Imaging USA, SoxFest and More – For Some Baseball Photographers There Really Isn’t an Off-Season

Phew!  My winter seems to be flying by.  First it was off to Imaging USA in San Antonio for 5 days, then back to Chicago for a number of photo assignments involving the Chicago White Sox in and around their annual SoxFest fan convention.  Add in a few days of front office portrait shoots, a dash of off-season computer upgrading along with a healthy dose of server upgrade angst.  Oh, and then prepare to ship 9 cases of gear southbound for sunny Glendale while trying to work around a hellacious blizzard.   It’s been difficult to catch my breath after this fun filled, albeit very busy 3 week stretch during what is a normally slow time period for me between the Holidays and Spring Training.  I’ll admit I rather be incredibly busy than slow as hell, so this action was  just what I needed.

Yours truly has a little fun at the Nikon booth with sports photographer legend Dave Black during Imaging USA in San Antonio. Photo by Mike Corrado.

The off-season ended for me January 15th when I headed down to San Antonio for Imaging USA 2011.  I was scheduled to speak at the annual SEPCON portion of Imaging USA, as well as participate daily as a featured presenter at Nikon’s booth at the trade-show portion of ISUA.  What a great time!  Not only was Imaging USA a great platform to share my experiences, techniques and general photo related insights from a baseball photographers perspective, but I had the chance to rub shoulders with some of the greatest photographers in the world!  In particular, I had the privilege of spending some quality time with photo legends Dave Black and Ami Vitale, along with Nikon Professional Services Manager of Product Marketing, the one and only Mike Corrado.  Great times, great stories!  The best part was witnessing a contest of Bear, Ninja and Hunter after the check for dinner arrived.  You had to have been there to get the full effect, but think rock, paper, scissors.  This spectacle alone was worth the flight to San Antonio!

I had a great time sharing my photography experiences at Imaging USA in San Antonio.

Bear, Ninja and Hunter aside, there were other elements of Imaging USA that made the trip a success.  For me, being able to sit in on the presentations made by fellow Nikon teammates Dave, Ami, Marcus Bell and Tony Corbell was a major highlight.  Each of their sessions were quite informative but better still, inspirational.  So Imaging USA for me wasn’t just about teaching but about learning as well.  I’ve always said I don’t care how long you’ve been at it, there’s always something new to learn.  That’s what made this trip so special.  Teach and learn.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

When the rain ended and the weather finally warmed up, it was  of course time to fly back home and back to reality (and winter) to put some of that new found inspiration to work.  First stop was taking on one of my favorite assignments, shooting behind the scenes for an upcoming White Sox television commercial at a local grocery store.

Mark Buehrle is made "camera ready" prior to filming the latest White Sox television commercial.

That’s right, a grocery store.  Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson and Mark Buehrle are the stars of the latest commercial. It’s always fun trying to capture the feel of these commercial shoots, and this time around was no different than any other.  Mark and Hawk were quite the entertainers, as you might expect.  Check out the final production here, All In.

Ken Harrelson and Mark Buehrle share a laugh while filming the latest White Sox "All In" television commercial a few weeks ago.

The next day the 2011 baseball season unofficially kicked off for me as I trekked down to the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago to cover the White Sox’s annual fan convention, SoxFest.  Before kicking off with the opening ceremonies, my first order of business was taking new headshots of a few of our new players, particularly Adam Dunn, Jesse Crain and Will Ohman.  Which meant having my lighting gear hauled to the Palmer House with a semi-load of other items.  Thankfully, shipping my gear via the truck helped me avoid hauling it myself through the snow, salt and slop of downtown Chicago during January.  But as is the case when your gear is just a small part of what is shipped, sometimes locating everything once it arrived can prove challenging.  Especially when working on a tight deadline.  Headshots needed to be completed by 3:00pm.  No sign of my gear when I arrived at 12:30.  After a few phone calls, I located two of my three cases.  But no canvas backdrop.  Great.  More photo calls, then some good news. Someone spotted my backdrop.  It was heading for the concierge.  More phone calls.  While the canvas made its way back to me, I went up to scope out the suite I was sharing with a local TV sports channel.  More problems.  They beat me to the suite, and you can guess what I found.  No space for me.  Time to hustle.  I needed some space, it needed to be on the same floor as the players, and I needed to find it fast.  So I headed back to the players suite and scoped out an unused bedroom off the main suite.  This would have to work.  And it did.  Wish I would have remembered to take a snap of the room after rearranging the furniture to accommodate my studio, but it all worked out.  Think really cozy.  My new found location ended up working out better than the original suite.  Advantage?  The players were already there.  I brought jerseys and caps, 2 minutes and I was done.  Off to cover opening ceremonies and everything else that is SoxFest.

Ozzie Guillen greets the fans during the opening ceremony to kick off SoxFest 2011 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.

Saturday morning it was time to hit the road and head up to Highwood and the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt Amrany to take in White Sox legend and future Hall-of Famer Frank Thomas looking over a life sized sculpture of himself, which is scheduled to be unveiled at U.S. Cellular Field later this summer.

Frank Thomas checks out the status of "Frank Thomas" while visiting the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt Amrany.

Frank’s sculpture will be joining those of White Sox greats Harold Baines, Minnie Minoso, Carlton Fisk, Luis Aparicio, Nelson Fox, Billy Pierce and Charles Comiskey in the outfield concourse at U.S. Cellular Field.  Frank with Frank.  Pretty cool.

Then it was back to SoxFest for a special afternoon baseball seminar emceed by The Hawk, Ken Harrelson, featuring White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko.  For those who might  have considered upgrading their SoxFest ticket package but didn’t, you missed a great session.  It was a great seminar, candid and fun.  Don’t miss out next year if this is offered again.  It was a great opportunity not only listen to but speak with some very special people in the White Sox organization.

Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski share a laugh during a special baseball seminar held during SoxFest 2011 at the Palmer House Hilton.

Shooting is the easy part.  Now I had to add meta-data to the nearly 1100 images I made over that three day stretch and get them ready for ingestion into our Extensis Portfolio Server catalogs back at the ballpark.  Done.  But then comes the stinger.  The server needs to be replaced.  Soon.  My heart sinks.  Why, you ask?  Well, what it means is that the file paths connecting the 100,000 plus images that currently reside in my Portfolio Server image catalogs will change since the images will be relocated, and therefore the links to the files will be lost.  Sure, Portfolio offers up an option to “update paths”, but I can tell you from experience that this process is very, very time consuming (I’m talking days) and at best, partially effective.  The last time I tried to update paths I abandoned the whole process and re-ingested the entire archive, which took weeks using a dedicated computer running 24 hours a day.  NOT exactly what I wanted to hear with only a few weeks to go until spring training starts.

Updating the server is a necessary evil.  Our present one is running outdated software and I’m rapidly running out of space with all the 7 MB or larger JPGS that my Nikon D3s produces. Take my recent work as an example.  1100 images, over 6 G of space.  So while I will have to grin and bear it and work through the server upgrade and re-ingesting  process, I’m also looking into alternative image management resources via the PhotoShelter platform.  I use PhotoShelter personally to handle my image archive and can’t live without it, and thought this would be a perfect opportunity to set the Club up with a Multi-User PhotoShelter account.  Web-based, 24-7-365 access to our images, off-site image storage, powerful search features, what’s not to like?  For now, we’ll probably use both platforms (Extensis Portfolio and PhotoShelter), then reevaluate our needs and get user impressions after the season.

This was what I encountered when I opened my garage door after our February 2nd blizzard. Glad I anticpated this mess and transported my spring training gear to the ballpark the day before.

Last week (after shoveling out of nearly two feet of snow) it was two days of shooting front office portraits, meetings to discuss server replacement strategies, and time spent setting up a new iMac and Sony UPDR80 printer to replace my outdated Mac running System 9 which drove my now defunct Fuji Pictrography 3500 printer.  Yes, you heard right, System 9 driving a SCSI based Fuji printer!  Definitely time for an upgrade.  The Pictrography made beautiful prints, and I probably might still be using this archaic set-up had Fuji not discontinued making the consumables.  But it’s a paperweight now, and a rather large one at that.

I'm looking forward to shooting scenes like this in a few weeks while covering Spring Training 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.

Hey!  I’ve got less than 2 weeks to get things up and running, so perhaps it’s time to end this blog.  I’ve got work to do!

Next stop, sunny Glendale, Arizona!

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