Some of the regular highlights of my New York existence are the amateur soccer games I play in Chinatown. Some fellow kickers and I started to get together quite a long time ago for a midweek pick-up game on a 7 a side pitch at the edge of Barrio Chino. The game proved to be very robust and survived the cold winters, hot summers, stretches of low popularity, stretches of too much popularity, and many personnel changes for over a decade now. Even though soccer has its fair share of whiners, complainers, braggers, spoiled brats, bullies, people teetering dangerously close to sanity, as well as people that are all of the above, we managed to keep the game clean, competitive, friendly and fair.
Out of this pick-up game a weekend league named Groupstage evolved thanks to the efforts of Matt
Matt and I have been bouncing the idea of a photo shoot around for quite a while, partly to promote his league, partly to promote my business, but also to do something creative with people we like to hang around with. As a matter of fact we’ve been talking about it for so long that it got kind of embarrassing. So this November I finally got my derriere in gear and picked a date for the shoot. Production becomes much easier with a deadline.
I started off with a location scout. The shoot had to be on a weekend or an evening when people would have a bit more time, and I don’t really like working in the evening, since then’s when I do my deep thinking. Field time on weekends is at a premium with tons of leagues competing for space. We decided on a field in Brooklyn that had good turf and was big enough to claim a corner for the shoot even while people were playing. Since the budget was midgety and since I’m still a bit confused about the (not so)new NYC permit process I decided to chance it and shoot permission free.
Since I was going to take action shots, flash sync speed became an issue. I normally shoot with a RZ67 with a 1/400 sync speed. I usually like to get a little blur, since I’m kind of bored with all the full freeze shots out there (if you can’t do something, it’s usually best to pretend that you wouldn’t want to do it anyway), but at that speed (1/400th that is) it’s sometimes hard to get just the right amount of movement. My pal and fellow photographer Juergen Frank was nice enough to loan me his Phase One 645 body and I rented a new Schneider lens with a sync speed of 1/1600. Beside the lens I rented a Profoto 7b with 2 heads (in addition to the 2 packs and 4 heads that I have), and a ton of sandbags. The rentals this time came from Nucleus in Red Hook.
The right amount of blur.
I worked with Chris as my one and only assistant and we set up a grey muslin backdrop that I had stuck in the dryer twice and ironed (!) the night before just to decide that we didn’t really like the grey for this set-up. Emotionally it was hard for me to let go, since I really don’t like ironing, but eventually I agreed with Chris and we put up a black cloth.
The next problem was surprisingly sync speed. Even though the lens can handle 1/1600, we could only get it to work properly at 1/800th. I’m still not sure why. One theory is that the radio slaves wouldn’t work that fast, but if anybody can think of another explanation, let me know. Luckily 1/800th gave me just the bit of blur I was looking for, so whew.
Bad backdrop, bad sync, good assistant.
Between these two issues we were still in a bit of a scramble by the time the first player showed up. Fortunately nothing else went wrong and we could start to concentrate on taking pictures. I set up 2 cameras, the 645 with the 110 mm and a Phase One P45+ at a distance for the action shots and full portraits and the RZ with a 90mm and my own P25 for close-ups. The RZ is a beautiful camera for tight portrait work and it cut down on time for lens changes.
Shooting action with an unfamiliar camera proved also to be not so easy. The shutter release point was way further back than in the RZ and the ball was often already in the fence when I took the shot. There was definitely a larger than usual blooper reel:
For lighting we set up 2 7B packs with 4 heads with regular reflectors from the front and the sides. We had another 7B with 2 heads coming from behind the models from each side and there was also a bit of sunshine from high and right.
The postproduction was minimal except for darkening the backdrop, and dealing with a bit of glare we sometimes got from the backlights, because the players didn’t always end up in the same place, and removing the shadow of a light or two on the floor, and cropping, and sexyfying the color, contrast and saturation a bit.
a la vogue
If you’re thinking about joining a league in New York and playing against some of these handsome devils here, you might want to check out Groupstage.
If you want to read a roaming, eclectic, soccer-inspired blog, with league news thrown in for good measure, check out the Groupstage Blog.
If you want to read ( and I mean read) a roaming, eclectic, mildly melancholic, soccer-inspired blog, without league news but in German ( I know you Germans are out there), check out Freitagsspiel.
If you want to see the entire Chinatown Ballers series, click here.
Hope you all have a high scoring 2012.
Read Full Post »