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Archive 2013 · Shooting my first NCAAF game

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Shooting my first NCAAF game

Hi fellow photogs!

My name is Craig and I've perused this forum quite often in the past but this is my first post. Basically, I'll be shooting my first NCAAF game and I have a few questions. I feel like I've read almost every thread on the internet on this topic but I'd like to prepare as much as possible to make sure I get the best possible shots.

FSU Homecoming Game
Florida State University vs. Syracuse -- Kickoff at 3:30 p.m. EST Nov. 16

Most of my experience comes from concert photography, this will be my first football event which probably puts me at a bit of a disadvantage, I know. I'll be shooting with the following gear:

Canon EOS 5D Mk III w/ Canon 400mm f/2.8
Canon EOS Rebel T2i w/ Canon 70-200mm f/2.8

I'll also have a wide-angle lens or standard zoom with me. It's possible I'll be able to borrow a 1DX from my workplace (the same place I'll be getting the 400mm from), but not definite at this point. I'm planning on using a monopod with the 400mm, wearing kneepads and keeping the body with the 70-200 on my carry speed strap. With this setup, my big question is, What do I do with the 400mm body when I want to pull out the 70-200? I feel like I need two hands on it! I've read in several places and seen some videos where the photogs say they'll just hold the monopod out of the way with their left hand and shoot with their other body using their right hand but I don't see how this could work for me. It may just be the T2i isn't a strong enough body for this to happen (one of the reason's I'm hoping to get the 1DX). Should I skip the 70-200mm and just put a standard zoom on this body?

I'll probably try and shoot from the back of the endzone the offense is moving towards as much as possible, but I won't limit myself to that perspective either. I do want to move about at some point and get some wide-angle shots throughout the stadium. I'll be arriving early enough to shoot some of the tailgating activities as well.

I think I've decided to shoot RAW since I don't want to end up with 3000 photos at the end of the night anyways and I'd rather have more control over the colors and white balance also, I don't have much experience setting up JPEG photos for their best look. My tentative plan is to shoot AI SERVO, center point.

These photos will be for publication in the newspaper I work for my full-time job is not as a photographer and I will have to send some over at the end of the game. The designers often complain about receiving too many photos from the photogs so I don't foresee any trouble editing my best raw photos to get them to the designers before deadline. Also, the time of the game works out great and I don't think I'll have to rush to get the shots in either although I certainly won't be taking my time.

Do you guys have any input or advice for me? I'm enthusiastic about this opportunity and want to do well so I can shoot more games in the future. I'm going to spend as much time as possible over the next week researching the teams and talking with the sports staff at my paper so I can get a good idea of who I need to keep an eye on and what type of plays I can expect throughout the game. I know to share the love with more than just the ball-carrier and get some of the band, cheerleaders, coaches, players on the bench, whatever and whoever will help tell the story!

Nov 07, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Russ Isabella
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Shooting my first NCAAF game

Welcome, Craig. A few ideas:

First, with football, unlike some other outdoor sports (soccer in particular), there are a lot of breaks in the action. Even a hurry-up offense requires 10-15 seconds between each play, and for teams that huddle, you have even more time. One practical implication of this is that you are not often in situations where you have to swap your camera/lens rigs on the fly. Add to this the fact you're planning to kneel, and there will be many (perhaps most) circumstances where you can decide which setup you want to be shooting with for the 'next play, and place the other one on the ground just beside or in front of you. In effect, this eliminates the need to juggle both at the same time. If you do need to manage the 400 while shooting with the 70-200 and you can't put the 400 on the ground, you'll have to figure out how to support it in the crook of your left arm (front of lens turned to the left, so the lens is more or less parallel to your body) as both of your hands are on the rig you are shooting with. (I agree with you that it would be very difficult if not impossible to shoot the 70-200 with one hand.) I should add that all of this 'time' between plays becomes irrelevant if you are moving often up and down the field. In that case (and I think it is warranted on occasion), there will never be enough time between plays! Even so, as you are running, you can be thinking about which camera you are going to use when you get there, and place the other one on the ground as you quickly set up.

Second, I wouldn't be surprised if you could satisfy your newspaper with 5-10 strong images that help to tell the story they want to tell. Thus, as you infer, no matter how 'good' or 'bad' an outing you have, you aren't likely to have any problem delivering (assuming your editor is not expecting the perfect photo of the quintessential play of the game as s/he defines it). Take this on faith and let it ease your mind a bit so that you can approach the event with a somewhat clear head. (But I guess this also suggests you should be aware, ahead of time, of any special angles the newspaper plans for its coverage of the game.)

Third, you are wise to be thinking this through in advance. I would suggest that one of the most important things you can do is arrive at the stadium EARLY, at least two hours before game time, maybe more. This will give you plenty of time to figure out the lay of the land, such as where you can set up your laptop and leave what you won't be carrying to the field with you, where you will find the meal that should be available for you, the most efficient route to the field and back to your work area, and a feel for the stadium at field level. Find someone who can go over the rules with you that are particular to that stadium. (At one of the stadiums where I shoot, for example, there is signage along one entire sideline minus the team area and photographers are not allowed to stand in front of this signage. In effect, this eliminates that side of the field as an option, and it would be good to know that ahead of time rather than be threatened with eviction because you keep violating a rule you didn't know existed.) Walk the perimeter, take some shots of the warm-ups, get a feel for the light and figure out what there is to figure out about whether or not there are better and worse places to shoot from.

Finally, have a plan. It sounds like you are working on this, and I think it is helpful to have specific goals and some sense of what you are hoping to accomplish. You can always modify as necessary, but you don't want to end up feeling like you're heading toward the rapids and your paddle's in the car.

Beyond that, enjoy the experience. College football rocks, and there's no shortage of photo opportunities. Oh, yeah...be sure to post some of your images here! And good luck.

Nov 07, 2013 at 06:45 PM

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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Shooting my first NCAAF game

Hi Russ! Thank you for your very quick reply!

I had considered the idea of placing the 400 on the ground, but wasn't sure how viable it was. I appreciate the suggestion and think that's what I'll end up doing. I guess I hadn't thought too much about the time between plays. When I see games on TV they fill the breaks in the action with other 'action' so it's easy to forget about that ... that will be a big help!

Are there often situations where you need to move out of the way quickly as players come into the sidelines? I guess I'll just have to keep my eyes peeled and be ready for anything, although I imagine I'll be a bit conservative (at least in the first half) to avoid anything like this. I'd hate to break some glass! :/

I'll be traveling with the reporter, and we have about a two hour drive, so there will be plenty of time to discuss what angles he'll be working if I don't get it in ahead of time. I think he was planning on arriving about an hour and half before kickoff, but I probably can convince him to bump it up for me. Some of what you've mentioned I hadn't thought about. The stadium will be pretty foreign to me, so I can see how it would be beneficial to spend as much time as possible getting familiar with it before the game starts.

Thanks again Russ, I'll definitely post some of my pictures here after the game.

Nov 07, 2013 at 07:27 PM
Russ Isabella
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Shooting my first NCAAF game

I assumed this was part of your reading of "almost every thread on the internet on this topic," but if not, be sure to look at as many as you can of the threads here posting football images. It's helpful to get a sense of what you like and what you don't, then start thinking about what might be involved in capturing the former rather than the latter.

Nov 07, 2013 at 07:39 PM
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Shooting my first NCAAF game

Search for the YouTube videos on football photography by Scott Sewell. Lots of helpful info and there's one specific to handling two bodies while shooting football.


Nov 07, 2013 at 07:57 PM

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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Shooting my first NCAAF game

Thanks Russ, that's a good idea as well! I've been looking at some, but not as many or as intimately as I should. I'm also planning on checking photos on the AP wire at work this weekend.

Thank you Jay! That was a brilliant suggestion. I just watched all of his videos on football photography and they were very informative. I may even watch a few of them again in the next few days as I continue to prepare.

Your comments were very helpful, I truly appreciate them (:

Nov 08, 2013 at 08:00 AM

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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Shooting my first NCAAF game

filmscribe wrote:
Are there often situations where you need to move out of the way quickly as players come into the sidelines? I guess I'll just have to keep my eyes peeled and be ready for anything, although I imagine I'll be a bit conservative (at least in the first half) to avoid anything like this. I'd hate to break some glass! :/

Yes. Situational awareness is very important--it's not the camera equipment that I'm most concerned about.

Nov 08, 2013 at 08:34 PM
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Shooting my first NCAAF game

listen closely to Mr. Isabella. He does know of what he speaks.
and tho iandi am not a particular fan of Mr. Sewells' vids, for anyone
w/out or limited field sports experience, they are excellent starting
keep eyes open,,, shoot like crazy and post some when ya get'em

Nov 09, 2013 at 02:15 AM
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Shooting my first NCAAF game

What I can add to what Russ said is this....

Contact someone and find out who are "key" players....and watch for them and follow their moves.

The QB is always an easy one...but don't limit yourself to a one position to get that shot of him...be willing to try different angles

Hopefully you know something of football...as this will assist you in getting "setup" for plays....watching and ready at the side lines for the catch, or run.

Pace yourself.....by the third quarter you should be solid in where to be and what to expect...that should turn out to be your better shots (for your first game)

Watch where the light is (hopefully behind you)...and use it to your advantage as much as possible.

Don't hestiate to take pic's of the "big" picture.....crowd shots...side players...coaches

Most of all as stated above....ALWAYS keep both eyes open as the plays get closer as you dont need to experience several bodies slamming into you and you not see it coming.

OH....and most of all....relax and have fun!!!

Nov 14, 2013 at 07:14 AM
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Shooting my first NCAAF game

Fsu's qb is making headlines so get isolated shots of him with helmet on and off. Get generic action shots of qb/rb. Work the crowd, coaches, players on the sidelines. But like others have said, make sure you know what shots your editor wants.

Nov 14, 2013 at 01:26 PM

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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Shooting my first NCAAF game

Thank you everyone! I've spoken with the designers and the reporters so I have an idea of what they're looking for. I read some about the sexual assault investigation involving Winston. Thank you for the suggestion mkchang, I'll be sure to get some of him on the sidelines as well as in-game.

Onesickpuppy: The last thing I want to experience is a few 300 pound football players running into me and my equipment! I can only imagine what that would feel like and I prefer to keep it in the imagination, haha. I'll keep my eyes open for sure.

I've been swamped with work and school so I haven't had as much time to prepare as I'd like but I'm heading to Tally for the game tomorrow and I'll keep all of your comments in mind while I try and make some good images. I'll be posting them here either tomorrow night or Sunday. You all have been very helpful and I can wait to get some C&C on my first set of images from an NCAAF game.

Nov 16, 2013 at 06:49 AM

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