American Football – Loughborough Students vs Sheffield Sabres   4 comments

For those of you not linked in to my Facebook page (and I don’t blame you 🙂  ) I’ve been shooting the Loughborough University American football team for the past 3 home games. It’s been great fun and very challenging. Now I know for most people just watching American football and trying to understand what is going on can be very challenging!

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The challenging bit for a photographer is getting know to whom the ball is going to be thrown at any given moment by the quarterback on a pass play. A pass play (we’ll keep this simple) is when a quarterback throws the ball to a team mate who is usually downfield of him.

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I was out with a couple of my students on one of my photography courses the other day and we were talking about shooting this sport and one of them asked; ‘how the hell do you know where the ball is and who its going to?’

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My response was; it really helps to know the sport. In almost any sport this allows you to anticipate what might happen next and be in the right place at the right time to get the pictures that you might otherwise have missed. ‘Okay’ they said ‘but specifically how do you know who is going to catch the ball?’

BUAF Loughborough vs Stirling_0204

Well, to answer that question lets look at some different methods of trying to achieve this; for example; in the case of a quarterback throwing to his wide receivers – you have at least 3 choices. For the sake of argument lets assume the photographer is using a 400mm telephoto lens. This is one of those big lenses the camera dangles off the back of and looks like you can see next Tuesday with it. This would be a heavy piece of kit and perched on a monopod, not something you can hand-hold and whiz about or zoom in and out with:

Method 1. focus on the quarterback and then wait to see where he is throwing it, look up from your camera viewfinder to see where the ball is going and then refocus on the intended receiver about to catch the ball. This is very tricky and works only on very long passes that spend a lot of time in the air traveling to their intended target.

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Method 2. try and track the ball in flight as it leaves the quarterback’s hand. This would theoretically deliver some very good shots. In practice this is almost impossible to do as the ball travels to fast on most occasions. Do-able for long passes when the action is a good distance away.

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Method 3. choose the wide receiver that you think is going to receive the pass before it’s thrown and focus on him. This is the easiest option but if you choose incorrectly you have no picture. This is where knowing the game really comes in; in certain situations its possible to anticipate what is going to happen next and is often worth guessing to get the shot.

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Of course if you are not using a 400mm prime lens and instead have a zoom then you can zoom out and back in again as necessary to see where the ball is going and this makes life much simpler. For example; using a 70mm-200mm won’t get you as close in to the action as a 400mm but its much easier to run up and down the field of play to keep up with the action because the lens will be much smaller and much lighter.

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Of course you won’t necessarily get the same image quality in your shots because zoom lenses, especially the shorter zooms, tend not to create the same degree of compression that produces the wonderful isolation of the subject.

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But no matter which lens you decide to shoot with knowing the game and also knowing what might change in a game according to how well each team is doing, will help you be in the right place at the right time to capture better shots.

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You can find my photography courses here at Drew Smith Photography Courses.




4 responses to “American Football – Loughborough Students vs Sheffield Sabres

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  1. Truly WOW factor shots!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read this and my initial thought was that the players are very clean, they must be on astroturf!! I follow Staffordshire Stallions and have taken many many photos of them, I would love to be able to get some of the shots you have! Fantastic shots, and something to aim for! You are quite right in that you have to understand a sport to be able to know where to position yourself. I also find that taking shots of the spectators (usually other team members) can be just as illuminating!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All great shots! The wide angle of the center and line is fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These are really great!


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