techniques

do :: or :: diso, a monthly sports photography magazine, is now live

My latest project a monthly sports internet magazine called do :: or :: diso is now live.  Visit it and subscribe for free at http://disosports.com.

My goal is to offer a monthly, short, to the point, on-line magazine of sports photography, post processing techniques for sports photos, insight, and the occasional interview.  Each month, if you subscribe, you will get an email to your inbox of the magazine cover advising that the new issue is out.  Just click on the cover and you are transported to the article.  This month’s article is about three post processing techniques to add light back to the image to better reflect what your eye really saw at the match, game, or event.

Many thanks to Jason Lillie for helping make the design idea in my head a reality on the web and to Tom Bol, Cindy Akehurst, and Lisa Thompson for their critiques.

As it turns out, there are so many moving parts to launch this kind of project:  (a) how to make it look less like a blog; (b) how to keep it relevant and informative; (c) who is the target audience: (d) how to send out a mailing ( I settled on Mail Chimp ) ; and my favorite (e) how to pick a logo.  Here is the evolution of the logo:

cool, but too dark:

Do or Diso.metallic

creative, but a little bulky

disofivvr

getting closer

 

Print

loved it, but  . . .

do_final_2

. . . here was the winner, by my buddy Alex Peak

do or diso 3D copy

The first post is up and after all the planning, the copy was easy.  Now for the hard part – creating content every month!  I am taking guest author pieces ( :

thanks for stopping by my blog. . . Mark

 

freestyling

I made it to Northwest Montana again this March and I set up a freestyle skiing shoot with a couple of the guys for a morning at Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana.  Packing for the shoot took a bit of thought.  Stay light, but bring the lights.  I brought my D4, 4 SB900 Speedlights, 4 PocketWizard Flex TT5s to trigger the lights and a fifth to sit on the camera with a PocketWizard AC3 to allow me to adjust output from the camera.  I mounted everything on a Four Square bracket and jammed the bracket in the snow / ice with the lights trained up to where the skiers would jump.  All of this fit in my Gura Gear bag along with two lenses – a 24-70mm and a 14-24mm lens.  The shutter speed was well above the sync speed of 1/250 second but with Flex TT5 hyper sync, it was no problem.  The speedlights really made it possible to light the skiers while they were airborne and get a good exposure at a high enough speed to make it all work.  Oh, and I don’t ski — a little bit of an obstacle and it certainly added some unnecessary drama as I walked (perhaps trudged or slogged is a better way of describing it) through snow and ice to arrive at the jump site where the guys were getting ready.  I fell only once on the walk out, and fell into a snow bank / drift only twice on the hike back to civilization.  I must admit that I had thoughts on the walk back of heart attack, death, insanity slipping in, but the images made it all worth while.  And, here are some of the images:

 

 

 

 

enjoy the end of winter, everyone.  Thanks for stopping by my blog . . . Mark

crashed ice. TT5s, and speedlights

It was a weekend of Red Bull Crashed Ice competition in St. Paul, Minnesota.  If you don’t know Crashed Ice, you don’t know adrenaline.  Check it out here.  Red Bull can really stage an event.  Totally awesome and a bit mind boggling as 115,000 hearty Minnesota folks, much stouter than me, showed up for the finals on Saturday night.  I arrived with the idea to use two speedlights to shoot the skaters, and trigger the lights with PocketWizard Flex TT5s.  Red Bull was cool with the use of speedlights and I was grateful for RB’s progressiveness.  Not all sports promoters allow lights.  The TT5s worked wonderfully, and even the Eneloop batteries cooperated despite some pretty chilly conditions in St. Paul, especially when the sun set.  The sport creates lighting challenges as the ice is very reflective and I didn’t want to trigger the flashes in the direct path of the skaters.  The skaters race down a course at speeds of upwards of 40 miles per hour so timing the shots was a bit of a challenge and concentrating helped keep my mind off of the tingling in my exposed skin and toes.  The course winds past the Cathedral of St. Paul and the structure provided a dramatic backdrop for some of the shots.  The TT5s allowed me to easily sync at shutter speeds well over 1/250th second.  I also used one SB900 on camera after a bit of an unexpected technology issue at the finish line:  I was perched above the ice 20 yards past the finish line…. turns out that on occasion, the skaters stop their run by crashing into the wall where I was standing.  I was fine, but the impact sent the speedlights flying off the Manfrotto bracket I used so I switched to “on camera” for a shot or two after retrieving a speedlight, a TT5, and batteries that escaped their chamber, all of which went airborne for a small distance.  Anything for the shot!  Here is how some of the shots came out.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Mark

above and below

“Keep moving,” we are told so we do not get locked into one perspective for a shot.  Try different angles, try orienting the shot for landscape and then portrait and try different ways to frame the shot.  Try a wide angle lens in close to the subject.  Look for a new way to depict an old scene.  All good advice often found in books on creative shooting and landscape photography.

In sports shooting, these creative options might be lost if the shot is framed with the subject directly in front of the lens.  The image could be so much more interesting if these perspective lesson are applied — frame the shot so the subject is below or above the camera.  If the subject is below, the perspective adds a sense of power and dominance.  If the subject is above, a sense of drama and emotion is imparted.  Similarly, with a wide angle lens in close, the scene spreads out behind the foreground subject giving a sense of depth, distance and size.  So lay down on the court or the mound or the running track or the field and shoot up at your subject, or go above the court and shoot down, and remember the wide angle!.  Here are some examples, many lit with SB900s triggered by PocketWizard Flex TT5s and controlled by an AC3:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

thanks for stopping by my blog and happy 2013 …  Mark

 

zazzle store

We are in the final plans to open a virtual “store” on zazzle.com to test the marketing of some of my images, stylized, on different products including tee shirts.  The images below will be in the first test group.  They all represent photos I have taken that were then post processed in Photoshop CS6 and then in either Topaz Adjust 5 or Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3, or both.   I am searching for a “look” that will work on shirts and here is the beta group. The images, and now the shirts, reflect a little of my outdoor photography work and some of my favorite places in the country (Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Colorado, Montana, Hawaii, and Washington to name a few).  More information will follow as we finalize the “store.”

 

 

 

Have a happy and safe holiday season …  Mark

 

. . . just 10 seconds . . . the sports shot

 

“A lifetime of training for just ten seconds. . . ” said Jesse Owens.  And, yet, the image is not 10 seconds, it is a nano second.  “Approach the game with no preset agendas and you’ll probably come away surprised at your overall efforts. . . ” said Phil Jackson.  But, some planning to get the image is inevitable.  There is technique and luck and access to get a sports shot, and as to to luck part, as Yogi Berra observed, “Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”  Here are some of my sports shots, some planned, some not.  Where possible, I used lights – 4 SB900 speedlights in a Foursquare or a quadra. high ISO, high shutter speed, wide angle where possible.  Many of my shots were inspired / coached / taught / cajoled / prompted by Dave Black  and Tom Bol.  I would describe each image as a type of sports portrait, an environmental shot of an athlete doing what they do where and when they do it.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by my blog, Mark

 

 

firefighters

I spent part of a morning with some of the firefighters at a local fire department to continue my “workin’ folks” photography project.  The morning started slow, as I talked with them, surveyed the shoot options, set up my lights, and pondered what kinds of shots to take.

Then, in moments, an alarm came in, they said simply “gotta go – fire” and two trucks and an ambulance streaked out of the station and left only me, my camera and my lights.  In the few ticks of the clock after the alarm came in, my heart raced and they were very business-like in readying to leave the station.  Indeed, I was the one that seemed very nervous and they seemed at peace with what they were doing and what came next.  It reminded me “that firefighting is one of the few professions left today that still makes house calls.”

Alone in this large fire station,  I shot some of what was left behind while I waited for them to return.  I felt bad for not having the presence to yell:  “be safe” as they left.

After a bit, the hook and ladder first, followed then by the other trucks, returned with everyone safe. We then finished my short photoshoot.

Here are some of the rest of my shots.  My lighting was simple:  one SB900 light in a 28” Westcott Apollo softbox very high up and camera right, one SB900 light in a Westcott Apollo Strip Box, and depending on the shot, one SB900 for accent.  The accent light was sometimes red gelled and occasionally, I added a CTO gel to the Strip Box light.  On the blue shots, I used Tungsten White Balance and compensated with a CTO gel.  I tried to come up with some shots that were a little different than what I have seen on flickr and tried to use the lighting to create a mood and to reflect a bit of the firefighter grit.

 

“What is a firefighter?  
He’s the guy next door….
He’s a guy like you and me with warts and worries and unfulfilled dreams.
Yet he stands taller than most of us.  
He’s a fireman….
A fireman is at once the most fortunate and the least fortunate of men.
He’s a man who saves lives because he has seen too much death.
  He’s a gentle man because he has seen the awesome power of violence out of control.
 He’s responsive to a child’s laughter because his arms have held too many small bodies that will never laugh again….
He doesn’t preach the brotherhood of man.
  He lives it.”

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Mark

the moment of impact

I have been struggling to perfect water splash shots that are fun to take especially on those rainy  gray days where outside shooting is not an option.  I found three problems to solve in these impact shots:  focus, composition, and timing.  The idea is simple enough  – capture the shot just as the food item hits the water and if it works, there will be a nice splash that is frozen as the food descends into the liquid.  Timing is everything and focus is rough duty.  But, after watching a couple of YouTube videos, here is a combination of techniques that worked for me:  fill a fish tank half full of water.  Use a 70-200mm lens on a tripod and manually focus.  Place a hammer upside down in the fish tank where the fruit, etc. will impact.  Focus on the hammer handle where it meets the water line.  Scotch tape strings on the top of the fish tank to form an X and Y axis to map where the handle of the hammer exits the water (and thus the place where you have focused) and plan on dropping the food at the intersection of the X and Y axis.  For settings, I settled on the following:  ISO 250, f/13, 1/160 second.  I used four speedlights (SB900s) , all on manual power.  The speedlights were in baggies because of splashing water.   Speedlight one and two were set at 1/128 power and pointed into the tank from each end.  Speedlight three is high up on a light stand pointing down on the tank also at 1/128 power.  Speedlight four points at a background when I used either a gold or silver reflector background.  I did not use speedlight four when I used the black background.  The fourth speedlight is set at 1/64th power. The lights were triggered in the Nikon commander mode in manual to set the above settings (lights 1-3 in group A and light 4 in group B), and the shutter was triggered with a cable release.  The occasional  “stars” in the water are water drops on the inside of the tank that I did not wipe off.

Any food with some weight will do.  With that, here is a selection of the results:

I am off to eat a piece of wet fruit.  Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Mark

my world of macro (micro)

Ansel Adams said:  “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”  In the world of macro (micro to the Nikonians of the world – same difference), if it is not a bug or a living flower, you make the photo by planning the subject, figuring out the lighting, fighting the focus and the incredibly shallow depth of field, arranging the items, and then doing it again until it looks something like what you had in mind.

My execution varies but each photo has the following in common:  tripod, macro (micro) lens (my favorite is a 200mm Nikon micro), the occasional extension tube, lighting (from speed lights to reflectors outside, to ordinary flashlights), and lots of color, texture, and / or frozen movement.  Unique to some of the shots is seltzer water (for bubbles), tap water for drops (a baggie of water with a needle hole suspended above a dish of water), long exposure (in dim lighting), a home made light box to give the impression that the subject is floating in the frame, assorted backgrounds bought at Walmart (wrapping paper, placemats, and the like), spray bottle for water drops, windex, a cut flower array, a trip through the kitchen on a rainy day (cheese grater, straws), and a trip to the local hobby store on Saturday (sparkles, crayons, color, color).  I am not the first to do macros like these, but as Ansel Adams also said:  “Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communication, it offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution. “  I started in macro after spending a day with Bryan Peterson learning about flash and lighting.  The following 11 macros (I will call them close ups) are my attempt at perception, interpretation of themes, and lots of patience and execution, inspired by my day with Bryan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for visiting my blog.  Mark

from the window seat

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”  (Leonardo Da Vinci)

I fly a great deal. The press of business and  family imperatives all compel me to be in the air more than ever. I take my camera whenever I fly, find a window seat and snap shots of the world below. A long flight is over in a relative instant and it feeds my fascination with the world below as seen from above. “More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.”  (Wilbur Wright)

 

 

I have learned a few simple things from the experience of photographing while flying. Shutter speed is king and depth of field is relatively irrelevant. So, wide open and fast shutters prevail. Exposure is not what it seems at 30,000 feet. Between the glare of the skies and the refraction through the little window, there is a tendency to overexpose, and there is a loss of contrast – all easily corrected.

Exposure is simply fixed in the camera by underexposing one or two stops with exposure compensation. Contrast can be restored in post processing so the final product looks like what my eyes saw, or better. I use HDR, CS5 curves, and Topaz Adjust to remedy these issues, enhance, and create.

Lately, I have gone up in a helicopter to further this fascination I have with the world below. My door was removed to allow for better shots. I was at the same time exhilarated and terrified. “Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society.  The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute.”  (Gil Stern).  By contrast, an airplane pilot I know says that the helicopter is only for optimists.  So, maybe I am an optimist after all.

 

“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste to the sky as well as the earth.”  (Henry David Thoreau).  Indeed from above, the world below is devoid of the waste we inflict.. .  or at least from a distance, it all looks peaceful and pristine.

“I think it is a pity to lose the romantic side of flying and simply to accept it as a common means of transport.” At the window seat, it is anything but common and even the common below appears uncommon. (Amy Johnson)

 

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Mark