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July's Featured Photo of the Month!

Title: Hats off to the class of 2015!

Taken: June 15, 2015 in Kingston, Rhode Island.

Shot with: Nikon D-3S camera body,

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens.

Shot at: 24 mm, 1/800 sec at f / 3.2, ISO 6400

I really hate graduation season.

I know, I know, I should be more politically correct and tell you how every student is special and how I, as a photographer, love being at these special ceremonies where we celebrate a class' achievements but, honestly, once you've been to more than three of these things you've literally heard every single speech ever made and listened to every possible variation of the same event.

So, it's no wonder then that by the time I get to my sixth or seventh graduation of any given season, I'm pretty much on auto pilot.

This year was no different.

I knew what shots I had to get at each event, knew when to pay attention, knew how to crop the shots and knew what was expected of me following the shoot.

And that's why it was such a relief to me when the time came to shoot the graduation of South Kingstown High School at the Ryan Center down at the University of Rhode Island last month.

The last of my many graduation assignments for the year, I went into SK's big event completely and utterly drained. Not only was this my sixth graduation ceremony in a month, I was coming into this event having just completed a span of three weddings in three days and hadn't had a day off in a month and a half.

Yes. To put it mildly, I was exhausted.

So why am I recounting all of that here? Well, quite simply, it's because despite that exhaustion and despite my mental fatigue at listening to countless speakers recant how amazing the class of 2015 was, I still managed to get something at this graduation that I hadn't gotten before: the cap toss.

Graduation cap tosses, when done right, are incredible. But the problem is, as a photojournalist, you can't stage the event, you have to let it happen naturally. And at every single graduation I've ever attended, a natural and unstaged cap toss is next to impossible to predict.

Lucky for me, on this day I was ready.

Having shot South Kingstown's graduation before, and knowing that it was rainy outside, I knew there was a better than average chance I could get a decent cap toss shot right before the administration let the graduates go and I was right.

So, standing armed with my trusty D3S I stalked the side of the arena I thought had the most vibrant and excited kids and let the moment happen.

And that's why I love this photo so much. In this one picture, you can see the pure excitement of this moment in these kid's lives and, without even a word, this photo says a ton: It represents the thrill of an unknown future, the promise of the next step and, above all, the idea that there are a few milestones in life that make everyone the same.

But, to me, it means one thing and one thing only: No matter how many times you've shot an event and no matter how much you just want to go through the motions, you have to be ready whenever you're on a shoot for something special to happen.

So thanks, class of 2015, for helping create a photo I'll cherish for a very long time.

Beyond the Lens: A blog by Paul J. Spetrini

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