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A Day at Dodger Stadium with my son and the Sony RX10IV

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This past Thursday the Dodgers played a day game and future Hall of Fame pitcher Clayton Kershaw got the start.

 

Sparky's favorite player is Kershaw and we were originally going to go to the game Wednesday night, but when I heard that Kershaw was certain to start I changed our plans.

 

I'm so glad that we did.

 

Even though the team lost —  and Sparky was upset — we got to see one of the dominant pictures of our generation.  And we did it together.

 

I was fortunate enough in my previous life in journalism to see several world class pitchers when I covered MLB.

 

Randy Johnson was one of those Hall of Fame pitchers (pitching for The Arizona Diamondbacks then).  And I witnessed a no hitter thrown by St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jose Jimenez in 1999. 

 

But I never got to see either of those with my son.  That is what made this special.

 

A pitcher like Kershaw comes along so rarely that it was important to change a schedule to see him -- I think Sparky will appreciate it with time.  Plus this was only his second start since being placed on the disabled list that you can't take it for granted that he's always going to be pitching.  (And even though the team lost, the old Kershaw appeared to be back for the innings that he pitched.)

 

And while there, I wanted to make some great photographs (of course!).

 

Before we even went to the game upon checking the Dodgers' website I noticed that the longest lens I can bring with me to the game could not exceed 6 inches.

 

That means my 70-200 Master would not make it. 

 

I had this issue once at an Angels game a couple of years ago with a 70 to 200 mm F4G OSS lens. 

 

Even know the reach was short it had a white barrel and that meant, to the security people, that it was a professional lens. Now it’s true that it’s a professional grade lens, but when one sits in the right field bleachers with a 200 mm maximum lens...well let's just say that's not a lot of reach.

 

Since that time, Sony has come out with the RX 10IV and it is perfect for this type of work (among other things).

 

These photographs accompanying this post were made with the RX 10IV and I was elated with them.

 

The camera has the equivalent range of a 24mm - 600mm lens and a maximum aperture of f4  throughout the range. In addition it also has the ability to zoom in and crop 1.4X to 2X (740 and 1200mm equivalents).

 

Not to mention it has incredibly fast PDAF for action and it fires at 24fps!   Plus, it fires silently so you can photograph at this high rate very discreetly. 

 

This gem of a camera has become the go-to for daylight sports of my children and, in this case, photographing MLB from the seats. 

 

How cool is it to make a really nice action photographs that really show faces and emotion while in the stands? 

 

It would be virtually impossible to duplicate any of the long lens photos with a smart phone.   I did make some wonderful photos with the phone in close and a very cool Panorama with my iPhone X, but when it comes to action, there's no way that that phone in the camera can come anywhere close to these photos.  Period.

 

There's simply nothing like having the reach of optics, coupled with the sophisticated AF and the size of the sensor (1”).  These variables make working with the RX10IV the perfect camera for this type of event.

 

Now it's not tiny as an iPhoneX so I won't fit in your back pocket and it's not even as tiny as the new RX100VI (That new point and shoot camera CAN fit in the back of your jeans pocket).  So the RX10IV is not them but what it is is a legitimate and rather serious sports camera for the advanced amateur and the professional who wants pro-grade features in an all-in-one body. That’s what this camera can do.

 

As a photographer who has carried bags and cameras and lenses and monopods over the years as a sports photographer, I almost feel like I'm cheating by using this little camera.

 

But the proof is in the photographs — when I show my photo friends my Instagram feet that includes these photos made with this camera, they are simply astonished.

 

I was astonished when I first shot with it.  This was such a significant upgrade in terms of focus speed and usability from the previous version, the RX10III (which does not have phase detect AF). 

 

It took me by total surprise and I am so thrilled that Sony came up with this camera. The lens (when in the off mode) is about 3 inches long. So I had no trouble at all bringing it in to dodger Stadium. And from our seats, I think you will agree that there were some pretty cool scenes. So let's look at some of the photos.

P. S. This post is ostensibly about the RX 10IV with photos from a Dodger game with my son though at it's heart, it is a story about the photographer's life.

 

I am incredibly blessed to do this work.  I am able to go to a Dodgers game in the middle of the day, during the week with my son who will treasure this memory forever--and so will I

 

Some of my favorite memories of childhood our from those days I went to Cubs games Brewers games or White Sox games with my dad. And in 1968, at one of those games, I was able to get the autograph of Joe DiMaggio, probably one of the top five players in the 1900s. That day we'll live in my mind hopefully for the rest of my life.

 

That is what I hope for my son from this day. I wish we could've gotten Clayton Kershaw's autograph like I got Joe DiMaggio's, but that will be our project for next spring in Arizona.

 

This is why I do this work. It's in my blood. It's a part of who I am.  I'm incredibly proud that I create heirlooms and memories for people that will last for generations.

 

It took me the longest time to figure this out.

 

For the longest time, I thought what brought the most meaning was working for publications, newspapers and magazines. Don't get me wrong, those times were great and that work really trained me for the work that I do now.  There is simply no better real world, on the ground photography training than the varied life of newspaper work.

 

I photograph my clients now as if for a magazine and I capture moments that go beyond mere portraits. I capture life and I get to watch the lives of my children through my lens and in a way that will never happened had I not left newspapers. I am eternally grateful for that "Masters Degree" that I received from journalism but it was time to move on.

 

The work that I do now tells the stories for the families in front of my camera on a very personal and heartfelt way.  

 

I continue to make portraits, capture weddings and milestone events and tell stories for families and individuals and companies with imagery and I am incredibly proud to do that.

 

I am also proud that this work allows me and affords me the ability to live here in Southern California to work from my home office and most importantly to watch my children grow daily and be there for them  and my wife.

 

I hope you enjoy these photos and if you have any questions please put them in the comments below.

Instagram Lessons Learned Over Lunch

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An unexpected tutorial from an IG’er with 353K subscribers!


 

After Sony’s Kando 2.0 in Monterey, CA ended last Friday, I am back at home and able to reflect on the trip.

 

It was an exciting three days of hanging with friends (when you’re drinking beers and sharing stories with the likes of long time industry big names like David Burnett, Neil Leifer and Bob Krist, you know you’re in pretty amazing company!!), sharing food and drink, meeting new people and reconnecting with old ones (even seeing friends that I had not seen in over 20 years — Ken Cedeno I’m talking about you!)…

 

It was on flight home and specifically in Phoenix, where I had a layover with a couple of the Sony Alpha Collective Members — Stan Moniz (IG: @stanmoniz) and Eric Rubens (IG: @erubes1) that some of my biggest insights about Instagram (IG) came from a lunch at the airport.

 

Eric is an Orange County Instagram megastar and has 353K followers.  

 

A former collegiate tennis player with dreams of going pro, he got a degree from UCSD in electrical engineering and then found work in aerospace with defense contractors.

 

After working in the office for his company, he would head to the San Diego beaches and shoot sunset with his phone.  He kept going back and shooting the sunset and sharing it. And found out he really loved doing this.

 

Soon a following grew (he was an early adopter getting onto IG in 2011).  And grew. And grew.

 

And as his following grew, so did his desire to shoot with a better camera.  He started with a Canon T2i and just a few years ago switched to the Sony system after trying one out on an overseas trip immediately after the NYC launch of the a7RII.  He never went back to DSLR. Now shooting with the a7RIII his work continues to showcase sunsets, landscapes and all with his signature vibrant and colorful style.

 

His posts will often garner as many as 30K likes on IG — and incredible amount of engagements.  And during our lunch, he shared his insights on the state of IG in May 2018.

 

Here’s what I learned:


 

• IG works best when you have one basic overarching vision for the feed.  

 

Travel, food are big in the space because they are something people always will be doing and are always looking for Inspirational ideas in both as well as certain locations are aspirational (“I will go to Iceland before I kick the bucket”)

 

• IG works best when you use the most screen real estate which calls for the 4:5 aspect ratio (a slightly square-ish vertical).

 

Eric said he shoots with this in mind, even if shooting a horizontal.  Even his videos are shot to facilitate that 4:5 crop in Adobe Premiere for IG placement (not conventional for video which typically is shot 16:9. He said he still shots video that way but is aware of the IG crop while shooting).

 

• IG hashtags work best when they are broad.

 

For example if he went to a Dodgers game and posted a photo, he would use the hashtag #dodgers and not #ladodgers.  He thinks of the most general and easiest terms that are relevant to the photograph

 

•  IG hashtags must be relevant to the photograph to be most effective.

 

In the Wild West days of IG, one could “stuff” hashtags of a lot of highly searchable ones (i.e. #justinbieber) even if there was nothing relevant to Justin Bieber.

 

IG realized that the algorithm was being gamed and they changed it to eliminate that advantage.

 

• IG photos that include people in a landscape perform incredibly well for him,

 

Eric said that learning to place people in the scene but not TOO prominent or even showing faces works best.  He said that this makes it seem like the viewer is actually there. It gives them perspective.

 

• IG photos that include people in a landscape help him book clients in the apparel space.

 

Prior to adding this feature in his work, Eric was finding most of the ancillary work he was booking tended to be in the traditional fields that would use landscape images — such as automobile accounts.

 

When he added people to in essence add scale to the landscape, he found that he was then able to get work from manufacturers in the apparel space because of it.  They would then feel confident that he could comfortably photograph people and not just places.

 

• IG led him to have a commercial representative for his ancillary work.  (Now he does all that work himself).

 

With that large of a following, brands realize that having him post about or with their products has huge impact (or could) on their sales.  To that end he worked with a commercial representative until recently, a firm that included a legal branch which helped him navigate the often murky waters of selling images commercially (rights, usage, etc.) .  Now he’s taken over that role himself and is growing so fast that he is considering adding staff to assist with the work.

 

• IG posts for him are not multiple per day — one per day, he finds works best (and if a photo is getting a lot of engagements, he will often leave it up as the last image in his feed for a couple of days.

 

He said that when a post is taking off, don’t kill off the placement by adding another on top of it in the feed…let the one that is climbing the charts continue to climb.  The IG algorithm pushes the last photo in the feed.

 

• IG posts are timed to go out around 1-2 PM PST.

 

This way he gets folks in Europe that are still awake, as well as in the late afternoon on the east coast, and late morning in Hawaii.  It’s early morning the next day in Australia and Asia, so that time posting means that the maximum number of people are going to be awake to see his posts.

 

• IG posts are spread out by the various locations in the actual photos.

 

He rarely posts, for example, three posts from the same location in a row.  Instead what he will do is post a variety of images from different spots and the hashtags will then garner followers in different locations.

 

• IG posts that showcase aspirational places and locales tend to get higher likes than more “conventional” spots.

 

He said that when he posts photos from more local spots, like Laguna Beach, for example, his likes will be down quite a bit from when he takes and posts photographs from more aspiration spots like Iceland, Bali, etc.  Then the likes might be in the 28K to 30K range…more conventional spots in the low 20Ks..

 

• IG Stories work better when interspersed throughout the day rather than “dumping” an 8 act IG story once per day.  Because each time it is done, then followers with notifications on will receive a notice. So it’s different for stories than for his main feed.

 

• his IG feed is very bright and vibrant and he optimizes the placement of the subject to leave a bit of space around it since the photo has to stand out as a thumbnail when people are scrolling through.

 

• Your IG feed strength is really encapsulated in your last 6-9 photos because when people view a profile that’s what they see.

 

• IG is always changing.

 

• IG posts are sometimes reused, say a year down the road.

 

• IG is so smart that it can tell if you have a sunset photo so make sure the hashtags are relevant to the content of the image since it can already tell.

 

• he uses his IG feed to leverage connections with brands of things that he uses.  By that he wants to partner with cars, food, wine, etc. — things that he normally consumes and uses in his daily life.

 

I hope you found this helpful as I found it to be really one of the highlights of an amazing trip!

Find out more about Sony and Kando 2.0 at AlphaUniverse.com

Link to the Video from my talk at B & H Photo's Depth of Field Conference

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Last week's trip to New York was primarily to speak at B & H Photo's inaugural event called Depth of Field.

I presented on the topic of The Photojournalist's Way -- basically my photojournalist's approach to weddings and portraits -- and frankly just about everything.

I was honored to present and created this entirely new presentation specifically for D of F.

How to Set Up & Configure your Sony a7III

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In this video I show Russell Davidson, a friend and fellow photographer how to set up and configure his new Sony a7III! What makes this extra special is that Russell has been shooting Nikon since 1988, starting with the Nikon FM2.

Shooting Sony as I have since 2014 has been a real joy and it makes me especially happy to see more and more people converting to Sony after shooting DSLRs for decades, as is the case with my friend and fellow Ladera Ranch Dad, Russell Davidson.  

In this very long video I go over the a7III settings along with Russell in real time. 

I hope you find this helpful and please ask any questions below.  I will try to answer or find the answer for you.