I’m really, really glad I had this preseason game to shake off the rust from the 7-month football shooting drought, because I was some kinda rusty. Whew!!! This was my first shoot of the season and my timing was still a bit off, especially at first, but by the 2nd half, I was starting to feel comfortable again.

It was the Falcons vs. the Titans, in Nashville, and I’m there shootin’ for the Falcons, with Michael Benford and Jimmy Cribbs (two of the best guys ever). It was my first time shooting a night game at LP Field (all my shoots up there have been day games), so it was fun shooting a night game there, especially with all this new gear (see my post from Friday).

Camera Settings
I shot the game with two Canon 1Dx bodies (one with a Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens on a Gitzo monopod, and the other with a 70-200mm f/2.8 for when they get inside the 20-yard line).

The lighting at LP field in Nashville was actually pretty darn good, so I was able to shoot at just 2,000 ISO all night while keeping my shutter speed at or above 1/1000 of a second. I shot wide open all night at f/2.8 on both bodies, and I pretty much used the settings I got from Peter Read Miller’s article (noted in my post on Friday), but with a tweak or two from Michael Benford, and one or two to suit how I’m used to shooting.

First Impressions
This was my first time shooting with the 1Dx, and I gotta tell ya — it is a camera absolutely born to shoot sports. I shot at 2,000 ISO all night and you don’t even see any noise (I did no noise reduction). Michael says the Falcon’s crew routinely shoots at 5,000 ISO and you just don’t see any noise, but after the way they had raved about it, I was expecting insanely low amounts of noise, and that’s what I got.

Better than the low noise…
…the auto-focus system on the 1Dx. It’s AF is insane! It’s so fast, and so precise that I know I’m picking up shots I would have missed otherwise. That’s the part that really surprised me. I need more time with it to really get the little nuances of setting it up for my style of shooting, but of everything on this camera, that was what impressed me most.

Everything about the 1Dx feels fast. I was shooting at 12-frames per second and I know that’s only 2-frames faster per second than what I’m used to shooting, but it felt like it was 10 frames faster.

One thing I thought was really intriguing about the 1Dx is that it’s obvious that a pro photographer’s workflow was part of the camera design. It’s infinitely customizable (much more than I would have thought), and it’s very easy to get to controls that are usually buried under menus. I learned a number of very clever little things along these lines (I could do a whole episode of “The Grid” just about this).

Another thing that surprised me was how fast you can scroll through your images on the LCD using the Quick Control dial on the back of the camera.You get spoiled really quickly (especially when you only have 24-seconds between plays to find and tag a photo). This is all stuff I’m sure you’ve heard before, since this isn’t a brand new camera, (it’s just new to me), but there was just a lot I hadn’t realized about using it.

The quality of the images
The images you see here are low resolution, 72 ppi screen res. The high res images that came out of the camera? Brilliant! Sharp. Crisp. Wonderful color. Plus, I love having 2-extra megapixels, because for football I can crop in just that much tighter.

OK, so what didn’t I like?
I thought the LCD screen on the top was a bit small and the type size is pretty small as well (yes, I’m getting old), and I’m used to a larger screen up there, so I would have loved to have seen a larger screen up top. The body itself feels pretty heavy (heavier than any DLSR body I’ve ever held), but at least that’s more than offset by a 400mm f/2.8 lens that is much lighter than previous models (and that made a big difference on the field).

These next two things are both things where there may be an option to change their functionality, so if any Canon shooters out there know a way around these two, let me know: (1) To move the focus point, you have to hold a button on the back of the camera, then move the point with the tiny Multi-controller joystick thingy. I just want to be able to move the point without having to press and hold a button first. Also (2) I accidentally lowered the Exposure Compensation amount during the game and didn’t realize it for a while. So, in this case I actually want to have to push a button. That way, I don’t accidentally rotate the big dial and change my exposure. [UPDATE: As I suspected, some readers posted ways where I can move the focus point without pressing the button, and how to keep the Quick Control dial from changing Exp comp. Will try out both on Thursday --- thanks for the tips gang!].

I know, I know, these are really nit-picky little things, but if it affects how you shoot, I think it’s important.

So What’s next?
I’ll get another chance to try this whole Canon rig again on Thursday night when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Washington Redskins (I’m covering Bucs home games for Zuma Press again this year). I’ll probably have to crank the ISO a bit (especially when I put a 1.4-teleconverter on it, effectively making the 400mm a 560mm f/4 lens), and I’m anxious to see how that goes. Also, by then I’ll be more familiar with the camera controls; I can tweak and customize more of the settings (I learned some stuff from Michael Benford during the game), and I can work on my timing to get ready for the regular season.

Thanks to the Falcons Crew!
My humble thanks to the awesome Jimmy Cribbs and Michael Benford for the opportunity to shoot with you guys. It is always so much fun!

Also, a shout out to my buddy Donn Jones (Titans team photographer and a guy who is now officially older than me), and the great guys with the Titans crew (including George [who took the photo of me above] and  Al, the king of the grill), for their hospitality and for inviting me once again to their “lame @s$ tail-gate party” after the game. It was epically lame. ;-)

I’m off to San Jose
My seminar tomorrow is sold out in advance (whoo hoo — almost 600 photographers), but if you’re going to be there, make sure you come up and say howdy. My next tour stop is September 13th in Miami, so get your ticket before it’s sold out!. Have a great Monday everybody.