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Staying sharp: A veteran news shooter seeks new challenges - Continued

And They're Off: A remote camera captures the start of a horse race at a grass track on the outskirts of Copenhagen, 2005. Canon EOS-1D Mark II, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM, ISO 200, a pair of PocketWizard MultiMAX units were used to trigger the camera. (Photo by Jens Dresling/Politiken)

Another of Dresling's recent yearly projects was to shoot as often as possible with remote camera setups, using the same PocketWizard transceivers that he uses to trigger his flashes. Though now common at North American sports events, the use of remote cameras is quite rare in Denmark, and in Europe in general, he says. "I'm really inspired by American photographers. It's been a roller-coaster ride to use [the remotes] because sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. But I'm getting a camera into a position where I have no competitors."

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Round the Bend: For the same assignment as the photo above, Dresling again used a remote camera setup to capture horses and jockeys as they headed around the final turn. Canon EOS-1D Mark II, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM, ISO 200, PocketWizard MultiMAXes. (Photo by Jens Dresling/Politiken)

Although he has used remotes behind the backboard at basketball games a few times, Dresling most often sets them up when shooting soccer (which Danes, of course, call football). His main cameras are two Canon EOS-1D Mark IIs, but he also has two original Canon EOS-1D bodies which he uses almost exclusively for remote work these days.

When covering soccer, for example, he'll typically place an EOS-1D fitted with a wide angle lens behind each goal. The setup for each is the same: the camera is positioned at ground level on an Overxposed OX Pro Platform. Also attached to the platform is a three-foot high Manfrotto backlight pole; sitting on top of that is a MultiMAX set as a receiver. The extra height is required to ensure good reception.

Dresling uses a foot pedal to trigger a MultiMAX in transmitter mode from the sidelines, where he simultaneously shoots with his two EOS-1D Mark IIs. The remote cameras are configured to be on separate MultiMAX groups (A and B typically), so that Dresling can diagnose if one or the other isn't firing. But they are on the same channel, so that they both fire when the foot pedal is pressed.

Dresling's remote skills also came in handy for the wedding of Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik in 2004 at the cathedral of Copenhagen. The photographer, after arduous negotiations with Danish security, the Royal Court, and the church, managed to wangle permission to mount a Nikon D1X above the church entrance. "It was a lot of work, but I got a shot of [the newlyweds] going out of the church. Every royal in Europe was there. It's a really nice picture, and it's history. A Crown Prince hadn't been married in Denmark for 160 years."

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Royal Exit: The wedding of Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik to Mary Donaldson, 2004. Nikon D1X, Nikkor 28-70mm f/2.8, camera triggered by a pair of PocketWizards. (Photo by Jens Dresling/Politiken)

All these extra efforts to make new and different shots - the remotes, the softboxes, the slideshows - are not lost on Dresling's colleagues. "It's amazing to me to see a man who's been in this business for twenty-five years to still have this energy and this ability to develop his work," says Per Folkver, Politiken's Picture Editor-in-Chief and Dresling's boss. "It's a big inspiration for everyone else in the department.

"Today, you have an enormous amount of tools - in the computer, in the camera, in the remote," Folkver continues. "There's no end to what can be done. He goes into this new universe with a very proactive concentration. He wants to understand and take part in these [technical revolutions]. It's more important than it was twenty-five years ago."

Dresling's eagerness to tackle technical change made him, in 1995, one of the first photographers in Denmark to begin shooting digital. He's now using the two aforementioned Canon EOS-1D Mark II bodies and an assortment of Canon lenses, including the EF 28mm f/1.8 USM, the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM, the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, and the EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS USM. The newspaper's pool of longer glass includes an EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM.

His computer is an 867MHz 12-inch Apple Mac PowerBook G4 with 640mb of RAM and a 60GB hard drive. His CompactFlash cards are an assortment of 1GB and 2GB Lexar 40X units.

He shoots RAW for nearly all assignments except sports or if he's really close to deadline. Full CF cards are inserted into a Lexar FireWire card reader (model RW019), and imported with Photo Mechanic 4.4.2 from Camera Bits. Typically, he will initially transfer only the selects he has tagged in the camera. From those selects, he chooses the frames he intends to submit to the paper and converts them from RAW to JPEG with Canon's RAW Image Task 2.2. Because the color in RAW Image Task conversions matches closely the JPEGs emerging from the camera, and it's color Dresling prefers over other RAW converters, he has chosen to live with the fact that actually using RAW Image Task is cumbersome. That's because the software can't be called directly from Photo Mechanic; instead, his preferred photo browser must send the photos to Image Browser 5.6.1, which in turn can invoke RAW Image Task.

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Seeing Red: Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen heads to his office to change clothes after being doused in red paint by an anti-war protester at the country's Parliament in Copenhagen, 2003. Kodak DCS 620, Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8, Nikon Speedlight SB-28D. The original was a half-stop overexposed and shot on the incorrect WB setting, but Dresling was able to correct for both errors prior to RAW conversion. (Photo by Jens Dresling/Politiken)

Dresling is surprised and unhappy that a RAW workflow that meets his standards of quality, in 2006, requires so many separate tools and steps. "You have to keep yourself updated all the time. I might have one workflow now, then in half a year it'll be something else. Photoshop will always be there, and I hope Photo Mechanic will always be there.

"But it's really frustrating that we can't have that simple workflow that we had with the Kodak," he says, referring to his earlier digital days with the DCS 520, 620 and 620X cameras and the support for their RAW files within Photo Mechanic itself. "That was the best [RAW] workflow ever."
After conversion he opens the images in Photoshop CS and makes any needed adjustments. He does "as little as possible," he says, "but I like to tone down the edges of the picture to make them a little darker, and [I run] Unsharp Mask, and maybe add some contrast."

His Unsharp Mask (USM) routine is not a final sharpening, which he leaves to the paper's pre-press staff once they've sized the picture for printing. Rather, it's an initial sharpening to counteract the softening effect of the EOS-1D Mark II's low-pass optical filter, coupled with the slight blurring that is a by-product of the noise reduction applied to in-camera JPEGs and CR2s converted through RAW Image Task. His USM setting for this sharpening step is Amount: 300%, Radius: 0.3, Threshold: 0, followed by a Fade Unsharp Mask step with the Mode set to Luminosity.

Noise reduction, if needed, is done with PictureCode's Noise Ninja 2.1.2 plug-in for Photoshop. For sending pictures to the paper, he uses an FTP client called Transmit 3.5.1 from software developer Panic, and he catalogs his photos with iView MediaPro 3.02.

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