Into a Bubble…

So in my last post I mentioned that 2020 wasn’t without some interesting assignments at least.  Thank goodness too because as such as I like picking up new hobbies, they can be expensive when less money is coming in.  Although I’ve heard I know how to make a mean BBQ Brisket now; that’s for another story another time.  I’m writing this as in Indianapolis we are headed into the most basketball the city has EVER had and there are likely to be a few basketball bubbles involved.  I’m not sure if I’ll be in any of them, but this is the sotry of the time I was asked to be inside the bubble with Fiba America, and Team USA.

The Court. No Fans, No Stands. Nikon Z6ii, 2000ISO, Nikon 24-70F2.8@24mm 1/125th@F7.1

So first of all, what doe sit mean to be in a bubble.  With COVID-19 raging on in the world, one of the safety precautions that exist for sports in 2020 was to create a bubble.  That means, that everyone needed inside said bubble would go to a predetermined location and take a COVID-19 test.  At the time of this writing everybody knows what that means, but since this blog is a place of record, let me describe it a bit.  The most common way to test for COVID-19 is to take a Q-tip like object (usually a little thinner) and stick it up your nose.  Not into the boogers, but far enough in to scratch your brain.  OK, maybe not that far, but you’ll put it far enough in that your eyes will start to water and then you’ll spin it around a bunch of times, pull it out, and then put it into a little vile filled with liquid.  All this in front of someone who looks like they are walking outside on the hull of the spaceship Rocinante, USS Enterprise or Space Shuttle Atlantis. Once that’s done, depending on which kind of test you took, you either go into timeout for 15 minutes waiting to hear your fate or you go home.  For most folks its the latter, but at big events it’s the former and gosh is it kind of nerve racking to sit there and wait for your fate.  Even if you know you’ve ben careful the virus discriminates not and you never know when instead of being given your credential and event access, you’ll be put into the incinerator instead asked to leave.  This IS of course, after doing this not once, but TWICE on your own the week before entering the bubble.

 

All the things. All the things I thought I needed for a 6 camera game setup and a full portrait studio.

 

Once you are inside the bubble though, there is no leaving.  Nobody else comes in, and nobody else goes out.  Testing commences daily for some, and every 72 hours for others depending on their role and how much contact they have with teams inside the bubble.  This setup means that everybody starts clean, and it pretty much guarantees that everybody stays clean the duration of the bubble.  There are a few folks that are *not* part of the bubble, but the folks in the bubble have zero interaction with them.  These folks, interestingly enough are the cleaning crews.  They wear hazmat style suits and spray/fog all the communal areas inside the bubble every few hours, in which case nobody else can be in those areas while the cleaning happens.  What do you do while this is happening?  Whatever you can.  I edited photos in my hotel room.  Dining as a group wasn’t permitted, although eventually some of us sat 6′ apart awkwardly at some tables on the 2nd floor of the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott because as much fun as it is eating every single meal in your rom out of a togo container alone….. oh yea it’s not.

Thanksgiving dinner, from the hotel room. Turkey and Cheesecake FTW!

 

Now being inside the bubble wasn’t all awkward bummer.  This assignment is going to be listed as one of the highlights of my career to be honest, but not because Fiba America and Team USA hired me to be there. It’s because I was the ONLY one there.  That’s not to say that no other photos were created of the event, the Team USA Communications officer had a Sony A7iii and a 70-200 he was snapping away with and admittedly he had better access than I did because I couldn’t go anywhere near either of the team benches; but thats all besides the point.  The point is that of any media created, I was responsible for almost 100% of it.  Including team headshots, procedural photos, and of course game action.

Nikon D850, 250ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8FL@160mm 1/200th@F10. Elinchrom ELB1200 with 53″ Rotalux Octabox above camera left on a Kupo C Stand with Kupo Baby Boom. Elinchrom ELB500 both heads on Kupo 8′ Click stands on each side of behind the player with 100cm Strip boxes and grids set to equal power. All lights triggered by Elinchrom Skyport Pro from the camera hot shoe.

 

The team headshots caused a bit of heartburn as originally they were to be head and shoulders only, which is what I packed for.  When I say what I packed for, I mean what I packed for as though I was traveling across the world to a remote part of the desert and unable to get extra supplies as necessary. Remember.  I cannot leave the bubble, and nothing can be sent to me.  Why is this heartburn? Because once I got there I was informed the shots needed to be fully body; which, as mentioned, I hadn’t packed or prepared for.  My solution was to shoot the shots on black instead of white, as in photography it’s easy to take light away but more difficult to add more if you don’t have it.  You can see the setup HERE.  Myself and Team USA were pleased with the result, but the following day I was told that they indeed did need to be on white for FIBA purposes.  These things and little hick-ups happen. There were still some nice photos made if you ask me although the full body shots weren’t as seamless.

Nikon D850, 400ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8FL@120mm.   1/200th@F7.1.  Elinchrom ELB1200 with 53″ Rotalux Octabox above camera left on a Kupo C Stand with Kupo Baby Boom. Elinchrom ELB500 both heads on Kupo 8′ Click stands on each side of behind the player with 100cm Strip boxes set to equal power. All lights triggered by Elinchrom Skyport Pro from the camera hot shoe.

The games were a completely different ball of wax.  After several rounds of seeking approval, I finally managed to secure permission to put up some remote cameras.  Remote cameras are fantastic for caching action in places that you cannot be for whatever reason.  Ether because you are someplace else, because you cannot fit, or because it would be dangerous.  No matter how you look at it though a different perspective is a good one and in my opinion the more remotes the better.  Inside the bubble this presents other difficulties though as once the cameras are placed, I won’t have the opportunity to retrieve the cameras until after the tournament is over.  My initial plan was to place three remote cameras around the court, but I shot myself in the foot and had planned on two of these cameras to be Nikon Z bodies.  Why is this shooting myself in the foot?  Because at the time I only had one FTZ adapter so by putting one up as a remote, it rendered the other so worthless I left it in my hotel room.  (Side note.  Dear Sigma.  Please please please start making Z glass.  I’ll give you cookies and beef Jerky if you do).   Anyway, so I had two remotes that I was going to put up, one I was going to be able to get to and the other I was not until after both games.

Nikon Z6ii with Nikon 14-24F2.8N as a remote camera. Powered by Apple Macbook Pro USB-C Power Cable to boot!

Enter the NEW Nikon Z6ii.  So fun fact, with the Nikon Z6ii with it’s new EN-EL15c battery is capable of being run off of AC power via USB-C.  Supposedly Necessity is the mother of invention, and I am here to tell you that seems to check out in this case, as I opted to put my Nikon Z6ii up as the remote I couldn’t get to over the course of the entire tournament day along with a 512GB ProGrade CFExpress card (to make sure I never ran out of space) plugged into AC power……. with my Apple Macbook Pro USB-C power cable.  That’s correct, it turns out my Apple Laptop charger is able to power a Nikon Z6ii.  Seemingly indefinitely.  Cool beans.

Nikon Z6ii, 1600ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8N@14mm. 1/1000th@F4.  Camera powered by Apple USB C Macbook pro Power adapter.  Camera triggered by a Pocket Wizard Plus III transciever on pre release trigger and long cable mounted about mid way up to the basket. 

 

Nikon D850, 2000ISO, Sigma 24-70F2.8OS@26mm. 1/1000th@F4. Camera mounted with TWO Manfrotto magic arms with superclamps to the post. Also safety cabled in place with steel cable and carabiners, secured with zip ties. Camera Triggered with a Pocket wizard Plus III transceiver stuck on a Manfrotto Micro friction arm higher up on the backboard.

The other remote was a Nikon D850, which I was able to swap the battery out in between games. I love the D850 as a remote because the files are MASSIVE and I can crop in while leaving a reasonable amount of meat left for printing.  I’d have loved to use the Z7 as the third remote, but as I said no extra FTZ at the time meant that the third remote was remotely napping.  Despite all these things, having 3 cameras on me and having two remotes was just the right amount for the tournament.  I’d have loved to have put a camera up over a basket but there was a large ventilation duct blocking both baskets and that wasn’t considered in the bubble so they couldn’t clean up there anyway.  These things happen, you move on and plan accordingly.  With that, this is the one and only time shooting basketball with no fans, has been AWESOME.  Look at that background!

Nikon D5, 1600ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8FL @75mm. 1/1000th@F2.8.

 

 

After all said and done it 😎 I actually shot *less* than I would have at this event in a normal world.  Turns out not having fans, or fan fest, or concerts, or any number of other festivities means that in a normal weeklong event where I likely would have shot close to 1.5 Terabytes of data over the 7 days; I only shot about 700gb.  Before you think DANG THAT’S STILL A TON (because it is), believe you me, Z7 and D850 RAW files add up quickly.  I thoroughly enjoy these events though as it presents a number of shooting challenges all in a short period of time and allows for a ton of very cool media to be created.  It’s strange to have been on both sides of an event like this now.  The 2019 side where it was so packed i almost didn’t make it to all the events on the shot list in time, and on the 2020 side where almost all meals were eaten alone in my hotel room, with hours of downtime where I couldn’t go anywhere because we were in a bubble…… Wear your masks.  More soon.