Thursday, February 13, 2014

Crazy fast deadlines and workflow

Wow - how things have changed in just a few years! As you all probably guessed, all of us Olympic photographers have short deadlines. When I first shot the Olympics, my contract allowed me 12 hours to go through the photos and get them back to the team. When I photographed the Summer Olympics in London, my deadline was shortened to 2 hours. That means that I would have to go through thousands of photos, pick the best, edit them and submit them to the team within a couple of hours.

Now, with the ever increasing immediacy of the Internet age, They want me posting images at each break. So that means that, when the buzzer sounds at the end of the first period of hockey, I have 14 minutes to download my photos (I shoot full RAW), go through them, edit, resize them and upload to Team USA. And I need to do this so that I am ready to start shooting again at the start of the next period. No pressure!

This is my simple setup for on-ice editing. I have one or two cameras (usually with a 70-200 and a fish eye lens). Today, I shot with the 70-200 and used a Pocketwizard, which is hanging off the glass, to fire a remote camera behind the far goal.

So...how do I do this? First of all, I am using the fastest memory cards, fastest card readers, and fastest computer I can get. All of these pieces are critical in my workflow. For the cards, I am using the new Lexar Professional 1066x CompactFlash cards, and I am writing to two of them at the same time in each of the Canon 1DX cameras (for redundancy). I am also using the newer Lexar Professional USB 3.0 readers so that I can download the images to my laptop as fast as possible. My laptop is the Apple MacBook Pro Retina, which has an SSD instead of a traditional hard drive, and this thing is fast. For software, I use a program called Photo Mechanic (which almost all of us use here at the Games) because it is wicked fast and let's me caption and FTP the files from one program. 

This is the setup in my "hotel" room. There I am using a Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid tablet for fine tuning images. I am also using Western Digital Passport Ultra drives to backup in 3 different locations. 

Here is my routine:

* At the buzzer, I eject the Lexar memory card and put it into the USB 3.0 reader
* Photo Mechanic comes up asking for a folder name to download to and asks for IPTC info.
* I have already created a folder with the appropriate name (usually something like "20140212_Hockey_USA_vs_Canada_Women")
* I enter the IPTC data (something like "USA vs Canada (Women) Hockey"
* I start reviewing the photos as they are downloading, and try to find the best of the bunch
* I mark the best with a color rating, so that I can filter for just those.
* I go through all the photos from that period and then filter to show only the winners.
* I quickly go into Photoshop to tweak each of the best (exposure, contrast, crop...) and save the file appended with "Edit_"
* After I have done this to the best, I need to caption them with the names of the athletes. For this I have created a document called a replacement code file with every player on Team USA, men and women. I can type in "/26w/" and Photo Mechanic will insert "USA Hockey's KENDALL COYNE (#26)" 
* Before sending the photos off to the team or the wire service, I have a preset in Photo Mechanic to resize the photo, and all the FTP info is pre-stored. One touch of the button and off they go.
* I then eject the card from the reader, pop it back in the camera and start shooting the next period.

Usually, by the time the game is over and I am finished with everything, the images have already been posted on the USA Hockey Olympic page and the wire service.

Oh - and somewhere in between each of the events, I sit down to write a blog.

Now, after reading that, how many of you still want to try this? :)




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89 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, think if they wanted photos after every goal today :D

best wishes,
Ilkka

Daniel Ting said...

Just curious - your remote camera - aren't you concerned about it still being there when you go to retrieve it?

Dennis said...

Wow, that's an insane workflow ! I'm an amateur who occasionally submits photos to our local paper. It's a weekly :)

Bryan Packebush said...

Jeff,
Approximately how many "Winners" are you sending a period?

And yes I would still want to do this. The workflow isn't scary because it sounds like you have a great workflow in place.

Nice photos BTW!

Cleibe Souza said...

That's what I call pressure!!
What happens if you run into network issues and can't send the images right away? Is there a plan 'B'. Or the plan 'B' is - NO IMAGE FOR YOU!?

Anonymous said...

You answered a lot of the questions I had i.e. shooting all in RAW, if you were using an apple but gave me a lot I appreciate. Type of memory cards etc. My adrenaline level is up just from reading what you must do to post. Thanks again
cwthomas123@msn.com

Michael Blum said...

Jeff, I love the Olympics. I love photography. This has been the most interesting Olympics, because of your blog. We spent a good chunk of the hockey game today looking for you behind the glass. Although, my wife made me admit that I don't actually "know you" - ha ha. Keep up the great work.

lf1881 said...

Wow! Simply impressive!
I recall you described that process for the past Olympic Games (London and Vancouver) in some videos from B&H, and it already sounded a tough job!
Now, with everything explained so in detail and knowing how long those minutes in between the games are (honestly, when you're at the hockey game you barely have time to go to the WC, buy a beer and go back to your seat!) it sounds on the border line with impossible!
Thank you so much for finding the time and energy to share your experience with us live!
And about your question: probably I simply couldn't make it because of lack of talent and professionalism, so no swap of roles, but I would really love to be there and see everything from behind the scene!

Thanks again and looking forward to new posts

Keith said...

Jeff,
Thanks for this blog post. I found it very informative. I am shopping for a new Macbook. Is the link you posted in this article, the Macbook you use?

mik said...

Holy cow man!! Thats totally insane deadlines, but I can understand why they need copy so quickly.... with mahooosive file sizes you really do need to work quick. Is PM that much quicker than LR? Fascinating!

Donald Bromberg said...

Sounds crazy hectic, but I'd take it right now if offered. You're doing a great job!!!

Oscar Espinoza said...

Wow amazing work! I just retired from the service I was a photojournalist in the Navy and would like to know, How do I start?

Unknown said...

Hey Jeff!
It is a time to get an assistant, isn't it. Here I am, just give me a call. ;) I will help you and we will sent photos 30sec after each goal ;)

Kerry Frank said...

I would LOVE to try this Jeff. I'm enjoying all of your posts from behind the scenes. Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

And the Olympic Gold goes to Jeff Cable for sports photographer speed editing! I would love to actually watch you go through this process. Editing is the worst/slowest part of the process for me.

Mehdi Naseeruddin said...

Jeff...RESPECT!!!!! The answer to to your question...I would!!! I've managed almost identical gear you mentioned. I've shot a few festivals with lightning fast deadlines, but nothing of this sort. RESPECT JEFF RESPECT!!!!

thelumberjackhouse said...

And they say men can't multitask...

NJorgensen said...

I'd still be up to shooting a game.

Rick Sweeten said...

I struggle with a 24 hr. deadline sometimes. Like most things done very well by very few, it's not as easy as it looks. Thanks for your insight.

Rick Sweeten said...

Like most things done very well by very few, it's not as easy as it looks. Thanks for the insight.

Daniel Dunn said...

Great article Jeff, Thank You very much. I am a photographer, and actually do want to do this. Reading this confirms some things for me, and also makes me reconsider Photo Mechanic. You're doing great work in Sochi, keep it up! And please stop and enjoy it, you're a lucky man. And hard working too, hah!

Tim Hughes said...

Just wondering, why don't you use a wireless transmitter to send the files to your laptop while you are shooting?

Tim Hughes said...

Just wondering, why don't you use a wireless transmitter to send the files to your laptop while you are shooting?

David Lambert said...

Great stuff, Jeff - thanks! Even for those of us not shooting on quite that tight a deadline, most of the ideas translate to Lightroom. I love the keyword substitution thing -- I wish I had something like that for LR.

Skip Barber said...

Your blog is both interesting and informative. Off to buy some new hardware. Thank you.

Big Zee said...

Jeff, you are truly a master of your craft! You inspire me to learn, especially after seeing all your Olympic photos. Thanks for the inspiration!

Chhaya Eang said...

Wow! Thanks for all the information you give out! This sounds like an awful lot of work and hustle! Have fun! Love your work and blog.

Duane Baker said...

Seems it would be so much easier to have someone editing your photos trackside while you just shoot. Of course I am sure space is extremely limited, but oh life would be so much easier. Actually you could probably have them sitting in the stands with a laptop and a wireless receiver using a transmitter to send them the images directly from your camera.

Big Zee said...

Jeff, you are truly a master of your craft! You inspire me to learn more, especially after seeing all these wonderful Olympic photos. Thanks for sharing your experience!!

Duane Baker said...

Seems it would be so much easier to have someone editing your photos trackside while you just shoot. Of course I am sure space is extremely limited, but oh life would be so much easier. Actually you could probably have them sitting in the stands with a laptop and a wireless receiver using a transmitter to send them the images directly from your camera. They could edit and forward the images while you are getting the best shots.

puckme1 said...

Me… I love shooting Hockey and want to try my hand at other sports keep the great photos coming, really enjoying the blog as well I am not much of a writer lol

Big Zee said...

Jeff, you are truly a master of your craft! You have inspired me to learn more about photography - I love shooting at night as well. Thank you for sharing your experiences and for being such a great inspiration!

Big Zee said...

Jeff, you are truly a master of your craft! You have inspired me to learn more about photography - I love shooting at night as well. Thank you for sharing your experiences and for being such a great inspiration!

INVISION PHOTOGRAPHY said...

After reading that I want to be an Olympic photographer even more so. This blog just helps even more as preparation. I reach my goals and this one of the them. Thanks for the inspiration.

Cash said...

I'd still love to shoot a game. great advice on workflow. I hear photo mechanic is the sports shooters must have. Great work, love you shots.

Bruce Brierley said...

I would be curious after the games (and you have a chance to catch your breath) to know what you resize your images to before you send them off. And on a side note thank you for sharing your equipment on your blog I just talked my boss into buying the Lexar 3.0 reader and it has dropped my transfer time from 4 hours per shoot to 12 minutes...now if he would just upgrade the rest :-)

Anonymous said...

No way sounds to much like hard work.

PS great blog loving every one.

robertsfoto said...

It's the most fun you'll have for a job.

robertsfoto said...

It's the most fun you'll have doing a job.

robertsfoto said...

It's the most fun you'll have doing a job.

Larry S. said...

It would be a blast to assist you. Actually I'd love to see the documentary that chronicals the behind the scenes of an Olympic Team Photog. Maybe they'll make Olympic Photography an Olympic sport!

Steve Roberts said...

It's the most fun you'll have doing a job.

steve said...

It's the most fun you'll have doing a job.

John Cooper said...

Well Jeff, you obviously have enough time to also do mind reading. I was literally thinking this morning it would be good to see your set up at rink side! I see that you are using the rubber lens hood to cut down the plexiglass reflections. Do you have one on the fisheye as well? Enjoying the blog,it's like a trip to a training camp for you all the workouts dashing everywhere. Best JC

Scott Martin said...

Wow, that stresses me out just reading it. Great work...we sure appreciate it!

Scott (Kansas, USA)

Beau Johnston said...

I think I would need a lot of practice before I could be that efficient. What percent of the images you capture each period are uploaded to the teams between periods?

John Cooper said...

Jeff you obviously still have squeezed time in for mind reading as well! I was only thinking this morning how it would be good to see your rinkside set up. See you are using the rubber lenshood to keep down plexiglass reflections. Do you use one on the fisheye as well? Thanks for the blog, its great to see the blog whilst viewing the action. I'm keeping an eye out for you rinkside! Best JC

Stephen Hawke said...

As a Semi Professional Photographer here in the UK, I am enjoying your Blogs Jeff and I emain VERY impressed with your speed and professionalism. Thank you for the excellent images, brilliant insight and "user Friendly" demeanor. (If ever you need someone to hold your bags, please feel free to contact me...lol) Keep up the excellent work...Stephen Hawke

Stephen Hawke said...

As a Semi Professional Photographer here in the UK, I am enjoying your Blogs very much Jeff and I remain VERY impressed with your speed and professionalism. Thank you for the excellent images, brilliant insight and "user Friendly" demeanor. (If ever you need someone to hold your bags, please feel free to contact me...lol) Keep up the excellent work...Stephen Hawke

Jim B said...

Jeff, this is insane, this is Jim B from Meridian. A good eye for detail and your vast experience on what qualities you want in a picture has helped you to meet some incredible deadlines. The hockey team could not have found a better representative to take pictures. I hope you have a wonderful time there, be safe and keep blogging. See you when you get back.

Jim

Wil Collins said...

Hell yea. I want to be one of the guys who people are envious of the workflow, you, chase...the amount of work and passion is incredible.

Ms. Weigman said...

Me! Sounds very hectic, but thrilling!

Kathy Weigman said...

Me! It's sounds hectic, but thrilling!

Kathy Weigman said...

Me! It sounds hectic, but thrilling!

pmachado said...

i do!!! i would love the opportunity!!... BTW Jeff you have a truly impressive workflow.

Lokesh Bhavsar said...

Mr Jeff .... that's wicked !!!

It just shows how well you manage the profession of art and unreasonable deadlines. Love your work !!!

Matthew Brandalise said...

I have to assume from this description that, not only is there very little time to sleep when photographing the Olympics, there are also very few opportunities for bathroom breaks. :)

Matthew Brandalise said...

Wow. I have to assume, based on this description, that not only is there little time to sleep when photographing the Olympics, there are also very few opportunities for bathroom breaks. :)

David said...

Sounds like fun to me!

Dave said...

Amazing. Never really thought about it, but man, that's impressive! Nice post.

Mike Taylor said...

Maybe in my dreams :)

Jeff Wallace said...

Jeff - Thanks so much for sharing not just the images, not just the emotion and what was happening but your experience. I love the techie stuff and eat it up. That said - you are a machine to get through this workflow and post. We ever meet I want to buy you a beer!

Thanks again for sharing and be safe.

Michael said...

I'm in awe, Jeff... you're a machine!! Keep up the great work.

Denise C. Russo, MS RD CDE said...

Wow, thanks, that was awesome! I am Dana Arnold's best friend, she suggested your blog, knowing I have 1000s of files to edit after shooting a high school game (hobby) and just managing THAT is a huge challenge (I have a paid full-time job). I use Aperture, not LR but will look into PM or at least into some way of labeling each photo by athlete. How exciting to be you...I am certain your career falls into the "I love my job" category and you do it so masterfully.

Thomas andersen said...

Hi.. I also do your workflow when I shoot soccer and hockey. But why dont you protect pictures on you 1dX when you see a great photo during the game? If you do so, the protected pictures on your card appears as tagged pictures in photo mechanic and this pictures are imported first in the import-process. You save a lot of time because you can start editing this pictures right away (dont have to wait until all pictures is imported) and dont have to go throu thousands of pictures during the break.. :)

ray perez said...

Awesome info Jeff. Thanks for sharing.

patsjazzpix said...

I love the pressure-I freelance for a daily paper my methods are a almost like yours (FTP-Photo Mechanics)-but I certainly have a much slower pace-still gotta love what you do!

Petr Toman said...

I would love to :)

John Cooper said...

Jeff, I noticed that other togs rinkside seem to be using a black board attached to the front of their camera lens to prevent reflections on plexi. Have you tried this or do you just keep the rubber lenshood pressed close to the screen? johnc@studiomk.co.uk

Brett Despain said...

"Now, after reading that, how many of you still want to try this? :)"

ME!!!
Been a free lance photographer for 30 years and I'd love to do what you're doing. But my real job is that of an airline pilot, so being a cool photo-jock like yourself will have to wait. ;)

Thanks for all the great posts and pictures!

Jo said...

Thank you for sharing all the behind the scenes stuff... and your pictures are great too.

Dawn Gail said...

I'm exhausted just reading what you do. Sounds like you have a workflow that works well for you. Thanks for sharing your process, makes me appreciate your pictures even more.

Jenn said...

I wondered how you were getting all your photos in on deadline and still finding time for blogging. Thanks for sharing all of this!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely enjoy your blog! And to (now) know the high-pressure environment you go through daily and yet produce a blog with such amount of details, I have nothing but respect for you! It's great to learn the effort it takes to produce those shots! (I was exhausted just imagining it)

Thank you for kindness! You're such a blessing!

Craig Pessman said...

I started shooting sports on deadline this fall and ended up with almost the same workflow. I shoot a lot of college volleyball and have to select images and transmit at the break between sets two and three. After reading the comments I thought I would add a few personal experiences. 1. PhotoMechanic is a must have for this. Lighting fast and available Mac or Windows. Builds thumbnails faster than anything I have seen and the metadata tools are first class. 2. If you are more of a Lightoom user you can set up a similar workflow and use Lightroom as your editor. I have presets set up to help with the tweaking. I use PM to do my selections and metadata and the dump just the picks into Lightroom for editing and cropping. 3. With fast memory cards, the new Lexar USB 3.0 card readers are screaming fast.

Travis - Minneapolis Photographer and Videographer said...

Sounds like you've got a pretty sweet workflow already in place, but I'm curious why you don't shoot with a wireless card or adapter so that as you're shooting - the images are downloading to your computer.

Perhaps there is so much wireless interference it just wouldn't be reliable - or you have no way of being close enough for the wireless to work?

Another question - what about "picking" as you shoot? Again - probably no time to pick on the fly - but I've heard about NFL photographers who star images in-camera and wirelessly send just the picked images in live time for wire.

I'm a wedding and portrait photographer - so all of these questions may sound silly - but I'm just curious :)


Fotofyndet said...

Great post as always Jeff! It is very interesting to follow your work at the olympics and to see your gear and workflow!

George " Glen " Dupuy said...

Hey Jeff, you asked about the multiples,, they are creative, the more you shot the better---welllllll you get it,, I liked them,, fun stuff,, lot of work Eh???? but looks like you are having a blast..Best Luck on return home..
Glen Dupuy
Burlington, Ontario
Canada.......

Becky Finch said...

I am a new fan of yours, and have so enjoyed your posts and really love your behind-the-scenes posts, as well as your extraordinary pictures! It's a fun way to follow the games. Thank you!

JamesSPhotos said...

I haven't read all the comments but saw a comment about why the pictures need to be uploaded so quickly. I am not even close to the level these guys are at shooting the Olympics but do shoot the odd high profile music event on the very small island I live in. Even for these gigs it is essential to get photos up on social media ASAP to build interest and interactivity as this window of interest itself is so short. Not many people care about an event 24 hours later or it has been surpassed by a newer event that is holding their interest. Consumers today expect things instantly and for websites to capture the consumer interest they have to meet these demands as best they can.
I hear so many times that a photogs job is getting easier with better technology and longer frame bursts but a photogs job isn't done when he finishes clicking the shutter. Higher demands are putting more pressure on photogs delivering these shots.

Anonymous said...

What size do you resize before you submit your shots?

Thanks

domito said...

Hey Jeff,

Interesting article. Wouldn't you save quite a lot of time by continuously send your raws from your MBP through Wifi?

I know the Canon 6D does that natively, and you can probably get a Wifi extension for your 1D as well.

Thoughts?

SARGENTSCRUFY said...

This was an awesome breakdown of workflow! I have some experience with live sports deadlines shooting for my college, but I can't imagine the pressure (and the satisfaction that you must get at the end of the day) doing photography for the Olympics.

My solution was to carry a net-book with SSD and tethered to my phone internet so that I could dump a card, tweak a few great ones, and upload them to wherever they must go in minutes. All while still on the turf in the thick of battle. What a thrill.

Dennis said...

Any particular reason you're using Photoshop instead of lightroom for your basic tweeks? I feel like in the interest of speed, LR would be a better option, especially for things like WB, crop, contrast, etc.

Anonymous said...

Unfathomable

Anonymous said...

Holy Crap Batman.
No pressure. Would I want to do this? No thank you.
I enjoy my photography, this is not.
But, looks like you've got it down to a science.
Great shots.

Max McClure said...

I know the feeling, I've had to tether my Macbook Pro to my iPhone 3G while in remote locations, and upload as fast as the connection will allow.. Good old technology eh!

Toad Hollow Photography said...

Great post, I really enjoyed having a chance to get a peek into the incredible world of fast-paced professional sports photography!

Boxfire Photography said...

Just curious how many images you are averaging per period? I know everyone is asking a lot of questions but would love to compare to what I might shoot in a period.