Duncan Grove ARPS lives and works in Wimbledon, SW London and is a
passionate photographer who has kindly agreed to share his experience in sport photography with our readers. Duncan is an associate of The Royal Photographic Society and his images have been extensively exhibited and published. He has twice been accepted for the prestigious Royal Photographic Society International Print Exhibition, and another twice for the Society’s equally prestigious International Projected Image Exhibition. Amongst his published images, Duncan is especially proud of his monochrome shot of Cap Estel. This graces the front cover and wrap of a stunning coffee table book about the fascinating history of this exclusive Cotes d’Azure hotel.
The photographic route to The Wimbledon Tennis Championships (with a few detours and workflow discussions on the way!)
Landscape or sports photography – the dilemma
Landscape I thought – that will be my photographic genre! A pleasant trip to the countryside, stay in a luxury hotel (tax deductable!), full English breakfast, then off to take some photographs. A relaxing drive, shoot a few lakes from mountainside lay-bys, lunch in a country pub and then a few more shots on the way back to the hotel in time for dinner.
Sadly, the images rarely sold. I then read in a book that landscape shots require you to sleep in a tent, get up at 3 am and then hike across a couple of mountains in order to get into position for sunrise. You then find the light to be not quite right so have to repeat the process for the next few days before finally making your image. Respect man, but this is not for me!
Tennis photography seemed an option. The Wimbledon Championships, just ten minutes from my home, are really rather pleasant. Play starts at the gratifyingly civilised hour of 1 pm; a host of the most photogenic examples of the human form prance around in front of you, producing amazing poses without the need for guidance. Slip-away for strawberries and champagne and upon your return, there they are still prancing about - wonderful!
Unfortunately, others share my view and Wimbledon accreditations are many-times over-subscribed. I persevered for several years as a non-accredited photographer, winning many awards but never licensing my images, since this would have broken the rules. Finally my time has come and in 2010 I shall be shooting as an accredited photographer on behalf of the UK’s highest circulation tennis magazine – International Tennis Magazine! I am grateful to them and the AELTC for their support of my work.
Toys for Wimbledon
Others are also kindly supporting me. Photo Pro, the UK’s biggest magazine for professional photographers, has commissioned me to write a series of articles on the theme of “the best that Nikon has to offer a sports pro”. I have a lot of Nikon gear but you can never have enough (!), so Nikon UK is kindly providing review equipment to supplement my own. Throughout the fortnight I shall be shooting using D3X, D3S, f/2.8 zooms 14mm thru to 200mm, 2.0 T/C, 300mm and 400mm primes, 200mm f/2.0, 200-400mm, 500mm, 600mm and a batch of PC lenses. I plan to exploit the fact that players tend to serve from the same positions and will take comparative shots to ascertain the differences in IQ from all these lenses.
As a contrast, I will also be shooting with a Hasselblad H4D-40, with 300mm, 200mm, 35mm, 28mm & HTS lenses, kindly loaned for the fortnight by Hasselblad. Not perhaps the typical sports shooters’ gear but I suspect that MF has its place at an event such as Wimbledon and I am looking forward to seeing what I can achieve with it.
Manfrotto Distribution are also kindly supplementing my own collection of Gitzo supports and I am particularly looking forward to trying the Manfrotto 393 gimbal heads. (They are also providing one of their Kata Insert Trolleys, which given the extent of all my kit and the embarrassingly large number of camera bags I own (I have a fetish!), is probably going to prove to be the singular most essential piece of kit of the lot!).
I feel really privileged to have the opportunity to supplement my own already extensive Nikon kit with such a myriad of exotic gear throughout a two-week period shooting from reserved positions at one of the world’s greatest sporting spectaculars. If the shots are no good I shall have to blame poor light!! I am keen to share my findings via Photo Pro with anyone who has similar interests. Please mail me at email@example.com if you have any particular comparisons that you would like me to make.
Whilst it is nice to have toys to play with, I do need to license my images and Zenfolio is central to my sales strategy. It would be over-egging it to say that my life changed on 7 Jan 2010, but with Zenfolio’s major upgrade my on-line life certainly did! Finally, I had a site that was as easy-to-manage as one of those ubiquitous template sites but could be extensively individualised without the need for code.
It is critical that my web site fits with my workflow. You can see my own personal flow from CF card to e-commerce site in the three articles that have come out in Photo Pro over May, June and the one to be published in July. It may not be for everyone but it works great for me!
My workflow for Wimbledon though represents a whole new challenge. I shall be shooting thousands of high-res RAW images per day and matches can go on until 10:00 pm. I need to download, select, edit and upload from site in order to post the images in a timely manner. I also need to sleep! I describe below the specific challenges and how am utilizing Zenfolio to meet them. If anyone has better suggestions I would love to hear them!!
- International Tennis Magazine: My main client and so my absolute priority. No urgent deadlines but I need to show them daily what I am achieving and take guidance if they require anything different.
- My main image agency: They want images before I have even taken them so as to meet newspaper deadlines.
- A specialist tennis web site – they want images from each match FTP’d to them immediately but at only 640 pxls wide.
- Potential client list:- This is my big challenge – my name is not Getty or Corbis!
- Daily Newspapers - UK: The major UK ones all have up to three staff photographers at Wimbledon – perhaps I can shoot a match they are not covering? Some have said they are not interested, some have said I should send them links to my site. Others have provided ftp details so I can send them images directly.
- Daily Newspapers – International: These are less likely to have their own photographers at Wimbledon and will be relying on the major agencies. I would love to give them alternative images but do not have a database to mail to. If you have one I would be pleased to hear from you!
- Specialist sports/tennis magazines – I have compiled a database of the e-mail addresses of every magazine in the world that I can find using Google – if you know any please forward them to me!
This is my plan:
- Fit a Nikon WT-4 wireless transmitter to my D3S so as to send images directly to my laptop whilst I am shooting. Images shot on the D3X will be saved to CF card.
- Use Lightroom’s “auto import from watched folder” facility so that the transmitted images are imported and previews rendered by the time I get back to my laptop.
- I can then work on these whilst downloading other images from the D3X’s CF cards.
- My mantra is to make Lightroom the hub of my workflow and ideally to have just one master version of each image with sometimes an edited .psd version as well.
- Consequently, I plan to use PresetHeavens’s FTP upload plug-in to export RAW files as jpgs directly to my various clients who require images via FTP. I can use pre-sets to ensure the files sizes are as required.
- This method avoids the need to save an extra rendered jpg copy of each image to my local drive. However, it may well prove to slow since RAW images will have to be rendered as jpgs for each upload and the plug-in does not have a scripting facility to start multiple uploads with one click. I shall have to wait until each upload completes before starting the next. If this proves a problem I shall have to render one set of jpgs and use Smart FTP Pro to upload, since this application has the facility to automatically send to multiple servers.
- I shall only be uploading a relatively small number of images via FTP. A far greater number will be uploaded to my Zenfolio site and I shall definitely use Jeffrey Friedl’s truly excellent Lightroom plug-in for this task, running it overnight.
- With advice from the excellent Zenfolio support team I have already set-up a special Wimbledon 2010 section within my site, which you can see here. This page is a Zenfolio “Group”, with its own cover image and link from the site’s main menu. Within it are two “collections” – one showing “best action shots of The Championship to date” and the other showing “best iconic shots to date”. There are also 14 links to a “Group” page for each day of The Championships. Each of these Daily Groups has a collection showing “best images of the day” plus galleries of each individual match I shot that day.
- I have set the pricing so that smaller publications with whom I have no relationship can download the original image with a license, paying by credit card.
- My main client can do the same but since I have pre-agreed terms, I have issued them with a 100% off coupon code. I have done the same for some newspapers since I know that having to purchase by credit card would put them off. I can still monitor who has downloaded what since Zenfolio automatically issues a sales report.
I think this system should work fine but only if people know about it! I have a database of over 200 potential buyers. Zenfolio has a cool feature that allows you to mail people when you upload a new gallery and I have considered this.
The mechanics of this function are a little basic for my needs but I would not expect more from an imaging web site – the great thing about Zenfolio is that you can tweak it, specifically to reflect the style and colours of my web site. Consequently, I sent a dummy mail to myself. I then pasted it into Word, retaining all the Zenfolio-generated formatting and turned it into an e-mail merge template. I inserted a whole pile of nested “if” functions, which display different paragraphs depending on the database classification. I then added logos dated for every day of The Championships and saved each Word e-mail template by planned transmission date. Once I have uploaded images from that day to Zenfolio, I can then mail-merge one pre-prepared document with varying, relevant, text to all of my potential clients.
I do hope some Zenfolio members will check out my site www.duncangrove.com during The Championships to see if my plan works and to comment on the images. I hope even more that some publications view and then decide to license them! License fees seem to be dropping all the time, so I shall need to sell hundreds in order to pay for another stay at Cap Estel. I want to take more images of what is my personal “paradise on earth” in preparation for the next edition of their book. I wonder if Nikon and Hasselbald will let me keep their review kit until then........? Who knows, another book cover and I may even revert to landscape photography!