Kings Dancer Auditions. by Luke Cheng

Last week the Sacramento Kings held auditions for their on-court dance team. Nearly 200 dancers came to audition for a spot on the roster to dance this upcoming season. The audition process is a rigorous and demanding experience for everyone who comes out. The Kings only pick the best of the best when it comes to the dance team, so these dancers would have to really give it their all in order to obtain one of the coveted positions.

It's always an excited time for me when auditions come around because I enjoy the shooting dance photography. I love the movement involved in dance - it's graceful, powerful, and elegant all at the same time. I am amazed at the talent that all the dancers have; there was some high level skill on display!

The audition process consists of a few different stages. The dancers have to learn both a jazz and hip-hop routine on the fly. These routines are performed in a large group and in smaller groups. The dancers are judged at different points during the audition process, and cuts are made periodically. If dancers make it through the two routines, they still have to come back and perform a solo dance showcasing their own unique skill set. 

Throughout the day the judges carefully watch each auditioner. Every little thing is noticed - from dance techniques to whether or not the dancer is engaging the audience. The dancers have to be 'on' the entire time they are at the audition. There really isn't a time to rest save for the quick water breaks. It's really intense!

Because there is so much talent to choose from, the judges have to think very carefully about each dancer. The judges discuss each dancer's attributes in great detail. Included in discussions are whether or not a dancer will be a good ambassador for the Kings basketball team. Yes, dancers need to be flawless dancing on the court, but the dancers must also have the ability to interact well with fans and represent the organization with class. They are looking for the complete package.

The few dancers who are chosen to make the 2017/18 Sacramento Kings Dancers squad were given flowers when their number was announced. Those who made it onto the team were overcome with happiness and joy. The hard work and effort paid off! 

Congrats to all the dancers who made the final cut! I'll be looking forward to seeing everyone out on the court during the Kings games! This will be an extremely exciting time, especially for the first year dancers. Becoming an NBA dancer is certainly life changing. Big things are to come!

A special thank you goes out to the judges led by Jenn Santich. Each year they spend the time to get all of this together in order to build the best team possible. I'm looking forward to a great season of dance!

Mike's Surprise Proposal. by Luke Cheng

Mike contacted me about taking photos of his surprise proposal and I was more than happy to oblige! I've done a few of these now, and they are always a blast for me to do. Often times these surprise proposals have me hiding out somewhere and being inconspicuous, but not this time! Mike set up a cover story saying that I needed shots for a magazine story. What a great idea!

I had the opportunity to pose the couple in the best light. So often in these surprise proposals the proposal happens in a place that isn't the best for a picture. That was definitely the case this evening as the sun was quickly setting behind the trees in the park. There was one little patch left of good light for them to be in. We were definitely lucky to have that spot.

I gave Mike a nod so he knew I was absolutely ready to go and he took out the box containing the engagement ring and got on his knee to propose. It was an beautiful moment to witness and capture. 

The best part? She said 'yes'! And of course Mike was overjoyed! I took the opportunity to get in some fun shots of Mike celebrating this huge moment in his life. Congrats to this beautiful couple. Now comes the wedding planning!

Maternity Photos with Cassie. by Luke Cheng

This past weekend I was out shooting maternity photos with Cassie. Maternity photos have become increasingly popular in recent years as people desire to capture this special time before their child is born. This is Cassie's very first child, so I know that this part of her life has been filled with both challenges and great joy. Having a professional photoshoot to capture portraits of this stage in her life will give Cassie something to look back on, remember, and share!

Cassie came to me ready to shoot! She told me she didn't really have any idea what she was going for, but her flowing pink dress and flower crown were exactly the elements that fit this type of shoot perfectly. Our location was filled with lush greens and yellows, so the pink really stood out nicely. Cassie looked absolutely gorgeous!

Cassie and I met at 6pm - the perfect time to capture some gorgeous natural light. This is what photographers call the 'golden hour'. It's a very narrow window to shoot in, but when we do the photos we end up getting are stunning.

I loved shooting with Cassie that early evening. In about an hour we were able to get lots and lots of beautiful photos. I was able to process the images very quickly and got her the entire set by the very next day! I pride myself of getting photos back to my clients as soon as possible.

As an expecting father myself, I know how important and special these 9 months before the baby comes is. I have a few more maternity shoots coming up soon so be on the lookout for some posts on them! If you or someone you know is looking to do a maternity photoshoot, please let me know! 

Shaq in Sac. by Luke Cheng

Oh man! My third sports camp in the last few weeks. This time it was with Shaq Thompson of the Carolina Panthers. He was at Sacramento's Grant High School hosting a football camp for the youth. He was in it for the long haul as there were two sessions of the camp spanning the entire day. This would most likely be the final sports camp I shoot this summer so I wanted to get as many pictures as I could.

Unsurprisingly, Shaq was every bit as hands on as DeMarus and Arik were during their camps. He was right in amongst the kids as they were working on their football skills. He had a great rapport with everyone and was willing to mentor and teach. I could tell that the kids in attendance were having a blast. They really put out a great effort in everything I saw them do.

Every youth that came out got a sweet Shaq Thompson camp shirt that they got to wear and keep. The color scheme was definitely in line with the Panthers motif. Everyone looked great on the field in them as they competed with each other.

There was no shortage of exercise happening at the camp. The kids were running, jumping, and racing with each other. I like this shot I got of the kids as they were doing one of their races. You can really see the desire to be first in their faces as they go!

Shaq spoke with the kids at the camp and gave everyone an encouraging word. It has been awesome seeing pro athletes like Shaq, DeMarcus, and Arik giving their off time to the community. I definitely was encouraged by seeing what they did.

That's a wrap for the sports summer camps. I hope you enjoyed seeing the photos that I took. I'd love to do this all again next year! 

DeMarcus Cousins Returns to Sac! by Luke Cheng

DeMarcus Cousins was back in Sacramento to host his yearly basketball camp. As you may know, he was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans this past basketball season. I've always had a great relationship with DeMarcus and his managers/agents. It was an honor to be asked to cover his return this summer as I've definitely missed the big guy since his departure. DeMarcus was all smiles as he walked into the gym, it was a sweet reunion for many of the people in attendance.

The youth invited to this camp would be receiving the best in terms of coaching. Just like with Arik Armstead's camp, everyone here was completely dedicated to making sure the kids got a quality experience. I've seen many of these coaches from the previous years of DeMarcus' camp. I'm always astounded by the level of commitment they have for these kids. Some of the coaches in attendance have connections to higher level basketball camps and would be scouting talent here. It was important for the kids to do their absolute best to get noticed.

The expectation when coming to this camp is to work your hardest and to do your best. Nothing less than that is accepted. As I was taking photos, I could feel the energy in the gym. The kids had many activities throughout the day from working on offensive skills like passing and shooting to defensive stances like the one shown above. 

DeMarcus didn't let the coaches do everything themselves. He took on the task of engaging with the kids and working with them so that they could get better. The ultimate challenge for the kids would be to take DeMarcus on one-on-one. Only a few of the campers got this opportunity. But wow! Wouldn't it be amazing to have the chance to take on an NBA All-Star? That would be something to remember!

The gym was hot as the summer heat got the facilities cooking. Thankfully, everyone got regular breaks in the action to hydrate themselves. Water, Gatorade, and energy snacks were plentiful so that anyone who needed them could easily get them. Things like this are a crucial detail that cannot be overlooked. The organizers of the camp were prepared for whatever the campers needed.

Towards the end of camp DeMarcus sat down for a question and answer session. There were many hands up as the kids had a ton of questions they wanted answers to. DeMarcus was patient and open in his answers to the campers. I hope that the kids take to heart what DeMarcus had to say. He shared his struggles as a student and encouraged the campers to take school seriously. 

DeMarcus was also presented with a letter of from the city thanking him for his service to the community. In it was listed all that DeMarcus had done up to this point - and it was a long list! He certainly deserves some recognition for his efforts off the court as they are many. This kind of stuff always gets overshadowed by game actions and stories, but they really shouldn't. I can attest to DeMarcus' huge heart for people.

As the kids left they each got a sweet bag full of goodies from DeMarcus. It was a nice little reward for a day of hard work. 

For this event I used both the Canon 7d mark ii, 5d mark iii, and the Sony a9.