Sunday, December 31, 2006

UFC 66

Las Vegas- Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz part 2.

Lunch pail Chuck did his job on pretty boy Tito Ortiz. Ortiz, the Huntington Beach, CA fighter with a porn star girlfriend, didn't have any answers to the onslaught of punches by Liddell. Ortiz took quite a beating before the bout was stopped in the third round.

Ortiz was a little upset in the post-fight press conference that the referee stopped the fight. But he did acknowledge that he was beat.

The matches before Liddell/Ortiz was like watching the warm-up bands play before the headliner. The crowd itself included some headliners like Leonardo DiCaprio, Wayne Newton, Mario Lopez, Kid Rock, Andre Agassi and his wife, Steffi Graff.

Taking photos of the match can be difficult because of the cage in front of you. Most of the time you have to manually focus. This time I experimented with using a switch on my Canon 70-200mm lens that allows me only to focus at subjects greater than 3 meters or greater. I figured that would stop my lens from focusing on the fence in front of me. For any photos closer than 3 meters I would use my second camera body with a wide-angle lens. It worked out great as I was able to use my auto-focus when Liddell won the match and started celebrating.

You can see more photos on my page

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Awards Season

Beverly Hills - On December 14th, the Awards Season officially began at 5:15 a.m. That was when the Golden Globe nominations were announced at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The Awards Season extends the Holiday Season a couple of extra months for those in Hollywood. Its the time of gift bags, lavish parties and acknowledgements for the nominees. Nominations by themselves are victories. A recent ad on television for "DreamGirls" stated that it had "won" five Golden Globe nominations. Coming in second, third, fourth or fifth, is still a win.

Covering a nominations ceremony require either pulling an all-nighter or going to bed at 6 p.m. I've done both, neither is good. The reason for the early start is that fact that they announce them on the West Coast, which is three hours earlier than the East Coast, and they want the publicity of a live broadcast on the morning TV shows and the whole day's news cycle. Maximum coverage.

The Grammy's, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, and the Academy Awards all have the early start time. They also bring in some talent to announce the awards and do a round of press interviews afterwards. The Globes brought in a trio of actors, Matthew Perry, Jessica Biel, and Rosario Dawson. It's over and done with pretty quickly and then there is a mad flurry of activity afterwards as reporters pound out their stories, TV does their live shots and publicists call their clients to tell the good or bad news.

A nomination can make someone's career. Hilary Swank started her Oscar run with a surprising Golden Globe nomination and win for "Boy's Don't Cry". The nominations that stirred the pot this year were Sasha Baron Cohen for "Borat" and Mel Gibson for "Apocalypto", which he directed, written and produced. The media loves a good storyline and with those two along with some high profile stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Beyonce Knowles, Johnny Depp, and Brad Pitt, this should be a decent Awards Season.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A tale of two events

Los Angeles - All things Tinseltown have a veneer of fake. Premieres and award shows are on the top rung of fakery.

Friday, I went to Spike TV's annual Video Game Awards. Anyone can create an award show with the right mix of stars and sponsors. As the video game industry as grown to the size of the movie industry in dollars and cents, they too have to have an award show.

Gaming is not as mature as the movie industry, so the award show is a little on the early adopter cycle of viewership. They wrangled a few stars, Samuel L. Jackson was the host, and the f-bombs were flying all over the show, which of course will be bleeped out when aired.

Spike TV thought the mix of tough guys like Sam Jackson and 50 cent. With a sprinkling of eye candy of Eva Mendes and Tila Tequila, whose claim to fame is she has 1.4 million friends on her MySpace page, ( would be the right mix for those fanboys of video games. They kinda missed the mark with comic Sarah Silverman who basically ended the show making fun of the target audience with jokes about how video games have lowered the STD count in America. She was funny but only in the press room, not in the Galen Center, where they held the event.

For a different take on Spike TV's VGA, click here.

Contrast that with the premiere of "Charlotte's Web" on Sunday morning at the Arclight Theatre on Sunset. Their were A-list stars like Julia Roberts, Dakota Fanning, Kathy Bates, Reba McEntire, Lauren Holly and Bridget Fonda.

The weekend premieres in Hollywood are for children's movies, the stars walk the red carpet with kids in tow. Christine Taylor, actor and wife of Ben Stiller brought her daughter along and stopped for a few photos until the little one had enough of the flashes and started to cry. She quickly scooped her up and ran to the theater, effectively ending the photo session at that point.

The snappers who awoke early to get to this premiere to make a few photos of Julia Roberts were disappointed. She committed the three cardinal sins to photographers. One, she wore black. Two, she had sunglasses on. Three, she had her hair up. The only thing worse is if she didn't show up at all.

The reason why photographers don't want a big star wearing black, is that the magazines don't want to have pages with celebs in black, especially if they are wearing a black coat, which Julia was. Black is boring. A coat that covers everything up is boring. Pants are boring.

The second is sunglasses. Okay, if your Stevie Wonder. But people want to know what stars look like. A shot of a celeb without sunglasses will make the magazines many more times than with.

The third is hair up. Hair up is when you go do errands. Not a premiere. We are not talking about hair up that took hours to do here, we are talking hair-up that took two seconds before she went out the door. Readers want glamour.

I know, its Julia Roberts, so its not like all the world isn't going to use the photos this week, its next week, or next month, those photos will be worthless.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Mr. Smith Goes to a Hollywood Premiere

Los Angeles- Westwood in Los Angeles is generally known for UCLA, but in the movie biz, its where premieres happen.

The Will Smith project, "The Pursuit of Happyness", rolled out its red carpet last night with some heavy hitters in the industry. Mr. Smith had a few friends drop by, Tom and his new wife, Katie, Jennifer and her husband, Marc. That would be TomKat to the tabs and Jenny from the Bronx a.k.a. Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony.

The unusual foursome didn't do TV so only photographers stationed at the entrance to Mann Village Theater on Broxton Ave. got some snaps. Anything can happen at a Hollywood premiere, and it usually does. A couple years back at the same theater and at the same spot, I photographed Halle Berry getting Punk'd by Ashton Kutcher.

Some photographers must had the heads-up on the TomKat/Lopez-Anthony arrival as they staked out spots usually considered inferior to the one's further up the carpet. Photographers in general want to take photographs of the stars before they do video for ET/Access Hollywood. If you have to wait until after the interviews from TV, then you risk having the talent rush into the theater for the screening leaving little time for another round of pictures.

You win some, you lose some. Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug stuck on the windshield.

Will brought his whole family with him. And from the looks of it, he wants to keep the biz in the family. His son, Jaden, is in the film and on the poster. His other son, Trey, was in front of the camera interviewing talent for Access Hollywood. Will's wife, Jada Pinkett, has a pretty good career herself and time will tell if their daughter, Willow, will enter the biz.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006


La Quinta, CA- This past week I covered three days of a total of six rounds of PGA's final qualifying tournament. Q-School is golf's test for those who want to play on the PGA Tour. Its three tournaments with the final tournament a six round event played on two courses. The top 30 get their PGA Tour card.

Even if you have a PGA Tour card, it doesn't mean you can play on the Tour the following season. Players look for exemptions. Like winning a major tournament, making the top 150 on the season's money list or even the top 50 career money list. The better you play, the more likely you can win exemptions for next year or the next five years. A few have lifetime exemptions.

Obtaining a Tour card gives you access to the richest prize pools in golf. The money is much less on the Nationwide Tour or the Hooter's Tour. Even if you obtain a PGA Tour card through Q-School, it doesn't mean you can play any tournament on the PGA Tour. There is a pecking order. And a rookie that just finished 30th at Q-school might not play in many after each tournament fills up with top PGA Tour pros.

Shooting Q-School is different that other golf tournaments. First there are no huge galleries following the players or live leaderboards to follow the action on the course. So a photographer taking photos doesn't quite get lost in the shuffle by players and caddies. That means you have to be very discrete in taking photos. Every little sound can be heard.

Every night before the round, a pairing sheet is made up and posted on the internet. That's where you get the player's tee times and where they will be playing and with what group. It is not easy covering the tournament as its played on two separate courses and players start on two different holes, the first tee and the tenth tee. If you have to make photos of a bunch of players, careful planning the night before is required. Be prepared to walk a lot of miles on the course.

Players don't wear numbers like in other sports, so identification becomes a little trickier. Usually the players names are on their golf bags, but some of the newer pros don't have all the sponsors with their fancy golf bags with the player's name on them. The PGA Tour helped out with identification of golfers by giving three different bib colors to the caddies. Red, white and blue. The first golfer's caddy teeing off in the three person group wore a red bib, second white and third blue. That only applies to the first hole as golfer's tee off on subsequent holes tee off in order of what they did in the previous hole. But at least you could look at the pairing sheet and know what color bib the golfer's caddy was wearing.

What make a good golf shot? Most golf photos have certain traits. First is the tee shot, a tight photo of the golfer swinging, cropped tight so you can see the golfer's face. The second type is the good action shot of a golfer hitting from some kind of hazard, sand, rough. The third kind is the scenic shot showing the golfer in a picturesque setting of the course maybe with huge gallery at a major tournament. And the last kind is the reaction shot of a missed or made shot. Think Tiger Woods with his fist pumped or Phil Mickelson bent over after missing a putt to win a championship. I know it is simplistic to categorize golf photography into four groups, but that's what I usually see in the magazines and newspapers. If you make all four kinds of photos, you are doing good that day.

Shooting a golf tournament involves doing your homework the night before, checking pairing sheets and stories on the net to get a sense of story line of what players to cover. Getting to the course early just because golf starts early. Hopefully you'll know the course a little and know what holes are photogenic and which tees give you clean backgrounds and good light. Packing light so you can race ahead of golfers so you can set-up a great angle when they hit the ball in the sand trap or behind a tree.

As your shooting you have to take notes on what hole you are on and what golfer you are shooting. Some photographers use paper and pen, others make voice recordings on their camera. You can use your camera to take photos of tee markers and players' bags.

Then a quick lunch at the media center, they give accredited media free food at the PGA Tour, something they don't do at other sports. Maybe a edit and send a few photos if you are working for a wire service with deadlines every minute somewhere in the world.

Check the leaderboard to see if some golfer hasn't made some miracle charge out of nowhere, and then if he has, track him down before he finishes his round and get some decent photos. Then back out for some more photos, edit, caption and send again. Its a long day.

A few musts: put you cell phone of vibrate, don't ever shoot on a back-swing of a golfer, don't shoot in the golfer's line of sight, stop moving when a player is over his ball ready to swing. Break any one of those rules and you will hear from someone.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Party Time in Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills - So what is a celebrity studded party in Beverly Hills like? You seen the photos in the magazines, the rich and famous co-mingling at a glamourous setting. But things are a little more complicated than that.

I covered the Vh-1's Big Night for a Big Cause: A benefit for the VH-1 Save the Music Foundation. That's what the press release called it. What does all that mean? I really don't know. I do know that a bunch of big corporations get together along with powerhouse public relations groups and publicists and a foundation to organize an event that hopefully benefit everyone involved. "Benefit" being the key word.

These events are very complicated. Esquire Magazine built this massive 17,000 sq. ft. Italian Villa in Beverly Hills at 11 Beverly Ridge Terrace that they call the "ultimate bachelor pad". They hosted the event at the villa and its on top of a hill on a private street with a guard house on Coldwater Canyon. All the houses on the block are way above $10 million. It's Esquire Magazine's Playboy Mansion. I'm sure the magazine is getting some kind of tax write-off.

I'm also sure the neighbors are not too happy about having hundreds of people invading their area to go to some party. The parking for the event is a disaster. They have valet service, but only for so many cars. After that fills up, there are remote parking lots on dirt construction sites that you can take a mini-van shuttle to the mansion. But if you are big celebrity arriving late, I don't think you are going to take the shuttle. The other problem that the cul-du-sac the property is on doesn't have enough room to turn-around in. So that means you have to make a broken u-turn to go down the narrow street, which is not a problem in the intially, but becomes one after they start turning away cars when the valet lot is filled. Now you have a grid-lock of expensive cars on the street having to make a u-turn. I saw one celeb get fed up and park his Land Rover on the street in front of someone's home and then walk up to the event. Its a long walk, the driveway for the villa is like 100 yards long alone.

Events like this one have a formula. Take a good cause, Save the Music Foundation that is supplying millions of dollars for musical instruments for public schools, a few sponsors, Moet Champagne, Intel, Cadilllac, Esquire Magazine, add a few celebrities, some famous like Kiefer Sutherland, and some like Fabrice Morvan of Milli Vanilli, add your entertainment media, like ET, Access Hollywood, and a group of celebrity photographers that sell pictures to the tabloids and magazines, and you have an event. Well they had some up and coming bands play and they served drinks too.

For most people these parties are work. Its part of the Hollywood machine that employs a lot of people. From the valet guys parking cars, the caterers, the people putting up lights and backdrops with corporate logos and rolling out a red carpet to stage a place where celebs can be photographed and interviewed, the reporters and photographers, the publicists and even for the celebs themselves, its work. Everybody is promoting something, whether its a movie or TV project, or a bottle of beer. (St. Paulie Girl was a sponsor.)

And these parties/events are on every night of the year in LA. That's a lot of work.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

UFC 65

Sacramento, CA - Taking a road trip to the pleasant city of Sacramento. The airport, the Arco Arena, the hotel are all within a ten mile radius. Last night was UFC 65. Ultimate Fighting Championship. Mixed martial arts (MMA). Some people call it cage fighting. It is held in an octagonal ring with a wire mesh cage surrounding it. To some outsiders it may appear to a barbaric, no rules, two men enter, one man leaves, blood sport. But its just really like boxing, judo, wrestling with similar rules. Some matches can be bloody, and you can win by choking your opponent.

Taking photos can be a challenge. The lighting is not really bright, ISO 1000 at 1/400th sec and f2.8. There is a cage you have to shoot through, more like a black coated vinyl fence. So that means no autofocus. The usual venue for UFC events is Las Vegas. Sacramento doesn't have the Vegas vibe and the celebs octagon-side. (The press credential will say octagonside...not ringside, I think UFC has some kind of trademark on Octagonside.) The action is the same, the fans just as rabid. Actually Arco Arena can get quite loud. The arena feels kinda of small, maybe because they don't have all the suites that more modern arenas have.

This is my second time shooting a UFC event. So I had a good idea of the routine. They provide WiFi, and are pretty good with photographers except for the fact they want you to be escorted at all times.

The UFC has a lot going for it, more action than boxing, and not the clownish, fake fighting of Pro wrestling. The fans are pretty die-hard. You can spot the fans easily as I left the airport, most of them wore MMA related t-shirts or sweatshirts.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Another Photo Backstage

Backstage at Victoria's Secret Fashion Show

Yesterday I was allowed a few minutes backstage at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Not exactly what it sounds like. More like an early morning media event where television and print media were allowed to take some photos and interview models that later that night would be taped for a TV show to be aired December 5th. The venue was at a ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood, a hotel attached to the Kodak Theater, the same place where they hold the Academy Awards every year. They tried to replicate an Academy Awards type of red carpet too.