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Sports Illustrated's "Leading Off" shot with Nikon D1X  
Friday, June 22, 2001 | by
David Bergman spent the weekend covering golf for Sports Illustrated with the Nikon D1X.

This past weekend, I photographed two days of the US Open in Tulsa, OK on assignment for Sports Illustrated, resulting in one of my aerial images being played over two pages in the "Leading Off" section of this week's issue (6/25/01). The catch? I shot it on the Nikon D1X.

Two page spread in Sports Illustrated's June 25, 2001 edition. The photo was shot
with a Nikon D1X as Bergman took in the US Open from a circling helicopter.
Shooting info: 400mm f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/750 at f/5.6, JPEG Fine (16.9MB when
opened into Photoshop), Cloudy WB, Normal Contrast and Sharpness.

On June 1st, Anne Cahill and Steven Heiner from Nikon USA came to the S.I. offices in New York and hand delivered the first four D1X cameras in the US. I'm a freelancer for the magazine, but I have been working with them recently as they are considering shooting more digital on deadline situations. I'm no stranger to digital and deadlines since I spent many years doing it as a staffer for The Miami Herald.

In Tulsa, the magazine had a crew of photographers out there for the week shooting film. Director of Photography Steve Fine decided that I should go out with the D1X's in case there was a playoff on Monday (the magazine's deadline). Picture editor Matt Ginella also wanted me to shoot aerials from a helicopter on Sunday.

Deputy picture editor/computer guru Phil Jache and I determined that if we were going to give this digital thing a shot, that I should do it all the way. It was decided that I would shoot digital on Sunday, even though we weren't on deadline until Monday night. It would be a good dry run also in case of a playoff.

Shooting from the helicopter was not easy since the US Open has a lot of pull with the FAA. We had to stay above the blimp, which put us at about 2,000 feet. I used the D1X and a 400/2.8, hand-holding as we bounced around. It was a wild finish as Reteif Goosen, Mark Brooks, and Stewart Cink all three-putted the 72nd hole to force a Monday playoff between Brooks and Goosen.

Photographer David Bergman

That night, in my hotel room, I went through each of my 200+ images one at a time. I was using Photo Mechanic for Mac and had to look at every "preview" image (apple-R) to really see what was going on. Because the D1X images are 16.9 MB uncompressed, they take about 4-5 seconds to appear in the preview window. This made for a long evening of editing. I'm not sure how effective this will be on a tight deadline.

I selected four images and sent low-res files in. I was on a dial-up modem in the hotel and wanted to see if the editors liked the images before sending in the full-res versions.

The next morning, I got a call from Steve Fine. Reaction was excellent in New York and they wanted the images full size. Thanks to Matthew Stockman from AllSport, I was able to share an ISDN line and sent those files in from the press center.

The aerial of Goosen standing over his second putt on the 18th hole is in the 6/25/01 issue of Sports Illustrated across two pages. It doesn't look like digital -- I don't think it would look any better if it was shot on film.

Here are some of the technical specs: Nikon D1X firmware 1.00, Nikon 400/2.8 lens. Camera settings: 200 ASA, 1/750, f/5.6, white balance: Cloudy, large/fine JPEG, contrast and sharpening at normal. 320MB Lexar cards stored the photos in the camera, and I used my Titanium Powerbook to transmit.

In hindsight, I would have rather used the "low-contrast" setting on the camera. I also probably should have shot at a faster shutter speed because I was bouncing around a lot and the image looks (on the original file) to have a tiny bit of motion blur. However, the prepress crew did an amazing job in making it look great in the magazine. I used the "Cloudy" white balance because I think it's a little warmer than the "Sunny" setting.

My biggest problem with the camera? It's only 3 fps -- too slow for most sports. It's fine for golf, tennis, strobe basketball, etc, but when football season comes around, it will be tough to compete at 3 fps. Also, Nikon wisely put a hoodman-like cover over the screen, but I lost one of them two weeks ago while shooting a bike race from the back of a motorcycle. If you live in Philadelphia and find it (I think I lost it somewhere on the Manayunk Wall!), please send it back to me.

Overall, I think we're in the midst of a breakthrough in digital photography. With 17MB images available, it's only a matter of time before most magazines make the switch. If the "next generation" of digital cameras have at least the same file size as the D1X and a faster fps rate (hello, Canon?), there will be very little practical need to shoot film for publication. Don't believe me? Just look at this week's Sports Illustrated.

The June 25, 2001 edition of Sports Illustrated began hitting the stands yesterday. It features Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers on the cover. Note that Mark Terrill's picture of Roger Cedeno in the lower right hand corner of the spread following Bergman's golf photo was shot with the original D1.

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