Remembering Houston medical pioneer Dr. James H. “Red” Duke

Dr. Red Duke, on the Life Flight Helipad at Memorial Hermann - Texas Medical Center on June 2, 2008.  © 2008 Robert Seale. Robert Seale Photography www.robertseale.com 832-654-9572

Dr. Red Duke, on the Life Flight Helipad at Memorial Hermann. © 2008 Robert Seale.

Houston lost one of it’s most iconic characters this week. Dr. James H. “Red” Duke passed away at 86. Dr. Duke was a true medical pioneer, founding the Hermann Hospital (now Memorial Hermann) “Life Flight” air ambulance service during the 1970’s. He was one of the first faculty members of the UT Health Science Center at Houston (now known as UT Health), where he taught several generations of medical students the intricacies of trauma surgery.

Dr. Red Duke was instantly recognizable to millions of people through his television health reports, which were syndicated on stations all over the country in the 70’s and 80’s. He was known for his signature signoff, “I’m Doctor Red Duke,” delivered in a frontier Texas drawl that was more Texas cowboy than brilliant trauma surgeon.

Dr. Duke often masked his considerable intellect with folksy country humor, and a friendly bedside manner, which gave comfort to his trauma patients and their families during difficult times.

In addition to his many medical laurels, he also was an Eagle Scout, received a divinity degree, served as a tank commander in the US Army, was a yell leader at Texas A&M, rode horses, created western art, and grew up with Willie Nelson.

Dr. Red Duke, on the Life Flight Helipad at Memorial Hermann - Texas Medical Center on June 2, 2008.  © 2008 Robert Seale. Robert Seale Photography www.robertseale.com 832-654-9572

Dr. Red Duke, on the Life Flight Helipad at Memorial Hermann. © 2008 Robert Seale.

Early in his medical career, he was one of the emergency room doctors at Parkland Hospital in Dallas responding to the assassination of President Kennedy, and was widely credited with saving the life of then Texas Governor John Connally who was wounded while riding with the president.

I grew up watching Dr. Duke on TV, and in 2008, I was lucky enough to photograph him on the helipad at Memorial Hermann. We had no guarantees that there would be a helicopter for our background, as the aircraft were out and about, delivering critical patients to the hospital.  When the doctor arrived a little later than our optimal sunset time, he apologized: “Sorry – I was in surgery….had to fix up a guy up who decided to wrap his car around a pole.”(or something to that effect).

I think he was 79 at the time, and still working every day.

Building roofs are windy anyway, doubly so with helicopter rotor wash all over the place as you’re trying to shoot photos.  I’m sure it was equally difficult for Dr. Duke but he was unfazed.  We had several volunteers helping out the assistants to keep the lights safe and secure.  My favorite moment with him came at the end of our photo shoot….he had been very patient with us, and as we were starting to pack up, two rather attractive young women from the hospital (who had been graciously helping us out), asked to have their photo taken with Dr. Duke.  As he stood in the middle and posed with his arms around both of them (in heels they were both quite taller than him…),  he looked down at me and said, “You can take as long as you want to now…”

Happy trails, Dr. Duke.

Dr. Red Duke, on the Life Flight Helipad at Memorial Hermann - Texas Medical Center on June 2, 2008.  © 2008 Robert Seale. Robert Seale Photography www.robertseale.com 832-654-9572

Dr. Red Duke, on the Life Flight Helipad at Memorial Hermann. © 2008 Robert Seale.

Dr. Red Duke, on the Life Flight Helipad at Memorial Hermann - Texas Medical Center on June 2, 2008.  © 2008 Robert Seale. Robert Seale Photography www.robertseale.com 832-654-9572

Here’s a look at the photo shoot set.  The pilot thought I was nuts when I tried to mount strobes in his cockpit.  Photo by Eric Kayne.

Dr. Red Duke, on the Life Flight Helipad at Memorial Hermann - Texas Medical Center on June 2, 2008.  © 2008 Robert Seale. Robert Seale Photography www.robertseale.com 832-654-9572

We actually placed strobes around the perimeter of the helipad to amplify the existing landing lights.

Dr. Red Duke, on the Life Flight Helipad at Memorial Hermann - Texas Medical Center on June 2, 2008.  © 2008 Robert Seale. Robert Seale Photography www.robertseale.com 832-654-9572

Dr. Red Duke and me.  

 

 

 

Corporate Industrial Photography for ExxonMobil 2014 Annual Report

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Long exposure of Oil and Gas facility in the Middle East under a full moon glow.

Last year we had the awesome opportunity once again to create some really interesting oil and gas photography for ExxonMobil’s corporate annual report.  I’m very proud to have worked with this incredible company for many years.  We usually have several assignments that take us around the world, and this year was no exception.  We photographed oil and gas facilities in Scotland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and West Texas.  We also did a few days of offshore oil and gas photography in the Gulf of Mexico, shooting from helicopters and living aboard a state of the art offshore drilling platform and drill ship.

Portrait of a mechanic in Scotland.

Portrait of a mechanic in Scotland.

For the European portions of the assignment, assistant Travis Schiebel helped out and we had a lot of cool experiences, including being surrounded by sheep while shooting long evening exposures near a plant in Scotland.

After a morning sunrise shoot in Antwerp, we were having breakfast, enjoying our waffles (hey, you have to, right?),  in a sidewalk cafe, when suddenly a parade of elderly French Foreign Legion soldiers came marching through.  We were able to follow them and hear some great stories of battles in Algeria as they went on their annual barhopping jaunt through the city.  You haven’t partied until you’ve partied with 85-year-old Legionnaires.

Saudi_fishDallas assistant John Sutton helped me out in Saudi Arabia, as we photographed in three different facilities there.  I had been there a couple of years before and it was great to see old friends again.  One of our friends there prepared a wonderful traditional meal of whole cooked fried fish, which we ate with our hands while sitting together on beautiful woven rugs.  The last time we were there, we enjoyed “mandi”, a lamb cooked in a tandoor oven ground pit and served over rice.  Both were fantastic.  I’m not normally a super adventurous eater, but I’m getting better about embracing and sampling the local cuisine wherever we go.  I felt honored that locals embraced us and were thoughtful enough to share their food and culture with us.

Saudi silhouette with   incredible twilight color.

Saudi silhouette with incredible twilight color.

Oil and Gas photo shoots usually involve a lot of long days, getting up super early for sunrise, and staying until late evening for sunsets, and these fun mid-day diversions make the assignments really fun.  By the way…..the light in Saudi was incredible – fantastic sunsets, and beautiful warm early light.  One night, we were lucky enough to photograph a new facility under the light of the full moon, which provided a wonderful backlit glow to the shiny new steel plant.

When the annual reports were recently released recently, we ended up with several well designed two page spreads.  Here are a few samples below.

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First impressions with the 50 MP Canon EOS 5DS

Loose full-frame composition from a spin class shoot with the new 50MP Canon 5DS.

Loose full-frame composition from a spin class shoot with the new 50MP Canon 5DS.

Tight crop from a spin class shoot with the new 50MP Canon 5DS.

Tight crop of the same frame from a spin class shoot with the new 50MP Canon 5DS.

With the help of a generous friend at Canon, I was really excited to spend a few days last week shooting with a pre-production model of the highly anticipated, brand new Canon EOS 5DS camera. The 5DS is Canon’s newest camera, with a whopping 50MP sensor (8688 x 5792 pixels).   Many Canon shooters have been on waiting lists for several months to get one of these in their hands.

For commercial photographers, landscape photographers, and others who grew up shooting medium format film (and more recently, RENTING crazy expensive medium format digital systems), this camera is the one we’ve been waiting for, and based on my very preliminary testing, it’s a game changer on the order of the EOS 1DS Mk II.

My initial impression of this new technological development can be summed up with this classic front page from the Onion. (This is a family photo blog, so you follow the link at your own risk).

A little bit of camera history: though many of my photojournalist friends were VERY EARLY adopters of digital camera technology (anyone remember the lovely Kodak NC 2000?), most of my sports magazine shooter brethren arrived late to the digital party. Although early digital was “good enough” for newspapers and wire services, magazines still needed and demanded, high resolution images for magazine spreads and covers.

My Sporting News colleagues and I made the switch to the first EOS-1D (4.15 MP!) camera in the Fall of 2003 for most of our action photos. We clung to our medium format film cameras for portraits though, and we were still hanging Hasselblads up as remote cameras in NBA arenas as late as 2005. The original EOS-1DS (11.1 MP) was an improvement over the regular 1D, but it was slow, and still produced a file that was not up to medium format Velvia scanned on a fantastic Hell drum scanner.

The BIG game changer for me (and most of my colleagues) was the Canon EOS-1DS Mk II. I began using this camera in 2005, and it clocked in at a pretty impressive 16.7 MP (4992 x 3328 pixels). That’s roughly an 11 x 16.5 inch photo at 300 PPI. For reference – at that time, we were making 50 MP drum scans of our Hasselblad chromes.   I remember shooting a test and looking at two files, side by side on the same monitor, one shot on film, and one out of the EOS-1DS Mk II, and my colleagues and I quickly decided that this camera was the one to finally allow us to become an all-digital publication.

It wasn’t just The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, and other magazines…..this camera changed things for just about every commercial photographer I knew. When this camera was released, the price of medium format gear dropped like the 1987 stock market crash. Waiting for Polaroids to develop became a completely unnecessary ancient photography ritual.

I went out on my own in 2006, and my EOS-1DS Mk II cameras were the cornerstone of my corporate and advertising photography business. Things quickly improved even more in 2007-8 when the EOS-1DS Mk III was announced. I sold my Mark II’s and upgraded to the new 21.1 MP chip (5616 x 3744 pixels).

I LOVED my DS bodies. I loved the professional grade finish, the weather sealing, the EOS-1 ergonomics and standardized controls, the robust build quality, and the 1/250 flash sync. When the 5D Mark II was released in 2008, I was impressed with the full HD video capabilities, but the actual still resolution was unchanged. I didn’t like the prosumer body form factor. I did not buy one.

Almost five years after the DS Mk III, Canon combined their EOS-1D lines (previously the high resolution, but slower DS and the lower resolution, but faster Mark IV) into one camera: the EOS-1DX. The 1DX is a fantastic camera: faster than hell autofocus, 12 FPS motor, great ergonomics, wonderful low light capability, and solid professional build quality….it’s awesome….BUT, wait a minute…..they went DOWN in resolution to 18.1 MP! (5184 x 3456px). A new 5D Mk III was also released, but with a disappointing 1MP upgrade over the previous 1DS Mk III.  UGH!   I eventually gave in and switched out my aging 1DS Mk III bodies for the extended dynamic range and higher ISO capabilities of the 5D3.

And there we’ve sat for the past 3 years. While Canon shooters were waiting, Nikon came out with the D800 (36 MP), and then the D810. Sony came out with their A7R (also 36 MP). I toyed with switching systems, but had a ton of money invested in Canon glass, and after testing the D800 with my Lightroom workflow, I decided that I actually preferred the color rendition of the Canon sensors better – particularly on skin tones. I also loved using the X bodies for faster moving objects, and since I use both types of cameras, I didn’t want to take another step backward in MP size since Nikon’s similar competitor to the 1DX was the D4 at an even lower 16 MP.  (Again, different cameras are tools for different needs…if you are a photojournalist shooting in low light, the 1DX or D4 might be just the camera for your needs).

All of this said, please remember that pixel counting is mostly for photo gearheads. Your clients probably don’t notice a difference between photographs shot between 16, 18 or even 22 MP. It is nice, however, to have options, and the option to recompose and do a ridiculous crop from a wider frame is pretty useful at times.

There were a couple of times where an ad agency requested bigger, non-interpolated files, and we had to rent a Phase system. The quality can be absolutely amazing, but incorporating medium format into my average job workflow definitely requires a slower, more methodical way of working.  Shutter lag was also an issue, and I had a really hard time timing shutter release delay on sports portrait images.

So after some frustration, I was excited when I began hearing rumors about Canon’s new high res baby. I was ecstatic when I finally got my hands on one in late May.

Loose full-frame composition from a tennis player shoot with the new 50MP Canon 5DS.

Loose full-frame composition from a tennis player shoot with the new 50MP Canon 5DS.

Tight crop from a tennis player shoot with the new 50MP Canon 5DS.

Tight crop of the same frame from a tennis player shoot with the new 50MP Canon 5DS.

This won’t be a scientific review, you’ll have to go to DP Review or another site for that, but I wanted to convey a few first impressions. First, if you are an EOS 5D Mk III user, this will be a seamless transition for you. Unlike virtually EVERY new camera I’ve ever purchased, the physical size of the 5DS is relatively unchanged, which means the battery grip from the Mk III is the same! It uses the same batteries and charger! That’s great news, as I can just use the same grips I already own, keep plenty of extra batteries around, and I don’t have to buy new Really Right Stuff tripod plates.  In reality, I’m told there were some physical changes made to the body – Canon strengthened the area around the baseplate and tripod screw to make the camera more stable. I’m just glad they designed it to accept the same grip and batteries.

Inside the camera, the menus are very similar, but there are a few new features, including one where you can set a slight shutter delay after mirror lockup to dampen any mirror vibration before the actual shutter release. This is very useful if you’re locking down the camera and shooting long exposures on a tripod.  Since I shoot a lot of industrial facilities stopped all the way down with 20-30 second exposures, this is something I will definitely try. (My solution, prior to this was, to hold my hand or a black card in front of the lens at the beginning of the exposure).

The flash sync is 1/160, which is very disappointing (why is 1/250 so difficult?)…..my solution to this is to use hypersync and high speed sync more and start incorporating that feature into my location work with my Profoto lighting gear.

A long overdue feature is the incorporation of a USB 3.0 port, which will be a huge help during tethered shooting. The Nikon D800/D810 have had this feature for some time.

Other than that, the 5DS and 5D Mk III are very similar, I went right to work with it without as much as reading the manual. I’ve warmed up somewhat to the 5D form factor with the grip (it still doesn’t feel quite as good as the 1DX), and I sometimes get irritated that critical buttons are in different locations than they are on the 1DX series cameras (like the button to light up the LCD display for example). For 50 MP at 3700 bucks, I’ll make that trade off gladly, but I will still hold out hope that the DX series continues in higher resolution form at some point.

It’s not exactly scientific to show you resolution testing results on a (decidedly low resolution) blog. However, I am here to tell you that this is a transformative development that we haven’t seen since that EOS-1DS Mk II. I purposely made some very loose compositions during my week with the camera, just to see what it would do, and the 200, 300, and even 400 % crops are just stunning. I’ve included some samples, but like I said, it’s hard to compare skin texture and noise from my 30” monitor to your mobile phone screen. To become a true believer, you’ll have to try it out for yourself.

This will not be my high-ISO camera, so I didn’t even test those features….everything I shot was between 50 and 250 ISO, most of it portraiture with studio strobe, and it is fantastic at those ISO’s. If I need to shoot low light, high ISO photos, I’ll use the 1DX.

Some people have asked, if Canon’s 35mm lens designs will still hold up at 50MP of resolution. Resolution that high will certainly magnify any design flaws in your glass. Again, these are first impressions, with a pre-production camera, but I feel like the results were good with my workhorse lenses: the 24-105/4L, and the latest version of the 70-200/2.8. I didn’t have time to test every lens in my bag.  I know that Canon has been steadily redesigning most of the lenses in their arsenal over the last few years with higher resolution sensors in mind.

I had no issues with filling the buffer, but I was shooting the way I usually do….portrait subjects with strobe, so I was not motor-driving like a typical sports photographer. Again, there are different tools for different jobs, and if you want to motor drive all day, you’re better served getting a 1DX.

I don’t do a ton of video, and I didn’t really test the video capabilities of the 5DS, but with the new addition of the USB 3.0 port there is now no room on the camera for a headphone jack. Those of you who are full time video shooters will want to hang on to your 5D Mk III cameras for now.

Another big question: 5DS or 5DSR? There are two models of this camera available. The normal 5DS , just like every Canon digital camera we’ve discussed, has a built in anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor. The R has a “self cancelling” optical low pass filter. This is the same thing Nikon did by releasing two versions of the D800.   Anti-aliasing filters on the sensor inherently soften the image, but also prevent moiré patterns in things like football uniforms, herringbone suit fabrics, etc. If you shoot landscape images you might prefer the R version, as there is little chance of getting moiré patterns in that type of work. I was not able to test the two cameras against each other, so I reserve the right to change my mind, but I was pleased with the sharpness of the regular 5DS using my regular workflow, which adds a nominal amount of capture sharpening in Lightroom. I ordered the regular 5DS for now.

I’ve heard a fair amount of moaning on the internet about the “lack” of dynamic range in the 5DS. During my brief time with the camera, I had no issues, and at the risk of sounding like “HEY, you kids get off my lawn” – does anyone remember shooting Kodachrome? How much latitude did we have then, like maybe 1/3-1/2 stop? How about medium format Velvia? It was a little better, but still required critical exposure skills. There are times in the past where I’ve wished I had more range….like a portrait with a blown out sweaty forehead hotspot, or an aerial at sunset that would call for a split neutral density filter back in the old days. Honestly though, I’m pretty amazed at what we can do now with these sensors, and the amount of control I have in Lightroom with highlight/shadow sliders is nothing short of amazing.

I’m sure that the higher bit depth of a five figure medium format system results in higher dynamic range – there’s no doubt…but, keep in mind that this is a 3700.00 camera, versus a 20-50K camera, and it’s doing something amazing that’s never been done before at that price.   Sometimes it’s like hearing someone comparing the relative shortcomings of Gisele Bundchen to Alessandra Ambrosio…..when they are both supermodels! Keep things in perspective folks.

I just got word as I’m typing this that my wait-listed camera is in a Fed-X box, on the way to the studio, so I’ll definitely be reading the manual and checking out and utilizing some of the new features, but for now, I’m just blown away by the increase in resolution. This camera is a game changer.

Loose full-frame composition of the Houston skyline with the new 50MP Canon 5DS.

Loose full-frame composition of the Houston skyline with the new 50MP Canon 5DS.

Ridiculously tight crop of the Houston skyline with the new 50MP Canon 5DS.

Ridiculously tight crop of the same photograph of the Houston skyline with the new 50MP Canon 5DS.

(All photographs on this blog are © 2015 Robert Seale/All rights reserved).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medical Healthcare photography project for Houston Methodist Hospital

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Dr. Brian Butler, working with 4-D images in Plato’s CAVE facility at Houston Methodist Hospital.

We recently completed a big Healthcare photography project, completing principal photography for six annual reports for Houston Methodist Hospital.  We spent about 10 days shooting in and around several of the hospital’s buildings in the Texas Medical Center.

Moving around a giant medical complex with our usual plethora of lighting gear was a challenge, especially with tight and ever changing physician’s schedules.

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Dr. Lidong Qin with the “V-Chip” at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

We even ran into a couple of situations where we couldn’t use our lighting gear at all. For example, we photographed a doctor and patient near an MRI machine, which meant that we couldn’t put any lighting equipment in the room for fear of damaging the imaging machines. (We were told that our cameras, tripods, and light stands would be sucked into the machine’s magnetic vortex during an actual scan!).

Fortunately, the machine’s lights were adjustable (somewhat) from outside the room and with a tripod in the doorway we were still able to get some good pictures. Another lighting challenge was shooting actual surgeries (we were able to photograph three of them, obviously with patient consent). We had to utilize the overhead surgical lights in the room, since you can’t exactly do flash photography while a surgeon is operating. Fortunately, halogen and LED surgical lights are bright , dramatic, and many doctors prefer to turn off the ugly fluorescents in the room, which creates dark backgrounds and makes everything very dramatic in photographs.

One of our “lighting tricks” in the hospital to match today’s flat screen LED monitors is to utilize (and of course hide) various LED sources in the room to make the subject look like they are only lit with only LED screen light. One of our main tools in this, believe it or not, is the 9.00 dollar Larrylight 8 LCD flashlights . We carry lots of these, and can stick them under and around computer screens to light things up when necessary.  One of my favorite shots from the entire project was a shot of Dr. Butler in “Plato’s CAVE”, an area in the hospital with LCD projectors, and a giant interactive Ipad-like device in which doctors can combine imaging technologies into one interactive scan.  We placed these small LED lights all around the room to light the scene.

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Surgeons working in the operating room during a kidney transplant.

I always try to dress appropriately for the job. In sports, we often wear shorts and running shoes, for executives, we wear suits and ties, and in the oilfield, we wear Nomex coveralls, steel toes, and hard hats. To shoot surgeries in a hospital, I was able to fulfill my lifelong quest to wear scrubs to work!  At the Scrubs Store, near the hospital, I learned that medical duds now come in all colors and patterns, and I narrowly resisted the urge to buy Sponge Bob scrubs and stuck to basic black, to keep with my photographer persona.

Once you spend a day in these, you realize why doctors and nurses wear them all the time, even when they aren’t in surgery.

Sometimes that comfort comes at a cost. While pulling the drawstring tightly closed on my pants one morning before an important surgical shoot, I managed to snap and break the string on the scrub bottoms. Did you ever have a pair of warm-ups in high school gym class, with the string trapped inside the warm-up waist band with no hope of ever fishing it out? Well, that’s what this was like. Oh yeah, this happened with three cameras around my neck about two minutes before I was slated to be inside a surgical suite. For those who don’t know, scrubs are big and baggy (I think these had a 72″ waist or something). Without a drawstring, my scrubs would be useless, sitting around my ankles, and well…..that wouldn’t be good. Fortunately for me, a quick thinking nurse dug around in her desk drawer and found some binder clips and helped me tighten the pants up to the point that I could move around and still work without flashing the surgical team.

That harrowing incident aside, the reports turned out to be beautiful. I consider it a real treat to work with very smart people, and the staff at Methodist are all first class, from the PR and Marketing staff, to the physicians and researchers themselves.  The layouts were landscape format, with several full bleed photos of our best work. An added treat: one of the photos from our annual report shoot was selected to be in Methodist advertising.  We’re hoping to do more medical and healthcare photography projects in and around the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

I can’t wait to don my scrubs again, and this time I’ll be more careful, ensuring that the only flashing going on is from my portable strobes.

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Neurosurgeon Dr. Gavin Britz, removing a tumor from a patient’s brain.

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Examples of the full-bleed horizontal layouts in the Houston Methodist Annual Reports.

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Jordan Spieth portrait shoot in Dallas

Jordan Spieth during a studio shoot in Dallas.

Jordan Spieth during a studio shoot in Dallas.

My first job after college was a staff photographer position at The Augusta Chronicle in Augusta, Georgia.  I was only there one year, but I was able to cover The Masters and walk the unbelievably green fairways of Augusta.  It may be one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I consider myself pretty lucky to have photographed the tournament as a fledgling 24 year old sports photographer.  Augusta National is notoriously tough and very limited on credentials, but we were treated well there not only because we were the hometown paper, but also because our owner was a member.

I still remember surviving that week on pimento cheese sandwiches (one of the few concessions available there), which were cleverly wrapped in green wrappers so the course would still look pristine on TV even if patrons decided to discard their trash on the course.

I’m not a good golfer, but ever since my time there, I always watch The Masters with interest, and it was even more interesting this year since a young golfer I recently photographed was in the lead.

About a year ago I was assigned to photograph Jordan Spieth, a young PGA golfer who is now the newly crowned 2015 Masters Champion for Sports Illustrated.  It was a rainy winter day, and even though he was home and off the tour at the time of the shoot, his schedule was super tight with appointments, so we ended up renting a cool studio space at Bolt Productions in Spieth’s hometown of Dallas.  Will Rutledge assisted with the shoot, and we were able to do 5 different setups in 20 minutes.  We used a variety of setups, all with Profoto gear from Bolt.  Jordan was incredibly polite, humble and cooperative.

It was a real thrill to watch him kill it at The Masters this week – he’s got a great future ahead of him.

Tight shot of Jordan Spieth during SI photo shoot in Dallas.

Tight shot of Jordan Spieth during SI photo shoot in Dallas.

Jordan Spieth

A black and white profile of Jordan Spieth during a studio shoot in Dallas.

 

Skyline Portrait of Houston Rockets James "The Beard" Harden

Portrait of James Harden in front of the Houston skyline on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015.  ©2015 Robert Seale

Portrait of James Harden with the Houston skyline on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. ©2015 Robert Seale

I’ve dreamed about shooting Houston Rockets guard James Harden for a long time. How can you go wrong with THAT BEARD? He’s just awesome looking. I wanted to pose him with ZZ Top for the last couple of years…or at least with Billy Gibbons, but alas, no one has bitten on that idea yet. (You hear that Texas Monthly? It would be a great cover, trust me….).

Anyway, the call finally came a couple of weeks ago from Sports Illustrated. Harden had a super tight schedule with the All-Star Break coming up, and the editor asked if we could put together something with the iconic Houston skyline with only 24 hours notice.

I suggested a view from the traditional western side…there are great spots along Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive where the buildings separate and line up well. Yes, it’s been done, but it really is a great angle.  (Sidebar:  I may sound like a homer, but Houston’s western skyline is among the best I’ve seen in the world – right up there with Dallas, Chicago, Shanghai, and Doha in the manner that the skyscrapers line up and separate in a photograph.  It’s the result of a late 70’s-early 80’s skyscraper building boom that hasn’t been matched in the US since.)

The editor already had a specific view in mind (slightly north a bit, but also very nice – and much closer to the buildings), and we referenced a rooftop fashion shot I had taken a few years earlier from that same spot.  On the plus side when using a parking garage roof, you can control access which is a plus when working with a pro athlete.  If we had done this out in the park, we might have gathered a crowd and needed more security guys.

While the editor was pitching the idea to the Rockets, I called the building with the rooftop parking deck we had used a few years earlier to ask for permission. Then I went by to see the manager in person and deliver a check for a location fee. Done.

I researched the shoot from a few years earlier and put in calls to my Plexiglas shop and found out they didn’t have what we needed, but could ship it in by noon the next day from Dallas. Done.

James Harden SI cover by Robert Seale.

James Harden SI cover by Robert Seale.

Then another call to a GCG Productions, a stage company I used previously on that fashion shoot to build another stage platform for the Plexiglas sheets. I keep all my emails so I just looked up the email from 7 years earlier and found my stage company buddy George. George is awesome – and luckily he was available. Done.

I booked Travis “cowboy truck” Scheibel and Michael “MacGyver” Klein as assistants. Two of the best in Houston, or anywhere for that matter. Done.

After all that scrambling to get ready in record time, the weather took a turn for the worse, and the shoot was moved to Saturday (on the Rockets suggestion, no less!). Actually, it was a good thing….I knew that our first window on Thursday would be cloudy and our chances were looking much better for good weather on Saturday. The shot wouldn’t really work on a totally cloudy evening. We had to then rebook everyone for the Saturday evening shoot….fortunately the stars aligned, everyone was available, and the location was still ours.

Travis rigged up an ingenious method for transporting the large sheets of Plexi vertically in his truck between sections of heavy MDF board with lots of clamps and ropes to keep the Plexi from bending or getting bowed. I leave the rigging/knot-tying Eagle Scout stuff to Travis and Michael, since I never made it past my Webelo badge.

The James Harden spread as it appeared in SI.

The James Harden spread as it appeared in SI.

We set up Saturday afternoon several hours before the shoot to test. You may be asking why we built a stage with plexiglas on it?  The simple reason is, parking garages, or most roof structures for that matter usually have a waist or chest high border around them, which destroys your look for a full length photo.  Building a stage solves the problem, and puts the subject up high enough to get rid of the unsightly “lip” around the edge of the building.  Why plexiglas?  Because the parking garage is white concrete, and it’s ugly….that and I’m a sucker for reflection pictures….just ask Travis.  He jokes that if there is a 1′ x 1′ mud puddle on the ground somewhere, I’m usually laying next to it trying to shoot the reflection.  I’m a weirdo, I know.

We also set up a separate backdrop off to the side of the platform, just an 8 x 8 Scrim Jim to do some tight portraits of James as requested by the editor. The skyline would make a nice spread, and the tight portrait showcasing the beard would make a great cover (if we were lucky!).

It was super windy on the roof by the appointed shoot time, and I was fortunate that a couple of strong guys from George’s stage company agreed to help us out to steady ropes and function as human sandbags for us. Michael Klein, who literally has an entire grip truck in his Toyota SUV, dug around and came up with rigging for a wind break around our backdrop so:

A.) Harden wouldn’t freeze, and….

B.) So our background and lighting gear wouldn’t get blown off the roof.

He also built us a super boom, which came in handy considering Harden is 6’5”, and he was over 4 feet in the air on the stage platform. Getting the lighting up high was critical.

About the lighting: on the Plexiglas shot, I used a Profoto B4 on a Plume Wafer 100 with a 30 degree grid. We could have gone with a bigger light modifier, but I wanted the light to fall off and not contaminate our plexi reflection with a giant hot spot. On the tight cover shot, we used all Profoto (one B4 and two 7B’s I think).  There was no power on the roof, but with all the battery powered Profoto units, we were ok.

Our crew setting up the plexiglas stage on the rooftop parking garage.

Our crew setting up the plexiglas stage on the rooftop parking garage.

Timing was critical – we only had 20 minutes with Harden to get both shots, and predicting the cool after sunset glow on buildings is not an exact science.  I figured it was ideal somewhere between 6:12 and 6:23pm.  If Harden arrived early, we would start with the tight headshot portrait, and if he was late we would reverse the setups.

We had an audience for the shoot, including Harden’s bodyguard, his nephew and mom (who’s a fun lady!), my wife, who was shooting some BTS video for us, the Rockets media relations director, and finally, James himself.  He was a little early, so we got the plain backdrop out of the way first, and then moved on to the plexi platform.

After watching cloud cover all day, we were lucky and the clouds parted just an hour before sunset for a fabulous magenta purple afterglow. The magazine repro’d a bit on the blue side, but that’s printing. SI Art Director Chris Hercik did us proud again with a nice classy layout for the cover and spread.

After Harden left, the crew had fun taking turns taking photos on the stage.

Now, if I can just find Billy Gibbons’ phone number for the next time…..hmmmmm.

Here's the simple Scrimjim backdrop with windbreak to keep it secure on the roof.

Here’s the simple Scrimjim backdrop with windbreak to keep it secure on the roof.

The Doolittle Raiders Final Toast

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Three of the remaining four Doolittle Raiders at the Final Toast in Nov. 2013 at the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. Left to right: Sgt. David Thatcher, Col. Ed Saylor, and Col. Richard Cole.

After photographing the Doolitle Raiders reunions on several occasions, I was very honored when I was asked to photograph the Final Toast ceremony for the Raiders at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, on Nov. 8-9, 2013.  I’ve written about the Doolittle Raiders and their historic contributions in WW II on the blog before here and here, so I won’t go through the entire history again here.

One of the interesting things about The Raiders is that they gathered together every year since the end of WW II, gradually dwindling in numbers each year.  They eventually made a pact, sealed with a bottle of unopened Cognac from the year of Doolittle’s birth (1896), that they would continue to toast their fallen comrades each year until they were down to the last two Raiders, and at that time, the last two survivors would open the bottle and do a final toast.  Each crew member had a silver goblet housed in a special traveling case with their name engraved right side up, and upside down.  Deceased crew members from the previous year had their goblets turned upside down in a moving but very private ceremony that only the other Raiders attended each year.

After their 71st reunion in 2013, there were four of the original group left:  Col. Richard Cole, Sgt. David Thatcher, Col. Ed Saylor, and Lt. Col. Robert Hite, who has not been well enough to attend the last several reunions.  With the survivors all in their mid to late 90’s, the possibility existed that perhaps they might not be well enough to travel, or, God forbid, perhaps they all might pass in the same year, thus losing any chance for the culmination of the Raider tradition.  The remaining survivors made the decision to go ahead and complete the final toast in Nov. 2013 on Veteran’s Day weekend at the U.S. Air Force Museum, in a semi public  event attended by the top brass of the Air Force, and many of the Raider’s families and friends.  It was a bittersweet occasion, but one I wouldn’t have missed for the world.  I was lucky to be accompanied on the trip by my good friend and overqualified photo assistant John Simmons.

I was lucky to make a couple of portraits of the remaining three Raiders, and of the toast ceremony.  On this Veteran’s Day a year later, I raise my glass to these brave men, and to their great contribution that changed the course of World War II.

The Final Toast at the US Air Force Museum.

The Final Toast at the US Air Force Museum.

 

 

Robert Seale on faculty of 2014 Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar

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Photo by Bernat Armangué / Associated Press

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been invited to speak again at the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar Nov. 13-15, 2014. I’ll be doing a couple of workshop sessions on lighting on Friday Nov. 14.

I attended the event in 1992 as a young photographer at my first real newspaper job, and also spoke there previously in 2004. It’s a real treat to be invited back to such an awesome event. The staff that puts on the workshop (all great photographers in their own right) do a hell of a job putting this thing together every year. It really is a first class event.

Among the other Friday speakers: my old sports photography colleague, Jamie Squire from Getty Images, speaking about (logically enough) Sports! Eric Seals a photojournalist with the Detroit Free Press will be leading a session on GoPro and drone photography. Also, I’m really excited that Judy Hermann, from ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) will be speaking on business practices for photographers.

Saturday speakers include National Geographic contributor Amy Toensing, Scott Strazzante (San Francisco Chronicle), Al Diaz (Miami Herald), Ken Lyons (Denver Post), and freelance photojournalist extraordinaire Matt Eich.

Thursday is devoted to video presentations, and in addition to Eric Seals, other speakers include Wes Pope (University of Oregon), Lauren Frohne (Seattle Times), Oliver Janney (CNN), and Amani Channel (Visual Eye Media).

The Atlanta Seminar has been around for quite some time – here’s an overview from their website:   “The Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar was founded in 1973 by a group of photojournalists representing newspapers, magazines and wire services. Its reason for being is to promote the highest standards of photojournalism through an annual educational conference and a photography contest judged by working photographers.

Speakers throughout the years have included Pulitzer Prize winners, Photographer of the Year winners, major magazine and wire service photographers, influential directors of photography, important educators in photojournalism, academia, and others important in this profession. Founded as a regional event, the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar has grown to become one of the most prestigious photojournalism competitions, with participants from throughout the world.”

You can see the entire schedule, list of speakers, contest information, and registration information at: Photojournalism.org.

Hope to see you there!

 

Farewell to the Captain: Covering Derek Jeter through the years

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Derek Jeter, Throwback uniform, Legends Field, Tampa, Florida, January 1999.

Derek Jeter’s first full season in the majors coincided with my first year at The Sporting News: we both started in earnest at our respective jobs in April of 1996. He was 22-year-old rookie, and I was a fledgling 26-year-old sports photographer.

I covered him in various Yankees games throughout the years, including Six of his World Series appearances, and photographed portraits of him several times for various stories and covers. He was always a humble, quiet, gentleman – a real class act. On the day of his last MLB game, I thought I would share some photos and memories of Mr. November.

I first photographed Derek during game action of the 1996 Yankees season. I don’t remember much about him from that year, other than  having my lens trained on him for hours, trying to get that elusive shortstop levitation picture. That 1996 World Series was my initiation into Yankee Stadium “Bleacher Creature” culture. As the young guy at TSN, I was relegated to shooting most of the series from a camera platform over the right field wall. The cool part, was I shot next to my late friend, legendary SI baseball photographer V. J. Lovero. I remember him being unfazed, even giddy as the Creatures conducted “Roll Call.” For the uninitiated, Roll Call, is a series of chants by the Bleacher Creatures of each players name – (“DEH—RIK —JEEEE—TER!!!), which continues unabated until the player being called tips his cap or otherwise acknowledges the fans, at which point they go nuts, and then move on to the next player. Once that is done, they revert to pelting photographers with beer and open mustard packets.

In 1997, I made portraits of him during the off season at Legends Field in Tampa, which resulted in a cover later on. I was still shooting 35mm then, and he was patient with me as I ran him from station to station, trying to get some different looks out of him.

Composite

An early Jeter cover from a 1997 photo session in Tampa.

In 1999, we had a project where TSN named an “All-throwback Team.” Guys that were old-school, who played the game “the right way” were photographed in black and white in  old uniforms in vintage, Charles Conlon style stiff poses for a photo essay that would be published just before Spring Training.

The tough part wasn’t shooting the photos. It was finding old gloves, uniforms, shoes, etc with no production budget, and then scheduling all of these during January and February before Spring Training started. I was lucky in that the owners of Mitchell and Ness, and Ebbetts Field Flannels, makers of old authentic jerseys, really embraced the project and let us borrow their cool jerseys. One of our issues was finding pants, believe it or not. Nobody had old school baggy baseball pants. I scoured the country looking for them but had zero luck. I didn’t want to create an entire photo story with waist-up portraits of every player. I thought that would be boring. Peter Capolino, the owner of Mitchell and Ness, dug around in his basement and found me a pair of pinstriped pants that we thought would fit Jeter. The problem? One leg was pinstriped in blue, and the other side was pinstriped in RED!

My memory is fuzzy, but he said something about them being made for an old timers event for someone who split their career between two teams…..(for some reason, I’m thinking Tug McGraw -Mets/Phillies – which would make sense since M&N was in Philly), but I can’t remember for sure. In any event, there I was back at Legends Field (which has a nice overhang roof reminiscent of the old MLB stadiums), trying to convince Derek Jeter that he’s not going to look like an idiot in half red/half blue pinstriped pants.

“No, really, dude…we’re only going to run these in B&W….nobody will ever know….really, trust me, come on….”

He was dubious, but he played along anyway, and we made some portraits of him in his “authentic” 1930’s era Yankee uniform. I wanted to shoot type 55 Polaroid, but my boss insisted I shoot color on the photos and have our backshop convert them, so here’s the evidence of Jeter in those goofy pants. Sorry Derek!

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Rare color scan of the Derek Jeter “throwback uniform” shoot from 1999. Note the goofy pants with red and blue pinstripes.

Composite

The “Throwbacks” Sporting News cover as it appeared. Jeter is shown in a composite with Roger Clemens, who was wearing the uniform he wore in movie “Cobb.”

During Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, I was working the New York games with my colleagues, Albert Dickson and John Dunn, and I was still hurting from the night before. Game 3 was the game where President Bush threw out the first pitch, and it was only a few weeks after 9/11. It was a fantastic moment. Unfortunately, because we had to be in our photo positions 3 hours before game time, because of security concerns, I took a screaming Tony Womack line drive to my jaw during BP. My head was ringing and my ligaments in my face were so stretched that my jaws/teeth didn’t line up correctly for a month. I would have gone to a hospital, except that the hospitals were experiencing a scare over anthrax!

So, it’s now Game 4, and on this particular night I was on the 3rd base side…waaaaaay outside – almost in left field. My head still hurt, but despite that and my remote position, there were distractions to keep us busy in the early innings. Just after the game started, the Yankees escorted Spike Lee into our photo well very close to us. I don’t know if they actually sold seats in the photo wells, or if they were just trying to accommodate VIPs, but a few minutes later I was shoved forward as Pete Sampras and his wife Bridgette Wilson (who’s really stunning by the way…), were also seated in the well next to us. A few innings later, I was bumped and shoved forward again as Flavor Flav came by to say hi to Spike (his seats weren’t as good).

Derek Jeter rounds second after his 10th inning walk-off home in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series.

Derek Jeter rounds second after his 10th inning walk-off homer in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series.

After Tino Martinez tied the game with a two run homer in the 9th, the clock soon struck midnight. The Yankees flashed a sign on the scoreboard that said “Welcome to November Baseball.” I was really tired, and remarked to the photographer next to me that I really wished I had the other half of that pastrami sandwich from lunch at the Stage Deli. Jeter came up to bat in the tenth, and on a 3-2 count, blasted the game winning walk off homer, earning him the nickname “Mr. November.”   The fans stayed in the stadium cheering, and singing “New York, New York” until the wee hours. I was ready to go, and found my colleague from MLB, baseball photographer extraordinaire Brad Mangin just standing there with a big grin on his face, taking in the scene. Maybe it was because of my aching head, or maybe it was because I was tired and hungry, but I was ready to head in. Brad stopped me….”Dude, this is one of the best World Series games ever played!” I stopped, took a few more pictures, and hung out with Brad on the field for a few minutes watching the fans, and it is still one of my favorite World Series memories.

Derek Jeter jumps into the arms of his teammates after Game 4 of the 2001 World Series.

Derek Jeter jumps into the arms of his teammates after Game 4 of the 2001 World Series.

In 2002, Jeter was named the cover of the Sporting News “Good Guys” issue. For several years, we did a special issue featuring players who made outstanding community or charity contributions, hence the name. This was about players who were the antithesis of the thug millionaires many had come to associate with professional sports stars….David Robinson had been our “Good Guy” the previous year I think.

I was in New Jersey for the NBA Finals against the Lakers with my colleague Bob Leverone. We were dispatched to Pier 60 after Game 4 to shoot Jeter with his family for the GG issue. For this feature, we photographed the players in street clothes, not their uniform, and Derek showed up in a beautiful custom suit. As I began to shoot, I noticed he was wearing a Platinum Rolex President with a diamond bezel. It was a really nice watch, and not nearly as crazy or blingy as some others I’ve seen, but I thought it would be too distracting on the cover.  I also thought that it might send the wrong message on a cover highlighting his foundation’s good works. I asked to adjust his wardrobe for a sec, and I gently pulled the cuff down over the watch. He looked at me like I was nuts, and I don’t think he knew why I was doing it, (I said something about making the suit look straight), but I felt like it was the right thing to do at the time. His parents and sister were there as well, and we made a nice portrait of them together. They were all lovely people.

Derek Jeter with his parents and sister, from our "Good Guys" shoot at Pier 60 in New York in 2002.

Derek Jeter with his parents and sister, from our “Good Guys” shoot at Pier 60 in New York in 2002.

Jeter's "Good Guys" Sporting News cover.

Jeter’s “Good Guys” Sporting News cover.

One of my favorite portraits of Jeter - taken with simple window light during 2002.

One of my favorite portraits of Jeter – taken with simple window light during 2002.

In 2004, Alex Rodriguez joined the Yankees and although everyone was abuzz about Arod, we also requested some shots of Jeter and Arod together at the shoot. I’m not sure when their relationship supposedly cooled, but Jeter was just as solid as ever, showing up on time with a good attitude. One of the shots of them together made the cover a few weeks later.

Arod and Jeter together during Spring Training, 2004.

Arod and Jeter together during Spring Training, 2004.

Arod and Jeter Sporting News cover, 2004.

Arod and Jeter Sporting News cover, 2004.

I left the Sporting News in Dec 2006 to work on my own, but I’ve been lucky to cover Jeter a couple of more times since then. I really would love to have seen that final single he swatted a couple of nights ago during his final home game. Hopefully I’ll get to make another portrait of him at some point.

Until then, Captain….it was always a pleasure.

 

A happy Jeter probably laughing at something stupid I said during a 1997 photo shoot in the Yankees Florida clubhouse.

A happy Jeter probably laughing at something stupid I said during a 1997 photo shoot in the Yankees Florida clubhouse.

 

 

 

 

What's in my Bag? – Houston Commercial Photographer Robert Seale

Commercial Photographer Robert Seale's Photo Bag

Anyone remember the old American Photographer magazine? I’m talking pre-American PHOTO, when the magazine had great long form feature stories on photographers. One of my favorite features was the “What’s in your camera bag?” double truck. As a young high school photographer, I loved seeing what everyone was using, and I loved the quirky stuff and homemade gadgets that photographers carried. I still vividly remember the features on Roger Ressmeyer, the late Brian Lanker, Jodi Cobb, and a host of others. I also remember an old Amphoto book on advertising photographer Al Satterwhite, that had several pages in the back with pictures of the contents of his cases. I loved seeing the actual gear he worked with, and how organized and thoughtful he was about packing it.

**Funny sidebar:  (One of the memories that sticks in my head from the old American Photographer was a story about famous nature photographer Art Wolfe.  He was operating in super cold polar conditions, and was frustrated with his Canon F-1 with motor drive (it froze and stopped working), so he ripped the body off the lens, tossed it into the icy water, grabbed another body and kept on shooting.  I was horrified!  He just chunked a 1000 dollar camera into the water!  Who would do that?  Holy crap!  I was shooting with a Canon AE-1 at the time, and an F-1 seemed like the most expensive object in the world.  My second thought was, “Wow, Art Wolfe is so successful he can AFFORD to throw away a thousand dollar camera!”)

Recently, I’ve noticed the genre has been resurrected in the form of photographer blog posts, and I still love seeing these articles and photos of “gear porn”. (Actually, my stuff is not so exotic these days….if Laforet is putting out gear-porn, mine probably barely qualifies as gear-Cinemax….).

I do lots of different types of assignments, from sports portraits for Sports Illustrated, to corporate annual reports for oil companies, CEO portraits for business magazines and companies, to advertising campaigns for hospitals, and we pack specific gear each time depending on the nature of the job.  There are times where you might need a 600mm/F4, or a medium format digital system, or a ton of Profoto lighting.  Most of the time though, this primary camera kit stays close to this setup shown below.   So here it is, the gear I typically travel with and some commentary on why I use what I use.

(CASE #1) Think Tank Airport International 2.0 – This is a great, slightly smaller version of the usual Think Tank rolling case. It has never failed me on numerous different international flights. The full size TT roller is large enough to raise some eyebrows at the sizing box, but this one always gets through. I’ve even had pretty good luck with it on some commuter airlines too. In fact, I like the bag so much I bought two of them!  I’ve always held that you shouldn’t ship everything you own on any flight, and that you should carry on at least enough gear to get started on the job and make some sort of picture.  We’ll start with the contents of my primary kit:

 

Commercial Photographer Robert Seale's Photo Bag

Camera bodies:

Two EOS 5D Mk 3’s, and one Canon EOS 1DX.   I used to carry two EOS1DS Mk III’s and a 1DX, but I’ve replaced both of the S bodies over the last year or so with the newest version of the 5D. I’ll be real honest. I have a love/hate thing going here: I love the quality of the files, and the increased dynamic range and high ISO capability of the 5D3 vs. my old DS Mk3 bodies…..BUT, ergonomically speaking, I MISS having a big, durable, real, weather sealed, substantial professional body in my hand.  I hate having to carry two chargers.  I also can’t for the life of me figure out why Canon moves critical buttons to different locations on these two bodies. For instance the button to light up the LCD display is on the far right on one, and the inside far left on the other. Madness! In addition to the form factor change, I really miss the 1/250 flash sync of my old professional bodies. I have grips on both of my 5D’s but it’s just not the same.

I love the EOS1DX. It may be one of the best cameras I’ve ever laid my hands on. The autofocus is awesome, low light sensitivity is incredible, and I love the fact that it is just perfect for me ergonomically. I’m not happy about the 18MP file size though, which I consider to be a slight step backwards (My Ds bodies were 21-something). I’m also really disappointed that Canon only bumped the 5D3 roughly 1MP. After waiting 4 years, I really expected to have something with a file size in the 26-36MP range. If the 1DX had a file size around 22MP (similar to the 5D), then I would use these exclusively.  I don’t necessarily need 12 FPS, but it’s nice.  I could live with 6 FPS and a bigger file.  My dream camera is something in a big well made, durable professional body form factor (like the 1DX) with a file size in the 30-40MP range, with 1/250 sync, and USB 3 connectivity….and it better get here soon!!!

**(Note about cameras – “It’s a black box with a hole in it!”   That was the standard quote from my colleague Dave Einsel every time someone starts the age old Canon vs. Nikon argument.  I’ve used both Nikon and Canon over the years and enjoyed using both.  I have good friends who are reps for both companies.  I started with Canon FD manual focus gear, switched to Nikon F4’s due to the fantastic capabilities of the SB-24 speedlight, and then back to Canon EOS stuff (autofocus!), and then back to the F5 (autofocus!), and have been shooting Canon since the 1V came out (2001 or 2002?).  I was a staff photographer for many years, so usually the switch was not my choice, and due to a change in what my newspaper/magazine was using for their company gear. I started my own business in 2006, and have stuck with Canon since then, but I’ll be honest, I came REALLY close to switching when the D800 came out. Both companies make wonderful cameras and lenses, and leapfrog each other every couple of years with new technology and capabilities. It really comes down to personal preference and what you can afford at the time you’re buying. Remember that while new cameras are cool……your gear is a tool, and although it’s there to help you solve problems easier, most of those problems really need to be solved in that most important piece of gear – your brain.)

Lenses:

Canon EF 24-105/4L – I actually have three of these. (Must have backups for your backups right?) It’s not a super expensive or exotic lens, and as silly as it sounds, it is my favorite Canon lens (and one of the reasons I’ve stayed with Canon despite the back and forth tech jumps with their rival Nikon). When I shot portraits with a Hasselblad (pre-2005), I carried around 40, 50, 80, 120, and 150mm lenses. With the conversion to 35mm, the 24-105 pretty much sums up that entire range. When you’re shooting celebrities, CEO’s, or famous athletes, any lens change or delay in the shoot to fumble around changing lenses could mean your subject ending it right there and walking away. With a 24-105 and a big CF card, I can keep the camera to my face and keep shooting without changing a lens. The IS comes in handy at times too.  Remember that it distorts quite a bit between 24 and 50, so it helps to use the lens profile correction in Lightroom with this one.

Commercial Photographer Robert Seale's Photo Bag

 

Canon EF 16-35/2.8L II – This lens is much improved over the first version.

Canon EF 70-200/2.8L II – Tack, tack sharp, but with IS it is rather heavy. I have an F4 version that I sometimes use in this slot.

Canon EF 24-70/2.8 II – This one is super tack sharp, and sometimes you need the wider 2.8 aperture. No IS like the 24-105/4L.

Canon 100/2.8L macro – One of the sharpest lenses I’ve ever used. This slot in my case rotates depending on the assignment. Sometimes I’ll swap the 100 for an 8-15, or a tilt shift.

Canon 1.4x III teleconverter – Sometimes necessary on the 70-200 if I don’t have longer lenses handy.

2 Pocketwizard Multimax wireless units – I have a bunch of these spread around various cases. I still carry a couple in the main case just in case we need to do something strange that the new Plus III’s won’t do.

2 Pocketwizard Plus III – For triggering from the camera hotshoe, I like to use these.

2 Canon 580 EX II speedlights – I rarely use these, but still carry them around. I know I can rig something up and still make a picture if my lighting gear gets lost on the plane, and there are situations where we hide them in the set to light a certain area. My wife has the cool new Canon 600 speedlights, but I haven’t upgraded mine yet.  If you’re buying new ones get the new 600 EX.

LPA Pocketwizard Cords for Profoto and the 580 speedlights. – these are in my lighting cases also, but I keep backups in case they get lost or we rent packs and they forget to include them.

** Funny story sidebar:  (Early on in my career, I was at NHL hockey star Joe Sakic’s house, in a little beachy area between Vancouver and Seattle – far from any civilization or camera stores. I set up my lights in his back yard, and to my horror, I realized I had somehow misplaced my sync cords. It was high noon, and available light was not a great option. Sakic’s wife got me their yellow pages (remember phone books?), and I called a local wedding photographer, who bailed me out by loaning me a cord. Sakic was patient and cool. (Hockey guys really are the best). I was incredibly embarrassed, but I consider it one of the greatest lessons I ever had. Always, always, always, pack redundantly. Have backups spread around in different cases. Things break, and you should always cover your ass in case something doesn’t arrive. If you are shipping gear, don’t put all your softboxes, or heads, or stands in the same case. You never know when one will turn up broken or missing.)

Extra glasses – I have an extra set of glasses here, and in my briefcase. These may be the most important lenses in my bag, as I’m blind as a bat without them.

Wiha technical screwdrivers – I have these scattered in various cases and bags. They are handy to tighten lens mounts after a rough helicopter ride.

X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Color balance calibration target

Really Right stuff quick release plates – I use these on my cameras and my 70-200 to mount them on an Arca Swiss ballhead. They are expensive, but wonderfully machined pieces that make your life so much easier.

Kinesis CF Card Wallet – This large card wallet folds flat and holds 12 CF cards. I’ve used these for many years, and I actually like the size (though my assistants probably don’t). My theory is the small ThinkTank card wallets are wonderful, but so small that they can easily be misplaced, left on set, disappear in a jacket pocket, etc. This big thing from Kinesis is large enough to notice when it’s missing. I might walk into a restaurant and leave gear in the car, but hard drives and cards are always with us. ALWAYS!  You can replace gear easily with insurance, but you cannot replace the photos you just took.

SanDisk Extreme Pro Compact Flash card 32GB 160MB/s – I’ve replaced most of my cards with these, although I still have a few older 16 GB versions. I rotate cards and buy 2-4 new ones every 6-8 months or so.

Inova X2 Flashlight – I usually have at least one of these in my bag – sometimes more. I love flashlights and experimenting with different LED sources. Sometimes we light paint with these on long exposures, and they are always handy for packing up in the dark.

Petzl Zipka 2 headlamp – I have a bunch of these in various bags. They have a retractable cord on them that fits around your head or wrist. Very handy.

Extra lens/body caps – these get lost, so I try to have extras with us.

Revlon makeup compact mirror. – These are handy for helping subjects fix their hair/makeup, etc on set.

Lens cleaning cloth – My favorites are these large ones that Jody Grober gave me from Robert’s Distributors.

Domke wraps – I use these to wrap around the bodies to protect them in the case. I’ve always done this, and it keeps the LCD’s nice and pristine. I use black ones on the 5D’s and a red one on the 1DX so we can differentiate the bodies quickly….and because I’m a freak.

Nikon AN4B camera strap – I’m super weird and picky about camera straps. I LOATHE big obnoxious straps with giant lettering that come with the camera bodies these days. The AN4B is a simple thin black nylon strap, and I’ve used these for years. I don’t know what I’ll ever do if they quit making them. I use a similar strap from Canon on the 1DX body, mostly so I can quickly tell the cameras apart if I’m in a rush. It’s called a Canon L3 camera strap. They are gray/black, and just say Canon on them….very low key and thin. This is the same camera strap that originally shipped with the EOS1-V. From time to time, B&H still gets them in stock.

The RED FOLDER – Guys who’ve worked with me know what this is for. I keep model releases, property releases, etc. in a big red folder in the outside pocket of the roller bag. The idea is the same as the big Kinesis CF wallet. If it is big and red, it’s hard to miss. These are critical to doing a professional job, and with few exceptions, we get one from every person we shoot.

Commercial Photographer Robert Seale's Photo Bag

 

Customs forms (CBP 4455) – for foreign travel, I register all my gear at a US Customs office, have it inspected and signed. A Carnet is better, but more time consuming to get and to use. Having the gear registered in the US at least proves that you left with it, and are returning back to the US with the same stuff.  It won’t help you with a customs guy in Canada, but the US agents will be ok with it.  So far, this has worked well for me.

** Funny sidebar: (A few years ago, my buddy Chris Covatta, working for Upper Deck at the time, was traveling into Canada to shoot the Vancouver Grizzlies (remember them?  That went well, huh?).  The Canadian border agents see his plethora of camera gear, and detain him.  He was delayed for a while, and the conversation went something like this.  “So, you got a lot a camera stuff there, eh?  Isn’t there a Canadian who could do your job?”  Covatta came very close to saying:  ““Hell no!”  For a Canadian to shoot a sport, it must involve toothless bastards with sticks and little rubber object that hurts like hell when it hits you. They don’t have a clue about hoops!”  (ed. note:  These were Covatta’s words, not mine….I happen to like Canada.)  But he held off, paid a fee and was allowed in after someone with the team vouched for him.  I’ve been reminded of this several times during my own travels there.  Canada may be the most difficult border to cross – much worse than China or Saudi Arabia in my experience.

(CASE #2) – ThinkTank Airport International 2.0 (Part Deux!)

This roller has some auxiliary stuff that I don’t necessarily use on every trip. For instance, if I was shooting a simple business portrait across town, I probably wouldn’t take this with me. However, for international travel, or big corporate photography assignments on the road, this case usually goes with us.  I have a different packing philosophy here.  Instead of the normal dividers, I pack everything in small bags or sometimes a backpack, so we’ve got bags to work out of when we arrive.

Commercial Photographer Robert Seale's Photo Bag

 

Canon EF 300/2.8L IS – I used to use lots of big glass when I shot more sports action, but these days I’ve pared down the 400’s and 600’s to just a simple 300/2.8, and honestly, it rarely gets used. It does come in handy when you need it, and I often use a 1.4 converter on it. I might replace this one day with the Canon EF 200-400/4, but good grief, 12K for a lens I rarely use seems like a lot of money.

Funny, (yet informative) sidebar:  Current prices on long lenses….a Canon EF 600/4 is now 12,999.00.  A 400/2.8 is now 11,500.00. A 300/2.8 is now 7,299.00.  Quick math question….how many games do you need to shoot at  125.00 per game to pay for your big lens?  I’m not endorsing this rate – some publications pay better , but even major sports publications are still paying the same rates they paid in the 1980’s, when cameras and lenses were much cheaper than they are now. The salad days of card companies and other corporate clients shelling out 1-2K rates for sports action/game coverage are gone for the most part.  Most do not pay anywhere near what it would take to buy crazy exotic sports photographer gear and remain profitable.  Now, let’s do the math based on a 400/2.8.

400/2.8 = 11500.00…at 125.00 per game (what some “so-called wire services” are paying, believe it or not).  – that’s 92 games!…..just to buy ONE lens, not allowing anything for the multiple digital cameras, other lenses, laptop, cards, and PROFIT you should be making.

Canon TS-E 24/3.5L II Tilt shift – The new version of the Canon 24 tilt shift. Absolutely an incredible, sharp, sharp, sharp lens. I rarely use it, but it does come in handy for perspective control in tight spaces.

Canon EF 8-15/4L Fisheye – I replaced my fixed 15 fisheye with this one a couple of years ago. Again rarely used – but there’s really no substitute when you need it.

Canon 24-105/4L – A backup of the other go-to lens in Case #1.

Canon EF 50/2.8 Macro

Chargers for cameras – It pisses me off that i must carry two different types of chargers.  The 5D grip should have been designed to take 1DX type batteries.  Ugh.

Backup CF cards – I rotate the older cards to a ThinkTank card wallet, and keep them in another case, so we can continue working if the Kinesis wallet (God forbid!) were to get lost.  Backups!

More Wiha screwdrivers

More Petzl Zipka headlamps

Larrylight 8 LCD flashlights – these little nine dollar lights have a clip and magnet, and are fantastic for hiding in a set and mimicking computer screen light.

Funny sidebar:  We spent a day in a hospital once, hauling around a Rock and Roller cart full of lighting gear, and then used Larry Lights on every single picture.  I’m not sure my client knew what to think…..probably that I was a weirdo.

ThinkTank Speed Demon waist pack and Speed Changer side pouches – These give the assistant a way to carry extra stuff once we’re on location.

**Funny sidebar:  (The ThinkTank waist bag you see here is probably a collector’s item.  It has a Canon CPS logo on it and was given out to all the Super Bowl photographers at the 2005 Super Bowl in Jacksonville.  My friends and Think Tank founders Deanne Fitzmaurice, Kurt Rogers, and Doug Murdoch arranged for the generous swag and I’ve been using it ever since – and I’ve bought a TON of their other bags.  The party was notable, not only for the cool gift and weird menu (we had alligator as I recall), but for the fact that my wife and I  got to sit and dine with the legendary Neil Leifer.  Later that same year, Neil shared a photo position with my wife and a couple of other photographers at  the World Series in Houston, and sent her a signed print as a thank you for making room for him in the crowded space.  Neil is a class act.)

Sharpies – I still carry these, despite the fact that i no longer write on film canisters.

Gaffer Tape – I’m picky about this too (Imagine that). I prefer the small core, Permacel 2-ply tape. It is superior to the big rolls of thin crap you find in most camera stores.  Sorry, but there’s no Amazon link for the good stuff.  Call Jody at Robert’s Distributors and tell him I sent you.  😉

Electronic cable release – I carry ones with a button, and another one with a Pocketwizard compatible miniphone jack

Filters – I didn’t put them in the pictures, but I own filters (Heliopan thin filters) for pretty much all the lenses. I hate using them, but I put them on if I know I’m going to a dusty or saltwater environment. I remember a quote from some bigshot photographer years ago who said something like – …”why would you put a 20 dollar piece of glass in front of a 2000 dollar piece of glass?” I buy nice filters, and they certainly aren’t 20 bucks, but that quote has always lingered in my mind.

Sensor cleaning kit – Sensor Swabs, cleaning fluid, and Arctic Butterfly gadget.  Note:  The pre-moistened, pre-packaged swabs are absolute crap.  Horrible.  don’t even try it.  Buy the dry ones and use the cleaning fluid.  Be careful though – did you know the TSA thinks the cleaning fluid is a hazardous substance?  No kidding.  I tried to FedX some once, but had to buy it locally.

**Funny sidebar:  (Does anyone else think “Arctic Butterfly” sounds like a sex toy rather than a piece of camera gear?

Me, (in airport security check line):  “So, it’s a little wand with a light brush on the end, that has a little battery powered motor that spins, and it’s for cleaning your camera sensor, and….”

TSA agent:  “Yeah……sure, buddy, suuuuuuuure it is…….whatever you say…….”)