Monday, September 24, 2007

Pigskin season

"Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason breaks a tackle enroute to setting up a game-winning, 46 yard field goal by Matt Stover as time expired lifting Baltimore over the Arizona Cardinals, 26-23, at M&T Bank Stadium, Sunday, Sept.23. Mason caught eight passes for 79 yards in the win."

My weekend was littered with sports; mostly football; American and European. I thought I would take the time to describe some key differences from shooting a high school game, to a college game, alas to a NFL game.

There are many points one could mention, but I'll talk about the those I think of the most: parking, access and ambiance.

High school is easy. No paying or fighting for parking; wait a minute, it's basically the same as the NFL minus checking the for a parking pass.

At M&T Bank in Baltimore, Md. you pull in, show your pass. Simple. Great access and great people.

With that said, after shooting the NFL, I've realized that Towson University is much like trying to break into Fort Knox. For a school that on average gets maybe 3,000 fans to a football game, parking is outrageous. During Saturday's game I was forced to either pay five dollars to shoot the game, or walk two miles in the dark with expensive camera gear. I decided against the latter.

Don't get me wrong, I've shot at other college venues and have had problems, but none are as ridiculous as Towson.

At high school games you can be a parent and shoot on the sidelines, it's that easy. If that doesn't work, lie and say you're with a small local publication and at the very least you will get into the game for free (I am not endorsing this...ha...a friend told me about this).

Back to Towson. I hate to use them again as my example, as all colleges are different, but I shoot there every week. Once in the stadium I am continually harassed to show my credentials and even have my staff photographers calling me saying they aren't allowed to get on the field, even when they do have proper media credentials.

And obviously, the NFL you need to be of a large publication to get one of those snazzy red vests.

High school has zero thrills. The best thing about high school games I think is the raw emotion of players. Although all levels and all sports have emotional players, I feel the younger the players, the more emotion they show, especially at the end of a game. But, around here in Maryland, prep sports are nothing big and exciting, say as Texas high school football. Last, most have horrible lighting at night and no wireless web.

College has better lighting, but it's not ideal. As stated, access is generally easy if your with some sort of media, but that entails stadium workers that are power pushers to some sort. At Towson it's mostly the parking services. Other than that, college games are a little more action packed and give a sense of professionalism. However, I don't think the emotion is as evident in college sports.

Finally, the NFL, which I think has it all. Thousands of people screaming, energizing the stadium, good food, lots of media and always action packed. Not to mention emotions running wildly after a touchdown is scored.

But, I should note that I don't shoot any of the three any differently. In the words of NPPA's Tony Overman, "I've learned that I don't need to chase the big time. The big time is where you make it."

A high school game can be just as exciting as a NFL Monday night football game, but it all comes with the mindset you have before the game.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are NFL Monday night football games tough to get good images from because of low light? How do you shoot night high school games, use a flash?

Monday, September 24, 2007 11:36:00 PM  
Blogger Patrick Smith said...

Much like all professional sports, night games are generally lit very nicely. 800ASA w/ high shutter speeds.

HS can be tough, it ranges with lighting, but I have used flash, off-camera mounted low on my monopod, which reduces chances for red eye.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 9:12:00 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

Hey, we oughtta get together one Friday night and light a HS football game for the hell of it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've been shooting high school football games in Montana. It's a different kind of shooting (we having moving images, not still images, if you catch my drift), but access and ambiance is the same. Basically the camera is my media pass and not once have I been questioned since I have gotten here at any sporting event I have been to. It's cool having a press pass, but it's even better having people give you all the access you want just because you are the only full television station in the county. It's funny how much respect you get just because you lug a 30 pound piece of equipment on your shoulder.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 4:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you show us the results of night games - high school with flash verses say a night NFL game? Does the flash bother the players?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger raydetwiler said...

I've been reading for a little over a week now and have been enjoying keeping up with all that is happening to you in the world of photography.
A quick question i have for you is this - if you don't mind taking a minute out of your crazy schedule to answer:

What do you set your camera settings at when you shoot something like an NFL game? I've shot volleyball and softball games before and usually have it on autofocus (using the point-focus system), full manual control on everything else. I end up with about 1/2 of the photos where the player is out of focus and there is a beautiful lush green grass that is perfectly focused behind them...

I want to have the nice shallow depth of field, so I'm usually shooting as close to wide open as I can, but that severely narrows my chances of getting the subject in focus.
I have not tried the "servo" setting where the camera determines automatically what to focus on, but I can only imagine the results would be close to the same as the point focus system.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, September 27, 2007 5:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

$5?!?!? That's all???? As a former Ann Arbor native and U of M alum, that sounds like heaven! Parking near the stadium is at least $25. Though, as a student walking is the way to go... Can't say what the options are for the press... Though, I used to weasel my way into the press pit at the hockey arena without any credentials. Guess it depends on the school and the sport...

Thursday, September 27, 2007 5:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you say High School has zero thrills - are you sleeping on your monopod during game? Nothing is better than a close game against high school rivals and being right down on the field. The fans, parents, cheerleaders and coaches are into it - if you're looking for the 'hype' of professional/college sports to make it good for you, I guess high school sports isn't your thing.
Also, I don't approach shooting high school sports as a way to save $5 on admission - paying for a ticket helps the booster clubs/sports programs for both schools.

Friday, October 19, 2007 4:13:00 PM  

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