My name is Annie Downs. I am the Events Coordinator for Help-Portrait. Jeremy does the challenging work- he takes the portraits. I do the easy part- I get to tell you about it.

It seems that most nonprofit organizations need two things: money and volunteers. If they need money, they probably don’t need volunteers; they are paying for people to do the good works around the world. If they need volunteers, they probably don’t need as much money. (But they still need money.)

For those in creative professions – writers, actors, photographers, musicians, and the like, money isn’t always easy to come by. Freelancers are struggling more and more, and yet the heart to give is part of what feeds the creative nature.

If you are one of these, you might look at the other option – volunteering. There are many great nonprofit organizations that love to see hands that are ready to help – to build, to feed, to clothe. And without having much skill, you can make a significant impact.

Giving in any arena is great, but there is something really unique and special about giving within your gifting, about identifying the things you are good at, the things you do for a living, and finding a way to donate within that field. It’s not often that opportunity arises, unless you are a carpenter or a cook.

Photographers are an interesting bunch. They are competitive, yet team players. They are quiet when working, but loud when communicating. They are on the frontlines of technology and media, and they are temperamental artists. They are, at the core, a collection of people who hold the camera in one hand and their heart in the other.

In 2008, one of your own, Jeremy Cowart, found a way to use his skill as a photographer to give back to the community. And there began Help-Portrait – in a gym in East Nashville one cold Saturday morning in December.

The next fall, a tidal wave response occurred when a simple video about Help Portrait was posted here at Scott’s blog. Maybe for the first time, the photography community was given a chance to unite and give back where they excel – with their hearts and their cameras.

Whereas 2008 was a small event in Nashville, Tennessee, 2009 was a worldwide event occurring in more than 40 countries involving almost 4,000 photographers. In any other profession, that type of unity, birthed simply via social media, would be followed by massive personal praise from those involved.

And rightly so.

But you photographers, you just do the work. You find the subjects in need, shoot the portrait, print the portrait, give back and sleep peacefully that night. You don’t ask for thanks or praise or hugs or money. Yes, there was national news coverage in 2009, but nothing compared to the stories you lived. We read them. Every last one. We cried at the power of your Help-Portrait moments. And there were thousands more that we never heard.

The photographs taken were by amateurs and professionals. With lighting or natural. Indoors and outside. The subjects were children, adults, homeless, sick, broken, poor, sad, wounded. Those in need were cared for and those doing the photography were changed forever.

And here we are, Help-Portrait 2010 right around the corner (Saturday, 4 December 2010). The potential is limitless. Events are being planned right now all over the world, from New York City to Kenya to Brazil to Korea.

You can still be involved. Just head to the Help-Portrait community site and join – then locate the group that is in or near your city and connect so that you can be a part on December 4th. With 585 groups of people in 57 countries and 49 U.S. States already created, you will probably find a location near you. If not, start your own!

As the day approaches of our second international Help Portrait event, we just want to say thank you. This community is unlike any other that exists and you deserve to be celebrated – not only for the fine artists that you are, but for the deep kindness that you show to those in need.

May your heart always be full and your memory card always have room for one more portrait.

I forgot to post this fisheye shot from the game in Miami last week, but when I was getting ready to post it, I thought, “I wonder if I should correct the fisheye distortion?” So, I gave it a shot.

In Photoshop CS5, it’s an automated process—just open the image in Camera Raw, go to the Lens Correction panel, and turn on the Profile correction and it does the rest in all of two-seconds flat. Here are the results:

(Above: Here’s the original uncorrected photo, taken with a Nikon 10.5mm fisheye—a DX cropped lens on a FX full-frame body. I love how this DX lens looks on the Full frame body—it’s not too over the top).

(Above: Here’s the fisheye effect corrected, removing all the roundness that comes with shooting a fisheye lens, using the Photoshop technique I mentioned above).

The top one looks more “classic fisheye” but then when I look at the bottom one, I think, “Well, this looks a lot more like what it really looked like in the stadium that night” but I’m not really sure I like it better.

What do you guys think? Uncorrected (and round) or Corrected and flat? I’m really curious to see what you guys think.

I’ve got one more for you, but this one was taken by my buddy Mike McCaskey (who was shooting along side me that night). He sent me a bunch of his images from the game, and I just fell in love with this one, of Chicago Bears Linebacker Lance Briggs, and I asked Mike if it was OK if I shared it with you guys. That’s the kind of smile that says “We’re winning this one!” And, of course, they did. And the next one, too! Go Bears! (8-3).

In looking at the two fisheye images now posted on the blog (I looked at a preview before the final post went live), I think I need to darken the handrail going down the stairs. I think it’s kind of distracting. A 15-second fix in Photoshop:

#1. Add a Levels Adjustment Layer and drag the center Midtone slider to the right to darken the midtones
#2 Drag the far right Output slider to the Left to darken the overall image (as shown below);

Then press Command-I (PC: Ctrl-I) to invert the Adjustment Layer Mask. Get the Brush tool. Make your brush size very small. Set your Foreground color to white, and paint right along the railing to darken it. The final result is shown below.

(Above: The final image with the rail darkened. Why didn’t I try that on the corrected version? Just bein’ lazy.). ;-)

I shot the USF Bulls vs. Pitt game the Saturday after the Bears/Dolphins game and just wanted to share a few shots from the game.

I used the same camera set-up, settings, as I do for any day game: Aperture priority mode; both cameras at f/2.8 all day. Both cameras at ISO 200 all day. I love day games—you set it, and forget it, and just work on your timing, and not worry about ISO or camera settings, or anything.

(Above: The receiver just scored a touch down and while he’s making the rounds of the end zone, he just flicks the ball behind him, and I was right there in front of him with a 400mm lens. One of my favorites from the day).

(Above: This shot breaks all the rules—it’s not an action shot—the ball’s not in the shot—he’s just standing there. But just standing there, this guy just look like a load. Looking at him, I’m thankful I’m on the sidelines and not the field. Also, you get a nice look at the wonderful bokeh the 400mm f/2.8 creates).

(Above: This is our buddy, sport photographer Andy Gregory. He’s a very good photographer, but he had been drinking heavily before and during the game, and right after this photo was taken, he fell over—passed out cold. Matt Kloskowski was shooting the game there with me, and we immediately rushed to his side, took his gear, went to the media center, and put it up for sale on eBay. When Andy woke up, around the 15 yard line, we had already pants’d him. It was a long day for Andy). [kidding, of course. About the drinking and stuff. Not about him being a good photographer. He’s a real pro, and an awful lot of fun to shoot with, and even more fun to tease].

(Above: Here’s a shot of Matt shooting from behind the end zone. The guy to Matt’s right, in the white shirt, is saying “Don’t you think Matt looks much taller in person?”)

(Above: This is a guy running with the ball. [Sorry, I couldn’t help myself]).

(Above: One of the big advantages of shooting from behind the End Zone is that there’s usually nothing in front of you—no refs, no chain gang, no TV guy with a giant parabolic microphone shield, so when somebody breaks for a touchdown run like this, you’re got a straight unobstructed shot).

Here’s a few more to take us out.

In all seriousness, hanging out with Andy and having Matt along with us for his first big football shoot was a lot of fun (and as expected, Matt came away with some nice shots. Andy of course—none). ;-)

We’re coming on up our last four weeks or so of Regular Season play, so there’s not much football left, which is a bummer. I’ve got a couple of NFL shoots coming up this month, and because of my travel schedule I am going to miss a few college games, but I did get my first Bowl Game assignment this year, so I’m psyched about that.

Last year on the Monday after Thanksgiving (known as Cyber-Monday, the biggest online sales day in the US), we ran absolutely the best one-day deals on NAPP, Kelby Training, Photoshop World, our Books, DVDs, and well…everything ever!

They tell me that this year, TODAY-–we’re taking it up a big notch, and that we have outrageous one-day only deals and discounts on everything from 18-month NAPP memberships and renewals for the price of a one-year membership, plus two amazing Photoshop World registration offers and deep discounts on all our latest books and DVDs.

If you’ve been waiting for a deal to subscribe to Kelby Training online, today is the chance you’ve been waiting for. It should be an Insane-o day of deals, so don’t miss it!

Click here to check out all of our Cyber Monday Deals!

Don’t Forget our LIVE “Cyber Monday” episode of D-Town TV (The FREE weekly show for DSLR Shooters), is today, as we broadcast live from B&H Photo’s massive store in New York City.

TODAY: at 2:30 pm EST.

CLICK THIS LINK: right here.

We also have a BIG giveaway during the live show, plus we’ll be answering your questions LIVE, so you don’t want to miss it!!!! (the video below has all the details). :)

And yeah baby, my Bears won 16-0!!!!! (That makes the Bears 7 and 3 this season, and puts them in first place baby, yeah!!!). OK, I had to get that out of my system first. Now, onto the shoot (and my near freak out!):

The game was a week ago Thursday night in Miami at Sun Life Stadium. The shot above was just a glimpse of the really tough night Miami back-up quarterback Tyler Thigpen had, as he gets sacked and fumbles (he was sacked numerous times and flushed out of the pocket and had to scramble all night long). He actually played fairly well, but their offense could never put enough together to really get in the game.

(Above: I love this shot because you can see the Dolphins Wide Receiver Davone Bess literally running right over his own Center, Cory Procter).

I got to the shoot the game from the sidelines alongside my buddy, Bears Chairman Mike McCaskey (who snagged some awesome shots, as usual), and we had a ball. I even had more than usual, because I got to ride from the team hotel to the Stadium on the Team Bus (which included a full police escort all the way, and then I got to hang out with the team in the Bears Locker room before and after the game.

It was all I Could Do To Keep From Freaking Out!
About two hours before the game, Mike and I are in the locker room, and we’re getting out our gear, and I attach my 400mm f/2.8 and this one guy starts asking me about it, and when I use my other lenses, and we’re talking about stuff (he wasn’t a photographer—just a guy being curious), and the whole time I’m talking to him, inside I’m thinking: “Oh My God!!!! You’re Greg Olson!!! You’re on my Fantasy Football Team!!!!” but you’ll be proud to know that I didn’t do that, or squeal like a 12-year-old girl, but I sure wanted to.

I’m driving Mike crazy the whole time, because I’m standing like three feet from Julius Peppers, and I’m telling Mike, “Dude, that’s Julius Peppers!!!! Do you know how good that guy is?” (of course, Mike just nods and laughs at me). It was wild being just a few feet from Brian Urlacher, and Jay Cutler, and Devin Hester, and well…it was all I could do to keep from freaking out, but I managed to hold it together. A very memorable experience already and we hadn’t even stepped on the field yet.

(Above: Not an action shot, but I like this shot of Bears Linebacker Brian Urlacher because I liked the ray the stadium lights provided a rim-light effect behind him. Plus, he just looks like somebody you wouldn’t want to mess with).

Camera Settings
Being able to shoot at f/2.8 (with my 400mm and my 70-200mm) rather than at f/4, even though it’s just a one-stop difference, allows me to shoot at ISO 1600 for a night game like this, rather than at 4,000 ISO. It’s not just the lower noise—the contrast and color are dramatically better at 1,600 than at 4,000. As always, I shot in Aperture Priority mode on both cameras, and in JPEG mode (gasp!) on both cameras.

A Few To Take Us Out
I’ve got a lot of other stuff today to cover today, being Black Friday (the biggest shopping day of the year in US), and all, so I’ll just show a few more shots to wrap thing up.

An incredibly memorable shoot
I won’t soon forget this one, because it was the first time Mike and I got to shoot an entire game together, and of course, riding over on the team bus, hanging out in the locker room, and getting to see the Bears, my adopted team, get another win in a great season, was just a ton of fun. I’m going to hate to see football season end.