Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Perfect Football Picture

A lot of folks can look at a photo and say, "That's a great photo!"... but have difficulty verbalizing exactly what makes it great.  I have my own ideas about what makes a great sports photo, so I thought I'd iterate them here just for fun.

There are a couple of prerequisites for practically any photo to be great:
  1. The focal point of the photo must be crisply in focus.  Not sharpened by post-processing, but naturally and sharply focused.  Equipment makes a big difference here.  Nothing beats a prime (non-zoom) lens for sharpness.  I thought my Canon 70-200/f2.8 was the cat's wazoo when I first purchased it... until I shot a 400/f2.8 prime.  Wow!
  2. Proper exposure is required.  Again, natural accurate exposure is preferred to post-processing.  There are artistic exceptions to this rule, but in sports photography are probably the rare exception.

Now, with those two prereqs out of the way, what makes the perfect football picture?  Here's my list:

1. The ball.  Any good sports photo needs to include the focal object of the sport.  This is one of my early accidental captures, and still one of my favorite football photos.  I call it "Portrait of a Football"

2. Players of both teams.  That's how you tell it's not practice.

3. A referee.  Again, further proof of a live game situation, and the stripes provide a nice contrast in the photo.

4. Eyes!  Any photo of a human subject should include the eyes, particularly a sports photo where the eyes relay the intensity of the moment. 

5. Speaking of intensity, an intense situation elevates the photo, and is one reason football (and sports in general) is fun to shoot... there's plenty of intensity on the field!

6. Close up.  Anyone can take a picture of a football field with players.  Getting that close up of a play ten yards away with a 400mm lens is what I like.

7. An interesting background.  I really like shots of a player running down the sidelines with interesting sideline folks and expressions in the background.  Recognize anyone in this background, and can you guess what he might be thinking?:

I haven't shot the perfect football photo yet... one that incorporates every single one of my criteria.  I'm not even sure it's possible, but I'll keep on trying.

See more at wlpearce.com

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The C-17A Globemaster

I had the opportunity recently to shoot the 2014 NAS Jacksonville Air Show, featuring the Blue Angels.  The NAS Jax Public Affairs Office had graciously granted me a press credential.  I'm a big plane nut, so I had trouble sleeping the night before thinking about what shots I wanted to get, what lens I should use, etc.

I got to the base for press check-in early Friday morning, picked up a credential and got escorted onto base by the PAO.  Naturally, I made a bee-line for the secure area where the performers park their planes and started shooting static shots of neat planes.  While I was shooting the F-4U Corsair, I noticed a big ole' cargo plane making a pass over the base, and then landing and taxiing towards me.  I snapped a few shots and didn't think much more about it. 

Eight hours later after the Blue Angels wrapped up their show, I wandered back down towards the secure area for some parting shots in the different light.  I had to pass the C-17A Globemaster on the way, and so I stopped in for a quick visit, knowing that it would be packed the next day, Saturday, for the open show.  The guys were super nice, and showed me around their plane, including letting me climb up in the Crow's Nest to shoot a couple of shots out of the top of the plane.

They also showed me around the cockpit.  The pilot said, "You just missed us powering up.  The displays look pretty cool when they're all operating."  Shoot!  Then he said if I could get back around 9AM the next day, they'd power up and let me take some cockpit shots.  Perfect! 

Do you think I made it back to the C-17A at 9AM Saturday?  You'd better believe it!  Before they opened the plane to the public, they let me hop on and one of the pilots (sure wish I had asked your name) gave me a tour of the cockpit.  Do I look like I'm ready to take off?

Here's my pilot friend, based out of Charleston with the combined 437th/315th AirWing.  Thanks for the tour, and for taking my picture (an unusual occurrence).  Shoot me a note if you see this so I can correctly attribute the picture, and the tour.

I had a good time playing with the knobs and switches (no, not really... hands off was the rule), but the pilot did power up the Heads Up Display (HUD) so I could pretend to fly the beast.  That's downtown Jacksonville off in the distance.  I was glad to see that there were back-up manual indicators (horizon, compass, etc.), but the pilot said they never used them.  He referred to themselves as "HUD Babies"  Funny.

The cargo bay of the C-17A is absolutely cavernous!  Here's how you solve the problem of expensive airport parking... just take your vehicle with you.  And there's still room for... say... a helicopter or two and about a hundred of your best friends.

Here's the same shot from the Crow's Nest just behind the cockpit, looking towards the open back of the plane.  The H-1 looks like a Tonka Truck back there.

The weekend was gorgeous!  Dry, clear with temps in the 70s.  Can't beat that with a stick. Also made for some nice pics with the wide angle lens.  So to finish up, here's a few shots of the C-17A on the tarmac.

See more of the 2014 NAS Jax Blue Angels and Air Show at wlpearce.com.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Jerry's House

FSU's opener this year was at a neutral site, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX... Jerry's house!  Looks to us like Jerry's $1.2B was well spent.  AT&T Stadium is easily the most luxurious stadium in which we've ever set foot.

As usual, we arrived hours before the game, as evidenced by the total lack of individuals in this photo.  Actually, we arrived even before the media gate opened, but a nice security guard let us in early so we could get some panoramic shots of the stadium.

The big satellite dish shaped mirror out front is an interesting addition.  As you can see, it is finely polished to reflect the sky.  The convex backside is also polished which gives an interesting reflection of the stadium, which we captured after the game (about 2AM). 

The inside of the stadium is even more impressive than the exterior.  It's impossible to capture the size and scale of the inside and video boards, other than to say they stretch from one twenty yard line to the other. 

Everything is top notch about the stadium.  Even the press boxes are the best we've ever seen, at least on this scale.  We still nominate the Wake Forest press box as the best press box in all of football... or at least the ones in which we've been.  But it was nice to have a lady come around and ask to which games we'd like our TVs tuned.  Nice... we could use her at home when the remote is lost.

The cavernous ground floor in the belly of beast even made the College Game Day bus look small.

Here's the view from the mid-level press box.

The video boards are impressive, not only for their size, but their high resolution.  That's definitely the biggest HDTV we've ever seen!

Here's the full Monty as we left for the evening (er... morning).  Congrats Jerry, you've really done it up on this one.

See more of the Cowboys Classic between FSU and OSU at AT&T Stadium.

See much, much more at wlpearce.com.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Quick Trip to DC...

I hit DC for a day this past week for family purposes, but carved out a day to wander around downtown for some photo opportunities to add to my Washington DC gallery.  Here are a few pics for the effort.

I stayed at the George Washington University Hotel just a few blocks north of the Lincoln Memorial... a hotel with which I was pleasantly surprised given the rate.  I leaped out of bed at 4:30AM to shoot some dark and sunrise pics... OK... maybe "leaped" is kind of a stretch, but I did roll out at 0'dark-thirty and walk down to the mall well before sunrise. 

Those of you that have been to DC in the summer know that the following shot is an impossibility at any time other than the pre-dawn hours. Not another soul in sight...

After a few night shots of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, I headed over to the Tidal Basin intending to shoot some good reflection shots of the Jefferson Memorial.  But there was a breeze on the basin that thwarted that plan, so I took some pre-dawn shots of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in the still dark, but brightening skies.

 I headed back to the west end of the reflecting pool to catch some sunrise shots of the Washington Monument.  It wasn't a fabulous sunrise, but not too bad.  A cool front (in August!) left the skies clear and the breeze that was on the Tidal Basin wasn't as pronounced on the reflecting pool, so the reflection of the monument was nice.

 After the sunrise and short nap before check-out, the rest of the day was spent walking all over the mall taking shots of this that and the other.  Here's a shot of the north lawn of the White House.  Check out the spotter on the east wing roof.  I zoomed him up on the camera... he was scoping out the protesters on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Or maybe it was me?

And my home town's namesake... Andrew Jackson against a brilliant blue sky in the Lafayette Square north of the White House.

How about the spectacular architecture of the Library Congress.  It was one of the earliest of the federal buildings and, in your photographer's humble opinion, the most beautiful building in the entire city.  This is the Reading Room.

Next door to the Library is the Supreme Court.  The blue sky provided a nice contrast to Blind Justice.

After a long day of shooting, my feet were hurting and I was tired, so I capped the day off with some sunset shots around the Washington Monument, followed by a long train ride out to the new station at Reston.

See more photos of Washington DC here.

See much more at wlpearce.com.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

NCAA Track and Field East Regional Championship

Not much story in this post, just a quick sampling of photos from the 2014 NCAA East Regionals in Jacksonville this weekend.  I'll post some additional articles once all photos are uploaded.

There are tons of pics from the NCAA East Regionals on wlpearce.com.  Take a look and see if you're there.

The Javelin kicked things off Thursday afternoon.

And the Long Jump.  I believe that's Ricky Robertson from Ole Miss.

And the 1500 Prelims.  Pretty eyes... match the uniform.

The Hammer kicked off the events Friday.  Here's a smart thrower.

And one of my favorite events, the 110M Hurdles...

Friday night capped off with an 11:00 slog through the Steeple Chase.

Saturday opened up with the Men's Discus.  Don't get in this guy's way!

And in the afternoon, my favorite event to shoot, the High Jump!  Pretty cool with the video board behind the jumpers showing them jump in real time.

The running events Saturday kicked off with the 4x100M Relays.

And the event capped off with the always popular 4x400M Relay.

See much much more at the 2014 NCAA Track and Field East Regional gallery on wlpearce.com.

And of course, see much more of everything at wlpearce.com.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

One CRAZY 4x400!

Just back from Penn Relays... Wow!  The Grand Prix of track meets did not fail to deliver, even in an off-Olympic year.  Yes, there were fewer world class athletes, and fewer world class relay teams, but to be expected in an off year.  The atmosphere was still the usual festive Penn Relays, and certainly the crowds didn't stay away... 100K+ over three days for the eleventh year in a row!

The highlight of the meet is always the USA vs. The World events.  The climax event is the 4x400 near the end of the day Saturday.  And talk about climaxes!  This was the wildest 4x400 I've seen at any level above AAU.

The teams participating were, of course, the USA team anchored by 4x400M 2012 Olympic silver medalist Manteo Mitchell... the 2012 London gold medal Bahamian team, all four still together... Brazil, anchored by South American Games silver medalist Hugo De Sousa... the always dangerous Jamaicans with some pretty fresh athletes on the world stage... and the team from Nigeria, anchored by African Games gold medalist in both 400M and 4x400M, Amaechi Morton.

Now, on to the pictures (that's what you really wanted to see anyway, right?)

Even with the USA in the race, I was keying on the Bahamians, because I just like the Bahamians.  I see them frequently at track meets in my home state of Florida, and maybe I just like the way they say, "Hey Mon!"  Two time Olympic medalist Michael Mathieu kicked off the race for the Bahamians with a 1/10th of a second leading 45.7 400M, here passing off to Demetrius Pinder at the end of the first leg...

Pinder kept up the pace with an even faster 44.7 second 400M to put the Bahamians out in the lead as he passes here to three time Olympic medalist Chris Brown.  At the beginning of the third leg, the Bahamians were out in front of the USA team by the margin you see here.  The baton passes happened almost simultaneously, but with the Bahamians passing out in front of the Americans.

Chris Brown starts the third leg with American David Verburg, member of the 4x400 gold medal USA team at the 2013 World Championships, nipping at his heels...

Brown cranked out a blistering 45.10 400M, but American Verburg made up the difference with a red hot 44.50 400M which put the two of them running head to head coming into the last transition.  Here's where it got bizarre.  The Race Marshal watched the two of them coming out of turn four and late in the leg, switched the USA handoff position to the inside of the track because it appeared that Verburg had taken the lead.  Problem is, that's not the way the two of them came down the final stretch.  Something bad is going to happen here!...

Now both teams had to cross to make their passes.  Looking for an advantage, American Manteo Mitchell tried for the 4x100M style no-look pass.  Two time 4x400M Olympic medalist Ramon Miller opted for the more secure 4x400M style look-back pass, which in this case turned out to be the difference in the race.

At one point, there were three hands on one baton!  Everyone knows that just isn't right!

When Miller and Mitchell came out of transition, they looked down and both had a hold of one baton! Who's is it?  Verburg knows... check the look on his face...

There was nothing for Mitchell to do but let go, turn around and get his team's baton while Miller hit the jets for the anchor leg.

That created a gap that Mitchell simply couldn't overcome, as Miller broke the tape for the Bahamians.

What a wild 4x400!  The next two years should be interesting to watch in the run-up to the 2016 Olympics.  Will the Bahamian team stay together and repeat a Gold in 2016?  That would be an extraordinary accomplishment.  Congrats Bahamas.  Condolences USA.  That's just the way the cookie crumbles (or the baton passes) sometimes.

See more of 2014 Penn Relays here.

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