Category Archives Photography

I thought I’d pick up where I left off yesterday, with the remaining photos from my India Photo Book (I made the book on my last morning in Jaipur, but that was made a lot quicker by the fact that each night I would go through my images and make my “Picks” so I already had a folder with my favorite images all all ready to go, which makes the book-making process go much faster).

Post Processing
I didn’t have to do a lot of post processing on these, but they all got tweaking and sharpening in Photoshop or Lightroom. In particular, one thing I used a lot was a tiny bit of Highlight Edge Vignetting. Just a little bit in the Effects panel of Lightroom–I just drag the Amount slider to the left a little bit (as shown above) to darken the outside edges, and focus the attention away from the edges. Another thing I used here and there was Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro plug-in, in particular their Tonal Contrast preset. I normally didn’t apply it to the entire image—I would apply it, then hide the effect layer behind a black layer mask and then paint over parts of the image that needed more contrast.

I also increased the Clarity and Vibrance amount for some of the images, but overall it wasn’t anything fancy (it’s the same stuff I show in my live Photoshop World class called “Photoshop for Travel Photographers.”

Where’s all the HDR?
I’m waiting until I get back in the office (today) and I’m going to hand off some 5-shot brackets to RC Concepcion (who literally wrote the book on HDR post-processing) and let him have a go at it. I love the way he does his post on HDR images, so I hope to share those later in the week. And yes, I know…having RC process my HDR shots is cheating. :)

Next time, I’m building My Book in Lightroom 4
Now that Lightroom 4 Beta has a Books feature built-in, I’ll be doing my next book there, mostly because the layouts in LR4 are more flexible, so it opens lots of creative possibilities (see yesterday’s post where I showed the layout of the book in Lightroom 4. Worked even better than I expected!)

More Details on the Grid
Tomorrow, on “The Grid” Live (our weekly photography talk show), I’ll be talking about the trip, and some of the specific things I ran into photographically during the trip, so I’ll hope you’ll join us live tomorrow (Wednesday) at 4:00 PM ET at (or for the free rebroadcasts starting on Thursday).


Don’t forget to watch The Grid tomorrow at 4:00 pm. I’ll show some other shots, and we’ll talk about all sorts of stuff surrounding this. Thanks to everybody who gave me suggestions, helpful hints, warnings, and great advice before my trip to India. It really made a difference, and it was much appreciated! :-)


I just got back late Friday night—the trip was a birthday present from my wife (for my birthday last year—but this was the first chance we got to take the trip), and we had an absolutely wonderful time!

What an amazing, fascinating place. We were only actually there for four days (with a fifth day of travel back to New Delhi for our return trip), but it was totally worth it! We visited Agra (I always wanted to see, and overshoot, the Taj Mahal), and then we added a trip to Jaipur, which is an amazing city unto itself.

Photo Gear
I traveled very light (as usual for vacations), and I didn’t want to take a bunch of big photo gear that would get a lot of attention, so I took a Nikon D700, removed the battery grip, put black gaffers tape over the make and model (shown above—I know, it still look kinda big), removed my lens hood, and carried it all in a Think Tank Photo “Retrospective 20” shoulder camera bag (borrowed from RC), which is designed to not look like a camera bag. This isn’t an “India” thing, but smart anytime you’re traveling (there are some places here in the states that I wouldn’t bring a DSLR to, blacked out or not).

I took just two lenses; my go-to travel lens is a Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 VR lens, and my second lens was a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8. I also tried out a new travel tripod: the Oben CT-3500 Carbon Fiber four section tripod, which worked perfectly and only weighs 2.3 lbs.

Shooting in Pea Soup
My poor wife—she planned this special trip for me to see the Taj Mahal, and not only did she set it up so I could shoot it at two sunrise shoots, and two sunsets, she arranged for us to have a room only 900 feet from the Taj itself, and she specifically booked a hotel room with a terrace that overlooks the Taj. However, here’s the view at dawn the second day (below). Not only could we not see the Taj, we couldn’t see the swimming pool 30 feet in front of us.

Thanks to unseasonably cold weather, we were socked-in with thick, dense fog. It was absolute pea soup. I still went, and got lots of foggy shots with solid gray skies. This fog soup started the day we got there,and stayed the following morning at dawn, all afternoon, at dusk, and the following morning, too. In fact, I didn’t see fog-less clear skies until we reached Jaipur. My wife was really upset for me, but I was totally cool with it, because I didn’t just want to photograph India—I wanted to see and enjoy it, and man did I ever.

My Photo Book
After a vacation trip, I usually make a photo book of my favorite shots using iPhoto (link to video I did on how to make these in iPhoto) and I’m sharing the whole book (put together in iPhoto) with you here (part one today, and part two tomorrow). However, once this was done, I wanted to see if I could do the same thing (or maybe better) using Lightroom 4 Beta’s new Book Feature, and I have to say it worked brilliantly well, and even allowed me to do things I couldn’t do in iPhoto (I know, I know…Apple fan boys rev-up your engines). Anyway, I’ll be talking about this Wednesday on the Grid at 4:00 pm ET, so catch us live then.

Please click on the photos for a much larger view (they look much better bigger. Also, I made these spread really large—if you’re on a laptop, you may have to enlarge the size of your browser). More details on everything tomorrow. :)

That’s “Part One” of my photo book, and I’ll publish the rest here tomorrow.

One more thing: Why you need a guide when you go shooting
When I knew I would be traveling to India, I called my buddy Vincent Versace (who had run photo workshops there) and he turned me on to Travel Scope India, which provides very reasonably priced English speaking guides, and they were absolutely fantastic!

We learned so much about the Indian people (and their wonderful spirit), and they were really accommodating and helpful when it came to me finding locations to shoot. Here’s an link to an article I read last night at about why photographers should hire a guide (not a photo fixer, but a guide) and it’s worth a read (and right on the money!).

Anyway, Travel Scope India are highly recommended, and if you have plans of visiting India, you’ve got to contact Dinesh at (they totally rock, and can find you guides in cities all over India). Can’t say enough things about how helpful they were.

Hope to see you back here tomorrow for Part 2, with more photos and more details. :)

[Bill Frakes was one of the first photographers in the world, alongside Joe McNally and Corey Rich, to get his hands on the Nikon D4. Here’s his story on shooting Istanbul and Its Many Faces.]

We had an intense 10 days in Istanbul making this short documentary shooting exclusively with the Nikon D4. Exhausting and invigorating. Crazy great fun.

It’s a wonderful place. The only major city in the world spanning two continents. Divided by the Bosphorus, this place is packed with activity and people, but yet is comfortable and calm.

This is where East meets West. It is an ancient city with modern rhythms. It has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years, every stone is steeped in history — while every day new fascinations emerge combining eastern style with European flare.

I picked Istanbul because of its history. A city of one thousand names, it has been the capitol of two major civilizations. The Ottoman and the Byzantine. It was the eastern Capitol of the Eastern Roman empire. For thousands of years, it has been a cultural and religious center.

Our challenge was to really put the D4 to the test. And to challenge ourselves to extend our vision, to use this incredible new technology to not just make our lives better, but to honor the people who gave us the opportunity to have these chances by making better images.

This is photojournalism. We controlled nothing. Everything is candid. Reportage.
It’s real world solutions to real world problems.

In post we did virtually nothing to the files. We edited the video native.  On the stills we did minor corrections so that they would fit with the video when we put them together. No sharpening nor grain reductions. Some burning and dodging. Cropping. That’s pretty much it.

We used the cameras 18 hours a day for 10 straight days. We used it as a still camera, a video camera, an audio recorder and an intravolometer.

What stands out for me most about this camera is the power of subtle changes. Small ergonomic changes make it incredibly comfortable to hold. You can activate backlight on all of the buttons and controls, now you can see everything on the camera in the dark. The video controls are the best of any DSLR I have seen, and I think I have seen them all. Audio, always a Nikon strength, is better than ever. They dominate this just like they do small flash.

The camera is amazing. The high ISO files exceeded my expectations, and after the D3S I had huge expectations! The new video and audio functions have transformed this camera into something beyond what we have seen before.

It is a rock solid, well crafted, easy to use machine. The menus are simple and elegant. The autofocus is extremely fast and accurate. The sensor delivers perfect, very sharp images.

I didn’t have any concerns about the technical, the Nikon engineers had taken care of that for me. I was free to concentrate on the creative, which is exactly as it should be.

We had a tight team of four.

Laura Heald. My creative partner in Straw Hat Visuals. She is everywhere on these projects. She shoots video and stills. Collects audio. Carries gear. She just makes things happen in the most positive way possible. When we get back to the studio she puts the pieces together. Having her on location making creative decisions is incredibly helpful both in the field and then in the edit bay because she has such a great feel for the material. She is the calm in the storm.

Andy Hancock. Our good friend and long time associate came to Istanbul for the first half of trip to help with the stills and video for the backstage video. Andy’s only been out of the country a few times, twice with us, and it’s great fun watching a Texas cowboy on the loose. If you meet Andy ask him if he remembers his first trip abroad., it’s a really good story.

Jana Erb joined us from Munich to do data management and run some of our robotics. Like Laura, Jana doesn’t understand the word no. Whatever needs to get done, she figures it out. Always in motion she is, as my good friend Paolo Frisson from Manfrotto says, “an EXPLOSION.” Although she was constantly scolding her mobile for it’s imprecision, she managed to navigate us seamlessly through the labyrinth of the city once known as Constantinople.

My job on these things is to do the connecting. I figure out what we need to do and keep pushing until we’re done. I do the lion’s share of the shooting both stills and video. I am in charge of quality control. In the edit process, I do the rough edits for concept and style. And then I try to stay out of Laura’s way until she is ready for me to weigh in on the final edit.

Things happen for a reason. We were ready to go. Spent seven hours packing 14 cases of gear. Left for the airport with plenty of time for our 3 p.m. flight home. We got to the counter, nobody there. Jana took off to find her gate for the flight to Munich. Laura found an agent. We missed the flight out of Istanbul. I had looked at the wrong flight. Back to the city, tired, cranky and annoyed at what this was going to do to our post production schedule -which was too tight.

We got to the hotel. Checked back in. Rescheduled our flights. And went for a walk. Two cameras for me.  Laura took her beloved P7000.  Headed into the center of the old city for an hour. We got lost. Ended up walking for seven hours, slowly covering 12 kilometers, and we made my favorite images of the trip.

Lost and slow. Lovely way to see a new city.

You can see more from Bill on the Nikon D4 over at, see his work at, and follow him on Twitter.

The first half was a snooze. The score was 2 – 0 until nearly the end of the half, but then in the final minutes of the half, we had a touchdown, a runback (which I missed because I was uploading photos already), and then the 2nd half lit up, and the game wound up going into triple overtime. It was awesome!

I was there shooting on assignment for wire service Southcreek Global Media and it was a perfect day for football, not cold, not hot—a nice breeze and beautiful blue skies. A perfect way to wrap up my football shooting season! :)


(Above: Michigan State’s Quarterback decides to keep the ball and run for it!)

Here’s a few shots from the game (probably my last this season, unless some playoff opportunity breaks loose). Now, onto to NHL Hockey!!! :-)

One more thing: Camera settings. Same as always, but since it was a day game, I got to shoot at 200 ISO (my camera’s native ISO) most of the day (had to crank it in overtime because it started getting kinda dark).


(Above: I love how you can see the ref signaling touchdown in the left background).

(Above: I just knew he was going to signal the first down after a big catch and run like this—so I just stayed on him after the play)

My thanks to the gang at Southcreek Global for the opportunity to shoot some football for you guys this year, and thanks to everybody here on the blog that put up with seeing a bunch of football this past couple of months. :)

(Above: Saints QB Drew Brees takes the field to start his history-making night. The story behind how I got this shot, and why he’s looking right at me, is below). 

I finally got a chance to go through some of the images from this week’s Monday Night Football game, between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. I was there shooting for the Falcons (so they got all my original untouched images, right off the cards, while I was still on the sidelines.  The ones I’m showing here are my final images, which some have have been cropped, and some have had the contrast boosted, and all of them have been sharpened.

The story on the shot of Drew Brees at the top of the this post:
When I shot for the Falcons in Atlanta, we’re on their home turf, so we pretty much had the run of the place (I was able to even mount a remote camera on the circular truss the players run through when they’re introduced. Here’s that link), but in this case, the game was in New Orleans at the Superdome, so the rules are….well….we’re not exactly sure what the rules are, they vary from stadium to stadium, but it’s probably not the land of do as you please.

The visiting team (in this case, the Falcons) just comes out as a big group, all at once, usually to a chorus of boos from the hometown crowd, and so there wasn’t much to capture when the Falcons came out (in fact, they kind of bunched them up in the end zone once they came out, so they kind of just jogged over to their sidelines. However, when the home team comes out, there’s smoke and fireworks and lots of ballyhoo and they were just about to do that for the Saints.

I looked over to my buddies with the Falcons and asked “Can we go out on the field?” They weren’t sure, and they weren’t moving out there, but I saw a photographer who cruised about 20 feet out onto the field and was down on one knee shooting, so I kind of moseyed out their myself. He looked up at me and said, “You going out there?” I said “I will if you do. Lead the way.” He got up, and we started walking heading right out to midfield. The smoke had started, and fireworks were going off, and nobody was looking at us. I looked over to this other photographer and said “Head straight for that video camera guy—nobody messes with them” and we took a knee right beside him and started shooting right down the line of where the Saints were starting to come out through the smoke.

After most of the team comes through the smoke as a group, they introduce the starters on the Offense, and some just jog out, and some come crashing through that smoke, and this other photographer and I are just snapping away, trying to find something to focus on, because all you can see is lots of smoke, but then lastly here comes Drew Brees (the shot above), and he looks right at my camera, probably thinking, “Hey, are those two guys supposed to be out here?” ;-)

Anyway, we look up and the whole team is just a few feet away from us, and we figured we’d better not press our luck, so we scooted right back over to the sidelines as if nothing had happened. My buddies from the Falcons were all snickering and laughing at us and we tried to just blend into the large group of photographers shooting the game (the most photographers I’ve seen covering a game since last year’s NFC Championship Game in Chicago).


Lighting in the Mercedes Benz Superdome
I’ve gotta tell ya, I’ve never seen better, brighter lighting in a dome ever. It was insanely good for an indoor venue, and I probably could have gotten away with 800 to 1,000 ISO if it weren’t for the fact that I was shooting at f/4 for the first quarter (more on that in the camera specs). Really great light though. Also, a friend told me before the game to bring earplugs. I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t. It was the loudest crowd I have ever heard and their cheering was deafening. What a home field advantage.

(Above: Here’s what the Superdome looks like, as shot through my 14-24mm f/2.8 lens on a full-frame camera, out wide at 14mm. Look at all those lights!).

A tough night for the Falcons
It was a heartbreaker for the Falcons as they only put up 16 points all game (to the Saints 45), but the Falcons had just found out the night before that they had already made the playoffs, so it wasn’t like they were playing for their playoff spots, but still, you hate to see the team you’re shooting for lose (and plus, from a photography standpoint, you want to see your team put up a lot of points, with some really dramatic plays).

My highlight of the night, though, was shooting alongside my friends at the game. My buddy Matt Lange (link) picked me up from the airport (he was shooting for the Falcons as well). He’s a kick-butt photographer and sports graphic designer, and a really cool guy all around. Then, as I’m checking in, I run into my buddy Chuck Barnes, who’s a great sports shooter (and photographer all around) who was covering the game for his local newspaper. Then I hung out with my buddy Michael Benford from the Falcons. Totally great guy and just a lot of fun to hang with (but not brave enough to sneak out to midfield with me before kickoff). He works for the Falcons directly so he probably didn’t want to get caught in “enemy territory”). ;-) Michael’s a talented photographer, designer, and always has a smile on his face (despite looking like a tough guy).

I also made a new friend: Stacey Revere (who shoots for Getty) is a friend of Matt Lange’s and he was with Matt when they picked me up, and we hung out during the game. Totally cool guy, and some wild stories about what happened in his neighboorhood after Hurricane Katrina. He’s a stand-up guy.

I also got to spend some time with the wonderful Jimmy Cribb, the Falcon’s long-time team photographer, and just one of the nicest, most genuine guys you’d ever want to meet. Talk about making you feel at home—he’s just that kind of person, and his passion for what he’s doing just comes over you like a wave. I totally see why the Falcons just love this guy, and his photography, for so many years now. An absolute class act.

A History-Making Night
Of course, I got incredibly lucky that I was there on a night where NFL history was made, as Saint QB Drew Brees breaks Dan Marino’s all-time Single Season passing record (and the season’s not over yet), and the place just came to a halt. Even though I was there to shoot the Falcons, I had to capture this history making moment, and I had some decisions to make about where to capture it from. The Saints sideline was absolutely jammed, and everybody was set up pretty much with 1-foot of each other, so I intentionally set-up on the other side of the field (I figured a get a few shots nobody else got). Of course, a guy from US Presswire was right beside me, with the same lens, so I wouldn’t have the only angle on it, but still—better one than 50, eh?

(Above: Offensive Guard Carl Nicks lifts Saints QB Drew Brees off his feet moments after Brees touchdown pass broke Dan Marion’s all-time Single Season passing record).

(Above: Here’s my view of the Saints Bench from across the field after Bress returned to the sidelines, takes off his helmet, and waves to the cheering fans on their feet screaming at the top of their lungs. It was pretty electrifying).

(Above: After I took the previous photo, and the game was winding down, I figured we weren’t going to see much of Drew Brees back on the field, so I headed down, across the back of the end zone, and over into the large group of photographers on the sidelines, but I noticed that only a couple of people were directly behind the bench, and the ones that were there were mostly shooting video with their iPhones, so I set up just behind with a pretty clear shot right at Brees and got a series of close-ups, including my favorite shown above, taken while he’s getting congratulated by other players on the bench, all within minutes of his breaking the record. I was shooting with my 400mm , so I had to step back until I was far enough back for it to actually focus).

(Above: Yup. His foot’s out. It was that kind of night).

(Above: Here’s the view right after the game and Drew is doing TV interviews and photographers are snapping away. The woman on the far right of the frame is holding an LED light-panel for the TV cameras. It was while I was taking this photo and I wound up on ESPN. A lot of folks spotted me, and some even posted photos of their TV screen. It was pandemonium out there).

(Above: That’s me after the game, around midnight; photo by my buddy Matt Lange. I’m much more handsome in person. Particularly, earlier in the day).

Camera Specs
I shot the game with the usual set-up; Two camera bodies: A Nikon D3s with a 400mm f/2.8 lens. I did shoot the first quarter with a 1.4 tele-extender on, which made my 400mm around a 550mm lens, but you lose a stop of light, so I could only shoot at f/4, which means I had to crank my ISO up between 2,500 and 3,200 depending on where they were on the field due to changes in lighting. My 2nd body was a Nikon D3, with a 24-70mm on after the 1st quarter (the 14-24mm on for the first quarter). I shot in tight in the first quarter to get nice tight shots of Falcon’s QB Matt Ryan.

I shot both cameras wide open (at f/2.8 or f/4 because of the tele-extender) and ISO ranged from 1,250 to 3,200 during the night). I shot in JPEG (for more shots in burst mode). My shutter speeds were around 1/1000 of a second and higher, but occasionally on the black uniforms of the Saints, it would dip down lower (since I was in Aperture Priority mode. Probably should have shot in Manual).

Post Processing in Photoshop
I didn’t do a whole lot to these images. Some I needed to crop in on (if the play happened downfield) or I just needed to keep a ref out of the frame, and so on. I also used Nik Software’s Pro Contrast (found in their Color Efex Pro plug-in) on some of the shots to boost the contrast and color a bit, but ALL of the shots got an Unsharp Mask with the settings: Amount 100. Radius: 1.5, Threshold 4, which gives some really punchy sharpening. I also darkened the edges in a couple of the photos to focus the attention on the player, and not on the background. Again, these aren’t what the Falcon’s got from me—they got the untouched images right out of the camera, while I was right there on the field.

I know this was a long post…
….but I wanted to give you some behind-the-scenes stuff, and for those of you who stuck in through this entire story—thanks. I stayed up until 1:17 AM to write it, so….just thanks.

Have a great Friday everybody. I’m off to Legoland with the kids! :)

P.S Don’t forget to read the next blog post down. :)

Hi Gang: Our offices are closed today as part of our Christmas break, so it’s super-fluffy blog post Monday. Today I’m flying to New Orleans, Louisiana to shoot the Monday Night Football NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. It’s my first time shooting in the Super Dome, and I’ve always wanted to see it, plus this is a HUGE game (conference wise anyway—-but Atlanta just clinched their playoff spot last night with the Packers win), and since it’s a Monday night game, it’ll be nationally televised (keep an eye out for the guy with the yellow tape on the top rung of his monopod. No ball cap this time, since it’s in a dome).

Hope everybody has a great day today (and I hope Santa brought you lots of cool photo gear and Photoshop stuff!). Merry Christmas everybody and we’ll see you here tomorrow (if I get any shots from the game, I’m post ’em here Tuesday. If I don’t post any shots tomorrow, you’ll know what happened). :0)