Monday, September 14, 2009

Football - A Photographer's Update

My son Ethan is enjoying his new-found football "career." The boys on the 2009 Rancho Penasquitos "Stampede" team are - as a whole - a good bunch of young men with a decent work ethic and desire to win. Their record stands at 1-2 after this weekend where they scored on a long pass/run-after-catch of 35 yards or more. The boys were ecstatic. Here's the video of that TD play shot by team videographer Harry Huang.

As team photographer (using borrowed gear from either Nik Software or Tony Corbell), I'm privileged to hang out on the sidelines happily snapping away and trying to get the best shots I can muster. A few sports photography tips from the trenches:
  1. Much as I hate to admit, there's no substitute for a big lens. For instance, Tony's 300mm Tamron will do quite nicely thank you.
  2. Snap a lot of shots, but pare down mercilessly back on the computer.
  3. Our games are usually in the broad daylight so far, and I've been shooting in Aperture mode at f-stop 2.8 - either the Tamron or the Nikkor 70-200mm 2.8 VR (a sweet lens).
  4. High-speed crop mode - if ya got it, flaunt it baby!
  5. Position, position, position. The first game, I was reluctant to swing over to the opponent's side of the field. But half the game the ball was positioned on the hash mark closest to the "bad guys." By the second game, I was roaming far and wide, including on field during the coin toss. That leetle "Photo Pass" the Team Mom gives me is pure gold, man!
  6. Behind the scenes and candids - I arrive 90 minutes early with Etho to get pics of the boys warming up and weighing in, shots of the coaches, and "scene-setting" images. I don't know all the boys, so I just shoot away hoping that by the end of the season I'll have a good mix of each boy (candids, game shots, etc.)
  7. I am pretty serious about getting a mix of offense, defense and special team shots the first half so I have those covered. At halftime, I'm shooting candid pics of the boys sucking down oranges and listening to adjustments by the coaches. The second half, I follow every play with the lens, and try to mix in some artsy shots too.
  8. Looking for "grit" - I love the shots of struggle, boy vs. boy locked in battle. You know, shots my homeys Alex and Jon will dig, taking them back to their H.S. days when powering over some puny lineman and questing for the QB ruled their days and earned bragging rights the following week.
  9. Coaches - I try not to miss the opportunity to get a good shot of the coaches doing their thing - talking to a Zebra, holding up a dry-erase board with the play, motivating the boys to play their best.
  10. Post-processing (you knew it was coming) - There are a lot of ways to skin a cat (I suppose); here is my take: I use Capture NX 2 from Nikon to review and rate the images as either a 4 or 5. The pics that are rated a 4 mean that later on I will just batch resize them and post to my favorite photo-sharing site, SmugMug. If they are a 5, that means I'm going to take a shot at enhancing them. NX 2 is smooth because it handles the native NEF files shot from the Nikon D2X or D3 (my faves) so well. The RAW conversion is quick, and then the program invites you to subtly enhance or get crazy-creative. In the latter mood, I often turn to the Color Efex Pro 3.0 for NX2 photographic filters to either draw attention to the action or create a completely artistic scene.
It's all a blast and I hope the team keeps "calling my number" for their photography! Now, enjoy a few pics - it's Game Time!