Phone vs Photography |Behind the Scenes Photos

It was Chase Jarvis who said “The best camera is the one you have with you”, well…he’s at least the one who had the initiative to make a name for himself on the back of that phrase. When I shot “The Kids Aren’t Alright” I was surrounded by good cameras, but for the entire duration of the production I shot all of the behind the scenes photos on my phone.

The phone at the time was the HTC One Mini. I’ve always loved taking pictures on my phone, the simplicity and convenience of having it all in one – photo, process, post… it really engenders a carefree type of shooting. At least for me, I’m not exactly an influencer where my livelihood relies on my social media content, so I tend to be a bit light hearted with it.

Phone cameras aren’t the best quality, no matter how many viral articles go around about a photographer shooting a whole wedding on an iPhone. But they’re so unobtrusive that people are naturally a lot more comfortable around them.

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“The Kids Aren’t Alright” HTC One Mini, processed with VSCO

The thing I love most about taking pictures on my phone, is how amateur they feel – and the sense of intimacy that stems from this. The lack of depth of field, the distortion, the poor image quality…I think it all adds up to create a very unique feeling that can sometimes be hard to achieve. The experience has a lot of character about it.

Perhaps it’s a deviation of the social media effect, but there’s a real sense of presence in the photos it produces. While a 50mm is commonly seen as the most accurate representation of what a person sees, the form factor of a phone camera really places the viewer inside the scene. And given how widespread phone photography has become, I think the general public’s perception of a phone camera’s field of view is becoming quite the representation of their sight.

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“The Kids Aren’t Alright” HTC One Mini, processed with VSCO

Everyone knows what it looks like to see through the camera on their phone, everyone is familiar with consuming media through that perspective. People take pictures on their phones every day, so to present them with pictures taken through the same source instils a natural sense of familiarity.

While depth of field can add to photos being more beautiful, people address the beauty of the image without engaging with the content of the image. A concept I learned through working in film – when a cinematographer is doing their job right, how the film was shot will go completely unnoticed.

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“The Kids Aren’t Alright” HTC One Mini, processed with VSCO

I think a lot of the beauty in phone photography is how entirely unnoticed the camera and photographic techniques are.

Maybe we’re regressing on a general level of what passes for a medium of documenting life, and people are more divided between the extreme ends of the spectrum. But I think with the paradigm shift in how we consume, create, and share, this is simply just the next phase in how we most popularly record our history.

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“The Kids Aren’t Alright” HTC One Mini, processed with VSCO

There’s no specific magic to it, if anything it’s just simpler and more derivative of everything preceding it. But it still demands you to be present, engaged, and attentive of your subject.

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“The Kids Aren’t Alright” HTC One Mini, processed with VSCO

And your light – don’t forget your light. I did mention these cameras don’t tend to be particularly great, so you really do need to be attentive of your light.

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“The Kids Aren’t Alright” HTC One Mini, processed with VSCO

In the end, it’s just another means of creation. One I find myself reaching for quite often. One that’s so easy and simple to use. One that lets me just snap a picture of what I see when I don’t want to run the risk of being mugged carrying all my photography equipment around.

But after all that, maybe it’s just something I use to kill the boredom when others are talking, and when I want to play around with some photo editing while sitting on the bus.

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“The Kids Aren’t Alright” HTC One Mini, processed with VSCO

Portraiture, and an amateur model

This is going to be one of my longest posts in a long, long time, so prepare yourself.

Yesterday I did one of my first proper portraiture shoots with a friend of mine, and I thought I’d go through the process with you and give an insight into how I created some of the photos from the shoot.

I’m quite new to portraiture, I’ve always wanted to get into it but it’s just never something I’ve had experience with – posing people isn’t particularly a talent of mine, so I can’t offer advice in that department as I realise I have a long way to go until I could even think of doing portrait shoots like this for a paying model. The model seen below was one of my close friends, so it was easy to work together as we already had good chemistry, but although she was the one who wanted to do the shoot, she was extremely anxious about it and wouldn’t stop laughing and shying away from the camera. My solution to this was to sit her on a sofa comfortably, and just chat together – casually integrating a photo or two into the mix so she’d start to feel comfortable with the shoot.

All of these photos were shot on a Canon 1D Mark IIN, which a 50mm F/1.8 (yes, the dirt cheap nifty fifty). I never used more than 2 speedlights, but sometimes had a reflector as well. And I only used my own sitting room for the shoot. Included in my sitting room was a sofa, a grey-ish wall, and a small section of wall above the fireplace that had this really classy black and silver wallpaper as seen at the very bottom of this post. Lets get into it then:

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The two photos above are the same photo, just processed differently. The bottom one isn’t quite black and white – it has a slight sepia tone to it to add a bit of warmth (it’s my preferred version of the photo I’d say).

Believe it or not, that’s not a natural light photo. It was actually quite a dull day out. I had one flash in the room behind the sofa, to illuminate the white curtains in the background, it also added a tiny bit of a hair light (or more of a sofa light in this situation). Then I had another speedlight with an umbrella very close to the model, on the left of the camera, which gave a very soft light to illuminate her face.

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You can see here how the light in the room behind the model worked to simulate a daylight feel. It was a Canon 580 EX I speedlight that I used, with the little built-in diffusion panel thing to give it a 14mm zoom. I pointed it at the white ceiling in the room and closed the curtains in front of it – it did exactly as I wanted it too. Shooting at F/2 also helped to have the whole background melt together into some lovely smooth bokeh.

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Moving on to a grey wall, I decided to go a bit artsy fartsy for a moment (for my own pleasure). So went for a portrait that was a lot more unconventional. This was lit with just one speedlight to camera left, with an umbrella to diffuse the light. This was just a shot I wanted to grab before she changed outfit. The model is sitting on a small coffee table about 2-3 feet away from the wall (the width of my sitting room made for this being a very cramped situation).

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This is just to give you an example of the table she’s sitting on, and how cramped the space was – this was as wide as I could get, I had moved her back to about 2 feet from the wall and I was leaning back as far as I could, still resulting in the tips of her fingers being cut off which really bothers me.
Another note about this photo – the shirt she’s wearing was a bit too big for her, and wasn’t flattering to her waist. So I had her open the bottom button and bunched up the back of it and tied it together with an elastic band, so it seemed to naturally pull in around her waist and open up on her hips, making it a more flattering shape. Again, this portrait was only lit with 1 speedlight and an umbrella, but I introduced a silver reflector on camera right so it wasn’t as in shadow as it was before.

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This was lit with 2 speedlights, both with umbrellas on both camera right and camera left.

At this point, she was starting to get a bit more comfortable with the posing but she was still fairly uncomfortable and didn’t know how to position herself (I wasn’t that helpful either as I’m completely clueless about posing models). I came up with the idea of taking her scarf that she was wearing that morning on her way to meet me, and just have her wrap it around her next and play around with it however she wanted. I know that wearing a scarf helps me feel better when I’m a bit self-conscious so I thought it couldn’t do any harm – it ended up being the best decision of the shoot.

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StuComerford_20140301_07261/200, F/2.2, ISO 100, 50mm

The scarf was working wonders for how comfortable she felt posing, as it gave her a prop to play with and made her feel like she wasn’t just there doing nothing. The introduction of the bow made no sense in colour as it was a strong red which went horribly with the blue scarf – but I knew that they could work reasonably well in black and white together.

StuComerford_20140301_08151/200, F/2.8, ISO 100, 50mm

And to finish off the shoot I wanted to utilise that bit of wallpaper above the fireplace. For this I had to get her to stand on a chair and slightly sit on mantelpiece.  It made leaning against the wall easier for her, but in a whole it was a bit of an awkward position – just try to remember that the camera sees things differently to how you see them! The positioning worked for this situation. It was lit with just 1 speedlight and an umbrella, camera right.

In terms of post processing for all of the photos, they were all done in Adobe Lightroom 5. Basic shadow adjustment and sharpening was the main thing that was done to all of them – I’d lift the shadows on all the photos by using the shadow slider and the tone curve mainly, a slight increase in contrast and some sharpening would do it for nearly all of the photos – with a small vignette here or there. No skin retouching was done to any of the photos, it’s too time consuming and I just don’t believe in it for most purposes.

Well, hopefully that was helpful to some of you! As always, I’m open to questions about anything, just leave a comment on the post or get in touch with me on twitter: @StuartComerford

Visual Lexicon

Working on a new brief for college titled “Visual Lexicon” – the idea is to take images to fit under certain headings that are given to us. I’ll admit, my work on it so far hasn’t been particularly great – I’ve been very lazy with this assignment by leaving it to the last minute, but I’ve gotten a few images that I’m reasonably happy with. Here are a few of the images I took the other day while working on the project, along with their titles:

Movement

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Pattern

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Translucence

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Bray, Dublin

Remember when I said I’d blog more frequently? Yeah…that didn’t go so well, but here’s some new stuff for you!

I’m working on some college projects at the moment, some rather interesting ones actually, and I’m about to move into shooting analog (film) so there’ll be plenty of that on here in the next few months! As well as a lot of talk about my upcoming feature length film titled “The Kids Aren’t Alright” – more information about that can be found on its website: http://tkaa-movie.com/

Anyway, photographs! Here’s some recent ones from a shoot out in Bray, in Dublin. These were all shot on a Canon 50D, and Sigma 24-60mm F/2.8.

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Exploring my artistic side

I’ve created a new tab on my website called “Artistic Projects” – I’ve never been really open to the idea of exploring the more “artsy” side of photography, but as I’m in college studying photography now I thought I’d delve into a bit of project work. Building stories around particular themes, or just posting the college work I’ve done.

At the moment one of my assignments is up there, a Kitchen Still Life assignment we got about two weeks ago.

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As well as a personal project I did recently titled “Through the Fence” – which simply put, revolves around looking at/through a fence.

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It was a cool little project that developed while I was out on a photowalk recently, and I thought it was something quite special which I could develop into something bigger in the future!

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But for now, I’m going to keep things simple and just get stuff up on my site as frequently as possible, to get my inner artist to blossom into a beautiful– scratch that, that sounds pretty lame. I just want to take cool photos.

The full photo projects are available on my website, here: http://www.stuartcomerford.com/Artistic-Projects

My first “creative” photoshoot

I come up with a lot of ideas quite frequently, but usually they end up in the form of drawings as opposed to photographs. It was a very spur of the moment thing yesterday when I ended up turning this 2 month old idea into a photoshoot – I was spending the day with one of my closest friends, and she suddenly decided that she wanted to do a photoshoot with me.  So I let her flick through my idea book and she picked this one, needless to say I was quite happy with her choice.

This was a messy shoot, there was paint all over everything and I had absolutely nothing planned. We worked with the space in my back garden, it was convenient and saved us the time of travelling to find a location so suddenly. I set up 3 light stands and moved them around slightly throughout the shoot, as I wasn’t particularly sure what exactly I wanted out of the shoot. The set up was, 2 naked speedlights on either side of the model (raised up rather high), and one naked speedlight pointed at the back wall.

I shot them with a Canon 1D Mark IIN and a Canon 70-200mm F/2.8L. It took a while to get into shooting, nothing seemed to be working for me. But eventually I started getting results I liked.

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I can’t imagine doing this with anyone other than a very close friend, I had a particular way I wanted the paint to look on her face so I had to paint it on myself, it took about 20 minutes to get it basically right, then it had to be touched up every few shots to keep it looking reasonably fresh.

I wanted a particular gritty type of look, with the only real colour in the image coming from the tears (the paint on the face).

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I’m still really new to doing portraits, especially ones in this style – I’ll call them “non-conventional”. But I enjoyed it, and feel like I got some good images out of it.

Please head over to my facebook page to keep up to date with my work, especially since my first short film will be released in the next few days.

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Eliminating distractions when photographing concerts

In music photography, one of the biggest concerns (apart from lighting) is how nice the stage is.  When indoors, the stage is usually (but not always) lovely, it’s clean, has awesome lights and is sometimes customised for the band you’re photographing – depending on how big they are. But when you’re outdoors, stages generally tend to be nothing more than a small tent raised off the ground with people crammed closely around it, or a huge tent with scaffolding everywhere at a festival.

Well, the small tent situation is what many early stage music photographers get stuck with. It’s either this or a small dingy pub (I haven’t quite figured out how to make the most out of these situations yet). These events are generally the easiest to get access to as a beginner, which sucks, because no matter how hard you try you’ll never be able to get amazing looking photos to help you progress, show off your skills and gain access to bigger events. However, they are good learning grounds when it comes to watching your frame. You’ll have to work harder to keep unwanted objects out of your background/foreground because the stage honestly looks like someone just threw everything there. My first paid live gig was to photograph Kate Nash in a tiny, terrible pub here in Dublin. I hate every single photo I took that evening, and I hated the entire evening because of the god awful stage.

026 - July 03, 2012 - Stuart Comerford

Maybe I’m just spoiled because I’ve never really been in too many terrible venues, but nobody wants to have to shoot in a terrible venue, unfortunately for some it’s unavoidable as they’re trying to assemble a music portfolio to gain press access to better gigs. Everybody wants to just take awesome looking photos. So what’s the best way to make something good out of a bad situation? Well, the other day I photographed Kodaline in the US Embassy here in Dublin, Ireland for the 4th of July celebration. It was a terrible tiny and cluttered stage and the best solution I could find was to shoot tight. I’m not a fan of “standard” focal lengths, I like to go extremely wide or extremely close when I don’t have a specific brief to stick to. I love shooting with telephoto lenses, I love the compression. I’d happily shoot a full body portrait at 200mm, 300mm, it’s just not always ideal.

When you’re in this situation where your surroundings is mostly one big distraction with scaffolding, stands, speakers etc then unless you have a very eventful crowd, shooting wide won’t work out very well. I unfortunately only had a 24-70mm with me on the day of the gig so this is as wide as I was able to go when I moved to the back of the crowd.

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The crowd was pretty poor, when there isn’t much life in the crowd just avoid photographing them. Nothing worse than a photo where somebody in the crowd is looking away from the stage. However, having an eye open for those rare occasions when a photo pops up in the crowd is always smart.

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But when you have a band like Kodaline on the stage, you don’t want to turn around with just photos of the crowd. So, how do you deal with the horrible stage? My main recommendation is to shoot as tight as possible – for me, it was 200mm @F/2.8 which worked a treat.

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However, you might not have an F/2.8 lens or you might not have a lens long enough to compress the background enough to minimise distractions. So you need to find a way to clean up your backgrounds/foregrounds. A handy tip for cleaning up your foreground is to use the crowd to block things by shooting between their shoulders for example.

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This method can be used to different extents, I only have a little bit of their heads in here as I actually shot quite close so didn’t have much to block out. But sometimes, don’t be afraid to just cut out all the distractions and shoot with as much empty space as possible when you find a clean part of the background.

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And remember, you only need one good shot to make it an acceptable shoot. If you can get one good shot from every shoot you do then you’ll be doing better than most people.

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Is gear important?

For making good photos? No. Unless you count your mind/eyes as pieces of gear (I do have to include my brain on a checklist of gear to bring with me for shoots as I frequently find myself making stupid, brainless decisions).

If you want to take good landscapes, portraits, street shots etc. – you can do that with anything. About 90% of photography doesn’t have any sort of gear restrictions, of course better gear can improve things but you can still create magnificent photos with anything that takes a picture. I love using Instagram for example, my phone is the one camera that I have on me all of the time so I’m always taking some photos on it and popping the best ones on my instagram. You see many people on Instagram taking brilliant photos with their phones (not everyone, but there are some great photographers on there). There’s always been a huge cult-like hatred for Instagram but regardless of the means used to take/create the photo, surely if it’s a well taken photo – it’s a well taken photo?

But depending on your chosen field of photography, gear can be of the utmost importance. Sports photography is extremely difficult to do well at with minimal gear. It can be done, you can get some good photos, but to replicate the best you need to have the best gear available – there’s no real way around it. Long lenses, fast bodies, rugged equipment. Then for wedding and music photography you need to have gear that can cope with extremely dark situations – fast aperture lenses and high ISO capable cameras don’t exactly come cheap.

There’s something that I’ve learned over the past year which has really shocked me. “Looking the part” seems to be quite important when it comes to getting hired. Flash a white lens here or there, and you’ll have people whispering “oh, he’s a professional”. Getting people to move out of your way is much easier when you have a big camera and lens. Not very many people took me seriously when I was at a stage where I had minimal gear, only when that started growing to more lenses, bigger gear, bigger bags did I start getting respect for what I did. I can still remember the very first time I brought two lenses on a shoot with me – I was photographing a band’s recording session and I could feel the atmosphere in the room get more serious as I took out the other lens. Now, it was only a 55-250mm lens for my Canon 500D (the day that shoot was done was my 16th birthday, I got that lens as a present from my Mam that morning, the only other lens I had was my kit lens), nothing majorly impressive about the lens but I felt like I was in charge, which was a first.

I say it a lot, but it’s true that we live in a society where nearly everyone considers themselves photographers (thanks a lot, hipster culture) so people naturally look for ways to distinguish the big dogs from the rest of the bunch. Sometimes flashing some fancy looking equipment is the easiest way to stand out – it’s quite a dirty tactic, especially if you then go and produce terrible images, in turn damaging the reputation of professional photography. Looking and acting the part will open doors, your ability will dictate whether or not those doors get slammed shut in your face. I sometimes wear my business card on a lanyard around my neck for 2 purposes, having my contact information easily accessible and showing that I’m a photographer, this is my job.

Go look on 500px and you’ll see that there is a plethora of unbelievable photos that are taken with near ancient equipment. If you want to take great photos then just go outside and start taking pictures with whatever camera you have, practice makes perfect. But unfortunately, in a culture where first impressions mean a lot, looking the part is the easiest way to break into the field. But don’t let that hold you back, I’m still chugging along, building my gear as I go and pushing to get media passes, great photos, and respect for what I do.

 

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How to photograph sports: Rugby

Here’s the first part of a new series I’m going to be starting up. The series will be called “How to photograph sports” and will be an in-depth look at positioning, hot spots, action and key moments.  I shall be covering as many sports as I can over time, I’ll be starting with rugby today and will hopefully move on to hockey (field hockey), basketball, football (soccer) and GAA in due time, but you’ll have to bear with me as I invest time in gathering enough information about photographing these sports to make this a worthy read.  The reason I’m doing this is because I spent a long time looking for information online about positioning when photographing sports and I couldn’t find information about anything other than baseball and american football – absolutely useless to me as I live in Ireland. I’m hoping to use this to help amateur photographers go to their first games with more confidence or improve their photographs with ease. So, lets get into it.

Rugby

To stand or not to stand?

Unfortunately rugby is a sport you really need to sit for, or at least kneel/crouch. I’ve taken some great photos that I’ve only been crouching for but I’ve never particularly liked anything I’ve been standing for. I’m 6’3″ so I’m close to eye-level with most rugby players. When you stand, horizons tend to be higher and often heads get cut off. Example:

IMG_9162To be able to keep the players’ feet in the shot I’ve ended up cutting off all the heads in the background which makes for an extremely distracting background. If you’ve ever stood on the sideline of a rugby match then this photo will look very similar to what you’ve seen with your own eyes. You can see that you’re looking down on the players and they look smaller because of that.

IMG_9037Now, here, as I’m sitting you can see that the horizon is significantly lower and all the people can be seen in the background (I know they’re further away, but it’s the best example I have). This positioning makes the players look physically bigger which is what our aim as photographers should be. Our aim is to make people look as good as they can (most times…), rugby players are known for being big and built so it’s important to get this across in the photo. You need to show them from a perspective that people don’t generally see, this helps to make your photos more eye-catching.

So I 100% advise that you should sit, kneel or at least crouch when photographing rugby. For the most part, I sit on my Peli 1510 case that I use to transport my gear (you can find my review of that case here). I don’t like to sit or kneel as it typically makes my jeans quite dirty due to the weather here in Dublin causing the ground to be soft most of the time. If you do plan on kneeling though, I advise you invest in some gel knee pads. You can buy these at any hardware store, I bought some for €8 at a local DIY store and they’re fantastic, I use them for photographing basketball now as they just get destroyed on the soft ground outsides.
I like to agree with the phrase, “If your photo isn’t good enough, then go lower and get closer”.

Positioning

Now here’s the bit I could never find information about when I first started. Where should I position myself to get the best photos? Naturally a beginner’s reaction is to walk around the pitch and follow the play, this can be quite useful when you’re photographing something where you don’t have time to wait for the action to come towards you. For example, I photographed two cup games recently, they were both being played at the same time (a senior match and a junior match) and they were on pitches right beside each other. So I had no time to sit down and wait for the action to come to me, I had to capture some action so I was moving between the pitches to keep up with the action. Only in this kind of situation do I advise moving around, usually you’ll get better shots if you pick a position and stick with it. It’s very much like getting used to your first ever prime lens.

So, where should I position myself? Well, lets start with the obvious position:

 

Position 1: The Halfway Line

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Surely by positioning yourself at the halfway line you’ll be able to cover all the action? Well… not really. Sure, you can get a photo of everything that happens, you can indeed capture anything and everything. But you won’t get very dynamic shots and you’ll hurt your chances of blurring the background unless you have an extremely fast lens. The easiest way to blur the background regardless of what lens you have is to have your subject as close to you as possible and have your background as far away as possible. By shooting across the pitch you’re restricting yourself to, at most, half of the pitch to separate your subject from the background. Whereas, if you were up by one of the try-lines you have the whole length of the pitch to put between your subject and your background, thus making it blur easier.
If you’ve ever watched a rugby match, which hopefully you have (if you haven’t, watch some before photographing rugby – the easiest way to make sure you get good photos, know the game), then you’ll know that the play usually moves across the pitch as the basic tactic is to push the ball out to the backs so they can make a dash up the touchline for the try. When you position yourself at the halfway line like this you’ll find that there’s a sweet spot in the middle of the pitch where you can get good photos, but very quickly the play will be too close to you or to far away from you to make good photos. You’ll start to cut off body parts if using a prime lens, lose the ability to isolate your subjects as you zoom out or lose your subjects in the background as they’re too far away to be isolated from it. I wouldn’t advise setting up in this position unless it’s for something very specific, I’ve found that this position is great for getting shots of players passing to each other, but that’s it.

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Position 2: The 22m Line

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Still not the best but indeed a much better choice than positioning yourself at the halfway line. This is a good position to start in if you don’t have a very long lens, for example, if you’re limited to a 70-200mm lens. This gives you a greater sweet spot in the middle of the pitch and improves your chances of capturing action as the players are moving towards you. Action rarely moves across the pitch so the further back you are towards the try line, the better your chances of getting clear shots of the players breaking through the opposition’s defence. This position, as I said, is good for people who don’t have very long lenses (or much patience) but it also offers some unique opportunities for closeups of lineouts and rucks. When you’re in a position like this you can very easily get low and look up at the players as they’re getting lifted for lineouts, this makes for a strong image showing the players as big as possible, you can use the sky as a background to remove any busy backgrounds you may have around the pitch.

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It’s almost impossible to get shots like this without being close to the lineout. This position also offers you unique opportunities to capture static portraits of players, generally not very interesting photos but they’re a favourite among parents/family/friends, great for selling purposes!

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Position 3: Behind the Try Line

2Probably my favourite position, only because I don’t have a lens longer than 300mm. If I had a 400mm and/or a teleconverter I’d prefer position 4. This position offers many advantages but also has a coverage issue. Firstly, you’re in a great position to capture tries whether they’re close to you:

STU_7504Or far away from you, on the other side of the pitch:

IMG_9071This position offers an even greater sweet spot in the middle of the pitch, which is ideal for isolating little bits of action to create good action shots. It works great for full body shots when they’re far away from you and it’s great for closeups when they come closer.

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IMG_3401However, unless you have a lens that reaches 300mm then you’re going to find your photos a bit far away so I’d recommend position 2 or a spot between this one and that one.
Another benefit this position offers is that you can clearly see down the touchline which can make for some great shots as players are being pulled out of touch.

STU_3032Two big drawbacks of this position are that you have to be patient and wait for the action to come to you. If you’re trying to photograph action that’s on the other half of the pitch then you’ll be disappointed with your images and feel the need to move closer to the halfway line. If you wait, the action will make its way to you, eventually. If you know the team well enough then you’ll know which side the players favour and you can therefore pick that corner to give yourself the best vantage point at capturing key moments as well as tries. The biggest drawback of this position is that you’ll have a fair bit of the other end of your tryline blocked by the posts and you’ll have a stupid corner flag in your way. If you’re photographing amateur games then it’ll luckily only be a flag but if it’s professional matches then you’ll be unfortunate enough to have a padded corner marker in your way which is significantly bigger, and therefore you’ll be better off with position 4.

 

Position 4: Behind the Dead Ball Line

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Typically favoured by professionals shooting with 400mm lenses or longer, this position offers many advantages of being able to isolate your subjects (there’s a lot of distance between the subject and the background – the length of the pitch), pick out runs and capture any try from a dynamic position. Due to the posts you can’t really see the other side of the pitch before the try line but the coverage of the side you’re positioned on is brilliant. However, it does require even more patience if you don’t have a 400mm or longer lens.

IMG_3355As the action is always coming straight towards you, you can get some fantastic shots of players straight on.

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Position 5: Behind the Posts

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I don’t particularly like this position, this is probably my least favourite out of all of them because I have yet to discover a real use for this position. It seems like it’s a good idea, you can see both sides and directly down the middle but when in action you realise that the posts block a lot of your vision. I was lucky enough to get one of my favourite photos in this position, I found it useful for getting in close to rucks but generally that can happen from any of the positions due to the frequency of ruck formations. This position, like position 4, is great for isolating your subject as you have the whole pitch between them and the background but that’s only when you’re able to get a clear view of your subject.

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Conclusion

Position 3 and 4 offer the best photographic opportunities but require a reasonable amount of patience waiting for the action to come to you. The key moments you need to look out for are when players break away from rucks, scrums etc. Nothing is worse than a crowded photo. You can be positioned in the perfect spot to isolate your subject but if there’s too much going on in your frame then the image will still fall short. The better the quality of rugby you photograph, the easier it will be to capture these moments. In junior rugby all the players just crowd around the ball whereas in senior rugby they’re more spread out and it just makes your job much easier. Most action tends to happen close to the touchline as that’s where you’ll find the backs making their runs and you’ll usually get some good tackles occurring there, with little crowding around the ball. It’s important to have a good view of the centre of the pitch as that is where everything starts, the photos may not always be the the cleanest or most consistent but you’ll always get some good keepers. A good view of the tryline is also vital, especially if you want to capture those big moments for a publication or whatever.

Hopefully you were able to find that information helpful, if there is anything you want me to add in or consider looking at for my next guide (hockey) then please let me know. Thank you!

 

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Peli 1510 case review

I have been dying to write a review of this case since I got my hands on one about a month ago, but I thought it best to wait and do a full review instead of an initial impression review. I wasn’t satisfied with a single review of the case online, I never felt like any of them were relevant to my needs. But after owning a 1510 case, I kind of know why. If you value your equipment and don’t mind lugging around a heavy case, pelican cases are for you. There is literally nothing I can say about it, when you have it in your possession, you’ll realise it’s the greatest case available, you’ll realise that any worries you had about it were stupid. If you don’t like heavy duty cases then you can stop reading here, this case isn’t for you.

Why did I want one?

Well, this has an interesting story. I was photographing a hockey (field hockey) match in a school on the Southside of Dublin, I live on the North. I got the bus down with one of the teams as I’m the official team photographer but their coach was umpiring the match after theirs and I didn’t feel like sticking around, it was already about 5pm and since it’s Ireland I live in, it was on the verge of being night time. I decided to walk to get the train home, it was about a 25-30 minute walk to the nearest train station, then a little longer amount of time on the train followed by a 15 minute walk from my local train station to my house. The amount of walking didn’t bother me, it was nice to have a stroll about. But I had about 15kg or more of camera gear crammed into a Lowepro Slingshot 302 AW that was destroying my back. It was fine for a little bit, then got annoying and finally became a horrible pain. I lift weights frequently so deadlifting and squatting big weights is something I do every week, so my back is used to being worked hard. But carrying a camera bag is just agony. So I decided it was time to get a better bag.

I was initially looking some other kind of backpack, then moved on to roller cases. I had photographed a rugby match before and chatted with a professional sports photographer from a big agency here in Dublin, noticed he was using a hard case. From then on I started looking at these pelican cases, looked at the 1510 model he had and fell in love. I had a brief look at the Think Tank rolling cases but my honest opinion is that they are stupid. Well, stupid in a country where the weather is a huge factor. Fair enough, in America it can be sunny all the time but even then I don’t like the idea of those cases. I liked the durability and usability of the pelican cases and really liked that it could be used as a seat on the sidelines. When I found out the cases literally don’t break, I just went ahead and bought one. It arrived, and I stuffed every bit of gear I own in it.

2013-03-19 18.38.22Instagram picture from @StuartComerford

So…what’s it like?

I could just say it’s amazing and end the review right there, because honestly, that’s my only opinion of it. It hold a lot, but not all of my equipment. There are a few little bits which don’t fit in (I probably haven’t given much thought to packing it properly though) but it does hold quite a lot, everything I should ever need for a particular shoot. And I know the case will hold some of the great whites, it definitely holds a Canon 400mm F/2.8, the photographer I mentioned earlier that I shot a rugby match with, he had a Canon 400mm F/2.8L, Canon 70-200mm F/2.8L and two 1DX’s in his 1510 case. How? I haven’t a clue, but I must be packing my case wrong to be running out of space so quickly, it’s a problem I have with all my bags/cases (those years of tetris as a child have failed me!). In my case I can fit a 1D Mark IIN, 40D, 70-200mm F/2.8L, 300mm F/4L, 24-60mm F/2.8, 10-20mm F/3.5, batteries, cards, flashes (1 Canon 430 EX II and 2 Yongnuo YN 560 II’s), cloths and a monopod on top. However, the monopod does dent the foam on top, but so far that hasn’t proved a problem. This is how I currently have my gear laid out (for photographing sports, like rugby, hockey, GAA, football etc.):

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I have walked the rough streets of Dublin for several miles with this equipment in the case. The case and bumped around on the rough ground and has twisted and turned in my hand, bashed of footpath edges, bumped against steps and scraped across roads, the case is very badly scratched down by the wheels (only cosmetic damage) but nothing inside has broken (and I keep the lenses down at the bottom by the wheels!). I trust the case to protect my equipment and it hasn’t failed me yet, and I doubt it ever will fail me. I have discovered though, maybe it’s just my lack of experience with roller cases (I rarely go on holidays so I don’t even have experience wheeling roller suitcases) but the case turns a lot, it could be my wonky walking but as I’m walking along it will tip slightly more onto one wheel then spin around it my hand and I’ll have to pause for a moment to turn it around again. It’s annoying, I doubt it’s the case’s fault but it is still one of the two things I don’t like about the case. The other thing being the incredibly loud noise it makes when wheeling it along rough ground! I also discovered that the case doesn’t roll very well on grass, I wouldn’t expect it to roll very well on grass but it’s a shame it doesn’t. I have no problem picking it up and walking with it for a while, the 25kg or whatever the case (containing equipment) weighs is very little to me, easily lifted and carried around for a period of time. Yesterday I walked around a rugby pitch about 3 times without putting it down, as I was searching for the best spot to set up. The weight is something to keep in mind, as that bothers a lot of people. My solution for the problem: become stronger. Simple.

Once I was set up with everything at the rugby match then it was easy to open the case, take out my equipment and sit down. The case acts as a seat. Easily the most amazing thing about this case. I’m not a fan of kneeling due to how uncomfortable it is, even with gel knee pads. I’m not for bringing my own seat (like a foldable chair) as some do as I see no point in doing so when I could have it as an all-in-one package. A case that acts as a seat, fantastic really. My sister also uses it as a table for her cup of tea whenever she’s in my office as there’s rarely any place for her to put her cup. I frequently use the case as a footrest and step on it for an extra reach up as well. It’s held up exceptionally well. However, there’s a slight dip in the lid from me sitting on it. I weigh 115kg and my weight has caused a tiny, but noticeable, dip in the lid. It’s a little trickier to open the case after getting off it at the end of a match than it is to open at the start of the match. But this hasn’t damaged the case, I’ve sat on it loads and it holds up. I’ve seen videos of these cases being run over by jeeps and they still work perfectly! I have an unfortunate habit of picking the case up by the extending arm (meant for wheeling the case, not lifting I believe) which worries me. I have bad thoughts about that snapping but it seems durable. A bit wobbly but that’s just because it’s not sealed down tight as it needs to be able to extend up to wheel the case.

Me on peli caseMe using the pelican 1510 case as a seat during a rugby match

The case provides a great vantage point for field sports. For field sports, the lower you are, the better the shot will be. It’s lower than I would be if I were kneeling (and a lot more comfortable!). Sitting with my legs extended, I can very easily let go of my camera on the monopod and pick up my other camera for when the action gets closer, like I did for the following two tries. On the second camera I keep a 70-200mm F/2.8L lens, preset to 70mm as I’d rather shoot too wide have to crop than shoot too tight and have to discard the photo. I wasn’t very far from the try line, about 8 feet or so.

STU_7489

STU_7504

It allowed me to sit comfortably and not worry about getting my jeans filthy from the ground. Except when I kneeled down to get my gear out of the case and got my knees a bit dirty. It was easy to sit around and let the action come to me, I could rest my phone on the edge of the case when shooting and easily pick it back up again when the action got closer to me, I also kept my spare batteries on the other side of me, resting on the edge of the case.

I intend to design/create a clamp type device to attach a flash bracket to the extendable arm of the case, so I could (if needed in an emergency) use it as a flash stand. I can think of so many uses for this case, it’s not just limited to being a case. It’s also a magnet for stickers/design, I just feel as if I want to stick things to it all the time. I have a habit of putting stickers on my cameras (I have a huge “I SHOOT RAW” sticker on my 1D Mark IIN) and, as you may have seen, I cover my gear in tape, so I don’t bump settings/knock of focus rings. (I use green tape to identify that it’s my equipment, I also have business cards stuck to lens hoods). And I’ve ended up decorating my pelican 1510 case like this:

Untitled-1Instagram picture from @StuartComerford

Conclusion

What can I say about the case? It’s the best case available on the market (referring to pelican cases in general, not this specific model). It’s in a different league to every other kind of camera case, it screams “serious” and “professional”. When I arrive to a shoot with this I just feel the part, usually that doesn’t happen until I take out my camera. I feel a little embarrassed sometimes when wheeling it around because it attracts attention, especially considering how loud it is. But at least people step out of your way when you’re walking. I feel safe keeping my gear in the case, and I think that’s the most important thing about it all. Except that it’s a seat, that’s a pretty huge point.

Pros
-Safety
-Durability
-It’s a seat as well as a case!
-Fits airline carry on regulations (not a big point for me since I don’t intend to travel with my photography)
-Water tight, weatherproof, rugby player resistant (I’ve had a player crash into my case and it’s still going!)
-Much smaller than I expected it to be, makes it very convenient for transport. It will even fit on a public and private bus/coach easily.
-“Serious” factor, it’s like whipping out a really big white lens at a sports match, people will treat you differently and give you space to do your job. They’ll whisper “oh, back up, he’s a professional, let him go”. Definitely a plus for some people.

Cons
-Ridiculously heavy by most people’s standards
-Doesn’t wheel perfectly on all surfaces (this is to be expected though, you’d need huge wheels to work perfectly on all surfaces)
-Expensive for most people (but it’s price is completely justified by everything mentioned in the pros list)
-Not exactly discrete in any way, it makes a lot of noise and is big and clunky to carry around casually

It’s an interesting scenario. Some people like to walk around with the thought that they won’t get beaten up and mugged for their camera equipment, so they opt for a bag that doesn’t look like it could have camera gear in it. But honestly, the case would make an incredibly good weapon if someone tried to mug you. But then again, that might land you in court for murder. I cannot describe to you how intense this case is, if you value your gear then you’ll buy it. If you’re weak and think it’s a ridiculous looking case, then it’s not for you.

However I, have named my case “Bobby”. Bobby and I are now the best of friends.

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