May Featured Photo Shoot - Adidas Nations

Photo By Kelly Kline
Nolan Narain - 6'9" power forward, class of 2016 from Ontario Canada (Photo by Kelly Kline/Adidas)     

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 1-3, 2015 - This month my featured shoot is an assignment from Adidas to photograph an event called Adidas Nations. This is a prestigious invitation-only basketball event for the top high school basketball players in the country. And by top players, I mean players who are being recruited by the top colleges in the country, the "one-and-done" type of prospects, guys with true NBA potential. This type of player attracts a lot of media and social media attention, which is why good imagery of them is so important to Adidas. Part of my assignment was to create portrait and lifestyle imagery of the players for media, social media and web usage.

I have one word for this shoot - TEXTURE!!! OOOHHH Yeah, great texture can take a shoot from zero to hero!

The best thing I did was scout the location... cause believe me, shooting in a hotel ballroom on a seamless is not that fun. Instead, I found this weathered and rusty area of the parking garage at the JW Marriott in Buckhead... I take some personal pride in finding the ugliest most abandoned area of a 5-star hotel and making it look amazing!   

Photo By Kelly Kline
Dennis Smith Jr. - 6'1" point guard, class of 2016 from Fayetteville, North Carolina. (photo by Kelly Kline/Adidas)

To make this location work, I literally had to sweep up several years of accumulated cigarette butts and trash... then, with the help of 2 assistants, we ran over 400 feet of extension cords to get power to that area of the parking deck.  Once we were all wired up, we had four packs and five heads running, a digital tech station, a clothing rack and steamer as well as an assortment of snacks and refreshments.

The lighting was pretty simple - All Dynalite 40/40 heads with Dynalite 1600 Studio Packs -  2 edge lights with 30-degree grids at medium height on the left and right of the subject... a medium octabank for fill on right side of camera and as the key light a  40/40 head with a 40 degree grid just off my left shoulder. 

Photo by Kelly Kline
Lamar Peters - 6'0" point guard, class of 2016 from New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Emilee Ramsier)

Just around the corner from this area, was a long stairway to the next level of the parking deck that had been blocked off from the public for several years.  They were dirty and weathered and in the late afternoon there was a beautiful stream of light that passed through the area which was made some amazing available light images possible. It's pretty rare that I get to use available light on these kinds of shoots.  So I was very happy to have this ray of light even if it only lasted for a short spell.  

Photo by Kelly Kline
James Banks - 6'11" center, class of 2016 from Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Adidas)

When photographing athletes, I always like to take some portraits that include movement and motion.  Getting guys to jump, dribble or pass the ball makes the image much more interesting.  It also takes good communication with the subject, finding movements that are natural feeling for them and also looking strong in camera is a joint creative process.  I often shoot to a laptop and will show guys frames as we are shooting so they can make adjustments.

Photo by Kelly Kline
Rawle Alkins - 6'4" Small Forward, class of 2016 from Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Adidas)

SIDEBAR -- I've been working with Adidas for about five years now, they are a fantastic client with great internal structure and value photography very highly. They approach the use of visual assets with purpose, creativity and well executed pre-production. Over time, how and what I shoot for them has evolved. This evolution is due mostly to the rapid growth of social media. 

When I was first hired by Adidas, it was mainly to provide imagery that would be sourced to the media for news coverage of Adidas athletes, products or events. Adidas has carefully cultivated their media relationships, as media has traditionally been a way increase brand visibility and overall sales. While media is still in the drivers seat for most marketing departments, it is my experience that social media is now the co-pilot and coverage on social media is warranting extra budgets for photography and in many cases additional photographers. For example, during NBA All-Star weekend this year, Adidas had 5 photographers dedicated JUST to Instagram! I had an additional staff of 5 photographers that were dedicated to traditional media coverage... and even our media distribution had a social media element.  This is more than double the amount of photographers we had for All-Star last year. So it's fair to say, social media is just as important to major brands as traditional media. 

Tapped Out Book Cover Shoot --- How to Photograph a Guy Getting Punched in the Face!!!

The greatest thing about being a photographer is you never know what you're going to be asked to do. Most of the time, requests are pretty straight forward... but recently I received a pretty unique request. A Creative Director from Gotham Publishing called to ask if it was possible to photograph someone being punched in the face. He went on to tell me about the book Tapped Out which chronicles the year long journey of author Matthew Polly as he trains for his first Mixed Martial Arts fight. The author thought the most authentic image for the book cover would be of himself being punched in the face!

An absolutely crazy concept...but I couldn't refuse! The truth of the matter is, when I first received the phone call, I had no idea how I was going to execute the concept, but in this case, I had to say YES to the assignment then figure it out.

As soon as I hung up the phone, I went to work figuring it out!

There were several factors to consider:

1---The author agreed to take 5-8 full force punches to the face... so we only had a few chances to "get the shot".
2---The moment of contact happens in a 1/1000th of a second so our timing had to be dead on or we would miss it!
3---The image had to be sharp with a good depth of field of F8 or deeper, contrasty lighting, with sweat flying off of the subject.

The biggest hurdle was how to actually catch the moment of impact. I called Cliff Hausner, my contact at Profoto to learn more about the Pro 8 power packs packs which had recently come on the market. The Pro 8 was boasting it could fire strobes at 20 frames per second with a 12,000th of a second flash duration.

Flash duration is critical when photographing something that moves! Flash duration is the amount of time it takes for a flash to fire. Flash duration typically varies from about 1/1000 to 1/20,000 of a second. If your flash duration is too long your images will be blurry around the edges. A perfect example is trying to shoot a basketball game with an on camera flash. The subject is usually moving faster than the flash duration. The movement while the light is still "strobing" causes the streaks or blurry edges. When shooting moving subject, the shorter the flash duration, the sharper the image.

Even though the Pro 8 can fire at 20 frames per second, The fastest cameras on the market can only shoot 10 frames per second, so we still had the issue of not being fast enough to catch a punch in the face! The only way to get faster was to add multiple cameras! Ultimately, we decided to set up four Canon Mark V cameras, with each camera on it's own set of strobes. We had 12 strobes total... each camera had 3 strobes.

We then had an elaborate pocket wizard system which fired each camera on a delay. Meaning each camera was firing at a different time. Ultimately, we were able to achieve very close to 40 frames per second on strobe! This would greatly increase our chances of catching the moment of contact.

We did a test shoot to make sure we could get everything to sync up. We found that even with the short flash duration there were 1-3 frames that had a double strobe, or partial double strobe. By shooting RAW we were able to compensate. We didn't encounter the double strobe frames with three cameras. Ultimately we decided 4 cameras was better than three because we were still gaining a lot more frames per second even if a couple of them weren't perfectly exposed.

I had one pocket wizard in my hand that would fire all the cameras & strobes. We would count down the "punch" and started firing the lights a split second before the moment of impact.

IT was quite a rush to see all the lights firing! It was literally an explosion of light! It was also amazing to watch Matt get punched in the face!! He was a good sport and I admire his courage! I never in a million years thought this would be my job!

Special thanks to: Matthew Polly for having the gonads to come up with this idea! To Ray Lundgren of Gotham Publishing for giving me the call! To Cliff Hausner for all his help with the Profoto and Pocketwizard gear. To Andrew Montanez our subject for the Test shoot (and a hellva MMA fighter!) To my kick ass assistants Kim Nicholas & Michelle Talan. To Ab Sesay (aka Big Sexy) for the behind the scene video! To Noho Studios... sorry about the electric bill!

Hangin with the Lebrons

For the past three summers I have been the staff photographer for Nike Elite Youth Basketball. A special thanks to Kevin Foley & Marc Steigerwalt of Position Sports for keeping me on staff for this! The job includes about 6 weeks of traveling around the country photographing the top high school basketball players in the country. And I mean the best of the best such as…John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Harrison Barnes, Austin Rivers just to name a few… The marquee event is the Lebron James Skills Academy. It’s a combination of skills workouts and games hosted by King James himself. It’s an amazing opportunity for the players because they have the chance to meet the best player in the game (in my opinion). What I love about the event is, James is very candid with the young players and gives them life advice as well as pointers on their game.

My job is to take action photographs and portraits of the players as well as general event coverage. I rely very heavily on Dynalite gear for this job. Specifically 2000Wi packs and bi-tube heads. I set up strobes on the two main courts and have a portrait set up off the court. I would also like to note that this summer I was testing a new pack for Dynalite that has a very-very fast flash duration of 1/24,000th of a second. The importance of this is, the shorter the flash duration, the crisper and sharper your images will be. The current 2000Wi packs have a flash duration of 1/16,000th. I could visibly tell which images were shot with the test packs… they were tack sharp with almost no motion blur.

Back to Lebron…This year things were especially tense because of his whole free agency deal. The camp was literally the same week Lebron was making his announcement. The gym was packed with over 120 media outlets, ESPN was out front going live every 2 hours, helicopters were following Lebron everytime he drove somewhere. It was nuts! The beauty of being the Nike staff photographer is I had total access, I wasn’t bound to the shooting restrictions the press had.

During sessions that were closed to the media I was able to capture some amazing moments that no other photographers had access to. One was a players banquet hosted Lebron. He hangs with the high school guys for dinner then does a Q&A where the players can ask him anything. I feel this is when Lebron is the most genuine. He really accepts his role as mentor and role model and gives the guys’ great advice and insight into life in the NBA and life in the spotlight. Also during a session closed to the media, for the first time ever, Lebron played pick up with the high school players. I was pretty funny to watch the young bucks try and go at Lebron, then get totally embarrassed! During this session, I captured my favorite image of the week…a wide-open dunk by Bron-Bron…His signature dunk. This was just 48 hours before “the announcement” and it just seems like he is so relaxed! The court is his home.

After the dunk Lebron came up to me and said to me with a smile “Did you get that one?” He knew it was a pretty dunk! As did everyone in the gym!

Miller Time!

I had a great opportunity to work for award winning producer Dan Klores shooting the Media & PR photos for his latest documentary Winning Time. Two years ago I had a blast working on another project by Dan called Black Magic, he was kind enough to call me back for this project as well. Winning Time is all about Reggie Miller and how he and the Indiana Pacers denied the New York Knicks any shot at a NBA title during the Patrick Ewing John Starks era. Check it out on

My assignment was to photograph Reggie Miller…Such an iconic figure and future hall of famer in the sport! I am a big fan was totally psyched about the assignment! The concept was really simple...Reggie with props that referenced one of his most memorable games; the 1995 Eastern Conference Playoffs where he scored 8 points in 8.9 seconds to lead the Pacers to a road win over the Knicks. One of the greatest individual performances in NBA history!!!

ESPN had an idea that Reggie would sit on a huge shot clock, or hold a small shot clock in his hands.. so I went with it. But I also came up with the idea to mock up a newspaper. NYC newspapers are known for it’s bold dramatic headlines and front covers. Reggie’s performance was certainly front page news back in the day. For the mock up I actually found a company online let me make a newspaper cover. I could customize the text and ad my own photo… all for $9.99. I then got usage rights for a photo from the actual 8.9 seconds from the Associated Press and made that the cover photo. It was a nice addition to the shoot and Reggie really loved it!

The shoot was out in LA… I used 5th and Sunset, a great full service studio that is used to having celebrity/high profile shoots. I also had two great assistants and a digital tech from

We had about 2 hours with Reggie and I have to say, it was one of the smoothest shoots I’ve ever been on! HE was fantastic! He brought a lot of personality to the shoot and really had fun with it. Not to mention, he had flawless skin and look amazing! I enjoyed it tremendously and look forward to seeing Reggie down the road!

Craig Robinson…The First Brother-in-Law

One of the most important things about this business is the relationships you form with photo editors and creative directors. I’m especially grateful for Ray Lundgren a creative director for Gotham Publishing. He works on several dozen book covers a year and is kind enough to keep hire me several assignments a year.
This year one of those opportunities was a shoot with Craig Robinson, the head basketball coach for Oregon State and the brother of Michelle Obama. Because of Craig’s hectic schedule, I went to Oregon. I was faced with a couple of obstacles…finding gear and assistants. I contacted Clutch Camera, a newer rental company in Portland. They recommended several rock star assistants who really came through for me.

The shoot consisted of an environmental portrait of Craig and a portrait on white. The tough part was schlepping the gear around the old, but charming arena at Oregon State. Because of several sports practicing, we only had access to the basketball court for 3 hours, so we shot the environmental portrait on the court then we opted to do the white set in the foyer of the arena, it was barely large enough to build our set.

Craig was really wonderful… and I mean that! He was soooo nice! We talked basketball and politics and how crazy life had been since his brother in law became President. He talked about playing pick-up with his daughter on the Whitehouse court with Barack and his daughter. The basketball legacy is continuing with the young ladies in the family!! Craig's daughter Leslie is a rising top recruit in the state of Oregon. Craig was very gracious and stayed as long as we needed to get the shoot done. His book A Game of Character, is about life lessons Craig has learned through basketball and politics.

ADDY for Under Armour!

So good things happen in pairs! The same day the Slam double cover hit the stands... I got word that the Under Armour "When in Rome" print & web campaign I shot with Brandon Jennings was awarded a Gold Addy & a Mosaic award! This is really big, considering over 60,000 people enter the Addy's! For those of you who don't know, the ADDY Awards are the world's largest and arguably toughest advertising competition. It is the highest honor in the ad world to cop an ADDY!!! I give HUGE HUGE props to the creative department at Under Armour. They took everything we shot in Rome with Brandon and created a DOPE campaign! When I saw the final cuts for the print ads, I was speechless! It is one of the best projects I have ever been a part of! The hard work and the hustle has paid off!
Here's a link to the site!

Slam Double Cover!!!!

The minute this joint hit the stands I felt like a proud parent of twins! Having a double cover for Slam Magazine is amazing! Ben & Melissa did it up right! The shoot actually went down months ago and I've had to contain my excitement for all this time!
I flew to Barcelona in December for the lone opportunity when Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings would be in the same city at the same time.
I rented a studio in Barcelona, had two great local assistants. The shoot was very relaxed and quite trouble free. Ricky showed up first to the studio with his parents. What a good looking guy! and very polite! His parents were wonderful! About an hour later, Brandon arrived. IT was the first time the two players had officially met...You could tell there was a mutual respect for each other. When they got on set together it was like I was photographing Allen Iverson & Steve Nash together! It just felt like a historic moment! Two phenomenal players with their whole lives ahead of them! This was a once in a lifetime kind of photoshoot!
Here is some behind the scenes footage from the shoot!

As if that wasn't enough... Slam called me a week later and said they wanted to do a double cover... this time they sent me to Florida to catch John Wall & Lance Stephenson together. The two are the top high school players this year and both are just a year away from the NBA Draft! It was an overdose of basketball! Two amazing shoots in a week!

Dime Magazine

In case you missed it...The January issue of Dime Magazine was full of Brandon Jennings! The cover and full spread inside are all outtakes I shot for the "When in Rome" ad campaign Under Armour. Props to Dime for recognizing how historic a move Brandon has made!

SET Magazine Cover Shoot

On Monday I had the pleasure of shooting the Washington Wizards Gilbert Arenas for the cover of the 4th issue of SET Magazine. Everything went down at his home in northern Virginia. We had a great concept to shoot some environmental portraits outside of his house & with his cars. But the day took an unexpected turn when his coach was fired!! So the whole crew was in limbo just chilling at his house for about 6 hours while Gilbert was in team meetings and media interviews. A special thanks to Gilbert's fiance Laura who entertained us all day! The G-man finally got home about 8:30 in the evening!!! Despite the stress of the day, Gilbert was a great subject. We had him decked out in several great suits... as well as a bare chested tattoo look for the ladies! The issue hits the shelf in about a month!

Under Armour Website

It's very rewarding to see the end product of a photoshoot. Case and point, the Under Armour website dedicated to Brandon Jennings which just launched this week. The creative team and UA did an amazing job on the site, I'm so proud of it! All of the photos are from the marathon shoot in Italy about 8 weeks a few personal photos from Brandon. The site allows fans to follow Mr. Young Money while he is in Rome, Italy playing for Vitrus Roma. Enjoy the site!