Category Archives Guest Blogger

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I’m standing in the middle of an airport surrounded by friends and family, filled with excitement for the arrival of one man. As he turns the corner, everyone starts clapping, cheering and cameras flashing. He’s dressed in his full United States Army uniform and has a smile on his face that I will never forget. Running to his side are his wife, Heather, and their children, Luke and Nevaeh. His parents, Donna and Tim, follow. Sgt. Ryan Dickinson is finally home.

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Heather Dickinson, Ryan’s wife

There is another group of people standing alongside Ryan’s friends and family that I’ve never seen before. Most of them appear to be bikers, wearing leather vests and jackets adorned with patches. They have formed two long lines down the middle of the airport lobby that extends to the exit doors. Each of them is holding an American flag that they raised when Ryan entered. The men and women in the flag lines stand strong and salute as he triumphantly walks through. It’s a sight I had the honor to witness and photograph.

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Gerry Flanagan

None of these men and women knew Ryan personally. They are just there to commend a soldier and give him a hero’s welcome home. These remarkable people are The Patriot Guard Riders and they honor the men and women fighting for our country.

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Nancy Greenseich

Almost 5 years later, on September 1, 2013, another American soldier killed Ryan at Fort Hood in Texas. It was devastating. The Patriot Guard Riders were called on once again to honor Ryan, this time in a different way. A group of them were at the airport when the casket arrived and escorted it to the funeral home. On the day of the wake, The Riders stood outside of the funeral home and saluted every person that entered. Even in the background, they had a strong presence throughout the day.

As the bugle played Taps in the distance, my friends and family were in tears. The Patriot Guard Riders had surrounded us, standing proud with their flags flying in the wind against the blue sky. I thought to myself “these people don’t know Ryan yet they’re all standing here with us.” From that moment on, I wanted to give them the recognition that they deserve by showing the world their stories through strong portraits.

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Bill and Cindy Ventura
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Cliff Smith

Five months had passed since the funeral and I was ready to begin production on my portrait project. There was a lot to figure out to make this successful, including logistics of where to photograph everyone, how to get as many PGR interested, scheduling and all other details that are involved in shooting such a large group. I was very fortunate to have L.W. Murphy, one of the Riders and a former military photographer, lend me his help during the process.

With his connections, I was able to meet with many of the PGR at a motorcycle club on Long Island to introduce the project and myself. I knew that I had to explain my true intentions and to build a trust with them and not to make the project come off as exploiting or disrespectful. After many conversations, networking and buzz, I was able to schedule 60 people to photograph. L.W. was able to secure a location for the photo shoots at the Jacob’s Light Foundation building, a charity that sent care packages to soldiers.

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L.W. Murphy

To create an iconic and respectful portrait, I used two 69” Elinchrom octabanks to camera right as a key light to create a soft, yet slightly dramatic lighting. The portraits were shot with a Phase One 645DF body and P40+ 40MP digital back. That was my go to camera at the time (I’ve since upgraded to a Phase One XF body and IQ350 back). The portraits were converted to black and white in Capture One and touched up in Photoshop to enhance contrast and remove blemishes.

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Ani Rodriguez

I wanted to capture moments and show who these people are rather than worry about the technical details. Many of The Riders are veterans and wanted to pay respect to other military soldiers and their families. Others have children who are currently serving or have died in action. Some are simply American patriots and want to show their appreciation for our military.

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Carlos Varon
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Warren Schlicker

People got very emotional telling their stories. One veteran had brought his father’s medals and the flag that was presented to him at his father’s funeral. He told me stories about his dad and began to tear up a bit. The PGR at his dad’s funeral left such an impact, he joined himself for that reason.

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David Isaacs

Conversations aren’t always necessary to bring out a strong portrait. I requested that everyone bring something(s) that show who they are and why they are a PGR member. Some brought the flags that they received at a funeral or military tags, and a few wore their old uniforms, including a 90-year-old Marine veteran.

Ryan’s son, Luke, wore his dad’s hat for his portrait. Heather, Ryan’s wife, wore his jacket while holding the flag she received for him. Donna, Ryan’s mother, wore a U.S. Army sweatshirt and held tightly on to the flag she received. As difficult as it was to see Ryan’s family getting emotional and wearing his uniform, it also made me feel so proud that I was able to give something back.

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Luke Dickinson, Ryan’s son
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Donna Liebenow, Ryan’s mother

Since the end of the project working with the Long Island and New York City branches of The Patriot Guard Riders, the project has gained national attention, as I hoped for. The series won a 2015 PDN Faces award in the personal work category and was also featured in the November 2015 issue of Reader’s Digest, which has over 3 million subscribers and an overall audience of almost 19 million. Although many of you may not have heard of the Patriot Guard Riders before reading this post, now you are aware of these extraordinary, selfless people and what they stand for. Thank you Scott and Brad for allowing me to share this story.

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Sgt. Ryan Dickinson

You can see more of Rick’s work at RickWenner.com, and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Michael Corsentino 2

Hey guys, the release of my upcoming Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite Basics class is right around the corner and I’m getting excited! I can’t wait to share with you how easy this speedlite system is to use and how truly amazing it is. It’s a game changer in so many ways and I’ll cover them all. I’ll walk you through the buttons, dials, menus; teach you how to set up wireless communication between the camera and off camera speedlites; work with ETTL and manual; set up groups; share my must-have tips and techniques and sure fire lighting patterns; explain why you need artificial light in your bag of tricks; teach you how to use and understand high speed sync; give you a live studio shooting demo, and so much more! With any luck you’ll leave this class as amped as I am about light and shadow and chomping at the bit go out and put everything you’ve learned into practice.

If you’re like me, you may have found handheld flash intimidating at one point or another. Maybe you decided right then and there to leave well enough alone, put the flash down, and call yourself an “available light shooter.” Maybe you even have a speedlite or two sitting on your shelf collecting dust or languishing unused in your camera bag. Well guess what kids, your speedlites are “available lights.” In this new class I’ll strip away the fear and mystique surrounding these powerful tools, and flash in general, and give you the simple, straightforward info you need to get up and running with your new speedlites.

I’ll show you why the Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite and its companion ST-E3 controller represent a quantum leap forward in handheld flash technology. They have easy to use interfaces, easy to understand menus, and a first of its kind built-in radio based communication system. Simply said they just work! And there’s more good news, the 600EX-RT Speedlite and ST-E3 controller both share the same interface, so once you’ve learned one, you’ve essentially learned the other. Thank you Canon, we love that!!

It’s not just speedlites that can strike fear into the hearts of the burliest of men, but flash in general can have this effect too. So I’ll simplify that too! In a “teach a man to fish” approach, I’ll show you how to think about light and understand the why, when and how behind the choices you have available to you. Together we’ll look at the 4 key components that make up flash: quantity of light, quality of light, direction of light and distance of light. It doesn’t get more complicated that I promise, and after this class you’ll understand why. So come along with me on this journey of light and technology, things will never be the same!

I’ve included a selection of images I created with the Canon 600EX-RT system below to whet your appetite. I want to get you as excited as I am about this incredible system. In the captions for each image I’ve described the techniques I used, how they were lit, and why the 600EX-RT system was the perfect solution. See you guys in class!

First let’s start my two favorite, no fail, location lighting patterns, Cross Light and Wedge Light! These two lighting patterns are quick, easy, work every time, and form a solid foundation to build upon with additional techniques and light modifiers.

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Cross Light is a simple but very effective lighting pattern that quickly adds a polished, sculptural, dimensional quality to your subjects. It’s created by aiming two speedlites at each other along the same axis and placing your subject between them. By doing this you’re creating a key light on one side and an accent light on the other. This arrangement can then be rotated around your subject so you can light them using either Broad Light or Short Light. Your bases are covered with this one simple pattern. You’ll see Cross Light used a lot in the images below, give it a try!

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Here’s Cross Light in action! I’ve hidden one speedlite behind the gritty column camera left. This is my accent light. It’s been fitted with a half cut of CTO gel to create a warm tone and replicate the look of setting afternoon sun on my model’s hair. Like my key light placed camera right, both flash heads were vertically oriented and manually zoomed to 200mm. Doing this creates tight vertical beams of light that not only provide a natural looking in-camera fall-off of light but also more closely match the vertical shape of the body.

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More fun with Cross Light. Here the key light is placed camera left and the accent light is over the model’s right shoulder providing a punchy highlight on her hair and shoulder. Bare speedlites, vertically oriented and zoomed to 200mm do the trick here delivering dramatic, specular light. I’ve underexposed the ambient by 2 stops using my shutter speed to get that killer blue sky! I explain this in detail in my class.

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Just as I used my shutter speed in the image above to create one effect, in this image I’ve used it in another way to create a completely different look. Dragging the shutter (using a very slow shutter speed) along with a high ISO and Cross Light allow me to balance the beautiful shimmering lights of Chicago’s evening skyline and the strobe illuminating my model. The key light here is modified with a Chimera collapsible beauty dish and the accent light is bare flash with a 1/2 cut of CTO gel to warm things up a bit.

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Next up is something I like to call Wedge Light. This is another super flexible and easy to use location lighting pattern. It gets its name due to the pie slice shape in which the key and accent lights are placed. Like Cross Light, this pattern can be rotated around your subject, in this case to introduce more or less shadow. The distance between each light can also be widened or shortened to create different effects.

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Here you can see the results of Wedge Light positioned to the side, exactly like the diagram above, to create directional, shadowed, dramatic light. Both speedlites are bare bulb delivering a punchy, specular quality of light with rapid transitions between shadows and highlights.

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In this image I’ve taken the same Wedge Light pattern used in the image above and positioned it in front of my model to create an even, almost shadowless lighting effect. Each speedlite is modified with a 24×24” Lastolite EzyBox Softbox and the harsh light from the midday sun overhead is being diffused with an 8×8’ scrim.

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Wedge Light is also great for 2 people! Here I’ve got both speedlites camera left in a in pie slice arrangement, each inside a 24” Lastoilte Ezybox Softbox aimed toward each subject. I’ve also got an 8×8’ scrim overhead to diffuse the harsh sun above.

Now let’s talk about why you need speedlites with built-in wireless radio communication! The next two images demonstrate perfectly why the Canon 600EX-RT/ST-E3’s built-in radio communication is such a game changer. Optical based systems require something called “line of sight.” Meaning both the speedlite and controller need a clear visual path to see one another in order to communicate. When it comes to placing speedlites behind walls and inside soft boxes this line of sight is broken and communication is lost. Not so with radio based systems. Obstacles are no problem and the line of sight requirement is gone! Optical systems are also prone to problems in bright sunlight. In other words, radio rules.

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This image like the others was made using the 600EX-RT and ST-E3’s wireless radio based communication system. It’s a perfect example of radio’s superiority over optically based systems. Note the position of the accent lights in this Cross Light setup… It’s behind a wall camera right. There’s no line of sight between the controller on my camera and the speedlite behind the wall, if I were using an optical trigger system there would be no way to trigger the flash. Plus not only can I trigger hidden lights but I have full control over their power and exposure modes. This is all huge!

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Here’s another practical example of the many ways radio based communication makes things much easier. Here I’ve got a speedlite inside a soft box placed camera right. Again the controller and speedlite have no line of site, so optical is out of the question. Additionally the speedlite is inside the softbox, meaning that without radio communication, every time I wanted to make a power adjustment I’d need to open the softbox and dig inside to get to the speedlite’s controls. Trust me, that gets to be no fun real quick! Again, radio rules.

Last but not least I’d like to talk about direction, direction of light! I’ll cover all of this in class, but I want to encourage you to start thinking about directionality. The more direction or angle at which you have your light in relationship to your subject, the more shadow you’ll introduce. For me shadow equals drama and mood; I’m a big fan. Think about it… At its essence photography is nothing more than highlights and shadows, so embrace them! Shadows can be infinitely controlled, using distance, source size, and the modifier used to control the speed of the transition from highlight to shadow.

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Placing my lights to the side of my model introduces shadow and drama. Think about how different this image would be if it were produced using flash on camera! Did somebody say flat? If you did you’d be right on target! Throw some direction into your lighting, you’ll be glad you did.

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There’s nothing like a little side light when it comes to creating mood and drama. Here I’m using Cross Light Light again. My key light is a bare speedlite, camera left, and my accent light is another speedlite placed outside the widow camera right.

Clearly I’m passionate about light and I can’t wait to share what’s possible with Canon’s 600EX-RT and ST-E3 speedlite system! Hopefully the images above have stoked your creative fires and gotten you ready to dust off your speedlites and explore new ways to create with light. My class will be live tomorrow, I hope you’ll join me. Together we’ll get you all dialed in and up and running!

You can see more of Michael’s work at MichaelCorsentino.com, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And his new class Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite Basics will be available tomorrow at KelbyOne.com!

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Thank you Scott for another opportunity to share my photography adventures on your blog.

Few television shows ever achieve the 300th episode milestone. On February 9, 2016 NCIS not only accomplished it, they did so while being the most viewed television show in the world 2 years in a row!

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My name is Mike Kubeisy, and I am humbly honored to have been the photographer for 301 of those episodes. 301 you ask? I was involved with the spin off from JAG also. I have been involved with many shows that have achieved the 100th episode, and a few that reached the 200th milestone. 300, that’s a first for me. Allow me to share some thoughts and statistics with you.

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The U.S. viewership on a Tuesday night for a new NCIS episode, on average is 17 million viewers. The average worldwide viewership is around 52 million. Now that number is not for Tuesday night alone, our international viewers watch NCIS on different nights and also depending on the country, they may be watching an earlier season. Then you have syndication, you know USA Network every night. That’s a lot of viewers enjoying “Gibbs” and the gang.

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Scott Bourne from Photofocus acclaim has said No Photographer’s work is seen by more people than Mike’s work worldwide.

Alright here are some fun statistics: I have shot as many as 2000 images in one day, as few as 30 images in a day and an average of 400 images on one day of production. I have been on set as long as 16 hours and as little as 30 minutes, depending on what it is scripted and needs to be shot. It takes the cast and crew 8 days to shoot 1 episode, when aired is 43 minutes long with titles and credits.

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Think about this for a moment…12 hours a day times 8 days equals 96 hours on average to shoot 1 episode. We will shoot for 2.23 hours to capture 1 minute of what you’ll see on TV.

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Then there’s another 20 days of Post. Editor gets about 3 days, then the Director’s cut gets about 4 days, then you have sound, dubbing, foley, music, spotting, colorizing and all that stuff they do in dark rooms. The shortest turnaround from completion to airing was 9 days, the longest was 60 days all depending where we are in the season. There are about 100 members of cast and crew on the set when shooting on average.

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Now allow me to share some more of my photos over the years. This is probably my favorite shot of Mark Harmon.

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He knew my camera was on him, and he kept the horse still till I got the shot. One of the most lovable characters is “Abby”. She is always a blast to shoot, she brings such energy to the set.

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She is also a super friend and prayer warrior with me.

Michael Weatherly who plays “Very Special Agent Dinozzo” is so witty you need to have your camera set and ready. You never know when or what he’s going to do.

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When my boys are visiting the set, Michael will always make time for them and make them feel special.

David McCallum is a fine Scotsman who loves my camera and allows me to shoot anytime.

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We have shot a few personal projects together.

Let me share some of the F/X shots with you.

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These guys keep you on your toes with the toys they bring to the set. The show is shot in Santa Clarita, California and takes place in Virginia. It could be 85° outside and we need snow, call in F/X.

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NCIS has had a lot of awesome special guest stars. Here’s a shot of Mark Harmon and Jeri Ryan chatting for a moment while the crew “turns around”.

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Ralph Waite played “Jackson Gibbs”, the dad of “Jethro Gibbs”, when I took this shot. It was fun because the 2 of them were just horsing around so much it was playful watching 2 established stars having such a great time together.

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I was blessed they used my photo to honor Ralph Waite on his passing back in 2014.

Another powerful image that received a lot of comments on social media was this image of a homeless vet and his dog.

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The show wanted to feature the photos of photographer Lee Jefferies on homeless vets. So I needed to match the look of our character to Jefferies’ work. The episode was very powerful.

Let me share this final image of real soldiers turned stuntmen/actors with me.

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I’m the one with the Canon ;).

My next milestone will be on NCIS: Los Angeles’ 200th episode next season.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my milestone with you, Brad and Scott. Livin da Dream Boyz!

That’s a wrap, fade to black.

You can see more of Mike’s work at 4Stills.com, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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IT’S ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE
It’s always a privilege to appear as a guest blogger on Scott’s Photoshop Insider Blog. Having a chance to share some of my experiences in photography with Scott’s blog readers is always a pleasure. If anything I say plants a seed in your mind that you then nurture and turn into a unique memorialization of a moment in time, I couldn’t hope for more.

This will be my fourth appearance as Scott’s guest blogger and this time I’ll be chatting about one way to create some sports images that are different than the usual stuff you may see. If you’ve tried your hand at sports photography you know how much competition there is in the field. With camera equipment becoming relatively affordable and with technology advancing so much that pro level equipment is readily available to all, there has been a proliferation of folks who are geared up to shoot sports. With so many new shooters, I find it necessary to do anything I can to distinguish myself from others for the sake of continued photo assignments. Thus, I strive to capture images that stand out from what others capture.

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15mm fisheye shot from the floor

For many years, I have used a diagonal fisheye lens to add one or two images to my typical set. The unique image curvature created by this lens is always good for images that are different from typical sports images. The shot above is an example of a basketball image taken with a 15mm fisheye and the camera body placed on the floor angled upward. The problem is that a little fisheye goes a long way. One or two images in a set are plenty.

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Trying a different perspective for this shot

To supplement equipment in my bag of tricks I try to use creativity as a means of generating novel images. Over time, I have developed a reputation among colleagues as the guy who will try almost anything in order to get a different perspective for an image. It’s become a running joke with my friends and it’s gotten to the point where they are no longer surprised when they find out from where I managed to get a given shot.

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And here’s the shot

My philosophy is pretty simple – the best way to separate my work from that of others is to be creative enough, and sometimes crazy enough, to find unique perspectives for images. The early bird may get the worm, but the creative one is more likely to get the shot that turns heads.

Perspective is one of the easiest things you can change to make an image look completely different from another one depicting the same scene. That’s why for sports like basketball which are played indoors, I have been venturing up into the nosebleed section of FSU’s basketball arena to shoot some images during a game. To do so, I had to force myself to overcome a fear of heights but it has been well worth it for the sake of unique images.

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The view of the Tucker Center’s basketball court in Tallahassee, Florida from the catwalks above the arena

Normally, when people talk about going to the nosebleed section of a stadium or an arena it’s usually a sarcastic reference to being relegated to crappy seats. When I tell people that I’m headed to the nosebleed section, it’s not with sarcasm in my voice, it’s with a mixture of excitement, fear, and a lot of trepidation. My version of being in the nosebleed section of an arena is different than sitting in the cheap seats – it’s making my way up to the catwalks that ring FSU’s arena high above the facility.

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The catwalks and the steel girders that support the structure

In order to get to the best spots from which to shoot, I have to climb up and down ramps, scale ladders, and negotiate obstacles, cables, and lights, all the while petrified beyond words. I don’t like heights. No, that’s an understatement. I really, really hate heights. But when I sit at my computer after a game and look through the images that I get from the catwalks, I can only smile.

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The arena lights just in front of the steel grates that make up the floor of the catwalks

Some photographers set up remote cameras on the catwalks and then trigger them from the floor. For them, spending one minute more than necessary perched on a catwalk sends shivers down their spines. I wish I was more willing to trust technology but I still believe that if I want something done right I need to do it myself. I refuse to trust a camera’s autofocus capabilities or pre-focus on a spot and set the camera to Manual Focus to generate images. I’d rather not hope and pray that a given shot sequence is in focus only to find out later that the images aren’t sharp. Old school still rules so I shoot from above.

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Two shots taken from a side angle

There are some guidelines I follow when venturing up to the catwalks. As far as equipment, I only take one camera body strapped diagonally and securely around my body with the lens attached. Since basketball is the sport I typically photograph from catwalks, I’ll walk you through what I do to shoot basketball from the heavens but the same basic principles apply to anything else that you might shoot from up there.

My lens of choice for basketball is usually a 300mm f2.8 that I hand hold. On occasion I will also take a wide angle lens or my 15mm fisheye for artsy fartsy stuff, but if I take an extra lens it is stuffed deep into my pants pocket. I leave everything else on the arena floor and that includes camera bag, lens hoods, cell phone, monopod, keys, glasses, and anything else that I might accidentally drop from above. Not only are these items superfluous, they pose a risk of serious injury (and possibly even death) to the people below if accidentally dropped.

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Two more shots taken from a side angle

Some arenas do not have catwalks that run directly above either basket or directly above center court. For a long time, that was the case at FSU’s Tucker Center but I was nevertheless able to find spots where I could position myself to nab some cool stuff. Even though I wasn’t directly over a basket, I was able to alter the images’ perspective somewhat in Photoshop to make them look almost as if they were taken from directly overhead. The two images above are examples of images I shot from the side and then corrected to some extent in Photoshop.

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A couple of other images shot from different vantage points

By moving around on the catwalks and changing locations I use different vantage points to get different perspectives on images. I shoot some images vertically but most of the time I stick with a horizontal orientation.

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The Tucker Center during player introductions taken with a 17-35mm lens

I use a wide lens for shots of the venue during games that pit FSU against teams that are usually highly ranked, such as Duke, Louisville, or North Carolina. These games usually mean that the seats in the arena will be full which lends itself to desirable images. But after those shots are in the can I switch to the 300mm lens. The 300mm on a full frame camera body is ideal from up top because it lets me get tight on the action while still allowing me to follow it so I don’t miss too many shots.

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The grate over the center catwalk supported by girders underneath. Top/center is the opening through which I shoot
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Me (right) and a colleague (left) shooting from the catwalk pictured above. Photo by Colin Abbey

The best shots from overhead are when players are looking up at the rim or up at the ball, such as the opening tip, going for a rebound, about to release a floater in the lane, or just before a dunk. Last year, Florida State renovated the Tucker Center and finally cleared out an area that has a small opening over each of the baskets so I can now shoot from a position almost directly overhead. That is the ideal situation as I can now mix up my shots, some from the sides and some taken from directly overhead.

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Two images shot from almost directly overhead of the baskets

I try to stay alert even when play stops as opportunities for images often present themselves after the whistle blows. If I had let my guard down after the whistle blew (first image) or after a timeout was called (second image), I would have missed the images below, one of a player who collapsed in pain and the other of a dance team member doing a back flip.  Fortunately, I kept an eye on the floor after play was stopped and snapped away.

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A Clemson player collapses in pain shortly after the whistle blew

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An FSU dancer does a back flip during a time out

Another shooting opportunity presents itself during timeouts. I keep an eye on the game clock and anticipate the media time outs. When I know one is approaching, I’ll boogie over to a spot directly above one of the teams and wait for the players and coaches to gather for their strategy session. Shooting the teams from the catwalks during a timeout yields images that are not your traditional, vanilla time out images. Here are a couple of examples.

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Duke men’s team uses its bench for seating during timeouts
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FSU women’s team uses seats brought out to the floor during timeouts

If you’re fortunate enough to have catwalks available for use in your arena, by all means give it a go. To shoot from the catwalks I obtain permission from the arena facilities director to access the catwalks. That individual is usually making the rounds around the floor of the arena before the game. Once I find him and obtain permission, I make sure he contacts his staff via radio to ensure that someone will unlock the stairwell door that leads the catwalks. I make my way to this door long before I intend to shoot so I can slowly, carefully wind my way up and down the ramps and stairs that eventually end up on the catwalk that rings the arena.

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My first time up in the catwalks I made sure to leave myself enough time to get a feel for what it was like up there and explored the vantage points that exist by walking around. I took test shots of the teams as they warmed up to dial in the right exposure and explored the image possibilities from the different vantage points. After that I was all set to create my images.

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If you make it up to the catwalks of an arena and you’re like me, your heart will be in your throat until you are safely back down on the court. But when you download your cards and take a peek at what you got, you’ll be glad you made it up to the nosebleed section of nosebleed sections.

Miguel (Mike) Antonio Olivella, Jr. is a professional photographer based in Tallahassee, Florida. Mike has been a Featured Photographer for Florida State University Athletics for over ten years and a stringer for two international wire services. Mike’s sports photographs are routinely published worldwide and his astrophotography, wildlife, travel, and landscape images have been exhibited in solo and joint gallery exhibitions. You can see more of Mike’s work at BaselineShots.com, on Google+ , or on Facebook.

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Photo by Jimmy King

On Being Discovered / Mentored by Icons
When I was a student, David Bowie phoned up, out of the blue. I’d just arrived back in NYC, exhausted from my commute from Princeton, in time to hear, “Some guy on the phone says he’s David Bowie.” A prank call, no doubt. Then, David’s charming voice: “I’ve been following your work for several years and I’m a fan.” I was shocked. Though I’d passionately pursued my photography for years, it was mainly published in underground magazines and I was majoring in cultural anthropology, uncertain of my direction in life.

Bowie became my mentor, launching both my careers: first as a photographer, with the album cover for “Heathen,” then a dozen years later, as a director for my first major music video for his “Valentine’s Day.”

Was it luck, divine intervention? Of course—as is every breath, every being we meet. It was also, without doubt, the result of years of experimentation, creating work that though overlooked by many, was worthy of being ‘discovered’ by an icon.

Indeed, my career was built on intensive collaborations and being discovered – not just by Bowie, but by fashion svengali Isabella Blow, who commissioned my first major fashion magazine covers; by mogul Iman who gave me my first book cover and ad campaigns; by Andy Warhol’s Interview editor Ingrid Sischy, who encouraged my digital experimentation. Later, as a director, I was discovered by fashion icon Daphne Guinness, who starred in my first short film, and by Hollywood producer Rick Schwartz (Black Swan, Gangs of New York) who produced my short film that won Best Film at the International Fashion Film Festival, among others.

These icons worked with the world’s most famous artists—why choose me, a shy, Indian, publicity-adverse nerd (early on) working with a former classical harpist Markus Klinko? It soon became clear that opportunities come with challenges that the usual experts can’t resolve.

Bowie’s first most daunting request: create a cover of the book he was art directing, “I am Iman.” You may ask, what could be easier than shooting Iman, a most extraordinary supermodel? Indeed, problem was, the book was a collection of the most stunning images taken over 3 decades by the world’s most famous photographers – and Bowie had rejected them all. For the cover, he wanted something stronger, more true to the incredible character and brilliance of his wife.

I turned to a discovery of my own: young stylist GK Reid, whose futuristic ideas, global explorations and original approaches inspired me. Together we raided comics, films and fashion archives, and studied Iman, creating a concept of part amazon warrior, part goddess, all woman. Working with Markus we created the images we dreamed of.

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Photo by Markus Klinko and Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri, creative direction by GK Reid

Pleased with the results, Bowie said we’d talk soon about his album. A year passed. Then a second unexpected call: David invited us to his studio and immersed us in his music. I was enthralled hearing him sing and being asked my thoughts as he was recording. Post-9/11 the mood was dark, we discussed ideas and his developing lyrics, and intriguing, layered views on the state of the world. Likewise, he studied the details of my images and my cutting-edge digital processes. Now he had a new challenge: “I love what you’re doing with these hyper-real colors and digital effects on these women. I’d like to see what you’d do with the opposite, black and white 20’s darkroom effects, on a man–on me.”

In our many discussions, life and death were always close at hand. Before the “Heathen” shoot, David referenced philosophers and artists from Neitzsche to Man Ray, relating to the fear of the death of God and of society as we knew it after 9/11. The character he portrayed was blind.

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Photo by Markus Klinko and Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri, creative direction by GK Reid

To me, a truly great portrait is an image that captures a glimpse of the divine spark that animates its subject. An artist, like a shaman, shares a slice of the connection they felt with the subject, a sliver of both souls, as it were. That’s why discovering and mentoring collaborators is key, to kindle new combinations of energies to inspire each other to creatively thrive.

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Photo by Markus Klinko and Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri, creative direction by GK Reid

A dozen years later, when I was a fledgling director wracked with doubt about whether to take time off from photography to fulfill my great passion for film, I was again at a pivotal juncture, when David called: “I’m sorry it’s been longer than I expected. I’ve been waiting for the right moment.” My short films had just begun winning awards. “I’d like you to direct my video, for my favorite song on the new album.” Markus and I again collaborated, GK creative directed.

Though Bowie wanted a stripped-down, simple video, to contrast all his previous works, for weeks we discussed ideas and experimented conceptually together. Our connection was more charged than before with a powerful intensity, exciting, awkward, playful, yet always channeled into the work. David was reserved yet caring, profoundly encouraging yet eager to push beyond my artistic comfort zone. And he let me push him, to perform with a fierce intensity, bringing to life a character so alien yet influentially traumatizing to our society today, from whose point of view he wrote the song: a mall shooter / terrorist / psychopath. He wanted us to try to understand the mind of such a man, to find solutions.

http://youtu.be/S4R8HTIgHUU

After that shoot, David and I had many discussions of future projects, game-changing disruptive ideas we developed together that would have blown everyone’s minds. But he kept postponing scheduling, saying he’d get back to me soon, when he would have more time.

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Photo by Markus Klinko and Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri, creative direction by GK Reid

The afternoon of his death, I was giving a lecture to a large audience at Photo16 in Zurich. As I shared my work and stories, I found myself strangely lingering on David and his incredible importance to my life. Each time we worked together, we pushed each other beyond our comfort zones, to take our ideas to their extremes, to challenge ourselves and everyone else to their maximum and beyond. I will miss so much the excitement of knowing he was always working away at thrilling new projects, that he would call me about when I’d least expect it. I will miss dropping everything to rush to work with him for days or weeks to develop together new visions. And I will be forever grateful for his encouragement of my creativity and belief in my potential, at critical junctures of my life when I was uncertain of my way.

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Photo by Markus Klinko and Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri, creative direction by GK Reid

You can see more of Indrani’s work at Indrani.com, and follow her on FacebookTwitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

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http://vimeo.com/152717969
Video by Matthew Rojas

My first week as the photographer for the Dallas Stars was one of the craziest weeks in my professional career. In the span of 5 days, I became a new photographer.

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This starts many weeks before the shoots with creative meetings. We were trying to figure out the new direction for the Dallas Stars for both the calendar which they hadn’t released the last couple of seasons because of lack of sales, and the media day photoshoot which they use for everything from billboards to programs to the commercial breaks during the broadcast of the games.

My creative direction for the calendar was easy. I knew exactly who the key demographic of this young and, according to my fiancee, “hot” team was. I had to make this team look sexy. The obvious answer there is something GQ. Let’s put these players in suits and the calendars will sell themselves. On top of that I had always wanted to do a Behind the Scenes of a movie set look. I pitched this idea to the Dallas Stars Foundation and they loved it immediately.

Over the next couple of weeks I built a set and gathered props to create the look for the calendar. In retrospect I wish I had hired a set designer because of the amount of time I put into building this set. Me being the hard headed control freak I am, I wanted full control of how this was going to look and I didn’t want any outside input.

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Sunday is day one of two for the calendar shoot for the Stars. For the calendar, each month would be either an individual or duo from the team and then the cover was to be a shot of the crowd favorites. The only problem with that was that these players were split up over the two days. I think no problem, I’ll just set up a monopod and lock it down so we can composite each player together into the one image.

This wouldn’t have been a problem, but the next day we were shooting the calendar was three days later on Wednesday. Somewhere in that time, someone came into the studio and moved parts of the set. I don’t work out of a typical studio. I share a studio space with 60 other creatives in Dallas called WELD. I love this place, it is amazing. But this is where communal studio space becomes a problem!

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Anyway, day one was a HUGE success and I couldn’t have been happier with how everything had gone. We had to wrap the shoot by 4pm because my crew and I had to be on a plane to Chicago for a two day photo shoot with Topgolf. We got into Chicago by midnight and into the hotel room by 1am, got a few hours of sleep and shot long, full days. That’s another story for another blog post though.

We flew back Wednesday morning at 6am to get back to the studio at 10am and started shooting the remainder of the calendar at 11am. THANK GOD we had everything set up and ready to go, because when we got back to the studio I think we all took a quick 30 minute power nap.

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The second day of the calendar shoot went by without a hitch (other than the moved set). I chose to not let it bother me and just suck it up and accept the fact that I would have a little bit more post ahead of me. We wrapped around 4pm and immediately had to break everything down and get it loaded up into the van for the media day shoot the next morning – at 5am. Ouch!

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My crew and I got up to the Dallas Stars training facility at 5am to start setting up. By this point, we had everything nailed down from multiple test shoots at the facility. I had everything mapped out, powers dialed in and we knocked out the set up in about an hour. The fun thing about media day is that I get roughly 5 minutes with each player in which I have to get 4-5 different looks.

I had three stations set up in which I would get at least two separate looks at each station by getting the player to face different directions and toggling lights on and off to give it a new look. The last station was the “action” station in which I would have the player skate at full speed and do a few different variations of shooting, stopping and skating.

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INSERT HUGE PROBLEM. With all of the tests I had done, I had never had a problem with my lens fogging over. And wouldn’t you know it, the first player skates up to have his picture taken and my lens is completely fogged over. AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! DEAR GOD WHY!? Growing up in Texas, I have never had much experience with my lenses fogging over due to cold weather, so the first thing I do is stick the camera in my jacket to warm it up. This fixes it momentarily, but keeps fogging up every couple of minutes.

It ended up working out and I got images that myself and the Dallas Stars were both proud of. I know I wouldn’t have been able to knock out these shoots without the help and support of my amazing crew that week, and of course my fiancee who kept me from breaking out into tears on multiple occasions.

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You can see more of Sean’s work at SeanBerryPhotography.com, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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