Wednesday, January 31, 2018

This could be one of the coldest Winter Olympics ever! - How I am planning for that.

When most people ask me about my planning process and packing for the Olympics, they are almost always asking me about my camera equipment. But this year, with chilling temperatures in PyeongChang, this California guy is facing a big challenge.

Other than periodical trips to the Sierras for the holidays, the coldest weather I have to deal with is somewhere in the 40F range. you can see from the screen shot above, this Olympics in PyeongChang is going to be REALLY cold. They say it will be one of the coldest winter Olympics in history.

Here are what I believe will be my big challenges:

* At this Olympics, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies are going to be outside. And us photographers have to be inside the arena at least 4 hours before the ceremonies start. Combine that with the 4 hour long festivities, and you realize that we are sitting in one place for 8 hours in this really cold weather.

* Even though I will be photographing many indoor events (hockey, figure skating, speed skating, curling...) I will also be outside for long periods of time to capture images up in the mountains (ski jumping, biathlon, cross country, bobsled...)

* Cold weather will typically decrease battery life, so I will have to carry extra batteries for my cameras and other accessories.

* I have a lot of clothing to keep my body warm, and feel that my current photography gloves (with exposable finger tips) will not be heavy enough to keep my hands warm. I just ordered the heavy duty shooting gloves from Freehands. These are their ski / snowboard gloves but also have the removable fingers.

With that in mind (and hoping to keep myself from becoming a frozen photographer), I have been out shopping for the last month.

Here is what I am bringing to help me stay warm while photographing the Olympics:

* Numerous pairs of heavy outer pants
* Long underwear (pants and shirts)
* Smart wool clothing to help regulate my body temperature
* A heavy weight jacket
* A lighter weight jacket
* Snow boots
* Wool socks
* Numerous hats (smart wool and others)
* A box of hand warmers
* A face mask
* 2 pair or photographer's gloves (light and heavy)
* Crampons for shoe traction in the heavier snow areas (required for some shooting positions)
* Moleskin in case I get blisters on my feet (which happened in Sochi)

The good news is that, for the first time I can remember, there will be washer and dryers for use in each building. And there is no charge for this. So I am also bringing some packages of detergent so that I can do my wash over there. This should be way easier than washing my clothes in a bathtub or sink like I have done in the past.

Here is the ironic thing...I am writing this blog while still in Northern California (wearing a t-shirt and shorts) where the average temperature is currently 70 during the day. Next week will be a huge change for me.

But after years of planning, I am ready to get to Korea and start capturing the action! My flight leaves in 5 days.

Before I leave, I will also post a blog showing the photographic equipment I am taking with me to Korea. Stay tuned!

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If you are interested in purchasing ANY 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.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

My last practice before the 2018 Winter Olympics - Photographing San Jose Sharks ice hockey

Like so many things in this world, in order to get good at something, it takes practice. Athletes put in a lifetime of practice before they reach the pinnacle in their careers.  And these athletes also make sure to warm up before each competition. Well, believe it or not, being a photographer involves much of the same regiment. It is for this reason that I have been photographing more ice hockey in the last month, as I prepare to shoot for USA Hockey (and other sports) at the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea.

Last night I photographed the San Jose Sharks vs. the Winnipeg Jets game, since it is the last home game before I head to Korea. And I was trying different camera settings to obtain the best images in different conditions. More on that in a little bit...

Before the game started, I decided to try something different. I mounted a Canon 600 EX-RT flash behind the sharks mouth and gelled it red. I thought is would be cool to try and backlight the skaters as they entered the ice. As it turned out, it did not make much difference, since the sharks mouth was lit pretty well anyways. But it was still a fun experiment.

The ceremonial puck drop was done by this cute little girl, Lilly. She had both of her legs amputated, and then lost her home and prosthetic legs in the North Bay Fires a couple of months ago. I love the reaction of Blake Wheeler (captain of the Jets) as she approached them.

I was taking photos of Lilly, and just after she dropped the puck she was supposed to shake each players hands. She forgot to do this and started to walk away. But then she realized her mistake and flipped around to shake their hands.

She was so cute...and I love the sequence of images.

I wanted to get some shots of my friend, Brent Burns. Love the beard!

As the game started, I shot some images to determine the best camera settings. As it turned out, I shot in manual mode at ISO 1600, f/3.5 and 1/1000th sec. I was also playing around with the location of the focus point and determined that the point just above the center point was best for framing the action. And, of course, I was shooting using the IO Servo mode of the Canon 1D X MKII camera to help track the players as they skated towards and away from me.

For the NHL games, we can shoot through holes in the glass, but this is not the case at the Olympics, where we have to shoot through the plexiglass. Ugh. Whether shooting through a hole or not, there are other things for me to think about, like the optimum focal length to shoot. When shooting on the glass, I almost always rely on the Canon 70-200mm lens. After looking at most of my images from last night, I determined that staying in the 100mm range was the best for capturing the action and not cutting off skates or the tops of sticks.

And as in any photography, it is important to look in all directions for good shots. During one of the timeouts, I looked to my left and saw these three cute kids who had come down to the glass to see the rink up close. I loved their expressions and reflections and grabbed some photos of them. (I quickly switched from manual mode to aperture priority since the lighting is very different in the stands as opposed to the ice.)

About the same time, I looked over and saw Mike Aldrich (my friend, and the equipment manager of the Sharks) and waved hello. He made this funny face, so I had to grab a shot of him.

I switched back to manual mode and kept shooting the action on the ice. At times, I would change the aperture to f/4 or f/4.5 to try and get more of the athletes in focus.

One of the things I had to learn when starting to photograph sports was to remember to capture the action AND the reaction. It is easy to get tunnel vision when capturing a fast action sport. And when the team scores a goal, I sometimes want to look at the camera and see if I got a good shot of the puck going into the net. But I am always reminding myself to keep photographing the athletes to get the celebrations (and at times, the disappointments).

Shooting at 1/1000 sec allows me to freeze the action.

Ultimately this is what I am shooting for; a sharp photo of my team scoring a goal. In order to have a real winner of a shot, I need to have our skaters in the frame along with the goalie and the puck needs to be visible. All three of those elements are in this shot.

Here is a shot of Joe Pavelski (the captain of the Sharks). Just like Brent Burns, Pavs is a friend and I like to send them some photos for their keeping.

At one point, Connor Hellebuyck (the goalie of the Jets) parked himself on top of Chris Tierney and let him know that he did not belong in the goalie's crease.

This shot is a good example of why I practice shooting. A big part of shooting sports is capturing the peak of action. It is that split second that helps to tell a story. I saw one of the Sharks players who had a clear shot at the goal, so I quickly used my back-button to focus on the goaltender and fired off a bunch of shots to freeze the action. And I got that exact moment where Hellebuyck made a save.

This is another example of that split second timing, with the puck being deflected from Joe Thornton's stick. These images are the perfect examples of why I rely on the speed of the Canon 1D X MK II (at 14 frames per second) to help get these shots.

These two shots were taken with a fraction of a second from each other. Both are good shots of the puck going into the net. The first image has the puck just about to enter the goal...

...while this second image shows the puck (hard to see) already in the net. I like the goalie's face better in the second shot, but the puck placement is better in the first shot. I guess this brings up another point. Sometimes shooting sports is a little bit of luck. I happened to be on the right side of the ice last night to see 8 of the 9 goals scored. But that is never guaranteed. I have photographed other games when I was on "wrong" side of the ice and captured no goals at all.

After the game, I switched from the Canon 70-200mm lens to the Canon 24-70mm lens and went into the locker room to get a couple of shots. This is a photo of Joe Pavelski being interviewed to get his reaction to the 5 to 4 overtime loss.

I went through all the images last night using Photo Mechanic. I deleted all the bad images and selected my favorites. I edited some of my favorites in Adobe Photoshop CC and sent them to the team. My preparation for the Olympics does not just involve capturing the photos, but also in the workflow and editing techniques.

At this point, I think I am ready to photograph the Olympic action. Now I just need to buy warm clothes for the bitter cold weather in Korea and start packing camera gear. But that is coming in the next blog post.

Till then...

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If you are interested in purchasing ANY 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.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Swimming with the Green Sea Turtles in Maui (Photos and Video)

I am back from Hawaii after spending 10 days of vacation time on the island of Maui. I was able to slow down, spend time with family and friends, read, and step away from the technology a little bit. Heck, there were even two days when I left the condo without my camera or iPhone (partly to be totally involved with the others and partly to prove to them that I could do it!)

But there were still times when I could not help myself and had to capture some photos to fill my creative soul. Most of my photos were taken underwater on this trip, with my wife, daughter and I using a combination of a Canon underwater point-and-shoot camera and a GoPro Hero 4.

But on our first full day on the island, I took the Canon 5D Mark IV (with the Canon 100-400mm lens) down to the water and took photos and video of this Green sea turtle making his way back into the ocean. You can see the video of this and more at the end of this blog.

But as I mentioned, most of my photos were taken underwater when we were swimming with the turtles. And there were a lot of turtles to be seen, as we were staying in a condo that was 100 feet from shores of turtle cove.

I preferred to photograph the sea turtles when they were close to the surface, for two reasons. First and foremost, the light is better near the surface which yielded better images, and secondly, I liked the reflection of the turtles on the surface of the water.

Sometimes when the turtles would dive down, I would take a deep breath and follow them down to get shots of them nearer the ocean floor.

While swimming, I saw these rays of sunlight coming from the water's surface and loved how it framed the two turtles.

Oh wait - before I go on I need to tell all of you about the editing process for these photos.

Are you ready for this?

This is the original photo of what you just saw above. When you take photos or video underwater, the cameras have a hard time determining the proper color levels. You will need to edit those photos to bring back the contrast and color. Each of the underwater photos that you see in this blog have been retouched in Adobe Photoshop CC. I adjusted the white balance, contrast, shadows and highlights to make the images appear closer to what I saw when snorkeling. What a huge difference, huh?

I had fun following the turtles as they swam from one location to another.

Like photographing any subject, I enjoyed the challenge of capturing photos of the turtles from different angles. For this shot, I was floating in place and saw this turtle swimming right towards me.

The turtles come up for air periodically, so it is not hard to get photos like this of them by the surface.

It took a couple of tries, but I managed to get this photo half above water and half underwater, which gives you a perfect example of how the turtles come up to breath.

This shot is a little different, because the turtle was swimming in shallow water, with both the ocean's bottom and the water's surface in the same image.

After they would come up for air, they would swim down deep and park themselves under the rocks and coral.

My wife and daughter was hanging around this turtle and watching it intensely. I was so busy trying to get steady video with the camera, that I did not notice what intrigued them. This turtle was missing it's front right flipper, but still managed to swim around as well as any of the others. We nicknamed this one "Nubby". We looked for this turtle a couple of days later, but could not find him again.

At the beginning of this blog, I mentioned that I took video footage both above the water and below. You can click on the image below to watch my short 2 1/2 minute video compilation. I hope you like it!

Now the relaxation is over and I am back to the real world. During these three weeks I will be capturing 3 Bar Mitzvahs, 2 NHL games, one vow renewal, one adoption ceremony, and preparing camera gear and clothing for the Winter Olympics.

From this point on, it is full speed ahead (which I know how to handle better than the slow island pace anyways).

Get ready folks - we are almost to the start of another Olympics! :)

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY 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.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world.

Monday, January 8, 2018

From the shorelines of Maui - photos and video from the coast and blowhole on the west side of the island

For the last week, I have been on the island of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands with my wife, daughter and good friends. The timing is great since this gives me a little down time before taking off for the month long work at the Olympic Games.

We have been to Maui many times, but it is always nice to come back and enjoy the warm weather, especially when most of the U.S. is in freezing weather.

I have posted some images on social media, and people have been saying things like "you must be taking tons of photos there in Hawaii". But the truth is, as much as I would like to be shooting more, I am trying to use this time to hang with the group, play cards, snorkel and not focus on photography.

But if you know me, and most of you do, I still have to get my fix. So I have been using the GoPro camera when snorkeling and even taken the Canon 5D Mark IV camera out for a couple of photo excursions. I only brought two lenses with me, the Canon 24-105mm and the Canon 100-400mm.

So for this blog post, I am going to share with you some of my favorite images taken along the coastline of Maui during this past week.

This first image may look like a photo taken at night, but it was actually a photo taken just before sunrise on our first morning on Maui. I was up early (due to the 2 hour time change) and was planning on taking some sunrise photos. But before the sunrise, I saw the setting super moon and focused on that instead.

I was excited to get a shot of the moon setting over the island of Molokai, mixed with the colors of the upcoming sunrise.

A couple of days ago, my wife, daughter and I went for a walk along the Kaanapali coastline and I did bring the Canon 5D Mark IV and 24-105mm lens for that walk. It is a beautiful coastline and I am glad that I had the camera with me.

On our walk back, I saw a family of four trying to get a family portrait with their iPhone. I took some shots for them and then offered to do a better photo with my camera. We ended up talking to them for a while and made some new friends. I retouched their photo and sent it to them later this afternoon. If it wasn't for me having my camera, we would never have met these nice people.

And that evening I stepped out to get another couple of sunset photos. For these, I used my Gitzo travel tripod to keep the camera still during the long exposure shots.

Yesterday we drove around the island looking for a good beach for the kids and us to boogie board or snorkel. Since we were back home in the late afternoon, I did break away for a little photography excursion to get some photos of the blowhole, located about 20 minutes north of where we are staying. Ethan, the son of our good friends asked if he could come along, and I was happy to have someone to share the fun with.

During our 20 minute car ride together, I told Ethan about my plan to photograph the blowhole. I had never actually seen one before, but figured that as slow shutter speed would be the best way to capture the action in the water spout.  I put on my Tiffen Circular Polarizing filter to help mitigate the glare off the wet rocks, but also to help kill some of the ambient light. Using the Gitzo travel tripod once again, with the Acratech ballhead, I started with a shutter speed of 1/5 second, and you can see the results in this first photo.

And...of course, one of the great lessons in photography is to look all around when shooting to see if there are other good shots. And in doing so, I saw this heart shaped hole in the rock behind me, and reframed to get shots in this direction. To get a little more motion in the water, I changed the camera settings of my Canon 5D Mark IV to get a 1 second exposure.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-105mm lens, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/2 sec)

Then I was back to photographing the blowhole, moving around to get different angles.

I would shoot numerous frames in different positions, since the amount of water coming from the spout would vary, yielding very different results. You can see the slight differences in the two photos above.

The hard part was keeping all that water spray off of my lens (filter). I would have to clean the front of the lens after almost every shot.

There are a lot of warnings in the area, reminding people of the dangers of getting too close to the blowhole and water's edge. These surface becomes very slippery and the area is covered with very sharp volcanic rocks. But that did not stop these people from getting a photo very close to the blowhole. I took this photo to show you the scale of the spout (to the right of the people).

(Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 24-105mm lens, ISO 1000, f/5.6, 1/13 sec, Canon 600EX-RT flash at -2))
After taking all the landscape shots I wanted, I set up the tripod to get a shot of Ethan and I. For this photo, I used the same setup as before (camera, filter, tripod) but also added a Canon 600EX-RT flash to light us. I put the camera in 10 second timer mode and carefully ran into the scene for the photo.

While down by the blowhole, I also decided to step away from the DSLR setup and break out my iPhone X to take a slow motion video. It is pretty impressive how well iPhone camera does in this situation.  Check out the video by clicking on the image above or here.

Aloha from the Hawaiian islands!

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY 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.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world.