UPAA Blog 2021-22 #3- 10/7/21 (text and photos by Steven Bridges) 

Steven Bridges needs no introduction. (But here are a few just in case you're new here...!) His News and College Life category image "Dissolving T" was voted Best in Show in the September 2021 Monthly Image Competition. The MIC Q&A is a monthly feature on the UPAA blog to learn more about the thought and craft behind the UPAA's contest-winning images.

Quick tech stuff—camera model, focal length, exposure data, lighting used (if any):

•Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L EF II USM @ 57mm, mounted on a stadium rail with a super clamp and Manfrotto 056 3-way pan-and-tilt head, fired via Pocket Wizard

•Exposure: 8 seconds, f11, ISO 125

•Lighting: Jumbotron

How did this shoot land on your calendar? Did you have a plan/vision prior to the shoot?

This was a routine assignment. After our traditional Torch Night welcome event, the students would go onto the football field and form the shape of a Power T for a class photo.

After several discussions, we decided to make multiple versions of the photo.

1) I would photograph the students with the stadium lights on for the typical group shot.

2) We would turn off the stadium lights and do a long exposure with the students holding glow sticks they received earlier in the evening.

3) Finally, we would finish the event with gameday fireworks outside of the stadium. I would capture the fireworks bursts along with the students.


Above: The making of the 'T,' lit with ribbon light.

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

Any unique logistics? Luck.

You plan, you envision, and then you get punched in the gut. While this image won BiS, most of my visions for this shoot did not turn out.

Gut Punch 1 - On the day of the event, I found out the main stadium lights were in the process of being replaced and would not be operational for our nighttime event. I freaked out a little. I don’t have enough strobes to light a whole football field. You have to adapt and overcome. So I cranked up my ISO and used a slower shutter speed to capture a “safe” group portrait using only the ribbon light that runs around the inside of the stadium. That exposure was 3200 ISO 1/60 at 5.6. 

Then the idea was to turn off the ribbon lights and darken the stadium. I would use a mounted camera for a long exposure to make the students’ glow sticks show up on the field. Then possibly wave them around to give the Power T some movement. You know, "less lighter at a concert" and more artsy. Due to time constraints I was not able to attempt it this year, maybe next.

Gut Punch 2 - When it came time for the fireworks, they went higher than the overhang I was under. No problem, I had a remote camera to capture that. Actually, there was a big problem. My camera went to sleep before the fireworks started. So I missed that shot. Next time I will triple-check the sleep timer on my remote camera.

Once the fireworks finale finished, students started rushing for the exits. As I watched this movement begin, it had the same feeling as the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. Knowing my camera was still locked in to capture the long exposure of the glow stick photo, I began to fire eight-second exposures as quickly as I could. When reviewing the camera afterward, everything translated exactly how I saw it. The award-winning image was the first frame of this series.


Above: The unedited raw files. A dark stadium is indeed dark!

I did not perform any special post-processing on this image. In Lightroom, I corrected the exposure and did some burning around the Power T to even out the exposure.

I did find one unique and unplanned surprise while making this image. When the ribbon light around the stadium was on, it brought out the lines on the field. When the ribbon light was off, all of the field lines disappeared. That was a happy accident that made a cleaner photo for this image and the one we released.


Above: The JPEG versions after exposure adjustment.

Did your vision before you made the photo come through in the final product? What (if anything) would you do differently if you could re-shoot this today?

I watched this image unfold in real-time, and it translated perfectly into the final product. What would I do differently? As always, I wish I could pre-visualize these things versus reacting. Also, I might make a time-lapse of the event.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?

It would be insane to leave the MIC out of this question. Even if it is not the primary reason for my motivation, it is always in the back of my mind.

I believe the most underrated part of the MIC is the judging of the images. While voting, it is not uncommon for me to go through all of the images multiple times. I study the different unique styles and techniques used by other members. People who only look at the winning photos are missing out. There is still a ton of inspirational work that does not make it into the Top 5 images each month.


"Think you know everything about the letter 'T'? That's just the half of it!" If you have an article, article idea or simply a better joke to contribute to the blog, email editor Matt Cashore, mcashore@nd.edu. Follow UPAA on Instagram, too!