Hip Hop

Game 7: Cowboys v. Eagles

Change Is Gonna Come

This was the first Cowboy home game after the Daylight Savings Time (DST) change. Why do we continue to observe DST? Anyway, now that the sunset's at 5:25 PM, I was concerned about the lighting on the stage. In this blog I'm going to write about how I  handled the changing lighting situation. Be warned, I'll get a little technical in this blog. 

The first set of performances on the Miller Lite stage, which is on the west end of AT&T Stadium, started at 4:50 PM, no issues here as the stage was lit by the sun. It's actually my favorite time to shoot as the low horizon of the sun creates beautiful light. In photography circles is called the Golden Hour, and it's a great time to take photos outdoors because the intensity of the sunlight is reduced and it's more indirect sunlight. 

Shot at 4:50 PM on the Miller Lite Plaza Stage

The second set of performances began at 5:21 PM on the AT&T Plaza stage, on the east side of AT&T Stadium, although we were in the shadow of the stadium, there was still plenty of light. By this time the stage lights were on causing some uneven lighting, but not enough to cause a big problem. But you can see that the middle of the stage is where the lights are directed. I like shooting on this side of the stadium because the shade creates soft even lighting.  But most of the time the sky is blown out because I have to expose for the shade and using flash doesn't make sense for a variety of reasons. So far so good.

Shot at 5:21 PM on the AT&T Plaza Stage

The next performance on the AT&T Plaza stage was at 5:45 PM, now the sun has set and we are on the shaded side of the stadium. To my chagrin, the stage was not evenly lit. The spot lights were focused on the middle of the stage, so the dancers would be in the spot light and the shaded areas of the stage at that the same time. Now, what do I set my exposure to? 

Shot at 5:45. You can see how uneven the stage lighting is configured

I know I want to shoot at 1/500th of second. So I set my camera to Manual mode. I set my shutter speed to 1/500 and took a series of shots, adjusting my Aperture and ISO, until I got to an acceptable exposure. I ended up at f/5.6 at ISO 6400. ISO 6400 is to high for my liking, but it's something I had to live with. Freezing the action is top priority. I chose f/5.6 because I like a little wiggle room to get the shot in focus. There were a ton of images that were under exposed, I had to up the shadow slider in Adobe Lightroom quite a bit. I didn't do any noise adjustment because the D750 does really well at high ISO's. 

That's my tale on how I dealt with the changing lighting patterns due the DST change. Veteran's and those who are serving in our military, where also being honored on this day. I'm a military brat and my father served 30 years in the Army, including two tours to Vietnam, I can certainly appreciate Veteran's Day.  Here are a few more shots and some video of my day AT&T Stadium.

Game 3: Cowboys vs Giants

Ahhhh, I love the smell of the first regular season home game and what an exciting game. The Cowboys win against the Giants on a late 11 yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo to TE Jason Whitten with only 7 secs left.  It was great start to the season. Here are some of my photographs from my day at AT&T Stadium. 

Dallas Cowboys Rhythm & Blue Drumline before the Dallas Cowboys vs NY Giants on September 13, 2015

Game 1: Cowboys v. Vikings (Preseason)

Game Day

Awwwww yeah! It's game day. The Dallas Cowboys first preseason home game against the Vikings. I'm excited because it's my first day as the photographer for the Dallas Cowboys Rhythm & Blue Dancers and Drumline. It's sort of my preseason as well. Here's how the day went.

Gear Check

Here's a run down of my game day gear list:

  • Nikon D750: This will be my main body.
  • Nikon D610: Second/backup body. 
  • Tamron 24-70: For my first day this will be on my D750.
  • Sigma 70-200: This will be on my D610.
    • Since I wasn't sure how things will go, I'll have both camera bodies on me so that I don't waste time switching lenses. 
  • SB-700 Flash: Just in case I need to shoot any indoor photographs
  • Rogue Flash Bender: To use with the SB-700
  • Spider Camera Holster: This thing is expensive, but one of the best investments. I have various shoulder straps, after hours of shooting, my shoulders would be really sore the next day. With the Spider Camera Holster system (think old western gunslinger kinda belt), you have your cameras on your hip, man it makes a difference at the of the day.  Well worth the money.
  • Mono-pod

Performance Schedule

AT&T Stadium has two plazas, the Miller Lite Plaza on the west end and the AT&T Plaza on the east end. The DCRB dancers & drumline perform at both stages starting at the Miller Lite plaza. Then we have a convoy thru the AT&T Stadium main concourse to the AT&T Plaza. After performing there the convoy goes back to Miller Lite Plaza for the final stage performance.  Then we have a Mardi Gras style parade (minus the beads) to the upper concourse. You can see the schedule posted on the DCRB Facebook Fan Page before each home game.

Lessons Learned From Day One

Probably the biggest lesson I learned is that I don't have to carry both camera bodies.  I can shoot with the Tamron 24-70 for my wide angle shots on one stage and switch to the Sigma 70-200 for close ups on the other stage. I have plenty of time between performances to change lenses. I'll try that next time to see how that works. Also, because we are outdoors, there's plenty of light so I don't have to be concerned about maintaining a high shutter speed, but I do have to change my camera settings between stages, because for the late games, the west stage (Miller Lite Plaza) is in direct sunlight and the east stage (AT&T Plaza) is in the shade. I ended up using Shutter Priority at 1/500 of sec. I did take some indoor shots, so the flash came in handy. I never used the mono-pod so I don't know if I'll bring it next time. 

Photographs

Below are some shots from game one. I'm a photographer, so I'm always on the look out for something interesting, so I won't be posting photos of DCRB. It will be a mix of interesting shots including some behind the scenes photos.

Dallas Cowboys Rhythm & Blue Photographer

For the 2015 NFL season, I'm the photographer for the Dallas Cowboys Rhythm & Blue Dancers and Drumline (DCRB). The DCRB dancers are the ONLY coed hip-hop professional dance team in the NFL! They perform at all of the Dallas Cowboys home games and make special appearances around the country. As a Dallas Cowboys fan, this is a super dope opportunity. How did I get this photography gig? Glad you asked. For real, I've gotten that question several times.

Dallas Cowboys Rhythm & Blue Dancers

I love the hip-hop dance genre, so back in 2014, on my own initiative, I started photographing local hip-hop dance events as a personal project. I started searching for hip-hop dance events around Dallas, when I came across the World of Dance tour.  I blogged about that event, which you can read here. To date, I've actually photographed 3 WOD events, 2 in Dallas and 1 in Houston. From there I went on to photograph the Dallas Hip Hop Dance FestMonsters of Hip Hop Dance and other dance events around the Dallas area. The dance community in Dallas is a small world, I started seeing the same people at each event, and I developed a reputation for my photographic work. As a result, I started getting calls to photograph hip-hop dance events and classes. There's one person in particular I want to point out, Paul Gosling. Paul was one of the parents for a dancer on the Hooligans Dance Krew. He hooked me up with several opportunities and referrals from dance classes by some industry leading choreographers such as Laurieann "Harlee" Gibson and Will "WilldaBeast Adams, to a Monsters Headphones product test shoot. Thank you Paul for every opportunity you brought my way.

Monsters of Hip Hop

Along my journey as a hip-hop dance photographer, I met Jenny Durbin Smith. The first time I saw her, she was a co-host at the Dallas Hip Hop Dance Fest. Soon after we started following each other on Instagram and we eventually met in person at the Monsters of Hip Hop event back in January of this year (2015).  I didn't know it at the time, but she was the director and choreographer for the Dallas Cowboys Rhythm & Blue Dancers. If fact, she has an impressive body of work in the dance industry. Back in June (2015), Jenny offered me the job as the DCRB photographer for the 2015 season. I didn't even ask what it paid before YESSSS leaped outta my month (not a good negotiating practice btw). Money didn't matter to me, it was the experience of shooting a professional hip-hip dance crew AND it's for America's Team the Dallas Cowboys. HOW AWESOME IS THAT!  Thanks Jenny!!!

As the seasons goes on I hope to be blogging more about my experiences and sharing some interesting shots as well.  We're already 3 games in (including the preseason), so I plan on getting caught up this week. Enjoy the ride er'body, cause I am.

World of Dance Dallas 2015

Dallas Unplugged presented by Cosign Magazine & WGR Management

Video clip and some of my top photographs from the event Dallas Unplugged presented by Cosign Magazine & WGR Management at House of Blues Dallas back on June 19, 2015. Artist: Kirk Thurmond & The Millennials; Diva Sol & The Soulful Soundz; Judgmental & The Jury & Alsace Caricone & The 1's & 2's.

World of Dance Dallas 2015

For the second year in a row, I was a volunteer photographer at the World of Dance tour that hit Dallas on May 9, 2015 at the South Side Ballroom. I was excited about this event because one of my favorite dancers, Fik-Shun would be performing. I watched So You Think You Can Dance season 10, where Fik-Shun was the male winner that season, he quickly became a crowd favorite. 

Last year I shot pretty much want I wanted, this year I had an assignment to shoot the vendors and attendees. Once the dance competition started, there wasn't much to shot as everyone was watching the dancers, so I shot the dancers from the audio booth, right behind the judges. I'm glad I brought my Sigma 70-200 2.8 and my mono-pod as they came in handy shooting from that distance.  There was one dance crew I knew so I did shoot them from the front of the stage using a 17-35 i rented from Competitive Cameras. I prefer the shots from the audio booth because I didn't have to be on my knees for 4 hours, I could shoot standing up. 

Although I wasn't prepared to shoot video, I ended up shooting over a hours worth. Short clips of each crew. With a 70-200MM lens and a monopod, the video came out very shaky. It's hard to shoot stills and video when you have a few seconds to switch between them. I wanted to shoot some video just for the practice and wasn't to concerned about the quality. Below are some shots from the event, you can check out my full gallery of images HERE.

Fik-Shun

Fik-Shun

Hooligan Dance Krew

Hooligan Dance Krew

Fik-Shun

Fik-Shun

World of Dance Dallas 2014

A few months ago I did a internet search on "dallas dance." The reason being, I wanted to shot some street/hip hop dancers. What I found was the World of Dance tour. This was exactly what I was looking for. The World of Dance Tour, is the biggest urban dance competition internationally. The tour features street dancing and choreography from various age groups. The timing was perfect because in about a month, the tour was coming to Dallas. But I didn't want to shoot the event from the crowd, but right next to the stage, and that would require a press or stage pass

 

Press Pass

I searched for contacts on the WOD website and sent an email requesting a press pass for the event. I got a response that my inquiry would be forwarded to the media manager. I got a reply from the media manager, Jon, the same day approving the media pass as long as they could use the images for social media. Of course I agreed. For those of you looking to get access to photography an event, here's the email I sent requesting a press pass:

 Hi, 
 My name is Fitz Crittle and I’m a local event and portrait  
 photographer here in the Dallas area. This email is in regards to  
 the WOD Tour that’s coming to Dallas on April 26th. I’m a fan of  
 urban dance styles and I would love the opportunity to photograph  
 the event. I would appreciate any consideration on extending me a  
 press pass for the event. In exchange I’ll make the images available  
 for use by WOD.
 I apologize if you’re not the right contact. If that’s the case,  
 please forward the correct contact to send this request to.
 Thanks for you time and consideration, if you have any questions  
 please let me know.
 Fitz Crittle Photography
 http://www.fitzcrittlephoto.com

 

The Scene

I was given a contact from WOD to check-in with once I got to the venue, Gilley's Dallas. I met the contact and he gave me a run down of the event and said I can basically shoot whatever I want. He then gave me a tour of the venue and where I can shot the dancers on stage. There was an area of about 15 feet next to the stage that was reserved for two photographers (including me) and the guy capturing video. There was also a room behind the stage where there were free style dance battles and anyone could participate. There was a DJ and a human circle and someone dancing in the middle, once they finished, someone else would go next. To the left of the stage was one of the major sponsors Paul Mitchell, in fact the tour is called World of Dance presented by Paul Mitchell. Paul Mitchell produces hair care products, there were hair stylist onsite, so that if you wanted to, you could get your hair did. There were several vendors there, mostly selling urban gear. I think every culture was represented at this event, that's what made it so cool. I under estimated how popular urban dance has become. It's evident it's become a sub-culture of hip hop. 

 

Shooting the Event

OMG, this was the most physically challenging event I've ever shot. I was sore for days. I'll get to that in a minute. There was going to be some serious challenges shooting dancers. You've got low light and fast moving objects. I know then I was going to have to push my ISO to the limit. The great thing about the free style dance room, I could get some practice shots. For the gear heads, I was shooing with a Nikon D610 camera and the lens was the Tamron 24-70 F/2.8. I took a few shots and found that in order to freeze the action, I needed around 1/500th of a second. Because I had access to the stage, I actually went on stage to set a custom white balance. This is when I noticed the stage was not evenly lit, this meant I couldn't set the ISO unless I shot in one area. I decided that getting the shot was more important than noise, so I used the Auto ISO feature and set a minimum shutter speed of 1/500 and maximum ISO to the highest setting. I kept the aperture of 2.8.

I stand about 6'5" and the stage was about 3 feet high. This meant I was going to have to kneel during the performances. Now I'm kicking myself, because I started to buy some gel filled knee pads, but didn't - man did I regret that. This was about a 4 hour event, about half way though, my knees where raw and my legs were screaming. Near the end it, I got the point where I would take a few shots and sit down, I couldn't kneel for the entire performance any longer. A few times I just pointed my camera and shot blindly, that didn't work very well. This was all my choice, I didn't have to shoot "every" performance. The guy shooting video only shot about 1/3 of the acts. But I decided to shoot every performance and I'm glad I did.

This was a great experience, I meet some really cool people. The next WOD will be in Houston and I plan on shooting that event as well, this time I'll have those gel knee pads or a chair. Check out the World of Dance YouTube Channel to see the performances. Below are some of the shots from the event, you can see more on my Flickr page where I've created a gallery - enjoy.

- Fitz

Crew: The Legacy Project

Crew: The Legacy Project

Crew: Unifyd Soul

Crew: Unifyd Soul

Crew: Arch Gorillas

Crew: Arch Gorillas

Crew: The Watchmen

Crew: The Watchmen

Crew: Rascals

Crew: Rascals

Crew: Lunchbox Dance Crew

Crew: Lunchbox Dance Crew

Crew: The Other Guys Company

Crew: The Other Guys Company

Crew: An Idea

Crew: An Idea

Crew: Cause Revolution

Crew: Cause Revolution

Kaelynn Harris - she recently danced for Usher at the 2014 BET Awards

Kaelynn Harris - she recently danced for Usher at the 2014 BET Awards

Emilio Dosdal - audtioned for So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD)

Emilio Dosdal - audtioned for So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD)

Brian Puspos

Brian Puspos

Crew: 8 Flavahz

Crew: 8 Flavahz

Battle Room

Battle Room

World of Dance Fans at the gear table

World of Dance Fans at the gear table

Youth Division Awards

Youth Division Awards

The Watchmen: Winner of the Crowd Favorite

The Watchmen: Winner of the Crowd Favorite

Hooligan: 1st Place Youth Divison

Hooligan: 1st Place Youth Divison

Crew: The Renegades

Crew: The Renegades

Crew: Major League

Crew: Major League

Cause Revolution - 3rd place winner - upper division

Cause Revolution - 3rd place winner - upper division

The Renegades - 2nd Place - Upper Division

The Renegades - 2nd Place - Upper Division

Major League - 1st Place - Upper Division

Major League - 1st Place - Upper Division

WOD Judges

WOD Judges

Paul Mitchell Hair Stylist

Paul Mitchell Hair Stylist

Styled by Paul Mitchell

Styled by Paul Mitchell