UPAA Blog 2020-21 #22 – 4/12/21 (text and photos by Jay Drowns)

Jay Drowns is assistant director of photography at Utah Valley University Marketing & Communications. His Sports Action category photo "Scoring Drive" was voted Best in Show in the March 2021 Monthly Image Competition. This is Jay's second Best in Show of this year. (See the first here.) The MIC Q&A is a monthly feature on the UPAA blog to learn more about the thought and craft behind UPAA's contest-winning images.

Tech stuff? What camera, lens, exposure, lighting, gadgets, gizmos, etc.?

•Canon EOS 5D MkIII (The only cameras available as remotes.)

•EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 21 mm

•1/160, f/6.3 @ ISO 500

•B&W Polarizing filter

•Dyna-Lite Arena Lights

•Pocket Wizard MultiMax

•2 Variable Friction Arms

How did you have an opportunity to make this photo? Planned? Self-Assigned? Something else? 

The games are assigned. The remotes and strobes are to feed my addiction. 

That's a lot of work for a selfie! Jay tests the backboard camera and strobes before a game.

I choose strobes for the quality of light, dark background and depth of field for remotes. Until this year the lights in our arena were old florescent lights. Last summer they installed LEDs but there is no exposure falloff in the crowd and I still don’t like the color it renders. So, I stick with the strobes.

•Old Florescent 1/1000, f/2.8 @ 6400 ISO

•New LED 1/1000, f/2.8 @ ISO 1600

•Strobe 1/160, f/5.6 @ ISO 160

•Strobe w/Polarizer 1/160, f/6.3 @ ISO 500

Any unique logistics in making the photo? What sort of post processing (or not)? 

Preparation for remotes begins at the before the season, making arrangements with facilities finding out when I can set up before each home stand. I usually set up remotes two days before the start of a home series. The morning of game day I double-check focus and lag each of the cameras to sync with the strobe system. An hour before game time I replace the batteries in the cameras and leave everything set for the game. The remotes stay up for a week sometimes two.

In addition to the Best in Show photo, Jay had 1st place (right) and second place photos in the Sports Action category. The remotes give new options for creativity with the hand-held cameras, too. "Knowing I had one basket covered by remotes allowed me the opportunity to experiment with shutter drag," he said.

I have anywhere from 3-5 cameras set up on a synced remote system all on the same basket. I usually have one handheld camera on the system that is wired with an external plunger switch to trigger all the remotes. There are times when the view from the handheld camera is blocked. In those instances I'm timing the exposure for the other remotes. When working from the opposite end of the court you can be working blind, trusting in the chaos of the moment that all the cameras will sync and that you captured the millisecond of the action.

Three other angles on the same play, making a total of four cameras all synced to the strobes at the same time. The Pocket Wizard MultiMax "lag" feature makes it possible. The lower right image was the handheld camera.

All the coaching staffs I have worked with at UVU have been amazing. Anytime I ask if I can do something they say, "Yes and is there anything else you need from us?" The only time I've had problems was with visiting coaches when I was using cinefoil. Our coaching staff has gone to bat for me, but I have opted to use a polarizing filter to avoid the hassle.

"The success rate on the glass remote is somewhat subjective," Jay says. "I almost always get at least a couple of usable images. Getting an image I really like is maybe a few times in a season."

The un-cropped straight-from-camera image. "I don’t do a lot of post processing on strobed images. Mostly contrast control."

You chose this image as one of your 5 best of the month, and UPAA chose it as the best of everyone’s best of the month…What do you think makes it stand out?

For me what stands out about this image is expression and the peak action. I like how the stretch of his arm is exaggerated by the wide angle lens.

What (if anything) would you do differently if you could re-shoot this today?

I’ve yet to see the glass remote photo that I picture in my mind. Can you imagine all ten players in the frame with all of them looking to the ball, filling every inch of the frame? The possibilities of the next image keeps me coming back.


"The key to success is action, and the essential in action is perseverance." -Sun Yat-sen | Thanks for reading the blog. Articles & article suggestions always welcome, email mcashore@nd.edu. Follow UPAA on Instagram!