|Smile for the camera!|
Because LCS is a smaller, parochial school, they don't have their own proper football stadium, and instead play their home games on a variety of other local fields. The previous game had been played on the field of a local minor college, and the lighting was not wonderful. You can read that game's recap for details. This game was played at the Lincoln High School field, and the lighting was even worse. The field has four stadium lights per side (from goal line to goal line), so the end zones weren't quite as dark as they were last time. However, the overall light level was still nearly a full stop darker than before.
Canon 7D and 70-200/2.8 lens, I shot the action at ISO 12800, 1/500s, f/2.8 or f/4 all night. 12800 is the 7D's highest ISO. 1/500s is the slowest shutter speed I'll use when people are moving, although I did drop to 1/250s for off-field shots. My 1.4x teleconverter turns my 70-200/2.8 lens into a 98-280/4 lens. I initially felt like I needed the extra reach when the action was out in the middle of the field, but f/4 made the photos much darker than I wanted. By the second half, I'd given up on the teleconverter for the most part so that I could shoot at f/2.8, and I just prayed that the action would run my direction. These were the same camera settings I used at my previous game on the brighter college field, so I found myself applying a pretty hefty curves adjustment to them during postprocessing. This, in turn, amplified the high-ISO noise, so the shots are generally less detailed than those from the previous game.
I think I've found a way to borrow a 300/2.8 lens for the next game, and I'm eager to see how that works out, either with or without the teleconverter. The next game will be at yet another local field, and I have no idea how its lighting compares with the last two locations.
I learned a lot at the previous game. How did those lessons work out?
I nixed aperture priority in favor of full-time manual exposure, despite the not-quite-consistent lighting across the field. I still believe that's the right way to go for night games, even though I still have to run a different curves correction for every image. Knowing when to lose the teleconverter & shoot at f/2.8 helps.
17-70 lens almost exclusively for environmental shots this time. My 10-22mm lens never even made it out of the bag.
I spent more time on my knees when shooting. I like the perspective that gives me, and I felt like I was less weary by the end of the game. Good, gel knee pads are worth their weight in gold.
I spent more time located farther from the line of scrimmage, and consequently got fewer shots of the backs of people running away from me. I also spent more time in the end zone, often relocating there when the team got inside the 30-40 yard line. I tried to position myself so that the LCS players were facing me, whether on offense or defense. The more distant vantage point allowed me to capture action happening on the far sideline.
So what more did I learn this time?
The later we get into the season, the colder it gets. The temperature was in the low 40's (F) at kickoff, and had dropped below freezing before we headed home. My metal lens barrel got downright cold. I did OK, but my fingers did get a little chilly, so I should bring some light, tight-fitting gloves next time. I had to slowly acclimate my camera to the warmer environment when I got home to avoid condensation.
|1/250s blurred their legs on this run|
Speaking of off-field shots, when I know that I'm not going to be switching back to action shots (requiring a 1/500s shutter speed) at any second, I need to reduce my ISO & shutter speed so that I can get cleaner images. This is especially important for wider angle, environmental shots that include lots of sky, because a smooth sky at twilight shows all kinds of noise at ISO 12800.
And speaking of environmental shots, all those stadium lights cause ungodly amounts of lens flare when shooting at wide angles. I need to lose the UV filter from my 17-70mm lens and just rely on the hood to protect the glass.
Finally, I need to spend more time highlighting individual players -- especially those that aren't all-stars. I've printed & labeled a photo of all the senior players, and I'll try to get a good selection of photos of each of them at the next game. I'm not sure how much playing time some of them get during close games, so that could be an issue as we progress farther into the playoffs.
Well, that's where I currently stand on my path to becoming a decent sports photographer. There's still lots to learn, but I feel like I'm already leaps & bounds beyond where I was a month ago. If you want to see the entire collection of photos from this game, check out the Prairie Rim Images gallery. If you've got any comments or questions, please speak up below!