Monday, October 31, 2011


My coordinator at Production Iris sent out an email asking for a last minute replacement to shoot a university football game. While I am a fan of the sport, and I have shot other sports in the distant past, I never actually had the opportunity to shoot a football game, so I jumped on the chance. After a tiny bit of convincing (as my sport portfolio isn't the grandest), he gave me the go.

So Saturday morning, I got up and prepped my equipment....all my equipment. I have shot soccer, which is similar in terms of field coverage and speed of game, and I knew that you had to be prepared for anything. So bringing 2 bodies was a must, as I would never have time to switch lenses between when the QB throws the pass and the receiver right in front of me catches it. Here is a breakdown of my gear for the day

Canon 7D + 70-200 f/2.8 + 1.4x teleconverter

This is my best the setup for max range. The 7D, as with all Canon crop sensor cameras (Rebels, 40D, 50D, 60D, 7D) have smaller sensors and thus give you an effective focal range 1.6x the actual focal range. This means that a 200mm lens is effectively a 320mm range. Attached to the 70-200, I put on a 1.4x teleconverter which made my 70-200 on a 7D into a 450mm lens. Now I'm getting into the right focal range for getting close in on a football field. The drawback of the 1.4x teleconverter is that it cuts one stop of light. So my f/2.8 lens is a maximum of f/4. Not a huge deal for a daytime sports event.

I kept this setup as my bread and butter and had it on a monopod for the whole game. This is what gets you the close up money shots. I would love to have the 400mm f/2.8 lens that the pros use, but I don't have $14,000 just lying around :)

Canon 5D2 + 24-70

This is my up close lens. A more seasoned sport shooter at Iris gave me the suggestion to keep this setup ready at all times. When the action gets really close, just grab the camera and shoot blind. I kept the Focus points to auto select and made sure I had a fast shutter speed. I kept the focal range around 40-50mm. Those few times the players come crashing down on you, I had my camera ready to go.


I also kept in my bag a Canon 10-22mm for ultra wide shots, but never once took it out.
Gloves were a must as it was pretty darn cold outside. While I am moving up and down the sidelines, I'm stationary most of the time and you get cold, fast. I have these thing gloves with leather on the fingers, making the camera operation easy.

How I shot football

Knowing the game is key. You are minded like a defensive player and have to anticipate what type of play will happen. You also have to think about the shot that you want and from which angle you want it from, as this will impact how far down the field you are. If you want a side shot of the QB throwing, don't stand 30 yards away from the line of scrimmage.

Canadian football has 3 downs, as compared to American football which has 4. This means there are a lot more passes in Canadian football than in American. Other slight rule differences (which don't impact photography) are the field is 10 yards longer, the end zone is longer, defensive players line up a yard away from the line of scrimmage. So again, knowing the game is a great asset to having a successful shoot.

After a few plays, I figured out that when in doubt (hey, that rhymes!) stand about 10 yards down from the line of scrimmage on the defensive side. This will give a decent shot of the QB as he drops back to throw or allow you to lock on the RB for a hand off. Most throws are in the 10 yard range, so if the QB throws the ball in your direction, chances are the receiver is right nearby. Once they get within 10 yards of the goal line, heading to the back of the end zone is a good idea as this will give interesting touchdown shots. Luck of the draw and I was not in a good position for any of the touchdown shots, but I did get a few misses in the end zone

Shooting a university game is pretty action packed. I was only allowed on the side line opposite the player benches. I'm sharing this 3-4 yard wide area with the line judges, the cheerleaders, a few security guards and the other photographers. So things get pretty tight. In trying to make my way around the cheerleaders doing their thing, I got whacked in the head by a pom-pom. The referees own the sidelines, so at all times, you must not be in their way. Let them go by, then work around.

Be mindful of the play and learn to shoot with one eye open. When you are this close to the action, it goes by really fast. In the picture below, I had a great angle on the QB throwing the ball. What I failed to noticed was that the receiver was right near me. Really, I swear I was paying attention and not looking at the cheerleaders. After snapping a few shots, I had to jump out of the way as the players come crashing through very fast. And they are big, and heavy, and there are often more than just one.

All in all, I had a great time shooting. It gave me some good insight on shooting the game and having quick reactions. Always good to stretch your skills once and a while as you can pick things up that you can apply in your day to day shooting.

Thanks for reading! Here are a few more from the game. Full series of 62 are up on the website.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Save the gear!!

That was my theme for the La Fouine show at Club Soda on October 6th. La Fouine is a french rapper of Morrocan origins, who is pretty popular on the other side of the ocean. And judging by the totally packed house, pretty popular here to!

You know the show is going to be packed when you are standing at the press table and the bouncers are outside trying to keep the crowd from getting in 20 minutes before the doors are scheduled to open. One poor kid was squashed up against the glass door. I decided to make my way to the front of the stage. The fun of being the house shooter is you get to go in the venue before the fans, giving you choice spot to shoot from. After my last show where I was up on the second floor, I decided to brave the front of the stage. This means that I have to be there through the opening acts, up front, there with the fans. It's actually pretty fun as you get to chat with some of the fans, learn about the artist, about them. I was about 1/4 way from the left side of the stage, giving me a decent viewing angle for when La Fouine gets on stage. The crowd kept piling in, and by 9:30pm (the show scheduled to start at 9:00pm), the front was packed about 20 deep. And when I say packed, I mean PACKED. Tighter than sardines. You get an idea of how full it was in the last image in the series below.

The crowd was getting wrestless and started pushing. Some people trying to get their latecomer friends in with them. It was a wave going from left to right. All the while, I'm trying to stick to my little spot in front of the stage, but now wondering how the hell I'm going to get out. While from of stage shots are great, I like to get at least 2 different shooting angles when there is no pit. Just getting out of the front of the stage, with my camera gear in tow, was going to be a challenge. But I'll deal with that when the time comes.

Security had to step in to break up a fight. Usually not a good sign of things to come. People kept shoving and I noticed that I was about a foot further away from where I had started. And the opener wasn't even on stage yet. So I decided to make a tactical retreat from the front of the stage before it got too chaotic. It's one thing being up front during a packed house, it's another to be up front with lenses and camera gear when the crowds are getting crazy. I made my way to beside the bar and got up on a stool. At least I'm out of the crowd and have a slightly higher shooting angle. And again, having done my visual research, I noticed that he more often holds the mic in his left hand, making the right side of the stage a better position if I am to be stuck in one place. It is always rolling the dice, but stackign the odds in your favour is a good thing.

Well, that was the idea. Just before La Fouine got on stage, the guy who was chatting with me at the front of the stage was all the way to the side and second in row. Happy to be out of the front area, when the show started, everyone got up on front of me and my once perfect view of the stage now became an exercise in shooting between heads and raised hands.

The guy is insane on stage. He came out with so much energy, I was having troubles freezing motion. In fact, many images came out with slight hand blur. The crowd was nuts, he was nuts. While he was late getting on stage, he definately made up for it with energy and intensity.

Most of the shots below were taken with the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS. I did break out the 24-70 f/2.8 to get some wider crowd shots. This is a mandate I get from the venue as they love to post up pictures of the crowd enjoying the artist. Shutter ranged from 1/200 - 1/400. Would of loved to be in the 1/400 when he first got on stage, but the lights were darker for the first song.

Lessons learned? Don't be afraid to back down from your spot if you really feel things are getting out of hand. Know the security guards at the venue. Arrive early to get a good spot. :)

More shows to come!
I have the 4 DJ quarter Birdy Nam Nam coming up next and also doing a Ska Festival in a few days. I'm learning to love variety in music.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm not a papparazzi, I'm a concert photographer!

I'll get straight to the point of this rant / post. The higher I climb on the concert photographer ladder here in town, the more and more I am faced with band management (and sometimes bands themselves) asking me to sign ridiculous contracts to allow me to shoot the shows. These contracts are what are referred to as a "rights grab".

Why ridiculous? Because these contracts make me sign away my rights and ownership of the images to the bands and management, at no charge, for ever and ever. They limit my own use of my images and even the use of the images for the media I am shooting for. It may not seem that big of a deal to most people, but think about it for a second.... my gear is mine, bought, paid for and insured. If I am not paid by the media I am working for, I still have rent and groceries to buy.

Why are they doing this? Because in today's digital photography world, everyone and their uncle has a digital camera. For every professional photographer trying to make it in the world by producing quality work and giving great customer service, there are 10 music fans that just want to get in the front row and shoot the show for free, just happy to get in the door. Bands and band management are clueing in on this and coming up with more ways to make money... ie exploiting concert photographers.

I get restrictions. First 3 songs. Only 1 song. Shoot from the soundboard. No back stage. No on stage. No flash. Everyone on the right. But trying to take away ownership and copyright?

All those pretty images that are on the web showing off a band live? All the images that make it into the magazines, in CDs, books, and posters that the fans just love to buy? Yeah, those have to come from somewhere. And they are usually not from uncle Bob with his digital camera.

I find it pretty damn ironic that these music artists, who are using us music photographers as puppets to get free professional images, are the first ones to bitch and complain when someone downloads their music for free off the web. Oh, the injustices of people not paying them for all their hard work, the depreciation on their gear, the creative and artistic vision they put forward, the long years spent in dirty clubs before making it to the bigger arenas, the late nights working on their passion while keeping a day job to pay the bills... oh wait, I just described my life...

I guess its ok to stop buying their art and find free ways of getting it as they don't want to pay for mine.

As the artists stood together to bring down Napster and other illegal music download sites, I hope that photographers can stand together and refuse to shoot any shows from artists trying to exploit them.

Who are some of the bands that have/had these highly restrictive and ridiculous contracts? One of the ones I was shocked at hearing are Foo Fighters. Add to them Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana, Kiss, Kesha, Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga, Band of Horses, House of Blues, Maroon 5, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Rhianna, Seether,...

Let's hope the list starts to get shorter.