Category Archives Photo Shoots

…but I still don’t have a full blog post about this amazing experience, and the incredible of team of people who make a modern aircraft carrier work with extraordinary precision. I just finally got through the images just last night (long story), but there’s so much to tell I couldn’t get it done it time for today’s post. (iPhone photo above by Ed Buice).

I’m going to show some images and talk about the shoot on tomorrow’s live episode of “The Grid” and hopefully later today I’ll post some of the images to my Facebook and Google+ pages as well. My goal is to have the full post for here on the blog by Friday, so I hope you’ll stop by one of those spots beforehand or I’ll see you on Friday (of course, tomorrow is “Guest Blog Wednesday” and Thursday is “Free Stuff Thursday” as always).

Cheers,

-Scott

The Falcons may have come up short at yesterday’s NFC Championship Game, but they had just an incredible season, and I was honored to be able to shoot the Falcons during the regular season, and the playoffs. Shooting alongside Falcon’s team photographers Michael Benford, Lynn Bass, Matt Lange all led by the wonderful Jimmy Cribbs, has truly been an honor this season, and I couldn’t’ ask to shoot alongside a greater group of guys. Plus, yesterday we got a special appearance from our buddy “Big Daddy Don Page,” which made it even more fun.

It’s really late (I’m still here in Atlanta — going to PPA’s ImagingUSA tradeshow tomorrow here in Atlanta), and I am just beat. So much so, I haven’t even downloaded my cards yet (and I can’t wait to see how the remote camera set-ups worked out), so I’m going to hit the sack — I’ll look at some of the shots tomorrow, and hopefully I’ll have some images to show you guys tomorrow.

Thanks again to everyone at the awesome Falcons organization for letting me shoot for you guys. It was a fantastic game, an amazing season, and the Falcons and their fans have a lot to be proud of. Go Falcons! #riseup!

WOW!!!! What an unbelievable playoff game!!!!

It came down to literally the last seconds of the game, when Atlanta came back from behind with a beautiful field goal by Matt Bryant for the big win and to take the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game this coming Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. The winner of that game goes to the Super Bowl! I’ll be there  this coming weekend again shooting for the Falcons team (thanks Jimmy, Mike, Matt, Lynn and crew) and I could barely be more psyched! Post season baby! Woo Hoo!!

When they gave out our assignments, besides regular game coverage, I volunteered to not just shoot the action, but to shoot some of the moments surrounding the game, and so I included a few of those here as well. The energy and excitement in the Georgia Dome was just incredible and it was amazing just to be there and soak it all in, but there’s wasn’t much time for that, so here we go:

Above: I took this one during pre-game warmups when the Defense forms a circle and get each other pumped up with some serious “BOOM!” chants and lots of smack talk. It’s an awesome thing to see, but a bit risky to do what I did here: I had my camera mounted on the end of a monopod, facing up toward the top of the dome with a 14-24mm lens (at 4,000 ISO) and shot straight up. The guy who is off-center lead the chant and when he’s done, he jumps up and then dives to the ground and so I had to be careful my camera didn’t get in his way — especially since all those guys would have turned on me in an instant. LOL!).

Above: Here’s one of my remote shots with the 14mm. I went a little too wide and put the camera a little too far forward so you don’t see any of the massive smoke and pyrotechnics going off, but this Sunday I’ll move it back farther, plus I’ll have three remotes going from three different angles. I really like the idea of seeing a lot of the dome, crowd, cheerleaders, drumline, etc, but at this small size you can’t appreciate it. It looks much better full screen on my laptop, but alas, it just needs better execution, and I’m very lucky I get to try it again this weekend. By the way — see that guy holding a monopod up right just player the player on the left. That’s me!

Above: I just love these overhead super-wide angle shots during the pre-game warmup.

Above: This one is right after the win, heading into the locker room from the field. It was a very emotional few minutes of the game.

Above: Falcon’s Defensive End John Abraham between plays. I totally dig his tattoos, and a shot I took of him on the bench last season is in my football portfolio so I was particularly drawn to making this image. The subject of this shot, like the one in my port, are the tats, so I framed it so it was nice and tight, but I really like the way the NFL logo on his towel becomes part of the focus of the image.

Above: Here’s the coin-toss right before the kick-off with the Captains of both team. If you look up at the dome, you can see the coin in mid air. This was a hand-held shot, I’m down on one knee with the 14-24mm at 14mm aiming up.

Above: Here’s a game action shot, but I wasn’t as focused on the game as usual as I was looking for opportunities to shoot things and players surrounding the game.

Above: To stop a Falcon, you have to take flight. See, this is why they don’t let me be a color commentator in the booth — I would actually say lame things like that. LOL!

Above: I kept thinking I was going to capture a great shot of Wilson getting sacked, but that guy is amazingly slippery and got out of some situations that would have gotten most other QB’s sacked for a huge loss.

Above: It’s good!!!!

Above: Shot of kickers get little love, so I thought I’d toss one in here just to say I did.

Above: Sorry, this lane is closed!  (That was courtesy of “Lame Caption Man”).

Above: This is what it looks like when the Falcon’s kicker split the uprights to win the game for Atlanta. I so wanted to turn toward the field and get Matt Bryant’s reaction, or the other player’s reaction, but instead I turned around and saw a stadium cheering on its feet.

Above: Nothing like a genuinely happy fan!!!!

OK, how about some “Behind the Scenes” shot? (mostly taken with my iPhone). 

Above: Here’s a glimpse of the media work room (for still and video crews covering the event). They had some serious Southern Style cooking for us — Fried Chicken, BBQ Sandwiches, Baked Beans, Cornbread, Potato Salad and Apple Cobbler. Just enough calories and carbs to slow you to almost a full stop! LOL.

Above: This iPhone Pano is from the pressroom, where we work after the game getting our final images together for downloading. The Falcons have a runner who comes and takes your cards from you right after the initial player introductions (when the first come on the field through the fire and smoke), and then at the 2-minute warning before Halftime, and then we turn them in again up here, where by buddy Mike Benford and I spend an hour or so sorting images and talking about the game over a soda and some stale popcorn. The food and drink might not be fancy, but you can’t beat the view. 

Above: Here’s my Camera Gear load-out for the game. 

Above: here’s my remote gear, in a rolling Pelican Case. I also have three steel safety cables as well. 

Above: That’s me, testing the remote camera shortly before they do the player intros. Notice the PocketWizard in my hand (I use that for triggering the remotes), and the super-stylin’ neon green vest! ;-)

Above: Oh yeah! Oh yeah! How ’bout we go to the NFC Championship Game next week! 

My thanks to the Falcon team photographers, the always cool Jimmy Cribbs, Matt Lange, Lynn Bass, and Michael Benford. Some of the best and most talented guys out there, and I’m truly honored that you let me shoot for you guys during such an important season.

Also, of course a big congrats to the Atlanta Falcons for pulling off a HUGE win, and let’s do it again this week when a very tough 49ers come to town. Oh yeah, one more thing: GO FALCONS! #riseup!

I only shot four more games this year than I did in 2011, but having a Season Photo Credential to shoot the Bucs (for Zuma Press) sure made it a lot easier (the stadium is just 25 minutes from my house).

I didn’t get to shoot any college games this year (just NFL) but while the Bucs were on the road, I did get to shoot a few other NFL games, which is always a blast. This season I shot 14 games in all (with one more to come — the Falcons first playoff game at home). But until then, here are the teams I got to shoot this season (so far):

  1. Tampa Bay Bucs
  2. Tennessee Titans
  3. New England Patriots
  4. Carolina Panthers
  5. Washington Redskins
  6. Atlanta Falcons
  7. Denver Broncos
  8. New Orleans Saints
  9. Detroit Lions
  10. San Diego Chargers
  11. Jacksonville Jaguars
  12. Chicago Bears
  13. Dallas Cowboys
  14. Philadelphia Eagles
  15. St. Louis Rams

There are only four NFL teams I haven’t had the opportunity to shoot yet: The Seattle Seahawks [shooting them on Sunday in Atlanta], Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, and the Baltimore Ravens.

And as we're kicking off this New Year, I thought I'd take a look back at some of my favorite shots from this past season. All of them pretty much shot with the same set-up: 2 camera bodies: Nikon D4 and a D3s. Main lens: 400mm f/2.8. Secondary lenses: 70-200 f/2.8,24-120mm f.4, and 15mm Sigma fisheye.  NOTE:  These look much better larger, so please click on them to see a larger size). Here they are (in no particular order).

 

There ya have it, folksâ”-my favorite shots from this season 
Thanks to everybody who tolerated all my football posts once again this season and to everybody who supported me throughout the year with your kind comments. I love sharing what I pick up from these games (good and bad), and it's been really fun having you all along with me for the ride. :)

P.S. Today was supposed to be Part II of my “Best of the Blog” but I got in too late (more on that soon), so I’m shooting for that tomorrow (if all goes well). See you then. 

On Friday I did a series of promo shots for Performance Compound, a training facility where a lot of pro athletes train, everyone from NFL players to Major League Baseball, and did about 14 portraits that day assisted by Brad Moore and crew (that’s Third Baseman Sean Buckley above) and I thought I’d share a couple of finals here, along with the behind-the-scenes photos and the post-processed and unprocessed images.

This entire process is the same as what I showed on my Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it tour, with the addition of one extra back light on the subject (as you’ll see in a moment). Here goes:

1. Above: here’s the shot as it came out of the camera. I used a Grid on the beauty dish above his head to get a quick fall-off on the light. My main concern here is the side lighting from the back, and that part looks good. His face is supposed to be darker.

2. Above: Here’s the shot with some simple, quick adjustments in Lightroom’s Basic Panel (if you don’t have Lightroom, it would be exactly the same settings in Photoshop’s Camera Raw). The settings are below.

3. Above: I wasn’t kidding about simple adjustments: Just increased the Whites a bit, plus lots of Clarity and I lowered the Vibrance a bit to desaturate his skin. I also took the Adjustment Brush, increased the Exposure slider a little bit (dragging to the right) and painted over his face to brighten it (It’s supposed to be a lot darker than the sides, but I thought it was a bit too dark). The white balance was set to Auto in my camera and look fine in this case.

4. Above: Here’s a behind-the-scenes shot of the lighting set-up: 17″ beauty dish with a grid: two strip banks in back on the sides with fabric grids. We have a tiny bit of light on the white background to make it a very light gray (if we turned the power up, it would turn solid white). Production photo by Brad Moore.

5. Above: Here’s a composite from the exact shot you see in #4. The two backgrounds (here and at the top) are from an awesome company called “Photo Art Streetscapes” (link). Their stuff costs a bit more, but it’s totally worth it.

As for matching him to his surroundings: I showed the techniques of how to match the overall color and tone of the composited image on my live “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch It” tour, and in my “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it “ book as well (Amazon or Barnes & Noble), and Matt covers all of this in his Compositing Secrets book, too! (Amazon or Barnes & Noble).

Well, there ya have it —- short and sweet. Hope you all have a fantastic Tuesday! :-)

I’ve had so many people ask me for so long to share my Sports Photography workflow, but honestly I’ve been so incredibly unhappy with my workflow, that I wouldn’t curse it on anyone. Of all the photographers in the photo work room, I was usually literally the last man to be able to leave at the end of the game (after uploading images to the wire service).

Luckily, it’s now finally (finally!) starting to come together to the point that I thought I’d at least share it, but I want to give you this important disclaimer up front: this workflow is a work in progress. It’s not “fully there” yet, but I was the third photographer to go home this week, and I’ve literally cut my processing/tagging time in half, but again — it’s far from perfect. My sincere hope is:

(a) This will help someone who was struggling along, like me,…

(b) Someone who really has their sports workflow down to a science will show me how to improve what I’m doing, which is very likely since I know mine isn’t fully baked yet.

So, with that said, here what I’m doing now:

Working on Assignment:
I’m shooting for a sports wire service, and the faster you get your images uploaded to them, the better (so they can get them out to potential news outlets for distribution). At hafltime, (actually, usually a minute or two of gametime beforehand) I  head into the photo work room, download two memory cards; quickly pick six to eight good sharp images, add all the required metadata (there’s plenty), tweak the photos a bit (sharpen, contrast) and upload them live from the stadium and get back out before the third quarter starts. That has never actually happened. Halftime is only 15 minutes, and I’ve never finished the process in just 15 minutes, so I usually miss some of the start of the third quarter. Sometimes as much as half of the third quarter. Hey, it happens.

Speed is the main issue
I learned the hard way — you need very fast memory cards (I use Lexar 1000X cards), and a fast Lexar USB 3 card reader to get my images on to my computer as quickly as possible. I actually use two card readers so both cards can be downloading at once.

I don’t use Lightroom. Or the Bridge. Ever.
I’ve tried both. It’s a death-trap for pro sports photography. Every pro sports shooter at an NFL game (or otherwise) uses a program called Photo Mechanic (by a company called Camera Bits). If there are 40 photographers in the photo work room, you see 40 copies of Photo Mechanic open on their laptops.

It was created for photo journalists and it has some features that you absolutely positively need for this type of work. They are:

(1) Absolutely insanely fast drawing of full screen previews.
As soon as the thumbnails appear (which is really quick), you can instantly view the images at full-screen size. I’m talking lightning fast. I’m talking so fast that you had no idea any program could possibly load full-screen images at this speed, but somehow it just does. I know what you’re thinking: “Does Adobe know about this technology?” Absolutely. “Have you talked to them about adding this to Lightroom?” Many times. “Do you think we’ll ever have fast-loading thumbnails like that?” Nope.

(2) A very well-thought out and designed system for adding metadata to your images
Every photo you submit needs a full description of what’s happening in the photo, where the photo was taken and when, including each player fully identified by team name, player name, position on the team, and jersey number. You need this for every player in the shot. Three players, three full IDs.

(3) An automated process, using keyboard shortcuts, that lets you do all the stuff you have to do in #2 above really, really fast (with the help of a website I’ll mention in a moment).
Plus, you can FTP right from the program straight to the server of your local wire service.

So, step one is Buy Photo Mechanic
The program costs $150, and once I saw it in action, it was the fastest $150 I ever spent. Worth every penny. I’d have paid $250. Maybe more. But Photo Mechanic is just an image sorting and metadata application, albeit a great one, but  it’s not Photoshop and doesn’t do Photoshop-like stuff, so you still need Photoshop.

But before you start importing photos, you need to set up a Metadata template (they call it an “IPTC Stationary Pad”) like the one you see above. This includes a bit about the game and where it’s being played and such. (I do this before I even leave for the stadium).

Then, when I walk in from the first half, I open this Stationary Pad, add the score as it stands “The Bucs lead the Saints 21-14 at the half” to the end, and now when I import my photos, it automatically applies this metadata, including the date, stadium location, copyright info and such to every photo.

The greatest thing to happen to Metadata since….whenever the last good thing happened
There is a website called “CodeReplacements.com” and you pay a small subscription fee and it generates a current roster of both teams for any pro sporting event, which itself is handy, but that’s not what makes it totally rock. You import this roster into Photo Mechanic (it’s then called a “Code Replacement”) and now all you have to do is look at the number on the player’s jersey, type a shortcut and that number, and it automatically fills in all the team info, player’s name, position, and number. For example, if the player plays for Tampa Bay, I just type a backslash, “t” for Tampa Bay, his jersey number, and another backslash, and it instantly types in this for me:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Ronde Barber (20)

Then I type in “breaks up a screen pass intended for” and I type the other guy’s jersey number like this \n16\ and it writes

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore (16)

and then the rest of the metadata about what week it is, and what kind of game it is and where it’s played is already there because I added that to the IPTC Stationary Pad before the game (mentioned above). So, the whole thing reads like this is all of 20-seconds:

“Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Ronde Barber (20) breaks up a screen pass intended for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore during week seven of the 2012 NFL season in a game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints. The Bucs lead the Saints 21-14 at the half.”

Those code replacements rock, and my hats off the guy who came up with the service. May he earn a millions bucks!

Now, you’re ready to download your cards when you come in off the field at halftime
Photo Mechanic calls this process “Ingesting” and it’s pretty quick (and you can ingest multiple cards at once, and I do). It automatically names and numbers them, similar to what you’d do in Lightroom’s Import Window (ya know, if you had all freakin’ day to import your images — don’t get me started).

Once they’re in Photo Mechanic, you can either scan your thumbnails really quickly looking for key shots, or just go to full-screen size and zip through them lickity split using the right-arrow key on your keyboard. When you see a photo you might want to upload, you press the letter “T” to “Tag” it. When you’ve gone thru all your photos, you turn on a filter that only shows your Tagged images, which is seen above (I usually have about 10 to 15 tagged images at this point. Occasionally more, but I’m only going to have to time to process six or eight at best, so I have to whittle it down to the best six or eight of those).

Here’s where my first hurdle comes in
At this point, I look at the, say…15 tagged images at full screen size and when I see one I want to make my cut of just six or eight for uploading, I press the number 6 to label it with a blue label. In just a few seconds, I have six or blue-labeled shots. I select those images (we’ll say I chose six) and jump into the Metadata editing window, where I add the player info using those automated Code Replacements. This is a little tedious, especially if you can’t clearly read a player’s number of their jersey or helmet. Then you have to go back to your full shoot and figure it out by looking at shots before or after the one you want to upload. This kind of drives me nuts, but you’ve got to have the right number or the player’s name will be wrong.

Metadata Done Right
Camera Bits did a kick-butt job on this part, as you can click on the thumbnail in the metadata entry window and see a huge-preview (helpful in reading jersey numbers), and you can copy and paste metadata from one similar image to another (big time-saver), and you can use code replacements for everything the ref’s to special codes that have to be added on a per-player basis (in another field, I have to enter a bracket, the player’s last name, first name, and a closed bracket (like this: [Barber, Ronde]) for each player, but there’s a Code Replacement shortcut that does that, too (thankfully —- another big time-saver in an already tedious process). This whole part is very well designed on Photo Mechanic’s part.

Now over to Adobe Camera Raw
Once I click OK after adding all the metadata to those six photos, I press Command-E and open those six all up in a Camera Raw at once (they appear in a filmstrip along the left side of Camera Raw, as seen above). Now I take a quick moment to crop each photo tight (if necessary, and it often is), then I check the White Balance, add Contrast if necessary and any other very minor tweaks (This is reportage so you can do very little editing whatsoever to these images)

.

Sharpening and Saving as JPEGs
This is another place I’m not certain I’m totally nailing this workflow thing, but I then export the images out of Camera Raw as JPEGs and have Camera Raw apply sharpening (set to “For Screen” and amount “High” in Camera Raw’s Output Preferences) as they’re exported. This leaves them with a folder with six images in it, with all the metadata embedded, cropped, edited and sharpened ready for uploading, which takes all of 30-seconds (if that). I know some guys are running sharpening and resizing actions that do all that stuff in Photoshop, but I actually don’t go into Photoshop at all — just Camera Raw and save out to JPEGs with the sharpening applied at export, but again, I’m not sure that’s the best time-saving route (but that’s what I’m doing thus far).

The problem is: that takes longer than 15 minutes.
I think I probably spent too much time looking through my images trying to find the best ones to upload, and I may be over-thinking that part, but I haven’t found a way to speed the process. I have a hard time searching through tiny thumbnails — I like to see them big, and that definitely impacts my speed —- not because of Photo Mechanic — just because if you can judge by thumbnails you can breeze through hundreds really fast. I’ve tried it, and I feel like I miss too much that way, but maybe again I’m over-thinking it.

After the game, I do it all again…
But now I’m looking for 20 or so images to upload, and I’ve got the process down to about 45 minutes, but I’d like to see it down to 30 minutes, and if you see an area here where I’m doing double-the-work, or I’m making extra work for myself (I’m not an expert at Photo Mechanic) let me know because my goal is to cut time off this workflow, and anything that save time is a big win for me.

Quick Recap: 

(1) Set-up IPTC Stationary Pad, and download CodeReplacments.com file at home before game
(2) Import two cards at once (one from each camera); Apply Stationary Pad on import and rename
(3) Quickly go through images and Tag 10 to 15 of the best ones
(4) Narrow that down to just six or eight (label those blue)
(5) Add detailed Metadata for those six or eight keepers
(6) Open all those images at once in Camera Raw for cropping & editing
(7) Export those as JPEGs with Sharpening Applied on Export
(8) Upload those to the wire service

So, there you have it
As you can tell from my comments, I’m not fully satisfied with this workflow, but at least it’s at the point that I feel like I can share it and hopefully some part of it will help you with your workflow. Just for the record: I’ve tried using Lightroom, and/or the Bridge and Camera Raw combo, but neither can come close to the Photo Mechanic workflow (ask any pro sports photographer), but I think if I have an achilles heel in my workflow, it’s what happens after I leave Photo Mechanic.

Hope that all makes sense, and I hope it helps. I’ll be in Washington DC this weekend for my seminar there next week, so I don’t think I’ll be shooting any games this weekend (rats!), but just know I do, when I pick up a timesaver, I’ll be sure to share it with you guys here. Cheers, -Scott

Close