Well, it’s over, and what a season it was. I’ve had so many questions about mypost-season of sideline shooting (and lots on the use of remote cameras), so I thought I’d answer a few of them as my last post of the season (until probably late July or Early August when football cranks back up again). Here we go:
Q. So, what was the Super Bowl like?
A. It was really amazing! I remember at one point during the game, I turned to my bother who was watching the game with me on the couch, and I said “Man, if San Francisco scores here, this is going to turn into a tight game!” and then he took a bite of one of the sandwiches my wife made for us at halftime. See, gotcha! I used that 49ers shot from last season (vs. Giants) to reel you in and make you think I was there shooting it, and then bam — I pulled a fast one on you.
Q. What??!!You mean you weren’t shooting the Super Bowl?
A. Nope. I watched the game at home with my brother Jeff and his girlfriend. Great game though, especially the 2nd half. After that long power-outage, my buddy Bill Fortney texted me what I called the “Quote of the Week” on Twitter when he said “San Francisco fans killed the power hoping it would clear the scoreboard!.” LOL!!! Still, it turned out to be a great game (and I’m glad Flacco got MPV. He’s one of the most under-rated QBs playing today. With the way the football media loves Tony Romo, I’m surprised they didn’t give it him, even though he wasn’t in the Super Bowl (don’t get me started). Anyway, it was a great game, even just watching it at home. :)
Q. OK, ready for some real questions actually asked by your readers?
A. Sure, Scott’s ready. Fire away!
Q. You’re not going to be talking about yourself in the third person are you?
A. Scott never talks about himself in the third person. Scott’s not like that. Fire away!
Q. [When you're shooting a game on the sidelines...] Do you move around or stay in what spot? And if you’re in one spot, is it assigned or do you stake out a spot?
A. Thankfully, we’re not assigned spots — we’re pretty much allowed to roam anywhere along the sidelines with the exception of shooting inside either team’s bench (for obvious reasons). However, the official team photographer is often allowed to shoot in there, but he’s the only one. We do have to stay behind a yellow-dotted line that is set about 3 yards out from the edge of the playing field, and if you step over it, a security guard or police officer will come over and tell you to move back a bit. How they tell you varies between stadiums and personalities, so it’s best just to stay safely behind that line.
Q. Where do you get those steel safety cables? [to secure remote cameras]
A. We’ve been getting ours at Home Depot, but we just got a line on a guy who does rigging for Sports Illustrated and he makes and sells his own, so we’re ordering some of his. I’ll let you know how they are once we try them on a remote for another sport. Maybe basketball.
Q. When do you use the 14-24mm? Is it for after the game?
A. Usually, it’s for pre-game stuff, like for the player introductions and during warmups. Also, it’s now my go-to lens for floor-mounted remote cameras.
Q. Has TSA ever stopped you or asked to have your carry-on weighed?
A. It hasn’t happened so far (knock on wood).
Q. Wish you would write about how u keep your equipment from being stolen traveling at hotel & game
A. I pretty much keep my gear with me almost all the time. After the game, if I can’t get it back to my hotel, it literally rolls into the restaurant with me. During the game, I keep my gear bag locked, and it gets tethered and locked to something that won’t move easily. In the hotel, it’s with me or it’s locked down too! I have lots of locks and locking cables. It’s a bit of a pain sometimes, but less of a pain then replacing all your equipment.
Q. Scott, do you prefer the [Nikon] D3s or D4?
A. They are very similar cameras, but the D4 has more megapixels which is helpful if you have to crop in tight on a shot when the play has quickly moved down the field (like a long pass or kick-off return). So the D4 is my main lens, the D3s is my 2nd body.
Q. Where do you buy those gel-filled kneepads?
A. Home Depot or Lowes (they use them for installing carpet, and they’re worth their weight in gold).
Q. What is the fplate floor mount?
A. It’s a steel plate that sits on the floor and it’s designed to let you attach a Ballhead, so you can mount a camera on top and aim it anywhere you want. I use mine to mount cameras at ground level when the players make their entrance, but you can use them for other sports (motorsports, basketball, hockey, horser acing — you name it). They come from fplate.net and they run about $55 each. Totally worth it (they’re very well made and thought out).
Q. So what glass are you using for remote?
A. Usually really wide angle stuff down on the field, and for the rig we mounted up at the top of the George Dome aiming down at the 50 yard line (For the NFC Championship Game), it was a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoomed out to 200mm.
Q. What and where do you use a remote during a football game?
A. I use one during warm-ups; I mount a wide angle or fisheye on the end of monopod and trigger it with a wireless remote. Then the rest are usually just for the player intros, but this time I’m adding one overhead.
Q. How quickly do you have to get to your gear to collect it before they clean up the game after the player intro?
A. I have literally about 60-seconds. In two minutes that stuff is gone, so I have to literally run and grab it. For the NFC Championship game, I had to on the ground and one mounted to the truss. My buddy Matt Lange grabbed one rig; I grabbed the other; we set them on the sidelines beside a security guard (there goes 30-seconds) and as soon as I turned around they were tipping the truss over on its side. I ran up and as they were walking with it, I unlocked my Magic Arm holders and took off. Speed is the key (and it doesn’t hurt to have a friend like Matt, or you’ll stuff will get lost or run over).
Q. Am I just missing something or you’re using Pocket Wizards without any lights?
A. They’re used to fire the remotes like a wireless remote shutter release which can fire multiple cameras at once with a range of like 300 feet. For the last game, I tried the new Pocket Wizard Plus IIIs and they were terrific. When I got back, we ordered four of them (I had borrowed some for the game).
Q. Maybe you’ve discussed this before but I’m curious about the cards. Are they provided by the club/organization for which you are shooting or do you use your own? If the latter, do you get them back somehow after they have been downloaded? How does that work, logistically?
A. I normally use my own cards, but at last week’s game they had cards provided for us. After the player intros, a runner takes the memory cards from my hand-held and remote cameras. Then at the half, right at the 2:00 minute warning, they take them from both of my cameras, and then at the end of the game, I go up to the press box and they take two more cards. I have my name on all my cards, and they give them give them back to me once they’re all offloaded.
Q. Are you able to set up as many remotes as you want? Are there restrictions on where they can be and what they can capture? You make it appear fairly simple, but I’m sure it is very intense.
A. You pretty much always need permission, but since I’m shooting for the Falcon’s team themselves, they have a lot more latitude over what can be done, and they have been totally cool about letting me put up remotes (as long as they’re not in anybody’s way, and set up way in advance. Also, I need permission from the Pryo crew to mount stuff on their truss or near their fire and explosions going off, but in Atlanta they have been absolutely fantastic to work with. In fact, earlier this year at the Falcons/Cowboy’s game, the head Pryo tech came over and said, “Hey, if you want to take it up a notch next time you’re here, just get here early and we can do some really cool stuff.” (By the way, that scenario doesn’t happen very often). So, needless to say, I’ll be there WAY before game time tomorrow, and we’ve been communicating via email all week. The only part that is intense is getting all the gear pulled down immediately after the players come up. They pyro crew has to disassemble all that stuff in just a few minutes, so I have to get my gear out of that really, really fast. Outside of that, it’s really a lot of fun.
Q. If someone else has the same remotes, how do you keep from having them trigger your mounted camera?
A. That’s what great about the new PocketWizard Plus III — rather than just four channels (like the Plus IIs), you have like 29 channels (not certain about the number, but it’s a bunch). There won’t be that many folks shooting remotes unless Bill Frakes shows up (LOL!). He shots 30 remotes for SI at the Kentucky Derby. WOW! Anyway, I’m most concerned about the one mounted in the ceiling of the dome; I’ll pick some obscure channel and hope for the best.
Q. Do you have one master trigger that fires all remotes together, or a separate button for each camera? Any issues with battery life during the game?
A. I had two triggers — one master that triggered all the remotes during player introductions (that one is mounted on top of my handheld camera, so when I fire it, it fires the other three automatically). The 2nd trigger was for the one mounted up top in the Dome. I didn’t fire it until something was happening near center field, and I just had to push the “Test” button on it to fire it. I had fresh batteries in the dome-mounted camera with a back-up battery and it made it through the entire game (but it was pretty low). Ideally, I’d have a power adapter for a remote that would be left “live” for hours before the game, during, and an hour or so after. So, we’ll just say in this instance, I was lucky to have two batteries (one in the camera, one in the battery grip).
Q. Using that much gear in a quick and efficient manner is impressive.
A. OK, I had never actually ever used that much gear, and I can’t say with a straight face that I used it in a quick and efficient manner (outside of the player intros). I covered the player intros from four different angles and it worked out pretty well. I wanted to do something different for the Falcon’s photo crew —- They’re all really good shooters and I’m not sure they need another shot of Tony Gonzalez catching a pass in the end zone, so I tried to bring something different with interesting perspectives for them.
Q. Just curious…..do you have help with you, an assistant maybe? That’s a lot of work for one guy.
A. I didn’t have an assistant during the game — all the sidelines passes were already taken, but it absolutely would have made a big difference, and I would have wound up using more remotes during the game (in the end zones and such), if I had an assistant. It would make a big difference. The Falcons did hire a great guy(Kevin Liles) to help us rig the remote in the dome and on the truss, and he was a big help of course, but his work was all before / after the game.
Q. Any hassles transporting your gear?
A. Not really. We put all the remote gear (except camera bodies and lenses) in a rolling Pelican Case, and I check that bag as luggage, locked with a TSA-approved lock. Sure enough, they opened it and checked it (they put TSA-tape over it to let you know they checked it). Then I carried on my camera bag, and a backpack on the plane with all the cameras and lenses.
Q. I know you likely shoot hundreds if not more, shots per game. Crazy question but how many are tossers would you say percentage wise?
A. There are a LOT of tossers from the remotes, because there are so many test shots, so I won’t count those. For regular game shots, I shoot around 1,200 to 1,500 shots, and if I get 75 shots that I would upload to the wire service I shoot for (or to the Falcons in this case), I’m pretty happy.
Q. Care to share your camera setting for capturing action shots?
A. Absolutely. I usually shoot in Aperture Priority mode and I always shoot “Wide Open” so f/2.8 if the lens allows, or f/4. My goal is to make sure I shoot at 1/1000 of a second or faster, so for day games I can leave my ISO at 100 or 200 most of the time. For indoor or night games, I’m between 1,600 and 3,200 most of the time. Occasionally 4,000 ISO, but it just depends on the light.
Q. What about the exposure [for the remote cameras]? Are you using Auto or Manual settings? I see those fireworks form left and right… I think they will affect your picture and change the exposure.
A. Yeah, I learned this one the hard way, and Manual is the way to go so it doesn’t change with the fire. It does get brighter (and yellower) when the pyro goes off but only by a stop or so, so it’s not bad.
Q. Were they any “De-Motivational Poster” moments in the Post Season?
A. Sadly, there always are. We’ll wrap things up with another tender moment from my series of posters. Until next season my friends!