Shots From My LSU vs. North Carolina Sidelines Shoot

I mentioned on Monday that a got a chance to shoot the LSU vs. North Carolina College Football Kick-off Game on Saturday in the Georgia Dome with my buddy, Atlanta-based pro sports photographer Paul Abell (here’s Paul’s guest post on my blog).

We really had a ball, plus it was a terrific game, coming down to the last 2-seconds, where the Tiger’s defense was able to hold off the Tar Heels from snagging a last second victory.

This was my first time out shooting with my 300mm f/2.8 (a gift from my book publisher [Peachpit Press] for being named the world’s #1 best-selling technology book author for the 6th year straight. I know—totally awesome publisher, right? Plus they really know how to give a gift!!!!!). :-)

Anyway, here’s a few shots from the game. I am getting better at my timing, which is something I’ve been trying to work on, but I let a few great shots get away because of focus issues (totally my fault), where the receiver was out of focus and the crowd behind him, or players on the sidelines were in focus. This was my first game of the season, and it helped get the rust off a bit, but shooting football is one of those things that just takes lots and lots of practice—–but I gotta tell ya—-I surely don’t mind this kind of practicing. :)

CAMERA INFO: All the shots were taken with a D3 or D700. My D3 had the 300mm f/2.8 on it pretty much all day, and my second body was the D700 with my 70-200mm for when the action got inside the 20 yard line. My ISO was generally either 2,000 or 2,500 (Note: My other sports lens is a 200-400mm f/4, and that one stop advantage with the f/2.8 lens let me shoot at 2,000 ISO in an indoor dome stadium, rather than shooting at 4,000 ISO like usual. Plus, it gave a shallower depth of field than the f/4, which I love). No color correction in Lightroom necessary (I know, I’m amazed myself—some sort of fluke)—just adding contrast and sharpening. Also, I only applied noise reduction on one single image, but sadly I can’t remember which one it was. Anyway, here’s the shots:


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Above: Taken from the upper deck with a 10.5mm fisheye lens. I removed the fisheye distortion with one click using Lighroom 3’s automated Lens Correction.

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Above: The fans get fired up during a pre-game rally!

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Above: That’s my buddy, Atlanta sports photographer Paul Abell right after the opening kickoff. He’s standing where I took the Fisheye shot you see earlier. He’s shooting a 14-24mm wide, and a 400mm f/2.8 for his long glass.

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I love shooting College Football. Your chance for high-scoring games (which translates to lots of action), goes up, and since they run some wild plays you won’t see in the NFL, you don’t always know what to expect, so it makes for a really fun day of shooting.

    1. Hi Girish:
      I agree—it now just looks like a really wide angle shot. The original looked a little too rounded and fishy for me, but maybe I should go back and reconsider.

      I’ll give it a second look. :)


  1. Scott, firstly congrats on the award and what a gift!

    How do you find the D700 servo tracks at speed? I know the 5D Mk II is not as good as my 7D and I find the frame rate a bit too slow for me as well.

    Hopefully see you in the UK in October. Any news on when NAPP will be doing a sports photo video tutorial?


  2. Wow! Very nice action pictures. Love the shot where the tackler is fully stretch out! By the way you deserve that lense for all the good stuff you produce for us.

    Great job and really love these post with all the specs and the behind stories.

    Cheers, GT

    PS: just curiousity when you wrote “… the crowd behind them…” did you mean “behind him”?

  3. Great shots Scott. I don’t use Lightroom, but I do love the lens correction feature of Camera Raw. That is one sweet feature, aint it?
    On another note, I received your CS5 book when I got back from PSW. I was shocked at all of the stuff that I received in the box. Your company and people never stop impressing me.

  4. What great pictures! I love shooting football as well, though I relegated to the stands, since I don’t have fancy credentials. We go to Auburn games and this year we are in row 15! Which is practically sidelines.

    1. Hi Johnny:
      I really like the 10.5mm DX lens on the FX body. I think it’s a sweet combination because the fisheye effect isn’t nearly as extreme (it crops away the outside edges all the way around). That’s what I haven’t bought an FX fish. Give it a try—-I bet you’ll like it! :)


  5. Hey Scott,

    Absolutely fantastic shots! It was also interesting for me to read that you were shooting at 2000 – 4000 ISO … Wow! At those ISO numbers, I couldn’t see any noise problems at all! Amazing! I think you told us that you shot Jpeg when doing sports … is that correct?

    Again, thanks for sharing your experiences with us … we love it! Fantastic shots!


    1. Hi Dennis:
      That low noise at high ISO on the D3 and D700 (same chip) is just simply amazing.

      It’s funny you mention the JPEG vs. Raw thing. I normally shoot in JPEG for sporting events (it’s faster, you get more shots on the card, in the buffer, etc.), but Paul was giving me some heat in the media center before we took the field, “Oh, I thought you were Mr. Raw” and all that. I told him that I always shoot JPEG for sports, and that he could check my blog for proof, but in the end, I switched to Raw and told him “You bullied me into shooting Raw!” ;-)


  6. Hi Scott,

    As always, super sports photography. I remember reading somewhere that the key to good sports photography was to make sure you get two eyes (preferably both on the same person) and the ball in your photos. I know from the little experience I’ve had shooting football that that maxim is a lot easier said than done, especially with helmets and 20 arms and legs in every tackle. I’ve had better luck shooting marathons (See link by clicking my name) — no ball and a heck of a lot less physical contact. :-)

    Trev J.

    1. Hi Trevor:
      I agree, and believe me—if I had some great shots with both of their eyes visible, I would have run them. Oh well, there’s always next time. :)

      Getting the ball in the shot is key, and it’s easier than getting the eyes, because the ball isn’t wearing a helmet.


  7. Great Shots Scott! You are a busy man, considering I saw you at PSW in Vegas the day before you shot these. Hey, you mentioned something about doing a special post about the Wescott studio sets at PSW, still coming today? I’ll check back.

    BTW PSW was so cool! Still shocked that I walked away with a Guru Award! Thanks to the whole NAPP Staff for putting on an awesome event! See ya there next year.

  8. Great shots Scott. I really enjoy viewing the images you share after you shoot an event.

    I noticed, recently you have been shooting quite a bit with the D300s. Here you chose the D700 and D3….am I correct in assuming the low light/High ISO requirements just aren’t the best conditions for the D300s? I ask beucase I have a D300s and I find the performance/picture quality measurably drops off once you have to start getting above 800 ISO. I would be interested in hearing your feedback.



    1. Hi Leigh:
      I agree, and that’s why I went with the D3/D700 combo instead. When you have to shoot at high ISOs (above 800) the noise is just too high on the D300s. Sometimes I’ll go as high as 1200 on it, but you can see the noise. :(

      Hope that helps. :)


      1. Interesting isn’t it? I love the D300s for the higher frame rate in burst mode, which makes it a great camera for sports and action photography but once you move that action indoors, forget it. I guess I am looking at investing in a D700….which would be a nice compliment to my bag regardless.

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter!


  9. Hi Scott.

    Great shots!
    Are you saying that the lens helped get such great color or did I misunderstand . I would have expected the quality of all pro [fast] lenses to be pretty nearly the same. 70-200 f2.8 and 300 f2.8.
    I’m surprised that Paul would be using a 14-24 f2.8. What type of shots did he use that for.


    1. Hi Gordon:
      He was shooting wide angle shots of the entire stadium, but you see a lot of shooters with wide angle’s on their second body. After all, if you want a two-page spread in the magazine, you’ll need to capture a pretty wide shot, right? Perfect for end zone shots:)


  10. I was watching that game. I know Steve Shaw, the head referee (white hat ref, but didn’t see any shots of him) and he lives here near Birmingham. Many SEC refs get criticized, but I never hear anything bad about games Steve works…he’s one of the best.

  11. Hey, Scott!
    So glad to see football is a challenge to even the pros! Anyway, I shoot w/a D700; have LR3, just added CS5. What does your workflow look like for football? I shoot high school football and I’m finding that although I can zip through LR3, it doesn’t seem to “keep” the specs on need 1600px and 2166 px, 300 dpi, as I ftp it to the company that needs it. They say, and my photo buddies confirm, there is some kind of issue with this. Hmm. Their suggestion: photoshop. Hence, CS5. But, it is taking forever! Yes, I have a preset for the crop. Any suggestions are welcome.

    1. Hi Deb:
      The LR3 issue is that is when you turn “Resize to Fit” in the Export dialog, there’s a bug that strips out the Created Date, which is what the SCGM server needs to properly catalog your images in their server (I’m assuming since you know about this bug, you shoot for SCGM, me too!). Anyway, I contacted the Lightroom Product Manager directly, and they are working on a fix (my fingers are crossed).

      Hope that helps.


  12. Scott:

    I can not tell you how much fun I have working with you at games like this… You always come away with great shots and I learn something new every time.

    I love the shots of #88 Celebrating, the pass break up and the crowd shot from Fan Fest.

    PS. You could have left the shot of Goofball out…

    I am off to Braves tonight, Georgia @ South Carolina on Saturday and Denver @ Jacksonville on Sunday!


    1. Hi GMStudio:
      I tried to stay around 1/1000 of a second. Sometimes I got as high as 1/1250 of a second, and a few times it dropped to 1/800, but I was trying for the sweet spot of 1/1000. :)


  13. Glad you had a good time. It was quite a 2nd half. Just wish my Tar Heels had connected on one of the last 2 end zone passes. As a UNC grad, I am obligated to let you know that Tar Heels is two words not one. :If I had not told you I would not have been able to sleep at night :) Roy Williams or Butch Davis might not let me back in to watch another game (kidding of course).

    1. Hi Alicia:
      Thanks for the heads-up. I just fixed it. :-)


      P.S. I was so hoping they’d connect with one of those two final passes. I had a great position in the end zone, and that stadium would have gone crazy. I was ready to shoot the catch, and then immediately turn toward the bench to capture the celebration and the rest of the team and coaches rushing onto the field, but alas…it was not to be. :(


      1. Trust me I am with you on that wishing we had one. Would have been the most exciting FB game in my entire life and probably the best game since Charlie Choo Choo Justice took the game. We were missing way too many players but the ones who showed up made me proud even if we lost.

  14. Scott: Great shots all! My favorite is the last one with the ball coming into the receiver. Even though you can’t see his eyes, the position of the ball and his arms tell the story.

    Thanks for everything you do and share

  15. Scott:

    Thanks for the football shots! As much as I love baseball (and your photos of the game), nothing compares to capturing some football action. I especially like the two shots of the players not touching the ground (one is two shots above the pic of Paul, and the other is directly below his pic…EVERY player is in the air on that shot! :) ). Hope to see more in the future. Maybe a pro game or two?


  16. Wow!!! Great shots Scott. Where they composing for you or something? So razor sharp!!! How do you manage that kind of sharpness in that crowd? Been at some of your workshops here in The Netherlands and was amazed of the simple tricks. Is there a ‘trick’ to shoot that sharp in a crowd? Thanks in advance ;-) Looking forwards for more of you!!!

  17. Shots looks great Scott. I have never been a big sports fan (too much geek in me) but I love the way sports photography looks. I’m no good at it, but I know the good from bad (which is why I don’t ever show anything I took in sports).

    BTW, going to be your neck of the woods in October. Shooting portraits and a week long conference the last week of the month. If your free one day (and actually in the area) I’ll buy lunch.

  18. Nice shots Scott!

    How about tutorial on using Nikon autofocus in field sports? I shoot a lot of field hockey –players everywhere moving every direction within my finder. I get some good shots, but I’d love to increase the number of infocus shots.

  19. Scott,

    Your photos are fantastic, as always. I got to try a little bit of college football shooting on Saturday at the UF-USF game in Gainesville. I has in row 11 behind the North end zone and had my 70-200mm f/2.8. I got some really good pictures, however my biggest problem was during the moments that would have made the best pictures everyone in front of me threw their arms up blocking my lens. Oh well, I guess I need to find a way to be a sideline shooter or just hope for front row tickets!

  20. Scott when you’re shooting on a monopod are you using any ball heads or the Really Right Stuff monopod head, or are you attaching the lens straight to the monopod?

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