Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's here!

Big box on the front porch when I got home tonight!  Camera and lens not included.  :)  do you have your "Ticket" # yet???  Only 3 days left!!!  Anyone can enter, do it today!!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Learn how to use the tools of the trade

Okay, why is it some photographers sound so proud when they tell me they never use flash?  Flash is not the tool of the devil, people.  It's a really handy photographers tool, if you consider yourself to be a professional photographer then you darn well better be able to bust out some light when needed.  It's a real dogfight out there these days and if you want to survive then you had better be able to use your tools.  I have several images in my portfolio that I used a flash or strobe and I'll bet you wouldn't be able to pick them out.  The light is subtle but essential.  If something looks "flashed" then you're doing it wrong.  You don't need to spend thousands on studio lights or monolights, most of my stuff is shot with shoe flashes, even the architectural stuff.
I had to shoot a mall in Houston, no real budget for an assistant, they could barely afford to hire me. :)  I flew out with all my gear as carry on, no time for the airlines to lose luggage, this was an in and out in one day job.  So I threw in a couple of shoe flashes and some off camera cords.  No light stands, no room. Most of the mall was fairly well lit and I was able to shoot ambient, but there was one shot that just didn't work, the guest services kiosk was too dark, no light near it and bright lights behind it.  I really wanted that shot, so I grabbed a flash and held it up and out.  Just enough to put some light on the front of the kiosk and balance the other lights.  I had the tools to do the job. It's one of my favorites from that day, I like the motion blur of the woman behind the desk.

I know, it's not sports, but I've written so many articles on why flash is essential for shooting fast moving sports at night or indoors.  I thought maybe an example of other uses might make my point. Learn to light!!!!  Here's a tutorial on using flash and lighting techniques.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Win a ThinkTank Speed Racer Beltpack!!!!

The good folks at ThinkTank are sending me a Speed Racer Beltpack to raffle off to my blog readers.  How cool is that!!! Not sure how to do a raffle online but I guess what we could do is everyone who wants to enter send me an email to this address:  I'll will email you back with a number that will go into a bowl.    I'll have someone pick the winning ticket on January 11th, 2010.  That will give it a month to run.

ThinkTank makes some of the best bags out there, I've been using their belt system since 2005.  This looks like a really nice bag, it will hold a full size slr with a 70-200 attached.  I wouldn't mind adding it to my bag collection!  But I can't enter my own raffle, so.......... :(   

Good luck! 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Lighting a high school gym doesn't have to be expensive

Well it's bball season and so I thought I'd put up a post on how to make my cheapo gym strobe kit.  I use Vivitar 285's for my kit, they're inexpensive and powerful, but best of all they will work with a generic 6v lead acid rechargeable battery, no fancy electronics to fry.  I wouldn't hook up this battery to a canon or nikon flash for the simple reason I just don't know where the positive and negatives are in the battery compartment.  I buy the old version of the vivitar's, the new ones they sell at BHphoto have had issues.  I try not to pay more than $60.00.  Other options are sunpak flashes or some of the new chinese flashes discussed here on Strobist.  I have no experience with any flash other than the old Vivitars that I own, so I cannot recommend anything else.  How can you tell what 285 you have, old or new?  Look at the bottom of the flash, it will say made in china or made in japan if it's one of the original Vivitar's, the new ones don't say anything. I have two "china" and two "japan" units.

The Vivitars have a battery insert that makes a great template for the fake battery, I just cut out a wood block to fit the space and use screws to make the contacts.  The cable is lamp cord (18 gauge or 16 gauge) that you can buy by the foot at any hardware store. I actually have reels of this stuff for wiring up my arena strobes.

The other great thing about this insert or fake battery is that you cannot put it in the flash wrong.  It will only go in one way.  Check out this blog for another way to make the fake battery using the Vivitar battery insert.

The + and - signs are pretty self explanatory.  Just be sure you have the same thing on the other end, I end up marking one side with black marker to make sure I don't get the two confused at the battery end.

I found the connectors at Radio Shack, I think they are for RC cars.  You can also just use the slide on connectors directly to the battery like I have it in the first photo.   I like the black and red wires that the RC car connector uses, no chance of screwing up the polarity. 

The batteries can be found at BatteriesPlus or your neighborhood electronics store (think RC cars or other hobbyist electronics), any 6v Lead acid rechargeable will work, keep the amps at 4.5 to 5.   To charge them you can use a special wall wart charger like this....

This will set you back about $30.00 or you can go to your local auto parts store and pick up a motorcycle battery charger for around $20.00.

To see how this system works, check out the photos in this article.

For an article on how to light a high school gym with small flashes, someone grabbed the tutorial from Maxpreps website and put a .pdf on their's the link

check out this blog     I love this kind of stuff.
Here's another great DIY article on bouncing flash.

blog links

I've been going through and trying to fix all the broken links that came with changing the name of the blog. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

flash on the monopod

Folks I've been seeing a lot of well lit legs and torso's but everything above that is dark. I'm guessing it's because some of you have the flash so low you're not lighting very evenly and the fall off is someplace around the solar plexus. So adjust accordingly please.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Don't let good images look bad, know that your monitor is showing you the right exposures.
Here's an article on calibrating.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Joe McNally

So I'm reading this article in Digital Photo Pro about Joe McNally and his small lights lighting set-up and he mentions that he was having a problem getting enough light from his flash. Turns out he had -2 EV set on camera and didn't change it because he was shooting in manual and EV doesn't effect settings when you shoot in manual mode, BUT it will effect the flash when shooting in ttl! I thought that was very interesting and thought maybe some of you would too.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

nifty lighting gadget and other interesting stuff....

Hanashiro had an article on SportsShooter about this and it looks very interesting... Thought I'd post it here for those of you who don't look at SportsShooter. There's also a great article by Doug Murdock on traveling with gear I particularly was interested in the part where she disconnects the trunk lever by the drivers seat.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shooting Baseball Tips

Craig Morley was kind enough to send me this link to an article on how to shoot baseball. Pretty good article, take a look.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Don't cut off feet


Monday, April 27, 2009

Very good article on

Darren Carroll answers a college students question about shooting on spec. He gives some very good advice. Particularly on shooting for agencies for a split of the sales, some of these so called agencies are giving away photos so cheap that it's devaluing photography and making it very hard for those of us who do this to pay the bills to make a living. Read the article here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tilted horizons

Please folks no more tilted horizons, it just looks so lame. Save them for the next wedding shoot, okay? I am going to start deleting badly tilted horizon shots, the only sport I know of that has a hill in it is downhill skiing. You can fix a tilted horizon when you crop in photoshop. And while we are on the subject of framing, try not to cut off feet. A big problem since the advent of auto focus. Cutting off limbs at the joints is a basic composition no no.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Read this....

Don't Shoot Back lit ............

or side lit unless you know how. You can't just point and shoot in aperture or shutter priority and expect to get a good exposure. Those auto modes are not set up to meter well in anything but front lit situations. If you shoot in an auto mode then you need to use exposure compensation, (usually you need to add ev or ec, not subtract), or go old school and shoot in manual mode so you have total control over the light and what you're shooting. There are plenty of websites with a ton of information about metering and how to shoot in challenging lighting conditions, if you have trouble with shooting back lit, do some homework. I will be deleting dark and flat, badly exposed back lit images.
Here's a great example of a nicely exposed side lit image from photographer Jann Hendry.

Jann was shooting in manual mode and metering off her subject.

and here's a great back lit batter shot from Jann.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Boring boring baseball galleries rant

Seriously folks there's more to baseball than batting and pitching. There's those little white things out there in the infield, (you know bases), and players run around those bases, other players try and stop them. Real interesting stuff happening out there. Sliding into bases, throwing stuff, catching stuff, running. How about taking some photos of that and not just the blankety blank batters!!!! Seriously, if I see one more gallery of 90% batter and the other 10% pitcher I'm gonna scream. How about coaches, there's at least two of those, one for each team, they might like a photo or two. And don't forget the officials, those guys love to see themselves and will buy photos, they really will.
I'm not saying don't shoot batters, just try and get more of the game than the batters.
You don't need a huge lens, you can shoot the infield with a 70-200mm, just ignore the outfield. Don't fall into the teleconverter trap, a TC on a zoom is seldom a good idea.
It's a slow game, you've got lots of time, let's get creative people!!
Rant over! Thank you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


When photographing the cheerleaders please be aware of what position you catch these girls in when you shoot. Especially if you're sitting on the floor and shooting up at them.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lighting volleyball

I was asked about lighting volleyball and drew up some crude diagrams. I tried to add them to the original article I had posted earlier but it was too hard. :) So I'm just going to stick them here.

This is how I was setting my lights

This is the way David Stuetel sets up his lights, I like this way better.

click on the diagrams to see a larger image.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The business of photography

I could write a long article about getting paid what you and your work is worth. The difference between licensing and selling an image. Editorial vs commercial and the harm that giving away your images does to the photography industry in general. (the recent disturbing trend of newspapers wanting free photos for credit shows how free has hurt our business) But this topic has been discussed ad nausean and by folks with more business knowledge than me. So check out these websites: great resource on the business of photography, if you're the least bit serious about making a living as a photographer, just join. Seth Resnick has an incredible pricing service that will not only give you a price for an image or even help you bid a job, he will also write out the contract. Best $25 I've ever spent, that measly little $25 actually made me an additional 1/3rd more from a recent client who claimed to have a budget of well, a third less than they actually ended up paying me. I use Seth whenever I bid a job.
Then there are the blogs: and articles and forums and I'm sure if you do some googling you'll find even more great resources.
So do yourself a favor and read up on this stuff, get some information, be prepared when the phone rings and someone wants to license one of your images or hire you for a gig. In this economy none of us can afford to give our work away.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Congratulations to MP photographer Ralph Thompson!

Ralph entered an image into the Sports Photographers Association of America annual contest and won a Nikon D700. Here's Ralph's winning image:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Nifty Fifty or My favorite basketball lens

After spending 15 hrs hand holding a MarkIIN with a 70-200mm f2.8 at a recent basketball tournament, I remembered that I had packed my 50mm 1.8 or as it's sometimes called the nifty fifty. This little beauty is the least expensive lens I own and one of the sharpest. I love my little nifty fifty and it's the perfect under the basket bball lens. I like to use it shooting low and close. It's long enough not to distort at the edges like my 17-35 zoom (I hate that lens) but wide enough even on a 1.3 crop body to get everything in the frame without cutting off hands. Here are a few shots from the second 15 hr day of last weeks tournament. I was right on the baseline close to the corner or almost under the basket. Cropping in isn't a problem when you're shooting at ISO 250, but most of these are not cropped in that far and the last one is full frame no cropping. You can click on any image to see it full size, use your back button to get back to the blog.

Lens (mm): 50
ISO: 250
Aperture: 2.8
Shutter: 1/250

Lens (mm): 50
ISO: 250
Aperture: 2.8
Shutter: 1/250

Lens (mm): 50
ISO: 250
Aperture: 3.2
Shutter: 1/250

Lens (mm): 50
ISO: 250
Aperture: 3.2
Shutter: 1/250

The difference in f-stops was a mistake, I really have to remember to tape both wheels down.