Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Eight photos I want to capture at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro

Whenever I teach photography, I encourage people to challenge themselves to capture photos that go beyond the obvious. know what? I actually practice what I preach! With that in mind, I decided to make a challenging list of the photos that I want to capture in Rio during the Summer Olympics.

The following list includes both "self assignments" and challenging shots which put me outside my comfort zone. And since the Olympics is one of the more hectic months of my life, it will be good for me to have this list to go back to for inspiration. (Note: You will see example photos in this blog from previous Olympics, but my goal is to take each of these to a much higher level.)

So, without further ado, here is my list:

Create art with the camera

I want to capture a photo that is more artistic than realistic. It other words, I don't want to just capture an athlete in action or use motion blur to do something different. I want to really push myself and the cameras to create a photo that is art.

A great shot of local environmental flare

I have not left for Rio yet, and not exactly sure what to expect when I get there, but I am hoping to capture a really nice photo showing the excitement of the Olympics. In my mind, I can see people celebrating in the streets with Olympic decorations surrounding them. Will I see this and capture it? I am not sure, but it is on my list.

An environmental shot from the London Olympics in 2012

Some spectators having fun around the Olympic Park

Photograph a new sport

Since this is my third Summer Olympics, I have been lucky to photograph many different Olympics events. When in Rio, I want to photograph some sports that are new to me. At this point, I am thinking about photographing boxing, archery, sailing... And of course, I want to come away with some solid photos from these events.

The 2012 Games was the first and only time I have photographed woman's weightlifting

Capture emotion

During my extended stay in Rio, I expect to see a lot of triumphant moments and also moments of defeat, and of course, I will do my best to capture some of those to share with all of you. But for this challenge, I want to capture emotion away from the athletes. Maybe a very excited fan or a family member of an athlete. When at the London Olympics 4 years ago, one of my favorite "emotion" shots was when Jesse Smith (of USA Water Polo) was handed his baby from the stands. It was a great moment and I captured it and shared it with him.

I caught this shot of Jesse Smith (USA Water Polo) and his baby at the last Summer Olympics

A key action shot

I are thinking "you are at the Olympics, how can you not get a good action shot?" But I am talking about really high action! Something that goes beyond the typical action shot. Undoubtedly this will involve my skills and a little bit of luck. A will need to be at the right place at the right time.

High action at Grecco Roman wrestling

Multi exposure shot

When in Sochi, I used the multi exposure mode of the Canon 1DX to capture photos of the ski jumpers. I am hoping to try that mode again with some of the athletes in Rio. I am thinking that Fencing or Weight Lifting could be really cool when captured using this technique.

Multi exposure mode in the camera. This was not created in Adobe Photoshop.

One great night shot (if safe)

If you have been following the blog for a while, then you know that I love night photography. At each previous Olympic Games, I captured some nice night photos of the Olympic Park, Olympic Flame and cityscapes. I am hoping to do this again in Rio, if it is safe. From previous trips to Brazil, I learned that having a camera on a tripod signifies that I am a professional photographer, presumably with more expensive gear. For that reason, I have been advised against taking night shots around the city with this setup. Even with this in mind, I am hoping to get some night shots within the Olympic Park, which should be well guarded. Once I get onto the Olympic grounds, I will determine the level of safety, and make the call from there.

Opening Ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics in 2008

I want to shoot for 2 Gold Medal teams

The primary team that I am covering during these Summer Olympics (as I did in London) is the USA Water Polo teams. In London 2012, the woman won the gold medal for the first time ever, but the men did not fare as well. I am hoping that this year I can photograph two gold medal games with Team USA coming out on top for both. Yes, it is more pressure for me (being their only photographer), but the excitement is through the roof. Once again, only time will tell whether this happens or not.

The women of USA Water Polo celebrating their gold medal win in London 2012.

Stay tuned, because after two years of preparation, I am now only 11 days from flying out to cover the Games. I hope that I can come home with most or all of my goals met.


If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Olympic workflow - How much has technology changed in the last 2 years, and how much will it help me in Rio?

It is a little less than 3 weeks before I leave for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and I am doing final testing of all the new equipment I will be taking with me. This testing will help me determine the best settings, the best file formats and the best workflow to deliver images to Team USA faster than ever. And yes, they want the photos REALLY fast!

Just as in previous years, the 2 years in between Olympic Games has provided enough time for technology to advance enough to make a marked difference in my workflow. This is true for the cameras and memory cards and even the storage devices I will have with me. In this blog post, I look at each of the technology advancements that have occurred since the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Since the camera is the single most important piece of equipment that I will be using everyday at the Olympics, I will start with this. I was happy when Canon released the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II a couple of months ago. This new camera brings me big advantages for the Olympics, with many improvements over the preceding 1DX. The dual DIGIC 6+ processors help the camera function and focus faster.  And even more importantly to me, this is the first Pro camera from Canon in many years that goes beyond Compact Flash and offers the new CFast memory card format (along with a CF slot).

Why is CFast important to me at the Olympics? I will be shooting the 1DX Mark II at 14 frames per second, which creates a lot of images. I need to capture all those RAW files (and yes - I shoot all my images in RAW format) with a camera that can clear the files from it's buffer to the memory card as fast as possible. BUT more importantly...after capturing the photos, I want to be able to download them as fast as possible. My deadlines are no longer measured in hours, but minutes. Every bit of time that I can save is huge to me.

Here are the cards I will taking with me to Rio. Lots of Lexar Professional 3500x128GB CFast cards for my primary storage.

Actually, my plan is to write RAW files to both a CFast card and CF card in the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, more for insurance than anything else. It will slow the buffer clear a little bit, but give me the peace of mind knowing that the images are stored in two places. I tested this scenario a couple of weeks ago, and I was able to capture about 800 RAW photos when shooting to a CFast card only. When shooting to CFast and CF, I was able to capture 80 RAW images without any pauses in the camera. Although this sounds like a major speed degradation, I can not imagine any time when I would shoot more than 80 RAW photos in a row. I am going to have a large 256GB CF card in each camera acting almost like an in-camera SSD. I don't ever plan on downloading from the CF cards, since the faster CFast cards will be my primary storage devices.

For the first time, I will be using memory card readers with Thunderbolt connection. The newer Lexar CR2 CFast card reader has both a USB 3.0 connector and Thunderbolt 2 connector on the back. My goal is to have two of these CR2 readers velcroed to the top of my MacBook Pro, and connected using the two Thunderbolt ports.

The one piece of equipment which has not changed since the last Olympic Games is my MacBook Pro. I was hoping that Apple would come out with a new model before the end of July, but that does not look likely at this point. And even if they did, I would probably not have time to get it ready with all the software in time.

Since I mentioned software, I should probably tell you what I plan on using in Rio. Like all my previous Olympics, I am still planning on using a combination of CameraBits Photo Mechanic for all my culling and ranking, and Adobe Photoshop CC for retouching. This has proven successful in the past and I have not found anything new that is faster for my workflow.

After I have captured and edited all of the photos, I need a safe way to store them. I am using a combination of 512GB Lexar Portable SSD units (for daily backups) and Western Digital 4TB drives for the mass backups. And since I want to make sure that my favorite images are stored remotely, for even more peace of mind, I am using remote storage. In the past I have moved those images to my Dropbox account. But even better, now that my Drobo 810n allows for remote access, I am going to be backing up directly to the server in my home studio back in CA. How cool is that?

And now that I have remote access to every digital image I have ever taken, which are all stored on the Drobo 810n (on a combination of WD 8TB and WD 4TB Red drives), I am covered if I have a client who has an urgent need for an image.

Well...there you have it. I think I have covered all the new technology in this blog entry. But as I sit here and look at the words and photos, I am sure that I am missing even more. I guess I will have to give you all an update from the Olympic Games. The clock is ticking!


If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A visit to Yosemite - one of the most beautiful places in the world!

A little while back, my wife and I took some time to ourselves and drove to Yosemite to spend 3 days. This amazing National Park is about a 5 hour drive from our house, but so worth the drive. And for the first time in years, we were there without our kids or any work obligations, so we were free to do whatever we wanted.

We got up early on our first day and made the 4 hour drive to the park entrance. After a couple of stops. we arrived at Tunnel View around noon and I was excited to see blue skies and nice puffy clouds. And for the first time in a long time, due to the large amount of rainfall we had in this El NiƱo year, the waterfalls were all running full.

For this trip, I mostly relied on my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 28-300mm lens. I grabbed that gear and took the first photos of the trip.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 35mm, ISO 160, f/5, 1/500 sec, -0.3 exposure comp)

I know...this is a very photographed spot, but regardless, it is so beautiful, it is worth every photo. I loved how the clouds were creating ever moving shadows on the valley floor. For this shot, I waited for the sun to open up on part of the valley floor and El Capitan.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 100mm, ISO 320, f/5, 1/500 sec, -0.3 exposure comp)
After taking the obligatory wide shot from this iconic spot, I then zoomed in to 100mm and isolated different subjects from this vantage point. This photo shows Bridalveil Falls on the right, with Halfdome off in the distance to the left of the frame.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 70mm, ISO 160, f/5, 1/800 sec, -0.3 exposure comp)
Here is a tighter shot of El Capitan with a combination of sunlight and shadows on the face of this amazing rock. I framed this shot to make El Cap my subject, but wide enough to include Half Dome and the clouds.

We then drove down to the valley floor to meet up with my wife's twin sister and husband. But they had not arrived yet, so we decided to do a little sightseeing on our own. I saw this patch of water in the meadow and immediately made my way there, hoping for a decent reflection of Half Dome. As you can see from the photo, this worked out well. My goal was to shoot with a slow enough shutter speed to neutralize the ripples in the water (caused by the light winds), and bring out the reflection even more. I grabbed my new Tiffen Circular Polarizing Filter and blocked some of the light coming into the camera. At a low ISO of 100 and an aperture of f/18 (with the filter on), I was able to get a shutter speed of 1/4 sec.

(Photographer's note: For those of you who like to take photos in amazing places like this, and wish for cloudless skies, think again. If you look at the previous photos, you will notice how the clouds add to the composition of the photos. If these skies were all blue, these photos would not be as interesting.)

While taking photos in this spot, I was approached by a couple different people who were blog readers and recognized this ugly face. It is always fun to talk to people who read and learn from the blog. My wife took this photo of me and this gentleman (John Hearne) after we met and talked photography for a while.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/320 sec, -0.3 exposure comp)
We did eventually meet up with our relatives (cell phones are spotty in Yosemite) and went with them to check out some sites early in the evening. We were looking at Yosemite falls and admiring the large amount of water that was pouring down to the floor below. Having photographed these falls before, I knew that a full length shot would not be as interesting as a tight shot, so I zoomed all the way to 300mm and took this shot at the base of the falls. I loved the way that the water was hitting the rock wall to the right. Normally I like to photograph waterfalls at slow shutter speeds, but I took this photo at 1/320 sec to freeze the water careening off the rock face.

Since we were back in the same spot as Annette and I had visited earlier in the day, I thought I would take another reflection photo of Half Dome. I liked the way that the last sunlight of the day was hitting the face of Half Dome.

I decided that this would be a good time for a shot of the four of us. I set up my Gitzo travel tripod (with Acratech ball head), put the Canon 600 EX-RT flash on my camera to light us, and set the focus. I used an aperture of f/8 so that both us and the background would be in focus. I then set the timer for 10 seconds and ran into the shot.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 50mm, ISO 100, f/4, 1/1000 sec, -0.3 exposure comp)
Our second day did not provide the same nice weather that we had on our first day. I asked my wife if we could stop and take another photo. She looked out the window and then at me and asked "Why?" I wanted to take a similar photo to what I had taken the day before to show you all the difference that a day can make. This time we did not have any blue skies and the whole scene was flat. Not nearly as picturesque! It just goes to show that, as much as we can control the cameras, a lot of nature photography involves factors that we can not control.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 100, f/22, 1/2 sec, -0.3 exposure comp)
Whenever I am in a place like Yosemite and the weather is overcast, I look for scenes that would be better in flat light. The absence of bright light allowed me to take this river scene at a 1/2 second shutter speed, showing the motion of the water.

In previous trips to Yosemite with or kids, we did not do a whole lot of hiking, but since we were on our own, we took full advantage of our 3 days in the park. On this second day we decided to hike up to Vernal Falls. This was a fairly strenuous hike and involved climbing a lot of water soaked steps, but it was well worth it. I took this shot to show Vernal Falls, but also the steps leading up to the falls.

About half way up the steps, I came to a spot with a great view of Vernal Falls. The big challenge here was finding a spot to set up my tripod (without blocking others) and also having a spot that was somewhat out of the way of the blowing mist (to keep my lens clean). There was a lot of water blowing in the air, which required me to turn the camera away from the falls, and clean the filter after every shot.

In order to show the motion of the water, I once again set up the camera to as slow a shutter speed. Setting the camera to an ISO of 100 and an aperture of f/18, I had a shutter speed of 1/2 second. The Tiffen Circular Polarizing Filter also helped me cut out some light, and also reduced the amount of glare coming off the wet rocks.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 28mm, ISO 100, f/22, 1/2 sec, -0.7 exposure comp)
I am not sure how, but we let my brother-in-law convince us to climb even higher and hike back the long way. I was getting a little tired at this point, but happy to stop and get this shot. I looked down at Vernal Falls and saw this rainbow at the base of the falls and had to take this shot!

After hiking to an even higher elevation, I looked back and saw Nevada Falls in the distance. With this massive rock jutting high into the sky, it made for a perfect composition with the rock and falls. I also took a couple tight shots of the falls, but didn't feel that they were nearly as interesting without the rock formation.

We were hiking through the meadows early on our third day and I saw this sole tree sticking out at the base of Yosemite Falls and zoomed in to 300mm to grab this shot. It looks decent in color, but after converting it to B&W (using NIK SilverEfex Pro - which is now free for everyone) I liked it much better.

After breakfast, we met up with my wife's cousin, who works in Yosemite. He had the day off and offered to take us to some really cool trails that were not on the maps. This is a photo of me in one of those locations. Pretty awesome view. Thanks Brian!

From this same spot, I decided to take a series of photos to combine in a panorama. I made sure to shoot from left to right, and to include everything from Yosemite Falls to Half Dome. This is a 700MB file on my computer.

On our second hike of the day, we headed to the base of El Capitan and climbed the "nose". Here is another photo of me in this location. What! Three photos of me in one blog post? Sorry about that. :)

Brian is an accomplished rock climber (hence the reason that he is living in Yosemite right now), so I asked him to climb for me. Using the Canon 24-105mm lens. I shot at 24mm and got down as low as I could to the ground. Brian was not that high off the ground, but the wide angle lens exaggerates the height in this shot. Trust me, Brian was not about to climb El Cap without any ropes.

For out third hike of the day (and yes - I was exhausted by the end of the day), we hiked to a hidden water fall. Along the way, we passed Mirror Lake. I took this first photo to include Half Dome in the shot.

This second shot of Mirror Lake does not include the famous rock, but shows a nice view of the valley opening where we were heading.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/800 sec, -0.7 exposure comp)
As we hiked along the edge of Mirror Lake, I looked up and saw the moon just over the top of Half Dome. What an awesome combination of subjects! As you can see, I took both a wide shot and a tight shot of this scene.

(Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/1000 sec, -0.3 exposure comp)

We reached the hidden water fall at 7pm. I set up and took a couple of photos before packing up and heading back. We were starting to run out of light, so time was limited.

I hope you enjoyed "our" visit to Yosemite.

FYI - This will likely be the last "regular" blog entry before I go into full blown Olympic mode. From this point on, you are likely to see blog posts pertaining to the upcoming Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. And then, once I arrive in Rio, you will be seeing blog entries every day.


If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Does it frustrate you that the Photos program on your Mac tries to import images every time you insert a memory card? If so, you need to read this!

For the last couple of months I have been frustrated every time I insert a memory card into my Mac. It doesn't matter whether I was using my MacbookPro or MacPro desktop machine. Every time I would insert a memory card, the darned Apple Photos program would pop up and ask me if I want to import the photos. Argghhh!!!!

As many of you know, I don't use the Photos program since it is not designed for professional use. I rely on Photo Mechanic for all my downloading and culling and then Photoshop CC for my retouching. It was driving me crazy having the Apple program interrupting my workflow and costing me valuable time. With the Summer Olympics less than 6 weeks away, and having really tight deadlines, I absolutely HAD to find a way to solve this problem.

Previous Internet searches found had a bunch of recommendations(like unchecking the "Open Photos" box and quitting the application), but none of them had worked.

But, after a lot of searching, I found the solution!

A photographer in Australia found a simple solution, and it works!

Here is what you do:

* Open the Terminal program on your Mac. If you don't know where this is located, just go to Spotlight (which is the magnifying glass at the top right of your menu bar) and type in "Terminal"

You will then see this:

Double click on the Terminal application to launch it. You will see this:

Copy this string of text:

defaults -currentHost write disableHotPlug -bool YES
At the Terminal window, paste in that string of text and hit return. Voila - the problem in solved!

You will not see anything in the Terminal window that confirms the change, but it will be fixed from that point on.

If you ever want to reverse this change and go back to the default settings, you can paste this string into the Terminal window:

defaults -currentHost write disableHotPlug -bool NO
I hope this helps all of you as much as it helped me!

Thanks to Ben Fon for finding this fix and PetaPixel for posting this online.

Feel free to share this with all of your Mac photo friends.


If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

San Francisco - The Painted Ladies, The Haight, and The Golden Gate Bridge

Funny that I am sitting here in New York City writing a blog about my home town of San Francisco, but I have so many photos and stories to share with you all that I am running behind. My cousin and his family were visiting San Francisco a couple of months ago, and their daughter, Sydney, wanted to learn more about photography, so I spent the day with them up in the city. It was a great time, shooting and hanging out with them.

While I was teaching Sydney, I was also taking my own photos, so this gives me a chance to share the images with all of you.

I picked them up from the Ritz Carlton, where they were slumming it for the weekend, and drove straight over to the Painted Ladies. These are a famous group of victorian homes that many of you have seen on the TV show "Full House". The weather was overcast, which actually helped to make a better photo in this case. No harsh shadows to deal with.

Along with taking the "standard shot" that everyone takes, I was using my Canon 5D Mark III, and zoomed my Canon 28-300mm lens all the way to 300mm to get this photo of City Hall peaking out from behind a couple of the victorians.

And then we were off to the Haight Ashbury district to take photos of the graffiti and surroundings.

You can't go to Haight Ashbury without taking a photo of the street signs!

I love the art painted on the side of the local businesses.

...and then...there were some of the characters there...

I saw these guys and asked them if I could take their photos. They were totally cool with that, so I took some quick portraits.

After getting some lunch in the Haight, I drove them over to Fort Point, located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I was teaching Sydney about composition and framing. I took this first photo standing straight up to show her the perspective. But the shot is lacking a strong foreground.

For this second shot, I got down low and included the rusty chain as a foreground element. Notice how the curve of the chain helps to frame the bridge?

I was also showing Sydney how zooming into a shot changes everything. As luck would have it, the fog was slowly rolling in, constantly changing as it passed by the North Tower of the bridge.

I waited for this sailboat to get close to the bridge and took this photo. I wanted to show Sydney how the boat would "finish" this shot. it turned out, the top of the North Tower also popped out from the fog just a little bit as the sailboat approached. A perfect moment.

Note: I posted this photo on my Facebook page, thinking that it was a decent photo, but not expecting much feedback. As it turned out, this photo had more than 1000 likes and a ton of comments. I was pleasantly surprised by this reaction. It just reinforced that photography is subjective, and even I can not predict what will be widely admired or disliked.

Here are a couple more photos of the bridge, fog and sailboat.

After shooting all these photos, I wanted to show Sydney that there is always a way to push further and get a shot that most people do not have.

I was talking to her when I saw the bridge reflecting in her sunglasses. Perfect!!! I had her turn at just the right angle to get the bridge reflection in both lenses and took this shot. I love how the dark blue glasses make the scene look totally different from the grey skies that were reality.

We had a great time catching up after not seeing each other for a couple of years, hopefully Sydney learned something about her camera and photography, and we got some fun photos too. That makes for a great day!


If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.