Saturday I photographed the Lock Haven v. East Stroudsburg college football game–my first college photo assignment. It was a thrill to be on the college scene and it was Homecoming to boot!
I arrived early enough to obtain my credentials at the gate. This is definitely a different scene than my usual Friday night high school football games. I also had just enough time to watch both teams in their pre-game warmups. I like to do this in order to determine who the main go-to players appear to be for each team. I also like to determine whether the quarterbacks are right or left-handed.
The National Anthem was sung and both teams took the field to much enthusiasm in the stadium. Being on a college field on a Saturday afternoon was almost surreal! I quickly gathered my composure and settled in to photographing the game. As expected, I found the daylight shooting time to be much easier than my typical high school Friday nights under the lights. It was cloudy at times, which did cause some different problems. The clouds would open up and bright sunlight illuminated the players. Then, as the game progressed, dark shadows from the bleachers draped onto the field. I concluded after the shoot that in those conditions I might have been better off using the Auto-ISO setting.
Nevertheless, I was able to capture some quality photographs of the game. I enjoyed the abundant and glowing light, which appeared through the clouds at times. I also prefer to compose the action photos tightly. Backgrounds were a problem, even at a college game. Some empty bleachers, vehicles at the one end of the field, and other distracting backgrounds came into play at times for me. Backgrounds are critical for a quality sports photograph and I was successfully able to work around these problems some of the time but not always.
I also found myself better able to capture the eyes of the players in the daylight. This is one of the three main criterion for a “What makes a football photo great,” according to Peter Read Miller in his book, On Sports Photography. I highly recommend this book as a resource for sports photographers. It is chock full of great info and tidbits of information to shoot sports more successfully. I am finding it extremely useful in my current photo endeavors and re-read the football chapters again before going out to shoot this college game on Saturday afternoon.
One thing I quickly agreed with Peter Read Miller about was the struggle to photograph a football game between all the officials. There are more referees at a college game than in a high school game. They were all over the place! I found myself having to move upfield ahead of the play more than typical for me. I also agree with Peter that the end zone was the sweet spot much of the time as the teams were driving for a score. Using my 200-400mm f/4 lens was invaluable. I was proud to sport my Nikon cap from my position alongside the field because my Nikon equipment was helping me capture some amazing photographs!
The college game is longer than a high school game, so endurance was more of a consideration than I originally imagined. My knees were more achy than typical as a result. Wearing kneepads certainly helped, as I prefer to keep a low profile in my shooting position. I just think this makes for a much better perspective when shooting football, and just about any sport for that matter. Take a knee (or two) when shooting a game and you will see a big difference!
The college game is also faster than a high school game. I found it more difficult to track the receivers and be on time when they caught a pass from their QB. I did get better as the game progressed, but it was definitely a challenge. In the future, I need to learn more about the QB’s tendencies and who his main go-to guys are in important downs. Knowledge of the game and the teams’ tendencies are invaluable.
All-in-all, my first photo assignment at a college football game was successful. The newspaper printed one of my photos of the ESU quarterback who had a big day. He passed for 462 yards and four touchdowns in this game! My tight photo of him winding up to pass down field was the winning photo picked by the editors.
Now, I cannot wait for my next college day assignment! It was an absolute blast and I can’t wait to do it again! I am sure I will learn more and keep perfecting my sports photography skills.