Category Archives Photography

Hi Gang:

Remember last week when I did that post about my incredibly lame College Basketball Shoot? Well, after that post I heard from my buddy, pro sports shooter Mike Olivella (who laughed at me hysterically), but between his howls of laughter, he pointed me to the video above, which he put together showing how he shoots a College Basketball game, along with tips and insights on how to shoot a game like this. Here’s the link to Mike’s blog.

Thanks Mike for sharing this with us (and you can stop giggling now).

Wednesday night I got photo credentials (thanks to my buddy, sports photographer Andy Gregory) to shoot the USF Bulls vs. Pitt college basketball game and I absolutely stunk. So much so, I wasn’t even going to show any photos from the shoot, but there was one teaching moment in all of this mess, so I thought I’d show just enough to keep from totally humiliating myself.

First, a lovely iPhone photo of my gear
Here’s what I took to the shoot. Two bodies: A Nikon D3s and a D3. Two lenses: my beloved 300mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8 on my second body. It got there in my Think Tank Airport International rolling camera bag, and I remembered the all important basketball shoot collapsible seat. A lean, mean set-up. So far, all is well.

It Started Off With Such Promise
When you shoot basketball, in many cases the spots where you’re allowed to shoot from are pre-assigned before you get to the arena, and when you get to the photographers work room, you look at the seating chart to find out where you’ll be sitting. They only had 8 spots filled (and there’s usually around 16 or more), so I was pretty happy to see lots of open spots (my name wasn’t listed, but I figured somebody wouldn’t show up, so I’d take their spot).

About two minutes prior to game time, there were a total of only four photographers in their spots, so I just took a seat to the right of the basket, with the Bulls heading my direction. So far, I’m thinking “This is going to be sweet. I can shoot for just about any corner, or right up under the basket. Lots of room to move, stretch out. This is going to be a great night.”

(Above: He’s got a funky look on his face, but I like the frantic coach in the background. Not a good shot, but then, none of these are. Brad says it looks like the coach is slapping him in the head).

Then I Picked up my Camera
It seemed pretty bright in USF’s Sun Dome arena, but when I picked up my camera and pressed the shutter button half way down to get a reading at my usual starting aperture of f/2.8 at 1,250 ISO, I was stunned to see it read a shutter speed of only 1/200 of a second. I need at least 1/1000. Uh oh.

I cranked it up to 1,600. Oh oh. 2,000 ISO. Rats. 3,200. Still between 1/500 and 1/640. I wound up at 4,000 ISO and still couldn’t get much above 1/800 most of the night. This was the first time I had ever shot at f.2/8 and had to shoot above 1,600 ISO. I want to apologize in advance to every one reading this who is thinking, “I have to deal with lighting like that all the time.” If it’s any consolation—I truly feel your pain.

It wasn’t just the lighting
If there’s anything worse than bad lighting for sports photography, it’s probably empty seats, and on this particular night, there were plenty of them. The arena wasn’t full, and everybody that was there sat on the sides, which left the sections behind the basket nearly empty. So were all the top sections, so if I went wide, you saw lots of empty seats. If I shot down court you saw lots of empty seats. So, I tried to compose so you wouldn’t see a bunch of empty green seats. Bad idea.

It wasn’t just the lighting and the empty seats
It was me. I just had a lame night of shooting. I couldn’t get anything going. I was stinking—I knew I was stinking, and I still stunk it up. It was stink-fest 2011. My timing was off. I didn’t like the color of the images. I was missing stuff left and right, and absolutely had no excuse. Uggh.

Assigning Blame
Although I am totally to blame for this lame shoot, I think it’s fun to assign blame to others anyway. Let’s start with the refs. They were clearly out to get me. I saw this view more than any other all night. If I moved to a different shooting location, I swear I could hear one of the refs call out to the other refs—he’s over there now. Stand right in front of him.

Death From Above: Flash grenades
There was another photographer I recognized there, and he was shooting for the Bulls themselves. Nice guy, and we’ve talked several times at different events. He had some flashes mounted in the arena, and he used them against me, setting them off any time I might get a decent shot (as seen above). I’d look over and instead of shooting, he was watching me shoot, with one hand on the trigger of his Pocket Wizard. This was all part of a master plan to make sure I wouldn’t get anything decent. Their plan was working.

A Teaching Moment
Besides learning that I can really stink it up, there is something that might potentially help someone new to shooting sports, so here goes. For most sports shoots, I shoot in JPEG mode (don’t freak out—read this post first, then freak out). On my 2nd body (with my 24-70mm) I notice that the shots are looking really flat. I check all my standard settings, and take a few more test shots, and they’re just looking incredibly flat, so I go to my Shooting Menu to see what my Picture Style settings are. For some reason (Brad!) they had been changed from Standard to Neutral. Normally, if you shoot in Raw, Lightroom and Camera Raw completely ignore these settings, but in JPEG it applies them, and that Neutral setting is really flat.

During a time-out in the first period, I took the test shot you see above with the Picture Style still set on Neutral (I was shooting the floor, not the cheerleaders), and sure enough—the brightly painted wood floor looked pretty flat.

Then I switched back to Standard, and I could immediately see the image look much more contrasty and the colors look more vibrant. Of course, I could have switched to Vivid Light as well for even more vibrant colors (and I considered it), but I thought I’d stick with Standard, and from there on, the color looked much better. Of course, improved color can’t override bad photography, so while it didn’t help my case, at least this Picture Style thing is something you can keep in mind when you’re shooting in JPEG.

All in All, It Stunk
Getting bad shots is bad enough, but it gets worse. The USF Bulls are my home team (The University of South Florida is in Tampa. It’s where Matt graduated from), and although they were leading at the half, in the 2nd period Pitt just caught fire and we wound up losing by like 19 points. Yeech!

A Bad Shoot is Still Good Practice
It was still worth going, and I learned to make sure I check Picture Styles when things look flat. Most importantly, I got to practice some real world blame assignment, in which I was able to liberally assign the root causes of my lame shoot to everything from the arena lighting, the guy with mounted strobes, the refs, to even the JPEG camera settings themselves. All and all, I feel pretty good about spreading it around like I did, which is an art unto itself, and an important step in my growth as a blame-assignment photographer. ;-)

It’s official: The Grid, our brand new LIVE talk show about Photography, Photoshop, and anything else remotely related is launching next week.

You’re invited:

When: Monday, March 7th, at 12:30 pm EST
Where: KelbyTV.com/thegrid
Cost: Absolutely Free. Every week.
Rebroadcast: Free, and available whenever you’d like to watch.

Please feel free to bring a guest. Or two thousand. ;-)

We want you to be a part of the discussion, and share your thoughts live on the air via Twitter and our direct online chat.

Also, each week we’ll have an in-studio guest, as well as some friends chiming in on the topics via live video feeds. I can’t wait.

I hope you will join us on Monday, and in the meantime I would love it if you would help us spread the word about the new show on Facebook, Twitter, your Blogs, and wherever you can. :-)

See you Monday on “The Grid”

Boston is the first stop on my nationwide “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it, Live!” tour, and I really want you to be there.

If you’ve got one minute and 20 seconds, could you take a moment and watch the quick video clip above where I tell you about the tour, what you’ll be learning, and why you’ve gotta be there.

Here’s the link for the full class schedule, and how to sign up. It’s only $99 for the full day, (including a detailed workbook), or just $79 for NAPP members.

Hope to see you in Boston. We’re going to have a blast.

P.S. One more thing. If you come and don’t think it was totally worth it, and your head isn’t spinning with loads of new techniques, we will gladly refund your full tuition, so can’t lose. See you there!

(Above: Pro Snowboarder Eddie Spang getting some air. Click on it for a larger view)

My buddy Matt Kloskowski put a really cool trip together for me this past weekend. He knows I’ve been wanting to do a snowboarding shoot for some time now, but it’s kind of hard pulling that off in Florida. Luckily, we had a camera crew heading to Colorado to film a Kelby Training Online class with incredible Action Sports Photographer and instructor Tom Bol (link), so he arranged for us to fly out the day before the class taping and shoot some snowboarding with Tom and pro snowboarding insano man, the awesome Eddie Spang.

(Above: Here’s Eddie shredding the gnar gnar in 3 feet of virgin powder. OK, that’s the total extent of the snowboarding lingo I picked up during the shoot, right there in that one sentence. Click on it for a larger view. These shots all look better in the bigger views).

(Above: Here’s Eddie just after he shot down that mountain side and literally nailed his landing on the road right in front us. I just stood there with my jaw wide open. I did pull myself together enough to catch this shot— you can see us reflected in his goggles).

Here’s our host for Friday and Saturday, the very cool Tom Bol. I’ve met Tom numerous times, but this was the first time I really got to spend any time with Tom, and I have to say—what a terrific guy. One of the nicest, most thoughtful, and fun guys you’d ever want to meet.

I’ve never been in snow like this
Tom arranged to have Eddie available for us to shoot all day, and Tom had two really great guys assisting him (and us), Steve and Randy, who spent a decent amount of their day helping me through, and pulling me out of, post holes in 3+ feet of snow. I spent a fair amount of time with at least one leg buried so far down in the snow that I could barely get back out.

In the production shot above (photo by Adam Rohrmann), you can see me kneeling to get a shot just in the front of the small jump Eddie just launched off from.

(Above: Here’s the shot I was working on. You can see a little blue in the sky trying to peek though. Tom thought to swap jackets with Eddie, who had been wearing a dark jacket, so the images didn’t look so flat against the gray sky, and it really helped a lot. I took this shot with a 14-24mm Nikon lens on a Nikon D3s camera at 200 ISO, f/2.8).

Above: Here’s a screen cap of a text I sent to my wife.

(Above: A very cold version of me. Photo by Matt Kloskowski).

The weather…well…it kinda sucked
Unfortunately, the blue skies that are the norm in Colorado were nowhere to be found this day, as a large snow storm moved into the area, and it snowed steadily the entire time, against flat gray yucky skies. The 14°F cold weather (-10C) wasn’t really an issue—Matt and I both dressed really warm with layers of clothes, and thankfully it wasn’t windy at all. Plus, we were all laughing so much the whole day, I’m not sure we would have noticed the cold (especially when I would get stuck down in a post hole in the snow, which was fairly often).

Above: Here’s an iPhone photo of me in our rented 4-wheel drive Chevy Tahoe, taken by Matt, while we’re stuck in snow so deep it was up to our car hood. Matt did a masterful job of actually backtracking the SUV through the snow and getting us un-stuck and back out on the road.

We were at 12,000 feet high (3,657 meters) at this point, and it was so bright white outside you couldn’t see anything. It looked like those scenes from base camp at Everest with winds blowing snow everywhere. At this point, we just drove back down the mountain looking for a place for Eddie to snowboard.

Above: Here’s Steve (with the red back pack) and Tom in front of him climbing up the hill where we were going to shoot (Photo by Matt). They paved the way for Matt and I because we were sinking down in the snow like it was Quicksand.

Above: Here’s another production shot (photo by Adam Rorhmann), and you’re getting an over-the-shoulder view of me shooting with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (at f.2/8) and that’s Matt lying near the jump with a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens.

You can’t tell in the previous photo, but it was a struggle to get from where I’m shooting over to where Matt is shooting, just a few feet away (we swapped locations a few minutes after this shot was taken). You take a step or two, then you’d hit a hole and your leg would sink down three feet into the snow.

Above: Here’s the shot I got from that angle. Dealing with a solid gray sky, makes you get creative with your post processing, as I did here. The sun did try and make a brief cameo appearance late in the day, and we saw a glimpse of some patches of blue sky for a few minutes, but it just wasn’t going to give us that wonderful solid blue that Colorado is known for. By the way, we were in the great little town of Frisco, Colorado for this shoot.

Above: Here’s the shot Matt was getting with that 14-24mm. He took this one from the same position you saw him in earlier, but right after Tom switched jackets with Eddie. I really like this one Matt got a lot.

Bring out the strobes
Tom and his crew had brought two Elinchrom Ranger battery packs and heads out on the shoot, and so Tom asked if I wanted to shoot a little with the strobes, and of course, I was all over it. I had been shooting all the natural light stuff in Aperture Priority mode at f/2.8, but for the strobes, I switched to Manual Mode and set my shutter speed at 1/200 of a second, and then I wanted to darken the ambient light, so I racked my Aperture out to f/22. That only made it about 1-stop darker, so I lowered the ISO from 200 to L1 (kind of the equivalent of ISO 100), and that got me the two-stop darker background you see here.

Above: We positioned one head with a deep throw reflector literally two feet behind where I had been shooting from (that hole in the ground you see in front of Randy is where I was shooting from), and then he put a second strobe behind the jump to catch the snow kicking up, which worked wonderfully well. Tom is fantastic at lighting stuff like this (I can’t wait to see his class).

Above: We had to aim the front light so it hit Eddie when he was in midair, and Tom knew the trick to figure out exactly where that spot was. He had Steve toss his jacket into the air about where Eddie would wind up (seen above) and I would take the shot to fire the strobe at just the right moment, then direct the crew where to position the light. It only took a flying coat or two to nail it down.

For the shot you see above, I swapped places, and lenses with Matt, but I actually shot from just in front of the ramp, rather than beside it where Matt was, to get this angle. You only get get to take one shot because you’re shooting flash, so I panned with Eddie as I saw him coming down the mountain, and then pressed the shutter just after he hit the ramp—still panning with him as the flash fired.

Above: After we shot some strobe stuff, the sun started to peak out so I switched back to shooting natural light. Two friends of Eddie’s showed up, and I got this shot of Eddie’s friend Erin from that same vantage point, shot at 14mm, at f/2.8 and cropped using my Cinematic Cropping technique (link). This is really one you have to click on to see the larger view.

A Real Learning Experience
This was my first time shooting anything like this, and I really learned a lot. Like anything else in photography, it takes a lot of practice to get good at it, and a willingness to do what it takes to get the shot (Tom SO has that part down. He’s a mad man, and will go to unbelievable lengths to get the shot). I can’t wait to try it again. Ya know, when it’s a bit warmer.

Above: Here’s one last shot of Eddie, from my position by the ramp. I have to tell you, I was really amazed at not only what Eddie could do, but his physical endurance. Every time he shot down the mountain, he had to climb all the way back up to do it all over again. It was really tough in that deep of snow, but he was able to do it again and again and again, non-stop for hours on end.

More photos from the shoot on my Facebook Page
I’m posting a few more images from the shoot on my Facebook page. Here’s the link.

I love this stuff!
I really want to thank Matt for making this whole thing happen. Matt is a tremendously fun guy to do just about anything with, but sharing a trip like this with him is really special. Also, my thanks to Tom Bol for making sure it all came together, and to his assistants Steve and Randy who were great guys, loads of laughs, and incredibly helpful.

Despite the lack of blue sky, it was a really memorable trip, shooting in the show with an old friend, and some new ones. I know I’m very blessed to get to do stuff like this, and I’m very thankful, too!

This are just some of the dates from the first leg of my new nationwide “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch It” tour, but since we have these dates already locked down, I thought I’d share them.

·  Boston, MA – Thursday, March 24th
·  Minneapolis, MN – Monday, April 4th
·  Indianapolis, IN – Wednesday, April 6th
·  Chicago, IL – Thursday, April 7th

Here’s how each session is structured
(1) I start each session with an empty stage and then I build the lighting set-up for a particular kind of lighting look from scratch, explaining everything as I go, all step-by-step.

(2) Then, I actually do a portrait shoot live in each class, sharing all the camera settings, lighting settings, and exactly what you need to do to nail that type of look.

(3) Finally, I take those images into Photoshop to show you how to do all the post processing, including editing the Raw image, all the portrait retouching techniques, and the finishing effects, so you see the entire process, from beginning to end, with nothing left out.

Not only will you be able to nail all these exact same looks, (using a simple, inexpensive studio lighting set-up), but best of all you’ll learn all the post processing techniques as well.

This all takes place in every class session, all day long—–the lighting set-up, then the shooting, and then all the post processing for every set-up, and every look.

I hope you’ll join me in one of these cities. It’s only $99 for the full day of training (or $79 for NAPP members), and includes a detailed, step-by-step workbook that follows along exactly with what I’m doing in the class.

As soon as the rest of cities and dates are locked down, I’ll announce those here too. I am super psyched about this tour, and I can’t wait to get there with you guys. Here’s the link to the full class schedule, or to sign up. I hope I get to see you in person soon. :)

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