Monthly Archives September 2011

(Above: It’s not a composite, and the background hasn’t been blurred in Photoshop. It’s the 400mm f/2.8 doing what it does best).

On Saturday, I got to shoot my first football game of the year, alongside my buddy Mike McCaskey, as the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame routed the Michigan State Spartans 31 – 13. It’s was a day made for shooting football—65° at game time with bright beautiful skies.

(Above: In the 2nd half the sun gets low enough that about half the field is in shadows, and anything in white turns blue.  So, I get Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush; I lower the Saturation slider quite a bit, then I paint over the blue areas in their jerseys, shirts, gloves, etc. and they return to white.).

Shaking The Rust Off
I was really rusty—not having shot football since last January, and it took me until about the 3rd quarter to finally start getting back into the groove.

(Above: I was positioned at the goal post, shooting down on my knees, as the teams came down the tunnel to enter the field right before kick-off, and this Michigan State Offensive Guard didn’t seem particularly pleased to see me).

Camera Settings
I shot the entire day in Aperture Priority mode at 200 ISO, at f/2.8, which gave me shutter speeds anywhere from about 1/2,400 of a second up to 1/8000 of a second.

Camera Bodies and Lenses
I used two bodies: A Nikon D3s with a Nikon 400mm f/2.8 lens, mounted on a Gitzo monopod, and a Nikon D3 with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

(Above: Notre Dame Quarterback Tommy Rees scrambles during the 3rd quarter. He’s probably thinking, “I’ve got to get to the sidelines,” and I’m thinking “Don’t run into the shade—-this would make a great two-page spread). ;-)

Why I love shooting Day Games
It’s a “set it and forget it” kind of day. You choose your settings before game time, and you never have to change them again—the entire day. It leaves you free to focus on trying to get the shot.

(Above: I wish I’d gotten this shot from the other side).

(Above: Nobody gets any love from field goal shot but I like this one because it’s right at the moment of impact. I was actually hoping for the shot a split-second after this, but at least this one has some movement. I focused on the holder with my 400mm, and waited for the kicker to run into the frame).

(Above: I’m amazed at how few facemask penalties get called, because when you’re shooting at 400mm, you see them all the time).

(Above: In the third quarter and beginning of the fourth we had some really great light, but my the middle of the fourth, the entire field was almost in the shade —notice how the parts of the tackler are already looking blue).

(Above: Stretchhhhhhhhhhhh!)

(Above: For once that day, I was in the right place. Every touchdown happened at the opposite end of the field I was on except for this one which happened right in front of me. I had switched to my 70-200mm f/2.8 when they got inside the 15 yard line, where I got this frame. The play was reviewed, but the touchdown stands).

(Above: At the end of the game the team meets at the far end of the field, and they sing their Alma Mater, and that’s where I got this frame, on my tip-toes holding the camera above their heads and firing my camera one-handed. Right after I shot this, I hear a text message alert, and a friend from Birmingham texted me, “Are you shooting the Notre Dame game? I think I just saw you on TV. You were behind the players singing holding your camera up high? Yup—that was me!).

A great way to start the season
Even though I got off to a rusty start, it was such a fun day, with such great weather, I didn’t really mind that it took me like three hours to get into the groove. Now that the rust is off, I can’t wait until my next shoot (though I’m not sure when that will be. I’m doing my seminar in Portland today, and in Los Angeles tomorrow).

My thanks to my buddy Mike for letting me shoot with him, and to all the great folks with Notre Dame Football for giving me a really fun day of shooting. Football is finally here—-yeah, baby!!! :-)

You have to stay with me on this one, because….well…you just have to read this.

In May of 2009, I came to Denver to do my Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks tour, and the day before I spent some time shooting with Jason from the I decided to do a creative exercise to stretch myself a bit by breaking with the usual and just use one single lens; a 50mm prime lens—-that’s it. No changing lenses—just that one lens, the whole time.

We shot for hours wandering around downtown Denver and really had a great time. I mostly shot architectural type stuff—buildings, signs, patterns—stuff like you see at the top of this post. I even took some examples I could use for an upcoming book project, and all and all I really enjoyed that one lens exercise because it makes you think and work and be more creative, and not rely on your gear so much.

However, as I wrote back in May of 2009 (link), the next morning, before even getting to look at any of my photos, I not only accidentally formatted the card, but I shot right over the card with images from my seminar. When I realized this a few days later, I tried to rescue them using recovery software, but by then they had been overwritten and they were no where to be found. Uggh! It’s a heartbreaker.

Happy to forget that loss
I know I probably didn’t get anything really worthwhile that day, but knowing that you lost about 8GB of images (around 700 images) makes you feel like “I bet there was something really great in there…” and it’s the never knowing that eats at you. I had never really done that before—lost a whole shoot without backing up. I learned a good lesson from it, but every time since whenever I hear someone mention Denver, I still cringe a little as I relived my mess up. It’s how we photographers torture ourselves.

Today, I’m back in Denver with my “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it Tour,” and yesterday as Brad and I were driving downtown I passed a sculpture I recognized, and the buildings beside it, and the whole “losing my images” thing came rushing back. I told Brad the whole story from beginning to end, and even he was cringing. I just couldn’t imagine how I could have done that, and seeing those areas I shot, and lost, just made it worse.

I’ll meet you in the lobby in 10 minutes
I wanted to catch an early dinner so I called Brad and said, “Let’s me in the lobby in 10 minutes.” When I come out of the elevator, Brad reaches in his shirt pocket and hands me a memory card. I said “What’s this?” He smiles and says, “Your missing Denver photos from 2009.” I was speechless. I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t.

It’s that whole “cleaning out my closet thing”
I’ve been doing a series of giveaways on Twitter called “Semi-useful stuff from Scott’s camera closet” and literally as I’ve been cleaning out my closet, I’ve been giving away things I haven’t been using in a while. This past Sunday I found a Swiss Army brand laptop bag I had used briefly (it still looked pretty new), and it was in such good shape that I didn’t want to throw it away, so I brought it into the office and asked Brad to see if anybody wanted it.

Well, Brad had a new laptop, and no real laptop bag so he claimed it, and showed it to me at the airport this morning. I was like “Perfect—it found a new home.” That morning, when Brad was putting his laptop and accessories in the bag, he found two of my memory cards in one of the pockets. He saw there were images on them, but he also saw they were from 2009 so he figured I had long since backed up already so he reformatted the card to use tomorrow at the seminar. However, after he heard my story, and went and used photo recovery software to see if those shots were indeed the missing shots from Denver. After looking at a few, he saw a sign in one shot that sure enough said “Denver” and he just sat there and smiled as he rescued every single image.

I was stunned.
Still am as I sit here and write this. Seriously, what are the chances? I gave him the bag yesterday, and if we weren’t in Denver, and hadn’t driven by that exact sculpture, I probably wouldn’t have ever told the story, and then tomorrow morning we would have actually overwritten that card; never having any idea those images were on it. Now, they truly would have been lost forever.

As I suspected…
The images weren’t great. Just “OK.” Nothing going in my portfolio. Nothing earth shattering,  (the images you see here are the ones from the missing card). But I don’t care. I have such a sense of peace just knowing that they’re back, and that I didn’t accidentally erase them—I just misplaced them—for two and a half years. That part, doesn’t surprise me at all.

Thanks Brad
I needed a smile yesterday, and that surely gave me one. That, and a whole bunch of  “I just can’t believe you found that card!” during dinner.

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Jeremy Cowart: Photographing the Eli Young Band
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Scott Kelby Guest Blogs

[Note from Brad: This is the first in a series of guest blogs from National Geographic photographers. Check back over the coming weeks for more stories about shooting for the prestigious publication!]

Crossing the Yellow Border

Kudos to Brad and Scott for devoting blog space to a series of posts by National Geographic shooters.

I’ve been shooting for “the yellow magazine” since 1987, and that land beyond the yellow border is indeed a wonderful, and strange, place. It contains and defines the entire realm of shooting experiences—impossible odds, magnificent occurrences, unprecedented access, nearly unbelievable bad fortune, outright danger, the exhilaration of the hard won chrome or file captured, and the devastation of bad days, or even weeks in the field.

The Palomar Telescope fires a laser 60 miles into the heavens.

That place, “in the field,” can be the urbane and sophisticated streets of Paris, or someplace literally so remote as to have never felt the footprint of man. It can be the ultra-sacrosanct tombs and structures of societies time has all but forgotten, or the blinking, humming computers that power our most modern technologies. The magazine’s official mission statement is “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge.” “Geography,” for the editors there, generally encompasses both physical and cultural geography. People and their places. People in relationship to the planet. The planet itself, in all of its’ magnificence, and wreckage. The earth, sea and sky, and all the organisms those elements nurture, and occasionally, punish.

Over the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. I found that my fingers didn’t work so well trying to load a 617 Pano camera with 220 film in an open door chopper at 14,000 feet.

In short, everything. Trust me, I know this first hand. I was once given a story to do called “The Universe.” Yikes. (To my editor, I was like, “Okay, how long do I have to shoot this?”)

I was already an established “New York” shooter, with covers of Sports Illustrated, LIFE, Time, Newsweek, New York, etc., by the time I came to the attention of the yellow border gang. Strategizing to get an assignment, I turned down a go everywhere credential to the Seoul Olympiad for Sports Illustrated to honor a commitment to a week long freebie speaking tour called The Flying Short Course, sponsored by the NPPA. Sounds unbelievably stupid, right? A freelancer turning down a month of day rates to keep an obligation to do a series of free lectures.

On the face of it, yes. But the method to my madness involved being on the same touring faculty as Tom Kennedy, then DOP of Geographic. I had the opp right then and there to show my portfolio to Tom, five days in a row. I gulped, said no to SI, didn’t’ go to Seoul, and instead went off to lecture. At the end of that week of touring and talking, Tom looked at me and said, “You should come down and start shooting for us.” That was 1987. Still shooting for them. Finished my last assignment this past summer. Almost 25 years, and lots of yellow boxes, and pixels, later, I’m still out there, trying to increase and diffuse.

For a story on Global Culture, i needed a global storyteller. Who better than George Lucas? I wanted George Lucas to simply be part of the tableaux I created outside this old theater, but it didn’t quite work out that way. George is front and center, surrounded by his creations.

That longevity was not a given, to be sure. It never is in the world of freelancing, and I did my best in my first few efforts for NG to ensure my career with them would be truly short lived. I made big time screw up after big time screw up.

It was a different type of shooting, you know? I was used to the New York method. That kind of played out like this: Get a phone call from an editor at a weekly publication in Manhattan. Say yes. Never, ever be able to reach that editor on the phone again. Make all the arrangements, Go shoot the job. A week was a long time. Six pages was a big story. Get in, get out. Process film. Deliver it in a breathless rush. Not hear anything. Call three weeks later. Finally get the editor on the phone. “Oh, hi. Yeah, Joe! It is Joe, right? That story that you shot? Oh, oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, uh, it was good, we liked it. Thanks. Gotta go to a meeting.”

Have phone ring back, almost immediately. It’s a call from that very same editor you were just talking with. That editor who now all of a sudden remembers you, and realizes you are standing there, somewhere, with enough time to make a phone call and this qualifies you as a warm body with a camera, and potential availability to solve a problem the managing editor just threw on his desk like a big, steaming turd. “Hi, yeah, uh, by the way, are you busy in the next two hours?”

I didn’t think we could top Orlando, but thanks to an incredibly energized crowd in Vegas, I think they took it over the top. Amazing energy the whole week, and I couldn’t walk 2 feet without someone stopping me to tell me this was our best show ever.

Sometimes, it’s just a vibe in the air, or the fact that with the economy like it is, everybody needed to get away and get totally immersed in learning and creativity and that’s exactly what they did.

Here’s my take on the show (photos by official PSW photographers Brad Moore, Jim Sykes, and Josh Bradley):

Totally Cracked Me Up
I sat down at the instructor table for my “Photoshop for Travel Photographers” class, and I’m setting up my laptop when I hear a text message alert on my phone. It says “I’m in this class. Make it good.” It was Ken Toney.

Owned the Expo Floor. Again.
Westcott once again ruled the floor, with their creative live shootout booths, complete with live models, full sets, costumes, and lighting. This is a HUGE  hit with the attendees and anytime you went by there, there was a big crowd at every set (they could all shoot simultaniously because the sets were lit with Westcott TD-6 Spiderlites).

He looked like a wounded sloth…

Vanelli. He was very subdued this year. It’s possible he finally got off the crank. (totally kidding. I think he hurt his foot in the tub or something equally less glamorous, but it didn’t slow him down too much, but it did a little).

The “Tweet Up” goes Prime Time

A couple of years ago, it was 30 people. When it was 300 hundred. Now it’s so big that it’s an official part of Photoshop World, and it’s a perfect place to make new friends (and goof off in front of a really big softbox). Brian Matiash from OnOne had loads of giveaways, and that didn’t hurt either. ;-)

Pulling huge crowds on the show floor…
Wacom’s in-booth theater was a big hit. They tried it in Orlando, and people loved it so much that they took it up a notch in Vegas.

Their product announcements were the talk of the Expo floor

Nik Software releasing their major update to their Photoshop (and Lightroom) plug-in  “Color Efex Pro 4” and OnOne Software releasing their “Perfect Photo Suite 6” with lots of big updates. More on both of these coming soon, but everybody that saw either was over-the-top about them.

A first-timer making lots of noise on the floor
Camera filter manufacturer Tiffen. They had a big booth, and it was packed every time I went by.

An honor to have him teaching at Photoshop World:
Gregory Heisler. What a fascinating, witty, and amazing photographer. What a treat to have him at our event.

Coolest “New Kid on the Block:”
Compositing master Joel Grimes taught his first classes at Photoshop World, and he was an instant hit. His students loved him, and we loved him. He’s the real deal.

Got a Standing Ovation…

Joe McNally’s “Faces of Ground Zero” presentation during the after hours “The Art of Digital Photography” panel. His words and images have incredible impact, and the timing was not lost on the crowd. A very emotional, yet somehow uplifting talk.

He was a rockstar!
Intellectual Property Attorney Ed Greenberg’s class was such a hit, that he continued the class, for 45 minutes, out in the lobby outside his class. His insights and advice for photographers is absolutely invaluable!

America loves him!

Frank Doorhof. He loves them right back. What a great teacher, and such a nice guy.

The other expo hit:
iStockPhoto’s “Photoshop Wars” booth was rocking, and people loved watching, and joining in on the fun. You could hear people cheering no matter where you were on the Expo floor.

Didn’t sleep for five days straight:

RC Concepcion. He was like a human glow-stick. Everywhere he went, he was lit (kidding). Seriously though, I don’t know who had more fun at Photoshop World, RC or Frank Doorhof, because these two guys did everything, went everywhere, and created new ends for the candle to burn. They’re both probably going to sleep until Thanksgiving.

I was tickled to see

My first copies of my new book in the bookstore. I did a book signing, and during the book signing Thomas Knoll came over and said hi. Couldn’t talk him into buying a book, though. ;-)

Took it easy this time.

Believe it or not…me. I cut nine things out of my Orlando schedule, and I actually had to time to see the Expo floor, visit with friends, have nice dinners with my wife, and generally enjoy myself. It was a very different experience, but I liked it. A lot.

We listened when they said, “We want more Jeremy Cowart!”
And not surprisingly, people loved him. Big time. He was even on the “Art of Digital Photography” panel. I know he had to be nervous, being wedged between Joe McNally and Jay Maisel, but he totally fit right in, and everybody totally dug his work and his message.

Best Booth Design

Adobe takes it again, with this open, airy layout and inviting design. It was more like a coffee house, with Adobe as your host, and people were loving it.

Really cool to see….

Senior Photoshop Product Manager Bryan O’Neil Hughes get inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame. A very humble, classy, and freakin’ smart guy.

Gettin’ “the props” they deserve
Our award-winning video team captured so much of the event, and they were everything covering every thing. They are probably the only people who sleep less than RC, but man do they rock it!!! At the Closing Wrap Up Rally, we showcased their winning entry in the 48-hour film festival and they crowd loved it. It was great seeing this wonderful team getting the recognition they deserve. Really warmed my heart.

Classes that I heard totally rocked it:

I heard numerous mentions for Dave Black’s light painting and sports photography class, Jeremy Cowart’s sessions, Matt Kloskowski’s Compositing class absolutely killed it, the social media for photographers track was a very big hit;  Helene Glassman’s posing class was mobbed, Rich Harrington’s DSLR classes got lots of love, as did Julieanne Kost’s class on Time Lapse photography. Cliff Mautner gets big love, too! Also, heard lots of great comments about Joel Grimes classes. Of course, Joe McNally, Moose Peterson, and Jay Maisel all had jaws dropping the entire week.

Lots of Adobe folks at the show

Besides having a big presence on the trade show floor, Adobe was there in full force with Photoshop team members attending the show as well, including Senior Photoshop Product Manager Bryan O’Neal Hughes. I think it’s so cool that our participants get to meet face-to-face, one-on-one with the crew from Adobe.

One last thing…
If you did your own coverage of the show, including posting photos from the event, or blogging about it, or posting videos on YouTube, let me know and I’ll post some links here on the blog. Thanks again to everyone who participated in Photoshop World, from the instructors to the attendees, to the staff. Together you all make it a very special event, and it’s an honor and a blast to be a part of it.