College Football — from the Stands

Here’s a bit of a challenge… get the best shots I can from up in the stands at a college football game. Football has moments of quick action with periods of nothing much going on, which is pretty much perfect for digital image bursts and subsequent writing to media. The action helps keep me on my toes for getting timing right. The fact that the action is happening 30 to 100 yards away from my seat means practice with a longer lens.

Back in the days when I worked for the Independent Florida Alligator and before that doing yearbook photography at high school football games, I was able to work on the sidelines. I just don’t have that access at the moment.

So here are a couple of the better images I’ve captured over the past two weekends of attending the startlingly hot University of Florida Gator home games. I used my Nikon D2Xs and two lenses, a Nikkor 70-300m G and a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 G VR. The 70-200mm produces cleaner images, which it should: it costs about twelve or thirteen times as much as the 70-300mm. The drawback is the smaller total size on sensor of the image when working at the maximum focal length, as I did. I also needed to use an aperture of f/9 or so on the 70-300mm to keep various lens faults in check, which meant bumping up the ISO on the camera to keep the shutter speed around 1/1000th of a second, and that introduces some issues in the image of its own. With the extra speed and better correction of the 70-200mm lens, I was able to shoot at ISOs between 200 and 400 using f/5 and f/5.6, and still have high very high shutter speeds.

With the 70-200mm VR lens:

With the 70-300mm G lens:

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Pelican in St. Petersburg

Pelican in St. Pete

I really haven’t done that much to this image, but it looks almost like some of the work the grad student teaching under Wallace Wilson back in 1980 used to do. I can’t remember his name offhand, but I think his initials were “R.R.”. He would work on photos with a marker to outline regions of similar tone.

My process for this image was “crop”, “levels”, “curves”, “unsharp mask”, “scale”, and a small boost to “hue/saturation”.

Update: By request, the image as it appeared originally. The only thing I’ve done to it is “scale” via GIMP (Sinc/Lanczos). If I recall correctly, the gear was a Nikon D2Xs with a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens. It didn’t really need a whole lot of intervention, primarily the cropping to limit the visual elements.

Pelican in St. Pete

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