dwight howard inspired concept, empty arena & lots of equipment

April 22, 2009 in Photography

Last tuesday I got a text message from the Umar the sports editor, “Can u meet me tomorrow at 3 at the bren? For carson clark feature photo?”. I was hoping he would call or text. On Monday I saw the sheet of paper with the page requests that the section editors fill out. Under the Sports section I saw “volleyball feature”, which usually meant there was going to be a feature story with a photo.

After I got the text I started brainstorming ideas for how to shoot him. I was definitely thinking of doing a portrait since it had been a while since the last one I did. Then later that day I got an email from Umar:

hey dude. i want a volleyball version of this today.

lets do it. im bringing the cape. 3:00 pm at the bren

Umar wanted a photo like this. We were going to put a cape on him and everything. And we did.

I then texted my friend and New University Staff Photographer Melissa Lee, to see if she could hook me up with a lighting kit. Like always, she came though big and got me a 600watt kit with 2 prophoto heads and a softbox. After that I got together some backup equipment including a backdrop kit and some grey paper, just in case the action shot idea fell through.

Wednesday. I didn’t have class but I got up early to pack my car and make sure I didn’t leave anything at home. The shoot was scheduled for 3pm. I picked up the lighting kit from Melissa at 1pm and headed over to the Bren.

When I got to the Bren I realized how much equipment I had and decided to send an email out to the New University photographers to see if anybody wanted to help me out. I then started making several trips to my car in order to get all my equipment. At about 1:30pm I had unloaded all my equipment and had received a text from Brandon Wong letting me know that he could come around 2:30pm.

The main difference between the photo that I was making and the one Umar sent me was that there were no spectators. No crowd to fill the background. To solve this problem I decided to knock out all the ambient light in the arena.

I set up a large soft box in front of where Carson would be and another light from behind to outline this back. I did a few test shots on myself using the timer mode, but didn’t get the lighting exactly how I wanted it until Brandon arrived did his best spiking impression.


Canon 1D Mark IIn, 17-40mm @ 17mm, 125iso, f5.6, 1/250th

Everything was all set and ready to go by the time Carson arrived. When he got there I showed him the test shots of what I was trying to get and then we got to work. The first few shots turned out just as expected from the test shots.


Canon 1D Mark IIn, 17-40mm @ 17mm, 125iso, f5.6, 1/250th

I took some more shots and tried a few different angles. When I was looking at the photos I started to notice a difference from the shots at the beginning.


Canon 1D Mark IIn, 17-40mm @ 17mm, 125iso, f4.5, 1/250th

It was something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on and I didn’t like it. After the shoot was over I was looking at the photos on my computer and later realized that my light that was supposed to be lighting his back was not not firing. You can see the light on the right side of the photo, not firing 🙁


Canon 1D Mark IIn, 17-40mm @ 17mm, 125iso, f5.6, 1/250th

Everybody there was really liking the photos, but there still was something bugging me. There was just too much empty space. Even though it looks cool with him flying through the air, he is still pretty small in the frame. I decided to wrap up the shoot with a basic portrait so that I would have some backup photos just in case the others didn’t work out. I brought Carson over to the backdrop that we had already set up and moved the softbox over too.

Brandon stood in for the first few test shots.


Canon 1D Mark IIn, 70-200mm @ 93mm, 125iso, f10, 1/250th

Carson then took his place and got to work. First with a pose that Umar requested.


Canon 1D Mark IIn, 70-200mm @ 93mm, 125iso, f10, 1/250th

Then I wanted a shot of him confidently composed, looking straight into the camera. It showed him calm and in control, which I really liked.


Canon 1D Mark IIn, 70-200mm @ 70mm, 125iso, f9, 1/250th

As we shot in front of the backdrop his teammates started coming into the gym for practice. After seeing their teammate standing there in a superman cape and being photographed, they laughed and made little comments. I was able to snap a quick one of him during one of these exchanges.


Canon 1D Mark IIn, 70-200mm @ 70mm, 125iso, f10, 1/250th

This was a mock up I sent to the sports editor. A composite with a portrait and the action shot. It was more complete and would be better for the story.