Thursday, August 24, 2006

PGA Championships

I was busy shooting the PGA Championships for almost the entire week last week, and it was quite the experience. I mean, it's only one of the biggest golf tournaments on the planet!

It's also one of the most physically exhausting sports to shoot. Think about it. You're walking the entire course at least once, usually twice (so about 5-8 miles). Now try doing that with a 400 f/2.8 on one camera, and a 70-200 f/2.8 on another camera, and a fanny pack stuffed with a 1.4x converter, 24-70, and a couple bottles of water.

Now I was a bit nervous going into the event because I don't shoot a whole lot of golf... and certainly nothing quite as prestigious as the PGA Championships! Sure, I could have played it "safe" and just followed players hitting out of the tee box and putting, but come on, where's the fun in that? Besides, that would be as boring as shooting tennis if I did that and lead to a whole lot of uninteresting photos (and thus not ever be hired to shoot the PGA again). That said, golf presented a challenge that other sports don't really have in that I had to think really hard about all my shots, trying to find different and unusual angles/views to make my images as interesting as possible.

Overall, I think the entire weekend went pretty well. Now, I'm not a big golf fan, but I'll admit, it was pretty exciting to be there and see Tiger Woods just absolutely dominate and put away all his competition on the last day.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

You'll never guess what I did today (unless I told you earlier). I flew with a bunch of planes that will be flying in the 88th annual Chicago Air and Water Show!!!

Originally, I was only scheduled to fly with one of the teams... the Lima Lima Flight Team (pronounced Lee-ma Lee-ma). I got the honor of flying in the #2 plane with Rick Nichols. The backseat of those planes were pretty cramped, and for obvious reasons, they strap you down really tight. It made it extraordinarily hard to move, let alone try to take pictures. The plexiglass window and the sunny skies sure didn't help much. Let's not forget the G forces whenever they made turns and started doing loops and tricks! Along with being strapped in tight, they gave us a headset so we can listen in on the chatter (and have the pilots tell us to do something or not to do something...)

"This is Lima 1, let's do a whiffer."
"This is Lima 1, initiating whiffer."

I'm thinking to myself, what the hell is a whiffer? Then I see the lead plane go shooting straight up in the air and corkscrew above my head. Awwwww jeeez.

"This is Lima 2, initiating whiffer."

Man, that was so cool. I couldn't really get a good shot of the other planes pulling the stunt because first, we were too far apart and all I was able to bring up was a wide angle, and second, I could barely lift up the freaking camera to the window because of the G Forces! And then on the way down, my camera started floating in the air because of lack of G Forces! HA! I'm actually surprised I didn't get airsick from the ride, although I did come down with a headache and was a bit dizzy.

In the end, I did get some shots of the Lima Lima Team, but I was pretty disappointed they didn't fly up to Chicago to do their demonstration... I think it was a combination of a time issue, plus not having the air clearance to fly over the city. It also made me nervous because I know my editors were expecting planes in Chicago! Uhhhh, crap?

Luckily, I think the City of Chicago people really liked me (or the fact that I was working for an international company - Reuters - and want the publicity) so they sent me up with the Red Baron Pizza Squad next. Unlike the Lima Lima planes, these were open air, and they put you in the front seat! How the pilot can see where he's going in the back seat with all the giant wing in front is beyond me. Now, the Red Baron planes are stunt planes (the Lima Lima planes were military training jets), plus they were open air, so they didn't try anything crazy. Again, they didn't go into the city, and the darn wings in front really limited my field of vision. Another flight, and I still don't think I have enough to make my editors happy.

I thought I was on my way out again, and I was offered a third ride! And third time was the charm. I went up with Sean Tucker and Team Oracle. Unlike the previous flights, I was actually put in a "chase" airplane that hovered right above Tucker's craft... they must do these media previews all the time because they had things set up fantastically. Plus, they had clearance to go into the city.

As a bonus, the Blue Angels who had been flying around decided to join in the formation!!! With a set-up like that, it was impossible to take a crappy photo! So in the end, I was happy, but more importantly, my editors were happy :-)

Well, to wrap up my longest post ever, I'll share these last two images... I can't go flying in a bunch of stunt planes and old war planes without taking shots of me in them right? Here are a couple of shots of me in the Lima Lima plane. First in formation:

And second, in the middle of a whiffer. Why not? And before you say anything, yes I have a weird face in it but that's because of all the G Forces!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Jenn and Avery

Earlier in the year, I was asked if I shot weddings. Yes, most of the work that I do is sports, but weddings has been something I have been moving more and more into. Yes, they're pretty high pressure, and yes, they're ridiculous amounts of work, but it's pretty neat for me to do them once in a while as a change of pace. Crazy as it sounds, sports do get old after a while, even for the fanatics like myself.

Anyways, on August 6, 2006, Avery and Jenn were married at Hotel 71 in downtown Chicago, IL. Both the wedding and the reception were held in the hotel's 39th floor, in a fancy little ballroom with windows on three sides (with fantastic views of the Chicago River and the Loop). Of course, all that open space meant that lighting conditions were pretty darn tricky (what wedding doesn't have tricky lighting?) because of huge backlighting. However, the backlighting actually ended up being a blessing, because I used it to give the very photogenic couple an incredible "heavenly "glow. I don't think I could have asked for those images to turn out any better.

After the ceremony, I did the portraits out in the city, right near Hotel 71, mostly on Wacker Drive. I was too spoiled that Sunday. For those of you who know the city, you know that the view in every direction in that part of Chicago is absolutely fantastic. However, I took the advice of one of my buddies and full-time California wedding photographer Chris Humphreys and mixed in something different as well... adding contrast between the subject and background by using atypical backgrounds such as streets and even back alleys as backdrops.

So in a nutshell, that was the wedding. Like I said, I don't shoot very many of these, so I always forget how much work they are. Besides the 8-10 hours of shooting the day of (and the constant running around and not very much time to eat, if at all), there's the whole image editing thing... which actually is where most of the work involved is. Between me and my assistant, I think we took just over 2,100 frames, all in RAW format (but since I was running the show, I did all the editing). Uhhh, yeah. That's a lot. In the end, I think I whittled it down to about 225 nice frames. And it only took me three days to do it... I'd say that's pretty good! Especially since I worked a Sox game Tuesday night and a Bears practice Wednesday night!

Well, unless things change, that's it for me as far as weddings/engagements go in 2006. I've got a couple slated for 2007, but til' then, it's back to sports and features :-)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Da Bears

We're late in the summer now, so you know what that means? It's football time. Well, sort of. NFL (and NCAA) training camps have opened up all around the country. And as they have for the past several seasons, the Bears opened up camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL, which is a little town about 50 miles south of Chicago.

Although this would be my first NFL training camp, I had a pretty good idea of how a football practice would run because of my experiences with the Northwestern football program. And I also knew that although it'd be exciting to be back on a football field, it would probably get boring in a hurry. I mean seriously, how fun could it be to watch a bunch of players run through drills for two hours? Yup, it's not. Not to mention you're out there baking in the late summer sun for a couple of hours. I guess it proves that there are lots of die hard Bears fans in Chicago, because they come out in force!

The images above were all from the opening day of camp, on July 27. I also went back there on August 3, which will probably be the last training camp session that I visit for the 2006 season. They do practice at Soldier Field sometime next week, but I will probably be shooting the White Sox-Yankees series instead.

So, there are your 2006-2006 Chicago Bears. Next time you see them on this blog, they will be in uniform at Soldier Field!