Monthly Archives December 2011

(Above: Saints QB Drew Brees takes the field to start his history-making night. The story behind how I got this shot, and why he’s looking right at me, is below). 

I finally got a chance to go through some of the images from this week’s Monday Night Football game, between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. I was there shooting for the Falcons (so they got all my original untouched images, right off the cards, while I was still on the sidelines.  The ones I’m showing here are my final images, which some have have been cropped, and some have had the contrast boosted, and all of them have been sharpened.

The story on the shot of Drew Brees at the top of the this post:
When I shot for the Falcons in Atlanta, we’re on their home turf, so we pretty much had the run of the place (I was able to even mount a remote camera on the circular truss the players run through when they’re introduced. Here’s that link), but in this case, the game was in New Orleans at the Superdome, so the rules are….well….we’re not exactly sure what the rules are, they vary from stadium to stadium, but it’s probably not the land of do as you please.

The visiting team (in this case, the Falcons) just comes out as a big group, all at once, usually to a chorus of boos from the hometown crowd, and so there wasn’t much to capture when the Falcons came out (in fact, they kind of bunched them up in the end zone once they came out, so they kind of just jogged over to their sidelines. However, when the home team comes out, there’s smoke and fireworks and lots of ballyhoo and they were just about to do that for the Saints.

I looked over to my buddies with the Falcons and asked “Can we go out on the field?” They weren’t sure, and they weren’t moving out there, but I saw a photographer who cruised about 20 feet out onto the field and was down on one knee shooting, so I kind of moseyed out their myself. He looked up at me and said, “You going out there?” I said “I will if you do. Lead the way.” He got up, and we started walking heading right out to midfield. The smoke had started, and fireworks were going off, and nobody was looking at us. I looked over to this other photographer and said “Head straight for that video camera guy—nobody messes with them” and we took a knee right beside him and started shooting right down the line of where the Saints were starting to come out through the smoke.

After most of the team comes through the smoke as a group, they introduce the starters on the Offense, and some just jog out, and some come crashing through that smoke, and this other photographer and I are just snapping away, trying to find something to focus on, because all you can see is lots of smoke, but then lastly here comes Drew Brees (the shot above), and he looks right at my camera, probably thinking, “Hey, are those two guys supposed to be out here?” ;-)

Anyway, we look up and the whole team is just a few feet away from us, and we figured we’d better not press our luck, so we scooted right back over to the sidelines as if nothing had happened. My buddies from the Falcons were all snickering and laughing at us and we tried to just blend into the large group of photographers shooting the game (the most photographers I’ve seen covering a game since last year’s NFC Championship Game in Chicago).


Lighting in the Mercedes Benz Superdome
I’ve gotta tell ya, I’ve never seen better, brighter lighting in a dome ever. It was insanely good for an indoor venue, and I probably could have gotten away with 800 to 1,000 ISO if it weren’t for the fact that I was shooting at f/4 for the first quarter (more on that in the camera specs). Really great light though. Also, a friend told me before the game to bring earplugs. I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t. It was the loudest crowd I have ever heard and their cheering was deafening. What a home field advantage.

(Above: Here’s what the Superdome looks like, as shot through my 14-24mm f/2.8 lens on a full-frame camera, out wide at 14mm. Look at all those lights!).

A tough night for the Falcons
It was a heartbreaker for the Falcons as they only put up 16 points all game (to the Saints 45), but the Falcons had just found out the night before that they had already made the playoffs, so it wasn’t like they were playing for their playoff spots, but still, you hate to see the team you’re shooting for lose (and plus, from a photography standpoint, you want to see your team put up a lot of points, with some really dramatic plays).

My highlight of the night, though, was shooting alongside my friends at the game. My buddy Matt Lange (link) picked me up from the airport (he was shooting for the Falcons as well). He’s a kick-butt photographer and sports graphic designer, and a really cool guy all around. Then, as I’m checking in, I run into my buddy Chuck Barnes, who’s a great sports shooter (and photographer all around) who was covering the game for his local newspaper. Then I hung out with my buddy Michael Benford from the Falcons. Totally great guy and just a lot of fun to hang with (but not brave enough to sneak out to midfield with me before kickoff). He works for the Falcons directly so he probably didn’t want to get caught in “enemy territory”). ;-) Michael’s a talented photographer, designer, and always has a smile on his face (despite looking like a tough guy).

I also made a new friend: Stacey Revere (who shoots for Getty) is a friend of Matt Lange’s and he was with Matt when they picked me up, and we hung out during the game. Totally cool guy, and some wild stories about what happened in his neighboorhood after Hurricane Katrina. He’s a stand-up guy.

I also got to spend some time with the wonderful Jimmy Cribb, the Falcon’s long-time team photographer, and just one of the nicest, most genuine guys you’d ever want to meet. Talk about making you feel at home—he’s just that kind of person, and his passion for what he’s doing just comes over you like a wave. I totally see why the Falcons just love this guy, and his photography, for so many years now. An absolute class act.

A History-Making Night
Of course, I got incredibly lucky that I was there on a night where NFL history was made, as Saint QB Drew Brees breaks Dan Marino’s all-time Single Season passing record (and the season’s not over yet), and the place just came to a halt. Even though I was there to shoot the Falcons, I had to capture this history making moment, and I had some decisions to make about where to capture it from. The Saints sideline was absolutely jammed, and everybody was set up pretty much with 1-foot of each other, so I intentionally set-up on the other side of the field (I figured a get a few shots nobody else got). Of course, a guy from US Presswire was right beside me, with the same lens, so I wouldn’t have the only angle on it, but still—better one than 50, eh?

(Above: Offensive Guard Carl Nicks lifts Saints QB Drew Brees off his feet moments after Brees touchdown pass broke Dan Marion’s all-time Single Season passing record).

(Above: Here’s my view of the Saints Bench from across the field after Bress returned to the sidelines, takes off his helmet, and waves to the cheering fans on their feet screaming at the top of their lungs. It was pretty electrifying).

(Above: After I took the previous photo, and the game was winding down, I figured we weren’t going to see much of Drew Brees back on the field, so I headed down, across the back of the end zone, and over into the large group of photographers on the sidelines, but I noticed that only a couple of people were directly behind the bench, and the ones that were there were mostly shooting video with their iPhones, so I set up just behind with a pretty clear shot right at Brees and got a series of close-ups, including my favorite shown above, taken while he’s getting congratulated by other players on the bench, all within minutes of his breaking the record. I was shooting with my 400mm , so I had to step back until I was far enough back for it to actually focus).

(Above: Yup. His foot’s out. It was that kind of night).

(Above: Here’s the view right after the game and Drew is doing TV interviews and photographers are snapping away. The woman on the far right of the frame is holding an LED light-panel for the TV cameras. It was while I was taking this photo and I wound up on ESPN. A lot of folks spotted me, and some even posted photos of their TV screen. It was pandemonium out there).

(Above: That’s me after the game, around midnight; photo by my buddy Matt Lange. I’m much more handsome in person. Particularly, earlier in the day).

Camera Specs
I shot the game with the usual set-up; Two camera bodies: A Nikon D3s with a 400mm f/2.8 lens. I did shoot the first quarter with a 1.4 tele-extender on, which made my 400mm around a 550mm lens, but you lose a stop of light, so I could only shoot at f/4, which means I had to crank my ISO up between 2,500 and 3,200 depending on where they were on the field due to changes in lighting. My 2nd body was a Nikon D3, with a 24-70mm on after the 1st quarter (the 14-24mm on for the first quarter). I shot in tight in the first quarter to get nice tight shots of Falcon’s QB Matt Ryan.

I shot both cameras wide open (at f/2.8 or f/4 because of the tele-extender) and ISO ranged from 1,250 to 3,200 during the night). I shot in JPEG (for more shots in burst mode). My shutter speeds were around 1/1000 of a second and higher, but occasionally on the black uniforms of the Saints, it would dip down lower (since I was in Aperture Priority mode. Probably should have shot in Manual).

Post Processing in Photoshop
I didn’t do a whole lot to these images. Some I needed to crop in on (if the play happened downfield) or I just needed to keep a ref out of the frame, and so on. I also used Nik Software’s Pro Contrast (found in their Color Efex Pro plug-in) on some of the shots to boost the contrast and color a bit, but ALL of the shots got an Unsharp Mask with the settings: Amount 100. Radius: 1.5, Threshold 4, which gives some really punchy sharpening. I also darkened the edges in a couple of the photos to focus the attention on the player, and not on the background. Again, these aren’t what the Falcon’s got from me—they got the untouched images right out of the camera, while I was right there on the field.

I know this was a long post…
….but I wanted to give you some behind-the-scenes stuff, and for those of you who stuck in through this entire story—thanks. I stayed up until 1:17 AM to write it, so….just thanks.

Have a great Friday everybody. I’m off to Legoland with the kids! :)

P.S Don’t forget to read the next blog post down. :)

Ron Martinsen just posted an in-depth review of my latest book, “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it”, on his blog, but besides the fact that he did a review in the first place (which I appreciate very much), I think it’s cool that he took some of the concepts from the book, tried them own, and showed his own results.

Here’s a link to the review (wouldn’t this be a great use for some of that Gift Card money you got for Christmas? I’m just saying’). ;-)



Getting Ready for 2012 – Or 12 New Year’s Resolutions for Photographers

When my friend Brad Moore at Kelby Training emailed and asked me to do a guest blog post about getting ready for 2012, I said, “Absolutely.” That’s after I said “thank you” to Brad, Scott and RC for thinking about me for this post.

Saying “thank you” is important. More on that topic later in this post.

I said “Absolutely” because that’s exactly what I have been doing for the past few months. As a photographer, professional or enthusiast, you gotta plan ahead.

After carefully considering the many things we, as photographers, need to do in the planning process, I picked my top 12 recommendations for 2012.

Here goes.

1. Set goals
If you don’t set goals, you really don’t know where you are going – and how you are going to get there. Perhaps more important, once you set a goal, fine-tune that goal as you move toward it.

For example, say you want to become a better people photographer. That’s a good goal for sure. But setting the more specific goal of making better portraits or environmental portraits (showing the person in his or her environment) is a more specific goal. In this case, study the work of well-known pros – and painters – to see how they create wonderful pictures and paintings. Study light – shadows and highlights.

To make my “Girl with a Pearl Earring” photograph, I studied the painting, “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” by the Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer.

Put some shooting dates on your calendar. Put what you learned to use. You really have to take a lot of people shots to get better at it, and get more comfortable working with your subjects.

Evaluate your goal. Regularly. Be tough. Ask yourself if you are reaching or achieving your goal. Ask your family members and friends if they think you are improving.

2. Socialize
Use Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to get your name and your work “out there.” These free marketing tools are essential for the working pro and aspiring pro.

See how other photographers are using these tools to their advantage. Daily.

These marketing tools are also a great way to share a favorite picture and to make new friends.

Look at these tools as building your fans and friends customer base.

Once you start, you should post new photos on a regular basis.

3. Network
You can use social media to network, of course. But actual face time (as in showing up in person as opposed to FaceTime on the iPhone/iPad) is also a great way to network.

Photoshop World is a great place to network. So is the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City and the California Photo Fest in Los Osos, CA.

Joining local Meetup groups is also a great way to network. Meetup photo groups are like camera clubs. They offer great opportunities to go out shooting with other photographers. Some host monthly meetings as well. If there is not a Meetup group in your town, start one – and start networking.

4. Plan Ahead
Here is what I tell freelance photographers, like myself: Being a freelancer is like being on a roller coaster. The highs are high and the lows are low. However, that’s much more exciting than being on a merry-go-round.

To be a successful freelancer, you need to plan ahead. Way ahead. I am planning my 2012 and 2013 workshops and seminars right now. One reason: I know many of my friendly competitors are doing the same thing. And, the groups that sponsor these events need time to promote dates to their members.

Make a plan and stick to it. Remember: dates in your “review view mirror” are closer than they appear.

Check your e-calendar daily. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Here is something else I tell freelancers: Never give up. Believe in yourself. Follow your heart and don’t listen to those, especially on social media, who want to put you down.

5. Think “Free”
Get this book, Free by Chris Anderson. In the book the author talks about the importance of giving away stuff for free… in the hope of making a connection with a potential customer and making money down the road.

It’s a good philosophy. Give a free lecture or photo seminar. After the lecture, promote your workshops, prints, etc. Also, post free videos on YouTube and give free webinars. Again, promote your paid work at the end of the video or webinar.

And while we are on the subject of books, read, The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuck. It’s a great reminder of the value of saying “Thank You.”

6. Embrace Technology
You can make a few bucks by embracing technology. For example, pick your best work and create a PDF e-book. Sell it through E-junkie and promote it on your site and blog.

Also consider apps. As more and more iPads and iPhone are sold, more and more people are getting into app development.

Apps are more affordable than books. They are also available in every home with an Internet connection on the planet – which means you have a tremendous customer base.

After writing 36 books, I have now moved mainly to apps. I gotta tell ya, they sell way better than books these days.

7. Be Healthy
If you are not in good health and good shape, you can’t make the best possible picture and run the best possible business – and have the most fun possible. I know this because I recently hurt my knee, which slowed me down for a bit. A good New Year’s resolution would be to get in good shape and stay healthy throughout the year.

8. Create Your Own Reality
This may sound silly to some, but you can create your own reality, and you are responsible for your own reality to a great degree. If you want to be a photographer … you have to move toward that goal and invest your time and energy in photography. You might have to start with small jobs or volunteer to help other photographers, but you will be gaining great experience along the way. Remember the old expression, “you have to pay your dues.”

Also, read, Real Magic by Dr. Wayne Dyer and you’ll see what I mean.

Hey, it worked for me. For 10 years I worked in a NYC ad agency in a suit and tie. I dreamed of becoming a travel photographer. I read Real Magic and put the ideas in the book to work in my life. It might work for you, too.

Here’s another quote that may help you create your own reality: “It’s never too late to be who you could have been.” I know it sounds funny, but in many cases it’s true. Try to create your own reality.

9. Update Your Blog or Site
If you want to keep your customer’s attention, and if you want to attract the attention of new customers, you must keep your site current. Post new pictures as often as humanly possible.

I post new stuff on my blog almost daily. No matter how tired I am, I post. For example, I was teaching a photography workshop recently in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico, and I posted new work at 2 A.M. – when our wake-up call for the week was 4:30 A.M.

Posting every day has an added benefit: You need to make new pictures to post, and to find interesting stuff to write about. You’ll learn a lot, which brings us to tip #10.

10. Learn Something New
Learning is health, or at least that’s what the Buddhist say. Learn a new plug-in or software program. Learn a new photography Photoshop technique. For example, thanks to Matt Kloskowski, I recently learned how to make a better montage.

Learn HDR. Learn about travel or wedding photography. Learn, learn, learn. The photo field is filled with opportunities for learning; there are books, apps, DVDs, online training, workshops and seminars. Choose one and get started.

11. Practice
Read the book, Outliers by Malcolm Galdwell. In his book, the author talks about the importance of practice. Hey, I know you already know that, but this book really drives home the point. Strongly. Recent research, however, confirms the importance of natural talent and ability in the equation. Seems like combining practice with talent is the best formula for success.

12. Love What You Do
Here’s my final quote for this post: “If you love what you do, you never need to work a day in your life.”

I, like you, love photography! So the question is: “Why am I still working my butt off?”

Seriously, follow your passion. Even if you can’t do it full time, photography is still a creative outlet that simply can’t be beat.

Happy New Year fellow photographers! Hope you have a great year. Let me know how these tips work for you through my blog:

When I was out in Los Angeles for my “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it” tour, USA Today came by for an interview about what I take on the road when I travel. They did a cool little video where they show all the tech (and non-tech) stuff I travel with, and in the article they list everything I carry in my Think Tank Photo laptop bag.

The article, and video, are online now in Jefferson Graham’s “Talking Your Tech” section (Jefferson is a photographer himself), here’s the link to the online version of the story (and the video) is below. The story is in today’s print edition of USA Today in their Tech Section.

UPDATE: I got a copy of USA Today at the hotel this morning, and here’s how it looks in the print edition (see below):

Onto the Big Game
It was a history-making game last night as Saints Quarterback Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s all time Single Season Passing record and it was amazing to be there to witness it. Got lots of shots of Drew right when it happened, and I’ll share some of those shortly, but it’s 1:50 am and I’ve got a flight home in the morning, so I’m hitting the sack

Even through the Falcons lost (Boooo), it was still a lot of fun, and I had a bunch of buddies there shooting the game, including Matt Lange, Michael Benford, and Chuck Barnes (among others), so the game was a blast, and the lighting for a Dome stadium, was pretty amazing. What a great night!!! (and I am beat!).

Hope you all have a great Tuesday, and I’ll be posting some photos soon!

Hi Gang: Our offices are closed today as part of our Christmas break, so it’s super-fluffy blog post Monday. Today I’m flying to New Orleans, Louisiana to shoot the Monday Night Football NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. It’s my first time shooting in the Super Dome, and I’ve always wanted to see it, plus this is a HUGE game (conference wise anyway—-but Atlanta just clinched their playoff spot last night with the Packers win), and since it’s a Monday night game, it’ll be nationally televised (keep an eye out for the guy with the yellow tape on the top rung of his monopod. No ball cap this time, since it’s in a dome).

Hope everybody has a great day today (and I hope Santa brought you lots of cool photo gear and Photoshop stuff!). Merry Christmas everybody and we’ll see you here tomorrow (if I get any shots from the game, I’m post ’em here Tuesday. If I don’t post any shots tomorrow, you’ll know what happened). :0)

OK, I just had to share this because…well…it’s Sports Illustrated, and I am just really excited!!!!

This was shot on assignment for the wire service I shoot for, Southcreek Global Media, at the “Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl” (A Big East conference college bowl, played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida). During Bowl Games we try to upload images from each quarter live as the game unfolds, and so this year I again asked Matt Kloskowski to be my editor, and he worked up in the Press Box above the field during the game and after  (see his photo below).

(Above: Here’s Matt’s view from the Pressbox, taken after the game with his iPhone. He added a few annotations to show you how rough he had it). ;-) Matt gave a behind-the-scenes report over on Google+. Here’s the link).

Matt and I didn’t get home until around 3:00 am (well, after the final uploads after midnight we had an hour drive home, and a late-night stop by Applebees), so I didn’t see that SI had featured the shot until the following day when a very kind follower on my Facebook page posted the news. When I saw it, I did a major happy dance!

Thanks to SI for including my shot; to Matt for being such a great editor, and to Southcreek for giving me the assignment in the first place. I’m shooting an NFL game this week (more on this shortly), and then the Outback Bowl on January 2nd.