Not Exactly The Frames I Expected

On the last evening of September, as I drove to a local High School to photograph a Varsity Football game, I witnessed the most spectacular sundown of the last few months.

It was downright annoying.

Annoying because I really didn’t have time to stop the car and pull the camera out of the bag sitting on the passenger seat. What I did have was just enough time to get to a good place to shoot before the game started.

I was about to shoot my first night game. Because the game would be played under lights, I wasn’t sure how the photography would go. But it didn’t matter if the shoot went seriously awry, because I had to be there. Because I said I would. If I stopped, I’d be quite late.

Driving on the newly retrofitted bridge over the Santa Ana River, the sky peaked and held for a few minutes, then slowly shaded toward more subdued colors as I parked in the lot next to the stadium.

The photos shown here are a few frames I managed to capture while walking into the stadium and after gaining a perch on the photography platform above the Home side bleachers. They were taken at ISO 1000. I had the Tokina 70-210mm (105-315mm equivalent) lens on the camera, which explains the narrow angle of view.

I started shooting the game with an aperture of f/8.0 and ISO 1000. After a few minutes I quickly reviewed the frames I had taken during a Time Out. They were blurry. The aperture wasn’t big enough or the ISO wasn’t fast enough or it was a combination of the two. I chimped with the display screen for a few minutes, gradually changing settings until I had a wide-open lens and the maximum ISO the camera was capable of, but it didn’t solve the problem.

I switched to the Nikon 18-105mm VR lens and walked down to the sidelines. I figured the VR would give me an additional 2-3 stops and possibly stop the blurring. It didn’t.

Though I’d been satisfied by the photos of daytime games I took last year and earlier this season, by the middle of the 3rd Quarter it became obvious that I simply had the wrong equipment for shooting night games. I looked down the sidelines at the other four photographers. They were all shooting Canons, which wasn’t important, but every one of their white-bodied lenses was large and awkward-looking. All 300 to 500mm with maximum apertures of at least f/2.0, I thought.

If a fast, long $1,500 telephoto lens suddenly falls into my lap, I might try shooting a game under lights again. But I can’t imagine suddenly feeling any need to buy such a lens. Not enough to motivate me to start saving my pennies, anyway.

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