Getting lucky in December


December 24, 2006|By Amy Davis | Amy Davis,Sun Staff

An assignment to cover a Christmas choir performance by students from Roland Park Country School at Roland Park Place, a retirement community, was standard December fare. I could anticipate the scene: sweet-faced children standing in rows singing, and elderly folks seated in rows, either listening appreciatively, or in various states of responsiveness.

The challenge was to find the most angelic or lively faces among the youngest and oldest, to capture the spirit of the season. Rarely is it possible to combine the two age groups, except in a wide-angle overall photo of the scene, and usually such pictures lack any sense of personal connection.

In this case I got lucky because the eighth-grade girls, songbooks in hand, mingled with the older residents to sing Christmas carols. Zoe Jack, 14, was relaxed and warm as she shared her lyrics with Emily Tompkins Taliaferro, 77. Emily got more and more animated as she sang along, and Zoe responded to her enthusiasm with a spontaneous high five.

I made two versions of this interaction. The first photo had good timing and expressions, but Emily's outstretched arm blocked the faces of those seated behind her. So I moved in closer, switched to a wider-angle lens to open up the background more, and waited for this final exuberant moment at the finale of the concert.

The room was rather dark, so I was shooting at a slower speed to gather more warm ambient light, which added some blurred movement to the image. To make the subjects stand out I used a small fill flash on my camera, and placed a second small flash with a slave flash on a chair to the left of Zoe, providing a soft back light.

A portfolio of other images taken by Sun photographers can be seen at

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