Here’s a few shots from my sideline shoot at the Tennessee Titans vs. Detroit Lions NFL game on Sunday. It was a wild game, that went into overtime (the Titans won in overtime), but ask anyone that watched the game — it was a roller coaster and a blast to shoot (especially since I was shooting with the amazing Donn Jones and his Titan’s photography crew — just a great group of guys — a very talented group but they know how to fun, too!).

I feel like I did better this time out, and I actually got a few shots I like, but I still need to work on my position and timing to get where I want to be.

Trying Out Some New Gear: The Nikon D600
I have the just-introduced Nikon D600 on loan for a couple of weeks (for a project we’re working on internally) and people were already asking me about it online, so I thought I’d take it as my 2nd body for the game and see how it did. I’m happy to report — it rocked. Now granted, since this was an afternoon game I didn’t get to use the D600 for what it’s probably best at  —- low noise at High ISOs, for a night game or indoor arena, so I still want to try it out under those conditions, but outside of that it was incredibly crisp, sharp and responsive with really excellent image quality (reminded me a lot of the camera it replaced, the D700, although I’m not sure if Nikon sees it as that, but with lots of nice tweaks and modernization). A big bonus for me — 24-megapixels!!! (that’s 8-megapixels more than my D4).

(Above: Here’s one taken with the D600, with my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on my 2nd body of a kick return for a touchdown). 

For sports action, the frames per second (fps) on the D600 is 5.5 frames per second, which sounds fast (and is quite a bit faster than the D800) unless your other body is a D4, which is 11 fps. If this camera truly is the replacement for the D700, then if you used a Battery Grip with it, and used AA batteries in the grip, it should increase your fps to around 7 like the D700 did, and that would make it a great sports rig for a lot of folks who want this type of performance but don’t want to shell out $6,000 for a higher-end model.

(Above: Celebrating his punt return for a touchdown  by leaping up into the stands. The D600 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 Nikon lens).  

(Above: Here’s another with the D600 taken at center field right after the game ended, shot from down on one knee with a Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8). 

The only other thing that I wish were different (and I could be wrong about this), but I couldn’t find a way to assign a 100% to the “OK” button, like I can on my other Nikon camera. This is important for checking the sharpness, and while you can do it manually with a few zoom in/out button presses, being able to zoom in/out in one click to check sharpness is something I really missed. Again, there may be a way to assign that on the D600 but I wasn’t able to find it.

The Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 at work
I always have people asking me about third-party lenses (probably because I use mostly Nikon-brand lenses), so when I heard we had one in-house I asked to borrow it for this shoot, because I’d heard some good things about it. I have to tell you, I was pretty darn impressed and wound up using it that day more than I thought. Check out the image below.

(Above: A sample of the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 lens).

I always do a few details shots along the sidelines (they’re great for slideshows, photo books, and just as supporting images to tell a story) and the lens did beautifully! Sharp, crisp, nice contrast — overall a great value for the money (it costs a third less than the Nikon or Canon versions of the same lens). It’s perhaps not the prettiest lens, and it doesn’t feel quite a solid as my Nikon version, but outside of that nik-picking I was impressed.

(Above: In the third quarter I headed up to the top deck to shoot a full stadium, 12-shot pano using the D600 and the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 and I stitched it together in Photoshop and created this poster for the team which celebrates the big win in overtime).

More Sigma 15mm Fisheye Action!
OK, I actually bought this lens last week, so now it’s mine and I’m loving it!!! I did rig it on the end of monopod (like I did last week at the Atlanta Falcons/Denver Broncos game) and I’m starting to get better with that rig (See the image below).

(Above: That’s the 15mm Sigma Fisheye on the end of my monopod at the pre-game warm-up on field).

This week, I’m happy to announce that the remote camera worked (shown circled below), and I think the reason why it didn’t work last week was that the sync cable popped out — I couldn’t get it screwed in, and that wound up bitting me when the cable slipped out, so I made sure I had time to screw it in tight this week).

(Above: There’s a long shot of my remote with the 15mm Sigma Fisheye).

(Above: Here’s a close-crop of the remote rig. More details below). 

On top is a pocket wizard, and a sync cable is running from the port on top of the Pocket Wizard to the Sync port on the front of my D3s. The camera is sitting on “The Green Pod” which is basically a beanbag with a screw sticking up so you can mount your camera on it like you would a tripod — it just screws right in. “The Cube” is a lightweight little cube to help you position or aim your lens. This probably isn’t the exact way they had it in mind, but hey — it worked. The shot at the top of this post was taken with this remote set-up. When this was taken, I was out at mid-field and I had another Pocket Wizard mounted on top of my camera (I was shooting a D4 with a 70-200mm f/2.8) and as I shot my camera, the PocketWizard sitting on my camera’s hot-shoe mount wirelessly triggered the remote unit, so I was shooting the same scene from two different angle — one fisheye up close and one 200mm from way out on the field.

The advantage of “The Green Pod” camera platform is that you don’t have to get all sorts of permission from the pyrotechnics crew because you’re not attaching your rig to any of their stuff (if you use a Bogen Magic Arm to clamp to any of their stuff, you’re going to need lots of permission early on — with the Pod, nobody seems to care as long as it’s out of the way of where the players are going to run out).

(Above: Here’s what my other camera was seeing — a tight view into the tunnel at 200mm while my remote camera is shooting the wide fisheye shot like you see at the top of this post).

(Above: Giving credit to the man upstairs for the score. Not the officials in the pressbox. Farther up. :)

(Above: This is what I’m taking about when I talk about working on my timing. A split second later he had the ball in his hands and he turned and ran for a key touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The photographer beside me had that shot a split-second later and his was better. Timing is everything). 

(Above: That had to hurt).

(Above: Lions Quarterback Matt Stafford getting sacked late in the game).

(Above: This looks painful and awkward. See if he pulls out a baby calf! OK, that was wrong. Sorry). 

(Above: Matt Stafford in happier times).

OK, this I have NEVER seen!
I’m not saying it’s right or it’s wrong (it’s wrong), but this photographer actually had a tripod on the sidelines. I’ve covered lots of games, both college and NFL and I’ve yet to see a tripod on the sidelines. Monopod — yes all day — but whomever’s job it is to police that no tripod rule (if there is indeed one) was looking the other way for four quarters — just like the replacement refs (Come on baby, that’s gold! Gold I tell ya!).

OK, back to the game, already in progress.

(Above: Dancing into the end zone. You have to love shots taken in daylight — this one was at 1/8000 of a second at 200 ISO. Ahhhhhhh. Day games!).

(Above: I thought I’d include this behind-the-scenes shot of the photographer’s work room at LP Field. The floor tiles are designed to make sure you don’t rest your eyes, even for a minute. One nice touch: that chair in the center? That was assigned to a security guard who watches the room while we’re out on the field. That’s rare, but very welcome indeed. This shot was taken well after the game ended — it was pretty packed before and at half time).

The Icing On The Cake, was…
Getting to shoot alongside my buddy Donn Jones and his wonderful crew shooting for the Titans. Donn has assembled a team of photographers for the Titans of talented, quality shooters and people and they just love what they do, and it shows. One of the highlights of getting to shoot with Donn & Company is that right after the game they host their own tailgate party just for the photographers who shot the game (they affectionately call it the “Lame @$# Tailgate Party” but it’s anything but that.  They’re working four hour before kick-off, so they miss the chance to tailgate, or heck, even have lunch), so this is a great way to unwind after a long game, and I wish this tradition happened at other stadiums as well.

These guys just have so much fun (and so much yummy food — Donn’s buddy Al, who’s also on Donn’s crew — sets up a gas grill and cooks everything from hamburgers, to hotdogs, sausage and BBQ. It’s the perfect end to a perfect day of shooting, and I want to thank Donn, Charles, Al (my new best friend), Michael (the Sports Guru), and Mickey (who’s leading my Nashville Photo Walk for the 2nd year) for treating me like family, and for the honor to shoot alongside you guys. I don’t know what it is about these photographers in the South (like the Falcons crew and the Titans crew), but I’ve never felt more welcome and at home — many thanks for a day (and a game) I won’t soon forget.