Creative Sports Shooting Ideas from the LA Rams Training Camp

Creative Sports Shooting Ideas from the LA Rams Training Camp

The Rams are back in LA and nobody could be happier than myself! In 1995, while attending college at UC Irvine, the Rams left Los Angeles for St. Louis, as the Raiders moved to Oakland leaving Los Angeles with no teams. Photography was my major, football was my passion, and LA was home. My goal was to major in photography and get a job either with a team in Los Angeles or with Sports Illustrated and two of the three options had just moved away.

The Los Angeles Rams run onto the field before the Rams 21-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in an NFL preseason game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Saturday, August 20, 2016, in Los Angeles, CA. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

The Los Angeles Rams run onto the field before the Rams 21-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in an NFL preseason game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Saturday, August 20, 2016, in Los Angeles, CA. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

The next 21 years I spent unknowingly preparing myself for a major return to LA for NFL football by first photographing youth sports in Southern California and working my way up the ladder in the sports world with the Associated Press, among other media outlets, by shooting many NFL games and several Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, and other major sporting events.

Day 4 of Rams Training Camp on the campus of UC Irvine, Sunday, July 31, 2016, in Irvine, CA. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

Day 4 of Rams training camp on the campus of UC Irvine, Sunday, July 31, 2016, in Irvine, CA. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

My work slowly started focusing on PR for corporate clients and NFL players and their well-being and off-field agendas with my company, Playmaker Images. As I got wind that the Rams were coming back, I successfully jumped on the opportunity to be the team photographer and got the position!

Defensive lineman (93) Ethan Westbrooks of the Los Angeles Rams in game action during the first half of the Rams 28-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in an NFL preseason game, Saturday, August 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

Defensive lineman (93) Ethan Westbrooks of the Los Angeles Rams in game action during the first half of the Rams 28-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in an NFL preseason game, Saturday, August 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

As team photographer, my role consists of photographing every aspect of the team from practice to games, corporate-sponsored events, to headshots and community service events – anything the PR team throws my way and get these images back to the team as quickly as possible. To do this requires a wide array of equipment from cameras, lenses, strobes, light stands, light modifiers, and anything you can think of in and out of photography.

Quarterback (16) Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams signs autographs after practice on Day 4 of Rams Training Camp on the campus of UC Irvine, Sunday, July 31, 2016, in Irvine, CA. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

Quarterback (16) Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams signs autographs after practice on Day 4 of Rams training camp on the campus of UC Irvine, Sunday, July 31, 2016, in Irvine, CA. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

The first major assignment for the team was to photograph training camp. Coincidently, training camp was at UC Irvine, right back where it all started for me. I was given a room in the same place I lived as a student and a schedule for practice. We would be in Irvine for a month and the question was how do you photograph the same thing everyday and make practice look amazing?

Jeff-Lewis-Photographer-BorrowLenses

After over 20 years of hard work, this is my typical day on the job.

For practice on the first day, I did my typical setup for football games: 3 Canon 1D X Mark II cameras, a 400mm 2.8L lens on a monopod, 70-200mm 2.8L on my shoulder, and a 16-35mm 2.8L around my neck in case the action gets too close. I also had a 15mm fisheye just in case. It became apparent quickly that I had unique access and could walk all over the field like a trainer or coach (just as long as I didn’t get in the way). This made the 400mm unneeded in most cases but pushed my creativity through the roof. I decided to photograph training camp not like a game but as an experience through the passion of the players, the coaches, and the game – all on my home field at UCI.

Defensive tackle (99) Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of the Rams 9-17 loss to the Denver Broncos in an NFL preseason game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Saturday, August 27, 2016, in Denver, CO. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

Defensive tackle (99) Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of the Rams 9-17 loss to the Denver Broncos in an NFL preseason game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Saturday, August 27, 2016, in Denver, CO. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

To start, I pulled out my right-angle finder and laid out on the field for a completely different perspective to bring the amazing Southern California blue sky into the frame. This also makes the players look larger than life and as the prominent athletes they are.

Wide receiver (18) Kenny Britt warms up on Day 1 of Rams Training Camp on the campus of UC Irvine, Saturday, July 30, 2016, in Irvine, CA. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

Wide receiver (18) Kenny Britt warms up on Day 1 of Rams training camp on the campus of UC Irvine, Saturday, July 30, 2016, in Irvine, CA. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

Friendships with players through Playmaker Images over the years, several of whom play for the Rams, made it comfortable for me to get close to the action and step right in as if I belonged. I sat the 400mm to the side, put the fisheye on a 1D X with the monopod and used Pocket Wizards to fire images from right behind the play from about 12 feet up.

The Los Angeles Rams practice on Family Day at the LA Memorial Coliseum, Saturday, August 6, 2016, in Los Angeles, CA. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

The Los Angeles Rams practice on Family Day at the LA Memorial Coliseum, Saturday, August 6, 2016, in Los Angeles, CA. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

HOW TO: Firing Cameras Remotely with Pocket Wizards

Mount your camera where you cannot be and still fire it exactly when you want to by connecting your camera to a motor cable and a Pocket Wizard trigger. Sounds complicated but it’s really not with some practice and the right tools:

  • Get 2 Pocket Wizards and set them to the same channel.
  • Attach a remote camera cable (we have them for Canon and Nikon) between your camera and 1 Pocket Wizard.
  • Turn on your Pocket Wizards then the camera.
  • Keep one Pocket Wizard in your hand and press the TEST button to fire the shutter!

How far away you can trigger your camera will depend on the Pocket Wizard and your environment but usually you can be many feet away. This is great for car photography (with the help of hood-mountable grip gear), behind the catcher, above the rim, or anywhere too dangerous or too distracting for a shooter to stand. Just make sure your camera is really securely fastened, like with a Magic Arm. For more remote triggering advice, visit Pocket Wizard’s Wiki.

My thought process was to make images that look like the Madden video game and since I couldn’t use a drone, the monopod was going to have to work. The angle also gave a different perspective as it showed where we were, who the quarterback was throwing to, and everything around us.

Quarterback (17) Case Keenum of the Los Angeles Rams practices on Family Day at the LA Memorial Coliseum, Saturday, August 6, 2016, in Los Angeles, CA. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

Quarterback (17) Case Keenum of the Los Angeles Rams practices on Family Day at the LA Memorial Coliseum, Saturday, August 6, 2016, in Los Angeles, CA. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

After two weeks of practicing just about everyday and one day practicing in the LA Coliseum, we finally played our first game against the Dallas Cowboys. Professional football hadn’t been played in Los Angeles in 22 years and I needed to capture something special from the day. My idea was to shoot at ground level to show the players running out with the historic peristyle end in the frame and fire blazing. I used the 16-35mm and let the players run past me as our intro-fire towers blazed.

The Los Angeles Rams enter the field before the Rams 28-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in an NFL preseason game, Saturday, August 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

The Los Angeles Rams enter the field before the Rams 28-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in an NFL preseason game, Saturday, August 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

The following week against Kansas City, I used the fisheye on a pole to get more of an elevated view of the same scene. Practice continued as players were fine-tuning their skills. Hits came harder and the competition to make the team became urgent.

Facemask_Cam_Jeff_Lewis

First-person-perspective creative idea for training camp.

As this became clear, I had an idea to mount a facemask onto the camera and shoot as if it was from a player’s perspective. I obtained a facemask from the Rams and manufactured a mount for the mask to mount to the camera at home. I used a 16-35mm and shot eye-level at the players during warm-ups in Denver and even ran out with the team!

Quarterback (16) Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams runs onto the field as seen through a facemark mounted onto the camera before the Rams 9-17 loss to the Denver Broncos in an NFL preseason game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Saturday, August 27, 2016, in Denver, CO. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

Quarterback (16) Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams runs onto the field as seen through a facemark mounted onto the camera before the Rams 9-17 loss to the Denver Broncos in an NFL preseason game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Saturday, August 27, 2016, in Denver, CO. (Jeff Lewis/Rams)

My goal is to always make the client happy. It’s not about how many cool images can be made but how I can please the team and push the envelope to create images that bring in more fans and followers, especially in this new LA market. The Rams are back and we are just getting started!

The following two tabs change content below.
Based in Southern California and a member of SanDisk's Extreme Team, Jeff Lewis' passion for sports has taken him all around the world for sports action and portrait assignments for Sports Illustrated, GQ, the Associated Press, and the NFL Network.

Latest posts by Jeff Lewis (see all)

7 Comments

  1. You go jeff. Congrats buddy. Looking forward to your awesome shooting man. One of your biggest fans. Go rams

    Reply
  2. Awesome write up!!

    Reply
  3. Jeff Lewis definitely one of the great photographers, nice work.

    Reply
  4. Looking forward to viewing the LA Rams through your lens. Bright colors and true action.

    Reply
  5. Great work. Loved the story and reading your thought process. Great pics.

    Reply
  6. Some seriously next level work.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: