Everyone likes to get positive feedback on what they do, but does that really help? Maybe.. But it is way more helpful to get honest feedback, that is, a critique that helps you see where your work needs work. One place that you can get that kind of feedback, or a blind critique, is on the monthly “Blind Critique” episodes of The Grid. In case you don’t know about The Grid, it is the weekly internet show put on by Kelby Media with Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski and many times a special guest or two. This time around they had Dave Black as a guest and I submitted 4 images in the hope they would be critiqued. Now, I don’t shoot sports for a living but I shoot them often enough that I really want to get better. The four images I submitted ranged from football to MMA to basketball and gymnastics. They were four of what I thought were my strongest sports images. I was really happy when I captured them. Each of these shots gave me that “YEAH  –  NAILED IT” feeling.

Let me tell you… when my first image came up on the screen during the Grid show today, my stomach did a flip-flop…. This was Dave Black, the guy who shot so many olympic games they should name an event after him and Scott Kelby who spends the Football season roaming the sidelines with a 400mm f/2.8 just waiting to get run over by wide receivers. No offense Matt, but I would feel the same way if my images were family shots, or landscapes where it seems you see stuff I just don’t. Anyway, here are the 4 images and some fo the background info on why they were shot the way they were. You can see the Grid replay at http://kelbytv.com/thegrid/ when it gets posted. It will be episode 89.


This photo was taken at the Poinsettia Bowl in 2011. It was the first time I ever shot on the sidelines of a football game and it was the first time I used the Nikon 400mm f/2.8 in a real action setting. What both Dave and Scott said about this photo was that they wished it was taken earlier with the ball just about to be caught. I went back and looked at the image right before this one. Had I managed to get one right before the catch? No. I remember this play well. I was completely out of position and the action was at the other end of the field, suddenly I see the ball flying thought he air as the team went for a long bomb down the field. I managed to get the lens and camera focused on the receiver as he ran down the field and got the catch and run in for the touchdown. This was the shot that made me the happiest but had I been faster and better prepared, I should have been able to get the ball in the air before it was grabbed. All in all, it was a fantastic experience and I’m happy with the shot. Will try to shoot from a longer angle if I ever get back out on the sidelines.


This might be my favorite sports photo I have ever taken. This was taken during the StrikeForce MMA fights that I was shooting for the Valley View Casino Center. Yes, I was working for the venue, which is why I didn’t crop the name out of the shot. I was shooting through a heavy chain link cage while on my knees jammed in between 4 other shooters. Technically some of the most difficult shooting I have done. The light is pretty much straight down and I did desaturate the shot a bit. I loved the action of the gloves in the air and on his neck. You can see the photos on the Valley View Casino Center site HERE

Showing Dave Black a gymnastic shot… what the hell was I thinking….



Ok, so I got pretty lucky with the timing. Actually, I took Dave’s class at Photoshop World and paid attention. Even though he was doing the shoot with strobes and smoke and everything was set up, it gave me a chance to see how fast things really moved. Helped a great deal. The real issue with this shoot were the large number of things out of my control. We were only allowed to shoot from the Loge level seats, even though I was there shooting for the venue. We were also only allowed to shoot the first 15 minutes or so. So I had very little opportunity to really put into practice what I learned watching Dave. But other than that little light in the bottom corner, this shot is pretty good. And for the guy who didn’t like the wrinkles by her knee, that’s a bandage or brace, not her skin.

The last shot was of a preseason Lakers game. Again, shooting for the venue, I was court side on the floor in a static shooting position and seemed to always have the wrong lens / camera combination for the action.


Yes, I cut off their toes… yes, it pisses me off… but the wrong lens on the camera and trying to keep the basket in the frame as he went for the rebound…. Excuses.. I know… next time…

So what did I get out of the critique? I’m on the right track, need to watch the action closer and watch my composition. And stop cutting off toes…

There are a lot of things that you can’t control when shooting some sports, shooting position, time to shoot, no do-overs…  Hey, it’s a lot like concert photography and my ability to shoot in low light really came into play here. I wasn’t once worried about the exposure or adjusting anything while shooting in Manual mode.

One final plug. If you are going to Photoshop World, sign up for a free portfolio review. It will help to take your photos to the next level. Just go here http://photoshopworld.com/special-events/ and sign up.