— Dane Creek

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.

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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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All the grip stuff is fun but without cameras and lenses you can’t really take any photos. Here’s what’s coming to Atlanta to actually take pictures.

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The bodies are easy: three Canon 5D Mk IIIs. Two have vertical grips (one from Canon, the other some generic knock-off brand). Both vertical grips have the all-important AF point 9-way controller so I can quickly change AF points when holding the cameras vertically.

The third body has earrings. They’re split-rings mounted to the camera strap connections so I have somewhere to attach a safety cable.

Why three bodies? For basketball I’ll typically run two with me physically, one with a long lens and one with a wide lens, and then the third as a remote camera somewhere. I’ve never shot football before but from what I’ve read I’ll have all three on my person for that. Yikes!

I’m honestly not sure how much I’ll use the vertical grips. I just started using them for this Storm season and am still figuring out if they’re worth lugging around.

Here’s the lens lineup:

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From left to right:

  • Canon EF 1.4x extender
  • Rokinon 14mm
  • Canon 17-40 f/4.0L
  • Canon 24-70 f/2.8L
  • Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II
  • Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS

I’m also bringing lens hoods for all the Canon lenses.

My workhorse lenses for shooting basketball are the three on the right. The 17-40 is what I typically use behind the glass on a remote camera. The 14mm is coming along for fun. The 1.4x is along for football to give me some extra reach on the 300mm.

All of the bodies and every lens (with hood!) except the 300mm fit in my Think Tank Airport Navigator. It’s a crazy, crazy, bag!

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Honestly, I’m mostly interested in writing about what I learn during the workshop, but I know people are always interested in gear so I’m going to do a series of posts before I even get on the plane to get the gear stuff out of the way.

First up: the grip bag. You’d be surprised at how much non-camera gear comes along for a sports shoot!

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1. Manfrotto 244N Variable Friction Magic Arm. Two of these are the core component of the grip bag. They’ll allow me to hang my camera in random places to get a different view of the action. Each arm is modified with a 110lb. strength zip tie and split ring to give me a place to attach a safety cable.

2. Avenger F800 3-Inch Baby Wall Plate. Combined with #3, #5, and #7 I can set up a stable remote camera on the ground.

3. Manfrotto 1/4” Standard Stud. These are the generic studs that come with the clamps. I rarely use them but they take up almost no space in the bag so I carry them with me.

4. Kupo Convi Clamp. These attach the Magic Arms to just about anything, and if you don’t have them the Magic Arms are useless. I have a mix of Kupo and Manfrotto brands. The advantage of the Kupos is they’re cheaper!

5. Kupo 2.5” Grip Head With Big Handle. I stole this off my c-stand to use with the baby wall plate for a floor camera. It’s kinda bulky, to be honest, and I wish I had something different to use. But I don’t, so it comes along. I’m sure I’ll find out about a better option than this at the workshop.

6. Pocket Wizard Plus III Transceivers. Two of these are required for them to be useful. This is how I trigger the remote camera that’s mounted somewhere out of my reach. One of the receivers is attached to a FlashZebra Caddy v3 which makes it really easy to attach the Pocket Wizard to the Magic Arm.

7. Manfrotto 143BKT Camera Bracket. This is how I attach the camera to the Magic Arm.

8. Safety cables. There’s only three in this picture but don’t worry. I’m buying more before the trip. You can never have enough and somehow I keep misplacing them. These are critical when mounting a camera in the air somewhere. My most recent set are from Amazon, and include the Chauvet 3-pack, which are lighter duty but fine for smaller gear, and the heftier 29″ unnamed cables.

9. Cinefoil. I use this to kill reflections when mounting the camera behind glass.

10. Tape. I carry a white and black roll of microGAFFER tape and a small roll of black electrical tape. The electrical tape is a good way to attach cinefoil to a backboard camera without showing white adhesive to the players.

11. FlashZebra Shutter Cable. This runs from the Pocket Wizard to the camera to actually fire the shutter. You can buy an official one from Pocket Wizard or get a cheap knock-off, which is what I did. Mine has a pre-release switch on it to ensure quick shutter release when the action heats up.

All of this packs into a small tool bag from Home Depot. I’m not wild about the bag, to be honest, and am still on the hunt for something that works better. Haven’t found anything yet.

Note: If you purchase something by following the links above I may get a tiny commission from Amazon. I have personally purchased and paid for all the items mentioned in this blog post.

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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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Now that the Storm season is over I thought I’d take a minute to go back through all the images from the year and run some numbers. I’ve probably been hanging around with Kevin Pelton too much!

Overall Statistics

Total kept photos: 5,396
Web gallery candidates: 469 (8%)

I typically keep about 10% of the total shots taken at any given game so I fired the shutter somewhere north of 53,000 times this season. Now I know why my shutter finger hurt so much during the month of August (man that was a lot of games in a short span!)

Game with the most kept photos: Shock v Storm, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. (366)
Game with the fewest kept photos: Shock v Storm, Friday, May 17, 2013. (70)

While it’s amusing that both games were against the Shock the numbers aren’t surprising. The top game was the same game as Tina’s retirement celebration. The game with the fewest photos was the one home pre-season game where I was still trying to remember how to shoot.

Non-game event with the most kept photos: Umpqua Bank, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. (167)
Non-game event with the fewest kept photos: VIP Season Ticket Holder Party, Thursday, July 11, 2013. (16)

I was a little surprised at the top non-game event. I figured it would be Media Day, but it only had 136 keepers. I guess there was something really nice about being at Umpqua Bank!

Players & People

Top 5 photographed players (% of total player photos)

Tina Thompson: 395 (19%)
Tanisha Wright: 305 (15%)
Temeka Johnson: 247 (12%)
Camille Little: 217 (11%)
Alysha Clark: 145 (7%)

Least photographed player: Lauren Jackson (0)

No surprises here. This was Tina’s year, not only because she was retiring but because she had an all-star season. That’s reflected in the photo count. The Storm’s two regular point guards are in 2nd and 3rd place as they were easy to get photos of as they brought the ball down-court. It’s nice to see Alysha, one of the bench players, in the top 5. Part of that is because she kept photobombing me at non-game activities!

Photos of Eva: 76
Photos of Shellie: 76

I swear this is a happy accident. They aren’t both in each photo!

Technical Details

Shots by Camera

Canon EOS 5D Mk III: 5130
Canon EOS 5D Mk II: 164
Canon EOS-1D X: 102

No real surprise here. For the first half of the season the 5D Mk II was my backboard camera which has a low percentage hit rate for keepers. Then I sold it and bought another 5D Mk III.

The 1D X photos are from a single game where I borrowed the camera from Canon Professional Services for a test drive. It’s a great camera. I can’t afford it.

Top Three Lenses

Canon 24-70 f/2.8L: 2430
Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II: 2060
Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS II: 856

The 24-70 at the top of the list is no real surprise as it is my workhorse lens for all non-game activities. Every sponsor event, fan shot, etc. gets taken with it. Normally the count would be even higher as I tend to use it for near-court action as well, however to try and handle some of the empty seats at the Key this year I put more emphasis on using the 70-200 for near-court action.

I’m a bit surprised at the high count for the 300mm. I only got it towards the end of the season and it’s a tough lens to get used to. Guess I had more keepers than I thought!

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I’m fortunate that I’m in Moab during February, where sunrise isn’t until 7am. That means (only!) a 5:30am departure every morning. Ugh.

As you can imagine naptime is thus very important.

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Naptime at Landscape Arch in Arches National Park, UT, on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. Photo courtesy Brett Edge.

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I’ve been in the Moab, UT, area for the last week on a workshop with Andy Biggs and Bret Edge. It’s been an interesting run of moody skies with lots of clouds, but no real sunrises or sunsets to speak of. Looking at my selects for the week they’re almost all in black and white: a sure sign we haven’t had much luck with golden light.

Tonight looked to be the same. It was snowing like crazy when we left Moab for Arches National Park. During our first stop I just took photos of everyone standing around in the snow talking about funny Internet videos.

We moved to Skyline Arch for our last stop of the evening. It had stopped snowing but the sky was completely grey. Here’s what things looked like at 5:15:31 PM, facing roughly east:

5:15:31 PM. (Photo/Neil Enns)

Yuck. For reference, here’s the sky to the west at 5:30:19 PM:

5:30:19 PM. (Photo/Neil Enns)

Yuck. But see that little band of light? That little band of light caused six minutes of total insanity:

5:56:21 PM. (Photo/Neil Enns)
5:56:21 PM: The light arrives.

5:59:25 PM on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (Photo/Neil Enns)
5:59:25 PM: BOOM!

6:02:34 PM on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (Photo/Neil Enns)
6:02:34 PM: It’s over.

I have never moved so fast when shooting. Ever. I had the wrong lens on the camera when the light hit (I was facing west, looking at the cloud band) and seriously considered throwing my 70-200 lens into the snow just to get it off the camera so I could mount the 24-70 before the light went away. At one point I was holding the 70-200 by its tripod foot in my teeth. Somehow I managed to get things wired up and took not one but two portfolio-worthy photos:

Skyline Arch, in Arches National Park, UT, is washed in golden light at sunset on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (Photo/Neil Enns)
Golden light washes over Skyline Arch in Arches National Park, UT, at sunset on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (Photo/Neil Enns)

Rock fins in Arches National Park, UT, are washed in sunset light on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (Photo/Neil Enns)
Sunset light washes over rock fins in Arches National Park, UT, on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (Photo/Neil Enns)

The fins shot was taken at 6:01:39 PM, less than a minute before the sun slipped behind the far mountain range and all the side lighting was gone.

I got very, very, lucky.

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naptime

Since this is the 7th post in my series on the importance of nap time it should come as no surprise that I believe in naps on photo trips. This time, I’m napping at Dante’s View in Death Valley National Park.

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A lazy Sunday evening following a Seahawks playoff loss means I finally managed to get two limited edition folio covers up for sale on the website. These new colours, Citron and Tuscan Sun, have been in stock for longer than I care to admit. They were just waiting for the website update to show off their vibrant, crazy, look.

The new colours are definitely not for every project but do open up new creative possibilities. I personally used the Tuscan Sun cover to make a beautiful folio of fall images from the American Southwest (Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, etc.).

Citron and Tuscan Sun covers are a limited edition run: only 100 of each were manufactured so if you want them for your project order them while you can! To see how they compare to our other covers check out our detailed colour comparison page.

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Citron

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Tuscan Sun

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I honestly can’t remember what the real name for this assignment was but it was similar to the picture package project from assignment 4. We had write up a short project description, submit it for approval, work with a partner (Tory Watson) as a photo editor, and submit a final package of 10-15 images. Thankfully we had a couple of weeks to work on this!

My original plan was to do a package of photos that showed the impact of transportation on the Puget Sound region. After the first class discussion where we all shared our projects it was clear I needed to scope my project back a bit to ensure success.

Once again my social network saved me: turns out a co-worker used to work with one of the public relations people at SoundTransit! After an introduction I arranged to visit their maintenance facility and decided to focus the project on the people that keep the Sound Transit trains running.

Electromechanic Stephen Lee stands in front of one of the trains maintains at the service facility in Seattle, WA on Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Lee, a proud Cherkoee, has worked at SoundTransit since it started operating 3 years ago. (Photo/Neil Enns)
Electromechanic Stephen Lee stands in front of one of the trains maintains at the service facility in Seattle, WA on Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Lee, a proud Cherkoee, has worked at SoundTransit since it started operating 3 years ago. (Photo/Neil Enns)

The people at SoundTransit were incredibly gracious and accommodating. They willingly explained everything going on, posed, uncovered things, and generally gave me amazing access to the people and equipment in the facility. The only problem? I came away with absolute crap photos on my first visit. After doing an edit pass on the photos I had enough to submit in a pinch, but not enough that I was actually happy with the result. UGH!

Did I mention the Sound Transit folks were incredibly accommodating? I asked if I could come for a second visit to help finish up the image set and they welcomed me back. Did I mention how good it was to have two weeks to complete this assignment?

Electromechanic Calvin Lee stands in front of one of the trains maintains at the service facility in Seattle, WA on Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Lee has worked at SoundTransit since it started operating 3 years ago. (Photo/Neil Enns)
Electromechanic Calvin Lee stands in front of one of the trains maintains at the service facility in Seattle, WA on Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Lee has worked at SoundTransit since it started operating 3 years ago. (Photo/Neil Enns)

SoundTransit trains sit in the rail yard at the maintenance facility in Seattle on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012.
SoundTransit trains sit in the rail yard at the maintenance facility in Seattle on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012.

In the end I wound up submitting 11 photos. Looking back at them a year later I can’t help but feel like it was a missed assignment. The photos are good but not great. The portraits in particular could have been so much better. Ah well, something to keep working on improving!

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