Category Archives Photo Shoots

Cowboy Stadium has been at the top of my list for stadiums to shoot for a few years now, and yesterday I finally got the chance.

I had only seen it from the outside, a few years ago when I was doing my “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it” tour in Arlington — it’s within walking distance of the convention center where we hold my classes, and it’s just an amazing feat of architecture and design, and when I found out I I’d be here a day early, I reached out over Twitter to find a contact with the Cowboys, and before you know it I was talking with Shannon Gross, Social Media powerful overlord for the Cowboys (and as luck would have it, a photographer).

Our shoot was set for 2:00 pm yesterday, and I was planning out my shoot in the morning when I realized that the massive overhead high-def screens would be black, I shot off a quick last-minute email to Shannon asking if we could get the Cowboy’s logo up on the screens for our shoot, and I would need a helmet (for the shot you see above), and Shannon scrambled to make both happen. This were some of the first dedicated stadium shots the Cowboys would have since the new AT&T branding (It’s now AT&T Stadium) and so I wanted to make sure there was something on those big screens.

These shots were taken with a Canon 5D Mark III using an 8-15mm Fisheye zoom lens, and I usually had it zoomed out to between 14mm and 16mm on a Gitzo tripod with a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. Contrast and Clarity added in Lightroom (except for on the turf field itself).

This shot was taken at the 50-yard-line, up high with a super-wide angle lens â” the 16-35mm set at 16mm.

The stadium itself was just amazing. The screen….well…what can you say about the HD screen — it’s just insane, but the whole facility is incredibly well designed, well thought-out, and just so focused on creating the ultimate fan experience.

Above: Brad snapped this iPhone shot of me during the shoot.

The Cowboys offer daily guided tours of the stadium, and so we’d wait until the short break between on-field tours to take our shots, so we’d get set up, check our email and stuff until the tour headed for the locker-room tour and then we’d have a nice empty field all to ourselves. We’d shoot, pack and move to another location and shoot until the next tour hit the field, so it was a pretty relaxing shoot, and we still had everything wrapped up in about two hours from start to finish.

Here’s one for the road, shooting right down the handrail toward the corner of the field. I have lots more shots, and some great stories, but I’ll have to save those for next week’s episode of “The Grid,” ’cause it’s time to hit the hay — big day tomorrow here in Dallas with my tour tomorrow, and I hope I’ll see some of you there.

A big thanks to Shannon Gross and the gracious folks in the Cowboys organization for the wonderful opportunity to take some shots for them (and for me) and I hope to see you all again real soon! Cheers. :)

Above: One of my favorites from the game. Shot at 6,400 ISO. No noise reduction.

OK, it wasn’t a pretty game, and it didn’t end the way I was hoping, and we had a long rain delay (well, Lightning delay), and I got home hours later than I expected, and I’m still pretty damp from the rain, plus I forgot some important stuff, and just overall….I loved it! :)

Above: Here’s an iPhone shot of my “Office” for game day. Ahhh, the glamour of sports photography. They really spoil us with perks like free power outlets and fold-up metal chairs in the workroom. There’s almost enough for everybody. ;-)

I actually have lots to share about the game, the gear, my new fancy-dancy multiple card reader, and my long list of mistakes off the field and in my post-processing, but unfortunately, it’s pretty darn late at night, and I’ve got a super-busy day tomorrow before I head out to Detroit and Dallas for my seminars there this week. I might have some more details for tomorrow — it just depends on how today goes. :)

Above: This was taken at 10,000 ISO with ZERO noise reduction, in JPEG mode. 10,000 ISO! The 1Dx is seriously insane! Loving it more every time I shoot it. Learned more cool stuff about it too from my buddy Rob Foldy, who was there shooting the game for USA Today Sports Images. He also had some helpful tips for Photo Mechanic. Rob rocks. He’s “Rockin’ Rob.” (sorry, dude). 

Above: Saints Quarterback Drew Brees (or “Breezy Drew” as my wife calls him), threw this one right to me. I jumped up about a foot over the corner to catch it and I tacked-on 11-positive yards after the catch. Either that, or it was a short pass to New Orleans Saints wide receiver (and 5th round pick) Kenny Stills (as seen in the shot taken a moment later below), I can’t remember which. 

Above: Yeah, that’s probably what happened. He caught it though. He didn’t bobble it a bit (like I did). ;-)

Hope you all have a great Monday, and I hope to meet over 1,000 of you this week in person at my “Shoot Like a Pro” tour. Cheers everybody (I’m headin’ to bed. Zzzzzzzzz).

Hi Gang: I thought I’d share the painful, behind-the-scenes step-by-step lighting set-up for the BMW 650i I shot a week or so ago at Studio 75 in Seminole, Florida (I shared the final shots on my Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages).

Since I had all the test shots as we were piecing the lighting together, I thought I show you how it looked in stages, all right out of the camera (until the end when you see the final shot). It’s not going to be pretty, but here goes:

Above: Here’s a behind-the-scenes shot of where we finally ended up. lighting wise. It looks like a simple two-light set-up, and it is, but getting there was….was…wellâ¦it took a number of hours and there was a lot of “scrunching of my face” during the entire shoot to get it where I was hoping to be. We’ll start at the beginning, just after we put up a long roll of black seamless paper behind the car. 

Above: I thought we’d start by putting a large strip bank softbox over just the very front of the car, since I was going for a very dark, dramatic look. So, we put the stripbank on a boom stand, put it right over the front of the car and I took a test shot at f/11 at 1/125 of a second shutter speed, just to see where we were as a starting place. It looked pretty awful (as seen above). 

Above: Luckily, I knew I could make the light fall off to dark pretty easily by just using the “tried and true” f/stop I learned from Tim Wallace’s classes on shooting cars, and son of a gun if ol’  f/22 didn’t make a huge difference. We also moved the soft box back a little further over the hood of the car, but we lost all the highlights in the front grill. 

Above: I knew I wanted the headlamps on, so I had Brad jump in the car and start it (you had to start it to get the fog lamps on bottom to come on. I figured I’d have to do a bit of Photoshop magic when it came to the headlamps â” maybe blending two separate shots into one (one exposed for the lights, the other for the car), but I got lucky — the headlamps used LED lights, and it looked great first time out without any fancy stuff (and the f/22 gave us starbrights in the lights). Another lucky bonus. By the way, I’m totally cool with lucky things happening during a shoot. In fact, I embrace it!

Above: So, I knew the headlights would look good, so I had Brad turn them off (and the car so we didn’t get asphyxiated), but the front grill was missing altogether so we moved the soft box just a tiny bit forward until the grill appeared again (as seen above). Then we put a large white v-flat on the ground right in front of the car, so we’d get some highlights to come out on all the edges (also seen above), but now it’s too bright right below the grill, so we fixed two problem and created one new one. Hey, I see it as a 50% win. LOL! The whole shoot was kinda like that, but I was mentally prepared  for it after my last car shoot. It’s all a matter of controlling how the light reflects and having the patience (and enough black and white reflectors) to make it happen. 

Above: I needed that area right under the grill to be dark, so I asked Dan (the owner of Studio 75) if he had a thinner black v-flat we could use to block part of the white v-flat that was reflecting the light back upward to bring out the highlights. He didn’t, but he had a thin roll of black felt material. We rolled it out on the floor way in front of the car, and Brad and Dan each picked up an end and walked it toward the front of the car until I yelled “Stop!” right when that area below the grill turned black. That little two-foot strip (see above on the floor right in front of the car), covered just enough of the white v-flat bounce card to do the trick. Sweet! 

Above: I left like we were getting close, so I was starting to get excited, but it kind of looked like just the nose of the car was there, kind of floating on its own, so we added 2 large white v-flat fill cards — one one either side of the car to fill in the sides a bit, and it worked really well. I lowered the power of the overhead light a bit so I could see how the fill cards would look without being overpowered by the light (see above). 

Above: Now that things are starting to get close, I wanted to get a really low perspective; lower than I got last shoot by just splaying out my tripod’s legs, so Brad came up with the idea to use a f/plate (the same one I use for shooting remote cameras at NFL games) with a Manfrotto bullhead (seen above). One reason it worked so well was I use trying out a Canon EOS 70D camera, and it had a tilt-swivel LCD screen on the back, so I could aim it back up at me and use Live View to aim and level the camera. Then I’d switch off Live View and take the shot (I couldn’t get the flash to fire in Live View mode, though I think there actually is a way). I also switched from a 24-70mm lens to a 70-200mm and moved all the way to the very back of the studio. 

Above: I was happy where things were going, but I felt there was still something missing — I originally thought it would be cool just to see the front of the car lit, but the more I looked at it, the more I thought I wanted to see a least a hit of the windshield and side mirrors, so we rigged up another large strip bank and put it right over the enter of the hood. I knew as soon as I took the test shot above this was going to be what it needed. I had Brad jump back in the car and turn on the parking lamps (seen above), just to get an idea of where things were going. So far, so good, but we’re not quite there yet. NOTE: as I learned later, I probably should have stopped here. More on that in a moment. 

Above: I thought it would be cool to see a highlight in the windshield and more of the highlights on the rear view mirrors and roof. I was half right. Here’s how it looked after we moved the 2nd softbox farther up the hood, closer to the windshield. 

Above: I liked where it was going (and I liked the way the 2nd softbox looked reflected in the hood), so I had Brad move it back even farther, so it showed up 1/8 of a circle in the windshield. It was almost time to turn on all the headlamps (with Brad inside the car again), and zoom out just a bit to take in a bit more of the floor. 

Above: Here’s the over-the-shoulder view from my shooting on the floor once we had all the lighting in place. You can really see the black strip in front of the car, and the white v-flats on either side and again in front of the car which is creating those strong highlights in the front. 

Above: Here’s the rear view so you can see the placement of the two softboxes right over the hood and windshield. Also, if you look way back in the back, you can see me sitting on the floor, and the incredibly helpful owner of Studio 75, Dan, so has a gadget for everything!

Above: By the way — how do you move a car around in such a small studio like this? With wheel lifts (and McGuyver-like took in Dan’s bag of tricks). You basically put this lift under both front wheels — lift them up, and you can just slide the car pretty much wherever you want it. It’s how we did the dramatic side shot I posted over on my Facebook page. 

Above: Here you can really see that black strip of cloth that got rid of the reflection under the grill (of course, you see it from this angle without the flashes firing, but from the low perspective and with the flashes firing, it went solid black). 

Above: Once I zoomed way out so I could see more of the floor, another lucky thing happened. Where the white v-flat ended on the floor, the gray paint in the work area just happened to perfectly reflect the headlamps. Since I was going to half to paint over the white v-flat on the right side in Photoshop anyway, I could just paint over the crack in the floor and the white line where the white v-flat ended. So, besides turning up the power of the strobes a bit more, this is nearly the final shot. Just a little tweaking here and there with the lights.

Above: Here’s the final image, but it wasn’t my original final. After I posted it on my Facebook page, I emailed my automotive photography hero, Tim Wallace, and asked him for his honest opinion, because I really value Tim’s opinion (everything I’ve learned about shooting cars, I’ve learned from Tim), and I really want to get better at this. Tim said he liked the lighting overall, but he would change two things:

(1) He didn’t think I should have that softbox reflection in the windshield because it took away from the what the shot was about — the front of the car. And…

(2) He thought I should make the highlights on the front of the car brighter and more prominent.

Of course, I immediately did both (I faded the windshield reflection to where you can hardly see it at all). He wasn’t as crazy about the headlamp reflections on the floor as I was, so I toned them down quite a bit in this final version as well.

I had a lot of lucky things happen during this shoot (I like to call them “happy accidents”), but at the end of the day, I’m luckiest to have Tim Wallace as a friend that will give me his honest feedback, and I know that when he gives it, he’s trying to help me move further ahead, and that means a lot. He’s a quite a guy (beyond his extraordinary skills as a photographer and a teacher). 

I still have a long way to go…
But it won’t be for lack of trying. I’m out in Vegas now, trying to set up yet another car shoot — this time borrowing one of Scott Bourne’s new Jaguars and heading out to a dry lake bed not far from here. Not sure if the timing will work out right (ya know, with Photoshop World starting on Tuesday and all), but hey — ya never know!

Hope all these behind-the-scenes shots helped
…and I hope you weren’t cringing as much as I was during the process. I knew it would take a while for me to get the lighting where I wanted it (it always does), but I will say this — it’s sure a lot of fun getting there.

http://youtu.be/8CLW06OSFI0

Above: Here’s a behind-the-scenes video we filmed during the shoot, since it was my first time trying out the Canon EOS 70D (Larry and Mia were doing a training class on how to use this just-released camera, and I borrowed it for this shoot, just for the day), so it’s a first-look at the camera (good and bad), plus you’ll see more shots from the shoot, and some of the details shots I did using a Priolite flashhead and a smaller stripbank. 

Today’s a really good day!
I’m out here a few days early with my wife Kalebra celebrating our 24th Wedding Anniversary, so no work today — just lots of fun (taking in a show tonight, having dinner at our favorite restaurant in Vegas, and staying up later than we should, cause the next day things get really crazy as we kick off pre-conference workshop day). I’m all smiles! :)

Have a great Monday everybody, and if you see Kalebra and I walking hand-in-hand through the casino on our way to dinner or a show, make sure you stay the hell away from us. LOL! Totally kidding!!! Cheers everybody!

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.

 

 

Finally! The wait is over — Football is back, baby!!!! (Whoo Hoo!!) :-)

Tomorrow’s my first shoot of the season (well, the preseason), and I’m off to Nashville to shoot for the Atlanta Falcons in their pre-season game against the Tennessee Titans, and I am trying out a completely new camera set-up (Take a look at my load-out of the game below).

So, last season when I was shooting for the Falcons up in Atlanta, my buddies Michael Benford and Matt Lange (from the Falcons crew) both were shooting the new Canon EOS 1DX, and they kept running over and showing me some shots during breaks in the game because the noise was just so incredibly low (we all have to shoot at around 4,000 or 5,000 ISO in the Dome at night). I’m used to shooting with a camera that does great at high ISO situations, but what I was seeing was still pretty freakin’ amazing, so when a friend at Canon asked if I wanted to try out some of their gear this season, I was all over it (especially since this first game is a night game, so I’d really get to check out the high ISO performance of the 1DX).

Inside My Bag
I’m using pretty much the same lens configuration I was using with my Nikon gear, and I had the option of going wide with my 2nd body lens, but I decided to go back to a 70-200mm f/2.8 for the shots inside the 20-yard-line. I didn’t bring a fisheye, but I might just throw a 16-35mm in there at the last minute for some pre-game and post-game shots.

Above: Here’s a closeup of the EOS-1DX body sitting on top of the my bag (photo by Brad Moore) — one of two I’ll be using tomorrow night (ya gotta have two bodies for football — there’s no time to change lenses during a play).

Setting It Up For Football
I’ve been playing with the 1DX at home at night, just getting used to the feel of it and setting it up for football, and I found an article from sports photography legend Peter Read Miller on his own settings for shooting sports with the 1DX, and if they’re good enough for Peter….well….needless to say, those are the settings I’m using! :-)

A full report on Monday
Check back here on Monday and I’ll have a full report, and lots of photos. Hope you all have an awesome weekend (did I mention football is back?), and GO FALCONS!

-Scott

P.S. I’ll be in San Jose, California teaching my “Shoot like a Pro” tour on Tuesday. If you’re coming out to the seminar, and you read this blog, make sure you come up and say hi. See you there!

Close