Mercyhurst v. East Stroudsburg University

Millersville v. East Stroudsburg UniverstiyThe third college game I photographed this year featured East Stroudsburg University hosting Mercyhurst. The action was back and forth in the first half and it was fast and furious! It still took some concentrated effort to keep up with the pace of the college game, but I could definitely see a difference in my performance from the first college game of the season.

College Football: Mercyhurst v. East Stroudburg
This photo was not quite as easy to capture as I expected. There were many problems I encountered before capturing this shot. Many times the QB rolled out to the opposite side of the field, going away from me. Other times, the pocket was formed around the QB and linemen were in the way. Still other times, the referee was smack dab in the middle of my frame! It took me well over half the game to capture this pose, but I think it turned out pretty well.

College Football: Mercyhurst v. East StroudburgSometimes the QB pulls the ball down and has to scramble for yardage. And sometimes the play is a designed QB-keeper. Either way, keep the QB in your viewfinder and track his movement. This is probably one of the easier photos to capture. I like this shot because both feet are airborne. I think this pose just portrays action! I really enjoyed the three college football games I photographed this year. I learned a lot and got a little better. All-in-all, it was a very good football season!




QBs & RBs

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Running backs and quarterbacks get a lot of action in a football game. They handle the ball a majority of the time and play after play have the opportunity to make the difference in a game.

Keeping an eye, or viewfinder rather, on the quarterback is fairly easy. Even tracking a handoff to the running back is pretty easy to follow. But you have to be ready for anything: fakes, pitches, throws, and reverses are just a few of the possibilities.

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The action can get pretty furious at times, which is all part of the excitement of sports photography. There is nothing like it! These athletes put their game on the field and we get the privilege of capturing the action with our cameras. We have to pay attention and be quick, too, with our cameras at least.

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I played football in high school–a receiver on offense (back in the day it was called “split end” and cornerback on D. I recall fondly the excitement of Friday night football in the pre-game warmups. There was absolutely nothing that came close to matching that feeling! Now, behind the viewfinder and along the sidelines or behind the endzone, I still have the opportunity to feel this feeling on Friday nights!

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Running backs take a lot of punishment on almost every carry. They seek the running lanes created by the lineman but typically meet face-to-face with linebackers and other defensive players waiting to lower the boom on them. Quarterbacks take some punishment, too, especially when they are sacked. These two positions are fun to watch and a thrill to photograph during a game!



Photographing the QB

Allen v. Pocono Mountain WestPhotographing the quarterbacks in a football game is imperative. One of them, after all, could have a banner day or make the play of the game.

Some recurring problems exist, however, in trying to get good photographs of each QB. Bleachers, lights posts, and vehicles in the background are distracting features that need to be avoided at all costs. Separating the subject from the background is necessary but is sometimes difficult. This is especially true for wildlife photography because the subjects often blend into their backgrounds to keep them safe from predators. The same is somewhat true for QBs: they can blend into distracting backgrounds as their predators(opponents) try to sack them!

Shooting wide open with a large f-stop (small number) is a good first step in separating a subject from its background. What happens is the focus is one the subject but the background is blurred out of focus. The depth of field is shallow in this case and helps in separating the subject from its background.

Additionally, other players or referees can move between the QB and our camera. Keeping the QB separated from his opponents is not only the task of the linemen, but it is also the task of the sports photographer. My approach is to take some time during each game to focus entirely on the QB. Sometimes it works well and sometimes, well, I struggle. Lack of good light or distracting and overpowering light can lead to problems as well.

Focus on the subject and photograph the QB. This approach can tell an important part of the game’s story. Give it a try: focus on the quarterback!