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...



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... :)


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...






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.)
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.
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.)
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...
The Washington Post chose the tight crop...
ESPN chose both horizontal crops...
The Detroit Free Press chose the vertical crop...
And in the CNN Best of the Week Gallery, they chose loose horizontal as well...
So which is your favorite crop?

AFC Championship between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots

Last Sunday was my first time to cover an NFL Championship Game for USA Today and I had a total blast! My assignment was to roam the Broncos sideline during the first half and then do the same on the Patriots sideline during the second half. Considering the game was in Denver in January, I brought all sorts of winter clothes that I hadn't worn since I was in Sochi!

We got lucky though and the weather was pretty delightful! In fact, the sun even popped out for a couple of quarters and provided some AMAZING light at times. I'd love to shoot at this stadium on a totally sunny day as the images simply pop!

As everyone knows, this was more than likely the last matchup between superstar quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. In fact, if Denver had lost, it might have been Manning's last game period. Well, as luck what have it, Manning wasn't ready to call it quits just yet.

Manning and Brady get ready...

I happened to get a shot of the two eventual stars of the game together right before kickoff...

Hip hop artist T.I. was in the house too! Nothing "Mediocre" about that. :)

For Manning's introduction, I chose to try to show the scoreboard and more of the overall scene when he ran out...

Here is some of that sweet sunlight that I mentioned earlier...

Here are several game action ones...20160125_krj_aj6_321.JPG

Always good when you can get Brady and Gronk in the same photo..

I had to include one of my favorite "Best Men and wannabe photographers" from a wedding I photographed (Steven Jackson) as he celebrated scoring a touchdown!


Owen Daniels had a great game with two touchdowns...

It was a rough day for Tom Brady as he got hit a ton! He will probably have Von Miller nightmares for awhile!

James White was SOOO close to making this catch, but as bad luck would have it for me, he missed it.

I am convinced that Gronk is Superhuman.

Since I was on the Patriots sidelines, I concentrated on the Tom Brady storyline near the end of the game.

So the one shot that almost all photographers in attendance wanted to get was the handshake between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. I knew that this moment would pretty much be a giant moshpit and sure enough it was even worse than I imagined!   A HUGE thanks to Canon's CPS for providing me with the new 11-24mm lens so I was able to get several decent photos showing the whole madness as well as some tight closeups of the two quarterbacks. Since I was on the Patriots sideline, I pretty much stuck to Brady like glue after the game and waited for the throngs of media surrounding Manning to come to us. Once they met, it was pure chaos, but a very cool moment nonetheless. :)

Manning tells Belichek that this was probably his last "Rodeo" and then walks off the field waving at fans along the way.

It was also great to see a good guy like Demarcus Ware get to celebrate! I had a really cool portrait shoot with Demarcus for the Sporting News a long time ago during the NFL Strike and I think he still remembers it since it was at a Hummer dealership turned into a gym. He gave me a little wink when he saw me and I could tell that he was over the moon at the chance to win a Superbowl.


And finally, a pretty happy John Elway and Gary Kubiak.

It was also great to see that my photos were the lead shots for the USA Today Sports section two days in a row!


This was my last football game this season but am definitely looking forward to even more fun next year!

My Top 10 Sports Moments and Events of 2015

I thought I would do something a little different this year and instead of just posting my favorite photos of the year like I usually do, I thought that I would actually  post my top 10 favorite sports moments from events that I was fortunate to cover. I also thought it would be fun to reminisce a bit and share my thoughts about each particular event with you guys. These are also in no particular order. :)

10. Editing the Super Bowl. It was my first Super Bowl to attend in person and it was an extreme honor to be part of the USA Today Sports Images editing team and gain valuable experience as an onsite editor during one of the world's biggest events! It was fast and furious in the editing room and a ton of fun to see all of the wonderful images coming in to us throughout the day and night.  Here you can see a quick iphone photo I took of our editing command center setup.


9. Photographing Jordan Spieth's golf coach Cameron McCormick for a feature in USA Today. It was truly a pleasure to meet, work with, and hang out a bit with Cameron as he is truly down to earth and very likable! Not to mention, he's one of the best golf coaches on the planet! Unfortunately, not even his greatness can save my horrible golf game. ;)  There was lots of cool Spieth memorabilia all over the walls and I even got to watch Cameron as he gave lessons to an up and coming golfer.



8. Editing the College World Series.  It was my first trip to Omaha to cover this event and it was truly a thrill to see Virginia win the championship!  I mainly edited our two photographers on the field but snuck out to get an upper angle photo of the inevitable winning "dogpile" and so glad I did! What a fun event with emotions running very high.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Vanderbilt vs Virginia

7. My first NFL playoff game. My first NFL playoff game was the Dallas Cowboys versus Detroit Lions game filled with controversy and excitement. The thing I will remember most is that most of the action went away from me and my set position most of the day with the exception of one of the last plays where Demarcus Lawrence caused Matthew Stafford to fumble on a sack late in the game.  It was a very pivotal play and glad I was able to capture it.

NFL: NFC Wild Card Playoff-Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys

6. Covering the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth. This was my first time to cover a gymnastics tournament and it was a lot of fun! It's amazing what these athletes can do and the competition was pretty fierce!  The Florida Gators walked away with the trophy and Sports Illustrated for Kids Magazine even had one of my photos of Kytra Hunter made into a trading card.

NCAA Gymnastics: Women's Championship


5. Capturing this moment between Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and guard Quinn Cook. I really love covering basketball and was fortunate to cover the Elite 8 in Houston.  Coach K rarely shows much emotion and so it was a great feeling to photograph this real and heartfelt moment during the victory over Gonzaga...I just noticed that Quinn is even using this pic on his twitter profile.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Duke vs Gonzaga

4. A killer sunset at the Irving High versus Timbercreek high school football game. Whenever I cover an event, I am always looking for a killer scene setting photo. As I was photographing this game in the second quarter, I noticed the sky starting to change colors and so I moved to the other side of the field and waited a bit.  Soon, the sky would be absolutely breathtaking and it led to one of my favorite photos this year!


3. Photographing Portraits of the Dallas Cowboys for NBC's Sunday Night Football. My buddy Jim Cowsert and I take portraits of the Dallas Cowboys each year so that NBC can run the images in their "Sunday Night Football" package every week. It's a much more laid back environment than some of my other shoots and the athletes really get into it since they know the whole country will see the photos! Here is a "straight out of the camera" sequence I did with then starting quarterback Matt Cassell and a short video clip that NBC sent me showing how it ran on that week's Sunday Night Football game...


2. Capturing Oklahoma's Steven Parker's dramatic season saving deflection against TCU. As most of you know, I am an Oklahoma alum, and due to my crazy schedule, I only got to cover one Sooner football game this year. It just so happened that I was in the right place at the right time to photograph what some people are saying is the biggest play this season for the Sooners. TCU went for a two-point conversion late in the game that would have given them the victory and out of nowhere, Steven Parker leapt up like superman and saved the day. The photo went pretty viral and even led the Dallas Morning News College section the next day.


1. Photographing the 1st College Football Playoff Championship game. As the official photographer for the college football playoff, it was an extreme honor to be hired to photograph the first set of championship events and gameday. I had a fantastic team of over ten photographers who helped me capture all of the events the weekend leading up to the big day as well as the game itself and the complements we all received were such a blessing! As I type this, we are gearing up to do an even better job in Phoenix starting next week and how cool would it be if my Sooners happen to be in the big game? :)



Bonus - 2015 Battle for Atlantis Basketball Tournament - This was my 4th year in a row covering the Battle 4 Atlantis and it is one of my favorite events to work.  Besides the obvious of being in the Bahamas, the tournament folks are wonderful to work with and have taken great care of me over the years.  Not to mention, the basketball is top notch and really gets my photography game ready for the long season.  Syracuse outlasted Texas A&M to take the title this year.


BUT, I have to admit that the main Battle 4 Atlantis highlight for me this year was actually getting permission from the Atlantis animal trainers to take a portrait of "Cassie" the Sea Lion balancing a basketball on her nose! I can't say that I have ever done that before!! :)  In fact, I just had to take a selfie with her when we were done!

I hope you guys have enjoyed a little peek into some of my favorite sports moments over the last year. I really want to thank USA Today Sports Images, The College Football Playoff, NBC, Atlantis, and my savior Jesus Christ for allowing me to capture these wonderful moments and trust me, I consider myself very blessed. Here's to a wonderful 2016!!

TCU vs Baylor

Last Saturday,

My USA Today assignment was to cover the TCU/Baylor game at the beautiful new McLane Stadium in Waco. This game ended up being one of the craziest and most exciting games I have ever covered! Here are some highlights...