I made a quick video setting up an overhead remote at Target Center before the Timberwolves and Spurs game. I made another at Xcel Energy Center years ago so I thought I’d follow it up with another venue.
Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make your own code replacement files for use with Photo Mechanic. I use this not only for professional sports teams, but for college, and even my own son sport teams when tagging and identifying players. For some sports it may be quicker to type out the names but using this method eliminates any spelling errors. Please adjust your YouTube settings to view at 1080p.
I made a recent trip up to Northern Manitoba and I really wanted to try and capture some images of both the Milky Way and of the Northern Lights. I’ve always loved the images I’ve seen on social media sites but I didn’t know how to photograph either of them. I joined a couple of groups on facebook, asked a few questions, and read a few articles online in hopes that I could quickly educate myself and get some great photos. Overall I’m happy with what I’ve learned and what I’ve photographed, so I thought I’d share my experience with others and maybe save them some time as well.
Just before I drove up to Thompson, Manitoba, I friended someone who lived there who was active in shooting the aurora (Doug Burkman). He was extremely helpful and after a ton of facebook messages back and forth I thought I had a good idea of what to do. I used a combination of 3 sites to help determine if the northern lights are going to appear and when.
So between those 3 sites you have a pretty good idea if the northern lights were going to happen, but sort of like the cable company, it gives you a 3 hour window and you have to wait. The biggest factor in all of this, after you’re sure a Aurora will happen, is the weather! I figured out on my drive up to Thompson that there would be a good chance of Northern lights that night between 10pm – 1am. During the entire drive it was cloudy, raining, and overcast, meaning I wouldn’t see anything but you sit there and hope…”well its got 4-5 hours for it to clear up…maybe it’ll work”. Luckily, the skies kind of cleared for a couple hours, it gave me my window between 10-1, and I was able to capture some images. The next night was almost identical and I felt very lucky.
In most cases I saw new photographers asking what settings should there camera be at? I learned that I was really all over the place and there isn’t one magic setting that applies to everything. I included my camera settings on the photos so you can see what I used but here are some things that you will need to know.
Other things you want or need:
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.
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).
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:
That’s it for pre-game. Let’s go eat!
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.
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)
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.
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:
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.
Recently I’ve been getting the same questions from people who have recently upgraded their cameras to new DSLR’s and want to know more about them. Specifically, they’re photographing sports and it’s not turning out as awesome as they’d hoped when they made the jump from a point and shoot, to a “real” camera. I really don’t mind answering the questions because I really do want to help, but it always comes down to understanding what the basic functions of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. I usually explain to people its a balancing act between those 3 settings and finding the right sweet spot for whatever sport you’re photographing and what your camera/lens can handle.
So I found this cheat sheet online and I wish I could give credit to whoever made it (it’s got the Canon logo so I’ll assume it’s theirs) but I think it does an awesome job and explaining what changing your camera settings will do to your image. So in the words of Fast Times at Ridgemont High‘s Brad Hamilton, “learn it, live it, love it”.
After you memorized this and your pics still aren’t quite where you want them, you’re going to want to upgrade cameras and lenses….trust me, all the big stuff isn’t for show, you’ll need it. Enjoy!