Category Archives Photography

Hi Gang: By the time you read this, I’m already on my way back from an incredible weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Malmo, Sweden, hanging out and shooting photos with my good friend Terry White.

Terry, whose full time job is an Adobe Graphics Evangelist, was in the middle of an Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 roll-out tour, and he told me last month that during the tour he’d have a few days off in Copenhagen, and since I had always wanted to visit Copenhagen, on Thursday I hopped a night flight to meet him there, and spend the weekend just being a tourist, and taking lots of photos.

This trip was kind of a last-minute thing, so I didn’t have any time to research where to go or what to shoot, so I put a comment on my Facebook and Twitter accounts asking for ideas of where to shoot right before I left, and I got LOTS of great ideas. I went to as many suggested spots as I could in the 3 days I was there. Besides taking a boat tour, and a city tour by bus, we visited:

$#x2022; Marmorkirken (the marble-church)
$#x2022; Christiana Free Town
$#x2022; Saxo bank headquarters, in Hellerup, Denmark (an amazing building)
$#x2022; Malmo, Sweden (To see the Turning Torso building and the West side)
$#x2022; Tivoli Gardens (Absolutely charming!)
$#x2022; Nyhavn Harbor
$#x2022; The Opera House
$#x2022; Hamlet’s Castle (way cool)
$#x2022; and we walked, and drove, all over!!!!

Thanks to everyone who shared ideas. The trip to Malmo (mentioned by a number of people) was totally worth it. Also, thanks to Terry, who was an awesome host (we laughed non-stop for three solid days. He’s a blast to hang out with).

I plan on posting some images from the trip tomorrow (the HDR shot you see above is of the Knippelsbro bridge, which was right by our hotel. It was processed using Photoshop CS5’s HDR Pro), along with some stories from the trip, including hanging out with the other Adobe Evangelists (really great guys), Greg, Jason, and Paul.

Oh yeah, one last thing:
I took just one camera body, and just one lens, and I didn’t even take a camera bag or a tripod—I packed my gear right in my carry-on luggage. I absolutely loved traveling so light). See ya tomorrow!

Sports photography legend Dave Black has been down here at the Kelby Training Online Studios this past week taping a class on using off camera flash for shooting action sports portraits. He was doing some amazing stuff all week (his class is going to be SICK!!!!! If you use off-camera flash, his stuff is going to blow your mind!!!!).

By the way: I know many of you already know Dave is an amazing instructor (ask anybody that saw him at Photoshop World), but when he’s not teaching, and just being a regular guy, he’s just as amazing. I got to spend some time with him this week—Dave even went to church on Sunday with my family, and he spent the day with us just hanging out, talking sports [my poor wife], sharing stories, but mostly laughing. He’s one of the most fun, genuine, and just great guys out there. He’s “the real deal.”

A Night to Remember
Anyway, one night at dinner I asked Dave for any tips he had about an upcoming Major League Baseball shoot I had coming up for Southcreek Global Media. Of course, he had a ton! I’ll tell you the exact same thing I told Matt Kloskowski when I came into the office the next day: “I learned more about sports photography last night, than I had in a year!” (It’s WAY more than I can fit in a blog post, or two, or 10!).

I had a bunch of questions about setting up a remote camera for shooting sports, and Dave convinced me to put together a remote rig  (shown below) and take it with me to my next MLB shoot (which was two days later—The Rays vs the Twins this past Saturday). He told me to mount it near me, just so I could get used to shooting a remote, and then once I was comfortable with it, then start to find cool places to mount it (like in the catwalk above the domed field, which they do allow if you get there the day before, or very early for the game, and you’re not afraid of crazy scary heights or intense heat. I was out on both counts).

The Remote Set-up
Brad put together a Manfrotto Super Clamp with a Manfrotto Variable Friction Magic Arm attached to mount and had a Nikon D700 with a 300mm f/2.8 lens attached. On top of the camera sits a Pocket Wizard attached to the camera with a 10-pin connector. That way, I could fire the camera in (High-Speed Continuous shooting mode) from where ever I was (there are four shooting pits at Tropicana Field, one before and after each dugout). I started with it just a few feet above my head, aimed at 2nd base (I used the auto focus to focus on 2nd base, then I switched to the focus button on the lens to Manual so the camera wouldn’t accidentally change focus while firing).

Above: You can see the position of the camera a little better here. The photo pit is below and to the right of the camera). To position or check the camera, I had to either climb up on the railing to adjust it (can’t do that during game play), or make the long trek up to the top of the that section, back down to the camera, and then back up and down again. Tip: when you re-aim the camera at a new target, make sure the focus is on the money. I switched to catch the batters, but the guy I focused on wasn’t fully in batting position, and I had about 100+ photos of batters, all just a little bit soft. Lesson learned.

Above: Here’s one of the shots I caught with the remote camera. I was shooting my 400mm at the batter, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the play developing at 2nd base, and I hit the fire button on the 2nd Pocket Wizard in my left hand, and caught the shot you see here (and a whole series of this play) with the remote camera.

The part of actually getting used to shooting with the Remote didn’t take long (I totally dig it), but now the challenge is timing and finding cool places to put the remote (where I won’t get in trouble—they have rules where you can put them). I’m covering a few more games for them in the next week or so, so I’ll get more opportunities to work on my remote scheme. But, I want to thank Dave for encouraging me to do it, and to Brad for making everything work together. :)

Above: I saw one of my shots from Saturday’s Rays vs Twins game featured on the home page of Southcreek’s site (seen above). Sweet!!

Catch Dave Today on “The Grid”
Dave’s our in-studio guest on today’s LIVE broadcast of “The Grid” (at 12:00 noon EDT) and our first topic is “Can you make a living shooting sports photography.” It’s gonna be a great show!!! We’re also talking about what we want to see in the next round of DSLRs. Here’s the link (send us live comments during the show via Twitter: just add #thegridlive to any tweets, and we’ll see ’em).

One Last Thing!
While Dave was already here doing classes, we also got him to do a separate class on Light Painting (for those of you who follow his excellent “Workshop at the Ranch” tutorials [link], you know Dave is one of the leading educators when it comes to light painting, and is a true master of this very cool genre. If you don’t know what Light Painting is, follow that link. You’ll be hooked!

I got an assignment from Southcreek Global to shoot the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Indy Race (my 2nd time for Southcreek, and my third time shooting the race over-all. The first being for the Indy Racing league itself).

The race was this past Sunday. and I thought I share a few of the shots I uploaded to Southcreek here (the image above is one of my shots featured on their home page). Here are a few more, but I also uploaded some extras to a gallery on my Facebook page (here’s the link).

Above: That’s fan favorite Danica Patrick, just after she climbed into her car right before the race. I got to shoot a for just a few more minutes before the race, but they cut down the time the drivers have in their car before they start ’em up in half this year, so they hustled us out of there after just a few minutes.

Above: I had a special pit access pass (only a limited number of them are given out on race day, to keep from having too many photographers in the pits during the actual race), and even then, to shoot near the wall like this, you have to ask permission from the pit crew first. Every crew I asked let me shoot, but during the press briefing (at 7:15 am) they let us know which teams don’t allow photographers due to safety issues, so I stayed clear of those.

Above: Here’s a slow-shutter speed panning shot of what turned out to be the winner—Dario Franchitti, heading into the straightaway. I kept trying different shutter speeds from 1/30 of a second up to 1/125 of a second. I had to lower my ISO to a setting called L01 (which is lower than Nikon’s native ISO of 200), to let me leave the shutter open that long in direct sunlight.

Above: I don’t know how they drive all tilted like that, and still stay on the track. ;-)

Above: Before the race all the drivers got together to show their support for the people of Japan, and I got this shot of them, despite the fact that I didn’t have a flash with me. I just shot in High Speed Continuous mode and about every three or four shots, another photographer’s flash was going off, so I was all set.

Above: I liked this shot taken just a split second after a pit stop, while the driver’s tires are smoking as he pulls out into the Pit lane.

Above: This is another one I liked, probably because they look like they’re on the deck of a carrier.

Above: Another pit shot—dig the drill in mid air in front of the car, and the pit crewman signaling the driver not to leave yet.

Above: Here’s the first and third place finishers coming out of a turn.

Above: The bubbly goes flying in the winner’s circle.

Above: Race winner Dario Franchitti grins after his big win.

Above: This was another of my favorites, of driver Will Power, and as luck would have it, he came in 2nd. :)

Camera Specs (and some bad lens decisions)
I don’t know what I was thinking. I took my 400mm f/2.8, which works great for football, because you’re shooting more than you’re walking. Not at an Indy race. It’s a 1.8 mile track, and you spend the whole day walking, in the hot Florida sun (it was hot!!!!), and the 400mm was over my shoulder so much, I actually got a sore.

I wondered what I used last year, because I remember it not being so bad, and when I looked at my post, I realize why: I used one camera (instead of two, like this year), and only took my 70-200mm f/2.8 with a tele-extender. That would have worked great. In fact, I wonder how my 28-300mm would have worked (one camera body and one lens the whole day. That would be sweet).

I shot at f/2.8 all day on both cameras, and my shutter speeds were through the roof so freezing the motion wasn’t a problem as long as the car were heading straight toward me. For side shots, I had to lower the shutter speed dramatically, so at that point I switched from Aperture to Manual mode.

More over on Facebook
Like I said, there are a few more shots over on my Facebook page, but overall, despite my bad lens choice, and multiple camera fiasco, I still had a great time shooting. My buddy, pro sports shooter Andy Gregory was also shooting the event, so I followed him around so he could steal all my shots (gotcha Andy!). Ran into some NAPP members as well, which is always fun for me, and as luck would have it, I even met some of them indoors. In the air conditioning. :)

In Episode One of “The Grid” Matt Kloskowski brought up one of our favorite things about Twitter, which is that it’s such an amazing resource when you when need to find….well…anything. If Matt’s heading to a city to teach a seminar, sometime he’ll ask on Twitter if anyone in that city knows a good place to shoot, or a great steakhouse, or whatever, and he gets a dozen responses in minutes, if not seconds.

Last week, I went to Twitter for something similar. My son’s all time favorite band is the Christian Metal band “Disciple” and I surprised him with tickets to their show last week (I actually like Disciple, too, and have some of their songs on my iPod). Then I thought it would be cool to see if I could shoot a portrait of the band before the show, as I would take my son to assist on the shoot (he assisted on my shoot for Fight Factory), and that way he’d get to meet his favorite band in person.

I put out a Tweet asking, “Does anybody have a connection with the band Disciple? I’d like to shoot a portrait before their Florida show.” Well, in short—it worked. Within just a few hours, I was working out the details of the shoot with the band’s tour manager, and he invited me to shoot the concert that night as well. Amazing. I was excited. My son nearly blacked out.

An Unexpected Twist
We got to the shoot early and met with the band’s manager outside their tour bus. As it turned out, he told us we wouldn’t be able to do the portrait shoot after all, because one of the band members was actually on stage at that moment playing with their opening act—he was filling in for their missing guitar player, so the shoot was off. I was OK with it, especially since my son got to meet their Bass Player when we were out at the tour bus, and he was pretty psyched.

Shooting the Show
I still got to the shoot the show, and they gave me full access to go pretty much anywhere. I think the tour manager felt bad about having to cancel the shoot, so he let me shoot the entire show (not just the first three songs, like usual).

Six Lights, but only Five Were Working
It was a pretty challenging shoot, because there were only five lights total on the band, which had me shooing at around 8,000 to 10,000 ISO all night long. Thankfully, my Nikon D3s did an amazing job (but as pro concert photographer Brad Moore warned me—this is what Lightroom’s built-in noise reduction was made for. I had to apply a little on some shots, and it worked brilliantly).

Disciple put on a great show. We got to meet the band afterward, and I got a great shot of my son with the band (can’t show shot of the kids here on the blog. Mom’s rule). and he got a signed shirt and a poster for his room. My son had such a blast (and he knew every song. He has EVERY Disciple album).

Brad to the Rescue
Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of the shots I got here. I really felt Brad’s pain when he shoots a band without a big light show. It makes it really challenging, but Brad did give me some pointers on how to set up my camera for shooting concerts, and I have to say, his settings worked really well (He also had me turn on Auto ISO, which is why I wound up at 8,000 ISO most of the night).

There’s also a great feature story in this month’s Photoshop User magazine from pro concert shooter Alan Hess on not just the shooting, but the post processing, so if you’re a NAPP member, make sure you give it a read.

The Power of Twitter
Thanks to Brad for the settings; to Twitter for once again proving the power of social media, and to @chadphillips for the Disciple hook-up in the first place and to everyone who tried to help me make a Disciple connection. It was a day my son will never forget, which is all this dad wanted to give his awesome son. :)

Above: Here’s the last set from my shoot at Fight Factory, and that’s Mo (you remember Mo from Monday and Tuesday’s posts) doing some curls. When he was done, he handed the dumbell to me, and I was pinned to the floor for 40 minutes.

Above: Here’s the production shot (photo by Brad Moore). Pretty simple set-up, but it’s the only one where we actually used all three flashes. The main light is to the left of me, and that’s powered by the Ranger RX pack. The kicker light behind him is a bare bulb flash with a metal Grid attached to the front to focus the beam. Then, on the floor right behind Mo, you see the third flash, positioned down low, aiming upward to light the white seamless paper. But, there’s a problem. And I caused it.

Above: When I first got there, I did a few test shots using just the available light in the gym, so I set my f/stop to around f/4. But then when we set up the strobes, I never switched back to an f/stop that would give me focus throughout the image, like f/8 or f/11. Of course, I didn’t realize this until I opened the images hours later in Photoshop and realized that only part of each image was in focus. Uggh!

Above: In this shot, the dumbell is out of focus, but his body is in focus. Although I hate having to use Photoshop to fix mistakes I should have gotten right in the camera, in this case I was thrilled to be able to use Photoshop to fix my mistake. My plan was to combine the in-focus parts of the two images, into one image where everything was in focus.

Photoshop To The Rescue!
I used the Pen tool to select the in-focus version of the dumbells, and dragged it over to the photo where Mo’s body was in focus, and positioned it over the out-of-focus dumbells. It took all of two minutes to get the size right (they were taken at different focal lengths) and the proper position, but it worked and created the shot you see at the top of this post. Whew! That was a close one.

I had some questions after Monday and Tuesdays post about my location lighting gear, and I posted some photos of it packed up in its travel case so you can see how small it all breaks down to. Those images are on my Facebook page at

Above: Here’s another shot of Mo on the rings. I showed the production photo of this shot on Tuesday (link), but I noted that the flash with the softbox was turned off—that other shot was just lit with the bare flash and reflector with grid. Here’s what it looks like when the softbox is on, adding a little fill light.

B&W Conversion
I converted this to Black & White using Nik Software’s just released Silver Efex Pro 2.0, which I have to say is absolutely amazing. Every pro I know was already using Silver Efex Pro 1.0—but 2.0 kicks so much @#$, I can’t imagine they all won’t upgrade as soon as they try it. Seriously great upgrade. Way to go Nik! BTW: I just used one of their built-in presets. Also, you can download a 15-day free trail copy of the plug-in right here.

Above: The gym arranged to have Dallas, a model and friend of the gym, do a few shots inside the boxing ring that’s the center piece of the gym (real fighters train here, too). They wanted a shot where Dallas looked exhausted between rounds, with her arms “on the ropes” and I got the capture you see here.

Above: Here’s the production shot for that image (thanks Brad) and I’m just using two lights: The main light up right and to my left, and the same bare bulb flash with a metal grid that we’ve been using all day coming in behind Dallas and to the right. We had to put the stand up on some workout pads to get it up high enough. I’m shooting with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

Now, when you look at the production image versus the final image, you might be wondering why my final image is so dark. I intentionally underexposed the shot by at least two stops, so my subject would be mostly lit with the just the strobe, and not the flat even boring ambient light in the gym. If I hadn’t, the shots would pretty much look like the production shots you see above (no offense to Brad whatsoever—the production shots looks exactly as they should—they’re exposed for the ambient light).

Above: Here’s another shot, but this time I’m outside the ring, down low shooting upward (as seen below).

Above: Here’s the production shot for that image. Same two lights, same modifiers, positioned the same way (each facing each other diagonally), we’re just shooting from a different position. You can clearly see the workout mats we stacked up to get the main light high enough.

Above: Here’s Mo again (he had quite a workout that day) in a dramatic lighting look, as he gets ready to sprint. I added the text (at the client’s request). The large faded text in the background is the font Futura Extra Bold and the smaller text is Helvetica Condensed Bold Oblique (Oblique is a type geek word for “Italic”).

Above: This is just a one-light shoot–the light on the left side isn’t turned on. That’s the Ranger Quadra, with one bare-bulb flash and a reflector, aiming straight at Mo. You can see how small the Quadra battery pack is in this shot—that’s it hanging on the light stand.

That wraps up this shoot. A funny thing just happened: as I’m writing this, a commercial for Fight Factory: Tampa just came on TV. Too cool!

Above: This was probably my favorite from the gym shoot, and while it was fairly easy to make, the athlete (his name was Reeth) who had to do pull up after pull up until I got it just like I wanted it, had it a lot tougher than I did by a long shot.

Above: Here’s the production shot (photo by Brad Moore—click for a larger view), and although there are two strobes in the shot (one to my left, as noted in the image, and one behind Reeth, we turned that back one off for this shot after I didn’t like how it looked).

The one strobe we did use is a flash head connected to a Ranger RX, but to make the light punchier, we removed the front diffuser (you can see it hanging from the bottom of the softbox). We did leave the inner diffuser still on the inside of the softbox, so while it wasn’t a bare flash bulb, it was pretty darn close.

Above: Here’s why I felt bad for Reeth—he had to do pull ups and then hold himself there while I fired off shot after shot. After I took a few shots and looked at them on my LCD, I felt like Reeth wasn’t doing it exactly right, so I asked him to step aside for a moment, and I jumped up there and did a few reps to show him what I was looking for. I started by just hanging on the bar, and then I looked at Reeth and said, “Watch….and learn,” and then I….then I…. (ah heck, even I can’t keep this up this charade with a straight face). Hey, I had ya there for a minute though, right? No? No? Rats!

Camera Settings
The shot was taken with a Nikon D3s at f/9 at 1/80 of a second. The shutter speed isn’t very fast—what froze the powder was the flash—-I just had to time my shot to when his hand hit the bar, which was much easier than actually being the guy on the bar. My ISO is 200, and since I was using strobes, I was in Manual mode. I shot this with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (seen above) out at 200mm.

Post Processing
I wish I had an exciting story about the post processing, but sadly I don’t. In Camera Raw (well, Lightroom’s Develop Module) I added some contrast (using the Tone Curve) and I added quite a bit of Clarity as well. Then I opened the image in Photoshop and sharpened it quite a bit, using the Unsharp Mask with these settings: Amount 100, Radius 1.5, Threshold 0. This type of shot, where every detail can be really crisp, can really handle a lot of sharpening, so I wasn’t shy about pouring it on. That’s pretty much it.

Above: Here’s another shot of Mo (the stair runner from yesterday)—suspending himself from two rings. I went for a really dark dramatic look, because if I didn’t you’d see those darn wooden stairs behind him, and all that other distracting stuff.

Above: Here’s the production photo (by Brad Moore) and you can see where I positioned the lights—-on either side of Mo, facing each other diagonally. Once Mo pulled himself up on the rings, they would start to rotate, so once he was facing that strobe without a softbox (just a reflector and a spot grid), I would take the shot, and after a few tries I got the shot you just saw previously.

Camera Settings
I started by underexposing the ambient room light by a few stops so it was really dark, then I would light Mo with just the flash. Again, I got lucky that I got shots of him from different angles without me moving my position as Mo slowly rotated on the rings. Of course, since he was rotating, each frame looked different, both from a lighting perspective and a posing one as well. Some looked good (like the one above) and some stunk, but hey—I only needed one good one, right?

Same lighting and camera set-up. Same f/stop, ISO, and all, but the shutter speed was 1/125 of a second. Why the shutter speed change? My finger probably accidentally hit the control dial on the camera at one point or another.

Keeping it Simple Rocks
I hate to say—I loved having such a simple and portable rig for this gym shoot. Just two very small battery packs (an Elinchrom Ranger RX, and a Ranger Quadra), with just two small flash heads total. We used just one small softbox and a reflector and a Grid—that’s all we used for the entire shoot, and that’s why I was able to get 8 or 9 different looks done, in different parts of the gym, with different people, in just a few short hours.

I hope to post a few more images from the shoot, and some behind-the-scenes production shots as well for you all on Friday. In the meantime, don’t miss Guest Blog Wednesday, and Pimpy Thursday here, and then I’ll see you on Friday.