Video by Matthew Rojas
My first week as the photographer for the Dallas Stars was one of the craziest weeks in my professional career. In the span of 5 days, I became a new photographer.
This starts many weeks before the shoots with creative meetings. We were trying to figure out the new direction for the Dallas Stars for both the calendar which they hadn’t released the last couple of seasons because of lack of sales, and the media day photoshoot which they use for everything from billboards to programs to the commercial breaks during the broadcast of the games.
My creative direction for the calendar was easy. I knew exactly who the key demographic of this young and, according to my fiancee, “hot” team was. I had to make this team look sexy. The obvious answer there is something GQ. Let’s put these players in suits and the calendars will sell themselves. On top of that I had always wanted to do a Behind the Scenes of a movie set look. I pitched this idea to the Dallas Stars Foundation and they loved it immediately.
Over the next couple of weeks I built a set and gathered props to create the look for the calendar. In retrospect I wish I had hired a set designer because of the amount of time I put into building this set. Me being the hard headed control freak I am, I wanted full control of how this was going to look and I didn’t want any outside input.
Sunday is day one of two for the calendar shoot for the Stars. For the calendar, each month would be either an individual or duo from the team and then the cover was to be a shot of the crowd favorites. The only problem with that was that these players were split up over the two days. I think no problem, I’ll just set up a monopod and lock it down so we can composite each player together into the one image.
This wouldn’t have been a problem, but the next day we were shooting the calendar was three days later on Wednesday. Somewhere in that time, someone came into the studio and moved parts of the set. I don’t work out of a typical studio. I share a studio space with 60 other creatives in Dallas called WELD. I love this place, it is amazing. But this is where communal studio space becomes a problem!
Anyway, day one was a HUGE success and I couldn’t have been happier with how everything had gone. We had to wrap the shoot by 4pm because my crew and I had to be on a plane to Chicago for a two day photo shoot with Topgolf. We got into Chicago by midnight and into the hotel room by 1am, got a few hours of sleep and shot long, full days. That’s another story for another blog post though.
We flew back Wednesday morning at 6am to get back to the studio at 10am and started shooting the remainder of the calendar at 11am. THANK GOD we had everything set up and ready to go, because when we got back to the studio I think we all took a quick 30 minute power nap.
The second day of the calendar shoot went by without a hitch (other than the moved set). I chose to not let it bother me and just suck it up and accept the fact that I would have a little bit more post ahead of me. We wrapped around 4pm and immediately had to break everything down and get it loaded up into the van for the media day shoot the next morning – at 5am. Ouch!
My crew and I got up to the Dallas Stars training facility at 5am to start setting up. By this point, we had everything nailed down from multiple test shoots at the facility. I had everything mapped out, powers dialed in and we knocked out the set up in about an hour. The fun thing about media day is that I get roughly 5 minutes with each player in which I have to get 4-5 different looks.
I had three stations set up in which I would get at least two separate looks at each station by getting the player to face different directions and toggling lights on and off to give it a new look. The last station was the “action” station in which I would have the player skate at full speed and do a few different variations of shooting, stopping and skating.
INSERT HUGE PROBLEM. With all of the tests I had done, I had never had a problem with my lens fogging over. And wouldn’t you know it, the first player skates up to have his picture taken and my lens is completely fogged over. AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! DEAR GOD WHY!? Growing up in Texas, I have never had much experience with my lenses fogging over due to cold weather, so the first thing I do is stick the camera in my jacket to warm it up. This fixes it momentarily, but keeps fogging up every couple of minutes.
It ended up working out and I got images that myself and the Dallas Stars were both proud of. I know I wouldn’t have been able to knock out these shoots without the help and support of my amazing crew that week, and of course my fiancee who kept me from breaking out into tears on multiple occasions.