Category Archives Photography

Hi Gang: It’s 2:00 AM Chicago time (so 3:00 am for me, whose internal clock is on East Coast time), and I just got back to my hotel room after a sideline shoot of the BIG Chicago Bears win over the Green Bay Packers.

RC sent me the screen cap above of the ESPN TV broadcast last night as I wound up on the air a couple of times. My cell phone kept going off with texts from friends saying “I just saw you on TV.’ I just saw you again!” I was cracking up!

The highlight of the game was getting to shoot the 2nd half with my buddy, and Chicago Bears Chairman Mike McCaskey. He’s a terrific photographer, and he’s shot both college and pro sports but he rarely gets to shoot his own team, but last night he hung out with me shooting on the sidelines and we had a ball (Mike was shooting a 200-400mm f/4, and I was using my 300 f/2.8).

It’s really late, and I’ve got a very early flight (I’m meeting with Adobe’s Lightroom engineering team all day tomorrow, and I’m carrying all your wish list stuff, fix it stuff, and lots of special requests with me to the team, so you guys will be well represented).

Well, I’ve gotta hit the sack. Sorry I don’t have any photos for you guys, but even I haven’t had a chance to look at them myself. Maybe later in the week, but in the meantime, I’ll just have to revel in the fact that the Bears are 3-0, they beat a really tough team, and they’re now the only undefeated team in the NFC.

Thanks to Mike and Nancy for a Monday I won’t soon forget (and a special thanks to Nancy for letting Mike and I have a Lightroom party after the game). Man, what a way to spend a Monday!!!! :-) GO BEARS!!!!

Saturday night I got a chance to shoot the USF Bulls vs. Western Kentucky football game from the sidelines with my buddy sports photographer Andy Gregory. Here are a few of shots from the game. (I got the image above just as the team had gathered in the tunnel to enter the field through an air curtain of C02)

Lens Length vs. ISO & Noise Issues
When I shot the LSU – North Carolina game a few weeks ago, I took my new 300mm f/2.8 lens, and absolutely totally loved it, but you do have to hustle a little more up and down the sidelines to stay close enough to the action. Saturday night, I used my 200-400mm f/4, which worked out pretty darn well because of the extra 100mm reach, but I’m not sure it’s quite as magical as the 300mm f/2.8, with its super-shallow depth of field and the ability to shoot at a lower ISO (plus, losing that one extra stop at f/4 means I have to shoot at least 3,200 ISO the whole night).

(Photo above of yours truly in the tunnel, decked out in knee pads, by Andy Gregory. This was the only in-focus shot Andy took all night. Sorry Andy—I couldn’t help myself)

So, it’s a trade off. I can shoot a 400mm, and get in nice and tight, but it’ll be a little noisier (though I borrowed RC’s D3s to help keep the noise at a minimum). Or I can shoot at 300mm, where I get less noise and sharper photos (because I can shoot at a much lower ISO), but then I’m not in as tight. So, what’s the ideal lens for football? Probably the one I tried to rent from, the 400mm f/2.8 but I was too late—it was already out on rental.

The Lens bottomline
Now that I’ve recently shot with both lenses, if I was shooting another game, like say…tonight’s Bears/Packers Monday Night Football game (Go Bears!), I’d probably take my 300mm f/2.8, for the better depth of field, lower ISO capabilities, and sharper images with probably better color rendition (thanks to the lower ISO as well).

Interesting Side Note
I haven’t shot a college football or NFL night game where there wasn’t a photo credentialed photographer on the sidelines shooting a Canon Rebel, or a Nikon D90 (or equivalent) with a kit zoom lens no longer than 105mm at f/5.6. The noise has got to be brutal for night games or games held in dome stadiums.

Camera Stats:
I used two bodies and two lenses. On the D3s, I used the 200-400mm f/4, at ISO 3,200 at f/4 all night. The second body was D3 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, which I shot at 2,000 ISO at f/2.8 all night. Since it’s a sports shoot (and my buddy Paul Abell wasn’t there to shame me into shooting in Raw), I shot in JPEG Fine mode on both cameras.

(Above: I caught a few of the players heading to the USF locker room right after the game. Where I was positioned, there was about a 20 ft. area that was lit by the stadium lights, and then past that it went into shadows. I caught this shot just as the player was moving into the shadow area. I had to brighten his face just a little, and I converted it to black and white to add more drama).

Post Processing
Very little done to these (except the photo below)—no color correction (all shot using Auto White Balance), and just added some contrast here and there and just regular Unsharp Mask sharpening. You have to be careful sharpening images at high ISO, because any noise that’s already in the photos gets amplified. I didn’t use any noise reduction in post either.

Click on it
To really appreciate the shot above, where the bench is calling for the ref to throw a flag for a personal foul, you have to click on it to see the larger contrast enhanced version.

Above: probably my favorite shot from the night—just after USF’s win, #12 high-fives fans as the team leaves the field.

My thanks to the USF Bulls Football organization for having me shoot the game, and to Andy Gregory for putting up with my constant harassment throughout the night (he’s a friend of Matt’s, so he’s used to it).

My good friend Moose Peterson wrote just a fantastic post on his blog last week called “Dreams can take flight”, and while it is about an experience he had in aviation photography where he captured some of those truly once-in-a-lifetime images, his story that led to the photos is about much more than that.

If you want to start off your Monday right, click right here. The images range from fascinating (the ones leading up to the shoot), to just “Wow—I’d have given anything to be there…” type of shots, but take the few minutes to read the whole story. Very powerful stuff, surrounded by very powerful images. You’ll be glad you checked this out.

A few weeks back, I did an interview with Sophia Betz from the blog “The Photoletariat” and one of the questions she asked me “Which photographers inspire you?”

Besides the ones I mention here on the blog (like Moose Peterson, Jay Maisel, Dave Black, and Jeremy Cowart, among others), I listed a number of other photogs whose work I go to when I want to be inspired. People whose work makes me want to grab my camera and start shooting.

The list wound up being so long that Sophia asked if she could run it as a separate post, and last week she did. Here’s the link to the list of photographers that inspire me—some very well known (like Joe McNally) and some you may not have heard of, but I find myself going back to their work again and again. Hope you find some there that inspire you as well.

On Thursday night I got a chance to shoot FC Tampa Bay Rowdies (a pro team in the North American Soccer League), vs. the Austin Aztex and although I didn’t shoot worth a darn (and the score ended in a 1 to 1 tie. Ugh!), I did try out a few new things, and learned some things along the way.

Shooting at 6,400 ISO
The uninspiring shot you see directly above is only remarkable in that it’s the first time I’ve really shot at 6,400 ISO (click on it for a larger view—-no noise reduction applied. The one at the top of this post was shot at 3,200 ISO. More on that in a moment).

Normally, for night games I would be shooting in the 2,500 to 4,000 ISO range (2,500 at ISO f/2.8 or 4000 at f/4) but the game was held in a Minor League Baseball stadium, and I figured the lighting would be kind of bad (and I was right). Luckily I was able to borrow a Nikon D3s from my buddy RC Concepcion, which reportedly has even less noise than the D3, so if I had to shoot at 6,400 or higher, I’d probably be OK, and it performed like a champ! (see above).

(Above: another 6,400 ISO shot).

My Lens Lesson
I only brought my new 300mm f/2.8 lens, which I now know is a little too short for shooting soccer on a full frame camera. So short in fact, that I could only shoot when the play was near my end of the field, because at the other end, it was just about useless (they looked like ants). Last year, when I shot the U.S. Men’s team, I took my 200-400mm f/4 (which was out on loan to Matt that night—he was shooting soccer down in Ft. Myers), and that extra 100mm made a big difference (and beside my buddy Dave Cross, who shot the game with me, every other photographer working the game was shooting a 400mm f/2.8 lens).

(Above: Back to 6,400 ISO—click on it for a much larger view).

Why it works for NFL but not Soccer (Futbol)
The difference between shooting at 300mm when shooting Soccer (futbol), and when shooting American Style NFL Football, is that shooting NFL football you move your position a lot during the game, based on which team has the ball, and where they are on the field, so you can always be pretty close to the action with a 300mm. You can easily spend five to 10 minutes on one end of the Football field while a team is on a drive, so you’re right on top of the action with a 300mm on a full frame.

However, with Soccer most shooters set up near the corners of the field and stay there for long periods of time (a lot of them are sitting the whole game, either on the ground, or using portable fold-up seats). In Soccer, the possession of the ball can change every 15 seconds (which really makes it exciting), and they’ll be running right toward you—the ball gets stolen—and suddenly they’re running away from you. So, you need longer glass or you’re only going to shoot 1/2 the time at best.

(Above: Another 3,200 ISO shot).

How about trying a Tele-extender?
I actually did, (a 1.4 tele) and it got me in much closer but you lose a stop of light as a trade-off, so I dropped from f/2.8 to f/4.  While that might not sound like a lot, it dropped my shutter speed from 1/750 to 1/1000 of a second, down to just 1/350 of a second (way too slow—guaranteed blurry shots), so I had to raise my ISO to at least 6,400 with that combo, and I was afraid of the noise it might generate.

As it turned out, 6,400 ISO on a Nikon D3s is like 4,000 ISO or lower on a regular D3, so I would have been fine, but without seeing the results on a larger screen, I was a bit hesitant to try, so I took it off, and shot a lot at around 3200 ISO with the 300mm set at f/2.8.

(Above: 3,200 ISO for comparison)

You don’t know unless you try
So, I did learn that the D3s lives up to it’s low-noise legend, and I learned that next time I’ll be sure to borrow it and a 400mm lens (or I’ll rent one from Even though I was disappointed in what I got (in fact, I wouldn’t have displayed these shots if not needed to support this article), it was still a lot of fun—I got some good practice in, and it was all made even more fun shooting with Dave. He’s a serious soccer fanatic (he used to play for this College team), and Dave got some great shots as a result (knowing the game, and where the next play is likely to happen is the key to timing the shots, and Dave knows the game inside and out). OK, back to something I’m more comfortable with—American Style football! Already got some NFL and College games lined up in the coming weeks. Can’t wait!!! :-)

Hi Guys: The very awesome and cool Brad Moore sent me this mondo epic video (ABOVE) from David Bergman, Bon Jovi’s tour photographer on their current tour (My son and I are big Bon Jovi fans, and we caught their tour earlier this year, and met up with Dave before the show. Here’s the link to Dave’s Guest Post on my blog from earlier this year).

Anyway, I thought you guys would enjoy the video. Many thanks, and hat’s off to cool, awesome, and awesomely cool Dave Bergman for this epic, mondo cool video (sorry, all the cool’s and awesomes are a cool awesome hangover from Brad’s Pimpy Post yesterday. Brad’s cool like that).

You can get all the details on David’s blog and over at, the guys who produced the video.