Category Archives Photo Shoots

Hi Gang: This week I’ve been out in Moab, Utah leading a hands-on workshop with landscape photography legend Bill Fortney, along with a team of top notch instructors and 35 or so very fun, totally energized participants, and we’re havin’ a ball out here shootin’ and working with Lightroom and CS5.

An HDR Love Fest
I got special permission yesterday from Nik Software to show my class Nik’s new HDR Efex Pro plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom and it was a big hit with the workshop participants (and most of our participants at the workshop are seriously into HDR). I had a pre-release copy already so I knew it was going to be a hit, but now that I’ve shown it to a crowd, it’s going to be even bigger than I thought.

The area is pretty socked in with clouds, so we haven’t had a lot of shooting opportunities yet. I got just a couple of shots off at sunset (that’s us shooting sunset above), and a handful at dawn yesterday, but I surely haven’t set the landscape world on fire so far. I haven’t had a chance to really go through my images yet, but I hope to have some to post for you guys on Monday.

The Missing Video
I had planned to run a video interview today with a special guest, but I guess it got bogged down in the video dept., so I’ll have to run that next week as well. In the meantime, here’s wishing you all a fantastic weekend, and we’ll see you back here next week.

On Thursday night I got a chance to shoot FC Tampa Bay Rowdies (a pro team in the North American Soccer League), vs. the Austin Aztex and although I didn’t shoot worth a darn (and the score ended in a 1 to 1 tie. Ugh!), I did try out a few new things, and learned some things along the way.

Shooting at 6,400 ISO
The uninspiring shot you see directly above is only remarkable in that it’s the first time I’ve really shot at 6,400 ISO (click on it for a larger view—-no noise reduction applied. The one at the top of this post was shot at 3,200 ISO. More on that in a moment).

Normally, for night games I would be shooting in the 2,500 to 4,000 ISO range (2,500 at ISO f/2.8 or 4000 at f/4) but the game was held in a Minor League Baseball stadium, and I figured the lighting would be kind of bad (and I was right). Luckily I was able to borrow a Nikon D3s from my buddy RC Concepcion, which reportedly has even less noise than the D3, so if I had to shoot at 6,400 or higher, I’d probably be OK, and it performed like a champ! (see above).

(Above: another 6,400 ISO shot).

My Lens Lesson
I only brought my new 300mm f/2.8 lens, which I now know is a little too short for shooting soccer on a full frame camera. So short in fact, that I could only shoot when the play was near my end of the field, because at the other end, it was just about useless (they looked like ants). Last year, when I shot the U.S. Men’s team, I took my 200-400mm f/4 (which was out on loan to Matt that night—he was shooting soccer down in Ft. Myers), and that extra 100mm made a big difference (and beside my buddy Dave Cross, who shot the game with me, every other photographer working the game was shooting a 400mm f/2.8 lens).

(Above: Back to 6,400 ISO—click on it for a much larger view).

Why it works for NFL but not Soccer (Futbol)
The difference between shooting at 300mm when shooting Soccer (futbol), and when shooting American Style NFL Football, is that shooting NFL football you move your position a lot during the game, based on which team has the ball, and where they are on the field, so you can always be pretty close to the action with a 300mm. You can easily spend five to 10 minutes on one end of the Football field while a team is on a drive, so you’re right on top of the action with a 300mm on a full frame.

However, with Soccer most shooters set up near the corners of the field and stay there for long periods of time (a lot of them are sitting the whole game, either on the ground, or using portable fold-up seats). In Soccer, the possession of the ball can change every 15 seconds (which really makes it exciting), and they’ll be running right toward you—the ball gets stolen—and suddenly they’re running away from you. So, you need longer glass or you’re only going to shoot 1/2 the time at best.

(Above: Another 3,200 ISO shot).

How about trying a Tele-extender?
I actually did, (a 1.4 tele) and it got me in much closer but you lose a stop of light as a trade-off, so I dropped from f/2.8 to f/4.¬† While that might not sound like a lot, it dropped my shutter speed from 1/750 to 1/1000 of a second, down to just 1/350 of a second (way too slow—guaranteed blurry shots), so I had to raise my ISO to at least 6,400 with that combo, and I was afraid of the noise it might generate.

As it turned out, 6,400 ISO on a Nikon D3s is like 4,000 ISO or lower on a regular D3, so I would have been fine, but without seeing the results on a larger screen, I was a bit hesitant to try, so I took it off, and shot a lot at around 3200 ISO with the 300mm set at f/2.8.

(Above: 3,200 ISO for comparison)

You don’t know unless you try
So, I did learn that the D3s lives up to it’s low-noise legend, and I learned that next time I’ll be sure to borrow it and a 400mm lens (or I’ll rent one from Even though I was disappointed in what I got (in fact, I wouldn’t have displayed these shots if not needed to support this article), it was still a lot of fun—I got some good practice in, and it was all made even more fun shooting with Dave. He’s a serious soccer fanatic (he used to play for this College team), and Dave got some great shots as a result (knowing the game, and where the next play is likely to happen is the key to timing the shots, and Dave knows the game inside and out). OK, back to something I’m more comfortable with—American Style football! Already got some NFL and College games lined up in the coming weeks. Can’t wait!!! :-)

I mentioned on Monday that a got a chance to shoot the LSU vs. North Carolina College Football Kick-off Game on Saturday in the Georgia Dome with my buddy, Atlanta-based pro sports photographer Paul Abell (here’s Paul’s guest post on my blog).

We really had a ball, plus it was a terrific game, coming down to the last 2-seconds, where the Tiger’s defense was able to hold off the Tar Heels from snagging a last second victory.

This was my first time out shooting with my 300mm f/2.8 (a gift from my book publisher [Peachpit Press] for being named the world’s #1 best-selling technology book author for the 6th year straight. I know—totally awesome publisher, right? Plus they really know how to give a gift!!!!!). :-)

Anyway, here’s a few shots from the game. I am getting better at my timing, which is something I’ve been trying to work on, but I let a few great shots get away because of focus issues (totally my fault), where the receiver was out of focus and the crowd behind him, or players on the sidelines were in focus. This was my first game of the season, and it helped get the rust off a bit, but shooting football is one of those things that just takes lots and lots of practice—–but I gotta tell ya—-I surely don’t mind this kind of practicing. :)

CAMERA INFO: All the shots were taken with a D3 or D700. My D3 had the 300mm f/2.8 on it pretty much all day, and my second body was the D700 with my 70-200mm for when the action got inside the 20 yard line. My ISO was generally either 2,000 or 2,500 (Note: My other sports lens is a 200-400mm f/4, and that one stop advantage with the f/2.8 lens let me shoot at 2,000 ISO in an indoor dome stadium, rather than shooting at 4,000 ISO like usual. Plus, it gave a shallower depth of field than the f/4, which I love). No color correction in Lightroom necessary (I know, I’m amazed myself—some sort of fluke)—just adding contrast and sharpening. Also, I only applied noise reduction on one single image, but sadly I can’t remember which one it was. Anyway, here’s the shots:


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Above: Taken from the upper deck with a 10.5mm fisheye lens. I removed the fisheye distortion with one click using Lighroom 3’s automated Lens Correction.

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Above: The fans get fired up during a pre-game rally!

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Above: That’s my buddy, Atlanta sports photographer Paul Abell right after the opening kickoff. He’s standing where I took the Fisheye shot you see earlier. He’s shooting a 14-24mm wide, and a 400mm f/2.8 for his long glass.

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I love shooting College Football. Your chance for high-scoring games (which translates to lots of action), goes up, and since they run some wild plays you won’t see in the NFL, you don’t always know what to expect, so it makes for a really fun day of shooting.

Tie Interceptor: Full Size Replica
Click on the picture to see it bigger, or see it in Flickr

Hey everyone, RC here. I was chatting with Scott a couple of days ago about my experiences at the Star Wars Celebration that just happened in Orlando, FL – and he thought it a good idea to share them here on the blog. I was happy to oblige! [NOTE: RC is being kind here. I absolutely loved his images, and the story behind them, and I begged him to do a post about it—Scott].

I walked into this opportunity not really being a Star Wars fan. I’d seen the second half of the movies as a kid, but never really got around to watching the three prequels. For the most part, I don’t watch a lot of movies, so it wasn’t something that I felt I was missing out on.

Why I Went
elvis-1What attracted me to go to this convention was passion. I’m a passionate person by nature – you kinda have to be to work here. Because of that, I find myself attached to people who are really into being passionate about things. I don’t follow sports, but i’ve always wanted to be friends with one of those superfans who paint themselves with the letter D and hang out by a stadium.

I mean, i’m the guy who drove by myself a ton of hours to go to the “RC Cola Moonpie Festival”. I love talking to people about the things that they love talking about. The sparkle in a person’s eye is just awesome- I guess it’s why I enjoy environmental portraiture as much as I do. To be able to go to a place where people get dressed up to pay tribute to something that they love was just something that I couldn’t pass up.

I packed a bunch of lights in my car and headed out to the convention. I was prepared for anything – from small lights to a pack and head scenario. More often than not, i’m usually the guy that’s packing 6 strobes so this isn’t entirely out of character. It’s the McNally in me. Last minute – I threw my tripod in the car, not really knowing why.

Check out the rest of the story by clicking on the link below…


Hi Gang: I took last week off and headed up to Kennebunkport, Maine with my family for a week of just doin’ nuthin’. It’s so hot down in Florida, my wife wanted to spend a week someplace where you didn’t break into a sweat just looking out the window, so off to Maine we went.

Although we were there for a week, I only went “shooting” twice (well, technically two and half times, as you’ll read in a moment). Once when we took a one-day trip up to Bar Harbor (about four hours away), and once with my buddies Scott Eccleston and his photography business partner Mark Hensley (both of whom I met on my first trip up there back in July of 2007). Here are a few shots I got along the way (I haven’t gone through all of them—I had a flight to catch).


Above: So there I was—-it was almost sunset, and I’m all alone, paddling down a creek just outside Old Orchard Beach as a came upon this beautiful area of still water. I tried to keep the boat still as not to disturb the still water, I slowly reached for my D3 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Steadying the canoe with one hand, I did my best to keep my heavy camera still with the other, while a huge snake slithered right along side the canoe, and….aw, who am I kidding—this is a totally set-up shot.

Scott and Mark positioned the rental canoe at the water’s edge for me, while I got down on one knee, with my tripod, in the parking lot and composed the shot so you couldn’t tell I was two feet in front of our minivan. Hey, I had ya going for a minute there, though didn’t I? So, it’s all real, but I wasn’t in the boat, which is a good thing, because I would have capsized it for sure.

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Above: This shot above was taken in Bar Harbor one morning. I missed sunrise (which was at 5:45 am), and instead woke up at 7:05 am, got my self together and was out of the room five minutes later while my family was still asleep. Around 7:50 am I drove past this lake and I headed back, pulled off the side of the road, grabbed my gear and headed down to the lake shore. It was kind of a steep climb down through a bunch of slippery rocks and stuff, and sure enough—I fell and slowly tumbled down to the shore. Hit the ground with a thud. Luckily, I was fine (slightly bruised ego, but thankfully no one was around. My camera wedged in between some fallen tree limbs, so it survived too (just a little banged up—like me). At 7:50 am I had long since missed any great light that morning, but I kinda liked the shot anyway (especially since I had to take a fall to get it, so it probably looks a lot better to me than it does to you).

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Above: The foggy shot above was taken in downtown Bar Harbor. It was incredibly foggy at 1:00 pm in the afternoon (which is really odd to me, but apparently is very common there), and out of the mist the four mast schooner “The Margaret Todd” came in to the dock, and I snapped this foggy shot (though it was much foggier than it looks here). Just kind of a simple shot, but I like that you don’t see anything else.

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Above: There’s a little footbridge near a creek about 15 minutes from downtown Bar Harbor, and I got there right after the sun moved out of the nice cloud cover it had been in all morning. I waited for 45 minutes for it to move back into those clouds, but it never happened so I headed back for breakfast. On our way out of town late that afternoon, I came back, and the sun still wasn’t cooperating, but I snagged this one shot while crossing the bridge, which I thought was kind of interesting.

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Above: Toward the end of my stay, I hooked up with Scott and Mark, and they had a connection with a guy who owns an huge abandoned six story old factory, that’s about a hundred years old, and creepy as all get out (Well, only parts were creepy—the parts where we went down in the cobweb covered basement with only my iPhone 4’s flashlight to light the way), but outside of that—it was an amazing place, and I got SO many shots to use as backgrounds. The shot above is a five-shot HDR image toned in Photoshop CS5, and I tried to keep more on the photo realistic side (not totally mind you, but more that way). This place had a ton of old rusty machinery, and old pipes, and it was an HDR love fest. I literally shot more HDR that day than I had all year. It was an awesome place.

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Above While we were in the creepy factory, I did a video tip on shooting long exposure HDR shots for Scott’s “” blog¬† (an excellent blog by the way, which I’ve mentioned here previously—here’s the link—it’s a must visit blog), and the shot above is the image I created during the video tip. I’ll let you guys know when Scott puts the video tip up live). Anyway, when you’re shooting this much HDR you have to push one or two over the limit, right? So, that’s what I did above. I couldn’t help myself. ;-)


Above—here’s the 1/2 shoot part: We were leaving at 12:00 noon on Saturday morning to head to the airport, and it was such a pretty morning that once I was up (around 10:00 am), I thought I would walk into town (about a 15 minute walk from our cottage), and take some shots of the homes along the way. I couldn’t decide whether to take my 14-24mm and capture the entire home, or a 70-200mm and get it tight. I wound up taking the 70-200mm, so my idea of shots of quaint Maine homes, became shots of quaint doorways, and I used Lightroom 3 to put quickly put this 24″ x 10″ multi-photo layout together (it took all of three clicks). It’s far from finished, but I thought I’d give you this “in progress” look in the meantime (click on it for a much larger view).

Once I got back from wandering, it was off to the airport, and we got home by midnight (all, the joys of connecting flights). It was great to get away right before Photoshop World Vegas (since I won’t get much sleep while I’m there), and it was fun reconnecting with Scott and Mark, and enjoying such a wonderful place with my family (the kid’s absolutely loved it!).


Hi Gang: Just a quick update from Los Angeles where I just spent an amazing day with entertainment photographer Jeremy Cowart shooting two live on-location classes for

I always feel like, if I take a class and I learn even one new thing, it was totally worth it. We were only about 30 minutes into Jeremy’s first class and I had already learned half a dozen new things. I was blown away! By the time the class was over, my head was swimming with new ideas, and things I just had never thought of. I called my wife at the end the day and here’s exactly what I told her:

“I learned more about photography today than I have in the past year!”

I’m not kidding. We filmed both classes in the same documentary style as our online class “A Day With Jay Maisel” but rather than doing a photo walk, instead we did a series of live location portrait shots in Venice Beach, California with Jeremy doing the shoots live with the cameras rolling, and I’m there asking him the same questions that I’d have if I were watching the class online. I also took your questions live via Twitter while we were shooting, and we had Jeremy answer your questions all day long during the shoots.

Two things I loved about these classes:

(1) Like Jay’s class, it wasn’t as much about the technical stuff (though he did share lots of settings all day long), but instead it was about the creativity, the vision, how to find and work locations, and how to get 10 different looks from one small area. And…

(2) He kept the lighting simple—using either just natural light or one flash with a small softbox, or a reflector. That’s it. What he got out of this simple set-up is just stunning, and you see exactly why he’s in such demand by TV networks, movies, big record companies, and celebrities.

Anyway, I had an amazing, eye-opening, exciting, and totally exhausting day, and now I’m beat, and headed back home with my crew, but man—what a day! One I won’t forget (and I can’t wait to try out all the new stuff I learned).

Thanks Jeremy—I can’t wait until these classes go live!