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Seeking Advice: First Time Event Photographer

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by kidrussell, Sep 4, 2015.

  1. kidrussell

    kidrussell Mu-43 Regular

    53
    Oct 14, 2013
    Chagrin Falls, OH
    Chris
    Hello Mu-43 community,

    Let me start by saying I have been a dedicated follower and seldom poster on this site for a couple of years now. I want to thank all of you for the wonderful information and insight I have found here. It is refreshing to find a place where there is so much positive and so little negative communication. Rarer and rarer these days.

    With that said, I am seeking some advice. I have volunteered to be an event photographer for a local charity, the Friendship Circle, which caters to children with special needs in our community. The event is this Sunday, from 11:00pm to 3:00pm. The weather forecast is sunny (not a cloud in the sky) and 90 degrees, obviously not the best conditions for photography. The event includes a large group walk, and numerous activities which will all be out in the bright sun. I am wondering what measures I can take to optimize the images I can produce for these nice people.

    A few specific questions I have are:

    1) Will a flash be a necessity? I think I can safely assume that many of the attendees will be wearing hats to fend off the UV rays. Fill flash seems to be required. I have an FL36 and an FL-300R at my disposal. And, as I am inexperienced using a flash in this environment, what will be the best starting point to hone in my settings?

    2) There will be over 1000 people participating in the event. I am the only photographer to sign up thus far. How do you budget time and attention with a group so large? I was thinking that I might be able to find a bit of shade (though after visiting the site, I am limited to a couple of trees and one small building to provide said shade) and ask teams to stop by for group photos before and after the walk. Any other suggestions appreciated.

    3) During the walk, which is only 2 miles so time will be limited, do I pick a spot along the route and try to capture everyone in waves as they pass? Should I just concentrate on getting the start and the finish? A hybrid of these?

    4) And anything I haven't thought of, but will he helpful?

    I am a little nervous, and excited, as the event draws near. I really want to make some great images for these folks. As I know some of you are pros, and have covered such events, any wisdom and experience you can share will help a great deal.

    Thanks again for participating on this site. I bet there are thousands like me who get a lot from the time and effort you spend here, but only speak up occasionally because we don't feel quite comfortable yet in our photographic skin.

    Have a wonderful holiday weekend,

    kidrussell (Chris)
     
  2. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Andrew
    Ok, first, let us level set what it is you are doing exactly.

    From your communication with the organization, what are they expecting from you? Are you to get pictures of everyone, groups within the event?
    Are you just covering the event? Photojournalistic style?

    It really does matter in your approach, not only from a gear standpoint but also from the perspective at which you will get your images.


    What I do for events like this:

    1) Get a solid point of contact for when you will have questions or need help. Who do you and how do you deliver images? Find out. I find that sometimes with events like this, there are committees that disband afterwards and it might be hard to find the right contact after the fact or day of.
    2) Discuss with the organization what they expect to get from you and how they are going to use it. This is important to determine how formal/informal you need to be with your setup.
    3) Get a schedule of what is going go. Start/stop times, any announcement type activities or before/after walk activities. Pre-planning is key.
    4) Get a map or make one of the event space and the walk route. Again, pre-planning is key.
    5) GET AN ASSISTANT or 2. Even if it is a friend/sibling that knows nothing about photography. You'll need someone that can follow direction. Why? Nothing is worse than trying to get your shots setup and having to try and communicate with the group. Offload some of this to the assistant. Also, gear issues, need an extra hand - having the dedicated helper is a godsend. Yes, you can do this yourself, but you'll be stressed enough.
    6) Get there early and walk around and introduce yourself to the crowd and let them know who you are and why you are there. You'll get more cooperation that way and less, "What is that guy doing over there?"
    7) Be as efficient as possible to make your influence on the group as minimal as possible.

    To answer some of your questions more directly:

    Flash/Open Shade/Group Portraits - Flash - do you NEED it? Depends on how you shoot and how fluid the event might be. If you will be run and gun most of the time, flash on camera for that time of day and use it as a fill flash to knock down the harsh sunlight. If you have an assistant and the ability to shoot off camera flash (OCF) - have them hold the flash for you for more creative effect. Not familiar with the flash units you stated, but if they have TTL, that would come in handy - if not, shoot manual, expose for the ambient and use the flash units to fill in the subjects for a good balance.
    If you have some formal portraits to do, which it sounds like you might, find the open shade if possible and have some OCF already setup in advance. Get them dialed in before hand. Then when needed, you just position the group, turn on the flash units and the transmitter and get your shot.
    If you do not have extra flash units, there are some places that will rent flash kits pretty cheap.
    You are not going to be able to cover very large groups with flashes - and by large, I am talking more than 20-30. If they are larger than that - forget the flashes and do whatever you can to get them evenly lit. Might even be worth it to have a step ladder or find something to elevate your position. That will allow them to look up toward you.

    Walk Route - If you can walk/drive the route before hand - do it. Make sure to do it around the time that the event will occur. There might be some great backdrops along the way or places where the lighting is more favorable than others. If you can be in one place and let them come to you that will be less stressful on you. It would be nice to get some shots of the finish line, perhaps a few minutes before the walk starts - get everyone lined up to show the beginning. I'd then go to the 1 mile mark or your predefined area of choice and get those images. When it starts wrapping up at that point, go back to the finish line and get some people going there.
    I'm assuming that this will be in a neighborhood or similar place where it is possible to drive to the different locations.

    Other Items:
    Gear
    Camera
    - I shoot with 2 bodies. One with a wide to medium telephoto and the other body with a medium to long telephoto. For example, I would shoot the EM5 Mk II with the 12-80/2.8 and the EM1 with the 40-150/2.8. I use a Black Rapid dual harness system. Great on your back and makes switching between the cameras simple.

    Flash - If you decide to use it for fill, have plenty of batteries - rechargeable/lithiums, whatever.

    In order to do some of this, you might need to rent/acquire some gear. Even though you volunteered, you might want to ask your point of contact if there is a budget to help you defray the cost you are going to incur. Worst thing they will say is no, and you'll have to forgo the cost yourself or go with a different approach. You might be surprised and they could be willing to help. You'll never know if you don't ask.

    Walking about in the sun and getting images, your concentration is going to be on the job at hand. DRINK WATER AND STAY HYDRATED. Even bring a powerbar or similar snack with you.

    That is about all I can think of at the moment. I'll update the thread later if I think of anything else.
     
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  3. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Mu-43 Top Veteran

    652
    Mar 21, 2013
    N Essex, UK
    Mike
    I think much of it depends on the location they are walking through.
    If there are several photogenic locations allong the route it might be nice to attempt photography at each of them, this potentially allows you to walk with them & capture some of the atmosphere of comradary that tends to build up. It does run the risk of you missing a few of the walkers. Otherwise picking a single spot (prefereably where there is some shade) and allowing them all to pass you might work better.
    In either case it would be best to include some views of people milling around before the start, and relaxing after the event. You might find that a few telephoto candids work very well though a fair proportion would want top be with a more normal focal length.

    The only similar things I've done have been:
    1/ With smaller groups on much longer walks, where I walked with them & trotted ahead at a few of the nicer locations to photograph some/all of them as they approached How many I captured at each location could depend on how spead out the walkers were. Usally with these walks my experiences have been from 1-2 week long walks covering over 100 miles - I haven't done any of them in the last 10 years due to my kids who tend to moan if I ask them to walk 1 mile.
    2/ Several parades where I've just had a static location & allowed them to pass me. At these sort of events the crowds are typically such that relocating isn't be practical.

    Given the size of the group you're photographing I don't think it will be practical to try and photograph everyone. Instead try to ensure you get a representative subset, include some that look to be the main characters that are more likely to be remembered by those who saw them. Make sure to capture any of the children with special needs the charity is about, but don't ignore the old folks supporting them :)
     
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  4. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Find out what are the most important images that the organization is expecting from you. As Andrew mentioned above, there area number of ways one could shoot an event, and with that many people attending, you are going to be extremely busy no matter how organized you are, so make sure you deliver what they are expecting. If they have no agenda or expectations, which is often the case (until after the event when they start asking for specific photos), shots with small groups of people or teams are a safe bet as they do a good job of capturing the human side of the event, and most people can relate to these types of images (and they tend to be popular if they will be distributed on social media).

    You may also want to check with the organization to see if there is any need for any type of photo releases for their use. If so, let them hanlde that if at all possible.

    You are going to be quite busy, and you are not going to be able to capture everything, so just accept that and try not to stress out.

    Good luck,

    --Ken
     
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  5. kidrussell

    kidrussell Mu-43 Regular

    53
    Oct 14, 2013
    Chagrin Falls, OH
    Chris
    That is some great advice, and quick I might add. I will reach out to the organization this afternoon, and get their expectations. I suppose that is something I should have thought about right off the bat!

    I do have two bodies that I will bring. The E-M5 will have a 12-60 SWD and the E-M1 will have a 50-200 (non-SWD). I won't have time, or the budget, frankly, to get the harness right away, but that is something I will target for future events.

    My 13 year old, who has to do community service for school, just volunteered to be my assistant. He'll be thrilled to find out when I tell him after school!

    Concerning flash, both the flashes I mentioned are TTL capable. I am thinking that before the walk, I will be set up in the shade, and shoot OCF for those shots. I plan to show up about an hour early to meet the organizers, and I'll try to get the flash dialed in with plenty of time to spare. Any advice as to what the best position to set up a stand, or to tell my son to stand? How far away, and how far off-center? I will bring a small step ladder, too.

    For the walk, and for the time when I am milling around the proceedings (activities are pretty spread out), I plan to use the more powerful flash set to TTL. I have a Rogue Flashbender I could mount to the flash and get some diffusion that way. Will that be a good idea? It isn't the most eye-pleasing set-up, but the images are all I care about.

    I love the suggestion about exploring the route for ideal positions. I can do that in the little spare time I will have tomorrow. I believe I should be able to drive from A to B, but I am not absolutely certain what streets will be closed for the event. I will discuss that with the organization contact later today.

    And the advice to manage my expectations is great, too. Maybe I'll sleep a little better Saturday night.

    Thanks a ton for your kindness, and extremely helpful responses.
     
  6. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 13, 2012
    Chicago-area
    David Dornblaser
    For these sort of events, I recommend that for a couple of shots that you find some high ground: standing on a picnic table, hill, small 6' ladder, etc. The height advantage will give you a different way to look at the crowd.
     
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  7. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Canada
    David
    Chris,

    My advise for you is not to experiment with other people's kind suggestions when you're doing event work. Make notes though.. However, do what you know best naturally and you are most comfortable within your skill level. Many photographers here on this forum have the necessary skills before going to Event work already. Don't add new things to your shoot especially you're not very familiar with lighting ratios, angles and exposures. You will be stressed having to deal with 1000 people, so why add more especially you're not even getting paid! Wonder why only you signed up?!? I suspect others know it's a tough job with no pay -- means no one wants to step up. Since you're the only game in town, most of these people should expect that they have to be happy with what you could do. That's ok -- it's called volunteer work so don't put a lot pressure on to yourself. I feel that you are right now..

    Flash. Yes you would probably need to use it to fill and balance with daylight or ambient light. Setup? What is this event about and who are these people? Are they important members of society or representatives of an organization where their mugshots will be in the cover of the newsletter or magazine?!? If you are going to be published other than the web, then yes a setup area for a portrait session is good; but again you are dealing with 1000 people and assuming you spend at least 2 to 3 mins each if you are experienced with light; that's a most 2000 to 3000 mins for all the 1000 attendees. If you are using flash, always have a back up flash, like another FL-36 or FL-50 just incase one overheats or dies during the middle of the shoot. FL-300 is not going to be powerful enough to act as a backup.

    Setup? I would say do what you feel comfortable. Don't assume what you're doing flash wise is not good enough. A lot of those paid low-cost wedding and event photographers including those hired by lowball companies use straight on flash with little or no diffuser. If you are planning to do fancy lighting ratio setup, I would practise first to get a good foothold before doing an event; not figuring and experimenting things out during the event. Find a meetup group in town that deals with studio lighting. You may have to pay to shoot cause they hire models, but many of the strobist in these group are extremely experienced. Just 1 or 2 sessions with them will give you the idea what to do. Or ask your wife to be your model, and have your son hold the flash and you experiment different angles before going to the shoot. You want to go into the shoot confidently. When you are nervous about the shoot, people there can smell it. Lack of confidence inspiring photographer isn't good. Worse, these people will push you around telling you how to shoot this and that because they know you aren't experienced enough. You don't want to end up in this common scenario with a lot of rookies. Once these people control you, you will not have control of your creative outlet.

    So do what you know best and be confident. And last thing -- this is a volunteer gig that nobody wanted to get involved it seemed aside from you! If these people are looking for a professional photographer, they should pay for one and you shouldn't be pressured to act like you're one of those very experienced paid photographers.

    Hope this helps.
     
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  8. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Andrew
    Distance and position will be dependent on the power you need coupled with the coverage.

    The safe answer is to do the standard 45 degree to the side and down. Depending on the size of the group, you might need 2 flashes. If so do similar setup to camera left and right. Pull them back as far as you need to to cover the group and get the flash units out of the shot. Obviously, the further away the more power will be required. Light mods also eat up power as well.

    You can experiment with lighting positions if you have the time. Something to look out for in larger groups is casting shadows from the light sources on the back row of people from the people in front. Try and get the light source as high as is possible to mitigate. You can practice some of this with just 2 or 3 people. Put one person at the widest points you think you'll need and take a test shot. Make sure the coverage is there.

    Then, group the people together in s small cluster and take another shot. You'l see real quick if the light position is going to cause people to fall into shadows.

    When shooting groups like this, I get everyone's attention and let them know, "If you cannot see the camera and the lens, it cannot see you." This will help you by allowing the group to self position themselves somewhat. Don't be afraid to shift people. You don't want the 6' 3" person in front of the 5' 2" people! :D

    One last thing. Not sure what the building you have in that area might be comprised of, but if it happens to be white or there is a large white structure around you, you can place the groups facing the white wall, put your back to the white wall and bounce the flashes off of it, creating a large white softbox for fill flash.

    Again, this is all dependent on if the resources are available to you and you have the time to set it up.
     
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  9. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    The advice to keep it simple and to stick with what you know cannot be stressed enough since this is your first time doing an even of this type. I would make two non-technical suggestions for your consideration. First, remember that you and the agency are telling a story and you will want images that help tell that story. Recognizable photos of volunteers, staff, participants and noted guests are key since people relate to photos of people they know. Second, arrive very early so you can easily get some photos of the volunteers and staff setting up for the event. This is an easy time to get some key photos for the story before the even actually begins.

    Once things get going, you are going to have very little control over the situation, and are going to be mostly operating in a somewhat automatic mode. This is why you want to keep things simple. Skip any unnecessary equipment if you plan to be mobile. After the event, there will be lots of highly energized folks, this is a good time to again get group shots, as everyone will be looking happy (and possibly a bit exhausted).

    On a more personal note, I have done event work off and on over the years and still struggle for a portable lighting set-up that I find easy and reliable. I did have a Rogue Flashbender, but never found it to work in any predictable manner in a highly varied "grip and grin" environment with bad lighting. I also found it quite frustrating to keep experimenting with different gear that would suffice in a variety of situations. This often proved frustrating, as I do not like underexposed faces, nor do I like flash burned faces. Last year I had to shoot an afternoon/evening outdoor/indoor wedding for a family member. Lighting was a must, and after a few frustrating weeks, I ended up with two Lumiquest products, one of which I will recommend for helping you bring in some additional light with minimal shadows or flash burn. Their Mini Softbox is dead easy to put on and take off, and is quite easy to use (for landscape orientated photos) at close range. And while I did not like the results that I was getting with TTL, I switched to A mode on my flash and just adjusted the flash or exposure output a little bit if needed and was quite happy with the results. Once dialed in, I was generally good to go, and the set-up was a bit forgiving if light changed a bit. No, it will probably not win you any lighting awards, but it will eliminate common issues, and cause little grief, and it folds totally flat and can slip into your pants pocket if not needed. It is only a recommendation, and others will offer workable suggestions as well, but it is a cheap and easy solution for your consideration, and it generally needs less than 20 minutes of initial testing to get it dialed in if you are familiar with your flash controls. And, it it not top heavy, nor will it bang into things or fall off if you are on the run.

    Good luck,

    --Ken
     
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  10. kidrussell

    kidrussell Mu-43 Regular

    53
    Oct 14, 2013
    Chagrin Falls, OH
    Chris
    Thanks again to all who have replied. I am happy to report that since I posted this thread, another photographer has volunteered to shoot the event, which will make the day less stressful. I belong to a local Photographic Society, and the members do all sorts of volunteer work for a wide variety of charitable organizations in Northeastern Ohio. The lack of sign-ups to this point was solely because of overlap with other events this weekend. The volunteer coordinator routinely has to turn away photographers because so many sign up. What can I say, it's Cleveland, people here are just good eggs. Like the 99% of the regulars on this site, by my tally.

    That said, I will certainly be using much of the advice I received today. I am looking at this as an opportunity to do some good, and get better at the same time. And reading your responses, I know that I will have a lot more success than if I had tried to go it alone.

    On that note, I'm off to Dodd Camera to find a Mini-Softbox. If my two OCF set-up (which I want to experiment with, regardless of whether I can dial it in properly for this event) doesn't provide useful results, I've got a back-up plan!

    I am confident I can get some nice images, that is more than I can say I was feeling this morning. And I have a better idea of how a real photographer approaches this type of endeavor.

    Thanks to all for your wisdom and generosity.

    -Chris
     
  11. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Andrew
    I'm not surprised about the photographer availability. There are a TON of things going on over the Labor Day weekend. Glad you are going to be getting some help.

    All the best, look forward to seeing the results!
     
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  12. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Bring your camera and flash to the store as I believe Lumiquest does not seal their packages, and you could try before buying if the store allows. I kniw there are other products that can do more or better with a flash, but this product did not require extensive thought to get good results, and there is something to be said for that.

    --Ken
     
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  13. felipegeek

    felipegeek Mu-43 Enthusiast

    113
    Jan 8, 2014
    Miami, FL
    Felipe
    @kidrussell@kidrussell ,

    I have shot the Multiple Sclerosis BikeMS event in South Florida for the last two years. It's a two day event covering 75 miles each way. I shot this year with my EM-5 with M.Zuiko 12-50 4-6.3 and 40-150 4-5.6 lenses for their general flexibility. I also had the kit flash and my (now defunct) FL-600r It's certainly was a mix of lighting and physical environments - out on the road shooting from a car, street corners, parks with lots of trees or very few, and a couple of commercial properties. It's challenging to get the kind of results that would please me overall but I do it for the cause. The first year I learned that it was about capturing the participants and their enthusiasm. The ride director had asked me to get smiling, happy faces. She had plenty of riding/race looking shots but nothing that had the volunteers, cheerleaders, rider's families, and the riders themselves off the bikes. I took the mission to heart and really got into it overcoming my apprehension at asking for people to pose for the camera at the starting line, rest stops, and final destination. In my experience the most enthusiastic folks started to figure out what I was doing and would seek me out along the route to take photos with their teammates and others they befriended along the way. I did my best to capture their energy and pride and it shows in many of the photos.

    For the fluid part when everyone is walking, running or riding (depending on the event) go with the flow and don't be afraid to get out in front and take the shots. If the organization plans to share the photos with the participants via their website and social media then don't look for the perfect shot, capture their moments reasonably well and you will find a shots that you might not like but the participant will treasure. When post-processing only delete the photos that are truly poor (very out-of-focus, or seriously blurred on the first pass. You want to put a priority on the number of participants included in the final set of photos as a priority over the quality of the photos themselves. Many of the participants may only show up in one photo where others will be in many. Cull photos that are more like duplicates if they include the same person or people in them, keeping the ones with the best character then quality.

    This is a link to Day 2 of the BikeMS event where I was the only photographer. I drove 70+ miles and hit 8 rest stops and the finish line along the way and enjoyed the whole journey.

    Good luck with your endeavor and thanks for being a willing and enthusiastic participant for the benefit of others.
    PS: Post a link to the publicly available photos when they are up!
     
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  14. ashburtononline

    ashburtononline Mu-43 Veteran

    393
    Jan 21, 2015
    New Zealand
    I do this sort of thing professionally. I wouldn't bother with flash..... recycling will be too slow. I would scout for a good location and after a few shots of the start, I'd head there and shoot. You will not get a shot of everyone. Just concentrate on getting a good range of images. After the walk, get candid photos of the entrants at the finish area. You could use flash here for some group photos. Dont sweat it and make sure you have charged batteries and spares. I use two EM1's and often give my RX100 to my wife/daughter and let them loose. They always get some keepers:). I'm actually doing one of these tomorrow. You have good equipment. Sleep well and relax.
     
  15. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    If you have a spare camera, you may want to offer it to your son to take photos if he is interested and is not assisting you at the time.

    --Ken
     
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  16. kidrussell

    kidrussell Mu-43 Regular

    53
    Oct 14, 2013
    Chagrin Falls, OH
    Chris
    Well, I can say that my first foray into the realm of event photography was a successful one. I was able to send the Friendship Circle 87 images from the day's proceedings. I want to thanks you all again for your advice, and say I really could't have done nearly as well without it.

    I would like to post some pictures, but I am unsure of the best way to do that. I have a Dropbox account, and have a folder there with all the pictures from the event. Posting that would seem to be overkill, as 87 images is to many for folks to review, but I could make a sub folder with the ten I like best.

    Does anyone know if Dropbox would have issue with a public post of the link? I thought I read somewhere that might be taboo?

    Anyway, here are just a few of my favorites:
    TrueFriends. True Friends Happiness. Happy Family Father&Son. Father & Son KickingBack. Kicking Back
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015
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  17. ashburtononline

    ashburtononline Mu-43 Veteran

    393
    Jan 21, 2015
    New Zealand
    Well done! Seems the weather was kind to you too!
     
  18. kidrussell

    kidrussell Mu-43 Regular

    53
    Oct 14, 2013
    Chagrin Falls, OH
    Chris
    Thanks, ashburton.
     
  19. JBoot

    JBoot Mu-43 Regular

    106
    Dec 4, 2012
    Scotch Plains, NJ
    Jerry
    Chris, great first outing! Nice shots. Well done!

    I have to say to all who provided input.... I shoot large events regularly, was watching this thread and was tempted to comment but to be honest the advice from those who had already chimed in really summed it up great... the quality of input and commentary across this forum is what makes this place better than others...
     
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  20. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Congratulations! It's great that you volunteered your photographic talents, and the images that you posted captured the day well. I especially liked "Happy Family".

    --Ken