What’s it like photographing the world’s newest football stadium? Let me tell you…
Photographing a brand new professional football and soccer stadium is no easy task.
The Mosaic Stadium is home to the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders professional football team. We landed the gig after B+H did a review of architectural photographers in Western Canada and selected our studio from the 10 architectural photographers that were short listed. When B+H Architects made the call to ask if I’d take on the project I said “hell yeah!” So my assistant Judith and I packed our bags and booked flights to Regina, but first we had to look up where Regina is.
B+H Architecture’s vision for the shoot was to showcase the incredible space of the stadium with a series of beauty shots that B+H could use in their portfolio, project proposals, and other promotional materials.
This shoot required extensive pre-production planning with the B+H. We had a series conference calls to make a shot list and then used Google Earth and other planning tools to plan the views, elevations, and times of day for each shot. The we had to find and rent some specialized equipment – not easy in a small city, get photography permits from the city and permissions from the Mosaic Stadium and co-ordinate schedules with the Roughriders management.
The planning process revealed critical information for the shoot; for example, we realized we needed the ultra wide angle Nikon 19mm tilt/shift/rotate lens to make the shots we needed so we ordered the first one in Canada. Planning also revealed that we needed an 80 ft. self-driving aerial work platform (a type of crane) to hoist ourselves up to the elevations required to see into the stadium from outside and to get to specific view points inside the stadium.
The stadium is a huge building, so I knew that fitting it all into a single photo would be unlikely for most of the views we needed to capture. So we planned ahead to shoot each view in three super-wide angle sections and piece the three images together in post-production. Each section had 7 -9 exposures so in post-production we had to combine between 21 and 27 photographs into a single photo and blend all of the edges seamlessly, including the sky with it’s moving clouds. We hand blend our composite images so accurately masking around the super structure of the stadium to blend exposures was a long process that nearly made me go cross-eyed. The masking alone took up to 8 hours per photo. Although we dedicated hours and hours to editing and compositing the images, the final photographs were worth every ounce of work.
Because we were creating exterior beauty shots, (even the interiors were technically exteriors), the biggest problem we faced was the weather. We resolved this by building 3 extra days into the photoshoot so we could wait out bad weather – thankfully there is a DQ across the street from the stadium and during one rain storm we ran over and had some banana splits!
Photographing in a professional football/soccer stadium with very tight security and limited access includes it’s own difficulties. Working with our client my studio manager negotiated access to the stadium and worked with the sports teams so we could access the field around the sports team’s schedules, she also had to coordinate with the schedules of the maintenance crews and non-professional teams that rent the stadium.
We really wanted to fly one of our drones through the mosaic stadium to make unique photos and videos. Unfortunately, due to safety hazards we couldn’t get permission; they didn’t want to risk a drone falling on a player or staff member. However, while we were photographing from our crane to capture a specific vantage point, an unauthorized person did an illegal drone flight around the stadium and then through the stadium. The police were called in but they didn’t find the pilot. I don’t like to give up and I love solving challenges, so although we couldn’t use a drone, I did get permission to use a crane anywhere on the stadium property and I negotiated permission to access the rooftops of nearby buildings to make the aerial photography we needed. It would have been much easier to fly an illegal drone, but as professionals, we won’t take that risk, nor will we put our clients and property owners at risk.
We loved Regina, and exploring Regina also revealed many rewards. There are delicious coffee shops and restaurants throughout the city, excellent craft beer, delightfully sunny and cozy patios, and some great pubs. The city itself has wonderful old architecture, a very walkable downtown core with parks and a beautiful river valley meandering through the city. Working with B+H was an amazing experience as well, and everyone involved in the project was incredibly helpful and accommodating.
If you enjoyed this blog post, then you’ll also enjoy: Personal Branding: Using Photography to Tell Your Story