My Photo Mechanic Workflow

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 10.10.06 PMOver the past three blog posts, I shared why I use Photo Mechanic. So I thought it might be helpful to share how I actually use Photo Mechanic in my workflow.

First, I take the time well before each shoot to do some prep work. I create the rosters for each team in TextEdit. Any text editor will work. The creation of this roster file is easy. I give it a header say: //Pleasant Valley Football Roster 2013  Then I create the shortcuts starting with the team name. The format is the shortcut first, a tab, and then the full name. So it looks like this:
pv     Pleasant Valley
p1     Player Name1
p2     Player Name2 …etc.

I save this text file, open Photo Mechanic, go to the menu and select: Edit, Settings, and Set Code Replacements. This brings up a dialog box and all I have to to do is add the new shortcut file I made in TextEdit. I do this for both teams and have my shortcuts ready to go!

The second prep item is to setup the ingest and IPTC information including folder name and filename. I actually use a short folder and filename such as FB131115, which stands for Football and the date of the game with the year, month, and day. Then I add a custom suffix that includes the time each photo was captured. It looks like this: {iptchour24}-{iptcminute}-{iptcsecond} The reason I do this is because I use two cameras during a game. One is on a monopod attached to my 200-400mm lens and the other is over my shoulder with an R-Strap attached to my 70-200mm lens. When I ingest the photos into Photo Mechanic, they are sorted by filename and placed in the exact order I captured them according to the timestamp.

After the shoot, I place my two flash cards in card readers and have Photo Mechanic ingest them simultaneously. This is another nice feature of Photo Mechanic! Even as the photos are ingesting, I can start looking through the photos to find the best ones to send to my editor. To do this, I use the color coding feature. Unfortunately, Adobe Lightroom does not recognize the selected checkmarks from Photo Mechanic, but it does recognize the color codes! You can choose any colors you want. I use Green for my selects, Blue for photos to send to the editor, and purple for photos that will be sent for a photo gallery. I first go through all the photos in the preview mode and press 3 for the select photos, marking them green. I have the preferences set up so that when I do press 3, the preview mode automatically advances to the next photo. Otherwise, I just press the right arrow. I advance through the entire shoot in this way.

Then, I select only the selects by pressing Option(Alt) and clicking on the green color tab in the lower right corner of the screen of the Contact Sheet in Photo Mechanic. This displays only the photos I marked with the green label. Now, I go through them again, pressing 4 for the very best ones I want to send to my editor for possible publication. This marks them with a blue color. Then I go through each one of these to create captions for each one. This is where Photo Mechanic really shines!

Writing the caption is easy. I first click on the Info button in the Contact Sheet to bring up the photo’s IPTC info dialog box. Then, in the caption box, I start writing my caption. Let’s say that Pleasant Valley’s running back, #28, whose name I may not even know, is the main subject of a photo running into daylight through a hole made by the offensive line. I simply press \p28\ and his name appears in the caption box! Voila! Isn’t that awesome! This is really handy and a time-saving process for me. There are times when I can’t quite see the player’s full number, so I may have to go back through the series of photos captured at this time to make sure I have the correct number. But this one feature makes Photo Mechanic my goto software for what I do on every sports shoot!

Once all the captions are written, I need to submit them to my editor either via DropBox or FTP. I select the photos to send and then right click and choose Save Selected Photos As. This allows me to save the photos in the size and resolution of my preference. Once they are saved, I send them to my editor and I am almost done.

I then go back to the select (green) photos and select the ones I want to submit for an online gallery at the newspaper by pressing 5 and marking them as purple. I give them a more general caption such as, Pocono Mountain West v. Pleasant Valley November 15, 2013. Then I save them and send them to my editor.

When I get home, I import all the photos into Lightroom. The color codes are maintained, so I flag all these photos and then create Collections for the selects and the photo gallery. I also create a Collection for any photos that were published.

This is my current workflow with Photo Mechanic and Lightroom. It works really well for me. It is fast and efficient, and allows me to quickly sift through all my photos and send the best ones to my editor for publication. Pretty sweet!

 

Lenses for Wildlife

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Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience #7 was a pure blast! We saw elk all over the place and bulls were everywhere! I cannot remember a year where we saw so many different bulls and most of them were in camera range. Many of us are spoiled, owning 200mm, 300mm, and even 400mm lenses. The big boy wildlife photographers even haul a 600mm lens out on the mountain!

I confess that lens envy is rampant in my photo circles. We always want more reach. Bigger lenses allow us to stay at a safe distance from the animals and still fill the frame with the subject we are photographing. The other related problem is lack of light in many lenses. Take, for example, the typical 70-300mm zoom lens that is often the second lens purchased by many photographers, it has reach but at 300mm the f-stop is a whopping f/5.6. That is simply not usable at dawn and dusk when animals are most visible and active. An f-stop of 2.8 is ideal, but many settle for f/4, which is a decent comprise to get the reach but also keep the lens affordable. The Nikon 400mm f/2.8 is $9,000!

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My favorite lens for wildlife and sports photography is the 200-400mm f/4. I really like the zoom capability of this lens, especially for sports and wildlife. It allows me to zoom in and out from my position on the sidelines or on the mountain with the twist of the wrist. Typically I rest my left hand on top of the lens to be able to rotate the zoom mechanism when needed. Just remember, righty tighty, which zooms in closer, at least for the Nikon shooters.

I purchased the book, “How to Photograph Animals in the Wild,” by Lennie Rue III, and Len Rue, Jr. about 11 years ago. I got to meet them both twice–once at my favorite spot on the elk range behind my camp and once in a workshop they co-led here in the Poconos. Anyway, this book contains some of their incredible photographs. As I read the book and studied the photos, I saw a repeating trend: most of the photos were captured with a 200-400mm lens. Well, it then instantly became my dream lens. I saved for 3 1/2 years to purchase the lens and I use it every week. It really is a great lens for sports and wildlife photography, and it has quickly become my go-to lens!

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Each of these photographs in today’s blog entry were captured with my 200-400mm f/4 lens. The lens is sharp and clear and it can be coupled with a teleconverter to provide even more reach if there is enough light. I also am now in the habit of carrying a second camera body around my body. This is necessary when photographing football games, so it comes quite naturally to me now. This week I carried the D300 with the 200-400mm f/4 on my tripod and another D300 with the 24-70mm f/2.8 around my body on an R-Strap. I also toted the Think Tank Belt System to carry my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, my 50mm f/1.4 lens, my 1.4x teleconverter, and other accessories. It is all easy to carry and I am covered from 24mm all the way through 560mm. That’s pretty sweet for wildlife photography!

When we teach our photo classes for the Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience, we recommend at least 200mm with a teleconverter. This covers out to 280mm and provides good minimal coverage for the large elk. For most other mammals, which are smaller, we recommend 300mm or more. A wildlife photographer can never seem to have enough lens reach!

Another helpful tip is getting close to the wildlife, or preferably, letting the wildlife get close to you. More on this topic next week. For now, just remember that lenses for wildlife might be expensive, but they sure produce consistently clear results. I really, really like my 200-400mm f/4 lens!

Now my next dream lens is the 400mm f/2.8 for football, and the 600mm f/4 for bird photography. It just never ends…

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“R” is for R-Strap

Do you ever carry two cameras on a shoot? If you do then you know the trouble that comes with this territory. Two cameras on their original camera straps are prone to clank into each other and weigh your neck down. It is uncomfortable to say the least, is not good for your camera bodies or lenses, and just is not an efficient way to work.

I shoot a lot of baseball games and like to have two camera bodies on me. My main camera, the Nikon D300, sports the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and is mounted on a monopod. The second camera is my older Nikon D-70 with the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. I really like this combination but carrying the second camera on its regular strap was becoming nothing short of a pain in the neck!

I heard about the R-Strap and decided to give it a try since I also had a wedding coming up. I tried it and I love it!

You can read my review of the R-Strap that I posted on my website. If  you ever carry two camera bodies you really should consider using the R-Strap.