Sports Photography… Harder Than it Looks!

Before I get into the post I want to say that going in I already knew it was going to be hard but it’s even harder than that! A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had the opportunity to go and shoot the Seahawks final preseason game vs the Oakland Raiders but didn’t really ever follow up. I apologize but here is that post!

For a while now, I’ve been in contact with a photographer up in Seattle who’s helped me with so many things it’s hard to find a place to start. After meeting with an ad agency in town (who recommended that I try my hand at as many different types of photography as possible) I decided to get in touch with my friend George and see if he could hook up a sports photography outing. From the time that I started shooting Sportraits, I’ve proclaimed myself to be a “Sports Photographer” but that always ends in the same response, “Oh so you shoot at games and stuff?” And in all honesty, my response was always, “Why would I want to sit on the sidelines and shoot off frames when I could be actually enjoying the game?”

Anyway, George got us passes to shoot the last preseason game and hooked me up with Glazer’s Camera who loaned me a Canon 1d Mark III and a Canon 400mm f/2.8 for the night (seriously great guys!). We headed out to the field pretty early so I could get a feel for the massive lens and see if I could actually track some movement. I also brought along my 5d Mark II with my 70-200mm f/2.8 as a second camera but it didn’t end up getting used very much.

The first thing off that bat that surprised me so much was the length of lens that you need to shoot a football game. I had always thought that a 300mm lens was the best for football but I was dead wrong. George mentioned that his ideal setup would be a Nikon D3s with a 600mm f/4, a Nikon D3s with a 200-400mm f/4 and a final Nikon D3s with a 70-200mm. He was using two camera bodies (both D3s) but his 600mm was with Nikon for repairs so he was stuck with his 400mm (which he wasn’t happy about). His second body was with the 200-400mm and it was definitely impressive to see him hustling around with that setup.

It was a challenge for me the whole game to actually track anybody besides the quarterback. The QB is the easiest because you always know he’s going to start with the ball but then trying to jump to a running back was just plain difficult. And I was never able to get a shot of a WR unless I started on him from the start and got lucky. But, when you are working with a new camera and the controls are different you tend to miss focus a lot (and I do mean a lot!). At the end of the day, I didn’t come home with really any great images… But, I do have to say that I had an absolute blast. I was completely wrong in my initial thought that it would be super boring. Yes, you do miss a lot of the game because you are viewing it all through your camera but it’s also exhilarating being on the field during a NFL game.

I thought I’d share a few of my horrible shots just so you can all see that it’s not easy to be a sports photographer at all. It’s not about just being able to click a shutter. It’s much much much more difficult than that!

Donning the NFL Vest and relaxing in the CenturyLink Suite during Halftime.


The advantage of using a 200-400mm shows right here. Too close to use my 400mm and too far away to use my 70-200mm. This is definitely a problem I ran into all night. But, I’m sure when you shoot a 400mm lens more often you get used to the focal length and the distance you need to be away from the subject.

I was in the perfect spot to catch this touchdown. He ran right at me but when I went to use my 5d Mark II I found out it was turned off… At least I got some of the celebration!

This was without a doubt one of the coolest experiences of my life. For me, it’s nice to not have complete control for a change and really just relax a bit and shoot off the cuff. For all my sportraits I am constantly giving direction it’s nice to have something that I don’t have complete control over for a change. I’m not sure if I’ll be shooting any other sporting events in the near future. I definitely need to invest in a camera that shoots faster than 3.9 fps and a lens longer than 200mm. But, you never know what the future will hold!


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