Category Archives Photography

(Above: It’s not a composite, and the background hasn’t been blurred in Photoshop. It’s the 400mm f/2.8 doing what it does best).

On Saturday, I got to shoot my first football game of the year, alongside my buddy Mike McCaskey, as the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame routed the Michigan State Spartans 31 – 13. It’s was a day made for shooting football—65° at game time with bright beautiful skies.

(Above: In the 2nd half the sun gets low enough that about half the field is in shadows, and anything in white turns blue.  So, I get Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush; I lower the Saturation slider quite a bit, then I paint over the blue areas in their jerseys, shirts, gloves, etc. and they return to white.).

Shaking The Rust Off
I was really rusty—not having shot football since last January, and it took me until about the 3rd quarter to finally start getting back into the groove.

(Above: I was positioned at the goal post, shooting down on my knees, as the teams came down the tunnel to enter the field right before kick-off, and this Michigan State Offensive Guard didn’t seem particularly pleased to see me).

Camera Settings
I shot the entire day in Aperture Priority mode at 200 ISO, at f/2.8, which gave me shutter speeds anywhere from about 1/2,400 of a second up to 1/8000 of a second.

Camera Bodies and Lenses
I used two bodies: A Nikon D3s with a Nikon 400mm f/2.8 lens, mounted on a Gitzo monopod, and a Nikon D3 with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

(Above: Notre Dame Quarterback Tommy Rees scrambles during the 3rd quarter. He’s probably thinking, “I’ve got to get to the sidelines,” and I’m thinking “Don’t run into the shade—-this would make a great two-page spread). ;-)

Why I love shooting Day Games
It’s a “set it and forget it” kind of day. You choose your settings before game time, and you never have to change them again—the entire day. It leaves you free to focus on trying to get the shot.

(Above: I wish I’d gotten this shot from the other side).

(Above: Nobody gets any love from field goal shot but I like this one because it’s right at the moment of impact. I was actually hoping for the shot a split-second after this, but at least this one has some movement. I focused on the holder with my 400mm, and waited for the kicker to run into the frame).

(Above: I’m amazed at how few facemask penalties get called, because when you’re shooting at 400mm, you see them all the time).

(Above: In the third quarter and beginning of the fourth we had some really great light, but my the middle of the fourth, the entire field was almost in the shade —notice how the parts of the tackler are already looking blue).

(Above: Stretchhhhhhhhhhhh!)

(Above: For once that day, I was in the right place. Every touchdown happened at the opposite end of the field I was on except for this one which happened right in front of me. I had switched to my 70-200mm f/2.8 when they got inside the 15 yard line, where I got this frame. The play was reviewed, but the touchdown stands).

(Above: At the end of the game the team meets at the far end of the field, and they sing their Alma Mater, and that’s where I got this frame, on my tip-toes holding the camera above their heads and firing my camera one-handed. Right after I shot this, I hear a text message alert, and a friend from Birmingham texted me, “Are you shooting the Notre Dame game? I think I just saw you on TV. You were behind the players singing holding your camera up high? Yup—that was me!).

A great way to start the season
Even though I got off to a rusty start, it was such a fun day, with such great weather, I didn’t really mind that it took me like three hours to get into the groove. Now that the rust is off, I can’t wait until my next shoot (though I’m not sure when that will be. I’m doing my seminar in Portland today, and in Los Angeles tomorrow).

My thanks to my buddy Mike for letting me shoot with him, and to all the great folks with Notre Dame Football for giving me a really fun day of shooting. Football is finally here—-yeah, baby!!! :-)

You have to stay with me on this one, because….well…you just have to read this.

In May of 2009, I came to Denver to do my Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks tour, and the day before I spent some time shooting with Jason from the Canonblogger.com. I decided to do a creative exercise to stretch myself a bit by breaking with the usual and just use one single lens; a 50mm prime lens—-that’s it. No changing lenses—just that one lens, the whole time.

We shot for hours wandering around downtown Denver and really had a great time. I mostly shot architectural type stuff—buildings, signs, patterns—stuff like you see at the top of this post. I even took some examples I could use for an upcoming book project, and all and all I really enjoyed that one lens exercise because it makes you think and work and be more creative, and not rely on your gear so much.

However, as I wrote back in May of 2009 (link), the next morning, before even getting to look at any of my photos, I not only accidentally formatted the card, but I shot right over the card with images from my seminar. When I realized this a few days later, I tried to rescue them using recovery software, but by then they had been overwritten and they were no where to be found. Uggh! It’s a heartbreaker.

Happy to forget that loss
I know I probably didn’t get anything really worthwhile that day, but knowing that you lost about 8GB of images (around 700 images) makes you feel like “I bet there was something really great in there…” and it’s the never knowing that eats at you. I had never really done that before—lost a whole shoot without backing up. I learned a good lesson from it, but every time since whenever I hear someone mention Denver, I still cringe a little as I relived my mess up. It’s how we photographers torture ourselves.

Today, I’m back in Denver with my “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it Tour,” and yesterday as Brad and I were driving downtown I passed a sculpture I recognized, and the buildings beside it, and the whole “losing my images” thing came rushing back. I told Brad the whole story from beginning to end, and even he was cringing. I just couldn’t imagine how I could have done that, and seeing those areas I shot, and lost, just made it worse.

I’ll meet you in the lobby in 10 minutes
I wanted to catch an early dinner so I called Brad and said, “Let’s me in the lobby in 10 minutes.” When I come out of the elevator, Brad reaches in his shirt pocket and hands me a memory card. I said “What’s this?” He smiles and says, “Your missing Denver photos from 2009.” I was speechless. I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t.

It’s that whole “cleaning out my closet thing”
I’ve been doing a series of giveaways on Twitter called “Semi-useful stuff from Scott’s camera closet” and literally as I’ve been cleaning out my closet, I’ve been giving away things I haven’t been using in a while. This past Sunday I found a Swiss Army brand laptop bag I had used briefly (it still looked pretty new), and it was in such good shape that I didn’t want to throw it away, so I brought it into the office and asked Brad to see if anybody wanted it.

Well, Brad had a new laptop, and no real laptop bag so he claimed it, and showed it to me at the airport this morning. I was like “Perfect—it found a new home.” That morning, when Brad was putting his laptop and accessories in the bag, he found two of my memory cards in one of the pockets. He saw there were images on them, but he also saw they were from 2009 so he figured I had long since backed up already so he reformatted the card to use tomorrow at the seminar. However, after he heard my story, and went and used photo recovery software to see if those shots were indeed the missing shots from Denver. After looking at a few, he saw a sign in one shot that sure enough said “Denver” and he just sat there and smiled as he rescued every single image.

I was stunned.
Still am as I sit here and write this. Seriously, what are the chances? I gave him the bag yesterday, and if we weren’t in Denver, and hadn’t driven by that exact sculpture, I probably wouldn’t have ever told the story, and then tomorrow morning we would have actually overwritten that card; never having any idea those images were on it. Now, they truly would have been lost forever.

As I suspected…
The images weren’t great. Just “OK.” Nothing going in my portfolio. Nothing earth shattering,  (the images you see here are the ones from the missing card). But I don’t care. I have such a sense of peace just knowing that they’re back, and that I didn’t accidentally erase them—I just misplaced them—for two and a half years. That part, doesn’t surprise me at all.

Thanks Brad
I needed a smile yesterday, and that surely gave me one. That, and a whole bunch of  “I just can’t believe you found that card!” during dinner.

If you’re at Photoshop World in Vegas, the book is being officially launched by Peachpit Press there and we have a limited number for sale at the official bookstore on the Expo floor.

It’s hitting other bookstores next week (Amazon.com already has the Kindle version available now), and you can preorder the print version from Amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble.com, or pick it up at your local bookstore in just a few days.

I know a lot of photographers are struggling with photo composition, and over the past year I’ve had dozens of people send me emails and comments asking when I was going to do a class on photo composition.

I actually had no plans to teach one. Ever.
But a few weeks ago, I came up with an idea about teaching photo composition that’s radically different from anything I’ve ever seen on the topic. My first thought was to write a book about it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the way I plan to teach this, doesn’t require a whole book. In fact, it wouldn’t even make a good long chapter, because I think I can make people really, finally, and fully “get it” in just about an hour.

I think if it’s presented like I have imagined it in my mind, (and we dispense with all that “rule of thirds,” and “leading lines,” and all that stuff in every class ever taught on the topic), I could finally make that light bulb come on for the participants on such a level that from that day forward, their photography would be dramatically better. I could see the whole class in my mind, and exactly how I would present it, and I got really excited about the about the whole concept.

Here’s where you come in
Now I really wanted to teach this new class and have our video crew produce it as an online class for Kelby Training, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to present it to a live audience. A class like this needs a live audience, but I wanted to be to more intimate than when I present to 600 people in my seminar tours. I even know where and when I want to present it; I want to do it at night, under the stars, at an very cool outdoor amphitheater. I want candles and acoustic guitar music, and an atmosphere made for a night of creativity and learning.

Well, that’s exactly what we have planned, and you’re invited to be there in person for this very special evening, that I hope will change the way you create images, and at the same time will benefit the Springs of Hope Orphanage in Kenya.

Here are the details:

When: Tuesday evening, September 13, 2011 from 8:00 pm to 9:00-ish

Where: The Amphitheater at Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa, on the Hillsborough River

Cost: A $10 donation; all of which goes directly to the Springs of Hope Orphanage in Kenya

Sign Up: At this link right here.

We only have seating for 150 people at the amphitheater, and the seats will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis (and of course, all of this is weather permitting, since it’s an outdoor event).

I think this is going to be a very fun, unique, and informative night, and if you can make it, you’ll see and hear some concepts, ideas, and techniques that I’ve never seen anyone talking about anywhere. If you can’t make it that night, that evening’s presentation will become an online class on KelbyTraining.com, but probably not until after the first of the year (we have a huge backlog of classes already taped for this year).

This could be your night
If you’ve ever struggled with photo composition, this could be the night where you totally “get it”—one filled with smiles, nods, and “ah-ha” moments that can help you create the type of photos you’ve always wanted to make. The shots that you know are in you, but you just need the key to unlock them. I think I can give you that, and I hope I’ll meet you in person that very night to put a key in your hand. See you there.

The phone rings on Thursday and it’s my buddy, and sports photography legend Dave Black, asking me if I want to fly up to Allentown, Pennsylvania to meet him and shoot the start of something new in Gymnastics, called “Evolution.” It’s an all-tricks competition staged like a rock concert—featuring a group of gymnastic world champions and Olympic athletes many of which competed at the Beijing Olympics and some are part will be part of the US team for the 2012 Olympics. (Just for the record, he had me at “This is Dave Black…”)

This was my first time shooting a gymnastics event, and I have to tell you—it was very challenging. Luckily, Dave was a HUGE help the entire night, and I learned just a ton from him and that made all the difference in the world. I don’t think I got a single decent shot for the first 30-minutes—it took me that long to get the hang of shooting under that lighting, and getting the pacing and focus down. Again, Dave was a big help with both (he’s been shooting gymnastics for 30 years, and was a former gymnast and teach coach himself).

As challenging as it was—I absolutely loved shooting it!!! Of course, now I want to go back and shoot it all over again, because now I can see all the things I’d like to do differently next time (i. e. shots where I should have been in tight, and others where I should have gone really wide. I can see different angles, and different types of composition, and so on).

An Evolution for Gymnastics
The Evolution event itself was pretty groundbreaking for a gymnastics event (link), because it just focused on the tricks (which was why it was so cool to shoot from a photography stand point), and it kind of reminded me (in a good way) of how medal-winning ice skating Olympians wind up touring with Ice Skating show, which mix music and stage lighting, and effects—-and it’s more of a show than a competition. However, Evolution kept the competition aspect, but just focused on the fun stuff (tricks), and added the lights, music, and effects, and the crowd on hand seemed to totally eat it up. They were cheering and chanting, and they were totally into it from the very start.

Photographic advantages over a regular competition
At regular gymnastic competitions, including the Olympics, there are multiple events going on simultaneously, all within just feet of each others, and Dave talked about the challenges of busy backgrounds, filled with judges, referees, other athletes, and other apparatuses as well. Here, it was just one event at time, and just one gymnast on stage at one time, so it was an event just about made for photography.

Camera Specs
Dave did a lot of the leg work for me (he was literally texting me settings, including white balance Kelvin) from the dress rehearsal on Friday). I shot in Manual Mode the entire time (I started shooting wide open in Aperture Priority, but the camera was over-exposing the arena, so shooting in Manual with a high shutter speed let the arena pretty much fall to black).

I shot at 4,000 ISO all night long. Had to in that light. I also shot wide open all night, at f/2.8 on my 24-70mm and f/4 on my 200-400mm f/4 lens (I used two bodies: A Nikon D3, and D3s). My shutter speed was between 1,600 and 2,000 all night, depending on the light. Again, you needed to shoot at such high shutter speeds to keep the arena going dark, and to freeze motion, but that was a higher shutter than needed just to freeze motion.

The white balance was a nightmare, because the lights were constantly changing color, so while I’d normally shoot in JPEG for a sporting event like this, I shot in Raw instead, so I could fix the white balance later. I went with 3,200k for the night (on Dave’s advice), and as it turned it, it was pretty good most of the time (that Dave guy is either really good, or really lucky). ;-)

I’m Waiting Here In Allentown
Hurricane Irene was in town, too so my 6:00 am flight on Sunday got cancelled. So did my 12:30pm flight, and my 5:30 pm flight. So, today I’m driving to NYC to fly out of JFK direct home to Tampa. At least, that’s the plan. Hope I’m home by the time you read this (and I’m hoping you’re reading this on Monday). ;-)

Dave is…well…Dave is amazing!
I’ve always wanted to shoot gymnastics, and it was even better than I thought it would be. The athletes are just truly spectacular, and what they do is superhuman. However, the reason I went all the way to Allentown during a hurricane, knowing I would probably get stuck there for a few days, is because of Dave Black. I probably learned more in that one night, that I would have learned on my own in years of shooting competitions like that. Dave was a wealth of information, and really had me thinking about angles, about composition, about timing, and even about things like focus, camera settings, and the nuts and bolts of it all.

Besides what he taught me about shooting, Dave is just a joy to be around. Not just to me. To everyone he meets. He has a beaming smile. A spring in his step. And a love of life that he passes on to everyone he meets. Everybody there loved him. He’s been there for days, working with the athletes doing portrait shoots, marketing shots, and all sorts of things surrounding the event. The AV crew knew him. They loved him. The athletes knew him. They loved him. He has a smile for everybody he meets. He’s about much more than photography.

I’m indebted to him for the opportunity. For the help. For even thinking of me in the first place. I have a lot to learn about shooting gymnastics. It’s hard work, and like anything in photography the only way to get good at it is to practice, and that’s exactly what I intend to do (Between football games, of course). :)

Thanks to the great folks at Evolution for allowing me to shoot their event. Everyone I met from their organization was incredibly friendly and very accommodating. My thanks to Dave Black, for a night I’ll never forget, and thanks to my readers for letting me share a few shots from my first time shooting gymnastics.

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