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The Storm announced a trade today, sending Renee Montgomery to the Minnesota Lynx. Renee joined the Storm this season and immediately became one of my favourite players to photograph. Here’s a few photos of her from this season that make me smile.

#WhatsWithAllTheBabies #DontTouchMyCameraMmmmKay #FannyPacksAreCoolAgainIPromise #IGotInstagramBecauseOfYou #IStillDontKnowHowYouLevitatedLikeThat #IveNeverBeenToCheesecakeFactory #SeriouslyWhatsWithAllTheBabies #GoodLuckInMinny

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Renee Montgomery flies through the air as she attempts to save a ball headed out-of-bounds. (Neil Enns/Storm Photos)

Renee Montgomery levitates through the Mercury defense. (Neil Enns/Storm Photos)

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I took the SEA-MKE inaugural this morning, my first ever inaugural Alaska flight. I expected some festivities and Alaska didn’t disappoint. Here’s some pics and blahblahblah about the flight and the new plane.

We departed from C9. Seems like everyone who was someone from Alaska and Horizon was there (everyone doing ramp service on the plane was wearing Horizon polos). They had a band playing and cheese curds were served, along with a cheese-shaped cake and cupcakes:



The flight was, of course, on the brand new “Boeing” E175:



The gate crew dressed for the occasion (as did the ground and flight crews):



The ground crew brought out a classic for the fun as well, and there was a LOT of ground crew hanging around for photos with the plane:



Before boarding there was a ribbon cutting ceremony, cut by an Alaska MVPG 75K member:


Everyone who boarded got a little certificate to commemorate the event. If you had a paper boarding card they stamped it, otherwise (like us) you could have them stamp the certificate:


Onboard it was definitely a brand new plane. Everything in great shape and still smelling fresh. We were in row 6, which felt like it had more leg room than business class on most domestic flights!




Service was pretty good, although it’s just a two person cabin crew which means service takes a loooong time in economy. For the first service pass it was just the back FA doing all the work, and there was no recognition of elite status that I could see (although I did not get charged for my drink). Sadly the Alaska Beyond in-flight services weren’t available yet, which meant no wifi. According to the FA this will be up and running on July 13th.

Meal options included the fruit and cheese plate, or a hot Cuban sandwich. I opted to try the Cuban sandwich. For passengers in first class they had the same Cuban sandwich and a side salad. I can’t say I’d recommend the sandwich to anyone. Get the fruit and cheese plate instead.

We arrived in MKE 40 minutes early and they had some trouble getting the jetbridge working. After about 5 mins they figured it out and we were in the terminal, greeted by a ton of local media and random official looking people. They gave us all local coffee (Colectivo Blue Heeler, pre-ground) and “leather” luggage tags embossed with the Alaska and MKE airport logos.


They had a fancy cake for the MKE-SEA departure, as well as lots of signage throughout the airport announcing the new flight. There was a band pre-security as well. They didn’t seem to be playing grunge though. Weird.



Anyway, it was fun being on an inaugural, and I’m looking forward to doing it again in September to Nashville!

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My morning commute takes me down I-405 in Seattle from the SR522 interchange to the SR520 interchange. I have a lot of time to stare at the new I-405 HOT lane signs. After seeing a wide range of test toll codes I’m confident in the following mapping:

Symbol Value
s $
c .
h 0
n 1
d 2
r 3
l 4
t 5
g 7

Here’s all the toll values you’ll see from $0.75 (minimum toll) up to $2.75:

Code Cost
shcgt $0.75
sdchh $2.00
sdcdt $2.25
sdcth $2.50
sdcgt $2.75
slchh $4.00
slcdt $4.25
slcth $4.50
slcgt $4.75

Edit: changed “l” from 1 to 3 based on a tip from @WSDOTGoodToGo. Now I need to figure out what letter is a 1.

Edit: @WSDOTGoodToGo confirmed “l” is a 4.

Edit: After dealing with construction traffic on a Saturday night I’m fairly confident n < r < l. Since L is 4 and the only missing numbers were 1 and 3, that makes n == 1 and r == 3.

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The 2015 Seattle Storm season kicks off tomorrow night and that means it’s time to go through my camera bags to make sure everything is ready to go. While doing so I laid everything out on a tattered white backdrop covered in dog fur and snapped a few pictures.

If you’ve ever wondered what I haul with me to every Storm game… wonder no more. Here’s a walkthrough, bag by bag.

Main Bag: ThinkTank Airport Navigator Rolling Camera Bag

The ThinkTank Airport Navigator is my primary bag that carries all of my core shooting gear. I love this bag. I’ve had it for years and traveled all over the place with it. I’ve even off-wheeled it in Moab, UT, on a photo workshop! Wheels are awesome, and despite its relatively small size it carries a TON of gear:

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Here’s a rundown of everything in the photo above:

Laptop: This year I’m using a Samsung ATIV 9 Book Plus. It’s slim, sleek, has a touch-screen, and sadly is woefully underpowered for driving Lightroom. For storage I’m using a Samsung 850 EVO 1TB SSD that connects to the laptop with a StarTech USB 3.0 to 2.5 SATA III adapter cable. Cards are offloaded using a StarTech USB 3.0 Multi Media Flash Memory Card Reader.

Cameras: This bag carries a Canon 1DX (new to me this year) and a Canon 5D Mk III. These are my two primary bodies for carrying around the arena on a Black Rapid Double camera strap.

Lenses: My primary lenses for game work are a Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, Canon 24-70 F/2.8 II, and Canon 17-40 f/4.0L. Two of the three lenses have rubber lens hoods on them per WNBA rules. I really should pick up a third…

“Film”: This year I’m using Lexar Professional 1066x 32GB cards as my primary “film” for RAW images captured during the game. I also have several 16GB variants as the second card in the 1DX body to offload low-res JPEGs to the Storm after each quarter, and a whole bunch of Transcend 8GB SD cards that serve the same purpose in the 5D Mk III.

Lighting: I always carry two Canon 600-EX RT flashes, a Canon ST-E3-RT wireless transmitter, a bunch of gels, a weird mini softbox that I never use, and two flash feet. I never know when I’ll need extra light and having the flashes along for the ride has saved me many, many, times.

Batteries: You can never have enough batteries. I’ve got four spares for the 5D Mk III, and more spare AA and AAAs than I can count. Keep in mind that in addition to the batteries you see laid out, each body and all the flashes also have charged batteries in them.

Hearing protection: I value my hearing. #stormcrazies are loud. I always wear hearing protection at games. I’ve always used disposable Howard Leight LL1 Laser Lite Earplugs and I carry a fist full of them in my bag at all times. This year I’m trying something new though, a pair reusable of Surefire Ear Pro Sonic Defenders.

Odds and ends: The bag also carries a hex key (I always need one and can never find it), a small roll of mini gaffer tape, an HDMI and Ethernet dongle for my laptop, a lenspen in case I stick my finger on a lens.

Here’s what all the above looks like packed into the ThinkTank:

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Grip Bag: MidwayUSA Competition Range Bag

Yep, you read that right. After years of searching for the perfect grip bag I found it at one of the largest online gun accessories stores in the world. The MidwayUSA Competition Range Bag is huge, has lots of pockets, and is the perfect bag to carry all my remote camera gear.

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Here’s a rundown of everything in the photo above:

Cameras: I have another 5D Mk III in this bag solely for use as a remote camera, typically mounted to the post of the backboard but sometimes higher up or on a floor plate. The camera’s modified with two keyrings through where you’d attach a camera strap so I have a mounting point for…

Safety cables: I do not want to be the photographer that’s known for his camera falling off onto the court during a game. That big mess of cables in the top leff of the image? Eight safety cables.

Mounting arms: To mount the camera I have two Manfrotto Variable Friction Magic Arms with the camera mounting attachment and five super clamps (some are Manfrotto, some are knock-offs). I used to have six super clamps. I seem to be missing one. Sigh.

Mounting plates: Occasionally I do a floor remote. Instead of futzing with hacked solutions I bought a proper floor plate from fplate.net. It’s fantastic. The camera mounts to the plate using a Really Right Stuff BH-30 compact ball head.

Triggers: I trigger the remote camera with two Pocket Wizard Plus IIIs. They attach to the camera with FlashZebra Coiled Shutter Cables. I also carry two coiled cords that can attach to my 600EX-RT flashes just in case, and a very long PC cord also just in case. I mount the remote camera trigger to a magic arm using the absolutely awesome FlashZebra Remote Transceiver Caddy V3. It’s awesome. If you own a PocketWizard you need one.

Odds and ends: I have a set of hex wrenches in metric and SAE sizes  (I always need one and can never find it), a giant roll of gaffer tape, and a collection of spuds that really just sit in my bag and are never used. Oh, and spare batteries. Always more spare batteries.

Many of the above items are organized into glorious bags my mom sent me for Christmas, custom embroidered on her fancy embroidery machine with what’s inside. I have one for spuds, one for safety cables, one for the pocket wizards and associated cables, and one unmarked one that I use for some super clamps.

Here’s what the bag looks like all zipped up with everything inside:

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Sorry there’s no photo of it open, but I forgot to take one. Oops.

Big Lens Bag: Lowepro Lens Case

I have one piece of gear that won’t fit in the above bags: my Canon 300mm f/2.8. That lives in a Lowepro Lens Case with one very important additional item:

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Yup. Another hex key.  I always need one and can never find it.

Anyway, there you have it. That’s what’s in my bags for the Storm 2015 season. Go Storm!

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Another weekend of watching football, another photography productivity app hacked together.

The most time consuming part of processing photos after a Storm game is applying keywords to all the images. Lightroom has no real fast way to do it, and Photo Mechanic’s keywording support is abysmal. So what’s a photographer to do?

All season this year I’ve stared at the touch screen on my laptop and wished I had a dedicated app with a ton of buttons on it that I could just whack to apply keywords to images. That’s what I wrote this weekend.

Sample
The Keyword Board interface. Click on the image to view it full-size.

The app is still rough around the edges but it works. It does one thing: let you apply keywords to photos. You point it at a folder of raw files that have associated .xmp files (it doesn’t work with .dng, sorry) and then start applying keywords. Tap a button to apply the keyword. Tap it again to remove the keyword. Tap the next or previous button to move to the next image.

The keywords are read from an XML file so it’s easy to remap what the buttons do without having to recompile the application. It’s a lot of fun to figure out where to put what keywords. You’ll notice in the above screenshot I’ve been playing with button sizes too.

I’d say the app is in alpha form right now. I really want to change the colour of the buttons to match Lightroom’s dark theme but I’m having trouble with the WPF control styling. It isn’t a particularly robust app either, but as long as you don’t do something bad, it works fine *grin*.

I’d like to add a free-form text box as well, with auto-complete, so it’s easy to enter in additional keywords that aren’t pre-assigned to a button. But that’s a feature for another weekend.

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The number one lesson I learned while taking Assignment and Editorial Photography was to get the names of people in my photos. Since then I’ve relied on a notebook and pen to write down this information:

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Two pages of my notebook after a few Seattle Storm basketball games.

I’ve never liked this method though. It’s an extra book and pen I have to carry around at the games and as you can see from my scratches my notes aren’t the neatest. It can be quite a pain to decipher the information after the game when writing my photo captions.

For a few games I did try some other approaches, like using OneNote or even emails on my Windows Phone, but it took too many steps to get the information typed in.

This weekend I decided to do something about this and wrote an app: Photo Notes. It’s for Windows Phone (sorry Android and iOS users!) and designed specifically for photojournalists who need to take quick notes on images in the field.

When you run the app you are immediately presented with a blank note screen:

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While the screen looks simple a lot of design thinking went into it. Focus is automatically in the image note field with a numeric keyboard up so you can immediately type in the frame number. The notes field uses a regular keyboard with some customizations to auto-correct: the app won’t auto-correct your text, but will offer suggestions as you type and when you select words. It’s perfect for quickly bashing in oddball name spellings without fighting the auto-correct system, but also gives you quick access to typo correction for real words.

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After you type in your note detail simply press the save button and you’re done. You can slip the phone back into your pocket and go back to shooting.

When the event you’re covering is over you can upload all the notes to your SkyDrive account as a simple text file, optionally providing a job name as the file name. Careful thinking went into this screen as well: while a default job name is presented, it is also automatically selected so if you don’t like the name you can just start typing to replace it.

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Of course you may just want to reference the existing notes on the phone instead of bothering with an upload to SkyDrive. There’s a screen for that too, with the notes sorted by image number:

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This screen also provides a way to edit or delete individual notes. After the event is done and you no longer need the notes (or have uploaded them to SkyDrive) there is one-button access to clear all saved notes to start with a fresh list.

I gave the app a test using some notes from my old paper notebook and worked great. It’s so fast to enter data! I can’t wait to pin this to my Start screen and use it during the sports photography workshop I’m attending at the end of October.

Not bad for half a day of development while watching football!

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Well, it’s not quite a scam, but wow. I recently came across the Dwell/Blurb contest called World Views. They invite submissions through May 15th that show different takes on the modern world. An “esteemed panel of judges” will select the winners.

If you win, what do you get? Not much. A $250 gift certificate to Blurb, a year’s subscription to Dwell (worth $9.37 given current subscription prices at online magazine outlets), tickets to 2011 Dwell on Design (worth around $45), and “winning recognition and photo credit” in the book (which presumably, if you win, you’ll order copies of using your gift certificate).

Yeah, so the prize is kinda lame. But why am I so bothered by the competition? It’s because of the fine print. If you read the Rules & Regulations there’s the following gem:

8. Sponsors’ Ownership of Submissions: Each Submission becomes the exclusive property of Sponsors, and the contents, images, concepts and ideas embodied therein may be used by Sponsors for commercial, marketing and other promotional purposes. By entering a Submission, each entrant hereby irrevocably assigns to Sponsors all right, title and interest in and to the Submission and its contents, and agrees that Sponsors may use, reproduce, display, and distribute such Submission and its contents, without any compensation to or acknowledgment of the entrant (other than the prize, as set forth in these Official Rules). By entering a Submission, each entrant consents to the potential use of their entry in a photograph book to be co-produced and sold by Sponsors. Each entrant agrees that they will not receive any compensation even if Sponsors profit from the sales of the photography book.

In a nutshell: if you enter, they own your image. Period. They can do anything they want with it, forever. It’s not even that you’re giving them a non-exclusive license, you’re saying the image becomes their exclusive property.

Geez.

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