NFL Sidelines Shoot: Steelers vs. Jets

I decided to try something different with these images from my Steelers vs. Jets game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

On my flight home, just to see what it would look like, I made the shot you see above my laptop’s desktop background, and I kind of liked the way it looked, so I’m presenting all the shots from this shoot as screen captures of Desktop backgrounds from my laptop.

(NOTE: These images look MUCH better larger, so click on any photo to see a larger view. Once there, you can click the “Next” button on the top right to move through the gallery).

I was shooting the game as a guest of the Steelers, and it was my first time at Heinz field, and I loved the stadium. When the crowd gets into it, and they start waving their yellow Terrible Towels, it’s a really electric atmosphere.

Frozen Lens Dilemma
It snowed all four quarters, but there was very little wind, so although it was 22°F on the field (-5°C), I dressed in multiple layers and so the cold didn’t affect me at all, but it did a number on my lens when I came back out on the field from half time. I started to shoot and my lens wouldn’t focus. I reseated the lens, checked all the knobs, restarted the camera, all the usual stuff, and nothing seemed to work. Then it finally focused on something, but it was all hazy. What had happened was—the lens had fogged up inside, and there was nothing I could do but wait, so I switched to my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, which for some reason wasn’t fogged up at all, and shot for another 10 minutes or so until the 400mm cleared up.

One of the real highlights of the game for me, surprisingly happened at halftime in the photographers/media room where I ran into one of the best, and best-known pro sports photographers out there today—Bill Frakes. For me, that was cooler than seeing Hines Ward in person. :)

Anyway, here’s a few more, all sized to 1440 x 900 pixels to fit my laptop’s screen size (except for the last image). My camera specs are the same as always for night game (1000 ISO early in the day, during daylight, and 1,600 ISO once it got dark).

Above: First Down!

Above: Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shouts out to the cheering crowd.

Above: Matt Spaeth Spikes the ball in the end zone after catching a touch down pass.

Above: Jet’s Wide Receiver Brad Smith returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown. I was at around the 20 yard line, aiming right at him. It was such a long run, that my buffer filled up right before he got in the end zone (that means, I took 144 continuous high speed shots with the shutter button held down).

A big thanks to Mike Fabus, and the Steeler Organization for their gracious hospitality, and for giving me an opportunity to shoot in such an amazing place, during such an exciting game.

  1. Thanks for the shots, Scott! I absolutely love the last picture. Now that is a picture that “tells a story”! Just wish the Jets had lost, so my Patriots could finally clinch the division. Have to wait a whole week now.

    Couple of typos in your post (think you meant to say your 70-200mm lens WASN’T fogged up, and in the next paragraph, it should be “except”, not “accept”. Sorry, but that always bugs me!

    BTW, did you hear that Don Gale passed away (from cancer)? I attended a Tamron seminar that he taught. I would imagine that you know him. He was a wonderful teacher and photographer. He will be missed.


    1. Hi John: Thanks for the kind words, and for the typo alerts—I fixed them just now. :)

      I’m so sorry to hear about Don’s passing. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew of his work, and his reputation as a teacher, and both will surely be missed. I’ll be including his family in my prayers.


      1. Here I am correcting your grammar, and I can’t remember to close my own parentheses in my post! Time for me to go to bed!


    1. Too late, Jay! Looks like Scott pulled it (as of 1:25 PM…why am I still up at this hour?). That was a great shot. Maybe he is running it through Camera Raw one more time! :D


      1. Scott:

        I must have caught the post in transition, as it did disappear! And you’ll have to change the description, because when I hover over it, I see “lastone”! :D


  2. Great pictures! You are brave. Living in California, that would be torture for me to stay out in that kind of weather. Is there something that could give me up and down range when using a monopod? I know this may seem like a rather basic question. I have asked this questions many times, but I have yet to get a response. I just shot my daughter’s cheer competition in Las Vegas over the weekend, and had problems catching the shots with the girls when they are thrown high in the air. What are your complete camera specs when you did this shoot? Any help would be very appreciated. Merry Christmas Scott!

  3. Hey Scott

    Absolutely loving the shots above. Took your advice by looking at the shots on full screen, I must say they look awesome!!! Your first shot that you have posted is just ace!

    Great shots as always.
    Keep it up.

  4. Hi Scott
    I’m sure you know this but I figured I might throw it out for others from warmer climes who might someday venture into the cold with cameras. You experienced what we in the Great White North deal with a lot this time of year: gear that is cold, gets taken into somewhere warm, and then goes back out into the cold. The warm moisture inside condenses on any of the cold parts and then when you go back outside, it freezes. I make sure I wrap everything up in a plastic bag or something before I take any gear inside. This way the indoor moisture condenses on the bag not in the gear.


  5. Amazing pics as usual. Especially the first one where you can almost feel the weight of the Steelers players on his shoulders. I’d like to see you shoot a hockey game for a change, Scott :)

  6. Scott,
    You did the cardinal sin, when shooting out doors in the seaver cold. You did not rap your stuff in a bag when you went in doors ( or better yet left it outdoors, since you were going back out). That let the lense condensate, ie fog up. Try doing a photo trip to Yellowstone in the winter and you’ll learn that real quick.


    1. Hi Paul:
      That’s what happens to a guy from Florida when he gets into cold weather. I’m like a deer in the headlights (I didn’t even see snow once until I was 24 years old, and I had to travel up north to see that). :)


  7. Hey Scott! GREAT work! I love being able to show these to my brother in law…since he’s a HUGE Steelers fan, and we’re in dead centeral Colts Territory.

    So you’re 400mm was fogged up from spending halfttime in the media room?? I’ve had that happen to me before w/ lenses, and I’ve often wondered if there is damage done…I mean moisture and electronics don’t mix right??? Just wondering….

    Thx for everything you guys do Scott! Be Blessed!


  8. Great work as usual Scott. Every time you post NFL shots it makes me daydream of getting to shoot an NFL game. Now that you’re making more and more connections with various NFL organizations, what are the odds of perhaps having a yearly contest where you get to take one of us with you? I know it’s a longshot, but I can dream.

      1. Oh yes, I know all about that. I also know what went wrong, and I know that the Bears organization graciously provided a way to make things right for the contest winner (even though their organization wasn’t a part of the original contest). My hope was that others may also be willing to do the same (it’s good PR, not that they need it though). I certainly understand how tough it would be though, and how anyone blessed enough to be getting their foot in the door wouldn’t want to risk rocking the boat. I was blessed to gain access to shoot some high school playoff games, and I wasn’t about to start pushing to let others come with me. However, if by some chance the topic ever comes up and one of the NFL organizations is willing, you know there’s tons of us that would be eternally grateful for the opportunity.

        Thanks for everything you do Scott. I’ve learned so much from the various areas of Kelby Media (D-Town, Kelby Training, this blog, several books, etc.). In less than three years I’ve made huge progress with my photography thanks in large part to you and your team.

      2. Oh, and I also should add that the real prize would simply be the access to shoot the game. The winner could pay all their own expenses (at least that way you’d only get entries from contestants that were really happy for the opportunity, and not from anyone that just wanted a free trip). Sorry to keep bugging you with this issue, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

      3. Ya know what befuddles me about the whole fiasco that happened last year? I got to speak with a sports shooter’s dad here locally. The dad is also a major photographer. He was very nice and answered every question I had. His son used him as his assistant. SO really what you were doing was no big deal. Not, really.

  9. Great shots!! I particularly like the one where the “Steel Curtain” is ganging up on Cothchery (#89) of the jets. It would be awesome to have be able to get a signed copy of that one from you. I do I go about buying one? As always, great stuff! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and all your staff!!

  10. Hi Scott,

    I think I say this pretty much every game you shoot, but these are among your best. That first photo, with the snow coming down, WOW! Actually all your action shots are first rate — easily up there with any full-time sports shooters. The light snow falling really adds a nice atmosphere to these. Maybe I’m drawn to that because as a Canadian, it harkens back to the good ol’ summertime, when it warms up to 22°F. ;-)

    Happy Holidays to you and your family, Scott.

    Trev J.

  11. Great shots as usual. The high resolution format really looks good. Must watch in that size.

    For me the first shot Rocks!
    Thanks for specs as always.

    What do you do to avoid the freezing of the lens.

  12. Great shots as usual, but what I really enjoyed was watching your battery level go down, down, down…

    Also, just had to deal with your customer service department this week for a little problem. A problem of my doing none the less, but that didn’t matter, your team helped me out perfectly. They did a great job. Just wanted to let you know.



      1. So sad they way so many people got so upset about that. But i think it ended up working out pretty well.

        love that shot of Jerricho Cotchery…that is picture perfect man…the snow, the aggression, the determination…awesome stuff Scott!!!

  13. Scott,
    How many and what size cards do you use? I switched to the 600x Lexar 16g card and they download faster. Do you shoot at Large jpg, or medium? With 2 16g Lexar in 2 D3s’s I usually don’t fill up both. Did you fill cards?

    1. Hi Ken: I used two cards: A Lexar 32GB 600x in my main camera, and a 16GB in my second body, which doesn’t get nearly as much use.

      I shoot in Large JPEG Fine mode. I’ve been told I don’t shoot enough. I only shoot between 1,000 and 1,200 avg per game. Sometimes less. I need to get a little more trigger happy I guess. :)

      Happy Holidays,


      1. Scott,
        How long can you spend selecting images? With over a 1000 images to sort through, how much time do you have with media deadlines?

  14. I read in the current issue of Photoshop User that you are “redesigning” the magazine and that it will have a new look.
    As a Senior, I have a concern that the font, which is already small and light, will be made smaller and lighter (a disturbing trend nowadays).
    I am sure there are many Seniors who read Photoshop User and who have vision restrictions, as I do. I have met them at the conferences. If you make the font any smaller and/or lighter than it currently is, many of us will lose the ability to read your magazine.
    Please take this concern seriously, your magazine is almost an essential part of my routine as a photographer, and I would not like to lose it.
    Thank you

  15. As a resident of Pittsburgh I am glad to hear that you enjoyed Heinz Field and your time in our awesome city! I was really excited when I saw on your blog that you had been in town and have shared a link to your blog posting via my Facebook page for other photographers and Steelers lovers to see! Too bad you didn’t see a Steelers victory or you REALLY would have experienced the loudness of the stadium! Still in the playoffs though!

  16. Scott, the first shot is AWESOME! I know you’ve stated before that you do very little processing to your sports photos… but please do tell what processing you have done to get that LOOK. I’ll call it the “Scott Kelby Football Look”.

  17. Lens fog is always an issue shooting here in the North east. Thats why most of the time I stay on the field during half time and dont go back into the photo room unless I really have to. Halftime is only 15mins anyways and many times the walk back to the photo room takes 5 mins.

  18. Scott,

    I do a lot of cold weather photography and always protect my gear from moisture when I go from cold weather to a warm car or building. Not only can that fogging interfere with proper mechanical operation, it can also leave a residue on your internal lens elements that cannot be wiped off.

    I normally wrap my lenses or gear bag in a large plastic garbage bag and seal it. I recently went to a large, waterproof, virtually bulletproof duffel (made by Watershed) which has a double zip-lock seal and padding on the inside to help protect the gear from bumps.

    – Dane Jaques

    P.S. Awesome photos, by the way!

  19. This is the only reason I used to watch football – to see it snow!! Now that I live in Alaska, I get snow at least by November, so I’m over that!! Love the shots. I have a thermal cover for my camera. I have to shoot outside at -30 or more temps at times and its helps. Some people use a foil lined box with a light bulb in it to keep their camera warmer. Just have to have a power source. These temps can be brutal on our equipment!! I never ever leave anything in the truck in the winter!!

  20. Scott, I know the schedule is out already. But, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE consider adding a sports photography class to Photoshop World. Perhaps, even a Precon, where we shoot some local high school/college game. I’d be all over that!

  21. PLEASE tell me you sneaked up to Minnesota last night and got some super shots of Devin Hester’s record-breaking return TD that you can make an awesome print out of for us Bears fans to buy… Please oh, Poobah Kelby!!!!!!

    Seriously though, I love all of your NFL work (especially the Bears stuff), do you sell prints?

  22. Were you AI Servo (or whatever nikon calls it) for your focusing? How did the focusing perform in your 144 image sequence? That’s a lot of ground covered in a short amount of time!

    1. Hi Josh:
      I use Continuous Tracking focus mode (which is like AI Servo), and it worked really well. Just a couple of the images in the burst were soft, but most were right on target.

      I think I stuttered in there somewhere, too—taking my finger off the shutter for a moment, and that might have caused that. I’ve got to trust my focus more and not release that shutter, but I’m always afraid of filling my buffer.


  23. Great pics, of course! Thanks for the shot of Brad Smith formerly of my hometown Mizzou Tigers. We miss him here but glad to see he’s doing well in the pros.

    Your picture of the sideline tackle with the eagle-eyed referee looking on… was that taken from the endzone or do you cheat a little inside the media perimeter for sideline shots on your side of the field? And more generally, how much of your time do you find yourself shooting from the endzone vs the sideline?

    1. Hi Dan:
      I took that shot from the End Zone, and that’s my favorite spot to shoot from because you don’t have the chain gang, and refs, and the guy with the parabolic mic, and two cameramen walking in front of your shot, so I shoot there as often as the game action allows. :)


  24. Scott,
    I really loved all the shots from the game. Come on now none of the photo pros from Pittsburgh helped you out with your gear? That’s one of the things we always deal with up here and I’m sure if you would have saw some of my buddies from the Trib or Post-gazette they would have told you about your lens freezing up. Scott one of the things I’ve been wondering was how does one go about talking to these NFL organizations to be allowed to shoot the games. I have great shots of the Steelers from training camp but I’ve always wanted some of them during the regular season as well.

  25. Scott,

    Since my trip in October for your workshop, I’ve become hooked on this game. I never really understood it as it never got much coverage over here, plus of course the whole concept of playing football in pads and helmets is just alien to us. But I made the effort to catch a college and a NFL game whilst I was visiting and I’m now borderline addicted. I managed to get some shots from the grandstand with the old 70-300 and it really wet my appetite for shooting this game.

    So I’m really liking all these posts over the last couple of months. I know you made a joke awhile back about ‘not another football post’ but I hope you keep them coming, especially as we get to the business end of the season.


  26. Scott,
    You mentioned in a previous blog about how important it is to understand the game you are shooting. Score, players on the field, and what the next play might be, etc. Do you find that your attention to the details is getting better or do you still find yourself, as a fan of the game, distracted by the fact that your standing on the sidelines?

    1. Hi Dave:
      I’m very distracted at Bears, Bucs, and Redskins games. :-) Not as bad as I used to be, but at this point, shooting a Bears game I would miss a lot of shots while cheering on the sidelines. :)


  27. Scott, Are you familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk? He has a book called Crush It and hosts Wine Library TV. He is a huge Jets fan so I sent him a link to your site and these photos. You personify his Crush It Philosophy. He would be a great guest blogger even though he isn’t a photographer. He writes about using social media to grow your business and his next book, the Thank You economy will be a must read for any photographer that runs their own business.

    Thanks for the blog, I learn something new everytime I visit.

  28. I’ve had the same lens-fogging problem, but never up north, where I live; rather, the one time I had it was in Florida, where you live. My bag had been under an air-conditioning vent I hadn’t noticed in my parents’ home, and even though I’d been outside for more than 20 minutes, when I pulled my camera out of my bag, everything felt very cold, and I couldn’t focus, then found that both my lenses were fogged up. Very odd to be sitting & waiting for a lens to defrost in the middle of September in Palm Beach County.

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