The Common Thread Among the Best

by | Jun 21, 2015 | Tips & Tricks | 4 comments

Here are some of my favorite submissions from the ACTION photography team at HEAV. It doesn’t represent all 16 attending photographers, but I knew I at least had to display some of their work. Everyone just worked so hard! it was a huge event, there was a lot to cover, and I know that HEAV now has a great database of pictures to pull from in their preparation for next year!

As I reviewed these shots, I noticed that there was a common thread among them. See if you can pick it up. I don’t necessarily like the pictures because of this one factor. It just happens that this factor is common among every single one of them. And so, for that reason, it’s what I strive for in all my pictures.


Photo by Allison

This is probably the best shot I ran across while I was sorting through all the HEAV pictures. The wonder. The expression. The light. This concept of “future scientist”. It invites the imagination to investigate the intricacies of the microscopic world. I just love the shot. And it’s so crisp and clear. Sharp and in focus, with a blurred-out background to emphasize it.

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Photo by Ruth

There was a lot of activity going on in the children’s program, but this shot not only captures the idea of activity in the position of the subject, but also in the inclusion of active colors. Orange and yellow project outward and attract attention. While I wish there was a greater depth of field, the picture still works because it’s crisp and clear, sharp and in-focus.

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Photo by Rachel

I don’t know where this picture was taken, but you got to love the expressions. 🙂 Expression radiates from the face, so the best pictures, though often hardest to shoot, are those which portray joyfulness,
most powerfully caught when the subject is looking at the camera. And look how crisp the girls eyes are! The connection into this fun-filled moment is immediate, and it’s hard to tear your eyes away from it.


Photo by Levi

I really can’t say what is going on here. Is it posed? Or are the students on the right and left actually holding conversations with other people? Does the blue dot on the main subjects hand mean anything? I don’t really know, but I must say the photographer was really thinking creatively when he took the shot. It would be natural to zoom in on the center graduate to remove distractions. But then the almost humorous composition that portrays a room full of graduates would have been missed. I don’t know. I just liked this shot when I saw it. 🙂 Perhaps it’s because it’s tack sharp and has that appealingly blurry background.

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Photo by Mathew

I liked this one right off because of the story it tells. The story of an artist who absolutely loves what she’s doing, teaching others how to do it. I understand that passion of teaching. It connects with me. And, boy, is it sharp! Every detail in the face, every hair, and even the stick of pastel (?) in her hand is sharp!

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Photo by Mary

Again, crisp, sharp and in focus. The background is out of focus helping to pull the subject off the background. Another thing I like about this picture is the fact that the top of the music stand is barely visible at the very bottom of the image. It allows the eyes of the viewer to follow the gaze of the harpist without falling out of the bottom of the frame. And, as a final note, it really helps that her hands are perfectly positioned. 🙂

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Photo by Matthew

I just had to post this one, it was so expressive. I’m not exactly sure why the young guy is pulling his hair out, but evidently there was something stressful going on. Or is he just having a great time? Have you ever been so excited that you looked like you were going crazy? All the elements just come together for this one. Great exposure. Tack sharp and in-focus. Great depth of field.

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Photo by Michelle

There’s something just so perfect about this last shot. I think it’s because it really captures the busy feeling surrounding the Convention. It’s cluttered, but it’s somehow an organized mess. There’s no dynamic expressions, but it’s somehow unnaturally normal. I know I walked passed many, many moments like this as I walked to and from the ACTION classroom, but I never stopped because I was either in a hurry or nothing ever really stood out to me as interesting to photograph in that location. But that’s why I admire this shot. Somehow it’s captured “normal” in an interesting way. It’s tack sharp and well exposed, but those are just partial elements of the whole. I think it’s one of those shots that I will have to think more about why I like it.

So, have you noticed the common thread? Tack sharp and in-focus. Sharp pictures make all the difference in the world. A blurry or out of focus picture is very seldom useful. I always say during the ACTIONs that it’s better to have a grainy picture than a blurry picture. Make sure your pictures are sharp. Do whatever it takes to keep your pictures sharp and in focus!

There’s not enough time here to explain how to get sharp pictures in difficult lighting situations, but I guess that’s what ACTION is all about! All of the pictures in this post were taken under difficult lighting situations, and let me tell you! I was there! But just because the light isn’t right doesn’t mean a shot can’t be got.

Looking forward to the Sacramento Family Conference ACTION photography team next week!

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  1. Mark (thefarmhand)

    Well James,

    To give honor where it’s due, I did not take that photo. 🙂 Actually, I gave my camera to my friend/brother Levi Walker, and he took several shots while I was tied up graduating. There were people on the sides talking to the two girls that are facing out, but there was only half of their bodies in the frame, so I cropped them out. The sticker in her hand shows what row and seat she was sitting in in the auditorium. As to your other questions, I’ll send him a link and see if he can answer them.

    • James Staddon

      Wow, that is hilarious. 🙂 There were so many other pictures I could have posted from you, but I only wanted to do one! Thanks for letting us know. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of your pictures used in the HEAV publications where it really matters most. 🙂

  2. Levi

    Dear James,

    Mark sent me the link to this page in hopes that I could answer your questions about the photo I snapped with his camera at graduation. The story on that photo is pretty simple. I was just walking up and down the line of graduates looking for any who looked like they wanted their photo taken. That young lady struck that pose on her own (We did not say a single word to one another) and I just snapped the photo from where I was already standing without playing with the zoom or anything. As I said before, there was absolutely no skill or planning on my part. I was just taking lots of pictures in the hope that some would turn out well. I guess one did!

    • James Staddon

      That’s great. 🙂

      By the way, enjoyed chatting with you on Sunday after HEAV!


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