XO Mike

Holiday Portraits

Posted in Family, Personal, Portraits by Michael on February 21, 2011

Before Christmas my sister asked me to get a photo for their Christmas Card and to get some pictures of my new nephew William. Working with a 4-year-old, a 1 month old and an exhausted and unenthusiastic Pat made the shoot frustrating but there were some shots that I liked.

-XO Mike


Engagement Photos

Posted in Personal, Portraits by Michael on May 19, 2010

Warning! The following content is overly cutesy!

A few weeks ago Elise and I went out with Brad Meyer and had him shoot some photos of us. The goal was to be just about as mushy as possible and I think we succeeded. We spent some time at the Arboretum, Japan House and Memorial Stadium and had the perfect backdrop of blooming flowers and trees and a wonderful sunset. All images are from Brad.

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-XO Mike

Belated Easter Post

Posted in Events, Family, Portraits by Michael on May 4, 2010

Reaghan peers over the balcony as the Easter Bunny arrives.

I have meant to edit and post about this since the day after Easter but I forgot about it until now. I won’t say much,¬†other than it was a great day complete with the Easter Bunny. We took another family portrait which I tried to organize a little better this year. It’s nothing flashy, but it is a good piece of history for the family so long as we do it every year.

Making faces while I setup the shot.

Everyone is welcome and this was our crowd for the day.

5 Photogs

Posted in Passing Through, Personal by Michael on April 25, 2010

Crushing BlowA few weekends ago some of the DI photographers got together to hang out at Brad’s place. After a while I wanted to play around with Brad’s strobes and seamless backdrop; we rearranged his room and got everything setup and played for a while. It was a lot of fun (for photo nerds at least) and we each got some funny images. I did get a little inspiration from the setup and a video I was shown online but you’ll have to wait a few months to see if it pans out. ūüėÄ

-XO Mike

Illini of the Week – Paul Ruggeri

Posted in Daily Illini, Portraits, Sports by Michael on April 9, 2010

Illinois' Paul Ruggeri, winner of the Big Ten Championship vault and high bar exercise, and this week's Illini of the Week. Portrait by Michael Stein

Wesley and I went over to get this week’s Illini of the Week and we didn’t come to the gym with many ideas. We wanted to work with the vault and high bar but to be honest, we were unprepared. We tried a few zoom panning shots of him running down toward the vault but gave up when the shots weren’t turning out. We moved over to the high bar and he wanted to do a release. It was really hard to get the timing and focus down because of how he rotated and although we did get a shot of him flying through the air but Wesley grabbed my attention for this shot which was our favorite. In so many of our sportraits we are so focused on an action shot that we largely neglect simple posed shots. If any gymnasts are named Illini of the Week again, I already have a shot list in my head.

-XO Mike

Illini Prosthetics

Posted in Daily Illini, Portraits by Michael on April 6, 2010

Jon Naber, of Illini Prosthetics, shows a prototype prosthetic arm, designed for below the elbow amputees. Naber was awarded the Lemelson-MIT Illinois Student prize for his work.

As I was leaving town for break, I had one assignment before I left which I intentionally chose because I had met the guy before. Jon Naber, an undergrad at Illinois, contacted me last fall about getting involved with the deployment we did in Sao Tome. He told me that he couldn’t be a leader within the group because he already had the obligation of Illini Prosthetics, which was understandable. Little did I know how far his group would go. Naber recently won a $30,000 unrestricted prize for his work with the group and has generously donated it back to the project. The group has developed 5 prosthetic arms and is currently seeking patents for their final prototype which they will be testing in Guatemala this summer. The project is pushing for low-cost (<$50) prosthetic limbs for developing countries and they are well on their way to success.

The portrait was taken in what I understood to be a shared space for similar entrepreneurial startups at Illinois. The¬†white-board¬†had lots of random writing which I liked for a background compared to the rest of the 10×10 room. I liked that this portrait shows how the limb will attach to the user and shows off the low-cost aspects of using¬†rubber-bands¬†to secure the¬†interchangeable¬†hook attachment.

Check back tomorrow morning for another update!

-XO Mike

Illini of the Week – Angela Bizzari

Posted in Daily Illini, Portraits by Michael on March 17, 2010

Michael Stein The Daily IlliniThis girl is taking over the sports front of the DI. Two weeks ago she was the Illini of the Week for winning something, last week she was the #4 Illini of the Decade and this week she is again the Illini of the Week for winning the NCAA Women’s Indoor 3000m Championship. The photos were not all that creative because a) we shot her two weeks ago running, b) her sport has no props to work with, c) the location was changed from outdoor to indoor with less than 30 minutes until the shoot, d) she’s too cute to pull off the tough girl look and e) I was kicked out of a spot on the track because of practice. Anyway, I’m not unhappy with the result but wished it could have been more visually stimulating.

I worked with three flashes to pull off these shots; two on shoot through umbrellas and one on the ground without a diffuser. This was my first time using shoot through and I think I have converted because they allow my flashes to be closer to the subject which uses less power and a fuller flash. I also took to heart another trick and used my 70-200mm lens because I have heard (and noticed) there is less distortion on longer lenses. Technically I was pleased with the result but creatively I was underwhelmed.

Michael Stein The Daily Illini

-XO Mike

Competition Entry

Posted in Portraits by Michael on March 16, 2010

I apologize for all the portraits (more to come tomorrow @ 10am) but I’ve really grown fond of them in the past few weeks.

One of the other Daily Illini photographers found a student photo competition sponsored by a department at the University and so we all entered the contest hoping to sweep the competition and beat the photography majors at their own game. The prompt was something like, “define your world” – what makes your life unique. Rather than grab a hipster shot of my friends in the middle of a street, I went through my archives and found this shot of Reaghan. I touched it up a bit and got the colors to where I like them (I like the tinge of pink in the bubbles because it reminded me of the pink bubble bath solution bottle). She’s a cutie and I miss seeing her when I’m at school.

-XO Mike

Portraits Portraits Portraits

Posted in Daily Illini, Portraits by Michael on March 11, 2010

Edit: I updated the photo to remove visible brush strokes. I couldn’t see them on three monitors but it was visible elsewhere.

Last week I invested the deposit from the Wedding job into two light stands, three umbrellas, and wireless flash triggers. With the help of Brad’s lighting tutorial and more¬†experimenting¬†with lighting, my portraits have improved a lot in two weeks. So much so that I want to take down the portrait of the gymnast because I realize how much better it could have been. I’m sure in two weeks I will say the same about these three photos but the difference in quality of lighting really amazes me and I’m proud of the improvement I made.

The DI was running a piece about Agriculture Fraternities and Sororities and I had the idea to get the presidents of each house in a portrait together. Although we could not get all four to agree on a meeting time, I was able to shoot with the presidents of Nabor House and 4-H House. I would have liked to be on the South Farms with tractors but realistically the South Quad was a much more convenient location. Fortunately on such a beautiful day with gorgeous sunlight filtering in through the skylights I was able to get access to the Stock Pavilion and snag some photos with animal fencing which was already setup. I shot about four different poses before I let them on their way (only about 20-25 minutes of their time). These are my two favorite and the top photo was a bit unnerving to shoot because I had to balance myself on a wobbly fence.

The last photo is of John Dergo, 31-2 in the 184 lbs. class and the BigTen Champion. He was selected as our Illini of the Week and I shot him for the second time in only a few short months. It was difficult to get different shots because I was confined to the same location and he was in the same attire. Fortunately, I got two separate shots that I really liked and a third which was alright. Although this did not print, it was my favorite of the three but I already can see a trend of up high shots and I need to not develop a habit of this angle. Enjoy!

-XO Mike

Illini of the Week – Dan Ribeiro

Posted in Daily Illini, Portraits by Michael on February 25, 2010

Dan RibeiroOn Monday I grabbed the assignment to shoot the Illini of the Week. Each week the Daily Illini Sports editor selects an athlete who they deem to be the best of the week. Sports writes a feature article and photo gets to do a portrait of the athlete. I headed to Kenny Gym with my mini studio to get some shots and Wesley offered to help with the shoot. I thought it turned out really well despite Ribeiro loving himself too much and doing the shoot shirtless.

One of the DI photographers donated some old flash triggers to the staff recently and this was the first test run. I used wireless triggers and two 580exIIs to blow out the background and while I wish I had done a multi strobe to capture his motion around the pommel horse, I think it turned out alright. Thanks to Wesley for helping me out.

-XO Mike