Category Archives Photo Gear

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, butâ¦.), and it was a gray overcast day (I could go onâ¦.), 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 wellâ¦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…

Welcome to my "8th Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide." If you've been a faithful reader of this Gear Guide for the past seven years, this year's name probably sounds familiar, and that's because it is. It's the original name for this Gear Guide, and I'm bringing it back with a vengeance (I'm not really sure how to make a Gear Guide vengeful but I'm working on it), with all of its original "Gonzoness" (yes, that's a word, I'm pretty sure).

This is replacing last year's "Awesome Gear Guide" name (awesome is way overusedâ”mostly by me), and now here you are, reading it right now. How "in the moment" is that, right? Okay, this year, I'm breaking things into three distinct categories:

1: Stocking Stuffers (You can also use these as actual holiday gifts if you're not that crazy about the person.)
2: Great Value Gear (Stuff that's a really good deal for not a lot of money, but he or she will totally dig it.)
3: Cha-ching! (Stuff you buy for the doctor/lawyer/rap mogul on your holiday gift list. This is the stuff that makes them burst into spontaneous tears of joy. Well, at least I would.)

Anyway, the "Awesome" is out, the "Gonzo" is back, and this year's Gear Guide is packed with some really cool stuff that we don't need, but we really, really, really want because getting (ahemâ”I mean giving) is what it's really all about. At least, that's what I read in a Christmas card once.

THE RULES:

These are my self-imposed guidelines for which products make it into the guide. It's just two rules, actually. To be listed here the products have to be ones that I use myself, that I absolutely love, and now can't live without (well, I could live without them, but I just wouldn't want to). And if a product makes the guide, it has to be one I would recommend to a close friend without hesitation, especially if my friend were a rich doctor (kidding). Okay, folks, hang on to your Fruchtsaftgetr¤nke, here we go!

STOCKING STUFFERS


20×24″ Rosco CTO Gel Sheet

If the photographer on your gift list has a flash, this is a perfect gift because it's something he needs but probably doesn't have, and it's cheap as anything. Get him a big sheet of thin orange gel. He tapes it over his flash head and it warms up the color of the flash, creating a more flattering color for portraits. Get the Rosco CTO (Color Temperature Orange) 1/4 sheets for just $6.49 a sheet at B&H. Do you want to really splurge on him? Throw in the 1/2-cut and full-cut sheets, as well. If he doesn't like cutting, get the Rosco precut Strobist pack for just $7.95 with gels in all sorts of colors. A fantastic deal.

Roll of Gaffer's Tape

If he already has some gels, get him a roll over Gaffer's tape. This is the handiest stuff on earth for photographers (I even give away a few rolls at my seminarâ”I'm not making this up). It looks like black duct tape, but it comes off clean with no residue or pulling off any paint. It rocks. $6.50 a roll. Buy two (and keep one for yourself).

30″ Westcott 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector/Diffuser

He probably already has a reflector, but that's okayâ”what you want is the diffuser inside the reflector (you zip it open and there it is). You use this outdoors to turn harsh, direct sun into beautiful, soft, flattering light (just put it between the sun and your subject). Around $30. Plus, you could keep the reflectors and just give him the diffuser. I'm just sayin'.

Lightroom Magazine

Does the photographer on your gift list use Lightroom? Of course she does! So get her a few issues of Lightroom Magazine. (I love this magazine becauseâ”because, well, I'm the publisher, but it's an awesome, awesome magazine. This is a case where using the term awesome, and using it twice, is perfectly acceptable.) You can find it on the App Store on iTunes for $4.99 an issue. Cheap. If you really want to go all out, go ahead and buy her all the back issues.

Some Cool Books

Your photographer will love Zack Arias's Photography Q&A book (only $18.20 on Amazon or Barnes & Noble). Or how about the recent refresh of The Digital Photography Book, Part 2 by Scott Kelby (I love everything he writes) for $18.23 on Amazon or Barnes & Noble (weird price; cool book)! If he's into sports, get Peter Read Miller on Sports Photography ($31.86 on Amazon or Barnes & Noble for $35.77), or if you want to splurge a little, get Frank Doorhof's Mastering the Model Shoot for around $28.45 on Amazon or Barnes & Noble for $28.96(I worked on this book with Frankâ”he totally rocked it!). Note: Book prices on online change frequently. Just so ya know.

GREAT VALUE GEAR


Vanguard Quovio 49T Rolling Bag

If you want a rolling camera bag with Think Tank Photo quality, but can't quite swing it, then check out the Vanguard Quovio 49T. It holds a lot of gear (and your laptop), and it holds it all well. I've taken it on a few trips now and I really like how it's made and its usability. Lots of clever little features and great overall design.

DxO FilmPack 4

This is probably the best plug-in for Photoshop or Lightroom out there for faithfully reproducing classic film effects, and it totally nails these effects. It has a great interface with a smart design, and you can't argue with the realistic looks it effortlessly creates, but you can still tweak each look big time. Plus, it does everything from contrast effects to borders and custom frames. I don't use a whole bunch of plug-ins, but when I want a realistic film look, this is the only plug-in I reach for (and by reach, I mean I just go under a menu).

Imagenomic's Portraiture Skin Retouching Plug-in

The incredible Frank Doorhof turned me on to this plug-in when I asked him how he was retouching skin in his portraits, because his stuff was really looking good. I had to pry it out of him a bit (LOL!), but as soon as he told me, I went straight to Imagenomic's site and picked up a copy. Pretty darn amazing; pretty darn fast. It's $199.95, which ain't cheap, but the wedding or portrait photographer on your list will hug you and not let go for a good long while.

Westcott's Rapid Box 20″ Octa Mini and Deflector Plate

This is, hands-down, the best beauty dish for hot-shoe flash I've ever seen. Plus, it pops up and you're ready to go, so it fits with the whole run-and-gun portability behind hot-shoe flashes. Very well made and thought out. I use the 20″ Octa Mini ($169.90), but you'll need the Rapid Box Deflector Plate for another $19.90 (that's what gives you the beauty dish look). She will be super-diggin' this.

Kata LPS-216 DL Laptop Backpack

I generally don't like backpacks (I use rolling bags instead), but what I love about this one is that it's not big and bulky, yet it still holds a lot of gear and my laptop. Plus, the interior is bright yellow, so you can actually find stuff. It's really well made and only $109.99, which makes it my favorite photo gear backpack ever!

Squarespace.com

Every photographer, designer, and illustrator needs a portfolio, and Squarespace.com has a killer deal on them with very slick professional templates. With Squarespace, you can have a very cool-looking online portfolio up and running in about 15 minutes with absolutely no Web design experience necessary. I use Squarespace for my sports photography portfolio and absolutely love them! They start at around $10 a month (but you'll get your photographer a full year for $96). You'll be a hero.

Lexar Professional Workflow HR1 (Four-Bay USB 3 Reader Hub)

You know what photographers hate? They hate waiting for their cards to download to their computer. That's why this baby was born. Well that, and the fact that a lot of cameras these days have more than one memory card slot, and often those are two different types (like an SD card and a CompactFlash, or a CompactFlash and an XQD card). With this, you buy the docking bay ($99.99) and then up to four readers that pop right in, in any format you want (SD, CF, or XQD) starting at $36.99 each. I love this. Big time.

Yongnuo YN560-III Hot-Shoe Flash

If you want her to think you spent a bundle, which will lead to you getting "Most Favored Friend" status for all of 2014, get her a Yongnuo hot-shoe flash. It's only $70 but looks like it cost $600. It creates a bright flash of light (just like every other flash), but without the high price of about every other flash.

Impact Quickbox Softbox Kit

B&H Photo put this kit together and for the money, I don't know how you can beat it. It's a 24×24″ collapsible pop-up softbox, a tilt-swivel bracket, a bracket that holds your flash and the softbox, and a 8′ light stand, all for $149. It's hero time.

FP-1 Floor Plate for Using Remote Cameras

If you've ever thought about using a remote camera (like a camera set up behind the bride or on the balcony, or for sports), this floor plate is fantastic! I use these for sports and absolutely love 'em. They're very strong, yet surprisingly lightweight, and they're designed to work with just about any ballhead and PocketWizard remote. Incredibly handy for only $65.

B&H Gift Cards

Not sure exactly what to get her? Yes you do. Get her a B&H Gift Card. I don't know anyone who doesn't want something from the greatest photo store on earth, plus this way she can get whatever she wants (within the limit of how much you put on the card, of course). You can order them direct from the B&H site. They send a card and a catalog so it looks pretty substantial.

PocketWizard PlusX Wireless Transceiver

PocketWizard has always been the gold standard in wireless triggers for flash or even for firing remote cameras, but the best is always expensive. But this year, they came out with a new budget-priced model for only $99 each (you need twoâ”one for your camera and one for your flash), called the PlusX, and it has the ruggedness, range, and quality without the high price. They're simple and they work. If you can't swing the $198, try Cactus triggers instead (two for $60). Not the same quality, build, design, or range, but it's not the same price either.

Canon Close-up Lens Filter (for Canon or NIKKOR)

Get him this screw-on lens filter that turns most any Canon or NIKKOR lens into a Macro lens for close-up photography. It's small (only about 1″ thick), screws on just like a filter, and viol¡, you have a macro lens that you can toss into any camera bag (perfect for wedding photographers). They start at around $72 and go up to around $150, based on how wide his lens is (in millimeters).

CHA-CHING!


Westcott SkyLux LED

What's the next big wave in lighting? LED continuous lighting (it's not a flash, so what you see is what you get). Video creatives have long-embraced LEDs but now they're finally (finally!) making their way to still photography. Westcott's SkyLux is really fantastic, and even though it's here in "Cha-ching Land" at around $1,200, it's one of the cheapest LED solutions out there. Plus, Westcott makes a ton of softboxes that fit right on it. This is where lighting is going. You can take someone special there now, this holiday season, and he will love you like a puppy without all the yipping (well, some yipping but it ends after a few weeks).

Canon EOS 70D

I got a chance to use the Canon EOS 70D on a few studio shoots and events, and I have to say this camera body may be the best deal of anything on the list, value-wise (well, maybe beside the $6.49 sheets of Rosco gel). It has features way beyond its price, and if the photographer on your gift list has any ideas about shooting DSLR video, he'll lose his mind over this puppy! Did I mention it has a touchscreen, and that you can pinch to zoom and flick to scroll through your photos, and it's responsive like a smartphone touchscreen. I remember when Nikon released the D700 a few years back and we all thought, "What was Nikon thinking? It's too good a deal." I feel the same way about the 70D. Pro-quality images with many pro features, but they pretend it's for consumers.

PrioLite MBX500 500 W/s Monolight

This is a serious studio strobe that lets you use studio strobes on location. That's not new; there are a bunch of strobes that you can take out in the field using a battery pack that slings over your shoulder. The difference here is that there's no battery pack to sling over your shoulder. The pack is built right into the strobe itself. There's no cable. There's no battery pack. It's just the light. It's awesome! But it ain't cheap. They're $1,479 each. Definitely for pros or for the Wall Street crony on your holiday gift list.

AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR or Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC


The AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR is my all-time favorite travel photography lens because it's one lens that does it allâ”from wide-angle to portrait lengths to a tight zoom. Plus, this particular lens is amazingly sharp, lightweight, and very well built. It's not cheap at $1,049.95, but it's worth it. Give her this as a holiday gift and you may not be able to get rid of her. A perfect gift for someone you're stalking.
If the photographer on your list is a Canon shooter, unfortunately Canon doesn't make a compact 28-300mm like this Nikon model. (The Canon version is full size, quite heavy, and expensive at an MSRP of $2,689.) Tamron makes a 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC that will do the trick. It's not as sharp as the Nikon 28-300mm or the Canon for that matter, but it's not nearly as expensive either at around $630.

This weekend, I had absolutely one of my most-fun football weekends ever, covering the University of Tennessee Vols big upset win against the South Carolina Gamecocks in Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday and then right after the game flying over to Atlanta to shoot with the Falcons crew for Sunday's game. It doesn't get much better than that!

Today, I'll cover Saturday's game and the two locations we mounted remote cameras. I called my buddy "Big Daddy" Don Page (the head of sports photography for UT) and asked if there was any chance of us mounting a camera on the Goal Post itself. I often see video cameras mounted up there, but so far I haven't seen any still cameras, so I thought it was worth a shot. Don worked on it, and sure enough â” on Friday we got the go-ahead, with the warning that the camera or lens absolutely could not cross the plane of the goal post which could interfere with the game (and we would make darn sure it wouldn't).

 For me, there are two main reasons to use remote cameras: 

(1) To let you cover two or more locations at one time. For example, when I shoot Major League Baseball, I'll cover the batter myself, but I have a remote camera aimed right at 2nd base, so if something happens there I've got it covered with the 2nd camera.

 (2) But mostly for me, it's to give me angles and views from places either I can't shoot (like with the Falcons, right up next to the smoke and fire pyrotechnics when the player intros happens right before the game, or hanging from the truss the players run out through), or in our case, a Goal Post came up high aiming down right at the 5-yard line with a wide angle lens. I totally dig this stuff! :)

My Loadout
We packed four Canon 1DXs, a slew of lenses for the trip (long and wide), and a Pelican case full of remote rigging gear for the trip.  This was going to be challenging since two of my flights this weekend would be on Delta CRJ-900 Regional Jets with small overhead bins. I took a Thinktank Photo Airstream Roller, which is like the Airport International but about half the height. It's an amazing bag because it looks so small, but holds so much (Two 1Dx-bodies; a 70-200mm f/2.8, a 24-105 f/4, a 8-15mm fisheye zoom, a black rapid strap, my card reader, my backup drive, a Hoodman Loupe, memory cards, misc cables AND my 15" laptop and my iPad in the outer sleeve PLUS, my full-sized Gitzo Monopod. That is one amazing little bag, and believe it or not, it slides right under the seat in front of me on that small regional jet (the flight from Atlanta was only 24 minutes, so having a little less legroom was no big deal).

I carried my Canon 400mm f/2.8 in a soft-sided Lightware bag, and son-of-a-gun if it didn't fit perfectly in the overhead bin of both the CRJ-900 and the smaller CRJ-200 on my way back to Atlanta (seen above right). I checked the Pelican case (with a TSA-approved lock) as baggage along with my overnight bag with clothes (and I tossed my gel-filled knee pads as well in there).


Above: That’s Randy and this custom-made goalpost rig (see the metal bands?). 

The Goal Cam
We got to the stadium really early because we realized that the goalpost was MUCH thicker than how wide a Manfrotto Magic Arm clamp would fit, and so Don called his buddy Randy Sartin, who shoots for USA Today Sports Images and is really clever at coming up with solutions to problems like this. On Friday night he went to Lowes and bought two large metal bands (the kind you would use on a dryer hose or indoor plumbing) that you can tighten with a screwdriver, and he connected those (somehow) to a Manfrotto Magic Arm. You can see the metal bands in the shot above.

Above: That’s “Big Daddy” Don Page flashing a classic Big Daddy “I’m up on a laddar” smirk

We pulled our a big ladder (at 7:30 am) and Randy got it attached to the goal, then Brad Moore (who came on the trip with me to help out, and to visit family in his hometown while he was there), scampered up that ladder and mounted a 1Dx up there with a 24-70mm f/2.8, and we used Auto Focus to focus it on the 5-yard line (at around f/8) and then once focused, we switched the lens to Manual Focus and used gaffer's tape to make sure it didn't move.

Above: That’s Randy, me and Brad testing the remote after it’s in place. 

Above: I cannot begin to explain this shot of Brad, taken by Brad (note the PocketWizard in his right hand).

Above: Here’s a close-up look at the rig (Randy added a GoPro camera on top to make a time-lapse video). You can’t tell very well from this angle, but the camera is well behind the plane of the goal post.

We would leave the camera there all game, but we'd also get the big player entrance as they take the field (and leave the field) from right behind that goalpost, so it was the perfect place to position it.

Above: Here’s the goal post cam of the players taking the field.

The camera was up and running by 8:00 am, so we went up to the roof of the stadium where I shot some fisheye shots of the empty stadium (it was scary as anything up there for someone like myself who has a fear of heights). On our way down to the field, we passed right over the tunnel where the players stack up right before they take the field and I took a fisheye shot of it empty, and showed it to Donald and said "Ya know, we've got another camera, and a couple more Manfrotto Magic Arms" and about an hour or so before kickoff, we mounted that camera, with the fish-eye set to 15mm on a railing above the tunnel. So, when I fired my camera, it would fire both the goalpost cam and the tunnel cam.

Above: Here’s the tunnel remote cam right as the players take the field. The two cameras both fire simultaneously when I fire my camera, or press the “test” button on the PocketWizard.

We used PocketWizard Plus IIIs to trigger these remotes, which are just perfect for stuff like this (with a 300+ foot range) and they are just so easy to work with and incredibly reliable. You just need a cable that goes from the remote into your camera's sync port, and you find the exact right cable that works with your camera using the free cable-finder widget on the PocketWizard site. Works like a charm.

After the players took the field, Brad quickly removed the remote and the rest of game I just kept a PocketWizard Plus III in my pocket, and when the play got near the end zone, I'd fire shots with it, no matter where I was in the stadium.

Field Camera Gear & Settings
I used pretty much the same gear I've been using all season: two Canon 1Dx's with a 400mm f/2.8 on my main body (with a 1.4 tele-extender attached most of the game) supported by a Gitzo monopod, and a 70-200mm f/2.8 on my 2nd body. Canon sent me this loaner gear at the beginning of the season, and I already let them know not to expect it back any time soon LOL!! (and by soon, I mean not until well after football season. 2015). ;-)

Above: I do this when I get sleepy. ;-)

At the beginning of the season a friend at Canon who shoots sports too asked if I'd like to try out some of their gear, and ever since their 1Dx came out (and my buddies from the Falcons all shoot the 1Dx and just rave about it), I've been anxious to see if it's "all that." Well, I can tell you, "it's all that" and then some. So much so, that for shooting sports I've totally switched over to Canon (in a related note, I saw my buddy pro-sports shooter Paul Abell [who guest blogged here my blog] at the Falcons game yesterday and I noticed he had switched over to Canon as well).

Anyway, I haven't had much time with Canon's other bodies, just my trip to Rome using a 5D Mark III, and I'm still getting used to using it, but it's been a lot of fun trying out some goodies. I also tried out some Sony gear at a studio shoot last month which was really interesting, but I didn't get to shoot with it long enough to get used to the electronic viewfinder.

At some point, I'll do either a video review or an in-depth blog post about the 1Dx and Canon lenses, because there's a lot I want to share about why that body was born for shooting sports, but this week I'm off to Photo Plus Expo in New York, and then my Washington DC seminar on Friday, and then back to NYC on Saturday (whew!), and then off to Boston for another tour date on Monday, and wellâ¦it's gonna be a few weeks, at earliest.

Canon did invite me to do a presentation in their booth about shooting sports at Photo Plus Expo this week, so if you're in NYC, I'm on stage at the Canon booth at 2:30 pm on Thursday, and at 11:00 am on Saturday, so I'll hope you stop by, so I can meet you in person (I haven't been on stage at Photo Plus Expo since 2010 so it's exciting to be back, and my thanks to Canon for the invitation to talk about one of my favorite topics).

What was especially exciting about all this though, was the game itself. For the past two years I've been only  shooting NFL games which are great, don't get me wrong, but the traditions of college football, and the passion of the fans is really something special, and something I have definitely missed, so it was great to get swept up in it all again. When the game came down to a last-second field goal for a big upset Vols win, the place just erupted into celebration that was beyond those even any college bowl game I've covered, and that was just amazing, since I was right in the middle of all of it. I have had special access to the locker room after the game, and that was just insane!!! A really amazing experience.

At the end of the game, when the Vols lined up for the last-second kick, instead of covering the kick (which I knew they had covered by the other team photographers), I turned and focused on the Vols bench and I figured I'd know whether the kick was good or not based on their reaction, and either good or bad it would still have the makings of a interesting story-telling shot. The kick was good, and the players exploded off the bench to rush the field, where I got the shots you see above.

I haven't had a chance to process all the images yet (I sent some to the Vols that they needed right away), and I I'm working on more Falcons stuff today, and I'll share those as soon as I can, but since I did some different stuff with remotes from this game, I wanted to share those here today.

Above: A really great moment when Coach Jones jumps up on the podium and directs the UT Marching Band in a rousing chorus of the Vols fight song “Rocky Top” — the place was just going nuts!!!

Above: I was able to fight my way through the sea of players and photographers and video camera crew to get this shot from the front side. 

Above: Go Vols! 

Here's wishing you call an awesome Monday (well, as awesome as a "monday" can be anyway).

http://youtu.be/shob-1t8eCY

If you missed the live broadcast of our photography talk, a Walk in Rome, you can watch it in its entirety, right here (above). We got really great feedback on the show, and I hope you get a chance to check it out.

—————–

> My loadout for this weekend’s games
I’m shooting two games this weekend; first on Saturday the University of Tennessee Vols vs. the South Carolina Gamecocks in Knoxville, and then that night I’m off to Atlanta to shoot with the awesome Falcon’s crew for Sunday’s game against the Bucs.

On Saturday, we’re hoping to mount a remote camera on one of the goalposts, and if all goes well, we’ll have some shots from a different perspective than I’ve been able to get before. Keeping my fingers crossed, but also bringing the gear in case we get final clearance (the gear is shown above: Two Bogen Magic Arms, safety cables; Two f/plate.net floor mounts with ball heads for player intros, and three PocketWizard Plus IIIs to trigger up to two remote cameras.

I’m flying to Knoxville in two legs on Delta, and it’s the 2nd leg that has me concerned because it’s on a CRJ 900 Regional Jet, so here’s my loadout:

I’m taking my smallest ThinkTank Photo Roller Bag (it’s kind of a half-height bag), and you can see above that I’m bringing three Canon 1Dxs, a 16-35mm, a 70-200mm f/2.8, a Black Rapid strap for my second body during the game. I’m taking the 400mm f/2.8 in a separate smaller bag (a soft-sided bag made my Lightware — that’s it sitting on the floor in the foreground) that fits in the small overhead bins (the camera bag will have to fit under the seat in front of me  — and it does). I also have a Gitzo monopod for the 400mm. Brad is bringing a few more camera bodies and a fisheye with him (he’s helping me on the sidelines for Saturday’s UT game).

Hopefully, I’ll have some shots from the UT and Falcons game to share next week.

——————

> The “Refresh” of Part 2 of my “Digital Photography Book Series is now available

The original Part Two was published back in 2008, so I brought the book up-to-date with a pretty significant refresh using today's latest cameras and changes in gear; plus I added a new chapter; I went through and updated all the photos and techniques where needed throughout, and I re-wrote from scratch the most popular chapter, the "Photo Recipes" chapter with all new images and descriptions.

It’s not a total rewrite — it’s a refresh, but if you have Part One and you’re thinking of picking up Part Two, make sure you get copy that looks like the cover on the right (above). Here’s the link to it at Barnes & Noble.com,  Amazon.com, and from Peachpit Press (the book’s publisher).

Cheers everybody, and here’s hoping you get some killer shots this weekend (and here’s hoping that your real team, and your fantasy team both win, unlike what happened to me last weekend). ;-)

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.

 

 

Close