Monthly Archives

August 2011

Robert Seale shoots Eadward Muybridge homage

Trevor Bauer’s pitching motion, in an Eadward Muybridge style grid.

Trevor Bauer, a pitching prodigy from UCLA, recently drafted third in the 2011 MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, is known for his unconventional pitching motion and training philosophy.  He’s been compared to another wildly successful, yet undersized pitcher: Tim Lincecum of the SF Giants, who generates torque by rotating his hips, arms and legs in a whip-like motion, allowing him to pitch as fast as some of his taller, more muscle-bound counterparts in the major leagues.

When I originally got the call to shoot Bauer for Sports Illustrated, the photo editor, Nate Gordon and I discussed shooting a stroboscopic sequence on a black background, much like the work of Life Magazine photographer Gjon Mili.   I had done this type of shot before, in fact my first cover for the Sporting News was a stroboscopic photo of Mets pitcher Pete Harnisch.

My first Sporting News cover: circa 1996.

I first learned about Mili and his work during college.  I took about 27 hours of art history classes  (is that enough for a third major?).   The most memorable one was my mentor, Dr. Michael Roach‘s “History of Photography” class.  Presented chronologically, each class featured a wonderful slide show and biographical talk about pioneering photographers.  Each day we would tackle the work of two-three new photographers, and it was really great to go out and shoot later in the day, channeling the styles you had absorbed by osmosis that morning and trying to emulate that photographer’s look in your own photographs.

It’s great to formulate and grow your own style, but I think it’s equally important to know the history of our craft, learn all those techniques, and have them in your toolbox for when you’re called upon to provide a specific look.

In addition to Mili, one of those early photographers that Dr. Roach introduced us to was the pioneering motion sequence photographer Eadward Muybridge.  Muybridge, using a series of cameras triggered in sequence, put together grids of individual photographs featuring motion studies of humans, horses, and other animals.  There’s not an animator or artist who doesn’t own a dog eared copy of Muybridge’s “The Human Figure in Motion”, first published in 1907.

Anyway, I mentioned I had also been wanting to try a Muybridge homage, and perhaps Bauer’s motion was a good chance to explore the idea.  Nate liked the idea, and after pitching it to Director of Photography Steve Fine, gave me the go ahead to put the shoot together.  One wrinkle in this was that Bauer had not yet been signed to a contract by the diamondbacks at the time of our shoot.  That meant that we had to literally scour the country to piece together a Diamondbacks uniform from several different vendors for him on short notice.

Bauer’s pitching coach Ron Wolforth, helped us find a nearby high school gym to set up the sets for both shots.  Assistant Nathan Lindstrom morphed into a master set builder for this one, designing and erecting a huge plywood wall, that we painted a neutral gray.  We used white tape for the larger grids and chalk pencils for the smaller lines between the grids, and set up the wall in the gym.

Next to that, we erected essentially a cube of black 20 x 20 overheads.  For the Mili shot, it was important that Bauer be rim lit from behind in a pitch black environment.  We used two Plume Wafer 100’s with Lighttools grids to accomplish this, and then added a third light to put a little more light on Bauer’s profile.

For the Muybridge shot, we took off the grids, and lit the set essentially from the front with the lights at 45 degree angles to the wall.  Muybridge’s shots were lit with sunlight, and there were often imperfections and shadows on the walls of his photos, so we didn’t want to make the lighting too slick or neat.  We were going for authenticity.  Both setups were lit with Profoto 8A‘s.

The Bauer pitching sequence shot in our black 20 x 20 “cube.”

We monitored the shoot with a tethered Mac laptop, so we could keep track of sequences and make sure we had all the different body positions needed to put together the Muybridge grid.  With stroboscopic photos of a baseball pitch, you can’t fire the strobe more than 3-4 times, or the picture turns into a big busy mess.  for this reason, we actually shot the photo as a stroboscopic sequence, and also separately with individual photos, which could then be pieced together into a panoramic sequence by a retoucher.

Although the Muybridge homage photo ran in color in the magazine, I actually prefer it in sepia tone, which I think better evokes the mood of his pioneering work in photography.

(Assistants Nathan Lindstrom and Todd Spoth really busted their tails on this, and Todd put together a great Go-Pro time lapse of the shoot.)

Fan Portrait Campaign for Houston Texans Tickets

Two of my favorite shots from the 2011 Houston Texans Tickets

Last spring, I received a call to photograph stylized portraits of  Houston Texans fans.  The campaign concept was to honor the Texans season ticket holders by featuring a different season ticket holder on each 2011 game ticket.  The Texans held a contest called “Your Story-Your Glory” in which season ticket holders wrote in about their fan experiences.  The winning entrants were each featured on one of the tickets.  The winners ranged from the super rabid passionate face-painting guys, to a nurse who works her shift in Texans scrubs, a champion tailgater, to a soldier who watched every Texans game he could while stationed overseas, to a couple who were married in the Reliant Stadium parking lot.

I thought it was an excellent idea, particularly with NFL teams emerging from a post-lockout /strike situation.  I met with Laura Heidbreder, Creative Manager for the Texans, Jennifer Davenport, Director of Marketing, Designer Julio Guidi and several other members of their team and they outlined the concept and art direction behind the shoot.

On the shoot day, we actually set up on the floor of Reliant Stadium (sans grass), and set up a large grey studio backdrop.  We kept the background neutral, because Laura and her team were going to drop out the photos and use a variety of different colors/type treatments behind the portraits.  We used grey instead of a plain white, to allow for the rim-lighting effect, which would have been hard to select on a white backdrop.  We lit the set with two Wafer 100 softboxes with Lighttools grids to create the rim-light effect.  A large Wafer Hexoval 180 was boomed over the center of the set to light the fan’s faces.  A video crew was also on hand to interview each fan for possible TV spots.

With the help of assistants Nathan Lindstrom, Travis Robertson, and stellar Houston makeup artist Wendy Martin, we set up for the shoot and welcomed each fan, at approximately 45 minute intervals throughout the day.  It was a lot of fun trying to elicit crazy screaming reactions from the fans, basically recreating their passion from an actual game, in an empty stadium.  It was really a blast, and made for a very fun work day:  lots of laughing, lots of great expressions and great pictures.

Laura and her creative team then went to work, selecting the final images, and designing a fabulous set of tickets.  The Texans held an unveiling on July 19th, once the lockout had officially ended.  They also unveiled a TV commercial with each fan, based on video interviews with each fan on the same day as our still shoot.  I think she did a great job, don’t you?

Here's all 10 tickets

Robert Seale featured in PhotoPlus UK Magazine

The clip from the July issue of PhotoPlus UK.

My photo of Evan Longoria, originally taken for Sports Illustrated, was recently featured in PhotoPlus UK magazine on their back page feature “My Favourite Shot.”  The photo and a technical description of the shoot, originally detailed here on the blog, are featured in the July 2011 issue.