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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!

The awesome folks at B&H Photo have just posted four videos covering the ENTIRE full-day Lightroom Digital Photography Summit (the one held in New York City last month to celebrate the launch of Lightroom 5).

This was the all-day event featuring Julieanne Kost, Katrin Eismann, and me, showing the coolest new features in Lightroom 5; lots of Lightroom tips and hidden tricks; and in one session we did a live shoot on stage and I handed the retouching and effects over to Julieanne and Katrin (who did a remarkable job). The day was fun, informative, and it’s all brought to you FREE by our friends at B&H Photo, and the Summit’s official sponsors Adobe Systems and Canon.

Here’s the link to check out the videos from the event.

Thanks to David Brommer and everyone at B&H who worked so hard to make this very cool event happen (and to their video crew for bringing you the rebroadcast), and to everyone who came to the live event itself. Stuff like this only happens at B&H. You guys rock! 

Hope everybody has a great Monday
I’m out in Colorado Springs today for my “Shoot like a Pro” tour — next stop: San Antonio August 16th, and Indianapolis on August 21st. Hey, if you’re at my seminar today, make sure you come up and say “hi.” Cheers, -Scott

A big thanks and shout-out to Flipboard for including my Flipboard 2.0 magazine “Cool Photography Stuff” on their Inside Flipboard blog last week in a post about Flipboard magazines for photography.

If you’re not familiar with Flipboard, it’s a killer App for the iPad and Android tablets that transforms your Twitter, Facebook, G+ and other social media feeds into a beautifully laid-out magazine, and it changes your social media experience to a much richer, more visual experience (perfect for photographers and designers).

Two years ago, Apple named Flipboard their “App of the Year” (yes, it’s that good), but this year Flipboard took things up a notch by allowing anyone to create and curate their own custom Flipboard magazine, using content shared on the Web and social media, so I launched my own (they’re free to create, and free to subscribe to. In fact, even the Flipboard 2.0 App is free. It’s all free, free, free!). :)

I was really tickled to see this, cause I really enjoy curating my little daily magazine (see above).  Each day I “flip” any cool stuff I see on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and a dozen other sources around the Web into this free daily Flipboard mag, including news, tutorials, beautiful images, and interesting articles. So, if you want to know what’s happening out there in photography every day, it’s kind of a one-stop-shop.

Above: Here’s the link to my mag (it shows it’s by skelby — that’s me). The cover story photo is by one of the hottest up-and-coming sports portrait photographers out there today, Matt Hernandez. I’m a big fan Matt’s work. You can choose a new cover (from things you’ve flipped) each day if you like (and I usually do). 

Here’s the link to Flipboard’s blog post (with a number of great Flipboard magazines listed as well), and if you click on the cover  of mine, it takes you to my “Cool photography stuff” mag: http://bit.ly/13jeFIS — Thanks again Flipboard for the shoutout, and for making such a cool App. Also, thanks to the 6,000+ photographers who have already subscribed for free and get my magazine in their Flipboard daily feed.

Cheers,

-Scott

P.S. Hey, don’t forget, on Thursday we have our free “Photoshop World-a-thon Sneek Peek” where me and the “Photoshop Guys” are sharing some of our favorite tips from the upcoming conference in September in Vegas. Everyone’s invited this Thursday at 7:00 pm. RSVP at this link (it’s free, and of course, we’ll have lots of cool giveaways and loads of tips). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss an hour goodbye! LOL! See you then! 

 

(Above: a 2014 Mercedes Benz CLS 550, in a dark grey with a hint of blue. Thanks to Tony Pinero for the car). 

Ever since I started shooting cars, I’ve wanted to shoot one in a studio, but there have been a couple of obstacles. One being finding a studio with a really large white cove that’s big enough to drive a car into, but the really big obstacle is to find one that has a giant car-sized softbox overhead (like the 10-foot x 30-foot F2X from Chimera, but the price is……the price is…well….see below).

That gives you some idea of why, outside of Detroit, finding a studio with one of these with an affordable rental rate is pretty challenging. Well, it would be for a regular guy, but not for the amazing Brad Moore, who found Studio 75, a commercial rental studio set up for automotive photography, that’s only about 25-minutes from our offices. It’s affordable, the guy seemed really easy to work with, and although they didn’t have the Chimera, they did have a home-made rig that works, so we booked it.

Above: In this behind-the-scenes shot, you can see the cost-effective lighting rig Dan created himself. It’s five 1,000 watt White Lightning strobe heads (bare bulbs), mounted on two long poles, hoisted up with a pulley-system, and then firing through a large 20’x20′ Matthews overhead silk diffusion panel (around $700) mounted to aluminum fence top-rail (you can buy a Matthews 20’x20′ collapsable frame for around $975, but the fence top-rail DIY route would be much cheaper at around $88 for the tubing (Eight 10′ x- 1-3/8″ round inter-connecting rails at Lowes for around $11 each. Then you’d need four 1-3/8″ corner connectors at around $4 or so each).

OK, back to the production still above: To get the right look, I’m nearly at the back of the studio. To get the perspective right, I’m laying down on the floor (not a big fan of that part), and I’m tethered directly into Lightroom so I can see the shots at a very large size as I’m taking them.

Once the lights are in place, you set them to full-power and adjust the f/stop until it looks right, so it’s a pretty straight ahead set-up from above.

Welcome to my World
While you could get a car in the studio without any trouble, maneuvering once inside is quite tricky, but luckily this particular car had a backup camera, which made things easier. However, having Brad Moore giving you directions in that back-up camera…well…just watch the video below (shot by Dan as I was backing the car) and you’ll see what I mean. Welcome to my world.

http://youtu.be/C9v_ZPQ7qSc

Above: For shots where the front of the car is visible (like the one you just saw), we used a large softbox to fill-in the shadows. We also used a large black bounce card to help create some shadow areas on the car (more on this in a moment). You can see my low shooting position here (production shots by Brad Moore). It was a bit more comfortable here — sitting on the floor and laying back on the first step of the stairs leading to the studio’s loft.

Above: Sony had loaned me some of their DSLR gear to try out, and I thought this would be a great opportunity since the Sony A99 had a swivel-out LCD monitor, so I could place the camera on the floor (for the lowest possible perspective —- one where the photo would clearly show the rear tire on the far side) and then I could just angle it up a bit and do all the composition using the tilt-up display. This sounds easy, but try it with a sneaker coming out of the front of your head (see above)

It worked even better than I thought (though the electronic viewfinder is kind of…well…kinda weird when you work in a studio environment. It has a special mode for it, and perhaps you would eventually get used to it, but seeing something on screen that looks so different from what you’re going to create really threw me. Maybe it’s just my inexperience with the Sony, so I don’t want to totally trash it, because I know a lot of folks love it, but it would definitely take some getting used to (for me, anyway). So, I shot both my Nikon D4 and the Sony A99 during the four-hour shoot in the studio.

Above: Here’s a two-thirds view, where you can see the side the front. It was the first shot we tried that day. You can really see the black bounce card in the bottom half of the doors. That really made a huge difference.

Above: Here’s the production shot. I’m lying on the floor again, but I did mount the Nikon on my Gitzo tripod but we splayed the legs way out so I could get it just a few inches above the ground. I kind of leaned on my elbow to compose the shot, then I’d lock down the ballhead.

Above: When we were all done, I thought I’d take a shot from up above, from the loft (where the studio’s office is), and I kinda like the angle. Plus, it was a LOT easier because at this high angle, we didn’t have to deal with many reflections that appear on the car (which is what turned out to be the challenge of the day for the rest of the shots).

The Tip of the Day
Before we left the studio, the studio owner, commercial photographer Dan Gaye, told Brad to bring a circular polarizer, and man did that thing absolutely work wonders!!! The lighting part of this is actually pretty straightforward — it’s a bunch of lights aiming straight down from directly above through some material that softens and diffuses them. If you need a fill for one part or another, just add one more strobe with a soft box. That part was surprisingly easy. The real challenge is eliminating reflections in the car.

First, the Polarizer helps darken scene, but more importantly it helps you nearly eliminate the hot-spots and reflections from the strobes above in the windshield and side windows. Without that polarizer, you’d have a serious retouching nightmare. You just rotate the circular polarizer and you can literally see the reflections in the windows disappear. I told Brad — learning that was worth the studio rental right there!

Above: Of course, since I had the car there, I couldn’t help but do a few detail shots, using the standard set-up: a single large strip-bank (we turned the overhead lights off), and shooting at f/22 (hat tip to Tim Wallace), just like always.

It’s not the Lighting that’s hard. It’s managing the reflections
Dan said something that really stuck with me. He said “Cars are like giant mirrors. You see anything in front of it like you’re aiming at a mirror” and he wasn’t just-a-kiddin’. It was amazing to see this in person, because you could see everything from the kitchen in the studio, to Brad’s head, to a blue Kayak mounted up near the ceiling, to beams in the ceiling, light stands, me, paintings on the wall, cables on the floor — EVERYTHING!

I have to give Dan big credit and major love here, because he is a master of hiding all these things using black drop clothes, black seamless paper (we had to bring out a 15-foot wide roll), black 8-foot ball bounce cards, and more. You had to take a shot — zoom in tight and you can’t believe all the stuff you’d see — just like you were looking at a big mirror aiming back at the studio. It took 5 minutes to get the lighting right for the very first shot I posted at the top of the page, and about 50 minutes to minimize the reflections.

Now that I’ve seen the process of dealing with all these reflections, it really is just a trial-and-error case of being a “Reflection Detective” but I could not have pulled this off without Dan’s experience and help (and he was incredibly helpful throughout. Since it’s his studio, he knows every trick in the book).

Above: Here’s another detail shot; this one of the rear of the car, with the name plate and tail light sections.

Above: Here’s the emblem on the trunk, lit with that same single strip bank, held diligently by Mr. Moore.

Above: Thought I’d give you one more look at the overall full-car lighting set-up (and the blue kayak which had to be cloned out of just aobut every shot). This one gives you a great view of the White Lighting strobes and the diffusion silk.

Above: I wanted to include a shot of studio owner and photographer Dan Gaye because he was just an incredible help all day. He designed this inexpensive overhead lighting rig back in 1995 and it still works really well to this day. His system of ropes and pulleys lets him raise/lower/angle the lights and diffusion panel pretty much however you want it.

He was super-helpful and really made me understand the challenges of minimizing reflections and the techniques to hide distracting stuff, which is somewhat of an art unto itself. Needless to say, I learned a lot. So, a big thanks and high-five to Dan, but also thanks to Brad for finding Dan and his studio, and for all his hard work that day, and for all the production stills. Way to go Braddo!

Of course, me being me, I see all sorts of stuff I’d do differently next time
That next time will hopefully be in just a few weeks from now, because I’ve already found another cool car that needs shootin’ and I surely need the practice, but I’m totally OK with that. It was just my first studio automative shoot, but hopefully it’s just the first of many, and you know what they say about practice. :)

http://youtu.be/Q-x9esAkXKA#aid=P-uMMfKDHis

Last week on my Facebook and Twitter pages, I posted a link to a Great article on Annie Leibovitz on “Getting the Shot, and the Future of Photography” over at FastCompany (shown below).

I have to say, her new campaign for Disney has made me a Leibovitz fan. Really brilliantly done, and the article has some great insights about shooting portraits. Worth a read (and the Disney photos are seriously very special).

Well, after I posted the link to the article (here’s the link by the way —- definitely worth the read: http://bit.ly/1aJjik5), a conversation started where some we’re trying to give anyone but Annie the credit for the amazing shots. They wanted it to go to anyone from the set designer to the post production people to the hair and make-up — anyone but her (and yes, it does take all of those folks and more to do something on the scale of what Disney hired her to do).

Anyway, it was our topic this week on “The Grid” and there were lots of great comments from the live audience, and of course, plenty of debate because we took it a lot further than that. The episode is at the top of the page if you’ve got a few minutes to check it out.

Also, the previous week, our in-studio guest was the amazing Peter Hurley, and he was there for our monthly “Blind Photo Critiques” episode and we featured nothing but critiques on portraits. There’s a LOT to learn from him in this episode. Here’ s that episode (below):

http://youtu.be/fqWM-UAfOUI

Shooting cars!
OK, today I’m in a local photo studio doing my first in-studio automotive shoot with a giant overhead softbox longer than the car. Wish me luck, and while we’re wishing, here’s wishing you a fantastic weekend. See you Monday! :)

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