Above: Me and Mike Carlson, lying down on the job getting our focus set. I use auto focus to focus on the spot where I think the players will come through the smoke (Chip Litherland and Casey Brooke Lawson were our stunt models for focusing position), then once the focus is locked in, I switch Auto Focus off (Photo by Casey Brooke Lawson)

OK, the remote shoot wasn’t exactly “Epic” but to be fair, my buddy Mike Carlson (who shoots for the Bucs) warned me in advance that because of a series of factors, it’s very hard to get an epic shot of the player intros at Raymond James Stadium.

One being that the pyro comes out on these big rubber wheels, and they are incredibly distracting (he was right, and it was worse than I thought); plus you have a huge Publix sign in the background (awesome grocery store, but….), and it was a gray overcast day (I could go on….), but what really killed it is that once again, my remote camera didn’t fire consistently (to say the least). Arrrrrrrggggghhhhhh!

Above: Here’s my lonely little rig. f/plate, a Manfrotto ball head, a Canon EOS 1Ds body with a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, and the evil PocketWizard Plus X remote (more on the evil part soon).

Above: There were three of us firing remotes. The guy on the far left isn’t really a scary stranger — he shoots for the Bucs too, (nice guy in fact) I’ve just never been introduced, so we’ll just call him “Scary Stranger” (Danger!). Then Mike’s rig behind mine, and then mine pretty up close on the far right. It’s the triple threat! (not really).

Above: When we were both lying there getting our focus set, I look over and Carlson is taking a picture of me, so I rolled over and flashed this devistatingly sexy pose. Sorry you had to see this. (Photo by Mike Carlson — his best photo of the day). 

Above: I stand behind my remote camera and do a number of test shots — everything’s working perfectly. Of course, we have to move way away from the pyro, so I back-up about 40 feet away so I can shoot a different angle of the player intros with my 70-200mm. Here’s the Defense taking the field as a unit — the individual Offense intros are next. This was actually shot with the remote camera. Not terrible. Not great. But the individuals is where it gets good!

Above: Here’s a shot from my shooting position on field, taken hand-held with my 70-200mm f/2.8 at 70mm. The guy in the red kneeling on the right side — that’s “Scary Stranger.” He probably thinks his remote is firing, too. 

Above: Here’s what the shots look when I zoom into 200% from the same position. In this case, I kinda like the other shot (zoomed out to 70mm) better, but this is kinda cool. But I’m not worried, that remote has me covered (snicker, snicker).

Above: Here’s Vincent Jackson leaping through the smoke and up in the air. Doesn’t look like much from the remote camera and the wheels look really huge!

Above: The same moment from my hand-held 70-200mm 40-feet away. Not great, but certainly better. 

Above: Well, at least the remote fired, right? Right? Right? (Man, those wheels ARE distracting). 

OK, here’s the problem with the remote
It did fire. Occasionally. Just like in Denver. You see the three shots in a series above? Well, I fired the remote 17 times and it only took those three photos. For the player intros, I fired around 196 shots total, but the remote only fired 28 times total. That’s around 166 times it DIDN’T fire. There are a number of players where it never fired, so I missed them altogether. It would fire maybe one or two frames, or not at all.

It wasn’t just me
Right before kickoff, I went over to Mike and told him my remote didn’t fire most of the time. He said he had the exact same problem (and this wasn’t the first time this has happened). We were both using PocketWizards (we checked — all three of us were on different wireless channels), but I was using the PocketWizard Plus X, and Mike was using the PocketWizard Plus IIIs and yet we’re both having firing issues.

Mike may have figured part of this out
I stood there and tested the remote (just like in Denver) and when I was close to it, it worked perfectly — fired every time, but when I walked to the shooting location 40 or so feet away on the field (like in Denver), it didn’t fire every time. Mike said the same exact thing — when he’s close to the camera — it works every time. When he walks away it stops firing consistently.

Don’t PocketWizards have like a 400 ft range? 
Nope. According to their Website, the Plus X’s range is actually 1,600 feet (500 meters). So, why aren’t they firing when you’re just 40 or 50 feet away? That’s exactly what I’d like to know. Could it be some sort of interference? Could be, but I have no idea from what. The three of us are firing the only remote cameras. There’s something seriously wrong here, and I’m not the only one having the problem, so if you’ve run into something like this and you’ve found a solution, please let me (and Mike) know ’cause this is really starting to get old. I don’t want to blame PocketWizard because they are the gold standard when it comes to stuff like this, but I’m stuck and very hesitant to rig any more remotes until I get this figured out, so any help, ideas, or advice would be really appreciated big time.

Above: Parting shot: So where does all the smoke go after the player intros? At Raymond James Stadium it gets sucked down the tunnel and back into the media and locker room area. I took this quick shot so you could see what it looks like as I headed back in to the photo work room to tear down my “it works sometimes” remote rig.

Ah well…maybe next season, as this was the Buc’s last home game of the season (and after all this time of shooting the Bucs, this was my first time setting up a remote camera at a Bucs game. Sigh). Thanks and a shootout to Mike Carlson for his help and advice — I hope to repay his kindness by solving this “we only fire sometimes” mystery. To be continued…