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Even though I had never shot a soccer match before (or what the rest of the world calls Football, or futball), I was totally psyched to get the opportunity to shoot the U.S. Men’s National Team vs. El Salvador match played in my hometown of Tampa at Raymond James Stadium. [Click on the photos for much larger views].

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I Needed Some Shooting Help
Since this was my first time shooting soccer, I really wanted to get some shooting tips from someone who really knew the game, and knew how to shoot it, so I thought who better to ask than the guy who won the “Shooting from the Sidelines with Scott & Mike” contest, Alex Walker (who won the competition with a stunning shot of his son during a soccer match).

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Alex was incredibly gracious with his time and talents, and sent me not only loads of tips, and techniques he learned from shooting his son’s games over the years, but his son even pointed out particular players on the US Team to key on during the game. I can’t tell you how helpful this was, and I followed Alex’s advice the entire time and it really made a difference. (Note: Alex’s stuff was so helpful, and so detailed, that I told him it would make a great Guest Blog post. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll do one for us).

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Predicting The Future Must Be Harder Than It Looks
The Weather Channel online forecast showed a 10% chance of rain at game time, so I almost didn’t take any rain gear at all, but at Brad’s insistence I threw some into the trunk of my car before heading to the stadium. As it turned it, it rained non-stop the entire first half of the game (thanks Braddo!), but luckily I was wearing a hoodie and a ballcap, so the rain didn’t cause that much of a problem for me personally, but my gear needed some protection. (Photo of me above by Ron Metz).

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Bring the Rain!
The last time I needed rain gear was when I was shooting the Outback Bowl on New Years day, and I had some camera rain gear made by Kata that my buddy Dave Moser had bought me for my birthday the year before, so I took that along for the Bowl game.

I know Kata makes great stuff (I have a Kata backpack camera bag which is incredibly well made), but I just didn’t really like their rain gear. It was kind of clunky to use, and for whatever reason it just didn’t click with me, so I saw another photographer using AquaTech rain gear and asked him how he liked it. He didn’t, but said he heard that Think Tank Photo had just come out with some rain gear that he heard good things about, so he was switching to that.

That was all it took for me (I’m a Think Tank Freak), so I immediately ordered my Think Tank rain gear the next day, and that’s what Brad threw in my trunk.

This was the first time I got to shoot using the Think Tank rain gear, and I have to say—I was thoroughly impressed. Of course, it did the job of keeping my camera body and lens dry, but working with it felt really great, and I was totally comfortable with it from the get go. Beyond that, it has all those little things that Think Tank does with their stuff that let you know this was not only designed by a photographer, but that the photographer who designed it actually uses this stuff. Highly recommended (by the way—-if you’re thinking of getting some of their gear, read this link first—it’s the third paragraph).

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Camera Gear and Settings
Since it was raining like it was, and I only had rain gear for one camera (and I wasn’t shooting on assignment), I shot with only one camera the entire game, my Nikon D3 with a 200-400mm f/4 lens mounted on a Gitzo tripod. This was  a night game, so I shot at 4,000 ISO the entire game to get my shutter speed up to 1/1000 of a second to freeze the action (though a couple of times I noticed it fell down to 1/800 or even 1/640. I should have turned on Auto ISO, right?).

By the way, Ron Metz (who took the shot of me in the rain you saw earlier), was shooting a 400mm f/2.8 lens, and by shooting at f/2.8 (rather than f/4 like me) he was able to keep his shutter speed around 1/1000 at an ISO of only 1,250. That gives you some idea of why we’re always going on and on about really “fast glass.” I did a live on-location demo of this whole “fast glass” thing and shooting sports indoors for one of the next episodes of D-Town TV.

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Post Processing
I started with the usual exposure and cropping adjustments in Lightroom, and the occasional vigetting (that’s all I did there), but then I took the images over to Photoshop to apply lots of contrast to the player’s uniforms, socks, and shoes (but not to their skin), and in some shots I applied a little to the grass playing field as well. I added the contrast using two filters; Topaz Adjust and Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 (I applied the filters to a duplicate of the Background layer, then added a layer mask and just painted over their uniforms). You really have to be careful using these contrast effects when you have out-of-focus backgrounds, because it really looks funky (for lack of a better term) —it looks crazy over-processed.

Important Note
I added this extra detail and contrast because I was not on assignment, so these are pretty much for me and I can take lots of liberties with how they’re post processed. Had I been on assignment (I shoot for Southcreek Global Media) I would not have added the enhanced contrast look, and would have just tweaked the exposure, cropping, and sharpening in Lightroom and that’s it.

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The Bottom Line
I absolutely loved shooting this game, and it actually was a lot more fun to shoot than I had anticipated (especially since the US Team won 2 to 1), but what I loved about shooting it was the non-stop action of soccer. Don’t let the low scoring throw you—there is a lot of action, almost non-stop during the game, so you don’t have to wait around for a shot on goal to capture some great action. There is so much happening on the field that you just keep your eye to the camera the whole time, and I loved that.

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Although I got a couple of shots I liked OK, I know I can do a lot better with more experience, and shooting my first soccer match just reinforced the fact to make great shots of anything, it requires a lot of practice, and I definitely need that. I’ll be keeping an eye out for other opportunities to shoot soccer in the future, because the only way I’m going to get better is to go out there and do it, so that’s what I’m going to try and do.

A very special thanks to my good buddy Jim Workman for helping me get the media credentials in the first place, and for giving me the opportunity to try something new. It rocked!

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Wait, One More Thing!!!!!
I have a favor to ask. If you’ve got a sec, click on this link to jump to a page to vote for Tampa, Florida as the site for the 2018 World Cup supported by the MSL, US Soccer and other heavyweights in the field. It has information about the World Cup and the events leading up to it as well. Thanks much–Scott. :)