Hi Gang: I got invited to shoot the Atlanta Falcons game on Sunday so I shot up to the Georgia Dome for the 1:00 pm game on Sunday and was back the same night, so it was kind of a whirlwind trip, but I really had a ball! (no pun intended). [NOTE: Click on the photos for a larger view----they look much better bigger. Well, except the iPhone photos. Kidding].

(Above: Here’s my remote rig in an iPhone photo. It’s not fully aimed yet, because they roll this rig out onto the corner of the field about 10 minutes before the players are announced). 

The very cool Mike Benford from the Falcons organization arranged it so I would be able set up a remote camera rig and attach it to the truss archway that the players run through when they enter the field, and a couple of hours before the game we met with the Pyrotechnics team that runs the smoke jets and fire plumes that shoot out as the players come out, and they were incredibly helpful. My original plan was to mount the rig to the top of the semi-circular truss, but that would have my camera aiming directly into four smoke jets, so instead I mounted it down low (using two Manfrotto Magic Arms) with a 14-24mm wide angle lens (zoomed out to 14mm) aiming upward.

(Above: Here’s an iPhone photo of the rig to give you a closer view. The camera is mounted on one Manfrotto Magic Arm, and then I attach a second arm just to make doubly sure it doesn’t move. Lastly I attach a steel safety cable, which isn’t fully secured yet because I’m going to have to re-aim this puppy in a just a few minutes. Also, I’m triggering all this with a Pocket Wizard on top with a short patch cable that connects into the camera’s cable release port).

(Above: This is me in a manly-like football player ready to take the field pose, but I’m actually acting as a warm body for the auto focus to lock onto. A stunning specimen, aren’t I? ;-)

Hocus Focus
Of course, mounting a camera down low at “Maggie the Wonderdog” level makes focusing part fun, especially since once it’s all in place, they’re going to move the whole rig about out  20 or 30 feet anyway, so you have to refocus again. I start by letting the Auto Focus do its thing, then I switch to Manual focus so it doesn’t change while I’m pressing the remote.

(Above: Here’s the remote shot [somehow he looks bigger and meaner than me]. The hugh fire plumes make everything turn red for a few moments, and then the color is gone just as quick as it came. I’m out on the field, about 30 yards or so away, triggering this remote shot with my Pocket Wizard in one hand, and my camera [with a 24-70mm] in the other. I was short the cable I would need to trigger both the remote and my handheld camera at the exact same time).

(Above: Here’s the view from the field, taken with my other camera. As the fire stops, the color changes back to normal, and the players come through the smoke jets. Note my camera rig on the far right side of the frame down low. Nobody came anywhere close to hitting it, but that’s always a risk with pumped up athletes and a lot of smoke). 

(Above: Once the player emerges from the smoke, you can see my rig on the right a lot clearer. I wish the rig had been mounted about five feet farther out in front, and even lower). 

Shots from the Game
Now that I’ve done this particular set-up, I think I would do it differently next time, but at least I got that one shot (which did receive some Photoshop magic, and if I have time in the next week or so, I’ll do a short tutorial on that as well).

As for camera settings; pretty much the same as always: two bodies: Nikon D3s with a 400mm at f/2.8 all day on a Gitzo monopod, and a Nikon D3 with a 24-70mm at f/2.8 all day, both at 2,500 ISO (the lighting in the dome is surprisingly low).

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few shots from the game (Atlanta won 24-14 by the way), and I’m going to start with some detail shots first, then onto the game action:

(Above: I wanted to get a detail shot of the player’s gloves and when I saw the incredible tats this player had, I knew I had the subject I was looking for).

(Above: I always try to get a nice shot or two of each team’s helmets. They’re usually sitting up high on an equipment case, but I saw this one on the ground with such a great reflection of the stadium’s dome and sidelines, I went with it instead).

(Above: Another detail shot: this time of the large duffle bag the officials have on the sidelines where they keep footballs used during the game). I just like the way the light gleaned off the NFL logo. OK, enough detail, let’s get to some action shots).

(Above: Here’s Viking’s QB Christian Ponder getting sacked [not his first on the day], and although I was rooting for the Falcons, I like Ponder from his days at Florida State University—I’m a Seminole fan from way back, and despite their loss I think he’s got a lot of potential).

(Above: This is a little later in the game).

(Above: #7 scrambling out of the backfield once again. It was a long day for Ponder).

(Above: Talk about “leading lines!” I had this shot straight down the hashmark from the end zone, and although it’s a pre-action shot and not normally the kind I take, I just kinda liked the symmetry of it all).

(Above: Love the intensity on both their faces).

(Above: Of course, it wouldn’t be football unless a ref, suddenly realizing that you might have a clear unobstructed view of Falcon’s WR Roddy White jumping up for a pass, suddenly darts into the frame as he winks to the Side Judge, and mouthes, “Don’t worry, I blocked him.”).

 

 

Best thing about the day….
…had to be the great folks I met at the game. Michael Benford was just a prince (incredibly gracious, helpful, and just fun), and while I was there I got to meet, and shoot alongside, the Falcon’s team photographer, Jimmy Cribb, who is a real veteran of the league, and one of those guys you meet and you feel like you’ve known him forever. A real gentleman with a great sense of humor (and of course, one hell of a shooter). Thanks to everybody in the Falcons organization, and to Michael, Jimmy, and the other great photographers I met and chatted with on the sidelines. What a great day for a game! :)