Sports photography legend Dave Black has been down here at the Kelby Training Online Studios this past week taping a class on using off camera flash for shooting action sports portraits. He was doing some amazing stuff all week (his class is going to be SICK!!!!! If you use off-camera flash, his stuff is going to blow your mind!!!!).

By the way: I know many of you already know Dave is an amazing instructor (ask anybody that saw him at Photoshop World), but when he’s not teaching, and just being a regular guy, he’s just as amazing. I got to spend some time with him this week—Dave even went to church on Sunday with my family, and he spent the day with us just hanging out, talking sports [my poor wife], sharing stories, but mostly laughing. He’s one of the most fun, genuine, and just great guys out there. He’s “the real deal.”

A Night to Remember
Anyway, one night at dinner I asked Dave for any tips he had about an upcoming Major League Baseball shoot I had coming up for Southcreek Global Media. Of course, he had a ton! I’ll tell you the exact same thing I told Matt Kloskowski when I came into the office the next day: “I learned more about sports photography last night, than I had in a year!” (It’s WAY more than I can fit in a blog post, or two, or 10!).

I had a bunch of questions about setting up a remote camera for shooting sports, and Dave convinced me to put together a remote rig  (shown below) and take it with me to my next MLB shoot (which was two days later—The Rays vs the Twins this past Saturday). He told me to mount it near me, just so I could get used to shooting a remote, and then once I was comfortable with it, then start to find cool places to mount it (like in the catwalk above the domed field, which they do allow if you get there the day before, or very early for the game, and you’re not afraid of crazy scary heights or intense heat. I was out on both counts).

The Remote Set-up
Brad put together a Manfrotto Super Clamp with a Manfrotto Variable Friction Magic Arm attached to mount and had a Nikon D700 with a 300mm f/2.8 lens attached. On top of the camera sits a Pocket Wizard attached to the camera with a 10-pin connector. That way, I could fire the camera in (High-Speed Continuous shooting mode) from where ever I was (there are four shooting pits at Tropicana Field, one before and after each dugout). I started with it just a few feet above my head, aimed at 2nd base (I used the auto focus to focus on 2nd base, then I switched to the focus button on the lens to Manual so the camera wouldn’t accidentally change focus while firing).

Above: You can see the position of the camera a little better here. The photo pit is below and to the right of the camera). To position or check the camera, I had to either climb up on the railing to adjust it (can’t do that during game play), or make the long trek up to the top of the that section, back down to the camera, and then back up and down again. Tip: when you re-aim the camera at a new target, make sure the focus is on the money. I switched to catch the batters, but the guy I focused on wasn’t fully in batting position, and I had about 100+ photos of batters, all just a little bit soft. Lesson learned.

Above: Here’s one of the shots I caught with the remote camera. I was shooting my 400mm at the batter, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the play developing at 2nd base, and I hit the fire button on the 2nd Pocket Wizard in my left hand, and caught the shot you see here (and a whole series of this play) with the remote camera.

The part of actually getting used to shooting with the Remote didn’t take long (I totally dig it), but now the challenge is timing and finding cool places to put the remote (where I won’t get in trouble—they have rules where you can put them). I’m covering a few more games for them in the next week or so, so I’ll get more opportunities to work on my remote scheme. But, I want to thank Dave for encouraging me to do it, and to Brad for making everything work together. :)

Above: I saw one of my shots from Saturday’s Rays vs Twins game featured on the home page of Southcreek’s site (seen above). Sweet!!

Catch Dave Today on “The Grid”
Dave’s our in-studio guest on today’s LIVE broadcast of “The Grid” (at 12:00 noon EDT) and our first topic is “Can you make a living shooting sports photography.” It’s gonna be a great show!!! We’re also talking about what we want to see in the next round of DSLRs. Here’s the link (send us live comments during the show via Twitter: just add #thegridlive to any tweets, and we’ll see ‘em).

One Last Thing!
While Dave was already here doing classes, we also got him to do a separate class on Light Painting (for those of you who follow his excellent “Workshop at the Ranch” tutorials [link], you know Dave is one of the leading educators when it comes to light painting, and is a true master of this very cool genre. If you don’t know what Light Painting is, follow that link. You’ll be hooked!