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Man, did I start this year off right!!! I started by shooting the Outback Bowl (Auburn vs. Northwestern) on New Years Day for Southcreek Global Media (some of my favorites are shown below), and then on Saturday I caught a flight up to Detroit to shoot the Lions/Bears game at Ford Field on Sunday (I’ll post some of those Thursday).

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The Outback Bowl was kind of dicey because it rained just about the entire first half, so I had to use (and improvise) some rain gear. I had some Kata rain gear my buddy Dave had bought me a while back, and I used it to protect my D3, but I didn’t have anything to cover my 200-400mm lens, so I had to improvise with a black garbage bag and some rubberbands (it wasn’t pretty—but it worked). A note about protective rain gear: I wound up talking with a photographer there using the AquaTech rain gear and I asked him about it. He told me he was switching the new rain gear from Think Tank, and once I heard Think Tank had rain gear—I was sold!!!!

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I pretty much my kept my second body hidden under my jacket until I needed it, but it got fairly wet (luckily, Nikons from the D300 on up are sealed, so I didn’t have any problems whatsoever).

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One challenge in shooting this game was something I hadn’t expected. At the NFL and College games I’ve shot from the sidelines this year, there was plenty of room on the sidelines. But at the Outback Bowl, there were literally about 200 people just hanging out on the sidelines, including (I kid you not) at least 50 children under the age of 14. They were everywhere (along with their parents).

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In the last quarter, I literally had to fight through four and five rows deep of spectators to get an open shot at the field. They were nice about moving out of the way, but it was a bit of a struggle all day. I missed an important play (a touchdown no less) because I got behind a dad with his daughters as we were running from one end of the field to the other, and I just couldn’t get around them.

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As a dad myself, I can’t complain, because I’d love to have my son with me on the sidelines, so I don’t blame them—I just didn’t expect it. There are also tons of teens shooting the game with their iPhones and Blackberries. It made things a bit more challenging, and more than anything it made you not want to give up a good spot once you found one, but if the game moves—you move.

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But that wasn’t the biggest challenge—it was that both teams chose to go without huddles the entire game so the time between plays was incredibly short. It was a big passing game, so they’d run a play; complete a pass downfield, and then you’d have to haul butt to the other end of the field and try to get set before the snap. The whole day was like one long two-minute drill. I haven’t run so much since I was a kid.

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Camera Specs: Same as always; I shot wide open (f/4 on the 200-400mm and f/2.8 on the 70-200mm all day). It was very gray and rainy so I had to shoot between 800 ISO and 1600 ISO for the entire first half. In the second half I was able to back it down to 400 ISO.

Tips: If you’re shooting with a lens that has VR (like I was), and shooting at faster than 1/500 of a second (like you would be when trying to freeze action—-I aim for 1/1000 of a second or faster) then Nikon recommends you turn the VR off to get the sharpest shots. Also, I know it’s a pain but shoot from on your knees—it totally changes the perspective and helps make the players look bigger than life. You usually can’t lay down in the end zone or sidelines (it depends on the stadium), but if you can’t (or don’t want to) you can try the Hoodman Right Angle view finder accessory to lay your camera on the turf and then look down into it to shoot from that super-low angle (I learned that trick from Sports Illustrated photographer Peter Reed Miller during his class at Photo Plus back in November).

Anyway, I had a ball—-the game itself was a real barn-burner (it went into overtime), and the 2nd half weather was actually decent. I made some mistakes (mostly with my preparations for the game and also I took longer than I wanted to pick, metadata tag, caption and upload my images to Southcreek Global during halftime), but I learned from those mistakes and won’t make them again.

Ahhhh, next football season just won’t come soon enough for me! I don’t think I’ll get to shoot any playoffs this year (rats!), but hey, isn’t it time to shoot some NBA games? I think it just might be. ;-)