Monthly Archives

December 2009

The old strobe in the glove trick

Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland for Sports Illustrated.

Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland for Sports Illustrated.

I recently photographed Texas Rangers pitchers Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland for Sports Illustrated.  While brainstorming ideas for the shoot with the photo editor, he mentioned a picture I had done several years earlier for a Sporting News cover of CC  Sabathia in which I had lit Sabathia's face with a small strobe hidden in his glove.  He mentioned that he would like to see this treatment with the Feliz/Holland duo.


Sabathia, “throwing” the 25 dollar Morris Mini Slave.

In the original photo, we lit the background with a strobe with a blue gel, to give a graduated spot on the background wall behind Sabathia.  I then used a (no kidding!) 25 dollar Morris mini slave strobe in Sabathia's glove……since the strobe was circular and of similar size to a baseball, we even shot some photos of him “throwing” the strobe/ball at the camera.  It made a pretty cool picture.

Strangely enough, that photo of Sabathia was taken in Arlington when he was pitching for Cleveland, and visiting the Texas Rangers.  Several years later, here I was in the SAME ROOM beneath the Ballpark at Arlington shooting Feliz/Holland in a very similar setup.  Weird.  Sometimes I feel like I know the hallways, storage rooms, and locker rooms of these stadiums better than the actual field.

The downside of using the Morris Strobe, is that they aren't very powerful, nor can you vary the power.  We decided that the much more sophisticated Canon 580's would probably work much better……however hiding them in a tiny pitcher's glove proved to be a challenge indeed.

Anyway, we knew the Rangers photo was to be combined in the final layout with several other pitchers from around the league, so we kept the background a simple black.  I decided to rimlight the two guys with a pair of medium softboxes ( Plume Wafer 100) with a 30 degree grid on each side.  We added a Plume Wafer 140 in the center of the set on a low stand directly below the camera, for fill.  It was important to set the fill light at a low enough power to keep the white uniforms from blowing out.  We just wanted the fill to barely illuminate some detail in the uniforms and faces of the players.  Then we placed a Canon 580 Speedlight with an Omni-bounce in each player's glove with a Pocketwizard Multimax to trigger each strobe.

Assistant Will Rutledge testing the glove strobe.

Assistant Will Rutledge testing the glove strobe.

It took some careful testing to get the ratios just right, which we of course tested before the players arrived (I think we got about 10 minutes with them).

Basically, we set the camera up at F11.0, then adjusted the softbox rimlights a full stop hotter (F16.0), the speedlights in the gloves were set and metered to 11 1/2, and the Wafer 140 softbox, our fill light, was set to  5.6 1/2.

In addition to this photo, we also shot individual portraits of both players, and a couple of different versions of a “safer” shot of the two of them together.  For the “safe” shot, we simply ditched the 580's, kept the rimlights in place, reposed the players, and raised the fill light onto a taller stand and adjusted the power up one stop.

The "safe" version.

The “safe” version.

Working with an Amazing Place

Music Therapy at Amazing Place.

Music Therapy at Amazing Place.

I recently worked on a great project that lifted my soul.

I got a call from  Karen Holland, a creative director at Richards/Carlberg (Chuck Carlberg's venerable Houston advertising agency, Rives Carlberg, recently merged and became the Houston arm of The Richards Group). Karen was spearheading a project to rebrand an Alzheimer's care facility known as The Senior's Place into a new entity called Amazing Place.  The new Amazing Place is a non-profit memory-care center providing therapeutic programs for adults with mild to moderate memory loss.  The center is funded by donations and local churches.

One of the Amazing Place clients reading outside.The visual challenge in photographing the Amazing Place, was the fact that they were about to move to a new building at a new location. Karen had specific ideas about the look she wanted for the photographs…..high-key, hopeful, positive, and (whenever possible) with very little or no background detail that might identify the old building.

We found the solution in using very limited depth of field, and tilt-shift lenses to achieve very limited and selective focus on the subjects.  We used minimal lighting, mostly a Profoto 7b and some Canon speedlights to supplement the window light in the building, and to provide a very natural look.  It was a tight space to work in, but we managed to make some nice images.

I was able to shoot in a virtual documentary style throughout the project, and it was incredibly rewarding to work with the clients, families and staff at Amazing Place.  It was especially rewarding and meaningful for me since I've had experience with two close family members with dementia and/or Alzheimer's.

Although the printed materials haven't been finished yet, here's a look at the newly redesigned website, featuring a great new logo and color scheme also designed by Karen Holland.

The new home page features a slide show of images from Amazing Place.

Robert Seale's sports portraits featured in MOVES Magazine

Opening Spread of 18 page feature.

Opening Spread of 18 page feature.

MOVES magazine did a story on my sports portrait photography work recently.  It was published a few months ago, but they've recently revamped their website, and a good chunk of the 18-Page portfolio is now online on their website.

For those that are unfamiliar, you can't walk into an NBA, MLB, or NFL locker room without seeing stacks of three magazines………..ESPN, Sporting News, and Sports Illustrated, perhaps?  Uh, no……… The Robb Report, duPont Registry, and MOVES.


Not my work, just various covers from MOVES

MOVES (About Professional Athletes, For Professional Athletes) is a lifestyle magazine aimed at young sports star millionaires.  It's a big, thick, beautifully printed publication (think Cigar Afficionado or Communication Arts), and like the other two aforementioned mags, it's chock full of of high-end advertising for corporate jets, nice cars, watches, etc.

They've featured two other photographers in large portfolio features: legendary Madison Square Garden photographer George Kalinsky, and the great  Walter Iooss.  How I got thrown into the mix with those two, I couldn't tell you, but I'm grateful and very humbled all the same.