Tony and Randi's Chicago Wedding!

Last week I had the chance to fly to Chicago to photograph the wonderful wedding of Tony and Randi in a nearby suburb. The weather was absolutely incredible and the locations we found were stunning for photos!(In fact, I had no idea that Chicago had such beautiful open fields!) Both Tony and Randi looked amazing and were awesome to photograph throughout the day!

I had a chance to photograph the wedding with my old friend Adrian Henson and I think we really got some amazing stuff!  It was also quite a memorable night as the Cubs clinched their first World Series birth since 1945! Congrats again Randi and Tony! I am honored to call you guys good friends  now as well!

Here are a few highlights from the day...

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Spruce and Lina's Nashville Wedding!

I had the pleasure of photographing the beautiful wedding of Spruce and Lina last weekend!  Spruce is a fellow photographer and good friend who I have known for years and I was so happy for him when he told me that he had found "the one!"  Lina is really awesome and I think they make a fantastic team together!

My buddy Chris Hanewinckel photographed the wedding with me near Leiper's Fork in Tennessee and we had a great time and got some fantastic images! (It helped that both Spruce and Lina are incredibly photogenic and fun!!)  It was also so great to meet and get to know both of their wonderful families over the weekend!  Thanks again guys for the hospitality and the amazing food!!

Here are some highlights from the day...

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My 90 Second Portrait of Texas Rangers Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran

I got the call last week to do a portrait of potential Texas Rangers Hall of Famers Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran before a game.  Adrian has always been one of my favorite players to photograph in action, so I was excited to get the chance to make a portrait of him.  I was told that I might have about 10 or 15 minutes with them and that I could possibly use the field.  I got all excited as I charted where the sun and light would be as well as what Profoto lights and modifiers I would use to make a super cool shot with the stadium as a backdrop.

Well, once I got there, I soon found out that I couldn't use the field as it was being tended to and that the only real chance of getting these guys together before a game would be in the press conference room right down the hallway from the locker room.  Well, it definitely wasn't the most ideal spot for a portrait, but I always try to MAcGyver my way out of trouble and make some lemonade out of lemons.

I found a logo on the wall and decided that I would spot light it with a 10 degree grid and a Profoto B1 strobe.  Here is a behind the scenes look at how I lit the logo...

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I had originally wanted to use a beauty dish to light both guys but realized in that small room, it would simply put out too much light and too big of a spread.  So, I opted for a narrow silver reflector and pulled them as far away from the wall as possible.  I wish I had more room as  would have had them even further back, but you can see where I put an "X" on the ground with some gaffer tape for when they walked in. Here is a quick grab shot of me testing the light and a peek at all the chairs and commotion around me... :)

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Adrian came in before Carlos and so it was great to speak with him and discuss the year, how he used to live in Southlake, why he moved away, horrible LA traffic, etc...while we waited.  Carlos came in shortly after and I was able to direct them to do a couple of poses that I thought might work for the article.  My main goal was to make sure the logo showed and that their poses complemented each other.  I took about 10 total photos in 90 seconds and was very pleased with how they came out!(Well, considering it was in a press conference room and not the field.)

Here are a couple I liked as well as how the article ran today both in online and print versions...

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http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2016/10/05/carlos-beltran-adrian-beltre-world-series-rangers/91582434

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To Crop or Not - Ohio State's Noah Brown's Catch of the Year

As both a photographer and photo editor for USA Today Sports, I found myself in a situation that almost every photographer deals with on a daily basis.  Should I crop or not?  And if so, how much?  Last Saturday, I was fortunate enough to capture what might already arguably be the college football catch of the year when Ohio State's Noah Brown made an incredible one handed catch with the ball pinned against the back of Oklahoma Sooners defensive back Michiah Quick.  I was using the new Canon 1DX Mark II with the 200-400mm lens and the combination flawlessly captured the whole sequence in perfect focus! (So thanks Canon!!)
Once I got back to the workroom to edit my images at halftime, I immediately pulled up that sequence as I knew it was more than likely the topic of everyone's conversation around the country.  Usually with a sequence of photos, I try to pick 1 or maybe at most 2 shots to send in as editors usually do not want to see more than that.(It can get pretty repetitive otherwise.)  I knew that this photo was special though and so I decided to basically crop the sequence 3 different ways.  Here is my reasoning...
1.  I chose to leave the photo as a loose horizontal.  More and more web clients are choosing to use horizontal photos and by leaving the composition pretty loose, it allows them to fit the photo into their webpages, designs, etc...  Normally, I look for clean backgrounds, but in a photo like this where the sidelines are ridiculously packed with people, I think being able to see all of their reactions actually adds to the storytelling aspect.(Love the joy on the OSU band members, the mascot, and the fans along with the despair and disbelief on the faces of the Oklahoma fans.)
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2.  I chose to do a tight horizontal crop on just the catch.  Lots of newspapers and other clients prefer solid, tight action.  This also makes an ugly background not seem as bad. It's what I usually try to do 80% of the time, so I had to send in an  option for them.
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3.   Since it was a very important play, I also included a vertical photo as well.  Even though this will probably be the least used, I really like being able to see the dangling legs on both players in mid air with an emphasis on the action.(You can also still see some of the bystander reaction although not as much as the looser crop.)
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With all this being said, here are some articles that I have found so far using the images and the crops...
For The Win chose the loose crop for the header...
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The Washington Post chose the tight crop...
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ESPN chose both horizontal crops...
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The Detroit Free Press chose the vertical crop...
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And in the CNN Best of the Week Gallery, they chose loose horizontal as well...
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So which is your favorite crop?




Final Rio Olympics Blog Update!

I am writing this last blog post from the cozy and safe confines of the American Express Centurion lounge in Miami as I wait for my next flight home to Dallas.

Trying to digest and put into words what myself and our wonderful team at USA Today went through over the last few weeks is not easy, but I'll try...

First the positive... Huge thanks to Bob Rosato and the USA Today sports management team for extending another invite for me to be a part of the photo team again. Bob is the consummate  professional and really knows just about everything when it comes to what to expect and not to expect with these events. He's like a walking encyclopedia of information as he was a long time Sports Ilustrated staffer in a previous life with more SI covers than I can even count! In addition to that, Bob is a tremendous human being and friend who is willing to help anyone at anytime.  So thanks Bob for all of the cool assignments and the chance to learn and photograph so many different sports and create fantastic memories!  

Like I mentioned before, the Olympics is one of the most difficult and grueling things a photographer can do but sooooo rewarding when you persevere and make great images that will last a lifetime!

The negative... Rio is a challenge period.  It is such a shame that a city with SOOO much beauty everywhere has so much crime and poverty.  There were stories after stories everyday of folks getting robbed or equipment stolen. (Some even in the supposed "safe" zones.) 

Here is a photo that my colleague Erich Schlegel took at the sailing venue of this woman in blue without a credential attempting to walk off with a 600mm f4 lens before getting caught red handed!

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I had a conversation on a bus ride with another woman who lives in Rio and she told me that before the military showed up for the Olympics, she got robbed 3 times and even at gunpoint on Copacabana beach during the day!!

She pretty much told me that once the military leaves, the place will pretty much be insanely dangerous to be in. I also spoke with a woman at the airport who told me her roommate got held up on the road in Deodoro during traffic as a group of men on motorcycle circled the cab she was in while stopped in traffic and forced them to get out at gunpoint while they stole the car! Only after the thieves realized the car was a manual transmission, did they abandon it and ride off.  This is literally stuff out of the movies and it really sometimes felt like the Hunger Games for photographers. 

Since a lot of my events were over late at night, I chose to take a cab back to the hotel as the media buses dropped us off around 2.5 blocks from the hotel.  Well, at 2am, it can be pretty scary walking by yourself with all of your gear!  I always walked with my monopod out as well as with a personal alarm.  Luckily, despite running into a few homeless folks and onlookers, I wasn't really bothered. Maybe because I also look Brazilian. :)

As a photographer, it is difficult enough to get great story telling and unique images when you are battling with hundreds of other international photographers without having to worry about whether or not your gear is safe! Some gear even got stolen out of lockers, buses, and offices!!  I pretty much tried to carry everything I would need most days in a backpack, but sometimes I just needed more equipment and had to take my roller bag too.  I'm just glad and fortunate to be returning with all my equipment intact.

Traffic in Rio is horrible! Honestly, staying in Copacabana was both a blessing and a curse. While the environment was beautiful and the food was great(when we actually had a chance to eat), the bus routes and commutes that were provided were downright atrocious! Sometimes I would wait for buses that would never show up or they would show up an hour late, etc... Well, this was completely unacceptable if you had a 9am competition to cover. Basically after covering a midnight beach volleyball game and getting home around 2:30am, I'd have to get up at 4:30am and go wait for the bus that might or might not show.  After a few days of this, I said the heck with that and got taxis whenever possible!  The good thing was that taxis were really cheap but the bad thing is that some drivers didn't understand much English and sometime took more creative routes. Still, WAY better than the media bus rides.  

In fact, on my last bus ride back to Copacabana from the media press center, the bus made it to Ipanema before pulling over and the bus driver simply got off the bus.  When he returned about 5 minutes later, he stated that the bus wouldn't work and we would have to switch over to a new bus. Well, I am sure that would have taken hours, so my buddy and fellow USA Today photographer Kyle Terada and me hopped off and got a cab to take us the rest of the way.  For me, traffic and logistics to the venues were 80% of the battle! Once I got to venues and figured out the best positions, etc... photographing was the easy part!

We really didn't have any downtime until yesterday where we had an 8 hour gap between events and so Kyle and decided  to visit Christ the Redeemer.(You kind of have to when in Rio, right?)  It was also funny as I flew in with Kyle on the 3rd and pretty much didn't see him again till yesterday.

It was a pretty surreal thing to see once we actually got to the mountaintop.  We had to catch a shuttle in Copacabana and drive up halfway on the mountain where we would have to catch another shuttle to take us to the top. Once on the top, we would have to hike up what seemed like endless steps! (Only afterwards did we see an escalator! Yes, I blame Kyle for this. :)

As would be the theme of my Rio experience, our shuttle bus waited forever to go up and pretty much made us miss a glorious sunset. :( 

It was still a great sight to behold though and here are a few images we got before having to get back for the women's beach volleyball bronze and gold medal games.

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Since my last blog, I did assignments at field hockey, equestrian, track and field, and lots more beach volleyball.  

I went out and covered the equestrian show jumping which was something else I had never done.  I thought it would be fun to setup a remote camera underneath one of the jumps so I got permission from the photo manager and found a pretty cool spot that I knew would be hit or miss as every horse jumps differently.  All I needed was one or two nice frames to make me happy and that is exactly what happened!   Here is a photo of me testing out my remote focus.  I knew the horses would jump higher but as long as they were on the same focal plane, my focus would be sharp.

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And here is one of the resulting photos...

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I shot the "normal" photos too, but I noticed that some horses had some really long tails and I thought it would be fun to play with the hair in the composition for a few photos.  I positioned myself at an angle where I would hopefully get a few cool photos and it worked out!  Here is my fun with horses tails...

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I was off to track and field for the first time and it was fun seeing the layout and trying to play with the light and be creative!  Here are a couple...

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I then covered the heartbreaking loss of Team USA beach volleyball players April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings.  It was the first loss that Kerri has ever had at the Olympics and I feel that I captured a great moment of her and April embracing after the match...

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It was also great to see them win the bronze medal as well as the Germans win the gold the next night.  Very exciting stuff and it's always great to photograph a medal ceremony!

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Since our flight was at 8pm last night, Kyle and I decided to walk around Copacabana for practically the first time and even had a chance to grab some authentic cheese bread and pizza before our flight!

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And this is for our friend James Lang who I know can't wait to get back to the states to dip his french fries into a chocolate frostie!

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All in all, it was an experience I will not forget and one I would do again in a heartbeat if asked. Thanks again to everyone for all of your comments , questions, and support over the last few weeks. I hope you enjoyed sharing the experience with me!  Now I am off to Dallas to snuggle with Alycia and my puppies and to catch up on some much needed sleep! Obrigado!