Monday, November 24, 2008

Friday night I was up pretty late post processing basketball photos and publishing them out to the various sites where I post photos for safe keeping once they are all touched up and ready to be viewed. Saturday I laid in bed watching Discovery Channel, Nat Geo, The Learning Channel, and Animal Planet while my wife Julie worked her second of three jobs up at my company's office. Yes, I have a good life - I'm laying in bed while my wife is up at my office working on a project making some extra scratch.

After a decent recovery I emerged from the house around 4pm to head out to REI to purchase some reinforcements for the cold. This past week it's been in the middle 30s during the day and dropping down into the 20s at night. With gametime scheduled for 7:45pm I knew it was going to be a cold one, and if there's one thing that outdoor sports photography has taught me it's this: be prepared for the weather.

If you're focused on your wetness, your coldness, or your sleepiness you're not going to focus on the play on the field. Purchasing $50 worth of goretex pants and jackets or a $30 windproof hat is worth it in the long haul and will allow you to be prepared for the eventual shoot where the weather just doesn't play nice. Often times those soaker games can lead to the best shots where you capture clumps of dirt flying up in the air or a player wringing out a jersey.

My purchases at REI this afternoon included some small sized goretex gloves along with a wind-proof hat and some portable air-activated heat packs for both my feet and my gloves. Kirsten Olsen introduced me to a sweet pair of gloves last year that I've sworn by ever since - they are essentially a glove with the fingers cut off at your last knuckle. However, they also come with a protective flap that is like a mitten in that it slips over your 4 fingers. The thumb comes with a flap as well. What's nice about this glove is that it leaves your pointer finger and thumb exposed giving you plenty of dexterity to work the dials on your camera.

It's really important that a photographer have good sensitivity on their pointer-finger because the shutter-release/auto-focus button is very sensitive. You want to partially depress the shutter to activate the AF system but you don't necessarily want to trip the shutter. You need a very soft touch and wrapping your hands in lots of protective gear, while certainly insulates you from the cold, reduces your ability to properly apply the AF system.

When I went to REI I put a lot of time into selecting the right pair of gloves. I intentionally bought gloves that are too small for me because I wanted my finger to be tight against the neoprene so that I have the best sensitivity possible. I also wanted to make sure that they would fit under my existing photography gloves!

Prior to the game I tailgated for a few hours with my family. We've had a standing tailgate for several years now and it seems like every year we encounter a freezing cold night game that forces us to bring out the blankets and quadruple wrap ourselves for warmth. Tonight was no exception from the trend and both Andrew and Haydee and I all brought pocket warmers and toe warmers. I was very impressed with how well the toe warmers functioned - my toes were never cold during the evening!

My strategy during the tailgate was to ingest as much food and drink as possible so that during the game my digesting process would create a lot of heat to keep me warm! It was pretty bad - I was gorching myself at the trough of chicken wings, chicken breasts, bratwurst, and friend chicken from Popeyes. On top of that I tore down a couple of Coca Colas. By gametime I was set to go!

I arrived early on the field so that I could catch the seniors. I walked out onto the field and double checked with Greg to see if other photographers could shoot the seniors. After an approving nod I positioned myself around the midfield mark and waited for the first players to emerge. After a few snaps I noticed that Coach Friedgen was shaking the hands and hugging the players before they ran out to midfield. With everyone else snapping the typical family shot of the seniors I raced up the field to grab the shots of Ralph and his senior class. It was a bit of a tear-jerker seeing Ralph hug and swell up while each senior gave him an enormous hug and thanked him for believing in them for the past 4 or 5 years. I felt pretty fortunate to be in that spot catching those moments. Of course, those photos will probably never see the light of day and ever be published because I don't know how much Ralph would appreciate that sort of thing. Who knows though - you never know who might call one day looking for an archived photo of Coach Friedgen and a senior. I still pull out my old shots of Scott McBrien being hugged by his grandfather after winning the MVP in a bowl game several years back.

After the senior ceremony but before the game I dropped my 400mm off in the closed part of the endzone and traveled up into student section with my 24-70mm lens. I stood perched up at the top above all the black'ed out students and awaited the fireworks that would welcome the team to the field. I wanted to shoot wide so I could capture the fireworks display. I shot at a pretty decent ISO (maybe 1600?) at f/3.2. Prior to the display I tried to anticipate how high the fireworks would rise. I was really off in retrospect! None the less, I'm glad I shot landscape so that I could capture as much of the stadium as possible.

While running around with my double-gloves and wind-proof hat I became really hot! I was so hot after climbing up to the top of the student section that I had to shed my gloves and hand warmers and cool down. I guess all that chicken and soda must've done the trick! However, after the game began and I was back on the field the temperatures settled in and I was glad to have both layers of gloves.

I decided to shoot the game at f/4 and ISO 2500. From time to time I had to drop down to f/3.5 or f/3.2 because the Terps wore black. However, when FSU was in the foreground I had plenty of reflected light at f/4 and ISO 2500.

I traveled to the visiting side of the field and was very surprised by how little light there was in comparison to Maryland's side of the field. The Athletics Department installed some additional lighting in Tyser Tower this season and the increase in light behind the Maryland bench is really noticeable. It was easily a full stop if not more!

I was surprised to notice a couple of photographers shooting at ISO 6400 during the game. They were all using a D3 and shooting through 400mm glass. I also noticed that they all shoot for newspapers - I'm not sure how much of a role that plays in their decision to crank the sensitivity up to ISO 6400.

After a long game I packed it in and took my last walk up the long steps of Byrd Stadium for awhile. This game was the end of the home schedule for Maryland and marked the conclusion of my first season of shooting Terrapin football. It was tremendously enjoyable and I learned a lot during the process. I wish the Terps the best of luck in their match against BC and look forward to the bowl season hoping that Maryland will have the opportunity to tack on another win in late December or early January.


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