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Scott & Matt

I hit the road last Thursday, and it’s been a busy weekend. I thought I’d do a quick interview with myself to answer those lingering questions I have about myself. Here goes:

Q. Hey, how’d your Lightroom seminar in Michigan go?
A. It was awesome! We had a huge crowd, but not only that—they were a really a great group to present to. They were totally into it from the get-go, and they really made me feel feel welcome.

Q. How did you handle all their questions?
A. Luckily, Lightroom expert, and Adobe Technical Sales Director Terry White was there with me answering questions from the crowd between each session and at lunch, and that helped a bunch (in that neck of the woods, everybody knows Terry and he was mobbed with questions on every break).

Q. How many of his answers were correct?
A. Very few, but he’s so friendly people didn’t seem to mind.

Q. Really?
A. I’m totally kidding. Terry knows Lightroom inside and out, and he was tremendously helpful (especially when I got stumped a few times—-I just sent the people to Terry).

Q. Judging by the photos above, I guess you didn’t go straight home after the seminar?
A. Nope, I took a detour down to Ruston, Louisiana to shoot the Louisiana Tech vs. New Mexico State college football game from the sidelines with one of my frequent commenters here on the blog, pro sports photographer Matt Lange (here’s a link to his blog).

Q. How’d you hook up with Matt?
A. When I was getting shellacked about the whole ‘Shooting from the Sidelines’ contest a few months back, Matt sent me a very kind email of support, and we started talking back and forth, and one thing lead to another and the next thing you know Matt and I and a bunch his friends and family are sitting around tail-gating before the game. Then we headed out to the field to shoot in absolutely perfect football weather. That’s me and Matt in the last photo above, taken right after the game.

Q. Scott, you look like hell in that photo.
A. That’s a statement, not a question.

Q. Sorry. Scott, why do you look like hell in that photo?
A. It’s been a long couple of weeks, brother. ;-)

Q. Louisiana’s a long way to go for a shoot isn’t it?
A. Yup, but it was totally worth it. First, I made some new friends. Besides being a really talented photographer (link), Matt is just a terrific guy all around, and so is his buddy Donald Page (who’s now my buddy, too, despite the fact that he tried to work his way into just about every shot I took all day—that’s his camera in my fisheye shot above), but it’s not just Matt; he’s surrounded by a bunch of great people, from his lovely wife Chelsea, to his his friends, his Mom, his brother, old college roommates and all, and they couldn’t have been more gracious or made me feel more at home as they were plying me with Jambalya and Boudin.

Q. But it was more than just a day of yummy food and fun, eh?
A. You betcha. I got to pick Matt’s brain about how he shoots football, and I picked up some great tips from him (he shoots NFL, college, and other sports, along with sports portraits), and plus; I really needed the practice. Shooting football is a lot harder than it looks, and I hadn’t shot a game since last season, and I was so rusty at first that after the first quarter I felt like re-formatting my memory card and just starting over. Luckily, things got better as the day went on, and I got a little more into the groove, but shooting football is something that just takes a lot of practice, and a lot of hustle to do it right. I wasn’t on assignment covering the game, so I could be pretty leisurely about it this time, and Matt and I talked a lot and had a lot of laughs the whole day, but that’s not the case when shooting a game if you’re on assignment.

Q. How crowded were the sidelines?
A. There were only about 10 photographers covering the game, so it was pretty wide open.

Q. What was the biggest challenge?
A. Getting a decent background. The stands were only about 2/3 full at best, with both end zones open (no seating—just grass) and the bleachers toward the ends of both sides were empty too, which makes for some pretty bad backgrounds. Some of my shots where I had captured the best action had some of the worst backgrounds (from a number of angles it looked like there was no one at the stadium, but actually in the middle of the stands it was packed). So, you had to try and work around that all day, but sometimes, depending on where the play was happening, you just couldn’t avoid it.

Q. Any other challenges?
A. The constantly changing light. It was pretty cloudy the whole day, but then the sun would break through for a few minutes, then back into the clouds, then back out again, so you really had to keep an eye on your exposure. Also, there was a lot of white in their uniforms, so you had to keep an eye out for clipping the highlights, especially when you’re shooting wide open all the time.

Q. How much post processing did you do?
A. Really just two things: (1) I added contrast (2) I sharpened the images. I shot in Auto White Balance and it worked fine for a daylight outdoor game, so I didn’t have to do any color correction or enhancement at all (the field was astroturf, so the colors were already really vibrant). I also had to crop a few shots (for example, I had to crop Don’s face and arm out of the fisheye shot). I also shot in JPEG Fine mode (gasp!), wide open at f/4 all day, trying to keep my shutter speed at 1/1000 of a second or faster. I used a D3 as my main camera, and a D300s as my 2nd body when the action got inside the 20 yard line. I also used the latest RS-4 R-Strap (from Black Rapid)—the one with the new connector, on my second body, and I have to admit; the new connector is a big improvement (though the magnet in the shoulder strap kept getting attached to Matt’s friend’s truck). Can’t live without the R-Strap for shooting sports.

Q. Anything else notable happen?
A. Well, there was thing one thing. It took two flights each way. One on a small Delta commuter jet, and the other on a full-sized Delta 757. The commuter’s overhead and under seat space was so small that I had to gate check my camera bag (a Think Tank Photo’s International Traveler I just bought a few weeks ago—–it’s smaller than the Airport V2 I have, but still can hold two bodies, my 200-400mm lens, two other lenses, and tons of accessories). Anyway, it survived the first flight fine, but on the way home they had to gate check it again. Once we landed in Atlanta, I watched from the jetway as they unloaded the cargo hold. They pulled a conveyor belt right up to the plane, but rather than putting it right up even with the hold; they put it about 3 feet lower, and the Delta baggage handler inside the plane just rolled the bags out of the hold, and they tumbled down about three feet to the conveyor belt below. I watched as bags hit and and rolled over, and watched as my camera bag, marked fragile, hit and rolled as well. I opened the bag and made a visual inspection and so far nothing appears broken, but later today Brad and I will give it all a once over.

Q. The belt is hydraulic, right? Why didn’t they just raise it right up to be level with the hold?
A. I have no earthy idea. After they loaded it, they drove the bags over to the jetway, and raised it all the way to the top of the stairs, so it can go very high. I’m stumped, and disappointed that Delta would let this happen, but I’m also relieved that the Think Tank Photo bag is built like a tank, and I didn’t pick up a bag full of broken glass.

Q. Do you have any more sideline shoots coming up?
A. I’ve got a few lined up already, which is why I was so anxious to get out there and shake some of the rust off. At the end of the day, it all comes down to practice (just like Photoshop, just like guitar, just like anything you want to be good at, really), but luckily I don’t mind practicing any of it. In fact, I love it!

Q. So what’s next for you?
A. Catch my other post for this week’s festivities. I’m not sure I’ll be gettin’ much sleep (between my schedule, and how badly my Tampa Bay Bucs are doing this year). Hey, at least the LA Tech Bulldogs had a great day—they beat New Mexico State Aggies 45 to 7. Thanks Matt for everything—for the food, the fun, the learning, the practice, and some cajun food I’d never tried before. Oh, more more thing….”you had me at ‘I’ve got you a media pass.’” ;-)