I thought after yesterday’s “Hall of Shame” shots, I’d better post a few that didn’t feature shots of the goal post (as epic as those were). This was a late afternoon game, and with the rolling back of Daylight Savings Time, by the time kick-off came around the entire field was already covered in shade, and a hour or so later, it was starting to get dark and I had to crank up the ISO nearly right off the bat.

(Above: He just scored—why is he so angry at the ball?). ;-)

Finding Out After The Fact
It’s rare for me to shoot a late-afternoon game. Most of the games I shoot are at 1:15 or at night, so I wasn’t used to planning for the light to change to drastically, and I lost a lot of shots due to not watching my ISO as closely as I should have been. I had a number of shots with shutter speeds as low as 1/640 so a lot of images I had just didn’t make the cut —- of course, I didn’t realize this until it was too late. I did adjust and raised my ISO when I caught a glimpse of how low my shutter speed had fallen, but the shots I had taken like that had just enough movement to make them pretty unusable. If I had thought to turn on Auto ISO at the beginning of the game, I wouldn’t have had to even think about it again. Sigh.

Wait….Don’t Take My Cards!
Usually when I’m assignment, at halftime I race to the Photographer’s workroom (a luxurious well-appointed suite serving a champagne brunch. No wait…picture the exact opposite of that….and that’s what it looks like) to find 10 or 12 shots to upload to my wire service. I quickly choose which shots I want to send; then I can edit and crop if necessary in Photoshop. I always sharpen them, and then upload them to the server. Pretty standard stuff.

However, in this case, I was shooting for the Titans as part of Titans Team Photographer Donn Jones’s crew that cover each home game, so I’d be shooting on the field and toward the end of the quarter one of his editors would pop-up beside me on the field and ask me to surrender my card so they can pick the shots they need and do all the uploads. I was SO not used to that (I have done that during College Bowl Games, but I still got to make the final call on what got uploaded), so it did freak me out a little bit (and you needed to have lots of back-up cards handy), but by the third quarter, I’d see the editor coming and just I’d go run and hide near the Bengals bench. ;-)

(Above: Sharing his touchdown celebration with The Man upstairs! No, not the guy in the pressbox)

Working on things I need to fix
One thing I really need to work on is making the switch to my second body, with a wider lens, at the right time. When you’re shooting that 400mm, and the line of scrimmage is 30 or 40 yards away, the focal length is awesome, but if a receiver makes a catch and breaks for it down the sideline, all of a sudden he’s too close for you to focus on, but yet—-I still keep shooting. At least I did about three times where I absolutely, positively should have switched to my 2nd body, and that just drives me crazy. I missed some great opportunities that unfolded right in front of me, because I didn’t take my eye off  that 400mm. Uggh!

Another thing I caught myself doing yesterday was letting from framing creep up on me, to where I was composing shots with lots of grass below, and my players squashed up at the top of frame—sometimes even cutting them off. I didn’t realize I was doing that until I looked at some of the images on my LCD. I did adjust by moving my center focus point down, so I would have to reframe the shot with a little more headroom above the players and that helped, but I lost a whole series of shots due to me not really being aware of the problem like I should have been.

My wife thinks my problem was something entirely different
I called my wife after the game to tell her:

(a) How much fun I was having with Donn and his crew. For most of the games I shoot, it’s a pretty solitary experience, and the football photographers aren’t exactly what you’d call “Chatty.” But Donn and his crew were some of the nicest, most fun, down-to-earth guys you’d ever want to meet. They had me laughing the whole day (and afterward—more on that in a moment), and…

(b) How upset I was with how I shot the game. I really felt totally into it at the start, and that, along with perfect football weather, and an all access pass form Donn, and I really had high hopes that I would come back with some great shots, but I was just totally bummed. My wife joked that the reason I wasn’t in the photo zone, was that I was in the “Fun zone” with Donn and his buddies. She’s probably right. These guys were a riot, and they really made me feel at home, and totally like one of their crew.

The “Lame @#$ Tailgate Party” is anything but!
Since the team photographers have to be at the stadium four hours before game time, they don’t get to go to any tailgate parties, so it’s a tradition of Donn’s to have their own tailgate party for photographers, in the stadium parking lot, after the game, and after they’re done uploading and adding metatdata to their images (so it’s quite a while after the game). They call it the “Lame @#$ Tailgate Party” and they were kind enough to invite me to join them, and it was really a lot of fun (and the food was insane!). They were grilling out hot dogs, chili, sausage, and they had every football-related snack ever. They had music, games, and even a generator with lights so we weren’t wandering around in the dark. Hanging out with the guys was definitely one of the highlights of the whole trip (maybe my wife was right). ;-)

Anyway, here’s a few more shots from the game (they all look better bigger, so make sure you click on them for a larger view):

Good News/Bad News
We’re just coming back from halftime and I walk straight into my buddy, Atlanta-based sports photographer Paul Abell (former team photographers for the Bucs, and the Atlanta Braves baseball team), who was shooting the game for AP. Neither of us knew the other would be there, so it was really a treat seeing him and catching up. He’s taught me a lot about shooting sports, and he’s a terrific guy (and one hell of a shooter). That’s the good news. The bad news is: I was in the end zone and I saw Paul get hit by a receiver at the goal line in the third quarter. He popped right back up like nothing, so I figured he was OK, but I got a text from him a little later that he was really hurting, he was pretty dizzy, and had to leave the game early. We texted later that night, and he was feeling better, but he really took a whack, and was still sore from the hit. Here’s hoping Paul feels 100% soon.

There are worse ways to spend a day
Even though I made a lot of mistakes, I learned some things, too (plus I got to try out some new things I learned from taping that online class with Dave Black on Friday), so all in all, it was a really great day, and I got to meet some really great people, and see my buddy Paul to boot. My thanks to the amazing Donn Jones, and to Al, Will, Richard, Charles and the gang (also Mike, and Eric), who treated like I was family. You guys are the best, and I hope we get to shoot together again real soon (I promise to bring my “A” game!). :)

(Above: Richard got this shot of me with a 12-16 fisheye [cropped down here] right before kickoff. You know it’s before kick-off because I’m still smiling). ;-)