Category Archives Photo Shoots

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 “” 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 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

..when it was out on the road (or if I didn’t come to your city or country)â¦.you can watch the entire seminar online, from start to finish, no matter where you are in the world.

You even get the same tour workbook (but in color no less), plus all freebies I gave out for attendees.

The full-day seminar is now available as a digital download (just like you'd buy a movie online to download to your computer), for just $49.

The short one-minute video above gives you the full scoop, or go to the download site:

Here’s a few shots from my sideline shoot at the Tennessee Titans vs. Detroit Lions NFL game on Sunday. It was a wild game, that went into overtime (the Titans won in overtime), but ask anyone that watched the game — it was a roller coaster and a blast to shoot (especially since I was shooting with the amazing Donn Jones and his Titan’s photography crew — just a great group of guys — a very talented group but they know how to fun, too!).

I feel like I did better this time out, and I actually got a few shots I like, but I still need to work on my position and timing to get where I want to be.

Trying Out Some New Gear: The Nikon D600
I have the just-introduced Nikon D600 on loan for a couple of weeks (for a project we’re working on internally) and people were already asking me about it online, so I thought I’d take it as my 2nd body for the game and see how it did. I’m happy to report — it rocked. Now granted, since this was an afternoon game I didn’t get to use the D600 for what it’s probably best at  —- low noise at High ISOs, for a night game or indoor arena, so I still want to try it out under those conditions, but outside of that it was incredibly crisp, sharp and responsive with really excellent image quality (reminded me a lot of the camera it replaced, the D700, although I’m not sure if Nikon sees it as that, but with lots of nice tweaks and modernization). A big bonus for me — 24-megapixels!!! (that’s 8-megapixels more than my D4).

(Above: Here’s one taken with the D600, with my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on my 2nd body of a kick return for a touchdown). 

For sports action, the frames per second (fps) on the D600 is 5.5 frames per second, which sounds fast (and is quite a bit faster than the D800) unless your other body is a D4, which is 11 fps. If this camera truly is the replacement for the D700, then if you used a Battery Grip with it, and used AA batteries in the grip, it should increase your fps to around 7 like the D700 did, and that would make it a great sports rig for a lot of folks who want this type of performance but don’t want to shell out $6,000 for a higher-end model.

(Above: Celebrating his punt return for a touchdown  by leaping up into the stands. The D600 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 Nikon lens).  

(Above: Here’s another with the D600 taken at center field right after the game ended, shot from down on one knee with a Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8). 

The only other thing that I wish were different (and I could be wrong about this), but I couldn’t find a way to assign a 100% to the “OK” button, like I can on my other Nikon camera. This is important for checking the sharpness, and while you can do it manually with a few zoom in/out button presses, being able to zoom in/out in one click to check sharpness is something I really missed. Again, there may be a way to assign that on the D600 but I wasn’t able to find it.

The Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 at work
I always have people asking me about third-party lenses (probably because I use mostly Nikon-brand lenses), so when I heard we had one in-house I asked to borrow it for this shoot, because I’d heard some good things about it. I have to tell you, I was pretty darn impressed and wound up using it that day more than I thought. Check out the image below.

(Above: A sample of the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 lens).

I always do a few details shots along the sidelines (they’re great for slideshows, photo books, and just as supporting images to tell a story) and the lens did beautifully! Sharp, crisp, nice contrast — overall a great value for the money (it costs a third less than the Nikon or Canon versions of the same lens). It’s perhaps not the prettiest lens, and it doesn’t feel quite a solid as my Nikon version, but outside of that nik-picking I was impressed.

(Above: In the third quarter I headed up to the top deck to shoot a full stadium, 12-shot pano using the D600 and the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 and I stitched it together in Photoshop and created this poster for the team which celebrates the big win in overtime).

More Sigma 15mm Fisheye Action!
OK, I actually bought this lens last week, so now it’s mine and I’m loving it!!! I did rig it on the end of monopod (like I did last week at the Atlanta Falcons/Denver Broncos game) and I’m starting to get better with that rig (See the image below).

(Above: That’s the 15mm Sigma Fisheye on the end of my monopod at the pre-game warm-up on field).

This week, I’m happy to announce that the remote camera worked (shown circled below), and I think the reason why it didn’t work last week was that the sync cable popped out — I couldn’t get it screwed in, and that wound up bitting me when the cable slipped out, so I made sure I had time to screw it in tight this week).

(Above: There’s a long shot of my remote with the 15mm Sigma Fisheye).

(Above: Here’s a close-crop of the remote rig. More details below). 

On top is a pocket wizard, and a sync cable is running from the port on top of the Pocket Wizard to the Sync port on the front of my D3s. The camera is sitting on “The Green Pod” which is basically a beanbag with a screw sticking up so you can mount your camera on it like you would a tripod — it just screws right in. “The Cube” is a lightweight little cube to help you position or aim your lens. This probably isn’t the exact way they had it in mind, but hey — it worked. The shot at the top of this post was taken with this remote set-up. When this was taken, I was out at mid-field and I had another Pocket Wizard mounted on top of my camera (I was shooting a D4 with a 70-200mm f/2.8) and as I shot my camera, the PocketWizard sitting on my camera’s hot-shoe mount wirelessly triggered the remote unit, so I was shooting the same scene from two different angle â” one fisheye up close and one 200mm from way out on the field.

The advantage of “The Green Pod” camera platform is that you don’t have to get all sorts of permission from the pyrotechnics crew because you’re not attaching your rig to any of their stuff (if you use a Bogen Magic Arm to clamp to any of their stuff, you’re going to need lots of permission early on — with the Pod, nobody seems to care as long as it’s out of the way of where the players are going to run out).

(Above: Here’s what my other camera was seeing — a tight view into the tunnel at 200mm while my remote camera is shooting the wide fisheye shot like you see at the top of this post).

(Above: Giving credit to the man upstairs for the score. Not the officials in the pressbox. Farther up. :)

(Above: This is what I’m taking about when I talk about working on my timing. A split second later he had the ball in his hands and he turned and ran for a key touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The photographer beside me had that shot a split-second later and his was better. Timing is everything). 

(Above: That had to hurt).

(Above: Lions Quarterback Matt Stafford getting sacked late in the game).

(Above: This looks painful and awkward. See if he pulls out a baby calf! OK, that was wrong. Sorry). 

(Above: Matt Stafford in happier times).

OK, this I have NEVER seen!
I’m not saying it’s right or it’s wrong (it’s wrong), but this photographer actually had a tripod on the sidelines. I’ve covered lots of games, both college and NFL and I’ve yet to see a tripod on the sidelines. Monopod — yes all day — but whomever’s job it is to police that no tripod rule (if there is indeed one) was looking the other way for four quarters — just like the replacement refs (Come on baby, that’s gold! Gold I tell ya!).

OK, back to the game, already in progress.

(Above: Dancing into the end zone. You have to love shots taken in daylight — this one was at 1/8000 of a second at 200 ISO. Ahhhhhhh. Day games!).

(Above: I thought I’d include this behind-the-scenes shot of the photographer’s work room at LP Field. The floor tiles are designed to make sure you don’t rest your eyes, even for a minute. One nice touch: that chair in the center? That was assigned to a security guard who watches the room while we’re out on the field. That’s rare, but very welcome indeed. This shot was taken well after the game ended — it was pretty packed before and at half time).

The Icing On The Cake, was…
Getting to shoot alongside my buddy Donn Jones and his wonderful crew shooting for the Titans. Donn has assembled a team of photographers for the Titans of talented, quality shooters and people and they just love what they do, and it shows. One of the highlights of getting to shoot with Donn & Company is that right after the game they host their own tailgate party just for the photographers who shot the game (they affectionately call it the “Lame @$# Tailgate Party” but it’s anything but that.  They’re working four hour before kick-off, so they miss the chance to tailgate, or heck, even have lunch), so this is a great way to unwind after a long game, and I wish this tradition happened at other stadiums as well.

These guys just have so much fun (and so much yummy food — Donn’s buddy Al, who’s also on Donn’s crew — sets up a gas grill and cooks everything from hamburgers, to hotdogs, sausage and BBQ. It’s the perfect end to a perfect day of shooting, and I want to thank Donn, Charles, Al (my new best friend), Michael (the Sports Guru), and Mickey (who’s leading my Nashville Photo Walk for the 2nd year) for treating me like family, and for the honor to shoot alongside you guys. I don’t know what it is about these photographers in the South (like the Falcons crew and the Titans crew), but I’ve never felt more welcome and at home — many thanks for a day (and a game) I won’t soon forget.


What a wild, long, confusing, exciting game as the Atlanta Falcons whupped up on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football up in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome.

I had a total blast because I got to shoot with the Falcons crew (the awesome Michael Benford, the magnanimous Matt Lange, and the gentlemen of NFL football photography, the incredible Jimmy Cribbs), and their guest (and our mutual buddy) Joey Wright. Overall, I had a pretty lame shooting night and I was pretty disappointed with what I got, but at least I did like some of the fisheye stuff I got from the full frame Sigma 15mm fisheye lens I was trying out. I liked it so much, yesterday I bought it (it was $300 cheaper then Nikon’s full frame 16mm lens which is an older lens that hasn’t been updated in a while). It’s sharp, has great contrast and a fast auto-focus. Totally digging it.

Here’s a shot Joey took of me taking the fisheye shot I showed above this one. I liked it so much, I made it my Facebook cover photo (thanks Joey!). This was about three hours before game time, and right before the opened the doors to the public. That’s my favorite time for stadium shots — when it’s empty like this. A few hours later, the dome was packed to the gills and it was an absolutely electric atmosphere in the Georgia Dome.

Like I said, I was pretty disappointed with how I shot overall, but here’s a few that I did get (more on the fisheye stuff in just a minute).

Some Fisheye Work
When you’re shooting for the Falcons (they get all my shots straight off the card, which is pretty terrifying by the way, especially with the night I was having), you get extra access (and a green photo vest that tells security its okay for you to do things like go on the field while the players are warming up about 45 minutes before kickoff).

So, I put my Sigma 15mm lens on my camera; attached my camera to the end of my Monopod, and put a PocketWizard Plus II on the camera, and I held another Pocket Wizard Plus II in in my hand to wirelessly trigger the camera on the end of the monpod. Then I headed out to the field to catch these shots — I balanced the foot of my monopod on my knee to balance it and then I extended it up high over the players (It was actually only about a foot or two above the players, but the fisheye makes it look like it’s MUCH higher, as seen below).

(Above: Here’s an iPhone photo of the rig — you can see the camera mounted on top of the monopod, and the PocketWizard Plus II on top, with a short cable into the socket on the camera. I’m holding another PocketWizard Plus II in my hands. The JBL vocal monitor on the bottom left is so I can hear myself singing over the crowd noise. ;-)).

(Above: Here’s another shot of the rig in action where I’m taking the shot you see below [iPhone photo by Mike Benford].  The bottom of the monopod is on my thigh — the top of the camera is cut off, but it’s there). 

My epic remote-camera fail
To be able to mount a remote camera anywhere near where the players come out, you have to first get permission from the guys that handle the pyrotechnics and the safety crew, and these crews generally would just rather you didn’t use a remote camera and they treat you that way, but in Atlanta, they were incredibly accommodating and even helped me find a better, closer vantage point. How sweet (and usual) is that (but honestly, that’s how it is in Atlanta — everybody I came in contact with, from elevator operators to the guys that hand out the photo vests, were as friendly and chatting and just downright nice as can be). So, I got my remote all set-up in an awesome place — right where the players come out, and the smoke is shooting out, and the fireworks and fire are going off. This is going to be Epic. Unfortunately, it was an epic fail.

I tested it out, and the remote triggered perfectly. The aim was right (I used a beanbag tripod I picked up at B&H Photo called “The Pod” so I could place it right where I wanted it on the ground), and then I set-up at mid-field to capture the players as they came out through the smoke and fire (see the shot above — four shots back) so that way I could get them from two angle. I had the Sigma 15mm fisheye on the ground aiming up, and the 400mm f/2.8 out on the field with me.

(Above: There’s my remote rig, on silent duty waiting patiently for the players to run through the smoke and fire.)

I hit the PocketWizard every time a player came through the smoke — the only problem was — it never fired. Not once. I have no idea why. Uggh. Could have been so cool. Sigh.

There were a lot of fireworks between the replacement refs and Broncos Headcoach John Fox. This photo gives you an idea of how he felt.

Above: Here’s my load-out for the game: L to R: Gel-filled kneepads (from Lowes), and a Gitzo monopod. My main body is a Nikon D4, and the 2nd body is a Nikon D3s. 400mm f.2.8 lens (top); Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 I’m trying out; Nikon 1.4x teleconverter for the 400mm (making it around 540mm); a 70-200mm f/2.8 for my 2nd body; a beanbag with a tripod mount for the remote shot as the player’s come out [well, that was the plan anyway], and the Sigma 15mm fisheye [the Nikon 10.5mm fisheye I use is for cropped sensor bodies. That has its advantages, but you lose half your megapixels]. Lastly, it’s all in a ThinkTank Photo Airport rolling bag. I’m also now using the Lexar X1000 speed cards for sports which is absolutely insane!!!! (and perfect for sports). The whole thing is just a blast to hoist up into the overhead bin. :)

And all was going well, until….
While I absolutely had the best time of any game this year, I had a rough day on the field. I was out of position for just about everything. One time I was in the perfect position for an amazing touchdown catch from Bronco’s receiver Demaryius Thomas (I was right there — it happened right in front of me), and I knew I had nailed it. Right after, I looked at my screen and sure enough — I had it dead on.

Then I zoomed in and saw that every frame was out of focus. I set up my second camera WITHOUT the backfocus button, so if I have to grab it quickly I won’t miss finding the back button. However, in my excitement from finally being in the exact right spot, all I pressed was the backfocus button and instead focused on the players 20 feet behind him. I blew it. Ugh!!!!  I just stood there shaking my head (and uttering a string of words normally reserved for rappers), but there was nothing I could do but try to make the 2nd half better, which I did, and things finally started coming together.

Above: L to R: that’s me, Matt Lange (who apparently got ahold of some bad sushi), and Joey Wright before the game — photo by Michael Benford.

Overall, I still had the best time yet. Mike, Matt and Jimmy are the most fun, gracious, and talented group of guys anywhere, and Joey Wright kept us laughing the whole time (it was great getting to know him better). And while the game went on for a lifetime (I didn’t’ get back to my hotel until after 2:00 am), I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I caught an early flight home and was back in the office by lunchtime. All-in-all — totally worth every minute of it! :)

Above: If you’ve ever wondered what Falcon’s Creative Director Michael Benford would look like if shot from above with a 15mm fisheye lens, well, now we finally know. He and Matt make an insane team — both top notch graphics designers and shooters — the Falcon’s are lucky to have these guys (and I’m lucky to have them as friends). :)

What’s next?
On Sunday I’m off to Nashville for the Titans vs Lions game, then the following week I’m back shooting the Bucs in Tampa vs. the Redskins, then onto Jacksonville the following week for the Bears vs. the Jags. I am LOVING football season!!!