Category Archives Photography

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably recognize both of the guys in the photo above. If you’re kinda new here, that’s Alex Walker (left) posing with my buddy, pro sports photographer Mike Olivella (Photo by Melina Vastola).

Alex won a contest last year that we hosted here on the blog called “Shooting on the Sidelines with Scott & Mike” which was a sports photo contest only open to non-pros, and the winner would get to shoot a big time College football game from the sidelines with Mike and me. Sadly, it turned into a huge debacle (in short, a group of sports photographers got up in arms over the contest and they got Alex’s sidelines pass revoked—-you can read all the gory details here—it’s one of my most commented upon posts ever). As it turned out, although he got his College game pulled out from under him, we were able to get Alex on the sidlines of an NFL game, to make up for his missing the College game (you can read about that here).

Well, Mike being the big-hearted guy that he is, never got over what happened to Alex, and earlier this month arranged to have Alex get his rightful prize,as he got to join Mike for a sidelines shoot during the ACC Collage Championship Game, where the photo you see above was taken. Anyway, I just wanted to share a shot of two really good guys (above), and another happy ending for Alex—-a really great guy, a super dad, and a top notch photographer.

I decided to try something different with these images from my Steelers vs. Jets game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

On my flight home, just to see what it would look like, I made the shot you see above my laptop’s desktop background, and I kind of liked the way it looked, so I’m presenting all the shots from this shoot as screen captures of Desktop backgrounds from my laptop.

(NOTE: These images look MUCH better larger, so click on any photo to see a larger view. Once there, you can click the “Next” button on the top right to move through the gallery).

I was shooting the game as a guest of the Steelers, and it was my first time at Heinz field, and I loved the stadium. When the crowd gets into it, and they start waving their yellow Terrible Towels, it’s a really electric atmosphere.

Frozen Lens Dilemma
It snowed all four quarters, but there was very little wind, so although it was 22°F on the field (-5°C), I dressed in multiple layers and so the cold didn’t affect me at all, but it did a number on my lens when I came back out on the field from half time. I started to shoot and my lens wouldn’t focus. I reseated the lens, checked all the knobs, restarted the camera, all the usual stuff, and nothing seemed to work. Then it finally focused on something, but it was all hazy. What had happened was—the lens had fogged up inside, and there was nothing I could do but wait, so I switched to my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, which for some reason wasn’t fogged up at all, and shot for another 10 minutes or so until the 400mm cleared up.

One of the real highlights of the game for me, surprisingly happened at halftime in the photographers/media room where I ran into one of the best, and best-known pro sports photographers out there today—Bill Frakes. For me, that was cooler than seeing Hines Ward in person. :)

Anyway, here’s a few more, all sized to 1440 x 900 pixels to fit my laptop’s screen size (except for the last image). My camera specs are the same as always for night game (1000 ISO early in the day, during daylight, and 1,600 ISO once it got dark).

Above: First Down!

Above: Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shouts out to the cheering crowd.

Above: Matt Spaeth Spikes the ball in the end zone after catching a touch down pass.

Above: Jet’s Wide Receiver Brad Smith returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown. I was at around the 20 yard line, aiming right at him. It was such a long run, that my buffer filled up right before he got in the end zone (that means, I took 144 continuous high speed shots with the shutter button held down).

A big thanks to Mike Fabus, and the Steeler Organization for their gracious hospitality, and for giving me an opportunity to shoot in such an amazing place, during such an exciting game.

A couple of weeks ago I did an interview about my photography with Rick Sammon over at the Digital Photo Experience Podcast, and it just went live yesterday. If you’ve got a few minutes, you can listen in right here.

Thanks to Rick and crew for having me on their show (when Rick and I get together, it’s always a lot of fun), and I hope you guys here on the blog will check it out. :)

This past Sunday I got really a wonderful opportunity—to shoot the Washington Redskins vs. Tampa Bay Bucs with the amazing team at Hail! Magazine (I talked about their magazine for Redskins fans here on the blog a few months ago), and despite the chilly weather and non-stop rain, I truly had a blast.

So while the weather wasn’t pretty (though thankfully the 16 mph winds never materialized) I really learned a lot from spending the day shooting with the four talented sports photographers behind Hail!: Brian “Murf” Murphy, Eric Espada. Melvin Arroyo and Peter Lockley. They work on a really tight schedule, and it was great observing their workflow on and off the field. These guys really have it together and it shows in their work.

As much fun as I had at the game, my biggest thrill was having them include two of my images in this week’s issue of Hail! (that’s two of my shots at the bottom of the page spread from Hail! shown above). Now that was exciting! Thank you guys—it’s truly an honor.

Tech Specs: I used a Nikon D3s with a 400mm f/2.8 as my main camera, and my D3 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 as my 2nd body. Because it was raining and overcast, I had to shoot at 1,600 ISO pretty much all day, like I would for a night game. Toward the end of the game, as the rain and clouds increased I had to crank the ISO to 3,200 to keep my shutter speed above 1/1000 of a second.

Protecting My Gear
I used Think Tank Photo’s Hydrophobia lens and camera rain cover combination on both cameras, and I have to say, they worked brilliantly, and my gear was bone dry the entire day. The one piece that winds up outside the cover is your viewfinder eyepiece (it kind of has to be that way, but they give you a viewfinder eyepiece extender with the kit), so since it’s out in the rain, you get rain drops on your eyepiece, which makes judging focus a bit harder. Even though the water isn’t really on your view finder or lens (just on the eyepiece extender), it takes a bit of getting used to looking through your viewfinder and everything’s blurry like your glass is wet.

Above: Bucs Guard Jeremy Zuttah celebrates after the Bucs score in the 2nd half. The Bucs would wind up winning by one point after the Redskin’s missed scoring the extra point, with nine seconds left on the clock, due to a really bad snap (over the kicker’s head).

Thanks again to the wonderful team at Hail! magazine, for giving me the opportunity to shoot alongside you guys and learn along the way. Photographers will particularly love Hail! since it’s run by photographers, so the emphasis is on great sports photography and that really helps make the mag stand out. You can subscribe to Hail! for free, right here. Don’t forget to check out their brand new issue while you’re there.

Thanks Brian, Eric, Mel, and Peter for giving me a day I won’t soon forget.

Above: Shot with a Nikon D3, with a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens (at 15mm) at ISO 200, at f/7.1 at 1/5 of a second so I could capture a little movement while he was spinning the fire sticks. Click on it for a larger view).

Hi Gang: I just got back yesterday from a nine-day vacation with my family in Maui, Hawaii, and I’m tan, rested, and ready to tackle the busy end of an amazing year (OK, the tan part is a bit of a stretch. I spent most of my time tucked safely under an umbrella poolside or by the ocean).

I didn’t do a lick of work while I was out there (Matt, RC, and Brad covered for me on the blog), and so I just hung out, relaxed with the wifey and kids (and my brother who came along), read a book on my iPad (“At Home in Mitford” by Jan Karon—a really terrific book—the first in a series of Mitford books).

In fact, I relaxed so much, I hardly took any photos (except of the kids, of course, mostly with my new 85 f/1.4 which is just flat out amazing). I did go out shooting twice while I was there. Once with my buddy Randy Jay Braun, who is a fantastic Maui-based photographer (if you see a really amazing post card in any store in Maui, it’s almost a lock Randy took it—at least, everyone cool one I picked up was taken by Randy. Here’s a link to Randy’s site).

Randy lined up a sunset shoot featuring traditional Hawaii hula dancer and a Hawaii Fire Dancer. The original guy Randy had lined up, couldn’t make it, but we got incredibly lucky to wind up with Martin Tevega, a two-time champion, and amazing Fire dancer (and one bad dude, who was actually incredibly nice and fun). (Above: I took this portrait of Martin before we really got into the shoot, using an 85 f/1.4 lens at f/1.4).

(Above: 14-24mm f/2.8 lens (at 14mm) at ISO 200, at f/7.1 at 1/200 of a second).

Now, Randy freaked me out by saying “Hey, we should try something like Joe McNally did with a flash using a rear sync and a slow shutter speed for the cover of his “Hot Shoe Diaries” book.” I just had to shake my head and laugh, ’cause only Joe McNally can pull off Joe McNally type of shots. So, I steered pretty clear of that, and came up with the shot you see at the top of this post, and the one above, lit with just one SB-900 flash, mounted on a light stand, with just a diffusion dome over the flash head (no softbox or umbrella) with a 1/2 cut of CTO gel on the flash.

It was kind of tricky, because although we were lucky to have Randy’s assistant Mohalapua (“Mo” for short”)  helping us, it was Randy, his friend Jason, and I all sharing one SB-900 flash (I had to use the second flash to trigger the one flash we had on Martin), but Jason and Randy were able to use the pop-up flashes on their camera’s to trigger the SB-900 (D3’s don’t have a built-in pop-up flash). So, one of us would shoot, then the next, then the next, and of course sometimes we’d accidentally trip the others flash, and well….it limited how many photos we could take, as we raced the sunset, and two different subjects.

(Above: This was shot with my 85mm f/1.4 lens, at f/1.4 using natural light, and a gold reflector, held by Mo, just off to the left to fill in some shadow areas. You can see the effect of the reflector when you click on the photo to see a larger version. Nothing really done in post production but sharpening).

Before Martin got there, Randy arranged to have one of his favorite subjects, Kamie, there so we could shoot her doing some traditional Hawaii dances on the beach. At this point, we were just using natural light and a gold reflector to match the color of the light from the setting sun.

Above: Same lens, but I wanted the background in focus so I changed my Aperture to f/10.

Post Processing:
I only did three things for the post processing of the silhouette shot above:

(1) I applied the Lightroom Develop module preset “Color Creative – Yesteryear 1” that comes with Lightroom.

(2) I lowered the Brightness slider amount a bit

(3) I cropped the photo using my “Cinematic Style Cropping Technique” (link).

Thanks to Randy and Mo, for setting up such a great shoot, and to Kamie and Martin for being such wonderful, and patient subjects for our portraits.

My Other Shoot
On the way to dinner at Maui’s famous “Mama’s Fish House,” (my wife’s favorite) I passed a line of trees on the side of the road, and I made note of where they were so I could go back and photograph the first one in one of the rows, so I could isolate it from the others.

Here’s the shot I got, cropped once again using my Cinematic Style cropping.

Luckily, I did think to take a couple of shots (seen below) from where I took the shot, so you could see how glamorous this type of location shooting can be. ;-)  We stopped across the road from the tree I wanted to shoot (seen below), and I set up my tripod amid the very windy conditions that day, and spent about five minutes taking the shots.

(Above: This is the view from where I was shooting. From this point, it was just composing the shot so you didn’t see the tree to the right of the tree on the end. In post, I didn’t like my in-camera white balance, so I dragged the WB tint slider to the right, and increased the Recovery slider to 100 to bring back detail in the sky I also lowered the Midtones quite a bit to darken the sky).

So, from the two shots, I got a few shots I kinda like, but honestly I enjoyed my time doing pretty much nothing but reading my book, hanging with the family (We took breaks from the pool/beach and saw Disney’s “Tangled” which was awesome), and I played a round of golf at a really great course; the King Kamehameha course. We pretty much had the course all to ourselves, and it was just about a perfect day of golf.

(Above: Walking back from taking photos of the kids, I saw this water lily in a pond on the hotel property, so I snapped a few quick ones. Turned out better than I thought).

Printing from the Airport
As we’re sitting in LAX, my brother shows me a photo he took on our last family vacation with his Canon EOS Rebel 2Ti DSLR.

It was a simple ocean shot (shown above), and he wanted to print it big on canvas (60″x 40″), and he was thinking of sending it to some canvas printing place I had never used, so I told him he had to send it to Artistic Photo Canvas. I had him email me his shot, and I uploaded it to APC while we’re sitting there in the airport, waiting to board our flight to Hawaii.

When we got home yesterday, the printed Canvas had already arrived, and he sent me this iPhone photo of it hanging on his wall. He absolutely loves it, and said APC did a fantastic job—as I knew they would (APC did all the prepping of the photo for printing on canvas, including all the edge work, and shipped it directly to my brother).

All Good Things….
As much fun as it was to go, it’s always great to get back home, and I’m back at work today after a wonderful, restful vacation. The kids had a ball. My wife had a ball. I won a buck off my brother at golf (of course, he gave me some strokes), and overall had an absolutely relaxing, fun, wonderful time with lots of laughs, and lots of hugs from the kids. Now, it’s back to work—I’ve got a book to finish! :-)

Hey everybody, Matt Kloskowski here. First off, a big thanks to Scott for letting me write about this, as I’ve been wanting to for a while now. So here’s the question: “Is Photoshop a bad word?”

Personally, for photographers, I think it’s 100% necessary if you want to compete today. Technology has changed everything. The world knows that Photoshop exists. The standards by which photography was judged, even just 10 years ago, don’t hold up against today’s standards. We expect more from a photo.

It All Starts with A Good Photo
Of course you expect a guy that makes a living teaching Photoshop to say this right? Before I get too far into it, let me set the record straight. As a professional photographer, I realize it all starts with a good photo right out of the camera. Like many of you, we spend way too much money on tripods, lenses, lighting, camera bodies, etc… to just accept any photo out of the camera and say “I’ll fix it in Photoshop”. Lighting on a person, for example, is impossible (or really difficult) to fix later. Same holds true for landscape and outdoor photography. You can’t reproduce the light you get from sunrise or sunset. Photoshop can’t make a blurry photo sharp. I totally get it. That said, I think there is a time to fix it in Photoshop (yes, I said “fix it”. Not just to finish, but fixing is perfectly acceptable too).

When to “Fix” It?
I once watched a photographer doing a live demonstration where his photos were showing up on screen as he took them. Well, part of the light was hitting the area behind the subjects and the photographer proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes working through the issues that this brought up. He was very quick to say, “Sure, you could fix this in Photoshop but I prefer to get it right in camera”. Being a Photoshop guy, it wasn’t really the statement that got to me, but it was the way it was said. The tone of that (and several other things he said) led the audience to believe that Photoshop was something you should be ashamed of. It was almost as if Photoshop was a bad word.

If you’re on a shoot, you’ve got your time, your client’s time, your assistant’s time, rental fees and many other factors that favor you moving quickly. As a photographer, you should know that this was a 20 second fix with a brush in Photoshop vs. the collective 40 minutes he wasted (photographer, assistant, and two models). And if you don’t know how to fix it, I think your job is to hire some one who does.

A Quote
I was watching a video from Jeremy Cowart and he said something that really stuck with me.

“Photoshop has changed the game, and every once in a while, Photoshop is the game”.

I think he nailed it. Photoshop has changed the game. Everyone you photograph knows Photoshop exists and expects you to retouch the photos. Every client you shoot for knows Photoshop exists and expects you to retouch the photos. Even your friends (if you’re a hobbyist photographer) know about Photoshop. If your photos aren’t seeing Photoshop (by you or your retoucher) then I’d have to venture to say you’re not getting noticed today. And take Jeremy’s work for example. Some of what helped build his career would be nearly impossible without Photoshop. It allows us to take a budget consisting of one person standing on white seamless and produce a movie poster that looks like it was shot on a mountain top with smoke machines, a race car, and the most dramatic sky ever seen.

Why?
So where does this dislike of Photoshop come from? Personally, I think it comes from not knowing Photoshop. Scott and I talk about this a lot after workshops and seminars. You can pretty much guarantee that when we hear some one criticizing Photoshop, it doesn’t take too long to realize that they don’t know it. Yep, 100% of the time when I ask the person that just said “I don’t like Photoshop” if they know how to use it, they say no. But here’s the thing and the key point I’d like to get across: if you’re a photographer, now it’s your job to know it. You’ve either got to learn it yourself or, if you lack the time/interest and have the budget, then find some one who is good at it to work on your photos for you.

And trust me. Those people are out there. They’re photographers who grew up with a digital camera and computer and have never known anything else. And they’re GOOD! They’re fast, they’re hungry and motivated and they’ll never know “what it was like back the film days” so trying to tell them is like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube. I can vouch for this. I’m 37, so I grew up with film. I didn’t touch my first digital camera until 8 years ago and I know my eyes glaze over every time I hear a “before your time, back in the film days” story :)

The Pros Know This
Whether you realize it or not, the pros already know this. In fact, they’ve known it all along. Even back in the film days there were a whole slew of things that were happening to photos before we saw them. The difference is that back then, those tools (and the time it takes to use them) weren’t easily available to the world so we never really heard about it. Today though, we have Photoshop, Lightroom, and even Photoshop Elements (and lots of books to learn how to use them ;-) ). So for as little as $59, anyone can use these techniques that simply weren’t available just 10-15 years ago. And whether you know it or not, just about every photographer (a general exception would be editorial photographers) you follow is either really good at Photoshop or has a retoucher/assistant that is. Photoshop is indeed being used, whether the photographer talks about it or not.

One More Thing
One last thing. Don’t be ashamed of using Photoshop. If you know it (or you’ve got a good retoucher), then you’ve got one helluva a competitive advantage out there today. A great image is a great image, and it loses nothing if we learn that Photoshop was a big part of it. And remember, anyone that does give you a hard time about it probably isn’t that good at Photoshop. So don’t justify or make excuses when showing your work. If some one asks if Photoshop was used, you simply say, “Of course!”.

So, my question to you still stands: is Photoshop a bad word? Do you long for the days when Photoshop wasn’t around? Or does Photoshop actually make the photography process better for you? If you’re like me, sometimes I love the artistic post-process just as much as taking the photo in the first place. Feel free to chime in with a comment and most of all, thanks for reading. See ya!

– Matt K.

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