Monday, December 22, 2008

Football: Maryland Crab Bowl

On Saturday I was assigned to cover the Maryland Crab Bowl at Johnny Unitas Stadium on the campus of Towson University just north of Baltimore MD. Fortunately for me I was familiar with the venue because I covered the 2008 NCAA Women's Lacrosse Tournament at the same stadium over Memorial Day. As a result I knew what to expect in terms of parking and where to find the media folks.

I arrived at the stadium with approximately 30 minutes to spare and parked pretty close to the field. The crowd was of decent size but it didn't interfere with my ability to find a spot in the media lot. While heading to the field I thought about what kind of pre-game shots I wanted to get. I recalled that Chuck had mentioned an MVP appearing for the coin toss but I didn't know if that would pan out.

After making it down to the field I readied my 400mm and 24-70mm lens. I attached an SB-800 to the camera with the 24-70 and headed out to the field. I met up with Mark Clem and compared some notes on the recruits. I neglected to bring along my notecard with the numbers for all of the recruits but I was pretty familiar with their numbers, names, and faces after shooting them earlier in the week. Most of them recognized me with my red hair so when I approached them they spotted me out and called me over for a photo.

During player introductions I went through the lineups of both teams and shot all the Maryland recruits so that I could have some file photos for use later on. It turns out that the shots came out pretty well and they decided to run them.

After the coin-toss I took my place on the sideline behind the blue line back a few feet from the sideline. That's when I learned my first lesson of shooting high school football: other photographers don't respect the rules. At division-1 events there are rules about where photographers can and can't shoot from and if you step over a boundary the team photographer (or another professional) gives you a warning and instructs you to head back into the proper area. Not so much in high school...

For example, I stood at the 30 yard line shooting upfield while along the blue line. Another photographer was at the 35 and also shooting upfield. As the play commenced the receiver headed towards the close sideline. The upfield photographer stepped out over the blue line and clipped the line-of-sight for several photographers and videographers. Afterwards one of the photographers with a Nikon Professional Services strap approached him and asked him to respect the blue line. The photographer let fly all kinds of profanity and obscenities...

That kind of thing would never fly in division-1 NCAA events.

During the rest of the event I looked for ways to avoid competing with the other photographers for line-of-sight because I observed several of them clipping other photographers in their quest to get the shot. I'm glad I'm not paparazzi - that kind of behavior really turned my stomach...

Towards the end of the game I turned my focus towards the bench and I took several frames of players without their helmets. I used my 400mm at f/4 for the shots and the shots came out wonderfully. Shooting at f/4 kept the imagery sharp and at 400mm and close range the background was sufficiently blown out to fully isolate my subjects. I was very happy with the effect and I'm going to use it again to capture sideline players.

After the game I noticed several other photographers offering their cards to the players. My business cards have "DC Sports Box" written all over them and since they weren't the credentialing agency I couldn't hand them out with promises of "photos from the game will appear up here." None-the-less I took note that there is potential in the Crab Bowl to market photographs to players and next year I will be more prepared.


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