Rugby "Sportstrait" Behind-the-Scenes_16 Feb 19

February 18, 2019  •  6 Comments

In 2017, I covered the Southern Pines women's, and then a month later, the men's rugby teams totally by chance for The Pilot Newspaper. I was intrigued by a sport that I had only seen on television a couple of times while stationed in England and Germany but never photographed. With that, I had to learn more.

Covering more matches and sharing some of the images with the team lead to signing on as a sponsor for the 2018 season. Part of that sponsorship is providing in-kind photo services of not only matches but player portraits.

PortraitShoot2018PortraitShoot2018 The 2017 player portrait set-up at the National Athletic Village. (Credit:  Robert Bortins/Southern Pines Rugby)

Last year was a pretty simple set-up:  a 5'x7' pop-up black background for the men, white for the women; plus a couple Elinchrom D-Lite 4X lights with a reflector in low and in front of the players. Within the first couple of frames, I quickly realized the limits of the set-up to include needing a much larger back-drop.

I vowed for 2019, I would up the "sportstrait" game but I wasn't quite sure how.

Developing a vision:
Nearly almost every event that I photograph involves some form of planning, preparation, and even research.

So that's where I started - researching other rugby teams - club, college, and professional. There is no one right way of making these images. It was just trying figure out the look and feel of the final image.

Ultimately, I realized that I wanted an iconic background image that anyone who either grew up here or has lived here for any length of time would easily recognize. So with that, I settled on an image of the train station in Southern Pines.

With that in mind, I set out to add to my existing gear. I added a 9' wide white paper seamless and a Manfrotto backdrop support system. The plan was to use a white background instead of black. The white would be easier to cut out or "path" around the players and drop them onto a background that I pre-built using a portrait from last year.

Impending severe weather the day of the shoot (16 Feb) a few hours before a rugby match, caused a change in venue from the National Athletic Village to Twin Fields Farm. This was a facility I had not been in so I did a little recon the day before to get a look at the room. All that was left was to find a paid photo assistant, set up the room, make the images, then edit and publish.

Michael Gozy, a student at Union Pines and a member of the UPHS Photography Club, answered the call for a photo assistant and was very helpful with set-up, keeping track of which players we were photographing, frame numbers, and any posing issues.

The room set-up for this year pictured below:
rugbyshoot-set-up-explainerrugbyshoot-set-up-explainer

 

IMG_4841IMG_4841 This year's player portrait set-up at Twin Fields Farm. (Credit:  Robert Bortins/Southern Pines Rugby)

We photographed 32 players in about 1.5 hours as they trickled in to the farm to prepare for their match against the Greenville Griffons, later that day.

Camera:
Nikon D300S

ISO:  200
F-stop:  f8
SS:  1/125
Lens: Nikkor 35mm f/1.8
Tethered to MacBook Pro 13" via a Tether Tools USB-C cord.

Lights:
Elinchrom D-Lite RX4 - Portalite Softbox on the main (camera right) and a Portalite Octobox on the fill (camera left). The main was set at 2.2 and the fill was set at 2.1.

Post-Production:
Since I designed the final image background in December, moving the images from studio to composite was relatively quick and painless.

Using the latest version of Adobe Photoshop CC, I was able to "Select Subject" using the "Select and Mask" feature. Once the mask edges were cleaned up and the subject was isolated from the background, they were moved into the composite background, positioned, and the player name was updated accordingly.

1
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2 Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 7.36.21 AMScreen Shot 2019-02-18 at 7.36.21 AM 3 Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 7.43.00 AMScreen Shot 2019-02-18 at 7.43.00 AM
4 Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 7.45.18 AMScreen Shot 2019-02-18 at 7.45.18 AM 5 Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 7.45.40 AMScreen Shot 2019-02-18 at 7.45.40 AM 6 Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 7.46.08 AMScreen Shot 2019-02-18 at 7.46.08 AM

Bing, bang, boom! Done! Total post-production time for 32 images was about an hour. Having a plan and vision ahead of time is the key to short post-production times.

You can view the full gallery of player portraits HERE.
Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 8.53.15 PMScreen Shot 2019-02-18 at 8.53.15 PM


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Comments

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Rugby is one of my favorite sports.
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I don't know even the head or tail of rugby but I like to watch it. The first time I see a rugby match in the tylor swift song ( you belong with me or second-time Namaste London movie when Akshay Kumar plays) now I like this sport.
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Great Blog - loved the content and examples. Learned, good stuff.
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