed joy upon seeing Scarlett.

"He's gone."

The next evening my sister Candace tearfully called me with the news while I was making dinner. I stayed composed on the phone but after I hung up I collapsed and sat down onto the kitchen floor, finally pouring out my grief. I felt it all throughout the process but couldn't really release it until the death was final. Karissa was sweet and sat down next to me and held me as I cried. It was hard to believe he was actually gone.

In the next few days funeral plans were made, and Dad and Chris worked to go through pictures to scan for Papaw's celebration of life slideshow. They brought some of Papaw's old VHS tapes to the Monday evening viewing at my request so that I could digitize them and use that footage in the video that we'd show at the end of the service.

Papaw was cremated, so we didn't have an open casket, but seeing his hat and jacket hanging on his old johnboat felt almost as final.

They did a great job creating a tribute to Papaw's life that people could touch and see and engage with. The presentation included a tribute to his military service in the marines, his horseshoe accolades (he really was very good), his fishing gear--including a couple of his best catches, and a neat piece that my dad had made for him commemorating the Kokomo Lady Kats back-to-back championship in the 90's. Papaw was a big Lady Kats fan, and Dad was able to get the original plate for the front page headline and have it signed by the starting five members of that championship team.

The military service at the beginning of the funeral was stunning.

It was a powerful picture of honor, reverence, and patience, as they slowly and deliberately handled the flag and presented it to my Dad and Uncle Chris. The 21-gun salute and playing of taps provided a striking and honorable sense of closure on Papaw's life. You can see this segment in the first part of the video posted below.

I sang "Simple Man" as a tribute to Papaw, and then sang "In The Jailhouse Now", one of Papaw's old favorites that makes his family smirk as they recall hearing Papaw sing it to them when they were young. Papaw wasn't much of a vocalist, but songs "In The Jailhouse Now" and "Way Down Yonder On A Yankety-Yank" were just the type of songs that he'd venture out to sing when he was feeling fun.

 My Dad and Uncle Chris did a great job with the eulogy, sharing the journey that they went on as a family to create a new legacy for the Sprinkle name. After Papaw's chaplain shared a few encouraging words, Candace led the song "10,000 Reasons", and then we played the tribute video that I'd put together. 

You can watch the whole service here:

Afterwards I was naturally feeling very sentimental.

I'd grown up in that church, and so had my mom, so our family has many memories in that room. Watching Scarlett run around on that purple shag carpet was a little surreal. We figured out how to turn off all the lights except for the purple star in the center of the ceiling, and it was kind of neat that way. To me nothing visually says "Morning Star Church" like a big, purple sanctuary, and the soft lighting created a nice condition for portraits.

My great-grandpa on my Mom's side founded this church, so it was neat to have a few moments alone in there with my daughter.

I really wanted to get a great shot of my dad before we parted.

Despite having a long and sometimes crazy life Papaw didn't seem to carry any resentment or bitterness whatsoever. He kept his life simple while still enjoying progressive technology, including an enthusiastic presence on Facebook. Despite all that he did wrong in the first half of his life, he made a lot of things right in the second half. 

That's my Dad's story too.

Throughout the week-long process with Papaw's last days my Dad carried himself with both reverence and joy, grief and peace, sadness and hope, and a confidence in the redemption that he and his family has found in Jesus Christ. And you can see all of that on his face in the photo I took.

I was very proud of the way my dad honored his dad in every conversation and every decision, and it challenged me to do a better job honoring people myself. Papaw and Dad both evolved to become instruments of peace, and that's a legacy I look to continue as I let God do a similar work in my own heart.

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Sing Love - Ice Camp : Photos

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Sing Love - Ice Camp : Photos

This was a fun trip with my friend Micah and his band called Sing Love...I was asked to come along and document the trip as well as shoot video of their live album recording.

This post will focus on the photos I took on the trip, and when the videos are done I'll share another post about the video side. 

It was a fun little taste of the touring band experience because Sing Love has a 1967 tour bus that they drive for road trips, and that's what we took up to Michigan. The event is called Ice Camp because it's held at Miracle Camp in the middle of winter, and this particular weekend was a gathering of all the students of all of Northview Church's campuses, which along with the leaders made for about 400 people. 

These shots were with a Nikon D750 and a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. The second one is a little blurry but I loved how the passing semi made it look like we were time traveling, so I kept it.

Sing Love is an unusual band because it has a big pool of members, and most of the members are ages 14 to 19.

Micah has developed a system of developing young musicians and raising up worship leaders to go out and serve the church with their gifts, and it's really neat to witness and be a part of. These young students are more talented at 15 than I was at 22, and they're just getting started! Several of them are into not only music but photography and videography, so we had a lot to talk about all weekend.

We stopped to get gas on our way out of town and as I stepped off the bus I looked across the lot and spotted a lighting situation that I always keep my eye out for after it rains...I love when warm neon colors land on the ground next to cool colors. I'd been talking with Hayden about photography anyways, so I grabbed my 85mm f/1.8 and asked him to come along so I could take some portraits. 

I never thought I'd take cool photos at a gas station but I really like how these turned out.

On the puddle reflection one I think the focus is off because I'd focused on real Hayden instead of puddle Hayden....I should have focus on him through the puddle. Note for next time.

I brought along a small prism to experiment with, and I got some cool results on my first couple shots of Logan. The prism is a simple, cheap tool to add some really cool and unpredictable effects to an image.

After we got going I tried using the prism with a flash and got one cool shot but scared the heck out of everyone in the front area of the bus so I decided not to experiment anymore.

One thing I learned from the weekend was that the prism doesn't work on wider focal lengths because you can see the prism itself in the frame...seems to be best used at 50mm or longer.  

We got there late and unloaded AV system and instruments from the trailer and went to bed around 1 am. The next morning all the pinkness forced me to force Micah to let me take photos of him.

After a morning of rehearsing, we drove into town to get lunch. It was a pretty drive that for some reason seemed prettier just because I knew we were in Michigan instead of Indiana.

When we came back I got the prism back out and took some shots of the band as they rehearsed...it can't turn a bad photo into a good one, but it can make a good photo more interesting.

They had a session with the students and leaders before their dress rehearsal started, which turned out to be the only session I got some photos of because I was filming on the rest of them. It was a fun and energetic atmosphere, and it was neat to see so many students engaged with the music.

It began to snow during this session.

This was a pretty magical discovery that I made after slipping out a side door after shooting in a stuffy, packed room. From one moment to the next I was suddenly in the exact opposite situation--standing peacefully out in a refreshingly cold night all by myself. I stood there for a moment taking it in, and that moment was one of my highlights from the weekend. 

I went inside and Jonah asked if I would take his portrait outside, which I was happy to oblige because I hadn't gotten a portrait of him yet and because I knew the snow made for a unique creative opportunity. With all the streetlights casting shadows in different directions, I had to have him look up toward a light to get his face lit in a way that was flattering.

During the break after that session ended I experimented with the spot right outside the auditorium by taking some shots of Logan, and when those turned out well I went back in and invited anyone else who wanted portraits to join me outside. 

It was a challenging but fun setting...again, it was hard to get good light coverage on their faces using only the streetlights because there were different lights coming from different directions. I tried a lot of things that didn't work but ended up with a couple sharp, reasonably-well-lit shots of each person. 

A couple things I learned the hard way:

1) This was more of something I was reminded, but most decent shots look great on your camera screen or on your phone...but it doesn't actually mean they're completely in focus.

It wasn't until I got home and blew these up on my iMac that I realized that I nailed the focus in very few of them. I think I may have gotten a little hasty with back-button focusing and re-composing instead of moving the focus dot each time to make sure it was right on their eye right before I hit the shutter. 

2) Apparently RAW files have kind of a white balance limit!

All these shots were super orange outside and as the white balance was fluctuating I decided to just choose a white balance mode so they'd be consistent, thinking I could completely fix it in post. I was wrong because the colors were so orange that even when I slid the white balance slider all the way to the left in Lightroom the photos were still a little too orange. I should have dialed in the white balance manually with the Kelvin option on my camera. Instead I flipped through a couple presets and chose one that seemed less orange than the others. So I had to dial in more red on the tint in post to try to cancel out the greeny-orange color from the orange street lights, and I never was quite able to get the white balance right on some of the shots. Lesson learned!

During one of the sessions I stepped outside for a bit and then looked back and saw Kent, the high school student pastor, looking like he was posing for a fashion shoot. The students got a kick out of seeing this shot of him wearing shorts with boots in the snow. It's somehow made funnier by the fact Kent does a great job leading the student ministry, providing substance and intentionality while still being fun and easy-going.

The next day was the last day of camp, and it was a beautiful morning. 

There was this really neat tunnel that ran underneath the road separating the two sides of the camp so that campers could cross safely at will, and when we were waiting to leave I took Logan over there and got a few more shots right before we left. Such a cool spot!

One shot inspired me to make a movie poster for Logan on the way home, with a movie title that some of us came up with to be funny.

We got the trailer and bus loaded up and began to head home. At this point we were all pretty well-rested and relieved to have no further responsibilities for the weekend so it was a pretty fun and light-hearted ride back.

The Ugly Location Challenge.

I love trying to make a beautiful shot in a place that isn't beautiful, and I got my chance on the toilet of a moving tour bus. Hayden was sitting on the (closed) toilet hanging out back by the bunks and I found that the light was surprisingly soft. I went and grabbed my camera and switched to a 50mm and came back and took a few portraits. The quality of the shots amused us greatly because we all know they were taken in a bathroom.

From almost the same spot that I took Hayden's photo I could see that some soft light was coming from the front of the bus to the bunk where Abrielle was hanging out, and when I asked her to pose for a picture she jokingly went into a pose that actually translated really well. The focus was really tough because I was at 1.4 on a bumpy bus, but a couple of the shots came out great. 

The bus has these hooks for black curtains to go around the front to protect it from heat when it's sitting in the sun all day, so I got those out and blocked out the side windows, leaving only the window and the driver windshield open to light. The last photo in this set was shot against one of those black curtains in the front of the bus, and I was pleased with how that one came out also.

I really don't remember why Hayden was blowing up this Twizzlers bag; I just remember thinking that seeing him doing that in the bathroom was a perfect "tour bus shenanigans" photo, so I went and grabbed the 24-70 and came back to get this shot. 

We finally arrived back at Northview in Carmel late Sunday afternoon and got everything unloaded. It was a great little trip for me, a fun outing with fun people...and it ended the way I want all trips to end, with me going back to my home to be with my wife and my daughter, who I'd missed very much.

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Favorite Tens - 2017

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Favorite Tens - 2017

 

Favorite Ten Photos

Mostly wide exteriors and then a random orangutan! I just liked the way he was lit.

I didn't take near as many photos this year as I have in years past, having spent the year somewhat reclusively and just spending time with my wife and daughter. That partially explains why two of the photos are iPhone 6s photos, but that's also due to the fact that the iPhone is a darned good camera that's always with you.

I missed taking portraits and I'm hoping to do more of that again in 2018, but I also love the blue hour exteriors I was able to get in 2017. 

And, to be fair, one of these photos was taken by my wife. You can probably figure out which one.

 

Favorite Ten Scarlett Photos

This was tough! She's so cute, every photo of her is pretty good. Even if it's blurry and poorly composed.

I tried to pick ones that felt more lifestylish since those are the photos that I like best. Same as above, there's one photo that I didn't take and it will be obvious which one.

She brought us so much joy in 2017, and I'm so grateful that we have photos and videos to remember this year by. 

Favorite Ten Film Frames

My favorite composition trends in 2017, which will probably continue in 2018: silhouettes (always), frame-within-a-frame, and wide-angles with kids to immerse into their world. 

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2017 Cinema Reel

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2017 Cinema Reel

Making Cinema Reel is not only a fun way to showcase all your favorite footage, it's also a great way to step back and analyze your shooting.

Last year's Cinema Reel essentially documents how 2016 was The Year of Handheld for me, which was a direct result of purchasing a Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6k. Because of the camera's weight and ergonomics, as opposed to a DSLR, I finally felt extremely confident shooting handheld, which was a look that I loved.

I also didn't have a gimbal big enough for the Ursa Mini, and since I swore off of using my Nikon D750 for video anymore, that meant I wasn't going to be doing gimbal shots for a while. The ease of shooting handheld also meant that I didn't want to drag a tripod around, either, so I got a little lazy in that respect.

For 2016 I only had two EF lenses for the Ursa Mini, a 50mm and a 16mm cine lens, and I must have favored the 50 because I think almost all my shots that I picked for the reel were shot on the 50mm.

The last thing that last year's reel shows is how I also became slightly obsessed with slow-mo. That's because it looked so good coming out of this camera, and the 120fps option was a bit mesmerizing for a while. But while slow-mo can be super effective for some emotions, what it's not good at is creating energy or realism. And I wanted to get better at both of those things. I started heading that way at the end of the year when I shot Matt Bays' music video, and I knew that was a direction I wanted to go as I moved forward.

So my pure shooting goals for 2017 were basically to diversify my shots significantly from just being handheld 50mm slow-mo shots.

That meant I was going to have to work harder, because wide shots take more work, tripod shots take more work, and gimbal shots take more work. And 24fps shots require a different mindset than slow-mo shots, and I wanted to learn more about what I needed to do to create energy.

I was largely spurred on by a friend and colleague named Isaac Smith, who has his own video company called Ethos Films. I watched one of his videos for Beloit College about a baseball player and loved the energy that came out of the footage, and it really stretched me to start being more intentional about experimenting with new techniques for 24fps footage. Essentially that mean being more energetic with the camera movement itself, even, whipping quickly and tracking with fast-moving subjects, combining the responsiveness of a documentary with the gorgeous filming qualities of the Ursa Mini footage. 

So 2017 was, shooting-wise, a year of me trying to learn when to shoot in 24fps and when to shoot slow-mo, and how to discern between the two options when I'm not really sure what to do. Sometimes it's the difference between gritty and glamorous, immersive and reflective, energetic and emotional...it's a great way to reflect the emotional/mental state of your subject. And, of course, as with many things for me...sometimes I'm just over-thinking it. 

I got a lot of new and exciting opportunities in 2017, and shooting with Major Cook on top of the unfinished Riverview Health building for the City of Westfield was definitely a highlight. I also loved shooting the Westfield High School football game for the same project. 

I did end up getting a few gimbal shots, purchasing a Zhiyun Crane v2 and using it with a Sony a7s2 that I tried out but returned. I borrowed a Ronin for a shoot with Valley of Grace and the resulting amazing footage is what sold me on the idea that I have to get a gimbal for the Ursa Mini Pro, so that's one of my purchase goals for 2018.

2017 was my first year of doing videography full-time, and I really only did it full-time for the second half of 2017, so I'm looking forward to seeing how much more I can grow and expand my skills and my business in 2018.

 

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Atlantic City

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Atlantic City

 

This was my introduction to the Vegas of the east coast.

I was contracted to come along as a shooter for another media company, and we were there to shoot a couple corporate videos and help document a realtor convention--glamorous stuff, right?? But we also had a few big chunks of downtime that were either relaxing or fun or both, and the two guys I traveled with were friends and fun guys. 

I had just recently started shooting photos in RAW format on my phone using Lightroom Mobile, so I was experimenting with the possibilities and taking way too many photos. It was a super early-morning flight, so that presented some opportunities that don't come by day. And I'm a sucker for airplane window shots, so I'm always trying to figure out how to get a better one.

Also, I don't know why I always talk myself into believing I can hold a camera steady for long exposures. But I have to try. I can't not.

 
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One of my favorite things about traveling is that it for some reason makes me feel like I have a license to take photos in a way that I don't when I'm in my hometown.

That's probably because when I'm traveling I'm often in congested public spaces where people aren't really paying attention to what I'm doing.

Lens flares on iPhones rarely look great but I love how it turned out in this first shot. Might of been because it was morning, or the light was partially diffused by the ceiling windows? It came out much softer than usual. I love when great lighting collides with mundane moments in highly populated areas.

 
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We landed in Philadelphia and hit the ground running.

We shot a few scenes of Clint as a mysterious man in black at various spots. I'm not going to try to explain the premise of the video...lol...suffice to say that it was a tongue-in-cheek take on a spy movie. It was really fun to film a specific genre like that!

We then drove to Atlantic City, where we filmed at the convention. I shot b-roll of the convention and tried to make it look fun--which it was, depending on which booth you visited!

This whole project was interesting for me because for the first time I was just a shooter instead of project manager, interviewer, audio recorder, and editor. I was just filming as Mike directed and Clint boomed the mic and monitored audio. It was nice not having to keep my energy up to get the best out of the interviews, and Mike was great at that since he's an extrovert.  

 
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This was a challenging scene to light.

I have very little experience working with artificial lighting, so this part of the shoot was, to be honest, a little intimidating. I felt confident in what I could do once it was lit right, but I had to try a lot of different things before we finally got the dramatic look we were going for.

This is a skill I'm wanting to learn and a direction I'm wanting to move as a filmmaker--one who works beyond natural light. So this was a great experience and a great step towards that goal.

 
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We stayed at "The Trop", as the locals called it.

This thing was a massive resort! We got lost almost every single time we tried to go anywhere. Seriously. The photo on the right is Mike on his phone getting an Uber in the morning after nearly 20 minutes of trying to find where the shuttles come for the convention center.

Parts of the resort were really neat but most of it smelled like a bowling alley and the casino area was a little depressing. Not to be Debbie Downer, but I do sometimes feel a conviction to un-gloss the glossy portrayal of certain aspects of my trips!

I will say, we ate at one of my favorite restaurants ever the first night we were there: Dock's Oyster House, an upscale restaurant that was started in 1897. As soon as I stepped in I felt like I'd walked onto a movie set where things are way cooler than they ever are in real life.

There was a live piano player playing jazzy tunes on an old piano, and a glamorous, dimly-lit bar area decorated for Christmas time crowded with people who looked like they could all be well-dressed extras in a classy Ryan Gosling movie. It just felt like I'd stepped into something timeless and wonderful, like a scene from White Christmas or something. I know, you get it--it was like a scene from a movie. Well, I just can't stress that enough. It was so cool. And the food was incredible. 

The atmosphere of the place was such that I felt a little embarrassed gawking and taking photos with my phone, so I emerged only with a short video I took on my phone to share the bar atmosphere with my wife, and a quick photo of our food to send her as well.

That's how it goes with traveling--usually the best moments are so amazing that they don't get documented.   

 
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After our day of shooting we went out on the boardwalk for an evening stroll.

It was unseasonably warm (although still chilly) so it was a great night to get some fresh air and enjoy the atmosphere--and even see the ocean. Which, as you know, is pretty creepy at night. But from the shore the view of the resort was pretty spectacular. And the boardwalk was very charming.

 
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These four shots on the shore were shot with my iPhone as Mike was shooting with the a7s.

The two edits of Clint are a good example of making the most of a RAW photo as I had the flexibility to alter the white balance in post, which gave me the ability to create drastically different edits.

The shot is grainy and a little out of focus, but man...we're taking shots like this on our phones! That was like a 2-second exposure, I think. Looks like I pulled back the highlights in the second one to make the sky darker and bring in the detail of the bright marquee lights. 

 
 

After a second day of shooting we decided to reward ourselves for our efforts and have a little fun.

We cozied into a tiny karaoke bar in the resort and belted out some tunes with some drunk businessmen who, when assembled together, looked like a real-life SNL skit.

They weren't as funny as they thought they were, but I found that in itself to be amusing. They came in about 20 minutes after Mike and Clint sang "Total Eclipse of the Heart", and giggled through a rendition of, you guessed it, "Total Eclipse of the Heart". The DJ was kind enough to have them sing a slightly dancey, remixed version so the rest of us didn't have to hear the same thing twice, but it was an ironic performance as they clearly thought they were pretty clever for picking that song. To be fair, I'm pretty sure the song is a karaoke staple after Will Ferrell's "Old School" introduced a newer, funnier, more profane version to the world. 

 

I convinced Clint to do Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart", and I sang "Rock n' Roll" by Led Zeppelin and "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" by JET. We had a blast. 

 
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This shot was taken at ISO 12,800

Not. Bad. And this was on the original a7s--I've shot with the a7s2, which is even better. I'm now waiting for the a7s3 which is rumored to be coming in the first quarter of 2018...I'm hoping it will be my b-camera and my travel photography camera. And I'm hoping it has 10-bit video! We'll see.

This shot also was taken from about 3 feet away, which probably isn't my normal preference for a shot of two people......but that also interestingly contributed to the candid, fun nature of the photo since the composition communicates that it was taken rather hastily. 

 
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The next morning came way too soon.

When we were staying up late and enjoying ourselves I was blissfully unaware that we'd be getting up at 4 am to drive back to Philadelphia and catch an early flight to head back to Indy. I was saying good night around 1 am and that's when Mike told me what time we were leaving and I was like YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. I hadn't yet considered that we were in Atlantic City but were flying out of Philadelphia.

The upside was that I got some neat shots during The Other Blue Hour...you know, the one that happens just before the sun comes up. I love shooting blue hour photos and footage, so this was fun. 

 
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Then we flew home. The end.

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Lebanon Valley College - 2017

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Lebanon Valley College - 2017

Our third trip back to the beautiful campus of Lebanon Valley College was probably the best one yet.

We were brought in to shoot for three days to create five promotional video pieces to be used on a site specifically designed to target students who are on the cusp of making their decision on where they will attend college. This format is great for us because it allows us to make each video more focused and story-oriented instead of trying to say everything we can about a university in one video. 

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Westfield Football

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Westfield Football

This was so fun!

As a part of a project for the City of Westfield I got to be on the sidelines of the high school rivalry game between neighbors Noblesville and Westfield.

I'd shot little league football the night before, so I had learned a little bit about which lens/resolution combos would work best.  Choosing between my Rokinon 16mm, 50mm, and 135mm cine lenses, I learned that my 16mm is only good for the wide establishing shots because the rest of the action is too far away. It'd be good for sideline footage but only if you were really cozy with the coaches and players since you'd have to get up close...and I didn't know any of them and didn't want to get in their way. I kind of just watched what the seasoned vet with the Nikon 400mm did and just mimicked his body language and boundaries. 

The Ursa Mini Pro's built-in ND filters were a huge feature here because I switched back and forth between the 50 and 135 a lot, and not having to unscrew and re-screw ND filters to the front of the lens saved me critical time during lens changes. The ND filter allows me to keep the shutter angle locked at 180 degrees (the camera automatically chooses a shutter speed that is twice your current frame rate) so that I can keep the appropriate motion blur and still have full control over aperture, like shooting wide open in full daylight.

The toughest decisions to make were when to use 24fps, 60fps, or 120fps.

For me there are three factors to consider: 

1) Energy - I was just gathering general footage and only a few of these clips will likely end up in my final edit, so I knew I could swing for the fences and take some risks to get those hero shots that I was hoping for. But I also am learning that while slow-mo is beautiful and can make moments look epic, they're not always as exciting or energetic as real-time 24fps clips. And sometimes slow-mo takes too long to tell a story! For instance, a 60-yard touchdown pass is something that takes about 5 or 6 seconds to show if you start with the ball leaving the QB's hands...but that becomes a 12 to 14-second shot in slow-mo, which might take too long if it's shown as part of a montage. So I wanted to make sure I didn't shoot the whole thing in slow-mo. 

2) 4k - I still deliver in 1080, but I love being able to crop a 4k shot down to 25% and still have 1920 x 1080 resolution. It's so nice, especially in unplanned situations or when you're farther from your subject than you wish you were. It's like having an extra zoom to use in post-production! The file sizes are massive, especially when shooting 60fps, but it's worth it to me. The catch here is that on the Ursa Mini you have to shoot with a windowed 1080p resolution in order to get 120fps, so what you shoot is what you get with 120fps, with no option to crop or re-frame in post. This means you have to nail your composition while shooting a pretty tight shot (if shooting with the 50 or especially the 135), and given the spontaneous nature of sports, that can be tough.  

3) "Windowed" 1080p - "Windowed" 1080p for 120fps shooting means only the center 1920 x 1080 pixels are used to create the HD image as opposed to the entire sensor. This has multiple implications. The biggest one is that it results in a significant decrease in image quality--each bit of grain is larger and more noticeable, and the image as a whole just isn't as sharp or crisp. It also means that you end up zoomed way in--I think it's like a x2.36 crop factor as compared to "full frame"? Either way it's way in there. The opening shot, for example, looks like it was filmed with maybe a 35mm, but it was actually my 16mm shooting 120fps in windowed 1080. The third primary factor with shooting 120fps is that it takes a lot more light, for two reasons--one, 120fps is that many more times that the shutter is opening and closing within a second, so that's that much less time that light is getting to the sensor; two, Rokinon cine lenses aren't super sharp wide open, and that really shows when you're shooting with the windowed sensor because things are blown up and less sharp, so you have to stop down on your aperture to get a sharper image. That's ultimately a good idea anyways though because focus misses aren't forgiving when played back in super slow-mo, so you're better off shooting with a deep depth of field anyways. 

Funniest moment

There came a point in the red zone where the play erupted toward the sidelines and I immediately recalled seeing NFL players run smack into photographers at full speed. It sounded like a stampede, surprisingly loud, as they rushed toward us. I realized that they were not thinking at all about where they'd end up, and I grabbed my monopod and tried to get out of there! You can see the play where it happened in this gif, which cracks me up! I looked over at 400mm Nikon guy and laughed nervously and he said, "That'll get your heart beating!"

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What I'd Do Differently

I should have used the Blackmagic Viewfinder to help me with focusing--it's a lot easier to see in there than it is with the flip-out screen. I didn't take it because I went pretty minimal as I was only planning on getting a few shots...I also only brought one battery for that reason, which ended up coming back to bite me when I decided to stick around for the whole game--it died with a couple minutes left in the fourth quarter. Luckily I had a Sony a7s2 with me and I shot the last few plays with that camera, but I can definitely tell the difference in the footage. 

If I shot another game I'd try to see if I could hang around the sidelines with my 16mm and capture a more immersive look at what it's like to be bumping shoulders with the team members and coaches. I also would like to get more shots of the fan experience..but overall I am super happy with all the great football shots I came away with. 

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Favorite Frames

I love a good video frame, and I'm really impressed with how great they look coming off of the Ursa Mini. I included the original shot of the little boy waving at halftime to show how much I cropped in for the edit--I did that 4k crop-in with lots of shots in this edit. Started with LUTs from Daniel John Peters and tweaked with ColorFinale in FCPX. I love how the tones turned out with these.

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San Antonio - 2017

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San Antonio - 2017

Loved it.

This was a quick overnight trip where I flew in on a Wednesday afternoon and flew back Thursday night; my video shoot was on Thursday morning and I had the rest of the time to myself to just walk around and shoot in the city, which is one of my favorite things to do.

I had recently purchased a Sony a6500 to be my b-camera alongside my Ursa Mini Pro, and I was excited to test it out as a travel camera. I got the cheap Sony 16-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens with it for use with stabilizers, so I tried out that lens quite a bit. I also got a Vizelex EF to Sony E-Mount adapter that has a build in ND filter so that I could use my Rokinon cine lenses with it as well. 

Two early thoughts on the a6500:

1) The 5-axis sensor stabilization is LEGIT. I even used it with my Rokinon 135mm and was able to get some pretty decent handheld video shots, even without using a camera strap or anything to stabilize.

2) The silent shutter is an amazing feature. It took me a little while to get used to believing that I took a photo even though I didn't hear a shutter click, but now I think it's going to be hard to go back to hearing the loud click of the Nikon, especially in public when I'm trying to be discreet.

The Uber driver that picked me up from the airport happened to be a photographer himself! He'd had a photography business in the 80's and still shoots as a hobby--he reached down to his feet at one point and produced a Nikon D40 which he keeps with him in his car because driving all around town affords him lots of photo ops! He let me look through the shots he'd taken. Really neat and nice guy. 

I checked in to my hotel, which was just a few blocks from the famous riverwalk. I had planned on showering and having myself a nice dinner before heading out for a little walk, but I was so anxious to get out and shoot that I just dropped off my bags and headed out immediately. 

I primarily shot with the Ursa Mini Pro for the next couple of hours, mesmerized by the beauty and culture of the San Antonio Riverwalk. Here's the resulting video:

When it got too dark for the Ursa Mini Pro (which is totally a thing, since ISO 1600 isn't great and it needs a ton of light as it is), I put it away and switched to shooting photos with the a6500 with the Rokinon lenses. 

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The next morning I got up early to walk and take in the San Antonio sun for the first time, this time just shooting with the a6500 and manually focusing with the Rokinon cine lenses--which was really tough! You can see that I missed the focus a little on several of these shots. I loved shooting with the a6500 though, especially loving the EVF which I thought might bother me at first.  

In my experience I found San Antonio to be a wonderful, friendly, fun city, and now I really want to take my wife and daughter back someday to spend an evening on the Riverwalk, which was as good as advertised!

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The Indy Zoo

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The Indy Zoo

I had been once, in 4th grade, but all I remember about that trip was a classmate spitting into the air and down on me and convincing me that it was beginning to rain. So, yeah! I basically was discovering the Indianapolis zoo for the first time, which is kind of a shame since I've lived within an hour of it my whole life. 

Enhancing the trip was the fact that we were taking our increasingly extroverted 8-month-old daughter, as well as all three of my wife's siblings. 

I thought about taking our 70-200mm but didn't want to be that guy pretending that he was on some epic safari or something...and then as soon as we got there I immediately regretted not bringing it. haha...I had taken our 24-70 and our 85mm f/1.8, and ended up shooting with the 85 99% of the time because of its longer focal length, and because it's my favorite walk-around lens.

I didn't take a ton of photos, but I did end up with a handful that I really loved. I was surprised by how many african and exotic animals they had. The lions and tigers were asleep, so they weren't as photogenic. Maybe next time! 

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Music Video - Matt Bays

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Music Video - Matt Bays

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2016 Cinema Reel

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2016 Cinema Reel

This reel is a collection of my favorite shots, from a purely visual standpoint.

According to my Vimeo pages (personalbusiness, and Genesis Church), I produced about 119 videos in 2016...but the reel doesn't span all of my work in 2016 as I chose not to include interview or announcement video (Genesis) footage, which accounted for a lot of my videos.

Those talking head shots aren't as fun to look at, so I just picked shots that I like to look at...shots that I felt were cinematic in some way. I also excluded a lot of personal memories shots since I'll make a separate video for our family's 2016 Annual Recap video.


At the beginning of 2016 I had grown frustrated with the bit depth (and rate) and limited dynamic range of the Nikon D750, and my passion for video was slipping a little bit because I was consistently desiring more from the footage. While they're good video cameras, DSLRs just aren't designed to be great video cameras, and I felt like I was knocking on the ceiling of what they were capable of. 

In May I finally got my first Blackmagic camera, the Ursa Mini 4.6k, and the dynamic range and ergonomics of that camera propelled me into an even deeper love of videography.

People love to say that it's not about the camera, and it's true, the camera won't make you a good artist...but the camera definitely matters. It was a significant investment, and I took on an additional university project to pay for it...but looking back I can now say that it was the right move for me.  

Around the same time Instagram expanded their video time limit to 1 minute, which was the perfect length for short, experimental shoots and edits. I found this to be an exciting, low-pressure little outlet for my opportunistic bursts of creativity. 

I also discovered Soundstripe, which removed the barrier of music production/selection from my work. It was a cheap, fun, high-quality solution, and it enabled me to crank out my experimental edits with ease...which encouraged me to keep shooting because I knew my footage and workflow weren't going to get bottlenecked.   


My biggest take-away from watching the footage, in terms of improvement, is that I need a lot of work on sound capture and design.

A lot of these shots would have benefited from great audio, but it just wasn't a priority for me. That needs to change in 2017! 

I also would call 2016 "Cameron's Year Of Handheld Footage", because that was something I was so excited to do with the bigger, heavier Ursa Mini. I may have overdone it, but I think I needed to in order to learn more about that style...and I still have a lot to learn yet.

Altogether though, from a video standpoint, I'll remember this as a year when my resources and passion took a big leap forward. I'm super grateful for the gear I've acquired and I want to steward all those resources the best that I can, always looking to lift others up and help people feel understood...and ultimately, hoping to leave people feeling informed and inspired. 

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Chicago - 2016

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Chicago - 2016

Karissa and I were going to head to Chicago with our friends Isaac and Shelby to see Hillsong United at the United Center, and we decided to make a weekend out of it! We got great weather and it was a refreshing little break for all of us. 

We got into town after dark, and I was just blown away by how cool the skyline looked. It gave off so much light onto the low-hanging clouds that it reminded me of Christopher Nolan's Gotham in the Dark Knight trilogy...which, of course, I loved. 

The next morning we walked to a breakfast place called Stax, and it had a bit of a wait so we sat outside with everyone else waiting. I decided that it was a good time to get a few shots, so I got some shots of Karissa that I love. The 85mm f/1.8 is so great for portraits.

From there we headed to Wicker Park to check out Goorin Bros. hat store. Wicker park was super cool! Lots of neat people and a very friendly vibe. 

I mostly shot video while we were there, but when we sat outside to enjoy a smoothie I got some more shots with the 85. I camped on a framing of the street that T'd into where we were sitting and waited for someone to walk through, but the only clean, centered shot I got was the girl on the bike. The shot of Shelby is on the second floor of Urban Outfitters, while we were waiting for Karissa and Isaac to resolve something they were doing or talking about. I'm not sure what.

I was really desiring to have more weight to my footage, to try and shoot something that didn't look like I was there by myself and afraid to talk to people. At one point I came across a group of four people who were sitting outside laughing and really enjoying themselves, and I thought to myself that this was the kind of warmer, more intimate footage that I wanted to get.

As unnatural as it was, I decided to step into their little party and say, "Hi, this is going to sound funny but I'm in town for the weekend and I'm making a little video of my time in Chicago. You guys seem to be having a really good time--would you mind if I got some footage of you just doing exactly what you've been doing?" 

They surprised me with their immediate acceptance: "Sure!" 

I went on to explain my desire to create work that is more connected to people, and I lamented that I wish that we as a society weren't so intimidated by the idea of meeting strangers. I got some good shots of them laughing and then I did some "moving portraits" as I like to call them, where I set up a shot like you would a portrait but I record video instead. 

I then offered them free photos to thank them, which they accepted, and then I was off to figure out where Isaac, Shelby, and Karissa were by now.

From there we Uber'd to the Navy Pier, and I shot a few more street shots out the window as we drove. It was pretty hit or miss but I got three that I liked:

At the Navy Pier I again took surprisingly few photos, instead favoring the Ursa Mini as I spent an inordinate amount of time fixated on the swing ride because I love it. It was an awesome spot to get shots of the skyline though!

And here's the resulting video from the trip. We really enjoyed our short stay, and I loved the footage that I got as well. 

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California - 2016

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California - 2016

I've always wanted to see the pacific northwest, and I finally got the chance when we took my grandpa on a bucket list trip to see the sequoia trees.

(You can read more about the trip and see the resulting video in this post

My one and only regret of this trip from a photography standpoint is that I wish I would have gotten a photo of the foggy stairway disappearing into the mist without anyone in it, just because it would have singularly been a more flexible image to use for graphics or inspiration. 

Other than that I was super thrilled with the whole experience of shooting in this beautiful land. Shot with a D750 and a variety of Nikon lenses, primarily a 20mm f/2.8D and a 24-70mm f/2.8, and I tried to remember to stop down to around f/8 when I could because that produces sharper images for landscape shots.  

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General Sherman & The Bucket List

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General Sherman & The Bucket List

This trip kind of came out of nowhere. 

It was Easter weekend, and it'd only been a few weeks since we'd gotten the news that my dad's dad, whom we call Papaw, had been diagnosed with late-stage Leukemia. It was stunning because he'd always been reasonably healthy for his age, staying in shape playing racquetball and horseshoes.

My dad told me that the only thing on Papaw's bucket list was going to see the sequoia trees in California, and said he was thinking about organizing a trip to take Papaw out there. It sounded like a neat trip, and the sequoias were on my bucket list too, so I had even more reason to be excited about it. 

I said, "Yeah, I'm in. When are you thinking?" 

"Three weeks."

...So there I was three weeks later, headed to California with my dad, brother, uncle, two cousins, and Papaw Ted. The Sprinkle boys.


In addition to my Nikon cameras and glass, and I opted to bring my Freefly Movi M5 and leave my slider at home. I didn't know what to expect in terms of how we'd spend our time or how long we'd stay in one location, so I'd debated bringing both or neither, but when I got there I was so glad with my decision as the slider would have been cumbersome and the Movi went a long way in capturing the majesty of these magnificent trees. 

The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and Nikon 20mm f/2.8D both proved valuable as wide-angle lenses, which are necessary when trying to fit something massive into your frame. The guys were gracious about letting me take a minute to set up and balance the Movi, and whenever I could I would just hang onto it and leave it on between stops. It has a sleep mode but I hadn't installed that firmware update yet. They were also gracious about letting me keep the window down and shooting out of it even though the temperatures got a little cool at times!

Here's a short clip of my dad got of me getting a shot of Papaw up in the mountains...the Movi can look funny to operate but the resulting shots are worth it.

This photo of me using the Movi still weirds me out a bit, because the trees really look like they're painted onto a studio backdrop for Star Wars or something. The fog just made it all look so cinematic.

I try to always have a tension between living a moment and capturing a moment--I want there to be tension because that means that I'm aware of both sides. I want awareness because I want to be able to choose. With the passion and resources that I have I feel somewhat of a duty to help preserve moments and memories, and I also love to capture beauty in nature for the sake of sharing the beauty of God's creation to those who weren't able to make the trip to see it for themselves. 

In this case, I decided to approach it as though I were documenting a life-capping trip of celebration and closure between a father and his two sons. I knew this trip was really important to my dad and I wanted to honor him by capturing it for him and letting him fully experience it himself.

When we were heading up to the world's largest tree (largest in total mass), called General Sherman, I asked Papaw if I could put a lav mic on him and he said sure. I was grateful for his compliance, because that ended up being the most emotional moment of the trip, and I was able to get it on video.

Papaw's health is declining fast, which has been hard for us to watch since he was always active and healthy. The travel was tough on him, and he would conserve energy when it was possible. But as we walked up the path to General Sherman, Papaw perked up and had a pep in his step as he started making verbal declarations about what was happening and how great it was.

Sensing the magnitude of the moment I looked up from the monitor of the Movi and made brief eye contact with my dad, kind of one of those moments where I wanted to know that I was interpreting things right.  As if I were saying, non-verbally, "This moment feels really emotionally heavy, yeah?" and Dad, sensing it as well, gave a subtle nod to my visual inquiry. I could see what the moment meant to him, and as Papaw passed him I decided to do a subject hand-off and track with Dad instead.

This moment and shot was significant for two reasons:

For one, it was the apex of the trip. That's what we were sensing when we looked up at each other--this dying man had one thing left he wanted to do before he passes...and we were about to do it.

The second reason this shot was significant was that I think that my decision to switch from Papaw to Dad's reaction was a subconscious signal that to me, Dad was actually the main character in this story. I wanted this trip to be a healing one for him as much as anyone, and I tried to stay keyed in on him emotionally throughout the trip--not as a videographer but on a personal level. And in that moment it came out in my videography when I saw that his emotions were beginning to overwhelm him. 

It seemed that even the weather was in tune with our emotional rollercoaster. That day had started out with blue skies and a perfect hiking temperature of around 50 - 60 degrees, an appropriate backdrop for a heart-warming adventure. Shortly after we left the General Sherman site to explore other areas of the park, however, clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped. Papaw reclined back to a physical state of preservation, and the scenes got foggy, dark, and at times, slightly ominous. 

But for a few brief, shining moments, the trip was everything we hoped it would be. For me those few steps leading up to General Sherman were the highlight of the trip. I had hoped that a moment like that would present itself at some point, and I was grateful that I had been prepared for it--not just by having the stuff with me but by getting all the practice of setting it up quickly and being familiar with it from shooting all the video gigs I've worked over the last few years. 


I've joked that when I do work for clients, really they're paying me to practice so that I can get better at filming the moments that matter most to me. The years of shooting weddings trained me to treat every moment as potentially precious and fleeting, so I learned to stay in tune and jump on any opportunities that might be sentimental. 

Capturing those rare moments walking up to General Sherman was a prime prize of that training, and they're moments that I'll be forever grateful for. 

Putting the footage together was a lot of fun. I decided to start with the General Sherman walk-up moment to let the viewer immediately have some emotional connection to Papaw and to the trip. I wanted the score to be sentimental without quite being sad, to initially reflect the tender, sensitive nature of the trip and then to eventually reflect the grandness of what we got to witness. 

Without further ado, here's the resulting video:

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Albania - 2015

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Albania - 2015

When I signed on to this trip, I didn't even know where Albania was.

And even while we were on the flight over the Atlantic Ocean I still wasn't 100% sure where Albania was. But there I was, a late addition to the team after someone's health issue had unfortunately forced them to back out of the trip. 

We were flying to Tirana, the capital, to partner with a church called ICF Tirana. This was the first team that Genesis Church had taken to Albania so I wanted to get a lot of good footage and photos to use for promoting future trips.

Ironically the best lighting that I got the whole trip was before we even left, at the Indianapolis Airport. Those big walls of windows combined with an overcast day gave an irresistably soft light on our team, and gave me two of my favorite shots I've ever taken of our Lead Pastor, Paul Mumaw.