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NattyChamps

Its not very often (in Minnesota) that you get to photograph a national championship game, but Sunday I was lucky enough to be assigned the Gopher Women’s Hockey game vs Harvard. The women had an excellent shot of winning their 3rd title in 4 years and on their home ice. Its unbelievable that some of these seniors have won 3 titles during their university career and I’m glad I got to be there to watch them celebrate. My only regret is the NCAA thought it was a good idea to use this purple-ish spot light thing during the trophy presentation….horrendous lighting.
Enjoy and share!

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Ticket Punched

[So I drove to Sioux Falls the other day to cover the Summit League Championship between South Dakota State and North Dakota State. I’ve never shot at the Premier Center so you have to build in some extra time to figure out where the media room is versus where the court is and how you’re going to transmit during the game. Unfortunately it ended up being kinda far away and transmitting during the game was going to be annoying. About 1/2 hour before game time another photog spotted a table courtside with no one on it. I asked if we could set up there..wish granted. It was a scout table and no one was using it.

The game was coming down to a last second shot, South Dakota trailing by 1, with time to dribble down the court to score. All I was thinking was that I really wanted SDSU to lose so the hometown fans didn’t rush the court with my camera gear and laptop courtside, out in the open for someone to take or get damaged. SDSU dribbles down, misses the shot, players fight for the loose ball rebound and time expires. NDSU wins it…potential crisis averted…whew.

Even though NDSU won, there was a little court storming and it was pretty fun. Equipment was spared. Enjoy the Pics!

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Timberwolves Dancers

Gotta show the Wolves dancers a little love on the blog. Talented women with some fabulous hair…it can’t always be about sweaty men pics can it?

Sitting in your assigned baseline spot gives you limited access when taking pics so you tend to get the same girls a lot. Enjoy and Share!

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Between the Benches

Every so often during the Minnesota Wild games I’ll get assigned to photograph between the benches. It doesn’t happen that often because I’m usually 4th or 5th on the totem pole when it comes to getting assigned and since theres only 3 periods, I’m usually out of luck. But lucky me on Saturday night, there were only 4 photographers at the game against the Avalanche and the TV crew wasn’t assigned the box (wait, what?). Do to space restriction, there’s usually one photographer and one member of the TV crew assigned, so tonight we could get 2 photogs in…a rarity. So that night I was assigned 2 periods between the benches. Its still kinda new to me so I enjoy photographing there.

Pros: Cons:
  • You’re a foot away from the bench players
  • You can get drilled by a stick or a puck
  • You get to hear players chirp non-stop (sweet)
  • You have to wear an ugly helmet
  • You get some cool close up shots you typically can’t get
  • Players are always skating in front of you during line changes

Here’s what I got along with some excessive editing in Lightroom…enjoy and share!

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Work Flow

Over the years I’ve learned that every photographer has their own workflow. Some are different..some the same and it’s based on your own personal preference. I’ve tried a couple different methods but here’s what I found works best for me. Is it right? No. Is it wrong? Nope. It’s just what I prefer. Here’s a step by step process of how I incorporate Lightroom and PhotoMechanic when photographing a sporting event.

Pre-game:
  1. fig. 1

    fig. 1

    I’ll make a folder on my desktop for the game I’m photographing. In this case I’ll use the last game I worked (Pittsburgh Penguins vs the Minnesota Wild) and I’ll call it “vs Pittsburgh 11-4” (fig. 1). Why? It’s just the way I have my Lightroom catalog set up (I break my folders down by sport, then year, then by opponent).

    • Minnesota Wild
      • 2014-2015
        • vs Pittsburgh 11-4
  2. Next, I’ll download my .xmp file provided by the agency I’m shooting for and save it into that folder. Then I’ll make the necessary changes to the Stationary Pad in PhotoMechanic which is usually just making a generic caption that I will apply to all the images. Speed will be important when it comes to captioning and uploading the files during and after a game.

I make my team code replacement files for PhotoMechanic. You can use the http://www.codereplacements.com/ website and pay for the service but I’m cheap and I don’t find it hard to do it yourself. This is probably a separate blog post but it’s a combination of the team data from ESPN, then using Excel and Word to create the text files. Unless it’s the first game of the season, the home team is already done so it’s really just making one for the visiting team and it takes me about 5-10 minutes. I’ll then load the code replacement files into PhotoMechanic. It usually consists of 3 different text files:

  • Home Team
  • Visiting team
  • Hockey terms (I’ll use short code for terms like celebrates, shoots, passes, skates with the puck, congratulates (cel, sh, pa, swp, etc..). It just saves me time when I caption and it’s something that I’ll use every game.

That’s it for pre-game. Let’s go eat!

During the game

For hockey, you shoot the entire period, then run back to the photo editing room during intermission and work as fast as you can. This is 18 minutes which sounds like a lot, but it flies by and there’s a lot to do.

  1.  fig. 2I import all my photos through Lightroom with a USB 3.0 card reader for the fastest transfer speed. Why Lightroom vs PhotoMechanic first? I like to apply a global develop setting to the entire card when I import it. I know my lighting is consistent so I can apply the same develop settings to every picture. In this case it’s at Xcel Energy Center and I already have a preset made (MN Wild 1250/1250/2.8). Within that preset I have a number of corrections I apply so I’d rather apply them all at once in the beginning vs individually later. Here’s why:
    • I know what camera settings I’ll be shooting at in manual mode. 1250 shutter, 1250 ISO, at f/2.8
    • I shoot in large RAW format so it’ll adjust my white balance on import. I find this the biggest advantage in photographing in RAW. I’ll adjust WB to whatever temperature I need instead of using a warmer/colder on a .jpeg.
    • *Side Note*: Some people shoot RAW + jpeg and make their edits on the jpeg thinking importing the RAW files will take too long and they’re too big. I’ve never had an issue in regards to speed. Maybe it’s my computer, card reader..who knows but I don’t have an issue with it.
    • *2nd Side Note*: The first time I switched over to RAW I was scared that it was going to be different when I processed photos. When I open a RAW file or a jpeg in Lightroom they’ll function exactly the same. There’s no compression in the RAW file and you can have more editing capabilities, so there’s no reason not to. Go ahead, make the switch, you’ll be glad you did.
  2. As its importing I go through the entire period of images. This is the biggest drawback to using Lightroom vs PhotoMechanic. PhotoMechanic is a zillion times faster at rendering the image and it’s much faster to go through and select the images you want. Lightroom takes its time rendering and you’ll get the spinning “loading” symbol at the bottom. If I ever change my workflow, this will be the reason. I’ll go through all the images and flag them using the “p” key (pick). If I screw up, I’ll unflag them with “u” key. An entire period is usually between 150-250 images. Between whistles I’ll delete images that I know I’ll never use, or they’re blurry, or they’re just plan shitty so I limit how many I import between periods.
  3. Once I’ve flagged all the images I like (including stock for later), I’ll turn on the library filter so it shows me just the flagged images or my keepers. From the “grid view” I’ll select a few game relevant images that I need to transmit, usually between 4-8 and give them a color. 1st period = red, 2nd period = yellow, 3rd and final images = green. Why these colors? It’s just the order in Lightroom so it helps me keep track of what I’ve sent and I don’t resend the same image after the game.
  4. I’ll then sort the flagged images by “label color” so the “red” images show up first and enter the “develop” mode.
  5. Within develop mode all I really need to do is crop since all the images had the “MN Wild preset” applied to them. On occasion you’ll have some minor tweaking if it’s in a dark spot in the arena.
  6. Once the cropping is done, I’ll export the files to the desktop in a separate folder and call it “USA1” so I know it’s my first set of transmitted images (next period is USA2). On export you’ll set up:
    • Folder location
    • Renaming (if you need to)
    • File size limitations
    • Resolution
  7. fig. 4

    fig. 3

    Then I go into PhotoMechanic and hit refresh and my newly editing folder USA1 will appear. Open it, select all, and then apply stationary pad to all the images. Now every image has the generic caption for all the images and I just need to fill in the “XXXXXX” for each image using the code replacement files (home, away, and hockey terms) that are already loaded. (fig. 3)

  8. In figure 4, you’ll see how PhotoMechanics code replacement works:

    fig. 4

    fig. 4

  9. Then I click “Save, Upload, Advance” and caption the next image until I’ve done all the selected images for that period (fig. 4). The FTP servers are already set up to go to the appropriate agencies. *knock on wood* – I’ve only screwed up once sending a couple files to the wrong agency. Whoops, forgot who I was shooting for that night.

Now hopefully this was all done in 18 minutes so I can run out to the next location for the next period. On occasion you don’t quite get it done in 18 and you’ll miss the start of the next period. Oh well, all you can do is try.

Post-Game

The only thing slightly different in the post-game transmission is I’ll look through all 3 periods flagged photos and find other pictures that may have been game relevant that occurred during the 1st and 2nd periods. Things like stock photos of goal scorers or other photos that were good but didn’t have the time to send. Since I’ve “colored” the photos by period, I know which ones I’ve sent already.

My PhotoMechanic by default is set to organize the pictures by capture time. This will also help when figuring out what period the action happened.
I’ve also got more time so I can relax a little. In the end I’m hoping to send about 30-35 end of game images and the others that I flagged will go to the stock folders another day.

VERY IMPORTANT: If you export your folders into separate sub-folders (like described), after you’re done shooting you’ll have to copy all the saved images with captions back into Lightroom.
So from Photomechanic:

  • Select all
  • Save photos as (select the main folder: vs Pittsburgh 11-4

Then in Lightroom right click on the folder and “synchronize the folder”. It’ll then import all the new jpegs you just captioned and transmitted and all the metadata in the caption field. So now if I need to find any Charlie Coyle pictures, my library is up to date. *Side note* – If your images look all out of whack, it’s because you’ve applied the “MNWild” import settings again on the already corrected jpegs. Just select all, right click, develop settings, and “reset”.

It sounds like a lot and it is. You’ll eventually get into your own rhythm and it’ll seem like a snap in no time.

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