(Above: It’s not a composite, and the background hasn’t been blurred in Photoshop. It’s the 400mm f/2.8 doing what it does best).

On Saturday, I got to shoot my first football game of the year, alongside my buddy Mike McCaskey, as the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame routed the Michigan State Spartans 31 – 13. It’s was a day made for shooting football—65° at game time with bright beautiful skies.

(Above: In the 2nd half the sun gets low enough that about half the field is in shadows, and anything in white turns blue.  So, I get Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush; I lower the Saturation slider quite a bit, then I paint over the blue areas in their jerseys, shirts, gloves, etc. and they return to white.).

Shaking The Rust Off
I was really rusty—not having shot football since last January, and it took me until about the 3rd quarter to finally start getting back into the groove.

(Above: I was positioned at the goal post, shooting down on my knees, as the teams came down the tunnel to enter the field right before kick-off, and this Michigan State Offensive Guard didn’t seem particularly pleased to see me).

Camera Settings
I shot the entire day in Aperture Priority mode at 200 ISO, at f/2.8, which gave me shutter speeds anywhere from about 1/2,400 of a second up to 1/8000 of a second.

Camera Bodies and Lenses
I used two bodies: A Nikon D3s with a Nikon 400mm f/2.8 lens, mounted on a Gitzo monopod, and a Nikon D3 with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

(Above: Notre Dame Quarterback Tommy Rees scrambles during the 3rd quarter. He’s probably thinking, “I’ve got to get to the sidelines,” and I’m thinking “Don’t run into the shade—-this would make a great two-page spread). ;-)

Why I love shooting Day Games
It’s a “set it and forget it” kind of day. You choose your settings before game time, and you never have to change them again—the entire day. It leaves you free to focus on trying to get the shot.

(Above: I wish I’d gotten this shot from the other side).

(Above: Nobody gets any love from field goal shot but I like this one because it’s right at the moment of impact. I was actually hoping for the shot a split-second after this, but at least this one has some movement. I focused on the holder with my 400mm, and waited for the kicker to run into the frame).

(Above: I’m amazed at how few facemask penalties get called, because when you’re shooting at 400mm, you see them all the time).

(Above: In the third quarter and beginning of the fourth we had some really great light, but my the middle of the fourth, the entire field was almost in the shade —notice how the parts of the tackler are already looking blue).

(Above: Stretchhhhhhhhhhhh!)

(Above: For once that day, I was in the right place. Every touchdown happened at the opposite end of the field I was on except for this one which happened right in front of me. I had switched to my 70-200mm f/2.8 when they got inside the 15 yard line, where I got this frame. The play was reviewed, but the touchdown stands).

(Above: At the end of the game the team meets at the far end of the field, and they sing their Alma Mater, and that’s where I got this frame, on my tip-toes holding the camera above their heads and firing my camera one-handed. Right after I shot this, I hear a text message alert, and a friend from Birmingham texted me, “Are you shooting the Notre Dame game? I think I just saw you on TV. You were behind the players singing holding your camera up high? Yup—that was me!).

A great way to start the season
Even though I got off to a rusty start, it was such a fun day, with such great weather, I didn’t really mind that it took me like three hours to get into the groove. Now that the rust is off, I can’t wait until my next shoot (though I’m not sure when that will be. I’m doing my seminar in Portland today, and in Los Angeles tomorrow).

My thanks to my buddy Mike for letting me shoot with him, and to all the great folks with Notre Dame Football for giving me a really fun day of shooting. Football is finally here—-yeah, baby!!! :-)