Lighting High School Gyms for Basketball

© Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010

Editors Note: While I am compiling my Year in Review photo galleries, I thought it would be a good time to post a few things I had been keeping in the bank. Enjoy.

The frozen parts of me are glad to be off of the football field and into a more temperature controlled environment. I’m talking about the start of the high school basketball season, of course! With the change of scenery comes a change in the equipment. This year I have streamlined my lighting equipment and managed to pack everything I need to light a gym into one small backpack, my Think Tank Photo Airport Antidote. Many shooters have given up on lighting gyms with the introduction of cameras that are capable of producing low noise, high ISO pictures. I still like the thrill of timing a picture just right and making an image that has good color to go along with good action.

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A List of 5 Things I Wanted to See in 2010

As I look back over 2010, there were a lot of things I wanted to see that just didn’t happen. The list is short but these are the things that I think about while I am working as a photographer.

  1. Canon failed to update the firmware on the EOS 7D to allow disabling the Automatic Gain Control. I am finally starting to enjoy using my 7D for work. I shot an entire football season without using a flash this year. But when it comes to video, I am still better off using a dedicated video camera because it takes an additional $500+ worth of gear to capture decent audio with the 7D. Canon’s low end (under $400) High Definition camcorders feature a mic and headphone jack and allow you to set the levels. Even the consumer oriented 60D allows you to disable the AGC.
  2. Paul C. Buff can’t seem to meet demand with many of their products. I had planned on purchasing a lot of Alien Bees monolights and light modifiers this year. Specifically I wanted to buy a couple of Parabolic Light Modifiers and a bunch of Einstein 640 units. Both have been on back-order or have had manufacturing issues for several months. Needless to say I don’t own either and will probably buy monolights from another manufacturer.
  3. Speedlight makers are still using a prehistoric PC sync port on modern hardware. I use both Nikon and Canon speedlights for off-camera work. I have to constantly bend and tweak the PC sync cables I use to get them to fire consistently. Why can’t they use the 1/8inch mini jack like Pocket Wizards have? It’s stronger, fits tighter and is widely available. 2010 is in the past. In 2011 the PC sync port must die.
  4. I really wanted to see the price of lenses decrease. Instead, most of the line of Canon lenses and camera bodies actually saw about a %10 increase. The weak dollar really screwed the US on that one. Canon announced version 2 of many lenses including the 300 f2.8, 400 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8. The lowest price for the 70-200 f2.8L IS II is a little over $2K. I won’t even mention the prices of the other 2 lenses.
  5. The standard sized hot shoe disappeared from many non-pro camcorders instead of being included. Canon only makes 1 camcorder that includes a standard width hot shoe and it’s on the endangered species list. Sony no longer makes any. Most of the non-pro camcorders now have a smaller, proprietary hot shoe that somehow bares the name “advanced mini accessory shoe”. How advanced can it be when 99% of mics, lights and accessories no longer work without an adapter?

Should anything else make the list?

The Ice Crew

© Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010

Last week I went up to Evergreen Lake to check on the ice skating situation. For those of you who don’t know me, I am a huge fan of both playing and watching ice hockey (I have already played 4 times this week). I had an idea for a picture last year that I never got around to making. This year I grabbed a strobe, a light stand, a couple of Pocket Wizards, my Yak Trax and headed out with the Ice Crew. Maintaining the skating rinks at the lake is a lot of work. It takes a lot of flooding to get the surface just right.

Locking Mode Dial Upgrade for EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 7D

© Matthew Jonas 2010

Last week, Canon announced the locking mode dial modification for the EOS 5D Mark II and the EOS 7D. I immediately jumped at the chance to have this upgrade performed. I needed to send my 7D in for a yearly checkup anyway so the announcement came at an opportune time. One of my biggest complaints about the xxD and xD series of camera bodies has always been the flimsy mode dial. I have owned a 40D and used a 30D briefly when some of my equipment was in the shop. I always had issues with the mode dial switching to another setting while I was carrying it. Why canon chose to put a locking dial on the 60D but left it off of the 7D and 5D Mark II will always be a mystery. In my opinion this is a design flaw with both of those camera bodies. The forums are pretty divided about whether or not this is necessary modification. As a former Nikon shooter its nice to have this feature again. Nikon uses a locking mode dial on almost all of their cameras-Canon take note. There isn’t much else to say about the modification. It functions as advertised and prevents the dial from being turned inadvertently. The modification isn’t cheap (at $100) but the cost of missing a picture because the mode dial was accidentally switched to another setting is a much greater cost to me. Overall I recommend it.

Environmental Portraits

© Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010

I haven’t posted anything of value in a while so I thought I would write a little about a portrait I shot last week. I shoot a lot of environmental portraits. In the newspaper industry it is something that is used to illustrate a story where there isn’t an “action” shot to be made. In general, I really like shooting them because it pushes me to step outside my comfort zone and use some of that lighting gear that is usually collecting dust on my office floor.

The subject here is an 18 year old metal sculptor and amateur body builder. Because he wasn’t currently working on a new sculpture I chose to make a portrait instead. The portrait was made in the metal shop outside his home in Evergreen. I used 2 lights. The red-gelled-light on the left was used to signify welding sparks or molten hot metal. On the right side, I wanted a “light coming through an open door” look to give the shop a darker feel. I underexposed the ambient by 2 or 3 stops and filled it back in with the lights. Overall I am pretty happy with the end results. Looking back now I would probably add at least 2 more lights. I would put a light on a boom to illuminate the top of his welding helmet and I would try to illuminate the TIG welder to give a little more definition to the image. Other than that I like it.

 

‘Tis the Season to Stock Up On Some Used Gear

Saw this on Craigslist today. I swear I buy more equipment from people who wanted to “go pro” and are giving up than from shops these days. Not a bad deal as a package but I don’t really need all that stuff. One day people will realize that becoming a professional photographer is less about gear and more about the pictures that you make. Until then I will continue to buy their used equipment.

Props to Canon Pro Service

If you are a Canon shooter and are using your equipment for your primary source of income you should be a Canon Professional Service member. Last Monday I blew the shutter on one of my (usually) trusty EOS 1D Mark II Ns. I sent it UPS 2 day on Tuesday afternoon. Canon received my camera on Thursday morning, evaluated the problem, fixed it and sent it out on Friday morning. That’s a 1 day turnaround time for a serious repair!!!! Props to CPS for the excellent job they do repairing my equipment to keep me working.

The Grip Case to End All Grip Cases

Man I could really use one of these. As you know I am pretty much a megaphone for Think Tank Photo bags and cases. I use them every day, own a ton of them and haven’t really found a company that seems to understand the needs of working photographers as much as they do. I want one. Enjoy the video.

UPDATE: It Just Keeps Getting Better…

© Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010

For those of you who don’t know, that is what a blown shutter looks like (without the arrows, of course). After a weekend of shooting state cross country one of my trusty Mark II Ns  just couldn’t take another sports assignment. Oh well. Off to CPS this morning.

UPDATE: The shutter was toast. It will cost $320.00 to fix it with my CPS discount. Interesting fact: the shutter that was replaced in 2007 had about 80k+ actuations on it. According to Canon I put 173k+ actuations on the new one. Wow. That is 57k+ photos per year!!!! And that’s on one of the bodies I carry!!!!