Love the Nikon D4 & Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM for Football

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM w/ Sigma 2x, ISO 36204, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

There are a few things that are extremely important technical aspects for a great sports photo:

  • Well exposed
  • In focus
  • Sharp

The Nikon D4 and the Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM with the Sigma 2x converter helps me to get the moments and technically being just right.

The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Lens is a telephoto zoom lens featuring a fast, constant f/2.8 maximum aperture. This lens is the first lens designed under Sigma’s new Sports line of lenses, making it well-suited for fast-moving subjects such as wildlife, nature, aviation, racing, and other similar situations.

The built-in OS (Optical Stabilizer) system enables a reduction in the appearance of camera shake up to the equivalent of four stops, resulting in a long lens that can easily be used handheld and low-light conditions. The OS system is divided into two modes; one for general shooting applications, and one that is better suited for panning shots of moving subjects. The OS system can be further adjusted to suit your needs through the use of the USB Dock.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM w/ Sigma 2x, ISO 36204, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000 [While this is a little noisy for my tastes, the dynamic range is pretty good and the important thing is it is in focus, sharp and well exposed]

The Nikon D4 camera features a 16.2Mp 36 x 23.9mm CMOS sensor with Nikon’s FX-format and the EXPEED3 image processor. ISO sensitivity can now be extended as low as ISO 50 or as high as 204,800 with a standard range of 100-12,800 ISO. Additionally, 10 frames per second continuous shooting in FX-format for up to 200 shots ensures the decisive moment will not be missed.

D4’s AF sensor utilizes 51 strategically placed AF points that are designed to capture subjects as you choose: by working together like a net to capture moving subjects or for pinpoint accuracy. Use a single AF point to home in on the exact place on your chosen subject. Each of the 51 AF points delivers fast and accurate AF detection to an impressive low light level of -2 EV (ISO 100, 20ºC) with every AF NIKKOR lens – expect to shoot more smoothly at night stadium assignments, poorly lit indoor arenas, cathedrals, theaters and any other low-lit venues.

D4 aligns its 15 cross-type sensors in the center to detect contrast for both vertical and horizontal lines with lenses f/5.6 or faster. The five central points and three points to the left and right of them in the middle line are compatible with f/8. Which is to say that with the Sigma 2x converter the lens is ƒ/5.6 and the D4 could still autofocus in a low light level of -2 EV at ISO 100. I had a lot more light than that in the Georgia Dome.


ISO 51200 & 25600 with Sigma 120-300mm on Nikon D4

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM w/ Sigma 2x, ISO 51200, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

Chick-fil-A Kickoff

Last night I had the privilege to shoot the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game between Ole Miss and Boise State. Ole Miss pulled away in the second half from Boise State for a 35—13 victory.

I was enjoying shooting with my Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM. I added also to my gear a Sigma 2x converter, which I used giving me a 600mm ƒ/5.6 lens. The photo above was made with that combination.


Photography has as much to do with Yin-Yang than anything I have ever encountered.

Yin-Yang are concepts used to describe how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.

When you change any one of these three you must adjust one of the other to keep a proper exposure. This is the trade-off made all the time in photography.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, ISO 16000, ƒ/4, 1/2000

Sports Settings

Here are my default sports settings for a game with these three:

  • Aperture—While I love the bokeh at wide open, I tend to shoot around ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6
  • Shutter Speed—1/2000 If the highest ISO is reached, then any need of more light the shutter speed will drop below 1/2000 when using the Auto ISO settings.
  • ISO—Auto ISO 100-12800, but for some of this game 100-51200
Warning about using Auto ISO—you cannot use manual and keep a constant setting. The meter will adjust the ISO up and down. If you want to truly shoot Manual Mode then you must turn off the Auto ISO.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, ISO 7200, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000
I love the Bokeh on the Sigma 120-300mm and with the Ole Miss dancer opened up to ƒ/2.8. For action I find while I love the ƒ/2.8 I prefer a little more depth-of-field to keep them tact sharp.

Here are more examples with the settings showing in the lower left hand corner for you.

Click here to see the photos in slide show larger.

Freelance Professional Photographers: Your Spouse is THE KEY to success

My parents David and Bonita when they were dating

Growing up I watched how both of my parents supported one another. We hear a lot about children do better when raised in a two parent home.

Children raised in intact married families:

  • are more likely to attend college
  • are physically and emotionally healthier
  • are less likely to be physically or sexually abused
  • are less likely to use drugs or alcohol and to commit delinquent behaviors
  • have a decreased risk of divorcing when they get married
  • are less likely to become pregnant/impregnate someone as a teenager
Your business is like a child
So just like children who benefit from a loving two parent home so too will your business flourish when your spouse is supportive of your business.
If you came to me about becoming a freelancer, one of the first questions I would ask you “Is your spouse supportive what you’re about to do?”
My biggest cheerleader and support is my wife Dorie. 
The difference between a supportive spouse and one that is questioning you all the time as you are trying to make business decisions can cost you your business.
Dorie’s father was an entrepreneur and she is very comfortable with this role. Not everyone grows up in the family of an entrepreneur. There is a huge difference in how your household life will be day to day when you have an employer verses you running your own business.
All the books on parenting emphasize the importance of the two parents being on the same game plan when it comes to raising your children. You learn to support the other parents decision even if you disagree.
If you disagree you talk about it and then the next time something comes up again, the game plan may be different, but that is because you discussed it.
There is very little good that comes from disagreeing with another parent’s decision in front of a child. It is not that this should never happen, but that you understand the consequences of this disagreement when the other spouse made a decision when you were not there.
It’s a Two Way Street
There is a Bible verse that I think every couple and friendship needs to know. It is Romans 12:10 “love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”
Whatever your spouse feels passionate about is something they need support doing. Dorie has a calling to help journalist. Here is an article on her ministry to journalists.
Click here to read the article
Dorie also has a passion for helping the parents of The Citadel. She knows from first hand experience that parents need more information on how they can support their child. She has created a blog to help those parents.
Click here to go to Dorie’s blog
Earning Support
You cannot go to your spouse and say I need you to support me and immediately get that support. I can tell you a secret on how you get it—Give It!
Here are some ways that you can first be supportive of your spouse:
  • Respect your spouse’s personal/business decisions
  • Demonstrate you have faith in them
  • Give them your shoulder on those days when they have a sinking feeling
  • Work with your spouse on balance
  • Celebrate your spouses successes
  • Don’t try and Fix-it [As a male I struggle with not trying to jump in and fix things]
  • Listen well
  • Be Truthful, Genuine and Credible with your encouragement. Don’t embellish your comments of support.
Dorie has done an incredible job of making me feel like I can be a successful photographer. This has been the most important key to the success of my business.
No Spouse
If you are not married and not even dating you still will need some support from a community. I would encourage you to have a good friend that can help with some of the support that married people get from one another. You just need some support or you will find it more stressful than it should be.
The Foundation
When we think of building we start with a foundation. There are two types of building foundations: shallow and deep foundations.
Both of them are there to create the support that creates a firm support for the rest of the building.
I would argue that the foundation that I have built my business on is made up of two components. First is my faith in God and the second is my spouse. Together the two of these have interlocked to give the business what it has needed to grow.
On top of the foundation you need to have solid business practices and a portfolio that will invite clients to want to work with you.
Supportive Discouragement
If your spouse has some weaknesses that you think will lead to disaster, encourage them to either go take classes to learn more about this or maybe they need to outsource that area of the business. Maybe you as the spouse may want to take on helping them because this might be something you are skilled in.
Don’t tell them they are going to fail. Tell them how they will be successful as long as they address what you think might be holding them back.
Seek out wisdom
The best time to seek out the wisdom of others is before you start your business and not after. Start with your spouse talking about your dream. Find a good mentor/coach and remember to listen. If you are finding little or no support, this is a good sign that you need to assess your friends and spouses concerns.
Be a good parent as well
Our daughter Chelle
I am very proud of my daughter and love to talk about all she does to anyone who will listen. She loves the theater and while most parents are telling their children how difficult it is to be successful, we encourage our daughter. Sure we don’t sugar coat it, but we took her to Hollywood to see behind the scenes and see all the careers that are creative.

Encourage people to pursue their dreams. Remember that often the chasing of the dream leads to a very successful career and not always exactly as they dreamed. However, it was the chasing that gets them to where they will be successful.

During the Emmy Awards Monday night Jim Parson’s thank you reminded me of how important support is in our success. 

Jim Parsons won his fourth Emmy for his work on The Big Bang Theory. Parsons took the opportunity to thank his father in his speech. Mickey Parsons, he said, died before all of the craziness attached to Big Bang Theory began. He thanked his father for supporting him.
“He encouraged me to be an actor. He never discouraged me to be an actor, and in a career that hinges so much on confidence a lot of the time, that was a really great gift,” Parsons said.
I highlighted the part, because it is just as applicable to any of us. Support builds confidence.

Seeing the light vs Creating the light

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/500

Are you impressed with my photo of Jack Sparrow? The way you get this photo is no different than shooting any concert tour or theater production.

Set the white balance and get a good exposure and then wait for a great moment.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/200

Now just like everyone else at PhotoShop World like me most likely took the photo above and this one below.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/450

Someone else found all the props, the model, the backgrounds and then even set up all the lights for me. All I had to do is set the white balance and the right exposure. The models would even stay in a pose for minutes at a time to help anyone with figuring out a “moment.” So there are no “kudos” for this photo if you are showing it as your work.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/105

Everyone with a camera is going crazy shooting photos that if they showed to any art director and if they get hired to shoot the same photo themselves most likely wouldn’t have a clue on how to make it happen.

Photography is writing with light and when you had nothing to do with the light you really did very little with the photograph, especially in these situations where without the lights there is no photograph.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/250

What can you learn from these set up situations?

  • Find interesting subjects
  • Find interesting settings
  • Use light creatively, by not lighting everything equally in the photograph
Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5, 1/140
While we all will continue to shoot stage productions and concerts, remember if you are a photographer showing your work around and you have nothing that shows you know how to create photos like this from scratch then they can hire any photographer to shoot the photos.
Learn how to create these photos rather than just getting them properly exposed.

Silhouette AND Reveal @ The College Football Hall of Fame Grand Opening

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/200

Today I covered the Grand Opening of the College Football Hall of Fame downtown in Atlanta Georgia. Here are a couple photos from today.

To me there is a HUGE difference between this photo above and the one below. Don’t you agree?

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/200—off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger with flash at Full Power

I think your eyes go to the cheerleaders faces a lot more with the flash than in the top photo where I believe the background draws your eyes first.

I like keeping my flash off-camera all that I can and my assistant is holding the flash off to my left and the Cheerleaders right.

Here are more examples of using the same technique. The only thing I am watching is keeping my shutter speed sync below 1/250 since I am using the Neewer flash, but can shoot 600 full power shots on one fully charged battery. I carried a second battery and barely had to use it.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/11, 1/200—off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger with flash at Full Power

Chick-fil-A is the major sponsor of the College Football Hall of Fame and were there giving out samples of their new grilled nuggets. It took me a while to find someone with a full tray, because they were going so fast at the event.

Here I wanted to capture them giving them out and the CFHOF behind them.
Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/11, 1/200—off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger with flash at Full Power
Both the Georgia Tech cheerleaders and the lady sampling the grilled nuggets were in the shade and I “Revealed” them with the flash or they would have been a “Silhouette.”
Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 125, ƒ/8, 1/200—off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger with flash at Full Power
The stage where speakers like Bill Curry and Mayor Kasim Reed spoke was split lighting their faces. One side in direct sunlight and the other shade. Using the same small hot shoe flash I had my assistant stand straight in front of them and basically giving them a classic fill light.
Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 160, ƒ/8, 1/200—off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger with flash at Full Power
For my departing shot of the day I saw the ESPN College Game Day bus, but to show the College Football Hall of Fame behind it was difficult the side of the bus was in shade, but the CFHOF was in direct sunlight. I just put the flash on the ground near the bus [I let my assistant go just before I saw this] and on full power I was able to light up the Sports Anchors of the show on the side of the bus. A week from today they will be transmitting inside the CFHOF during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game between Alabama and West Virginia.
Why did I use flash so much today? I knew there were be a LOT of media there. My client will be able to see their coverage as well as mine. 
Like the game of football I needed to win the quality coverage contest and cannot afford to ever have others out do my coverage. I can afford for them to match it, but I can’t afford other media to show a better coverage and I continue to be hired by clients.

Are you a Br’er Rabbit Storyteller working with nonprofits?

Project Gutenberg’s Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit, by Joel Chandler Harris

I grew up listening to the stories of Uncle Remus about Br’er Rabbit. In case you are not familiar with the character of Br’er Rabbit. Br’er Rabbit is a trickster who succeeds by his wits rather than by brawn, provoking authority figures and bending social mores as he sees fit. The name “Br’er Rabbit”, a syncope of “Brother Rabbit”, has been linked to both African and Cherokee cultures.

You see the animal trickster represents an extreme form of behavior that people may be forced to adopt in extreme circumstances in order to survive. The trickster is not to be admired in every situation. He is an example of what to do, but also an example of what not to do. The trickster’s behavior can be summed up in the common African proverb: “It’s trouble that makes the monkey chew on hot peppers.”

Working for Free

There are some very good reasons to work for free or donate your time and resources to a nonprofit organization. Being altruistic is truly the best possible reason to give of your time and resources.

Another great reason to donate is that when you offer to give your storytelling skills to an organization you are more likely to remain more in control of the project and therefore more likely to do your best possible work that you can produce. Many personal projects that I have seen done through my career by photographers were altruistic acts of kindness.

There are countless people who launched their careers by giving away their work for free and using these projects in their portfolios to get work.

I actually do encourage those who have no real portfolio this is the way to build your portfolio. You find something you are passionate about, which often might be something that a nonprofit could use. The advantage of doing this early in your career is they can provide you the access necessary to put together a project that will showcase what you can do for clients in the future.

Almost no one will spend the travel expenses and let alone actually pay someone to produce something if they do not have GREAT examples.

Business Model Changed

There are just a few things that have impacted photographers doing work for nonprofits.

  • Stock Photography—years ago a photographer could go overseas and shoot and then come back and put images into a stock agency and make some pretty good money. It was very common for photos to sell from $350 up to many thousands of dollars. Today with people giving their photos away for free through things like Flicker this has dried up as an income source. It was not uncommon for a photographer long ago to shoot for free and due to the access make money and lots of money from the stock sales later. This revenue stream dried up years ago.
  • Digital—Before digital you had to really know photography skills because you would have to wait till the film was developed to see the results. Now with the LCD on the camera you can see right away and adjust instantly to be sure you have a photo. So where many organizations would pay for a pro just because they needed to know they had photos, but now with digital they just look on the LCD for that confidence.
  • Good Enough—this is what social media has contributed the most to for our industry. People are seeing that OK videos and photos are getting traction and that great photos and videos do not always get more traction for going viral. 
  • Baby Boomers Retiring—many people are retiring and wanting to just donate their time to doing something worthwhile. Most nonprofits are welcoming the volunteers with open arms and enjoying the free rather than worrying about the quality.

What to do & What not to do

When it comes to working with nonprofits I am seeing more and more Br’er Rabbits. A good number of storytellers will contact a nonprofit and even do outstanding work that in the long run doesn’t really help sustain the nonprofit.

I have watched most of my career the demise of professional communicators and especially those in journalism. Loving what we do and feeling called to do it has many of us behaving like Br’er Rabbit. Br’er Rabbit represented the enslaved Africans who used their wits to overcome adversity and to exact revenge on their adversaries, the White slave-owners.

I am not seeing anyone planning revenge, however, I am seeing people do just about anything they can to do storytelling.

There are many hobbyist/pros who do not need income from their photography because they make really good money in their full-time jobs. Some of these are even professional communicators who are on staff of a corporation or even a newspaper for example.

There are many people who just love to travel and see the world. They are looking for another stamp of a country they have never been to that they can add to their passport.

What is happening with these people is they are not thinking long-term for the organization they are donating of their time and resources.

Managerial Accounting

I think you need to understand this business concept in order to do the right thing when offering your work for free to an organization.

Too many people see the savings they are providing an organization by donating of their time and resources. This is how financial accounting tracks things, but those organizations that mature over time do not use this method only. They use managerial accounting method in addition for their organization.

       Provides information to make decisions regarding the future
       Relevance of data is emphasized over reliability
       Focuses on timeliness of information
       Reporting is focused on parts of the organization such as departments or      
       divisions and not on the organization as a whole.

Here are just a few things that organizations address due to using managerial accounting procedures:
       1. Just in time inventory
       2. Total quality management
       3. Enterprise resource planning
       4. Supply chain management
       5. Benchmarking

Do you want your donations to an organization to multiply or just help temporarily? Most would want to know they were helping long-term.

Think about each of these when you donate next time to an organization:

  1. Is my donation helping the organization meet it’s mission statement?
  2. When I stop donating is what I am doing for the organization something that they need to continue and pay for this service going forward?
  3. Am I helping educate the organization on how to use my gifts the most effective way possible.
  4. Will you be disappointed if your donation isn’t used?
Storytelling is core to successful organizations
I know that every organization must do effective storytelling of what they are about at the core or they will not be successful. I do not mind donating my time as I choose, but highly resent organizations that expect all storytellers to donate to their organization. 
I believe organizations need to have a budget for their ongoing storytelling. They need to have materials that they can use over and over that help tell their story. They need to tell new stories of how they are continuing to make an impact or sooner or later they will start to die. 
Just like movie studios must continue to come out with a new movie to get people to spend their money to watch, so too must organizations continue to tell their stories or people will stop being apart of their organization. 

Time to Pay for Free

There should come a time in a nonprofit’s growth where they will slowly mature by doing the right things. The day will come when the organization cannot just rely on Free.

I know one organization that has built up and continues today relying predominantly on free and all their staff raise their own support to work for free full-time. When I have worked with them I have been trying to give a presentation and the room I was too use was not useable. Due to improper wiring by free volunteers over the years the rooms were not just unusable but fire hazards.

I couldn’t get the work sent to my email accounts one year because all the free IT support didn’t wire their campus properly.

Even Habitat for Humanity knows it must rely on professional electricians and plumbers to meet code for their homes.  Maybe more organizations need to realize their really is a code standard for good communication.

Here is the bottom line for organizations that do not create a plan to budget for storytelling.

Organizations that continue to go to professional communicators asking for free and never budget for communications never mature.

Thought I would end with the sunset.

Photographers do you finish strong everytime or just when you are inspired?

Lisbon, Portugal [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/50]

There are two photographers that my friends talk about a great deal when talking about the type of photographers out there. One is my friend Ken Touchton and the other person I will not mention.

The unmentionable photographer is one of the best shooters any of us had ever known, but we all qualify that statement with if he was into the subject.

If the subject didn’t excite this unmentionable photographer he shot so poorly that anyone with a camera could out produce the photographer.  One time the photographer was so unmotivated that the actions he took are still legendary.

While in Europe the unmentionable photographer became so disenchanted with the story that he called the home office for the organization he was on staff with and told them his camera gear was all stolen. Miraculously the equipment showed up just as he was leaving for the airport to return home. Rather than staying and finishing the coverage, he came home.

Lisbon, Portugal [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/22, 1.1 sec.]

All of my friends that know Ken Touchton respect him and his abilities. I hired Ken to shoot a job for me and many of my editor friends have done the same thing. All of us talk about the consistency you get with Ken.

Ken Touchton

No matter how mundane or how exciting the coverage Ken Touchton puts the same amount of heart and sweat into each and every project.

The words we use to describe Ken are dependable, consistent and most of all a good friend.

Even the way Ken dresses is very consistent and very professional for every situation. If a coat and tie is called for at a funeral, he is wearing it. No matter the situation you will notice that his clothes always look freshly pressed and clean.

It probably takes more talent and skill to finish consistently as Ken Touchton does with every job than to be a hit and miss photographer.

Lisbon, Portugal [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/90]

Tips to be consistent:

  • Listen to the clients needs
  • Listen to the subject and find their story—not your story
  • Know the audience that the photography is intended for
  • Know your gear
  • Build in redundancy in your gear
  • Build redundancy in your coverage
  • Use checklists to insure you have it all
  • Study the great photographers
  • Study your competition
  • Treat every person you encounter with honor, dignity and respect
Here is Ken Touchton with one of his mentors Tom Kilpatrick catching up over dinner. 

Storytellers know thy purpose

The shortest distance isn’t always the best route

Know Thyself

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
― Lao Tzu

We are familiar with the saying to “Know Thyself” because through understanding yourself you are able to accomplish so much more. You learn your strengths and limits which will help you navigate life.

Storytellers need to know the purpose of a story. Why were you hired to tell a story?

I have been driving many times in the Atlanta traffic when all of a sudden my GPS will alert me to traffic and alternative route to my destination.

Knowing your destination the GPS helps you navigate and get you to your location in the quickest amount of time.

Great Teachers

One of the best examples I experienced over and over growing up was when a student would ask my teacher a question. The teachers I have the fondest memories are the ones who could take almost any question and use it to engage the class on the subject. My worst memories are the teachers who like in the top illustration use that red line approach to everything. They somewhat answer the question, but are quick to say something like “now lets get back to …” and in the process shut down the class.

The difference is the great teachers know their subject well and know their lesson plan. They know the goal and purpose for the lesson that day. They are willing to take a question and like the GPS use this alternative route, which is better than proceeding into what will be a traffic jam.

Great Storytellers are Great Listeners

I have traveled with some of the best writers and loved learning from them. These were all journalists and we were working together on stories. I was capturing the still images and video while they were responsible for the text.

I have also watched too many writers who are so self absorbed with where they think the story should go that they kill the story. I remember more than once with more than one writer where they asked a question and didn’t listen either with their ears or eyes and missed the traffic jam taking place and hearing the subject helping to redirect them to an alternative route.

Chick-fil-A Cow out on Marietta Street in front of the new restaurant that is adjacent to the College Football Hall of Fame. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 800, ƒ/8, 1/800—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash]

Today I am sent by news outlets and corporations to capture stories for their audiences. Just this week I was covering the grand opening of the Chick-fil-A at The College Football Hall of Fame. My audience was the internal staff and franchise owners. The Associated Press photographer was there covering the story and his audience was the public.

Associated Press photographer, Dan Goldberg, interviews a couple. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/6.4, 1/140]

How does the new Chick-fil-A restaurant impact those audiences was my assignment? The AP Photographer and I both are covering the same subject, but because we knew our purpose we were able to adjust throughout the story as the subjects in the story helped to inform us of new content that was relevant to the story.

My primary concern in all my storytelling is the subject. I know that if I aim to please the subject that they would be pleased with the story then the accuracy is much greater than if I was focused on what someone else told me the story was all about.

Just like the teacher who knows the purpose of their lesson plan is able to adjust to bring the class along, I too must adjust to be sure I capture how this new restaurant will impact my audience.

Dan Cathy with one of the staff members from the College Football Hall of Fame reading the story of “A Better Way Ministries” person who built the table. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/8, 1/200]

As you can see in this photo I was thrown a curveball when Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A crawled under a table and then started to talk to everyone from under the table. Just like when the teacher gets a question from a student which can help engage the classroom even more into the story, this was my question moment.

Plaque on top of the table tells about the story of the table. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/160]

You can read about the table in the photo above. Dan Cathy talked about how this partnership with A Better Way Ministries was also being done with their new coffee company Thrive Farmers. The process of picking Thrive Farmers was the realization there was a story there of the farmers. The artisans who made the table have a story and they were asked by Chick-fil-A to take a Sharpie and write their story under the table.

The artisan’s story. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/500]

This unexpected detour actually helped me get to my destination better than without the detour. You see the story of how Chick-fil-A was interested in impacting the lives of the artisans and coffee growers by buying their products is how they were impacting those communities. It did a great job of setting up the story of how this restaurant will impact the community near the College Football Hall of Fame.

Highways vs Back Roads

Great storytellers know that those detours are like comparing the interstate highway to the back roads. Interstate highways are like the straight line from point A to point B, but rarely are they as scenic as the backroads.

I know that when I am the passenger on a drive on the interstate I am much more likely to take a nap than when I am on the backroads.

The lesson here is simple. If you know why you are doing the story, then you will know how to navigate and take advantage of the opportunities the subjects give to you which make your story a success.

Use strobes even with the sun outside

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/14, 1/250 [Lighting Diagram below]

Using flash outside can really give your photos that pop you need to make your photos better.

Now I often get asked to make group photos and even with some sunlight facing the subject I find that the shadows under the eyes and sometimes from people’s heads casting a shadow on another person I prefer to add strobes to take the quality up a notch.

There were clouds also in the sky, but the software for the diagram didn’t have that as a choice.

Since there were clouds the people were not squinting and the flash pops in so quickly I get some pretty decent expressions.

To me the biggest change is in those black robes. Anytime I use flash the shadow to highlight difference is minimized. While it looks like a greater dynamic range it really is just the opposite. The strobes help fill in the shadows and therefore brings the exposure all over closer to a four or five stop range, rather than the ten stops often in daylight scenes outside.

First Day of School Photos

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/70—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. Power 1/128

First day of school photos is a tradition at our house. I know many people are out doing the same thing this morning and then posting these photos to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and anywhere else they can celebrate and preserve those precious memories.

Now taking photos just before my daughter leaves for school meant I was outside taking these photos at 7:15 am. The sun has been up just for a short time, so it was still not all that bright.

Without a flash the settings were ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1 @ 1/70. I am always in favor of using a flash when there is no great directional light with the available light.

Here is the lighting diagram I used over and over this morning:

The rule of thumb I use for placing my flash, which will be my main light, is 45º to the left or right of the model in relation to the camera as well. I also try and put the height of the flash to about 45º above the camera and the model.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/70—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. Power 1/128

When the light is placed correctly you will not get a shadow from the light coming across the person’s nose that touches the lips.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/70—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. Power 1/128

Now I moved around the yard to find this location. The grass was just watered so I didn’t want to get my daughter all wet before school. The photos above are pretty nice for this morning.

I did start on our driveway and tried to find a nice green background. Problem for my taste was it was just a little too dark.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/40—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. Power 1/128

I dialed down the Neewer TT850 to the lowest power of 1/128th power and did this with the Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger. I dialed the ƒ-stop up to ƒ/7.1 to be sure my daughter wasn’t washed out.

I recommend starting with the available light and the flash all the way down when your exposure was using ISO 6400.  Just be sure your sync speed is the same or slower than your camera’s sync speed. For the Fuji X-E2 that is 1/180.

This was making the best of the time of day for the first day of school photos. Just a week ago I used similar setup in the afternoon where the light was brighter.

The only real difference is the light is on the right side rather than the left and it was much brighter than today shooting at 7:15 a.m.

I really love this simple setup for portraits. The Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm—Neewer TT850 & The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. If I were doing more of headshots I would have switched or at least shot more with the FUJINON XF 55-200mm.

Here are those photos from a week ago.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/180—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. 

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/180—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. 

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/180—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. 

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/180—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera.