Category Archives Photography

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Even though I had never shot a soccer match before (or what the rest of the world calls Football, or futball), I was totally psyched to get the opportunity to shoot the U.S. Men’s National Team vs. El Salvador match played in my hometown of Tampa at Raymond James Stadium. [Click on the photos for much larger views].

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I Needed Some Shooting Help
Since this was my first time shooting soccer, I really wanted to get some shooting tips from someone who really knew the game, and knew how to shoot it, so I thought who better to ask than the guy who won the “Shooting from the Sidelines with Scott & Mike” contest, Alex Walker (who won the competition with a stunning shot of his son during a soccer match).

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Alex was incredibly gracious with his time and talents, and sent me not only loads of tips, and techniques he learned from shooting his son’s games over the years, but his son even pointed out particular players on the US Team to key on during the game. I can’t tell you how helpful this was, and I followed Alex’s advice the entire time and it really made a difference. (Note: Alex’s stuff was so helpful, and so detailed, that I told him it would make a great Guest Blog post. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll do one for us).

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Predicting The Future Must Be Harder Than It Looks
The Weather Channel online forecast showed a 10% chance of rain at game time, so I almost didn’t take any rain gear at all, but at Brad’s insistence I threw some into the trunk of my car before heading to the stadium. As it turned it, it rained non-stop the entire first half of the game (thanks Braddo!), but luckily I was wearing a hoodie and a ballcap, so the rain didn’t cause that much of a problem for me personally, but my gear needed some protection. (Photo of me above by Ron Metz).

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Bring the Rain!
The last time I needed rain gear was when I was shooting the Outback Bowl on New Years day, and I had some camera rain gear made by Kata that my buddy Dave Moser had bought me for my birthday the year before, so I took that along for the Bowl game.

I know Kata makes great stuff (I have a Kata backpack camera bag which is incredibly well made), but I just didn’t really like their rain gear. It was kind of clunky to use, and for whatever reason it just didn’t click with me, so I saw another photographer using AquaTech rain gear and asked him how he liked it. He didn’t, but said he heard that Think Tank Photo had just come out with some rain gear that he heard good things about, so he was switching to that.

That was all it took for me (I’m a Think Tank Freak), so I immediately ordered my Think Tank rain gear the next day, and that’s what Brad threw in my trunk.

This was the first time I got to shoot using the Think Tank rain gear, and I have to say—I was thoroughly impressed. Of course, it did the job of keeping my camera body and lens dry, but working with it felt really great, and I was totally comfortable with it from the get go. Beyond that, it has all those little things that Think Tank does with their stuff that let you know this was not only designed by a photographer, but that the photographer who designed it actually uses this stuff. Highly recommended (by the way—-if you’re thinking of getting some of their gear, read this link first—it’s the third paragraph).

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Camera Gear and Settings
Since it was raining like it was, and I only had rain gear for one camera (and I wasn’t shooting on assignment), I shot with only one camera the entire game, my Nikon D3 with a 200-400mm f/4 lens mounted on a Gitzo tripod. This was  a night game, so I shot at 4,000 ISO the entire game to get my shutter speed up to 1/1000 of a second to freeze the action (though a couple of times I noticed it fell down to 1/800 or even 1/640. I should have turned on Auto ISO, right?).

By the way, Ron Metz (who took the shot of me in the rain you saw earlier), was shooting a 400mm f/2.8 lens, and by shooting at f/2.8 (rather than f/4 like me) he was able to keep his shutter speed around 1/1000 at an ISO of only 1,250. That gives you some idea of why we’re always going on and on about really “fast glass.” I did a live on-location demo of this whole “fast glass” thing and shooting sports indoors for one of the next episodes of D-Town TV.

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Post Processing
I started with the usual exposure and cropping adjustments in Lightroom, and the occasional vigetting (that’s all I did there), but then I took the images over to Photoshop to apply lots of contrast to the player’s uniforms, socks, and shoes (but not to their skin), and in some shots I applied a little to the grass playing field as well. I added the contrast using two filters; Topaz Adjust and Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 (I applied the filters to a duplicate of the Background layer, then added a layer mask and just painted over their uniforms). You really have to be careful using these contrast effects when you have out-of-focus backgrounds, because it really looks funky (for lack of a better term) —it looks crazy over-processed.

Important Note
I added this extra detail and contrast because I was not on assignment, so these are pretty much for me and I can take lots of liberties with how they’re post processed. Had I been on assignment (I shoot for Southcreek Global Media) I would not have added the enhanced contrast look, and would have just tweaked the exposure, cropping, and sharpening in Lightroom and that’s it.

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The Bottom Line
I absolutely loved shooting this game, and it actually was a lot more fun to shoot than I had anticipated (especially since the US Team won 2 to 1), but what I loved about shooting it was the non-stop action of soccer. Don’t let the low scoring throw you—there is a lot of action, almost non-stop during the game, so you don’t have to wait around for a shot on goal to capture some great action. There is so much happening on the field that you just keep your eye to the camera the whole time, and I loved that.

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Although I got a couple of shots I liked OK, I know I can do a lot better with more experience, and shooting my first soccer match just reinforced the fact to make great shots of anything, it requires a lot of practice, and I definitely need that. I’ll be keeping an eye out for other opportunities to shoot soccer in the future, because the only way I’m going to get better is to go out there and do it, so that’s what I’m going to try and do.

A very special thanks to my good buddy Jim Workman for helping me get the media credentials in the first place, and for giving me the opportunity to try something new. It rocked!

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Wait, One More Thing!!!!!
I have a favor to ask. If you’ve got a sec, click on this link to jump to a page to vote for Tampa, Florida as the site for the 2018 World Cup supported by the MSL, US Soccer and other heavyweights in the field. It has information about the World Cup and the events leading up to it as well. Thanks much–Scott. :)

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Crash Taylor has launched a site and series called “The Still Image with Crash Taylor” where he features an indivual image from a photographer, then ask the photographer the story behind the photo (how it lit, which equipment was used, how it was post processed, etc.).

There are a lot of very cool images there already, and I love reading about the “back story” on them. Crash invited me to talk about the image you see above on this new site, and share the story behind the photo, and you can read it right here.

Congrats to Crash on launching this inspiring new site, and thanks Crash for the honor of  being a very small part of something very cool.

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Last Thursday I flew down to a very cool photo studio complex in Miami, near South Beach, for a photography training project I’m working on. Brad and I spent two days on location with a video crew filming behind the scenes footage of a bigger, more ambitious “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it” project (that’s one of our models—Jerrid shown above—click on him for a much larger view).

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Above: Stevie during a one light shoot with a very powerful turbo fan, run by Brad.

We actually did 19 different photo shoots, setting up—and taping—each lighting set-up from scratch over a two day period, and we filmed segments in three different studios and on location on Miami’s South Beach. We used everything from one light, two lights, to three lights, and quite a bit of off-camera wireless flash, too. We did shoots with scrims, diffusers, reflectors, and about everything in between.

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Above: This is Wanderson (that’s his real name) during our sunset off-camera portrait shoot on the beach.

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That’s Vanessa above (a model friend of Dwayne’s who lives in Miami) during one of our daylight shoots. Those are the Raw untouched originals from the camera (Click for a much larger view). The red labels are the ones Vanessa chose as her favorites.

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Here’s Shay caught between snaps joking around with the crew.

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Above: The regular version of this shot is part of the project, but the all-white blown-out look you see here won’t actually be in the class—it was just me trying something new in Photoshop, just for fun.

We knew we’d be swamped (and on a tight schedule), so we contacted one of one my buddies, Dwayne Tucker (a frequent commenter here on the blog), who’s going to school down in Miami, and got him to come be our 2nd assistant on the shoot, He was a great help (well, when we weren’t all cracking up about something—-we usually have a pretty fun time on the set).

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Above: That’s our 2nd assistant on the set, Dwayne Tucker, taking a break between shoots.

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Above: That’s ‘The Scriv,’ Creative Director for Video at Kelby Media Group, with his trusty Steadicam. Also, notice how nicely his “tips” are in bloom (that happens every year right around Photoshop World).

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That’s “Beach Blanket Braddo” above, on Miami’s South Beach, holding a diffuser—-ready to spring into action at the first sign of harsh light). Also on the shoot was video cameraman Eddie “Fast Eddie, Easy Cowboy” Lynn, but I don’t have all the production shots here, so sadly, I don’t have a picture of him I can post right now, but he was everywhere! (and a huge help the entire shoot).

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few shots from the shoot. I’ll have more details soon about this project (The Light It, Shoot It, parts are done, but I still have 19 shoots to retouch, and record every step along the way).

Thanks to Brad for all his hard work in setting this up, and to Dwayne for helping us out, and to the five professional models who worked pretty much non-stop for two solid days to make this whole thing happen.

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Thanks to everybody who shared their views on the HDR issue last Friday (link). When it comes to HDR, it seems like most folks are on one side or the other, with very little middle ground—-you either like it or you really, really hate it.

One comment posted by a reader named Cory really stuck out to me. It’s short and sweet, but says volumes.

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The biggest trigger point for most commenters seemed to be the amount or style of HDR tonemapping applied to a photo, and they seemed to feel that the over-processing was strictly to hide bad photographic technique.

So, if a photographer creates an HDR photo, and even if they over-process it, does that somehow instantly mean that they’re now a bad photographer?

Not everybody that uses over-the-top HDR effects uses them as a crutch. They may just like they way it looks—plain and simple, and the photo they tone mapped may have been a strong photo without the processing, but they just like it better with the effect. Is that wrong?

Somebody I talked with this weekend about Friday’s post posed a really fascinating question, totally on the other side of the gamut from what I just wrote:

“If a photographer took a photo, and they looked at it on their camera’s LCD and thought it wasn’t a very good photo. But then they were able to add an effect to it in Photoshop (or whatever) that turned it into what a lot of people then thought was a good photo, is that a bad thing? At the end of the day, they created a photo that people like. What’s the harm in that?”

I mean, we all take a bad photo or two now and then, but the fact that the photographer knew a process that turned that boring photo into an interesting photo, is that all that bad?

Apparently, for a lot of people, it is.

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A week or so ago, by buddy Dave Cross had a great post called “The Debate about HDR”, which talked about the strong feelings photographers have about HDR, both pro and con (here’s the link). But what really caught my attention was a comment posted by one of his readers, because I’ve heard other photographers say the same thing, but none as succinctly as this reader’s comment:

“I too use to love it…now, not so much…and for some reason, once I quickly identify the HDR effect, my opinion of the picture drops a notch.”

This reminds me of something my teenage son does. If it hears a song on the radio from one of his favorite new bands, and I tell him, “Oh, that’s a remake of an old song from the 70s or 80s—no matter how much he liked that song—it now drops a notch in his book.

So, what is it about HDR that, once identified, that kind of taints the overall photo for these photographers?

Is it that they feel like it’s “Cheating” to use HDR, because it transforms the photo so magically? I have to admit that I’ve taken an HDR shot or two that, when I looked at the original base exposure, the shot was totally unimpressive, but once I applied lots of HDR Tone Mapping, and then take it back through Camera Raw for the final tweaking, it looks much more interesting. (the HDR photo above is courtesy of istockphoto.com /photographer cinoby).

Personally, to me, HDR is an effect like any other effect. It’s a strong effect, but it’s still just an effect, and I totally understand that when it comes to visual effects, you either like them or you don’t (especially if they’re overdone). But I think there’s something more going on here, because creating a duotone is an effect but nobody seems to complain about duotones.

One of my photographer friends once said, “The photographers who don’t like HDR are the ones who don’t know how to do HDR—just like people who complain about the use of Photoshop in photography—those are people who aren’t very good at Photoshop. You don’t hear HDR experts complaining about HDR, just like you don’t hear Photoshop experts saying “There’s too much Photoshop!”

I’m not at all saying that’s the case, but I’ve heard and read that argument a dozen times or more. So what is it? What is it that makes people so emotional about HDR? When you learn that an image has been “HDR’d” does it taint your opinion of the shot? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Hi Gang: We had so many questions yesterday about my new Flash-based portfolio that RC Concepcion put together for me, that we thought he might be helpful if he did a Q&A for you guys, and RC being RC, he was more than happy to. Here’s a quick Q&A from RC himself:

Q. Great Job with Scott’s Portfolio! I love it!
A. That’s not really a question, but an awesome statement. I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

Q. I’m having a hard time figuring out the navigation. It took me a little bit to figure out how to advance the pictures/see the arrows/move around
A. In the portfolio, all you really need to do is move the mouse slightly and you can see the navigation icons. From there, I would think the next impulse you’d have would be to click.. it’s what I do.

Q. I miss the Thumbnails
A. This is one version of a component that doesn’t include thumbnails, and I have to say – I really prefer it over having them online. The best way that I can equate it is like this: When someone handed you a physical portfolio, how anti-climactic would it have been to see all of the pictures on a small contact sheet before you even began. Part of the portfolio process (hard cover) was to turn that page and “Ahhhh..” See the next image in the series. If you really spent time looking at the portfolio, you used those images to carry a theme along and move the ‘energy’ of your work up, up, up. All of that just becomes “Photo Collecting” when its on a thumbnail list. Does this mean that this is wrong? Not at all.. there are components that -have- thumbnails. Just means that this one is different.

Q. Did you design this component?
A. Absolutely not! That honor goes to Tomuta Tiberiu from Flash Web Design in Romania. Tibi just knocked it out of the park on this one by providing something that is modular, engaging, AND cheap! All of that code cost 50 bucks to use. Think of that next time a web design service wants to charge you 2 grand for a site! When my class comes online – I’ll show you how to take pieces like this and put it together with a strategy.

Q. Hey, no fair! You didn’t even build this!
A. Hey! Not a question! But I will address it this way. I had a conversation with Scott in NY some time ago that set me on this course.. so I invariably owe it to him. As a photographer, your job is to develop the best Pictures. The website is a means to an end. You’re not trying to win a website design award with your site, but you want it to look clean, sharp, engaging, and stylish. I’d argue you don’t want to spend a lot of time doing so AND you don’t want to go back to college to do this. In this, components can help.

If I design a site to sell pocketbooks.. would it be cheating if I bought a shopping cart solution and didn’t hand program one from scratch? Nope. I don’t write my email program from scratch either – I use Outlook. Look at these components as what they are – Tools- and you’ll realize you can be better spending your time taking pictures than sweating the technology.

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