Tag Archives: remote photography

3 Tips to Improve your Sports Photography

Spring sports are in full swing!  We asked our friend and sports photographer Robert Hanashiro to share some of his tips for capturing that epic shot – you know the kind…not just capturing peak action, but the spirit of the game. We hope you enjoy this guest blog by Robert, and if these three tips get you hungry for more, check out the Sports Shooter Academy that is happening next week in California.  

Sports Photography by Guest Blogger: Robert Hanashiro 

I admit it. I am a big fan of NCIS. The long-running series about a Naval criminal investigation team revolves around former Marine “gunny” Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a steely-eyed no-nonsense team leader played by Mark Harmon.

As any fan of the show knows, Gibbs has a list of 36 rules that not only influence the lives of him and his team but are also life lessons unto themselves.

I hold a sports photography workshop in Southern California where we take students, working photographers and aspiring sports shooters to cover various events. Sports like college baseball, football, track & field, water polo, soccer and basketball, mixed in with horse racing, surfing, boxing and beach volleyball make up the Sports Shooter Academy schedule.

So in the spirit of “Gibb’s List” here are Bert Hanashiro’s Top Three Sports Shooting Tips:

1) Shoot Through The Play (and Don’t Chimp)

Just because the base runner has been tagged out at home plate or a receiver has made an acrobatic catch doesn’t mean the action is over or a cool moment won’t happen. One of the most aggravating things I see when I am out covering a sports assignment is seeing photographers habitually looking at the screen on the back of their camera an instant after a play. “Chimping” — looking at the LCD screen — is a disease that needs a cure. Maybe a slap on the back of the head like Gibbs does when one of his team screws up?

We all want that instant gratification of seeing a remarkable play we captured— or what we think is a remarkable play. Digital cameras are remarkable tools. But constantly looking at the LCD screen serves no real purpose other than take your eye and concentration away from the game. That remarkable image you captured ain’t going anywhere. So, stay focused on covering that game, you can look at it when there is a break in the action, during a timeout or when the game is over.

2) Clean Up Those Crappy Backgrounds

Camera auto-focus is so good these days that anyone that can afford to buy the latest, greatest camera and telephoto lens can make claim to be a “sports shooter.” But just because that running back or point guard is tack sharp does not make you a real Sports Shooter. One of the telltale signs of someone who is, what I call a “camera pointer” rather than a photographer, is cluttered, distracting, messy backgrounds.

Using telephoto lenses with a wide-open aperture to limit the depth of field is one way to clean up those crappy backgrounds. Another is to look for an elevated spot to shoot from. This serves three purposes. First, it moves the distracting background out of your angle of view, so the field essentially becomes your background. The second cool thing about shooting from a high vantage point is that it gives you a different and often unique look at the game. The third thing is the light is different from above and you can use shadows creatively.

3) Use A Remote Camera to Give the Viewer a Different Perspective

Rigging a remote camera can accomplish a couple of things, the most important is giving your viewer a unique, different look at the sports you’re covering. You can place a remote camera in places that you cannot stand while covering a game, or place it in a spot that gives you an unique angle. The other purpose a remote camera gives a Sports Shooter is providing an alternative angle. For instance, if you’re covering a basketball game, you can use a remote camera on the opposite side of the court so you can literally be in two places at one time.

There are several caveats using remote cameras and the foremost is safety. With all aspects of sports photography, “safety first” is always #1. Be very careful where you rig your camera, make sure your camera is away from players, referees, fans, popcorn vendors, and others that potentially could bumping into it. If you are rigging a camera high, use safety cables for both the lens and camera body. If you’re in an unfamiliar venue, check with the management about any rules they have concerning remote cameras.

After you’ve rigged your remote, ask for help to pre-focus your lens by getting a stand-in. I cannot tell you how many remote photos I’ve lost because I wasn’t as careful to pre-focus as I should have been. And always, always, always, get to the game early, even more so if you are planning on rigging a remote. Of course the best method to trigger your remote camera is a radio transceiver made by PocketWizard. (Note: I am not being paid by PocketWizard to mention their products or to write this post!) I have been using PocketWizard radios with great success for about 30 years at some of the biggest events (Olympic Games, NBA Finals, NCAA Tournament, World Series, NHL Stanley Cup) to the smallest (youth league sports).

Thanks Robert for the great tips! If you’re inspired to learn more, it’s not too late to register for next week’s event, but hurry, there are only a couple of slots open. If next week is not in the cards for you, look for their future academies and start planning now!

PocketWizard Plus IV

Why should you add a Plus IV to your photography kit?

We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 reasons you need a PocketWizard Plus IV. The PocketWizard line of radios are well known for their quality construction and their reliability. We offer many choices of radios depending on your needs for a radio trigger. Whether you shoot portraits, weddings, sports, or just for fun, PocketWizard gives you a competitive edge and opens the door to many creative opportunities.

Top 10 Features and Benefits of the PocketWizard Plus IV

  1. Put your flashes wherever you want: Use a radio on your camera and one for each remote light to easily trigger off-camera flashes for the most pleasing light. Use speedlights or strobes – or both!
  2. Trigger a remote camera: Get creative using remote cameras for unique perspectives. You will need one radio to use as a transmitter (on your main camera or in your hand to manually trigger) and one radio with the correct remote camera cable for each remote camera. Add another PocketWizard and flash and you can trigger a remote camera in sync with that flash using relay mode.
  3. Reliability: By using our reliable 344 MHz frequency in the US (433 MHz in Europe), you can avoid the noisy and crowded 2.4 GHz spectrum.
  4. Top hot shoe with on-camera TTL: This makes it the ideal trigger for photographing events such as weddings because you can have a fill flash on your camera and still have the ability to trigger an off-camera flash. For your remote flashes, the built-in top shoe of the Plus IV makes a great stand for your speedlight – no sync cable required.
  5. Trigger multiple lights from many different brands: If you have a third-party TTL light that has its own trigger, you can mount the transmitter in the Plus IV hot shoe.
  6. Dual purpose: The low profile Plus IV radios are transceivers that be used either a transmitter or receiver.
  7. 32 Channels: 16 Standard plus 16 Quad-Zone Triggering Channels are available to ensure no overlap with other photographers. Learn more about channels here.
  8. Quad-Zone Triggering: activate or deactivate your lights in 4 separate Zones (A, B, C, or D) directly from your camera’s position.
  9. Simple user interface: All Channels, Zones, and Modes can be easily engaged via a keypad located just above your viewfinder of your camera.
  10. Use with any PocketWizard: all PocketWizard radios are cross-compatible so that you can use a Plus IV in conjunction with any other PocketWizard radio of the same frequency. (Learn more about our frequency here.)

PocketWizard Plus IV Video

Check out this video showcasing the features of the PocketWizard Plus IV.

#WhyPocketWizard

Share your reasons why you like the Plus IV and use the hashtag #WhyPocketWizard. We can’t wait to see your photos!

Behind the Scenes – Photographing the Super Bowl

Last week we gave you a little insight into what goes into setting up remote cameras for the Super Bowl by speaking with photographer’s assistant Shawn Cullen. After the big event, we caught up with Shawn to see how it went and get some more detail about what it’s like to shoot one of the biggest sporting events in the world.

How Many Photographers Does it Take to Photograph the Super Bowl?

In short, the answer is a lot! And, it takes a lot to support them.  For USA Today Sports, there were 12 photographers, 10 runners, at least 8 editors and IT staff to make sure the network stayed up. The photographers were stationed as follows:

  • 2 photographers, one on each sideline
  • 2 photographers, one in each end zone
  • 4 photographers on the upper level, one level up from field
  • 1 photographer stationed in an upper level shooting position
  • 2 photographers roaming upper levels for action and beauty shots
  • 1 photographer dedicated to triggering the 6 remote cameras. (See last week’s blog for more information.)

When possible, the photographers are connected to the network to transfer images as soon as possible after they are taken.  When network connectivity is not possible, 10 runners are stationed to grab cards from the photographers and run them to the command center. The cards are placed in labeled bags and the runners are instructed to never take their hands off the cards. The command center was set up in an unused ticket office where editors review and select the best images to put on the wires.

Preparation is Key

On Super Bowl Sunday morning, USA Today had a staff meeting with everyone where they review the game plan and what to look for including players, coaches, half-time performers, singers, cheerleaders and the crowd. While this historic game did not have huge amounts of scoring action, there was still plenty to capture. While Shawn didn’t know exactly how many photographs were taken, he estimated around 75,000 or more.

Remote Trigger Radio Frequency and Interference

PocketWizard radios communicate wirelessly via radio waves. Just like any radio, they operate on certain frequencies and some frequencies are better than others. In North and South America (and some parts of Asia) we use the 340 – 354 MHz range because it is the least crowded frequency range for our class of wireless triggering devices. Other frequencies, used by our competitors, like the 2.4 GHz band, have many more interfering devices on them. These frequencies are getting more and more crowded as they are used by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and wireless microphones. That makes the PocketWizard frequency the best because it is the least crowded which improves reliability and reduces the possibility of missed shots.

PocketWizard Best Practices to Minimize Radio Interference

While our frequency range is the most reliable, there are a few best practices that we can share to enhance reliability and Shawn has a few of his own tricks.   

  • Whenever possible, try to maintain a line of sight between the radios and keep the antennas parallel. While radio does not require line of sight, it does help dramatically.
    • When working in the catwalks of large stadiums, Shawn feels he gets the best reception by pointing the antennas slightly downward.
  • Make sure the radios are not near any large metal, concrete, or high water-content objects. People and trees are mostly water!
    • Hard to avoid any of this in a large stadium! To minimize interference, Shawn uses a long cable to keep the radios as far from the camera as possible and 2 of our non-metallic 4 inch mounting bars (MB4) screwed together to position them as far from the metal stadium supports as possible.
  • Do not mount the radios close to the ground – try to have them several feet above the Earth or building floors whenever possible.
    • In order to get that awesome low perspective, try and mount the PocketWizard above the camera if the camera is low.

Shawn swears by Long Range mode to extend the signal even farther. “Dead spots” have a number of causes, but the solution is usually the same: move the radio a few inches or feet away from the problem area.

Super Bowl Remote Photo

Test, Test, and Test Again.

The Super Bowl 2019 was played at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, arguably the best venue in the NFL. Some of its features include a 360-degree Halo Video Board that frames the roof opening – it is the world’s largest LED scoreboard at 63,000 square feet. Fans enjoy complete connectivity with 2,000 TV screens – even  embedded into bathroom mirrors and on the 101-foot-tall “Mega Column” three-dimensional video board. The venue has 1,800 wireless access points where 71,000 people can concurrently stream. Read more about the stadium here.

While all of these amenities make for a great fan experience, they can interfere with radio signals.  At the Super Bowl there is a frequency coordinator who manages all the frequencies to minimize interference.

Whether you are shooting your child’s pee-wee football game, or the Super Bowl, or best advice is to test, test and test again your set up and adjust where necessary. 

Want to learn more about radio waves?  Check out our Wiki!

Want to see some of the epic photographs taken by USA Today sport photographers?  Check out their gallery of their 100 best photos.