For years I had entered The Camera Store’s Photographer of the Game contest without fail. Being a big Stampeders fan I would love to be able to shoot my favourite team from the sidelines. We have had seasons tickets for about 15 years down in row two behind the opposing teams bench and I have been able to get some great photos from there, but being down at field level would allow me get the angles and move around which is something I can’t do from my seats!
This year my daughter and I also volunteered to shoot three of games for The Camera Store’s Tailgater of the game contest and we were scheduled to shoot the last home game of the season on Friday October 26th. The day before the game I got an email from Evelyn at The Camera Store saying that the Stampeders had a spot for a Photographer of the Game and would I be interested in being at field level to shoot the game. I answered immediately saying I would love it!
I got a follow up question asking if I needed any equipment to shoot the game and I thought about what I had. My Canon 100-400 L lens is great but since it was a night game I figured it would be a little too slow for shooting. I asked about borrowing a 300 MM F2.8 lens and was told they had a Sigma 120-300 F2.8 I could use.
Thursday afternoon I went to The Camera Store so that I could pick up the lens and shoot it a bit with my camera so that I could get comfortable with it. While there I saw Evelyn and thanked her again for the opportunity. She was with Peter and Julian and the last couple of pieces of advice that I got from Peter was to watch out and not get run over and to not tick the other photographers off! Good Advice!
I spent the rest of Thursday getting ready for the big game. It was supposed to be cold Friday night so I made sure I had my winter pants, jacket, boots and gloves together. I then made sure that all 8 of my Canon battery packs were charges, formatted and prepped my CF cards and started getting my gear together. I also remembered that there was a class on kelbytraining.com by former Sports Illustrated photographer Dave Black (who really impressed me at this fall’s Photoshop World) and Scott Kelby about shooting Football. While I have shot several sports, getting advice from an SI photographer couldn’t hurt. The class reinforced what I knew already, shoot wide open, AI Servo mode and try to keep the shutter speed up at about 1/1000th of a second. I did learn a little about where to stand for certain plays and how to get specific shots that I may have wanted.
Friday Morning I did some test shots of birds in flight with the Sigma 120-300MM Lens on my Canon 7D to get a feel for the performance of the lens as well as the weight of the combo.
Friday at 4 PM. I checked in with the Stamps office to shoot my Tailgater of the Game assignment and although it was cold and snowy and not a lot of Tailgaters were out that early I got enough shots to submit back to the Stampeders office. As I said earlier this is the 3rd game I have done this assignment and I have loads of fun doing it and met a lot of great Stampeders fans in the process!
At 5:30 PM, I turned my camera into the Stampeders office and then met with one of the Stampeders Outrider’s Photographers who got me my sideline pass and took me out into the stadium to tell me the rules about where I could (and couldn’t) stand to shoot during the game. I was then on my own!
I had decided to put the Sigma on my 7D with a monopod and carry my 5D Mark III on a sling strap with my Canon 70-200 F 2.8 L lens as my second camera. In my bag I also had a 1.4 Teleconverter and a wider 24-105 lens. Spare batteries and spare CF cards were all inside my sweatpants pockets under my snow pants staying warm in case I needed them. I was ready to shoot.
I went out onto the field and shot a little bit of the teams warming up just to get a feel for shooting in the cold.
I also spoke to a couple of the other photographers there and we talked a little about shooting the game and techniques. I was given a few more tips on what to look out for and assured them I would try to stay out of their way! Then it was game time!
I moved over to shoot the Stamps coming out of their dressing room and after the National Anthem and coin toss I was thinking here we go!
Being a Stamps fan it was difficult not to cheer on the home side from field level when they started out flying! I ended up with some great shots of the action of the game and it was a whole different prospective down at field level than in my regular seats!
At field level you could hear the hits, the players talking and all of the sounds of the game and the speed of play seems to be a little faster than watching it from the stands. I kept concentrating on getting the shots that I wanted, making sure my camera settings were still good for the conditions and keeping an eye open so that I wasn’t run over by a large defensive lineman!
Watching the video on shooting football paid off as soon after the Stamps got into the red zone, I moved into the end zone and was able to capture some of Corey Mace’s touchdown dance after he received his TD pass!
One scary moment during the game was when Stamps receiver Moe Price caught a pass and after being knocked out of bounds and slid head first into the BC Lions propane heater. This happened right beside where I was standing near the Lions bench and for a time was a looking pretty bad. Luckily, Price got up and walked away a little shaken but OK!
Before I knew it we were at the end of the 4th quarter and the game was just about over. I had forgotten all about the cold for the last 3 hours and wished the game was going to continue. I made sure to catch some of the Stamps as they signed jerseys for the fans that were selected for Fan Appreciation Day and then it was all over!
For a football fan (and especially a Stampeders fan) and a photographer, being down on the sidelines gave me opportunities to get some great shots during the game! It was a whole different prospective from watching (or even trying to shoot the game) from the stands. Being able to move up and down the sidelines and get better angles of the field made for better shots than almost everything I had shot before. I think I have been spoiled and would love to shoot from that vantage point again!
I would like to thank The Camera Store and the Calgary Stampeders Football Club for the incredible opportunity I had! Hopefully they will allow some other lucky photographers to get the same experience I had sometime in future seasons!