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Finally, Some Good Light!

Hey everybody! Happy Wednesday! Thanks for the stopping by!  I hope everyone's week is off to a great start. The past two days I have posted a couple of my favorite images from the Titans vs. 49ers game Sunday, but I thought I'd throw a few more up today on my blog for everyone to check out. 

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It was pretty cool to see Colin Kaepernick and company up close in action. It's not every day you get to be on the field with a Super Bowl team! They didn't disappoint either, really putting it to the Titans 31-17.  

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I'm always excited to shoot an NFL game, but I was really pumped when I found out this one was going to be at 3pm and we were going to have good lighting conditions! My first game a few weeks ago was really overcast and rainy (when the Jets came to town). These conditions were still better than the cruddy nighttime lighting I usually deal with when shooting high school games, but it still wasn't ideal. Sunday, however, was just about perfect. I have seen many action shots over the years where the sun is starting to go down and the stadium casts a shadow over the field. THAT is what you really hope for, when it turns the crowd dark and the players are still lit up. Well, we got just that on Sunday and I did my best to take advantage of it. Not only that, but I also got to ride to the game and shoot with a sports photography legend, Tom Dipace! Tom has been shooting sports for long time and has some outstanding work in his book. He's had Wheaties boxes, SI covers, ESPN the Magazine covers, New Era campaigns, and many more. It was pretty cool to follow him around and get advice throughout the game. Thanks Tom! Check out his site when you have a chance. He's got some great stuff!

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The image above is probably my favorite shot, and honestly probably the best action shot I've taken. It will likely be making it's way to a wall in my office! This was Kaepernick's big TD run in the first quarter when he broke free for a 20 yard TD run. I got lucky and just happened to be set up right in the corner of the end zone where he headed!  I was really happy with this shot, but it actually could have ended up a little better. You see, when he started to get close and I knew he was going to score I put down my big 400mm lens and went to grab my second body with my 50mm that was over my shoulder (most people who shot NFL games have two bodies, one with a long lens and one with a short lens for when they players get close). When I pulled it up I started to fire and nothing happened. What the heck?! Apparently, I had accidentally turned it off with my leg! Ugh! So, by the time I fumbled around and got the darn thing on, Colin had JUST FINISHED "Kaepernicking" and was headed back to the sideline (that's when he kisses his bicep after he scores). I was so mad, but I guess that is going to happen from time to time. I'll just chalk it up as a learning experience. 

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The rest of the game was pretty rough for the Titans, even though they had just gotten their QB back, Jake Locker. They actually had a chance to get back into the game late in the 4th quarter, but they fumbled a punt and the 49ers recovered it in the the end zone for a TD, and at that point the game was pretty much over.  

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It was pretty entertaining to watch such a  great team play, and man is coach Jim Harbaugh intense! They were up by a few score late in the game and he was STILL challenging plays and giving the refs a hard time!  

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I hope everyone has a great rest of the week! I'll be back soon with another post. Until then, check out news stands for my UK and U of L Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview covers, and be sure and drop by View Bug's web site to enter the Flash Photography Contest I am judging for them. There's a chance to win some really cool prizes like a custom SLR M-Plate Pro Portable Photo Storage Hub. Entries have to be in by November 15th! Below is the link so you can check it out. See ya!

Viewbug

Athlon Sports

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Shooting the #1 Team in the Country

I posted photos from my first NFL game a couple of weeks ago, and I had the opportunity to shoot another game this past weekend. This time it was a college game, and I got to see the #1 team in the country, Alabama, play UK. It was pretty exciting to see AJ McCarron and company in action! This was my first UK game to shoot and I was really impressed with all the buzz during the pre game. There were a LOT of other photographers on the side lines, but I still managed to get where I needed to be for most of the game. 

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I was really hoping UK could play with them and give us a good game to shoot, and they did for the first half!  Eventually Alabama wore them down with their depth but hey, that's why they are the #1 team in the country almost every year! There isn't much fall off from their starters to their second unit.

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When I shoot for Athlon Sports I will have a shot list of certain players for every game. Shooting for them isn't like shooting for a wire service or news outlet. They are less concerned about "shooting the game" and more worried about getting shots of the main players for the magazine and website. So, if you are wondering why a lot of my images are vertical (horizontal seems to be the trend), that is why. They want clean shots of players that are as big as possible to cut out. 

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Because I have a "hit list" (which includes coaches), it makes sense to take advantage of the pre game as well. Because you can only go from the end zone to the 25 or 30 yard line on the field, it can be hard to get photos of them (even with a 400mm lens). I got a few of Bama coach Nick Saban, but didn't get a chance to get any shots of UK's coach Mark Stoops. Luckily he looked right at me in the 3rd quarter. It was right after Alabama scored a TD so he didn't appear to be too happy, but I'll take it. :-) 

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The game ended up pretty lop-sided (48-7), but it was still really fun to shoot! UK may not be where they want to be yet, but they are headed in the right direction. I can't wait to see what Stoops and his staff do in the years to come. Hopefully I'll be there for several more games to witness it firsthand. Thanks again to Athlon and their photo editor, Tim, for sending me to Lexington!

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Shooting My First NFL Game

As some of you may have seen, I recently shot the UK and U of L basketball preview magazine covers for Athlon Sports. Luckily, everyone down in Nashville (where Athlon is located) was very happy with my work. As a result, they are going to give me a shot at shooting some game action shots for them! I have done some action photos in the past, but I have been so busy with portrait sessions I haven't had much time for it lately. I have shot a few high school games this year and it reminded me how much fun it is being on the sidelines for games so I'm really excited about this opportunity!

My 2013 Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview covers

My 2013 Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview covers

Before they send me out on my own to shoot a college or pro game for the magazine, they wanted to show me some tips. As a training, Athlon's veteran photographer, Tim Clark, took me along with him for the Titans versus Jets game yesterday in Nashville. I was pretty pumped, but slightly nervous about the game. Keep in mind that most of the games I have shot in the past have not been in the best lighting conditions, which makes it hard to focus and stop action. 

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Rather than diving in head first with a new and very expensive lens, I decided to borrow a 400mm 2.8 from NPS (Nikon Professional Services). It took some getting used to, but man does that thing make a difference! Even though it was overcast and raining part of the game, the light was WAY better than the games I am used to shooting. 

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Even though the game was a blow out, it was still a great learning experience and a lot of fun! I had a shot list of players to make sure I got photos of, which took a little getting use to as well, but I actually really liked it after I got into a rhythm.

 What topped it off was that I got to see Paducah's own George Wilson play for the Titans. George has been in the league for a while and spent all of his time with the Bills until this year when he signed with the Titans. Anyway, here are some of my favorite shots from the game. I have more to learn, but I feel like I'm off to a decent start! Thanks again to Tim and Athlon for giving me a shot!

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Athlete Retouching/Reducing Lens Flare

Hey everybody! I just uploaded a new video with an exmaple of my retouching process for ahtlete portraits. I chose this photo for the video because there was some unexpected lens flare at the top of the frame that caused my background to wash out slightly and lose some detail. In the video I will show you how to take care of that with some simple masking and a few curves adjustment layers. I hope everyone enjoys it, and has a great rest of the week! 

Our New Addition, and Blend If

Hey there everybody! I hope your week is off to a great start! It's been a while since I posted on here, so thanks for stopping by. The end of the school year was very hectic for me with last minute senior portraits, and then we jumped head first in to little league season. Not to mention my wife and I just had our first baby! Everyone say hi to baby Landry :-)  These are a couple of shots I grabbed a little less than a week after we brought him home. I'm a big Batman geek so my wonderful wife got that cutstom key chain for me. I think it just may be my favorite photo EVER lol!

Our New Addition, Landry!

My amasing wife got this key chain specially made for me!

My amasing wife got this key chain specially made for me!

My happy little guy!

My happy little guy!

I'm just a little proud if you can't tell! 

Now, on to business!

This time I wanted to share a new video I put together with a tip for compositing. If you do many composites, this is a must watch! Using the "Blend If"  slider in your layer style dialogue box in Photoshop can seriously be a game-changer when comes to things like painting in shadows. A couple of years ago, an image like this may have taken me 30 minutes to an hour to paint in shadows, but using the "Blend If" tool, it only took minutes (if that!). It may sound a little confusing at first, and it takes a minute to grasp what is going on. But once you figure it out, "Blend If" can be a great ally when compositing!

I hope you like the video. Stay tuned, there will be more to come soon! Have a great week :-) 

New Video Tutorial on a Shortcut for Masking Hair

Hi everybody! I hope you're having a good week! I did a quick post with this video on my G+ page yesterday but for everyone that did not get a chance to check it out, I wanted to post it on my blog as well.

For anyone who didn't see my new image of University of Kentucky defensive back JD Harmon you can check it out on my 500px portfolio by clicking here! This video shows a couple of the techniques I used to create this image. It it not of the entire process (you can check out my in depth composite tutorial on YouTube), but I did show a few tricks:

1) How you can shoot on grey seamless paper and use blending modes to make the compositing process easier

2) How to extend the grey background when it isn't big enough

3) A shortcut for masking hair

So, here it is! I've got a busy end of the week so I better get back to it. I hope everyone enjoys the video. Feel free to email me with questions :) Thanks for stoping by and I'll see you soon!

Cross Country Before & After & New 500px Images

Not much going on this week other than LOTS of senior picture editing. It's almost graduation time so I'm trying to get all my last minute appointments in and edited so these kids can send out graduation invites! I wanted to stop in really quick and post some before and after images of a project I just finished, as well as my links to a couple new 500px images.

Some of you may have seen my posts on social media this week of a couple new composites of an 11 year old cross country athlete from Graves County. I thought they turned out pretty well, so I wanted to share the before and afters of all three photos. The  subjects were all shot in doors in my old high school baseball coach's indoor practice facility (thanks for helping me out Coach Massa!). The first two backgrounds are from LeCows dairy farm in town. Thanks to Ellie, Lesa and Dan for letting me shoot at your place! They have a lot of beautiful land and I thought it would be very appropriate for a cross country runner. I wasn't sure what I was going to do about the background image for the third composite, but luckily my wife talked me into bringing my camera along when we visited Cades Cove on our Gatlinburg vacation a couple of weeks ago. I have to be honest, the idea to shoot this tunnel was actually hers too. As soon as I set the tripod down I knew it would work perfectly for the third composite of Landry! So, here's the before and afters of all three images so you can see what I started with. As a side note, I did HDR all three backgrounds from Lightroom into Photoshop CS6. 

Landry Oliver Composites Before & After

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Image 1 final composite

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Image 2 before

Image 2 before

Image 2 final composite

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Image 3 before

Image 3 before

Image 3 final composite

Image 3 final composite

New 500px Images

I just uploaded images 2 and 3 to my 500px portfolio (image 1 was already on there), so feel free to take a look if you're on there (or even if you aren't). Make sure you give them the 'ol thumbs up if you like them ;) Here's the links:

That's it for now. Thanks again to everyone for stoping by. Have a great rest of the week, and I'll see you again soon!

Using the Nik Collection to Finish Off Sports Composites

Hi everybody! I hope your week is off to a good start. We are half way to the weekend! Do you have big plans? I'll be shooting the rest of the week so I'm trying to catch up on some editing before hand. But first I wanted to do a quick post today with a new YouTube video I just uploaded. In honor of Google announcing the Nik Collection last week I wanted to share a custom recipe I have created using Color Efex Pro 4 to finish off my composites. I feel like adding plugins at the end of the compositing process really helps to blend the image together more. Here you go. I hope everyone enjoys it, and have a great day!

Our Vacation, a Guest Post & a Before & After

Hi everyone, I hope you had a great weekend! The wife were on vacation in Gatlinburg last week so we spent the weekend unpacking, unwinding and finishing painting my son's room. Here's a couple photos from the week at the Hollywood Wax Museum and in front of the mountains at Chimney Tops. We had a fun time on our little trip! It was great to relax and take some time away, I was getting a little burnt out on work!

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Guest Post for A Sporting Life!

I've got a busy week ahead of me but before I get going to wanted to share something I'm pretty excited about with everyone. I was recently asked to be a guest writer for an inspirational web site for sports creatives called A Sporting Life. Check out my write up called "Never Be Satisfied" over at asportinglife.com. In the article I talk about the last year and how much my life has changed. My goal with it is to inspire others by telling my journey thus far through photography. Thanks to Jonathan Kennedy for asking me to contribute to his site!

Check out my guest post over at asportinglife.com!

Check out my guest post over at asportinglife.com!

Composite Before & After Nik Color Efex Pro 4

Lastly I wanted to share a before and after of my most recent sports composite. Later this week I am going to share a short video of how I finish off my composites with Nik Color Efex Pro 4. For those of you that have never used this plug in you really need to check it out. It's a great way to not only finish off and blend composite images, but edit any type of image. ESPECIALLY now that it's part of the new Nik Collection by Google. For $150 you get all the Nik plug ins in one pack. It's hard to pass up a deal like that! Check back for the video, but in the mean time here is my image before and after I used Color Efex Pro 4. You can really see of the power of the plug and how much detail it can add to an image here!

To the left you see the image before using Nik Color Efex Pro 4, and to the right you see after.

To the left you see the image before using Nik Color Efex Pro 4, and to the right you see after.

That's it for today. Thanks for checking out this post and I'll see you again soon! Have a great Monday everyone!

It's Been a Relaxing Couple of Days!

It figures that the week after I finally start blogging more regularly, I go on a mini "babymoon" so the wife and I can get away one last time before our son is born. But hey, everyone needs some time off every now and then! We've spent the last three days in Gatlinburg, TN relaxing and having some quality time. We figure we won't have much alone time here pretty soon! 

I haven't had much to share this week on any of my social media sites, excluding Instagram and my personal Facebook page where I've been posting iPhone shots from our trip. So, here's a quick photo I grabbed with my REAL camera of the neat little cabin we stayed in. I took this yesterday morning before the family (my wife & the dogs) got up just before sunrise. I bracketed 7 exposures with my Nikon D800, and HDRed it in Lightroom 4 and PS CS6. The final processing was done in Nik Color Efex Pro 4. 

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Speaking of Nik, I am guessing that most of you know by now that Google announced this week that they are combing all of the Nik programs into one awesome collection called the Nik Collection by Google! This seems like a good deal, mainly because they are only charging $149 for the ENTIRE THING! That's 70% cheaper than the original price of all the programs purchased individually. They have also been nice enough to include ALL the Nik programs, including HDR Efex Pro 2, Color Efex Pro 4, Silver Efex Pro 2, Viveza 2, Sharpener Pro 3, and Dfine 2. Pretty cool if you ask me! Here's the link if you want to check it out: http://www.niksoftware.com/nikcollection/usa/index.php?view=intro%2Fmain.shtml

Like I said before, I haven't had time to post much this week, but I did get one new composite up before we left for Gatlinburg. This is of a local football star Jonathan Jackson of the Mayfield Cardinals who's team won the Class A State Football Championship earlier this year! Jonathan was one of the top rushers in the state this year, and I shot this image in studio right before Christmas. I thought it was such a powerful portrait of him I didn't want to get too crazy with the background, so I just put some storm clouds behind him. I have been using Nik more and more to finish off my composites, and this image is a perfect example. I will be posting a short video next week with the recipe I have created for my composites. It really helps to blend the image at the end! If you haven't checked out the image of Jonathan, here's the link to my 500px page: http://500px.com/photo/29294475

I guess that's it for now. Thanks to everyone who took the time to check in and read this post. See you next week with my new video on the Nik Collection and how I use it with my sports composites. Until then, take care!

George Wilson Composite - Part 2 - Preparing the background

Hey everybody! I hope your week is off to a great start. I just wanted to stop by really quick and post part two of my three part tutorial series. This video covers how I prepared the background for my new composite of Titans strong safety George Wilson. I hope everyone enjoys it, and stay turned for Part 3 soon on how I blended the subject with the background for the final composite. Have a great week everyone!

WESTCOTT LAUNCHES LIGHTAPALOOZA 2013

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Westcott, one of the worldʼs largest lighting and light modifier companies, today announced a lighting celebration like none other. Westcottʼs team is proud to announce the launch of Lightapalooza, an exciting year-long promotion for all lighting fanatics, creatives and photo enthusiasts. Thereʼll be giveaways galore featuring weekly contests, hundreds of prizes and one jaw-dropping Grand Prize valued over $15,000!

This collaborative contest aims to inform and inspire photographers about proper lighting techniques to take their skills and creations to the next level. Team Westcott and friends want to reverse stereotypes that lighting and green screen are a challenge through a variety of video tips, photography scenarios from top pros, and real deal reviews from everyday photographers like yourself.

Hereʼs how it works: There will be weekly tips, reviews and contests of all sorts. Watch and enter these. Throughout the year, weekly prizes will be awarded along with 200 individual Golden Tickets. Then on December 31, 2013, each Golden Ticket will be entered into the Grand Prize drawing where one Westcott fanʼs life will be changed forever.

The lucky Golden Ticket holder will shop-till-they-drop in aisles of gear and gadgets at Westcottʼs world headquarters, where everything is fair game up to $15,000! Choose from cutting-edge studio LEDs, Ice Lights, Apollo speedlite modifiers, hundreds of backdrops and more.

The celebration doesnʼt end there. After the spree, the lucky Golden Ticket holder will be greeted by a Westcott Top Pro Photographer and learn hands-on how to use their new gear. Head into Westcottʼs studio for a professional fashion photo shoot, complete with model, wardrobe and makeup artist. Even more exciting, the entire experience will be shared with the world in a Live web event.

Looking for the current contest? Check out the latest education and contest on http://lightapalooza2013.com/. Be sure to enter weekly for a chance to win prizes and that coveted Golden Ticket.

About FJ Westcott

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Located just outside of Toledo, Ohio, with roots dating back to 1899, the F.J. Westcott Co. is currently a leading innovator of photo-video lighting solutions for professionals and enthusiasts. We proudly team up with top industry pros to educate and inspire our customers throughout the globe through live shootout events, seminars and more.

Find Westcott Online

Visit Us: www.fjwestcott.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/WestcottCo(@WestcottCo)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Westcott

MY FIRST TUTORIAL!

Sorry it's taken me so long

I started getting requests for tutorials on my composites at the Google+ Photographer's Conference in San Francisco last May, and I love to teach and help people, so I was pretty excited. After the conference, I had every intention of working on one, but I soon got side-tracked with regular client work.  Before I knew it, almost a year had passed. Finally, I realized that I couldn't put it off any longer and I just had to make time to do it. So, here you go, Part 1 is finally here. If you noticed the top menu of my computer during the tutorial, you will see it was a little after 5am when I recorded it. I am not typically that early of a riser, but if I want to do this sort of thing (and I really do) I am just going to have to make sacrifices (like less sleep). 

Why I chose this image for the tutorial

There are a couple of reasons why I chose this particular composite for my first tutorial. At first, I thought I might go with something a little more simple, but I changed my mind after I thought about it. This image is slightly more complicated than normal, but I thought that might be a good thing. There are a few problems I solve in the video because after all, isn't that what people really want to see? I figure if I do the same thing as other people are doing for tutorials, I won't get much interest.

Problem #1: The flare behind the subject

I show how to fix this by putting a sun set behind the subject to make the flare look intentional.

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Problem #2: Not shot on seamless paper

This makes the image a lot harder to extract from the background, but there is a useful tool I use to show you how to get it done.

Problem #3: The sky in the background is BORING

This may see like a big problem with all those trees, but I show you a relatively easy way to take care of it.

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Stay tuned for Parts 2 & 3

So, after a long wait (for some of you), here is Part 1 of the three part series. Stay tuned for 2 & 3 coming soon! I'll be posting them all here on my blog as well as my social media pages. I hope everyone enjoys the video and until next time, take care!