Using Remotes in Sports Photography – Part 3: a Discussion with Peter Read Miller

Using Remotes in Sports Photography – Part 3: a Discussion with Peter Read Miller


– Hey everybody, Peter Read Miller, On Sports Photography
by Peter Read Miller. I’m here today with
Jordan Naholowa’a Murph, a good friend of mine, an
excellent photographer, very successful photographer,
formerly at Digital Tech and assistant at Sports Illustrated. We’ve worked a lot of games together. Jordan’s worked with a lot
of other photographers. He’s put up a lot of cameras, he’s taken down a lot of cameras. So we’re gonna tell you
a little bit about some of the things we’ve done
and some of the things that are important in setting up remotes. We’ll be right back. (rousing techno music) So we’re gonna talk a
little bit about what’s important with remotes and
we’re gonna tell you some stories about what can
happen when remotes go wrong. Jordan, tell me a little story (growls). – When remotes go wrong,
with any remote camera safety is the utmost
priority because generally cameras are, remote
cameras are gonna be put in precarious places where you can’t physically be standing during an event. Behind the glass of a basketball game, overhead at a football or basketball game, you know, dangerous places. There has been some safety issues in the past with certain photographers. – We’re not naming names. – We’re not naming names, but – We’re not those kind of people. – Stuff goes wrong. You never want anything to go wrong. You never want anything to
go wrong to be because of you because then rules change
forever in a bad way. There’s been situations where
photographers, remote cameras, have fallen out of catwalks
on to field of play. – Yeah, or onto the ice at a hockey game. – Exactly, that’s happened before. You never wanna be that person. – No.
– Safety. – Yeah.
– Safety, safety, safety. That’s why we use steel safety cables. This thing could probably
hold up a thousand pounds, but you’re gonna put a
five pound camera on it to make sure it doesn’t
fall, it doesn’t slip. You never want that to happen. – [Peter] Right, right. – Safety cables and
safety, that safe mentality is the utmost priority
whenever you’re doin’ – Right.
– [Jordan] a remote camera. Have you had any horror
stories in the past? – (laughs) Well, usually, or almost always, when you’re putting up a remote the arena hopefully is empty or
certainly there’s no one on the court or field of play or wherever. Things have fallen,
but nobody’s been hurt. And I think that the
real key is that the day someone is injured by
a remote camera will be the last day that we, anybody, ever puts a remote camera
up above the crowd. I did in a arena just a
little south of Los Angeles, I need to describe this a little bit. The catwalks were two two by six boards hung from the ceiling with wires. Right beneath you was a false ceiling, so that gave you a
false sense of security. This was very early in
my career, I knocked a coil of wire off and it just went right through that false ceiling
and bam, right down. Did not hit the court, but it was a real, it was a gut clenching moment. I think you always just
have to be careful. Catwalks can be nice and solid and wide, like you could drive a car down it, there have been some that,
you know, they’re great. And others are like,
whoa, we’re really gonna, okay, we walk out to
here and then they say, but yeah, but up there is
where you really need to be. Beijing the catwalks were pretty shaky, but they did have, we
had safety harnesses. I once did a hockey game in Moscow, this was just after the
fall of the Soviet Union, and we went up in the catwalks and it was just crazy, wires everywhere,
and the building guy who took us up was clearly
slugging on his vodka, and it was just really scary. So you can have that, or you
can have something really nice. Going to different countries can lead to different experiences. What happened to you down in Rio, Jordan? – Rio was for the 2016 summer Olympics was definitely an experience. Safety was obviously a
very big, high priority. We actually had to wear
full rigging harnesses that roofers or construction
workers would use just to be able to step foot onto anything elevated or over a field of play, which in some cases
became more of a safety hindrance when you have 40 photographers wearing enormous harnesses
with cables attached to us, trying to move around a very confined space of a few square feet. To me it became more of a safety, I thought it was more of a safety problem. – [Peter] Hazard.
– Yeah, it was more of hazard than anything else. But that being said, Rio was definitely, had its moments, spooky times. There were some places
where the safety line for us to hook onto
literally just went off the catwalk and dropped
several hundred feet. If you hooked onto it and you trusted it, wouldn’t really keep you safe. – You were in trouble. – At Maracana, which is essentially the national football stadium in Brazil, where the opening and closing ceremonies took place in addition to football, we had to put cameras up
for opening ceremonies, I believe it was three
weeks ahead of time. Before opening ceremonies,
which that’s quite a ways out. – [Peter] Yeah. – Your batteries aren’t
gonna last for three weeks. – [Peter] No, no. – They’re not gonna stay
dry in the Brazil summertime it’s gonna rain, there’s
gonna be animals up there, there’s gonna be people up there, so there’s a lot of factors. In addition to that we had
to deal with fireworks. There was one of the
biggest fireworks displays on the planet
– [Peter] Ever. – in 40 years if not ever was
for the opening ceremonies. We were up on this roof of this building weeks ahead of time, working
with pyrotechnicians. They have live fireworks
literally inches from our cameras, we had to put heat
shields around our cameras, we had to have power run to the cameras. We had to put everything
in weather sealed boxes. It wasn’t just walkin’ up
to put a floor camera up. It was, in reality, years
of logistical planning that our director of photography Eric Rasco took care of with the IOC. It still took hours and days over several days to get the camera up. In the end, it was stolen. After all those safety
precautions and locking it down, someone stole it the night
after opening ceremonies. Thankfully, since it was
networked into the network I had pictures down, I got all
the pictures off the camera, but a $10,000 rig, my favorite
ballhead that I inherited. – (laughing) – [Jordan] I believe it
was inherited from you. – I think it was, yeah. – It got stolen in
addition to camera and lens and a bunch of other expensive things. But safety up there,
Maracana the catwalk was actually about this big,
maybe 18 inches at the most. It was actually next to a, my father is a professional roofer so I
need to get this right, it was an amorphous roofing membrane. It was, essentially it’s a tent and there was a frame with a
tent-like surface over it that was a couple
millimeters thick and we had to walk across it, almost
like a bouncy castle or trampoline, which was
not the safest thing to do to get to where we needed to
go, to the live fireworks. There’s just a lot of safety precautions. Somethin’ like that – This is an extreme example,
this is probably everything – This is probably in all the thousands of remote cameras I’ve been able to put up, it was probably the most
high stress situation and the most little fine
minute details to remember, but in the end made a
memorable picture out of it. – Yeah, yeah. – That’s really what it’s about. You put in the hard work
and you put in a lot of the stress in the front
end to hopefully make a special picture, because
there’s no way we could have been up there
photographing during that time. The remote camera is
the only way to do it. – Yeah, yeah.
– And so thankfully, I made a picture. It cost, in the end, several
hours of sleepless nights and a $10,000 camera,
– And days. – but it’s a picture
that’s gonna last forever. – (laughs)
– Thankfully. – That’s the thing. I’ve said this before, but the remote is sort of the icing on the cake. It’s gonna get you something really great, but your job is to be
down there in the trenches making the picture, the main picture. The remote’s either fantastic
or well, we put it up there. But you never know and
you gotta put the work in. I did an overhead remote
in Beijing Olympics of Nastia Liukin, a gymnest,
in the floor exercise. I do a lot of overheads in gymnastics, but they’re usually over
some specific device. The floor exercise is a area about, I guess it’s maybe 50 by
50, where the gymnasts do their moves all over the place. I knew, I’d seen her routine,
I knew there was one spot where she did what they
call the deer leap, and she throws her head up
to look up at the ceiling. So I put that camera up every time, for every practice session,
for every time that she did the team and the individual
on the floor exercise. I did get a picture. It was not a perfect picture, but it was a really good picture. I would just say that I
never would have known what I would have gotten if I
hadn’t done it every time. There’s a lot of persistence
and just believing in the fact that sometime
this is gonna work. Getting a picture like that, getting a Gabby Douglas overhead picture, that’s what keeps you doin’ it. The Gabby Douglas picture
overhead on the balance beam. Gymnasts almost never look
up when they’re on the balance beam, they’re looking at the beam. But there was one moment
in her routine where she threw her head back and looked up, and I made what I consider one of my best pictures, one
of my favorite pictures. But I have done that
balance beam for years and I’ve never had anything off that. I always do that overhead
remote whenever it’s possible, and never really gotten a thing. But I kept doing it, and
boom, I was rewarded. I think that’s a point about
remotes is persistence. – Yeah, absolutely. – Yeah, yeah, persistence, safety. At the Olympics permission is a long, involved process as the events, even if you’re doing something
at your local high school, you really need to make
sure everybody knows you’re doing it and
everybody’s okay with it, because you don’t wanna be the guy that everybody’s turning in horror and saying, what’s that guy doing up on
that, you know, wherever. You wanna clear it in
advance and make sure everybody’s good with it and
that you’re safe with it. – Absolutely, I think that comes down to when you’re doing remote cameras is, you gotta prepare for it. You gotta have the equipment
ready before you leave. You need to have an idea
what picture you wanna make. Just even a simple idea or concept of a soccer goal remote, which
is technically is kind of as simple as you can probably get. – [Peter] Right. – But still takes a lot
of preparation between the equipment, between talking to people, you can’t just walk out
during the soccer match and stick a camera down and walk away. It doesn’t work like that, as you know, it doesn’t work like that.
– [Peter] Yeah, yeah. – You need to get permission. You need to talk to whoever is in charge, whether it’s the sports
information director with a school. – [Peter] The P.R. department. – P.R. department with a professional team. Sometimes in certain
colleges and high school situations it comes down
to the referee in charge. – Yeah, the referee has the final, in most high schools in most states, the referee has the final say. So that’s all, you know,
it’s all important. Talking about the soccer goal remote, I teach a workshop every year
up in northern California, I teach a couple, and we are fortunate to shoot the San Jose Quakes MLS soccer team. For three years they would
not allow goal remotes, and I would point out all
the Premier League Soccer you always see that, the World Cup. But they were adamant. Last year they finally allowed us, and we made really a great picture. One of my students made
just a classic soccer remote goalie, totally
horizontal off the ground, ball coming in, everything right in there. So it was nice, but it took us, again, you just have to keep at it, persistence. – Yeah, absolutely. I think something’s that popped up when you mentioned that story, something we haven’t
talked about yet is focus. Focus is such a critical part
of setting up a remote camera. In general, you never, sometimes
it’s gonna be auto focus, but those are very rare circumstances. – Yeah, I never do it.
– Yeah. – He might do it, but
I don’t do it (laughs). – I have personally only
put a remote camera for myself or any other
photographer on auto focus less than five times, less
than five cameras in my career. – [Peter] Okay.
– There’s very specific need and the reason to do that, but 99% of the time, 99.99% of the time it can be manually focused and that’s something you have to remember. You can’t just let the camera be auto focusing and searching. – You’ve gotta figure – That everything is as precise
as it could possibly be, nothing wrong.
– And tape down like crazy. Not only your focus, your
aperture, your shutter speed, anything that could be changed just by, because maybe there’s somebody putting up a remote right next to you. – Very often at large events where there’s not even talking inches of tolerance, talking millimeters of tolerance, putting cameras in a area this large. It’s an art, but it’s competing for space, and some people are more – Oh, everybody’s great at the Olympics, aren’t they (laughs)? – Sometimes, there’s good
people to work with who care and who are more considerate of others, and a lot of times there’s photographers who are not considerate of others. – [Peter] Yes, yes. – You just gotta be very careful of where, that’s where it comes
back to keep checking it. Things like the World
Series, the last World Series my remotes were set up
for celebration at the end of game seven at
Dodger Stadium between the Astros and the Dodgers and,
even though I checked it 10 or 15 times before the game started, I was still running, in
the 7th and 8th innings, I was running back to
the camera every inning to make sure that it hasn’t moved. That’s, you just gotta babysit sometimes. It’s just the name of the
game every once in awhile. – Yeah, it’s all a very mental thing. The key is to do it all, do it precisely, and not let it distract
you from the fact that you’re really still a
photographer hired to shoot a game with the camera
that you have in your hand. Again, remotes are a bonus
and they’re wonderful and they can take a lot
of energy and effort, but in your head you’ve
gotta keep yourself focused on the game at hand. – That’s where that preparation and being prepared leads to confidence. – Yeah. – You know that that rig
is as solid as it can possibly be and you’re confident in it, and you know that you’ve
done all your homework and you’ve either ran
your hard line or you’ve really, really tested
your radios to make sure they’re gonna work and
you know when you press that button that the remote’s gonna fire, that allows you to not worry about it. – To take that deep breath
and say, okay, let’s go shoot the action.
– And take the picture that you have, yeah.
– Yeah, yeah. So, that’s a few stories
and a lot of advice, about remotes, setting them
up, getting them to work, not getting them stolen, hopefully. We will have some more
videos on remotes on the actual physical setting them up. So we’ll see you soon. Watch, learn, and subscribe. (mellow folk rock music)

5 Replies to “Using Remotes in Sports Photography – Part 3: a Discussion with Peter Read Miller”

  1. I'm floored that there has been over 300 views of these remote tutorials and we have zero comments. That being said, Peter, thank you for all you have given to the sports photographic community, the sports world, and the images you have made (even if people didn't know YOU made them). I have been a follower of all of your work going back to the LA Olympics and have watched everything you have been part of on the web. Your book is a constant reminder of the possibilities, and all things to strive for.

    Thank you for doing this channel. Thank you for everything.

  2. Very useful information on all three videos, and very hard to find this kind of stuff on youtube, from pros who actually know what they're talking about. Thank you to both.

  3. Awesome information through out the series. When you mentioned to use manual focus all the time it made sense but just to confirm, is the focus always set to infinity?

  4. I have sincerely enjoyed this series of "behind the scenes" videos. It's not often I get to see professionals talk about and teach their trade. I am an amateur photographer with just two years of middle school, Cal Ripken Babe Ruth baseball experience and I love it. I'm retired from 42 years of anesthesia and have plenty of free time now. Next year will also be in high school sports and so I'm gaining experience. Luckily I just stumbled upon your channel and subscribed. Getting permission to shoot in a good location I'm learning can be difficult , some won't allow me anywhere near but then Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach,Fl. allowed me to be in the dugouts of the practice fields. I do have one baseball photo I'd love to have critiqued if you ever do that again. Thanks Again, Ted

  5. Peter, Specifically regarding Soccer.. What is your general rule around aperture settings for a goal camera remote? I assume you don't want to be too wide open. Any suggestions? Thanks for all these videos. I am enjoying your series and I am learning a lot.

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