Canon 1Dx Mark II

In about 36 hours I leave for four weeks of travel, which will include 3 National Championship events in 3 different states in eight days, one of the most challenging Ironman races in the world the following week and by my estimate about 17,500 miles of travel, 14 flights and several days on my motorcycle.

I start off with Ironman St.George 70.3, which is the North American Pro Championship, then ride my motorcycle from St. George (May 7) to Boulder, weather permitting, shooting landscape photos for three days. Then a flight home to Minneapolis to shoot the USATF Road 1 Mile Championship (May 12), followed by Ironman Texas (May 14), which is the North American Pro Championship. My final race of this stretch will be Ironman Lanzarote in the Canary Islands (May 21).

After a couple days of editing in Lanzarote, I plan to take a few days off to go to Marrakech   and since I will am routed through Dublin, I plan to take an extra day there as well.

Needless to say I am pleased that my long awaited Canon 1Dx Mark II arrived today. Many thanks to Julie Murphy of National Camera Exchange who kept me well informed as to the delivery date and allowing me once again to get the first one in the Twin Cities.

I do wish I had a bit more time to learn about the new camera, but I do have a couple days to figure out what is different from the Canon 1Dx.

I know I am not alone when people ask, Paul – why do you need a new camera?  Sure it is alway fun to have new gear to use, it becomes a practical matter.  I always shoot with two camera bodies. The current generation and the prior generation. For me this has meant my Canon 1D Mark IV from early 2010, which I love and has served me very well and the Canon 1Dx, which I received immediately prior to leaving for the 2012 London Olympics.

The Mark IV has about 500,000 shutter actuations and then 1Dx is not far behind.  These are tools that have well used and appreciated, as is Canon Professional Services, who keep my gear in great shape.

This blog is not an Unpacking the Box Blog.  You can go to the Canon Website if you need to know what’s in the box. It will be more articulate and accurate than I will be.

This blog is the kick off a four great weeks of travel and amazing events and venues to shoot, which should be an amazing test of the new camera!

Just one performance note, when set to live view the sound of shooting 16 fps, is a constant whir!

I plan to get something posted every few days with some details of the events, race images and impressions of the new camera – Stay tuned.

Competitive Image Blog
Canon 1Dx Mark II

In the vein of The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Competitive Image Blog
My original Canon 1D on the left and the new 1Dx II on the right
Competitive Image Blog
My original Canon 1D on the left and the new 1Dx II on the right

Fantasy Camp For Sports Photographers

Well sort of but not quite, but for the 5th  (or 6th?) year I will be teaching my sports photography class at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design.

Ok, it is not quite camp, there are no tents or cabins; there are no s’mores and probably no bonfires! In addition, you will not be shooting from the back of a motorcycle and while we will be at events, you will not in an editorial sense be Covering the Event.

You will however have a great opportunity not only to shoot but also to have access at events that you could not do on your own. Well at least not legitimately.

Here are a few snaps from prior sessions.

Cntbry14 109

SPS14 051

Zalusky Advance Riding
Zalusky Advance Riding

Although the events change year-to-year depending both on the weather and the calendar, our tentative schedule

  • Class at MCAD -Tuesday June 7
  • Liberty Triathlon – Saturday Morning June 11
  • Capitol City Triathlon Morning – June 12
  • Class at MCAD Tuesday – June 14
  • Paul Saints – Wednesday Evening June 15
  • North Star Bike Festival – Friday Evening  June 17
  • Canterbury Downs – Saturday Morning June 18
  • Motorcycle racing – Sunday – Mid-day June 19
  • Class at MCAD – Tuesday June 21
  • Events Pending – June 25 /26
  • One on one student sessions June 26 to 27

As you can see, the weekend of June 17, 18 & 19 we have 3 events schedule, which will really give you a real world feel of what it like to be a working editorial sports photographer.

Although your level of photo experience does really not matter to take the course, the more you know the more you will gain. Each year, we have a student or two who comes back for a second session and their work really improves.

What is important is that you are familiar with equipment. Although we do discuss the use of shutter speeds and f/stops, it will be in the context of getting a sports photo and telling a story and not the basic functionality.

One of the traditionally most popular classroom sessions is the detail walk through of my digital workflow from shooting the photo to post processing, using both Photo Mechanic and Lightroom. Efficiency is as critical whether shooting sprint event or an Ironman.

The final few days will be test of how much coffee I can drink! I will meet with each of the participants individually to give you each a more specific critique of what you can work on and where you can take your photography.

I hope you see you there. Registration begins on May 2nd but in the meantime you can review the details on the MCAD Continuing Education Website.

In closing, I am going to show off just a bit.

Roth1303The image was shot last July at the Challenge Roth Triathlon and was published in In January 2016, it was selected by the industry group, Triathlon Business International as the Top Published Triathlon Photo of 2015.

The Importance of Biomechanics

I have rules. I don’t have very many; there are just four that I go by every time I shoot. In part these rules keep my mind on what I should be doing and no pun intended, keep me focused. Today’s blog is only going to talk about rule #1, the rest will come in time, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Rule #1 – you truly have to understand your sport!

There are moments of power and moments of grace that show the beauty and elegance of sport and then, well then there are transitional moments that no one needs to see.

Personally, I believe that it is my job to make the athletes look good and I promise each athlete that I will never put up a shot that makes them look bad. If they happen to collapse at the end of the event, that is part of the sport and it displays the intensity of their effort.  Similarly if there is a bike crash and they are back up and riding, ripped race kit and road rash, again it is about their dedication and perseverance. However if they have a wardrobe malfunction, I will not include that it. I am sure others would, but that is just not my style.

At least a basic understanding of the biomechanics of each particular sport is critical in making the athlete look good.  Perhaps the easiest sport to articulate the importance of understanding biomechanics is running, since about three times the athlete’s body weight is transmitted to their feet each time their foot strikes the ground. The force of the impact has a visible distortion of the leanest runner’s body.

The good news is the today’s high frame rate cameras and our ability to shoot in burst of several shots, the odds of getting just the right shot are dramatically increased, that is provided that we can identify that shot when we see it!

Here are a few examples of the difference a 1/10 a second will make.

From the 2011 Arizona Ironman:

The first two shots are of my friend Daniel. Daniel in addition to being a great guy is an elite amateur triathlete.

In the first shot, Daniel is at the top of his stride, shoulders are up and he is smiling! In the second shot, Daniel is at the point of the full impact of his weight and while his left quad shows strength everything else has succumbed to the natural weight transfer inherent in running.

Just looking at Daniel, you can see his legs have the power of a cyclist, on the other hand we also have pure runners.

The lead pack of the 2011 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon is at about the 23-mile mark in the race. In the left image as small and lean as Joseph Mutinda (#10) is, you can still see how his shoulders slope at the bottom of his stride.  In the right image, where his right toe is just about to lift off the ground, he looks relaxed and light. (Mutinda was ultimately second to Sammy Malakwen, in the red).  Malakwen made his move in the next mile and cruised on in for the victory.

I don’t shoot baseball very often and in this situation I was there as a guest. Contrary to my rule #1, I really don’t know a lot about the subtleties of baseball, but I do know that Wrigley Field on a sunny day in May is about as good as it gets.

Here are three images, the wind up, the pitch and well, an awkward moment in the follow through.

For me, the first two images are classic positioning. The concentration and poise of the wind up, the pitcher’s potential energy. The second image is moment of full power, and although the final shot does show the ball just after release, the pitcher’s position is one of those transitional moments that neither displays his skill nor his power.

We have the ability to shoot huge numbers of images and carefully select only those images that best tell the story – choose wisely!

Check back soon for our next post – We Need a Cover Shot – You’ve Got 20 Minutes!

Shoot with Intention

Shortly after the 2011 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon a friend of mine asked me Do you just go around and take random photos?’  I smiled and replied  ‘very little of what we shoot is random.’

It really doesn’t matter if you are shooting on assignment, freelance, as part of an event, or even a portrait – planning is the key!  For 2011 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon (MTCM), we had:

  • Six photographers;
  • One photo assistant;
  • One photo coordinator;
  • Four videographers; and
  • Twelve moto drivers.

Clearly, I cannot tell the photographers, hey guys – go get some great shots and see me at the media tent when you are finished!  The odds are we would have had some great shots, but getting what we needed would have been purely coincidental.

Each year for MTCM begins with an early season planning meeting with the marathon director and marketing/ communications department to talk about areas or topics they would like to visually highlight.

From there, I develop an initial shot list and location list. In addition to shooting at the race, I also fill the role of Director of Photography and my job is to make sure that I meet the visual communications needs of my client. Besides, as the great philosopher Yogi Berra said ‘If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up someplace else!’ If you want to have a successful shoot and relationship, you must take the time to find out what your client really needs.

Ultimately our 2011 MTCM Photo/Moto Plan was 23 pages long. Not only did our plan include locations, but by necessity also included when the photographer had to arrive, how long should they stay and their preferred routing. Access via moto is critical and each photographer and driver work as a team to get to the right spots, at the right time and without undue stress. This job is supposed to be fun, we love it and believe that our passion shows through in our work.

I pick locations where our photographers will have opportunities to get great shots. Locations with great backgrounds, lighting, and crowds. Locations that will give the runners an opportunity to look good and where there is a probability of something dramatic about to happen. I am not trying to restrict the creativity of our photographers. I am trying to give them the best resources to allow them to do their best work, and as luck would have it, they always do!

Shooting with intention is not only understanding what story you are trying to tell, but also how to tell the story in a manner that will visually engage your viewer – the key question is how!  Some of the questions to keep in mind include, but are not limited to:

    • Is there a local iconic backgrounds that convey the beauty of the venue?
    • Is there an opportunity to put a remote camera in a place where a photographer cannot go?
    • Is there a personality of the event that can be visually conveyed?
    • Is there an emotional presence that will come from the crowd as opposed to from the field of play?
    • Can we use a long lens to make eye contact with the athletes?
    • Will viewing our images encourage people to want to participate in next year’s event, as an athlete, volunteer or a sponsor?

Remember you are telling a story and you want to engage the viewer.

We shot over 16,000 images during the weekend of events (all raw). We delivered approximately 2,600 images to our client. Most importantly we had 3 images for the rotating banner of their home page before the end of the race and approximately 30 captioned high res images available for media download by 6:00 pm. In a later post, I will review my work flow.

Here are just a few images from what was a visually spectacular day.

Medtronic Twin Cities 10 Mile – USATF National Championship

Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.

Check back soon for our next post – The Importance of Bio-Mechanics