Category Archives Photo Gear

Above: I snapped this iphone shot of of the 200-400mm before I left for the game last night. You can see it’s a lot skinnier than the 400 f/2.8, and so lightweight you could hand-hold it without a monopod. 

Hi Gang: Well, it wasn’t a pretty game, and the Bucs lost pretty miserably, and the stands were pretty empty and….well….(he pauses searching for some redeeming nugget), but at least I did get to try out some cool new gear.

After my post about last week’s Falcons/Titans game, Canon offered to let me take their new 200-400mm f/4 with a built-in 1.4 teleconverter out for a spin for last night’s game.

I got in well after midnight and still had a 2nd round of uploads for the wire, so I don’t have any game action shots ready to post this morning, but while I was at the game, I did think to take three shots to show you how the 200-400mm with the built-in tele works, because it’s really worth seeing:

Above: Here’s the view from the end zone. With the Bucs at center field, being out at 200mm makes them look like ants. Of course, the 200mm length is for when they’re much closer, but this does give you a good idea of why a 70-200mm alone makes shooting football pretty tough.

Above: Zooming in to 400mm definitely brings the action a lot closer. Of course, the lens doesn’t just have just 200mm and 400mm, like any zoom you can choose any focal length you want in-between those two.

Above: If you flip the switch to turn on the built-in 1.4 teleconverter, it zooms in to 560mm. You don’t have to do anything fancy — it’s just a switch on the top of the lens — flip it and bam â” you’re zoomed in even tighter.

When you flip the switch, you lose a stop
The 200-400mm is an f/4 lens, and if you switch on the 1.4 teleconverter it becomes an f/5.6 so if you’re shooting a day game, this is really pretty much a non-issue. However, at a night game, I had to increase my ISO from between 5,000 ISO to 6,400 ISO (depending on where the teams were on field, as the lighting changes). Believe it or not, those shots above are at 6,400 ISO and you still don’t see any noise (that 1Dx is insane!). However, this is something to keep in mind if you have a body that doesn’t do well at high ISOs at night.

You can get spoiled really fast
I will say this — it’s easy to get spoiled  with one lens that pretty much covers the whole field (unless they get inside the 10, which sadly really wasn’t an issue for the Bucs last night). Being able to cover that range keeps you from running up and down the sidelines so much, and you’re more likely not to miss any action that’s just out of reach of a regular 400mm. The only thing is, you have to keep an eye out on your ISO especially since the 1Dx’s Auto ISO minimum ISO setting won’t go up to 1/1000 of a second (it stops at 1/250), so Auto ISO won’t help you out in this case. (So far, this is the only chink in the armor of the 1Dx that I’ve found).

The lens itself is sharp as anything, and the focus is really fast and crisp. Plus, the lens is so lightweight you could literally hand-hold it. Also, this is just a little feature, I really like that when you rotate the lens on the collar (switching the camera from wide to tall or vice verse), the center is “detented” making it simple to make certain that when you rotate it for wall or wide that it’s perfectly straight, just by feel. Hope that gives you insights into the 200-400mm.

Above: OK, here’s one action shot from the game, and I’m posting it because it pretty much tells the story of the whole night in just one shot — one of the Bucs lying on the ground as Redskins Running Back Chris Thompson strolls in for a touchdown. Hey, it’s just a preseason game. A “practice” game. None of our starters even played. I keep telling myself this stuff over and over. LOL! 

OK, I’m off to Photoshop World
Whew — it’s been a whirlwind week, but there’s another one coming up for me as I’m heading to Vegas for Photoshop World. I’m hoping to see a lot of you there (and since we already have more folks registered for this year’s conference than last year’s, that’s a pretty good bet).If you see me around, I hope you’ll stop me and say “hi” so I can thank you personally for reading the blog, and sharing a part of your day with me.

Hope you have an awesome weekend and I’ll see a whole bunch of you in Vegas next week. Whoo Hoo!!!

I’m really, really glad I had this preseason game to shake off the rust from the 7-month football shooting drought, because I was some kinda rusty. Whew!!! This was my first shoot of the season and my timing was still a bit off, especially at first, but by the 2nd half, I was starting to feel comfortable again.

It was the Falcons vs. the Titans, in Nashville, and I’m there shootin’ for the Falcons, with Michael Benford and Jimmy Cribbs (two of the best guys ever). It was my first time shooting a night game at LP Field (all my shoots up there have been day games), so it was fun shooting a night game there, especially with all this new gear (see my post from Friday).

Camera Settings
I shot the game with two Canon 1Dx bodies (one with a Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens on a Gitzo monopod, and the other with a 70-200mm f/2.8 for when they get inside the 20-yard line).

The lighting at LP field in Nashville was actually pretty darn good, so I was able to shoot at just 2,000 ISO all night while keeping my shutter speed at or above 1/1000 of a second. I shot wide open all night at f/2.8 on both bodies, and I pretty much used the settings I got from Peter Read Miller’s article (noted in my post on Friday), but with a tweak or two from Michael Benford, and one or two to suit how I’m used to shooting.

First Impressions
This was my first time shooting with the 1Dx, and I gotta tell ya — it is a camera absolutely born to shoot sports. I shot at 2,000 ISO all night and you don’t even see any noise (I did no noise reduction). Michael says the Falcon’s crew routinely shoots at 5,000 ISO and you just don’t see any noise, but after the way they had raved about it, I was expecting insanely low amounts of noise, and that’s what I got.

Better than the low noise…
…the auto-focus system on the 1Dx. It’s AF is insane! It’s so fast, and so precise that I know I’m picking up shots I would have missed otherwise. That’s the part that really surprised me. I need more time with it to really get the little nuances of setting it up for my style of shooting, but of everything on this camera, that was what impressed me most.

Everything about the 1Dx feels fast. I was shooting at 12-frames per second and I know that’s only 2-frames faster per second than what I’m used to shooting, but it felt like it was 10 frames faster.

One thing I thought was really intriguing about the 1Dx is that it’s obvious that a pro photographer’s workflow was part of the camera design. It’s infinitely customizable (much more than I would have thought), and it’s very easy to get to controls that are usually buried under menus. I learned a number of very clever little things along these lines (I could do a whole episode of “The Grid” just about this).

Another thing that surprised me was how fast you can scroll through your images on the LCD using the Quick Control dial on the back of the camera.You get spoiled really quickly (especially when you only have 24-seconds between plays to find and tag a photo). This is all stuff I’m sure you’ve heard before, since this isn’t a brand new camera, (it’s just new to me), but there was just a lot I hadn’t realized about using it.

The quality of the images
The images you see here are low resolution, 72 ppi screen res. The high res images that came out of the camera? Brilliant! Sharp. Crisp. Wonderful color. Plus, I love having 2-extra megapixels, because for football I can crop in just that much tighter.

OK, so what didn’t I like?
I thought the LCD screen on the top was a bit small and the type size is pretty small as well (yes, I’m getting old), and I’m used to a larger screen up there, so I would have loved to have seen a larger screen up top. The body itself feels pretty heavy (heavier than any DLSR body I’ve ever held), but at least that’s more than offset by a 400mm f/2.8 lens that is much lighter than previous models (and that made a big difference on the field).

These next two things are both things where there may be an option to change their functionality, so if any Canon shooters out there know a way around these two, let me know: (1) To move the focus point, you have to hold a button on the back of the camera, then move the point with the tiny Multi-controller joystick thingy. I just want to be able to move the point without having to press and hold a button first. Also (2) I accidentally lowered the Exposure Compensation amount during the game and didn’t realize it for a while. So, in this case I actually want to have to push a button. That way, I don’t accidentally rotate the big dial and change my exposure. [UPDATE: As I suspected, some readers posted ways where I can move the focus point without pressing the button, and how to keep the Quick Control dial from changing Exp comp. Will try out both on Thursday — thanks for the tips gang!].

I know, I know, these are really nit-picky little things, but if it affects how you shoot, I think it’s important.

So What’s next?
I’ll get another chance to try this whole Canon rig again on Thursday night when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Washington Redskins (I’m covering Bucs home games for Zuma Press again this year). I’ll probably have to crank the ISO a bit (especially when I put a 1.4-teleconverter on it, effectively making the 400mm a 560mm f/4 lens), and I’m anxious to see how that goes. Also, by then I’ll be more familiar with the camera controls; I can tweak and customize more of the settings (I learned some stuff from Michael Benford during the game), and I can work on my timing to get ready for the regular season.

Thanks to the Falcons Crew!
My humble thanks to the awesome Jimmy Cribbs and Michael Benford for the opportunity to shoot with you guys. It is always so much fun!

Also, a shout out to my buddy Donn Jones (Titans team photographer and a guy who is now officially older than me), and the great guys with the Titans crew (including George [who took the photo of me above] and  Al, the king of the grill), for their hospitality and for inviting me once again to their “lame @s$ tail-gate party” after the game. It was epically lame. ;-)

I’m off to San Jose
My seminar tomorrow is sold out in advance (whoo hoo — almost 600 photographers), but if you’re going to be there, make sure you come up and say howdy. My next tour stop is September 13th in Miami, so get your ticket before it’s sold out!. Have a great Monday everybody.

 

 

Above: Here’s the small metal locking hole that attaches to the bottom of your Retina MacBook Pro. 

Since this is supposed to be only a 90-second review of MacLocks “MacBook Pro Security Bracket,” I’ll cut to the chase (and then give you the back story if you’re so inclined).

Pros: It’s super-easy to attach (took all of two-minutes and a child could do it). It’s so sleek and slim you don’t even notice it’s there, which is a big step forward. In fact, it actually looks good. The included lock is cleverly designed and the whole thing feels solid and well-built. The install instructions are simple, visual and clear (the locking instructions themselves aren’t quite as good, but not horrible).

Cons: I still hate having to use a key for the lock (rather than a combination lock). If I lose the key, my laptop is staying at the stadium. They have good reasons for using a key for some IT situations, but I would love it if they would offer a combination lock as an option.

Plus, as before (with the older version) the achilles heel of the whole system is that it can be defeated if a potential thief has a very tiny screwdriver — they can just remove the plate altogether and walk off with the laptop (of course, they could just cut the cable with an industrial grade wire/cable cutter, too, right?), but it’s unlikely that either would be the case in the situations where you’d need to lock it down temporarily. So, while it’s not a perfect system, I think it’s as close as we’re going to get at this point.

Bottomline: This is the laptop lock I’ve been waiting for. They totally nailed it! A big leap up from their original clear plastic locking system, which I had been using until now (I wrote a review back in Nov 2012 – here’s the link). It’s not bulky and clear plastic like the old one; it’s lightweight, it’s not obtrusive, it looks and feels much stronger; the lock is better, and it’s faster/easier to attach. Big improvement over the old model, and it’s what I’ll be using from here on out.

Above: Here’s the bottom of the Retina MacBook Pro so you can see the full assembly attached to the top. By the way, these stunning review photos were taken with my iPhone, so be kind. LOL! ;-)

Above: Here’s a close-up of the lock attached to the security bracket. The bracket has little round rubber feet that cover Apple’s existing rubber feet. The whole thing is pretty unobtrusive, especially compared to the earlier model.

Overall Rating
If I actually had a five-star rating-system, with 5 being best, I would give it 4-1/2 stars, knocking off the half star because they don’t offer a combination lock option (only a key lock).

Price: $69.95 (though it appears to be on-sale for $59.95 right now)
Works on: 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros
Available from: MacLocks.com
Red stars with 2-pixel back stroke: Done in Photoshop

That’s it in 90-seconds. If you want more detail, see below.

————

OK, why do we even need a security bracket like this?
The Retina MacBook Pros are so thin Apple wound up having to leave off something that was a staple of most previous MacBook Pros: the specially designed security locking hole. You inserted the lock directly into the chassis of your laptop. That was sweet, but now they’re gone.

That left me leaving my MacBook Pro unlocked in an un-attended photography work room at stadiums where I was shooting games, until I came across the original MacLocks solution (in November of 2012), which which used a hard, clear plastic case that you screwed into the bottom of your MacBook Pro and it had a hard plastic nub with a hole sticking out the back corner where you could insert their custom lock and lock your computer down. It actually worked pretty well (and protected my laptop until now), but there were two issues on that old model:

(1) The plastic case was a bit bulky and added weight
It covered the entire bottom of the laptop, and that added to its thickness and weight (which stinks because one of the best features of the MacBook Pro was its light weight and thin size). It didn’t bother me at first, but as time went on, it became kind of a pain (and the plastic edge sometimes snagged the sides of my laptop bag. In fact, it finally cracked the clear plastic case on one side).

(2) The clear plastic case kind of looked like you could break it off without too much trouble.
I don’t think it would be easy, but just looking at at, it looked like it might be, and if someone actually did try, they would pretty much trash your laptop. So, even though they might not actually take your laptop, they could trash it to where you wouldn’t want it when they were done trying. It’s a win/lose proposition.

That why this new solution is so much better. You don’t even really notice it, so it doesn’t draw unwanted attention, and it doesn’t look like clear easily breakable plastic.

Hope you found this helpful. :)

Cheers,

-Scott

http://youtu.be/TjUPh7FI4nQ

Here’s the behind-the-scenes video I mentioned on Tuesday from my car shoot at an airplane hangar (as luck would have it, the hanger was the exact same hangar at the airport where my wife flies out of). I used the Priolites again but I also used a new super-lightweight battery pack that let us take one of our Elinchrom studio strobes out on location (I did a quick demo of it on the video above).

Anyway, we were planning on shooting two cars and a plane, and it turned it to a six-car, six-hour long shoot with two Ferraris (an F-430 and a California); a Devon GTX, a Rolls Royce Ghost, a Spyker, and a Audi R8. We were psyched! (Plus, I was finally going to get a full-body shot of the Audi R8 I did the detail shots of last month).

Anyway, I’ll tell the rest in the captions (BTS photos by Brad Moore), but first a big thanks to my buddy David McComas who not only has some amazingly cool cars (and let me shoot them, and borrow his hangar), but he also has friends with more cool cars. Not a bad combination (thanks David!)

Above: This shot is just natural light. We only had a few minutes where the sun had tucked behind the other hangar, but it wasn’t sunset quite yet, so we actually had a decent amount of light, and that’s when I had my crew pull the R8 out in front. I wanted to take a shot that had lots of negative space (the total opposite of the close-up detail shots I took last time).

Above: The Devon GTX. What an insanely cool car (with gull-wing doors, no less). I love how the back has no bumper â” it just go straight from the truck to the rear in one solid piece. The color of the car was pretty monochromatic so I went ahead and took it all the way with a black and white conversion. Again, just natural light near sunset.

Above: Here’s a shot with me standing where the Audi R8 was parked, looking back in toward the Devon in the hangar (now you can see the full-color version).

Above: That little red circle in the back of the hangar. That’s me. 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at ISO 100. I switched to the D800 for this one to get extra resolution.

Above: Here’s the over-the-shoulder view.

Above: here’s the Spiker (the one I showed in Tuesday’s behind the scenes shot). Sick car!!! I only had time to shoot two of the car full-body and this was one of them.

Above: Here’s the lighting set-up for the Spyker. Three lights total. #2 and #2 are Priolites (the same ones I did the Audi R8 with last month), so there’s no power pack or cables â” the battery it built right into the lights (which is pretty sweet!). The #2 light is a bare blub strobe. It was supposed to have a grid on it, but we somehow misplaced it before the shoot and of course didn’t realize it until we were actually at the shoot. That posed quite a challenge because the light was spilling like crazy, but it was what it was. The #3 light is using a large strip bank.

The #1 light (with a large Tim Wallace-style strip bank) is a regular studio strobe — an Elinchrom BRX 500 (my go-to light int he studio), but we were able to take it on location thanks to the brand new lightweight battery pack I talk about in the video (though here’s a direct link to it at B&H Photo).

Above: I love the front grill of the Spyker! 

Above: I’m not a big fan of laying down on the job, but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do. That’s Brad Moore holding a Priolite with a large strip bank and that’s how we made the detail shot you just saw. Shooting at f/22 makes the light fall off to black on the edges almost instantly (thank you Tim Wallace — it’s his technique). 

Above: Same lighting, same technique, same settings. It still amazes me how the light falls off to solid black like that. I know it makes sense, but it still makes me smile every time I try it. 

Above: Here’s the distinctive rear-end of the Spyker — same everything as far as lighting and camera settings. 

Above: Yes it was that bright where we were shooting, and yes shooting at f/22 makes it fall off to black like that without having to fake it in Photoshop. I was just as surprised as you are, but son-of-a-gun it works!

Above: The rear emblem and very soft lighting. 

Above: I wish I had the time to really experiment and get the lighting just right on this one, but with six cars to shoot in the absolute stiffling heat, we pretty much had to run and gun all day. Even though it was really cool to have all these cars on hand, I wish we had half as many cars and the same amount of time, because if something didn’t work lighting wise, I didn’t have the time to really make it work — I had to cut my losses and move it if it didn’t come together pretty quickly. 

Above: The Rolls was Amazing. First time I had ever sat in one, and the interior was really something to behold. I could have spent two hours just on it, but I only had about 20 minutes (we spent waaaaayyyy to long on lighting the Spyker), and it caught up with us time wise. 

Above: As the heat took its toll on all of us, I started to lame out and shoot some of the shots from a chair, and that’s the on you saw above. We were beat like you cannot believe. Drenched in sweat, semi-dehydrated (we only brought six bottles of water for the three of us — huge mistake) and though we started at 5:00 pm, none of us got home before midnight.

Above: We had two Ferrari’s but all I had time for were detail shots. I just love the Ferrari nameplate so I spent a while on trying to get the lighting right, but I still had to add a radial gradient in Photoshop to get the look I was trying for. 

Above: I’m a sucker for headlamps.

Above: I had to get an engine shot of the California — just one light — still that Priolite but we switched to a small softbox. We probably should have switched back to a stripbank, but I’m still OK with how it came out. 

Above: In Tim’s online classes for Kelby Training, he talked about splitting the logo with the light, so we spent a few extra minutes trying to get it right on the money. 

Above: This is actually the interior of the Ferrari F-430 and I shot it with a 24-70mm f/2.8 using a technique I learned from Tim when we taped his class for Kelby Training on shooting car interiors (should be coming out soon. Brilliant class  — I learned a ton!). 

Above: Here’s a parting shot of the Ferrari California. 

Wrap up
While I’m getting much more comfortable with lighting and shooting the up-close detail shots, I still need a lot more practice with full body shots, and that’s what I’m going to focus on next. While we were out on location I heard about a studio locally with a huge drive-in cove and a giant overhead softbox made for lighting entire cars, and I got a line on a few other cars to shoot. Brad’s on vacation this coming week, so nothing next week, but when he gets back, it’s time to sweat once again!

Above: OK the lighting is kick of whacked in this shot, but I couldn’t leave without showing you at least one shot with the doors open. Is that car sick or what!!!! 

Thanks to Brad and John for assisting me on the shoot (couldn’t’ have done it without you guys), and thanks to David for rounding up lots of cool cars for us to shoot. Also, thanks to my readers for stopping by and here’s wishing you all a sweat-free weekend and lots of shooting opportunities.

 

If you missed out on the NAB Show this year, Mia McCormick and Larry Becker from Kelby Training were there to have you covered. They discovered some of the coolest new gear that was at the show, and here are just some of video highlights from what they discovered! You can see more at the Kelby Media Group YouTube Channel where videos are still being added.

http://youtu.be/ZkHO45q4Sy4

http://youtu.be/dg4aIsd0n1Y

http://youtu.be/WykdaJg2ZSo

http://youtu.be/yGK54xzv0NI

http://youtu.be/MB7eT0FFuy0

http://youtu.be/GmJaLY3WWTg

http://youtu.be/yEx_ZeEZAqk

Again, here’s the link to check out even more highlights from NAB.

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