Category Archives Photography

I needed some shots for an upcoming project, and when my friends (and fellow photographers) Kathy Porupski and Jim Sykes heard that I needed a cool location for the shoot, they told me about a local advertising agency that had remodeled a 1950’s gas station for their new offices.  They make a few calls and the next day I was there shooting. Here’s one of the shots from the shoot (above), my first with three lights for an automotive shoot.

Not only did I follow the tips from Tim Wallace’s Kelby Training online classes on car photography, I actually pulled out my laptop during the middle of the shoot to make sure I had the lights set up correctly (see below). I never would have tried this without having seen Tim’s class. In fact, it was Tim’s class that made me want to do it in the first place.

This is taken from the shooting position (photo by Brad Moore), and you can see the three lights and their position. Rob, our brave 2nd assistant on the shoot, had to dodge traffic like you can’t believe (you can’t tell what a busy road this was). Not having that third light (lighting the front wheel), on a light stand made this a lot more challenging because after every shot, the wheel light was in a different position, but because of all the traffic, we didn’t have a choice. Lucky he’s young, and can run fast. ;-)

Gear and Lighting Info
This was my first shoot with the Nikon D800 (more on this in a minute), and I used my go-to lens for my outdoor shots was my 70-200 f/2.8 VR II lens. I shot in Manual mode (since I was using strobes), and I used three lights: 2 Elinchrom Ranger Packs, and 1 Ranger Quadra (so three flashes total). One the light in the back of the car, I used a large Stripbank soft box (like 18″x50″ or something close to that). On the front of the car, I used a small Stripbank (like 12″ x 36″), and the third light was a bare strobe with a 20° metal grid.

For my close-up detail shots (shown further down this post), I used an old 70.0-180.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 Macro lens I bought from Moose Peterson a few years ago. Great lens by the way (thanks Moose).

(Above: Here’s a reverse view of the lighting set-up. Look how nervous Rob looks out there in the street). 

The Nikon D800 — be careful what you wish for!
I was really looking forward to seeing all the extra detail I heard the D800 would bring (I had actually seen samples my buddy Matt Kloskowski had taken on a trip to Oregon with my D800, and it was just incredible), but this was my first shoot, and I couldn’t wait to see how it pulled detail. Well, you know that saying, “Be careful what you wish you?” Well, it smacked me in the head, because with all that added detail (and there is plenty), comes all that extra retouching to remove some unwanted detail my other cameras didn’t bring out (everything from fingerprints, to tiny spots, specs, reflections and other stuff that was usually soft enough it wasn’t worth messing with).

It reminded of when HTDV took off and all the TV news anchors had to use way more make-up because the HD brought out every little detail and flaw that nobody notice before. Same kinda thing here. Take a look at the sample’s below and you’ll see what I mean.

(Above: When you’re zoomed out, it pretty much looks like my old camera captured images. This is the out-of-camera shot as is). 

(Above: But when you zoom-in to 100% full size, you realize your retouching work has just begun. However, I’m not complaining — I’ll take the amazing detail any time — it worth the extra retouching!) 

(Above: Here’s a version that’s cleaned up a bit).

(Above: Here’s a production shot of the detail shot. Yes, we shot with all that ambient light and still got a solid black background. I learned that in Tim’s class, too!).

(Above: Here’s a detail shot of the owner’s blue ’32 Ford Roadster. I loved the wheels — classic!)

(Above: Here’s me, lying on the ground, to get the lighting and perspective I wanted for the shot you just saw of the tire and wheel. How did I know that was where the shot was? I didn’t. I just kept trying different angles — they all looks pretty lame, until one finally found this one that looked good. Tip: it’s usually the one with the most uncomfortable shooting position). 

(Above: Here’s a close-up detail shot of the M6 taken right after we did the full body shots from across the street).

(Above: Just one light — a strip bank, and again, the previous shot was taken in daylight). 

(Above: Another detail shot, this one taken from the back). 

(Above: Here’s a production shot of the shot you just saw above). 

(Above: I couldn’t resist shooting at least one HDR of the gas station once the shoot was over and the place was closed up). 

While we had a great time, and wrapped the whole thing up in right around three hours, of course there are things I would do much differently next time (like watch Tim’s class again, and pay even closer attention, because I missed a couple of things that I could do a lot better lighting wise), but I sure learned a lot from Tim’s class.

He really makes everything so clear, and I just really enjoy his wonderful, laid-back, yet straight to the point teaching style. He doesn’t hold anything back, and that’s not only just the kind of guy I want training for me, apparently it’s just the kind of guy I want training me, too!

(Above: It was an amazing mid-air catch by Lightning goalie Sebastien Carbon — now if I could just get the crowd to react on cue). ;-)

It Was Eight-Game Crash Course and I Loved Every Minute!
Regular readers of the blog will remember my post from February 3rd called “My First NHL Hockey Shoot…and It Sure Looked Like It” (link) and in that post I mentioned that I actually registered the domain “” (you could tell I was new at this, since I didn’t know at that time you just call it “hockey” and not “Ice Hockey.” Noob!).

(Above: I was disappointed there weren’t more fights. I always figured there would be more fights than playing time, but as it turns out, they play quite a bit. Luckily, by the end of the season, the helmets were coming off, fists were flying more often —- the crowd loves it — I love it!!!!).

(Above: Ahhh, nothing like the smell of crushed ice in the morning. Well, that’s what time I got home after the game some nights).

After Shooting My First Game, I was Hooked
I wasn’t sure how I was going to like shooting hockey. Everybody had warned me that it was the hardest of all team sports to shoot, and I heard stories of shooting in very crowded conditions with a tiny hole in the glass (made even smaller recently by the NHL to protect fans and photographers), and the action moves so fast at ice level that it’s a real challenge to get anything decent. I agree with all of those statements for sure.

Plus, the other shooters at the arena had me good and freaked out about from the start about getting hit with the puck or getting knocked on my butt when two players crash against the boards in front of me (both of which almost happened on numerous occasions). But after I shot my first game — I was hooked. I stunk at it, but I felt like I could get better, so I really wanted to stick with it (which was lucky, because the wire service I was shooting for had already assigned me to two more games).

(Above: OK, it took me a bunch of games to finally get a decent shot with the puck just coming off the stick).

(Above: This shot, taken during my four game shooting, was a breakthrough for me as it was chosen by Zuma Press as one of their “Photos of the Day” and they look at images from tons of different wire services, so when I saw someone mention on Twitter that my shot was on there, I was just about doing backflips).

The Dance Continues
So I kept going back for more, which led to my post here called “My painful dance shooting Hockey continue.” Here’s the link. I only posted one static shot from the game. That’s how badly I felt I did. I still had to turn in at least 15 to 20 shots for the wire service, which I did, but I was not thrilled with my uploads (and I’m sure they weren’t either, but thankfully since they knew I was new, they let me keep shooting. After all — that’s the only way I was going to get any better, right?).

(Above: Depending on my shooting position [assigned by the team photographer], I could either just shoot at the goalie [up to the blue line], or that and down to the opposing goal, but you always had a pretty clear view of the goal in front of you).

Call for Help
After struggling for a few games, I realized it was time to call my buddy, and sports photography genius, Dave Black for some help, and man did he help. First, he told me to get decent shots you really need to understand the game, and until I got to that point, I was going to struggle along. Luckily, for the first time in my life, I was really starting to enjoy hockey. In fact, I was becoming a fan. I was learning who the players are, and I sat down and learned the rules of Ice Hockey, and I started to get a feel for where things were going a bit. I didn’t have it “down” by any means, but at least a little flame started to flicker.

Dave told me to spend the first period shooting from an upper deck with a 200-400mm lens — instead of down at ice level with closer glass — and this would do three things:

(1) It would give me a chance to get some decent shots, since you can shoot freely from up on the mezzanine without having to worry about a hole in the glass, since you’re shooting above it.

(2) You won’t miss any shots because it’s like shooting fish in a barrel up there. It’s actually easy because the game moves much slower from that vantage point. And…

(3) Then in the 2nd and 3rd periods, when I moved down to the ice level, it would actually seem slower to me and I’d be able to follow the action and puck better, and doggone if he wasn’t right.

The only problem? The shots from above the glass, from the mezzanine level, just aren’t dynamic. You cover the action, but that angle doesn’t give you the impact from shooting at ice level, which is why everybody wants to shoot from ice level. However, AP shooter Mike Carson gave me great advice that night. He said the mezzanine is great for shooting overtime  — when you have to get that game-winning goal — because up there — you WILL get it. It may not be as dynamic, but if they need the shot of the winning goal —- you’ll be the guy that has it.

I wrote about this (with some behind-the-scenes photo) in a post called “The Challenge of Shooting Hockey (and a Progress Report). Here’s the link. 

(Above: Where’ the puck? Read below).

Making Slow but Steady Progress
Luckily, the guys who shoot this stuff all the time, including Team Photographer Scott Audette, were really friendly and they actually tried to help me along. They knew I was “the new guy” and although they teased me for it, they were also helpful and tried to find me decent shooting positions, and they gave me tips along the way that helped a lot.

One night, between periods, I went over to Scott Audette and just straight up asked him for some shooting tips. He is an absolutely incredible hockey photographer (he’s been at it for years, and I know a lot of guys have been at it for years, but his stuff in just insane). He was happy to help, and he had some really great tips for me about what type of shots to be looking out for, and he told me to look at the NHL shots that get published, and to look at how many don’t have the puck in the shot. He was right. That really surprised me, but it also helped me improve what I was sending to the wire service (in most other sports, if the “ball” isn’t in the shot, it’s generally not a good shot).

(Above: After talking to Scott I realized that you can only have so many shots of the puck in the back of the goal, so I started going for the player’s reaction after the goal. Not just the celebration (upper left), but the anguish as well (far right), and sometimes you get all three — puck, celebration and anguish all-in-one).

It was a dark and stormy night….
OK, it was neither, on the way home I always call my wife and give her progress report on how it went that night, and God bless her you know she probably couldn’t really give a rat’s butt, but she listens dutifully, and gives me lots of encouragement, and that night, after my sixth game, I told her, “Honey, tonight I made a big leap. I didn’t get any spectacular shots or anything, but it was the first time I actually felt comfortable shooting hockey. I felt like I was finally moving in the right direction, and I was comfortable with my settings, and my white balance, and my lens selection, and my shooting position, and by golly it was starting to come together at least a bit for me.” She seemed genuinely happy for me (which is just one of the thousand things that make her the woman of my dreams, but that’s for a different post).

Only Two Games Left In The Season
Time was running out on the season, and with Photoshop World and some other commitments, I had to miss a number of home games, so I was only able to shoot the final two home games of the season. But, I had very good shooting positions for both games (to me, that means a position where I can shoot “down ice” to the other goal with my 300mm with a f/1.4 tele-extender on it, and being able to shoot the goal I’m in front of as well).

Now that I was starting to get comfortable, I have to say that during those last two games I had the most fun I’d had since the first game, and I was enjoying the sport itself (and getting to know the players) more than I ever expected to, as I moved from shooter to hockey fan. I was screaming and cheering a few times when I should have been shooting, which is a peril of being a fan at the game you’re shooting. It happens to me a Bucs and Bears NFL games all the time.

(Above: Nice save off the stick….but I’m a Lightning fan, so….)

I Didn’t Realize What I Had
One thing I realized after four or five games was that the Scott Audette, the team photographer) pretty much shoots from the same shooting position for every game, so it must be a really good location, and of course, it is. The thing I didn’t realize was how good it was when he gave me that position the very first time I shot hockey. Here I was on my blog, complaining about shooting in this little hole, and how restricted my movement was, not knowing that the team photographer had given up his shooting position for me. Thanks Scott, and I’m sorry I whined at all (you don’t know, what you don’t know, right?).

(Above: I’d be praying too — but I think it was a thankful prayer, because Lightning Goalie Dwayne Roloson had an amazing night, and was MVP of the game. It was an amazing thing to watch, and he was right in front of my shooting position).

In the end…
I have a LONG way to go with shooting hockey. Eight games just begin to scratch the surface of what it takes to get really good at shooting hockey, and that is driven home right after every game, when I go into the office where the shooters hang out before and after the game. It’s Scott Audette’s office, and his assistant (also named Scott), is already uploading Scott Audette’s images to the league, and I see them nice and big on Scott’s 30″ display, and it always sends me out of there knowing how far I have yet to go.

There’s a lot to learn about shooting this sport
Everything they warned me about was true, and everything they promised (that I would love it), was right on the money. I got help along the way from Dave Black, Bob Dechiara (who regularly shoots the Boston Bruins, and helped me out quite a bit from the start), and of course to Scott Audette and his crew (Scott and Vinny). I’m very thankful to them for “letting me live” and for giving me great opportunities to learn.

I hope to get some hockey assignments next season, so my somewhat less painful dance with shooting hockey can continue. GO BOLTS!!!!! :)

I’m not sure if it’s the best, but based on the feedback we’ve been getting,it certainly may be one of our most helpful ever.

Wednesday’s “Reverse Critiques” were a bigger hit than any of us imagined, and I think it’s been one of the best learning techniques for photographers we’ve even shown on the show, because seeing these images side-by-side visually brings it home in a way that really struck a chord with people.

We also kick things off with “The Five Images You Should NEVER Have In Your Portfolio” and exactly why.

I really hope you enjoy it, and get something out of it you can use in your own photography. And best of all — you can watch the show right here. :-)

OK, well…technically it was my second. I did a car detail shoot (based on Tim Wallace’s online class) right before I left for Photoshop World, and I posted those shots over on Google+ (here’s the link), but since it was just me in my garage (well, and Brad)…it didn’t feel very “official.”

These are from the Tavistock Golf Tournament in Orlando, Florida which I shot with my buddy Mike Olivella (who is an absolutely ace golf photographer).

I shot two lenses primarily: a 300mm f/2.8 (sometimes with a 1.4 tele-extender on it to get in tighter), and a 14-24mm f/2.8 on my 2nd body, which was a Nikon D3s (that’s one of those wide shots above).

I took a handful of 10.5mm fisheye shots on the 18th tee as the last flight (Tiger’s group) was headed in toward the club house to finish the match, but that’s about it.

I shot in Aperture Priority mode all day, but the sun was in/out of the clouds, so I bounced between 100 and 200 ISO a few times during the day. Even at that, I had shutter speeds up around 1/6400 of a second, so freezing the turf Tiger was digging up was not a problem.

The post-processing was all done in the new Lightroom 4 (no plug-ins or other stuff). It’s pretty amazing how much you can do in LR4 these days.

Here’s another wide angle shot on the 18th green, with some Clarity applied and I desaturated the sky a bit for a bleach bypass look.

As for the D4 — I love it!!!!
The exposure acts a little differently than my D3s, and that took a little getting used to, but I love the overall smoothness and quality of the gradations in tone and color. Plus, it’s just fast as anything, cranking off Raw shots at JPEG speed (and the buffer must be insane, because I never got near filling it).

I also uncovered lots of other little tweaks and improvements to the camera that I hadn’t heard much about in the press, which was a nice surprise. Since these were taken, I also shot at the Sun n’ Fun fly-in, and shot my first D4 Hockey Game, and it performed like a champ. I know this isn’t a full review — just my first impressions, but so far I’m totally digging it. :)

A big thanks to my buddy Mike Olivella for putting up with me (and Braddo) for the day. The weather was perfect (lunch was yummy), and I got to tease Mike endlessly about his totally old-fashioned D3. ;-)

(Above: OK, this is not the most flattering photo of me, but luckily this story isn’t about me — it’s about the guy I’m posed here with — Matt Lange).

Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time…
One day back in 2009 my buddy, pro-sports photographer Mike Olivella, calls me with a really fun idea — we’d hold a sports photography contest for amateur sports photographers and the winner would get the opportunity to shoot on the sidelines of a Florida State football game, alongside Mike and me (We’d pay all their expenses; airfare, hotels, etc and would ship the winner some long glass to shoot the game with). We called it “Shoot on the sidelines with Scott and Mike.” Here’s a link to the post where I announced the contest.

Folks, we have a winner!
Mike was tasked with picking a winning image, and he picked a fantastic shot by photographer Alex Walker, who won with an outstanding shot of his son, a soccer goalie. I was lucky enough to get to call Alex personally and tell him that he had won. Alex was a really great guy, and after talking to him for five minutes, I couldn’t wait to meet him in person at the game (over a month away). Here’s a link to see the finalists and Alex’s winning entry.

No good deed goes unpunished
For reasons neither Mike nor I still quite understand, a group of very vocal sports photographers got really, really, really mad about our contest. They started some incredibly hateful threads at a popular sports photography site that got so many comments, they had to close the original thread and start a new one so the hating could continue in full force. Besides just generally hating on Mike and me (OK, mostly me), their other gripe was that letting this one “amateur” on the sidelines would make the already hopelessly over-crowded sidelines that much more crowded, but worse yet this amateur would basically “run-amok” endangering himself and everyone around him. This had to be stopped!

Light your torches, grab your pitchforks!!!
These sports photographers were so incensed that Alex would get to shoot this college football game, that they went beyond the forums —  they carried their angry protest directly to the school and convinced them that letting this reckless amateur shoot the game was endangering the school, the other photographers, and even the players on the field. Their outcry was so loud the school felt they had no other choice then to revoke Alex’s sideline photo pass (by the way: FSU is not to blame one bit in all this. Mike explains why in a comment on a blog post that I’ll link to in a moment).

A great day for sports photography
I now had to call Alex with the news that his dream of shooting a college football game had been taken from him. I wrote about how these photographers were able to steal Alex’s dream from him in a post called “A great day for Sports Photography.” It was, until my recent “Open letter to Adobe” post, the most commented-on post in the history of my blog. It’s a very short post, so if you have a minute I encourage to give it a quick read right now — I promise it will make this story much more meaningful. Here’s the link (but remember to come right back and pick up here).

Friends to the rescue!
In that post, when I told how Alex wouldn’t be shooting on the sidelines after all, you couldn’t believe the outpouring of support from friends of the blog. For example, photographer, blogger, and social media guru Scott Bourne (of literally sent Alex over a thousand dollars in Photoshop plug-ins and software to help to make up for his loss of the shoot. He wasn’t the only one — lots of folks stepped up to send Alex all kinds of goodies, and we sent Alex a “care package” ourselves but of course, I felt really awful about the whole thing.

The only person that felt worse was Mike Olivella. Here he tried to do something nice, and not only did Mike and I wind up getting barbecued at a level I don’t think either of us had ever experienced in our professional lives, but Alex wound up without a shoot to boot. Luckily, Alex took the news like a pro. He was incredibly gracious, understanding, and was just happy to have won and didn’t want anything else — no replacement prize — nothing. Now I wanted to meet him in person even more.

I hate asking for favors, but I needed a favor…
I hate calling friends for favors, but in this instance I felt I just had to. A dear friend of mine, Mike McCaskey, is one of the owners of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, and at the time Mike was the Bear’s Chairman of the Board (Mike has since retired). I called Mike, told him the story about Alex losing his sideline photo pass, and Mike said, without hesitation:

 “The Chicago Bears would welcome Alex on our sidelines!”

I was thrilled, and I called Alex to tell him the news that he was now shooting an NFL game at Chicago’s Soldier field (Whoo Hoo!!!). It was one of the most fun phone calls I’ve ever made! Alex was blown away (Mike and I were thrilled beyond thrilled for him), and we arranged Alex’s flights, hotel, and so on, but I asked Alex to keep all this quiet until after the game, so the angry sports shooters wouldn’t try to ruin this shoot for him, too.

Jumping ahead to the game
Well, the plan came together and Alex got to Chicago to shoot “Da Bears.” I met Alex early that morning for breakfast, and he was just a wonderful, down-to-earth guy, and a very proud dad of his son, who just earned a college scholarship with his soccer skills.

We talked a lot about our families, our jobs, and life in general and I really enjoyed getting to know him. Before you knew it, we were at Chicago’s Soldier Field. We met up with Bears Chairman Mike McCaskey as soon as we got to the stadium and Mike treated Alex as though he was the single most important person at Soldier Field that day. Mike invited Alex to join him for lunch in the owner’s suite, and even went out shooting with Alex during the tailgating festivities.

I know a lot of Bears fans only know Mike as part of the ownership or management group, but I can tell you they would have seen a side of Mike McCaskey, (one that I’ve seen time and time again), that would have made them really proud to have Mike leading their organization. I wrote about Alex’s trip to the Bears game right here (without ever mentioning that it was in place of the shoot Alex had lost. In fact, I just called the post “Shooting On The NFL Sidelines”).

The shot you see above, is (from L to R): Mike Olivella, me, and contest winner Alex Walker, taken on the Bears Sidelines by Mike McCaskey (by the way, Mr. McCaskey is a very accomplished photographer himself, with gallery showings of his work, and numerous photography talks and presentations under his belt. He’s now focusing on his photography in his retirement, and I saw him last week at Photoshop World in DC soaking it all in).

OK, this story is about to take a turn, because it’s not what you think
I know this is long, but hang in there with me — I promise it will be worth the extra time.

But before we got to the Bears game…
I saw a comment on my blog — on that same “A great day for Sports Photography” post from a guy whose name I had recognized from posting on the blog, but I had never met. His name is Matt Lange (the guy shown posing with me at the very top of this post), and he worked with Louisiana Tech University as a graphic designer and sideline photographer. He said (I’m paraphrasing here):

“Look, I saw what happened to Alex and I feel terrible for him, and I want to do something to help. I was able to arrange a sideline pass for Alex to shoot a Louisianna Tech University football game. We’re not a huge school like Florida State, with a giant stadium and 80,000 fans, but we have a great program, and it’s a great place to shoot, and at least this way Alex would still get to shoot a college football game on the sidelines.”

I was blown away that Matt would reach out and do something like this, especially for someone he didn’t know, and I called him to let him know that thankfully we already had Alex covered with an NFL shoot with the Bears, and then I swore Matt to secrecy about the Bears shoot. He was really thrilled for Alex, and Matt seemed like a really great, down-to-earth guy (kind of like Alex), and although I had just met him, I already had a lot of respect for him.

One door closes…another door opens…
Since Alex wasn’t coming to shoot the game, Matt asked if I wanted to come up and shoot an LA Tech game some time and I took him up on it. Matt was right — LA Tech has a great atmosphere, and I got some of my favorite football images in that game (including some that are still in my football photography portfolio to this day [link]). While I was there hanging with Matt (I went to their tailgate party before the game, which was a blast), I made another friend in Matt’s buddy Donald Page (whom we all refer to now as simply “Big Daddy Don Page,” a nod to drag racing legend Big Daddy Don Garlitts). We all hit if off so well, that Matt and Don came to New York City with me the following week for Photo Plus Expo, and everybody from our crew took them in like they were family (we’ll all still great friends).

As it turned out, both Don and Matt were shooting NFL games for a small sports wire service called “Southcreek Global Media” and the more they told me about Southcreek, the more interested I became, and I eventually applied to shoot locally for Southcreek. A month later, I got picked up by them, and wound up shooting everything from Tampa Bay Bucs games, to Indy Racing, to Major League Baseball, College Bowl Games, Hockey, and all sorts of cool sports gigs. Really a great experience (and more on Southcreek in a day or so here on the blog). So, not only did I have a great football shoot, I made two new friends, and even wound up shooting sports for a wire service. Hey, ya never know, but this story isn’t over yet.

It was at the end of an episode of D-Town TV…
In 2010, when Matt Kloskowski and I hosted D-Town TV  we always closed the show by highlighting the work of a photographer, and in one episode I turned our viewers onto the photography and design work of my new friend Matt Lange. Matt is an absolutely kick-butt designer, for both Print and Video, and his work for LA Tech looks as good as anybody’s out there — totally EPSN or SI quality stuff, so I really wanted to share his work with our viewers and help him reach a larger audience.

So who was watching that episode that day?
Well, as luck would have it, Michael Benford, the Creative Director of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons (a terrific guy, and kick-butt designer and photographer himself), was watching and he started following Matt Lange’s work, just in case one day an opportunity came around to add to the Falcon’s in-house design staff.

Well, I’m thrilled to share with you that last week my buddy Matt Lange moved up to the NFL where he started his dream job as a full-time designer with the Falcons (Michael Benford clearly has a great eye for talent!). You could not wipe the smile off my face when I got the text from Matt Lange telling me that Michael had offered him the job and he and his wife were on their way to find a new home in Atlanta.

I had dinner two weeks ago with Michael Benford, the night before my Atlanta seminar, and he told me the story of how he found Matt — from that mention on D-Town TV. I’m still smiling.

I love when good things happen to good people
It was Matt Lange reaching out to help Alex Walker, back in 2009, with no agenda but help out a fellow photographer who he felt had been wronged, that unknowingly led Matt to his dream job in the NFL just a few years later.

Funny how that stuff works out, isn’t it? By the way, Matt got his dream job, but the Atlanta Falcons also just added one of the most talented graphic designers, video designers, and photographers in the industry. They won, too! (Go Falcons!).

There were lots of heroes along the way
People like Mike McCaskey, who literally saved the day with his offer to have Alex on his sidelines. To Scott Bourne who sent loads of plug-ins and software to Alex. To Mike Olivella who is still licking his wounds from just trying to do something nice with his original contest idea in the first place, but still couldn’t let it go that Alex lost that shoot, so he wound up arranging for Alex to shoot with him on the sidelines of the ACC College Championship Game (here’s the link to that story. That’s Alex and Mike at the game, shown above). To the many photographers who offered their support, sent gifts, and became fans of Alex Walker through this contest. I even asked Alex to write a guest blog here on my blog, and he totally rocked it. Here’s the link to hear Alex’s story. You’ll totally dig it now that you know Alex, and you’ll love the photos, too!

You can be a “Matt Lange” too!
Matt helped out somebody else with no thought whatsoever of what it would get him, but look what it got him. Life has a way of doing that. You do things, and good things seem to boomerang back to you. That’s not why you do good things — it’s just a wonderful side effect. :)

Sometime soon, you’ll have an opportunity to be a Matt Lange. Maybe it’s to help someone at work. Maybe a friend. Maybe like Matt it’s to help someone you’ve never met. Take that opportunity and do it. By the way, the feeling you get when you help somebody else — that right there — that’s your good deed already coming back to you. If you never get anything more from it than that feeling, you’ve already moved ahead in your life (and you helped somebody else move ahead in theirs). If you ever sit and wonder what life’s about. That is what life’s about. :)

(Above: That’s “Fifi,” the world’s only still-flying B-29 Super Fortress out on the flight line at dawn. Shot with a Nikon D4, and a 24-120mm f/4 lens I borrowed from NPS). 

This was my third time shooting the Fly-in (it takes place in my hometown of Lakeland, Florida), and this is the first time that I could actually stay and shoot the entire day (Well, I left before sunset to meet my family at Disney World), but I got more shooting in than all the previous times combined.

I was there as a guest of Sun n’ Fun’s official photographer, my buddy Jose Ramos, (link) along with Nikon Professional Services (NPS) who hosted me for the day in the event’s Nikon Media Center, and I got the honor to shoot alongside Bill Fortney, Bill Pekela, David Lee, and Scott Diussa (and of course, my buddy “Fuji” Ramos).

Camera Gear
I shot my new D4, and love it, love it, love it!!!! Love it more every time I shoot it (the tonal quality and gradation between colors is really wonderful, and the extra megapixels don’t hurt either). I shot with two lens: a Nikon 28-120mm f/4 I borrowed from NPS, and a 200-400mm loaner also from NPS.

We got there about 30 minutes before sunrise and headed out to the War Bird’s Flight Line and warmed up there until the sun came up. We didn’t have much for clouds (OK, it was a cloudless morning), but the light was pretty sweet, and we shot until about 30 minutes after the sun came up, then we headed back to the Nikon Media Center.

Above: Here’s a P-51 Mustang on the ramp. This was about the only angle I could shoot from (down low and in front), because there was a large tarp over the entire cockpit and canopy, and it looked pretty….well….distracting to say the least. Still a gorgeous plane.

Above: Later in the day the US Air Force Thunderbirds arrived and did a few passes by our shooting tower. 

They don’t actually do their airshow performances until 4:00 pm today, tomorrow and Sunday, but on Thursday they did do a few passes just to scope out the area and get the feel of things, but they didn’t do any formations or anything really wild, but we were able to shoot from special elevated shooting platforms Nikon put up for the media (shown above, right out by the runway), and that’s where I got the shot I showed right before this one.

(Above: My buddy Jose “Fuji” Ramos [Fuji is his “Call sign.” Long story]).

One of the highlights of my Sun n’ Fun visit was catching an excellent presentation by my buddy Jose Ramos on Aviation Photography. Besides some amazing images (he gets to shoot air-to-air from military jets, which makes for some just absolutely sick photos), I was really impressed with his respect for the pilots, crew, and mechanics that work on these amazing machines, and in particular you can feel his reverence for our military men and women in uniform. He had some fascinating personal stories that really made his presentation a lot of fun, and when he was done, he had a big crowd around him asking questions for another 30 minutes. Very cool stuff, and I’m really glad I got to see it.

(Above: Jose snapped this iPhone photo of me out on the flight line once the sun was up enough that we knew that part of the shoot was over). 

My thanks to Jose, and the great folks at NPS (I don’t think a lot of folks realize how awesome it is having Nikon Professional Services at a photo event like this. They bring LOADS of high-end gear available as longer gear to the working media, and they have techs on staff (thanks Francis) who will do free minor repairs, offer advice, and even gladly clean your camera’s sensors. They were especially kind to Canon users who came in and needed their help. They really treated them like on of their own, and I thought that was really cool.

(Above: Here’s one for the road, taken from the back of Jose’s Golf Cart on the way back to the Media Center after shooting the Thunderbird’s warm-up). 

I have a lot more shots, but I’ve got to hit the sack
Again, my thanks to the gang at Nikon for their wonderful hospitality, and to “Fuji” Ramos for inviting me to shoot alongside him and share a day shooting some amazing planes. Also, my apologies to Moose Peterson — I know I’m not supposed to be shooting this stuff Moose — don’t worry — I won’t make it a habit. ;-)