Monday, October 20, 2008

Football: Maryland Terrapins vs Wake Forest

Jeff Ermann from the Turtle Sports Report contacted me and asked if I'd be willing to shoot the Wake Forest vs Maryland game on Saturday. Since Al was shooting the game for the DC Sports Box I accepted Jeff's offer. Al and I had spoken about this scenario back in August and agreed that it was alright if I pursued opportunities outside of the DC Sports Box. After all, who's going to turn down paid work?

The lighting for the event was perfect - abundant sunshine! The temperature was also perfect - not hot at all! I had a feeling I was really going to enjoy the game.

I shot with the 400mm lens for the entire game. I pulled out the 70-200mm before the game and at halftime to photograph the band members, cheerleaders, and dancers. I was extremely pleased with how the photos came out - the colors and sharpness of the D3 are just unbelievable. I'm constantly wow'ed by what comes off that camera body.

I opted to shoot at f/5.6 for most of the game. With so much light and at 400mm on a football field where the stands are so distant I didn't need f/2.8 in order to isolate my subject. I've noticed that at f/2.8 the pictures are not quite as sharp as at f/4 or f/5.6. I've shot at f/4 and f/5.6 in the past during day games and had good results so I decided to take another stab at it.

My photos came out really well. They were all very sharp and I attribute that to the f/5.6 setting. I talked with several photographers on the sideline and asked them what aperture they were using. Greg kept it locked on f/2.8 but Mitch worked up around f/3.2 and f/3.5. Al shot up around f/4 while Jeff shot at f/4.

I was especially pleased with a photo I took at halftime of a dancer while at f/9. She was a the minimum focal distance (about 15 feet) for my lens (400mm AF-S I) and her face is just tack sharp while the background is a complete blur. She came out really well and I learned from the experience (you can isolate your subject even at f/9 if you are shooting at focal length 15 feet on a 400mm lens).

The rest of the game went really well and I was very happy with my photos from the day. I only carried my 70-200mm and my 24-70mm lens with me on my belt and I ditched the 300mm and 14-24mm lenses I brought to my last football game. I knew I'd want the 70-200 for halftime candids and band/cheer shots and I planned on using the 24-70 for the post-game celebration photos.

I considered using the 14-24mm lens for post game photos but elected against it because shooting at 14mm requires me to get really close to the players. Big bulky football players celebrating after a game plus a 14mm lens don't exactly mix so I wanted the ability to be able to be wide but keep a reasonable distance between myself and the celebrating players. I managed to get my shot in the end and was happy with the 24-70mm lens.

Overall the f/4 and f/5.6 experience was a good one but I got some decent advice from Mitch, a photographer on the sidelines that works with the Baltimore Press Box. He said he would shoot at f/3.5 or so on a day like this but goes down to f/2.8 when he has a background that's a mix between the endzone buildings and the rest of the stands. He wants to take that element out of the photo and by going with f/2.8 he narrows the DoF and really throws the background out of focus. But if he's shooting straight along the sideline and the fans are in the background he'll narrow it down to f/4 because there isn't much variation in the background.

I thought it was interesting to think about selecting aperture based on your background. I never really thought that way in the past - I always thought of working with aperture to control how much of my subject I want in focus. I never thought about using it to control how much I want OUT of focus.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to work with some new individuals on the field this afternoon. With Seth up in the box and me on the field we relied on SMS to communicate between each other. Seth was keyed into the rest of the media network and could hear player stats throughout the game. As he wrote his article he SMS'ed me the jersey numbers of players that were doing well and players that he planned to highlight in his article. I then tried my best to make sure I shot those players even if it was just in isolation.

I still have trouble finding a balance between watching the game vs shooting the game. Through practice I've gotten better at games like Field Hockey and Soccer at watching both the game and the photoset. I have an idea of "who's hot" on the field in the sport of Field Hockey and Soccer. But in football I'm still operating in the dark. When I'm on the sidelines I'm totally cued into getting the best photo and I'm not very cognizant of which players are having a good day. Having Seth relay that information down to me was helpful.

This was my best photoset to-date. Over 60 images published up to the Turtle Sports Report. I got band members, cheerleaders, the crowd, defense, and offense. I was very happy with how it all came together. I can't link you over to the Turtle Sports Report article because I haven't seen it yet, but I can send you in the direction of the DC Sports Box where you can read Abram's review of Maryland vs Wake Forest and view Al Santos' photos.


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