Hey all. As we wrap up 2016 I wanted to post a recap of my top 10 esports photos of the year. I also wanted to go a little bit more in depth with them to give you a little background perspective of what was going on behind the photo. So without further ado, lets begin with #10!
Alright so I know this photo really isn't "esports" per say, but in true Dreamhack fashion they had an amazing pre-party with a bunch of really good DJs and in this case Monstercat put on one hell of a show. I was originally contracted by Panda Global to do a video shoot of their HoTS team, but on my layover from Tampa to Austin I was contacted by the manager of the label and we quickly worked out a deal to photograph Monstercats' artists at the pre-party.
I ended up with a lot of really good photos from the shoot which you can see here but of all the shots I got this one was by far the most technically challenging. I had envisioned a photo of showing the emotion of set as well as showing the motion of the DJ. To accomplish this I had 2 flashes set up on stage, one stage left and one on my camera, both set in manual and utilizing rear curtain sync. I worked with the lighting specialist (make sure you make friends with them, they can make or break your shoot) and got him to set off all these white lights behind the DJ giving him a ghostly effect. What I got was even better than I expected and worth almost breaking my second flash. :P
Genesis 3 was my first big major of 2016 and I can safely say that it was a crazy way to start off the year. What started as me not even going to #G3 turned into me working with Last Stock Legends as a Production Assistant and meeting some of the most amazing people who have turned into my second family. While I didn't get to do as much photography as I liked, I found a new love for Cinematography that I hope to grow in 2017.
As for this photo, I was positioned behind the TV where TSM Zero and 2GG| Komorikiri were literally going stock for stock of this crew battle. It came down to the last stock and when Komo won, all the Japanese players rushed the stage. It is extremely important here that as a photographer you keep your cool and not get wrapped up in all the hype. A lot of people were moving and my goal was to show the emotion before Komo got taken over by sea of Japanese players who flooded the stage. Framing was essential to this as well by keeping the Japanese flag in the frame.
Super Smash Con 16 was one of the most unique tournaments I have been to this year. Not only did it have some of the craziest upsets but had something for everyone, from Anime to Smash Bro's to a full orchestra playing some of the sickest Zelda productions I have ever heard.
I had photographed SFAT and Mango a lot this year. Partially because SFAT had a break out year and Mango is just Mango. For this image I wanted to show off a different perspective and still show the intensity of the players while showing off little details that make the players unique. Mangos' sandals have almost become iconic in the community because of his love for the USA. I wanted to draw the viewers eye from the bottom of the image up so that they could see every detail of the competitor and with the can lights in the background giving off this really intense glow that helped add to the intensity of the image itself it made for a perfect moment between two people who deeply respect each other and still want to win.
Pound 2016 was probably one of the most intense events I have ever done in my career. Back story behind this event was that 5 days before the event I had broken my ankle. Yeah.... So I had already agreed to do the event and honestly I wasn't going to let my ankle hinder me from doing what I loved, so I asked a doctor to cast it and put it in a walking boot and the rest is history.
Hax$ is a legend in the SSBM community. The man is known for his captivating style of Fox and his insane reactions, but unfortunately Hax has been plagued with hand problems for the better part of the year, rendering him unable to play the game he loves. For his first major back since EVO 2015, Hax$ did the impossible and placed 3rd. As Hax was walking off the stage the crowd erupted into a standing ovation. I had originally imagined this shot as Hax in focus and the crowd out of focus, but in a rush didn't get a chance to set my focus point correctly and I loved this image of the community showing their support. It was a happy little mistake. :)
Dreamhack has been a dream of mine since I was a CS 1.6 player back in Middle School and High School. When I heard that Dreamhack was coming to the US for the first time I knew I had to make the trip. It did not disappoint. I got to work with some of the best photographers and writers in the industry and got to photograph the first tournament Mango won for the nation in 2016 after a string of Top 8 finishes dating back to 2015.
Mango had an amazing start to grand finals defeating Hungrybox 3-1 and resetting the bracket. As the reset happened Hungrybox took a moment to collect himself and Mango turned back to look at someone shouting his name from the crowd. While I had my camera pointed at Hungrybox I noticed out of the corner of my eye Mango turning around and I quickly switched focus to capture one of my favorite portraits of a player in 2016. Mango went on to win that 3-2 in a CRAZY close set that came down to a last stock last hit scenario.
CEO 2016 was by far my best event of the year. From start to finish I was extremely happy with my photography and was able to push myself further than I had ever imagined and ended up with some great shots through out the weekend.
This photograph makes #5 on the list for many reasons. The main one is the details. I intentionally set my shutter speed up higher to make sure I was able to capture each individual piece of money Anti was tossing out to the crowd and while doing that I was able to capture some amazing expressions on the crowds faces. This shot was especially tricky because I was working with another photographer in the ring and I wanted to make sure that I didn't interfere with his shot or get in the way of the stream cameras that were capturing Anti's entrance either, so as soon as he got up and started tossing money I crouched down to grab one photo and kept running as to make sure not to interfere.
The Big House 6 was everything I wanted it to be plus so much more. While CEO 2015 was where I got my first big break as an esports photographer, The Big House 5 was the first where I found my home within photographing melee and smash 4. It was a fitting reunion coming home to where I fell in love with the community and being able to capture some of my best work of 2016.
As I was walking back stage from photographing the casters I had noticed that a group of high level players practicing and talking to each other. Often times I just ignore this and continue on because I don't want to be a distraction to the players as they warm up, but for some reason when I saw Leffen and Professor Pro talking with each other I decided to grab a couple shots, and boy am I glad I did. I had propped my camera up on the table to try to stabilize myself because of the low shutter speed and just waited. I ended up with this image that I am really happy with because it shows no matter how much you know you can always learn more and the photo ended up being featured in my first ESPN gallery.
If CEO 2016 was my best event of the year, then Combo Breaker 2016 definitely was the most fun event of 2016. At this event I was able to really expand to doing what I love to do which is combining social media with my photography. This was such a challenge for me because during the last day at any given time there were 5 Top 8's going on at once and I was constantly running around to make sure that I captured all these amazing moments.
While I was running around from the two forward stages I began to notice this haze that started appearing because of the smoke machines that were pumping out little bursts of smoke on 30 second intervals from behind the stage. As I watched the smoke drift up towards the lights, I suddenly realized the effects that they were having on the stage lights themselves, and I quickly worked my way to the back of the room to see what it looked like from the crowds perspective. I was not disappointed. I worked my way to the center of the audience and snapped off a couple of shots when to my surprise the man in the middle stood up and started cheering. I quickly brought my camera up and grabbed three frame and voila.
Like I said The Big House 6 had some pretty amazing moments, but this Pop off by Rudolph was something a photographer could only dream about.
So as I was photographing Rudolph vs Druggedfox, I had noticed in previous games that if Rudolph won he would stand up and usually do something unorthodox, now to understand that, you first have to understand how he plays melee. See image below.
So one would think, for him to stand up and cheer, it would take him a little bit, right? Wrong. I have never seen a player move that fast in my life. I was almost caught off guard and thankfully I was in the right position to work my way around him to get capture him showing off to the camera his shirt, and as luck would have it, he looked right at me, thus spawning the image I like to call, "The Popoff Heard Around the World."
My #1 Photo of 2016. If you've made it this far, I really appreciate it. Since I started photography my #1 goal has always been to go to EVO, and I made it this year. I was contracted by Red Bull to do social media for EVO 2016 and it was like a dream come true. I only took one photograph during the tournament though. This photograph.
This photograph will stay in my gallery forever. It's the first photograph that I was able to check off from a massive bucket list of places I've wanted to photograph in my life but enough about that, let's get into the details. Super Smash Bros. Melee Grand Finals. Hungrybox vs. Armada. Hungrybox in losers and Armada in winners. A brutal battle that went back and forth til game 5. Here I was sitting in the suite up top and I knew my moment had come. I grabbed my camera and started running around Mandalay Bay Arena searching for that one spot to capture the image I've had in my mind forever. I finally get to a good place where I feel I can capture the whole crowd and the stage, and it happens. Hungrybox resets the bracket and I start snapping away. I had got it. I got the exact moment he reset the bracket, which may not seem like much to many, but to me it was like a dream come true.
So that's it. This year I have made some amazing dreams I've had come true but that doesn't mean I am slowing down or stopping. I was able to finally go full time photography a dream that I have had all my life. It means so much to me to be able to do this full time now, but I can't stop. I won't stop. I will not become complacent. To 2016, Thank you. To 2017, be ready because I have so much more to accomplish.