The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl is Saturday afternoon and I'll be on the sidelines shooting. Held at AT&T Park again (yes, it was built as a baseball-only stadium, and yes, it's a horrible layout.) Look for me on ESPN on New Year's Eve!
I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was going to shoot the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on January 9th, and indeed I did. I'll spare you the blow-by-blow details but I want to give a quick summary about how it went and remind myself of a few things for next year.
I had a great time. The traffic was light, the bowl was a sellout, the crowds were good, and it was a good game. I got some nice shots and I didn't get hurt. One fun thing about a football game at AT&T Park is the photo work area is the Ginats' dug-out. Let me rephrase that: the World Champion Giants' dugout.
What more could I ask for?
Well, I guess I could ask for the PAC-10 being able to field enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of their bowl slots. It would have been nice to have a PAC-10 team there, but I guess you can't have everything you want.
I took a little bit more gear than I have in the past, including a 500mm f/4.0 lens that I was renting from local nature photographer Joe Decker. Here's a shot of the camera gear I took:
As you can see, there's a lot of stuff there. I took 3 bodies and 6 lenses this time. The larger pack on the right is the ThinkTank Airport International which I absolutely love. The 500/4.0 just barely fits in there. Next to it is the 70-200/2.8. There's a 1-Ds mk III (Yes, that's the slower, larger sensor model instead of the faster 1-D made for sports.) There's a 5-D mkII and a 24-70 in there too.
In the middle is an old Tamrac backpack of some sort. I almost never use it while shooting anymore but it's good for carrying gear around in. That bag holds the 300/4.0 lens, a 40-D body, a 17-40/4.0 wide-angle zoom, a 15mm fisheye, some lens hoods which I never seem to use, my compact flash wallet, etc.
To the far left is my ThinkTank modular belt system, which is what I actually wear when I'm shooting the game. On top is the monopod which is permanently attached to to 500mm lens during the game.
I took 3 bodies but really only used the 1-Ds mkIII for about 95% of the shots. Once you use the great focus system on the body you never want to go back to the old 9 point focus system on the other cameras. There's enough time between plays in football to switch between lenses based on how far away the action of the next play will be, so I just kept switching lenses and always using the 1-D.
The 500mm lens was the longest I've used for shooting football before. It's a pretty long lens and it really pulls in the action from far away. Also, due to the narrow angle of view and shallow depth of field, the long telephoto really isolates the action a lot better. A well framed photo taken with the 500 looks a lot nicer than a heavy crop from a narrower lens. There's a trick to using a lens that long but when it works, it really looks nice.
Lightroom has a nice metadata browser that makes it easy to get some informal stats about collections of images. I ended up with 136 photos of action during the game. The screengrab on the left shows the lenses I used to take those images. Although the 500 is the "sexiest" (and most expensive) lens I had it ended up not being the most used, producing around 15% of my "keeper" images. The good old 70-200 turned out to be the most useful (producing more than 50% of my keepers), followed by the wonderful 300/4.0.
You can see a much larger collection of about 50 images from the game on my flickr page.
The question of Naming...
Finally, I'd like to ask one last question. To what year do we attribute bowl games played in January? Is this the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl 2010? Or how about the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl 2011? Sure, it happened in 2011 but it's the bowl game attached to the 2010 season. Back when it was the Emerald Bowl and it happened in late December there was no problem. I checked my photo passes from previous years and sure enough - they all have the year in them. This year's official bowl title is simply "The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl". No year specified, so maybe they don't even know what to call it. What's it going to be called next year?
One last thing...
Those of you who follow my blog know I've always had a thing for a good fisheye shot. Ever since I started shooting at AT&T Park I've had a vision of a wide shot that included the whole stadium with a view of the field, the scoreboard, the bay behind, etc. Now that I'm rockin' the full-frame camera and the fisheye lens, I could go ahead and get it. There wasn't that great of a sunset that night, but here it is:
That's probably it for sports until next year!
I'll be shooting the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl next weekend at AT&T Park. This was formerly known as the Emerald Bowl but the sponsorship has changed from Emerald Nuts to Kraft foods. I've shot the Emerald bowl a couple times before but I missed it last year in order to go freeze my butt of in Montana for the holidays. :-)
The game is the afternoon of Sunday January 9th, and will feature Boston College and the Nevada, perhaps best know as the team that beat Boise State at the end of the regular season. Normally there's a PAC-10 team in this bowl but there weren't enough bowl eligible teams in the PAC-10 this year.
The venue is AT&T Park again, the home of the World Series Champion SF Giants. (The photo work area is the Giants' dugout, which is kind of cool.) It's sort of a weird venue for football, but it works. In fact, this will be Cal's home field for the next season as Memorial Stadium is closed for remodeling for the next year. Getting there is really easy and there's plenty else to do around there, since it's downtown San Francisco.
I'll be stepping up the gear this year, bringing two full-frame cameras and both longer (500mm) and wider (15mm fisheye) glass than before. I'm looking forward to a great game and making some great images this year. Let me know if you're going to be attending.
Sorry for the long silence - it's football season again and that means I'm busy! I love photographing football even though I think it's the hardest thing there is to photograph well. It's a live event which means there's no second chance, and it can be pretty unpredictable. You never know exactly what's going to happen and at the Football Championship Subdivision (Division 1-AA) level things are more likely to get crazy. Any play can end up with a turnover, a touchdown, a gimmick, etc. It also demands the most expensive equipment, which I don't always have. I've been renting a 1-D mkIIn recently and it's pretty darn nice, until the lights go down in Spanos Stadium. There's just no way to get good blow-ups and shadows at ISO 3200 from a four year old camera. Even after the new stadium lighting before last season, it's still a little too dark in there when there's no help from the sky.
The good news is that those problems will all be gone in a year or two. The lights aren't going to get brighter, but the cameras are getting a lot better. I've seen some good looking shots from the new Canon 7-D at ISO 5,000 and Nikon just came out with a camera yesterday that goes to ISO 12,800. Assuming that 6400 is OK, shooting at Cal Poly should no longer be a problem. All that great technology will filter down through the product lines soon. (Hopefully Canon can concentrate on image quality and drop their addiction to megapixels.)
I've shot two games so far (Cal Poly hosting Sac State at home and then Cal Poly visiting San Jose State). This weekend is Southern Utah at home, which is also Homecoming, so that should be a lot of fun. I've heard there are still 1,000 tickets available for the game so if you're in SLO, come on down! The weather should be really nice in the evening and the game should be a lot of fun. Come see the new scoreboard too!
In other football news, a shot of mine of Miami quarterback Jacory Harris was selected for the Miami media guide. I shot Miami and Cal in the Emerald Bowl last year and got a lot of good shots. It's good to see some of them getting some usage.
Cal Poly football coach Rich Ellerson is leaving to coach the Army football team, which means Cal Poly could be in a bit of a hole next year. They're already losing a ton of great talent (seniors) which is going to hurt them but now they're losing a great coach who has really helped build this team over the last 9 years. As an aside, he's also a really friendly guy. I ran into him in the elevator at Qualcomm Stadium late after Poly's upset over SDSU this year. I was a little frantic because I was hoping to catch his (non-existent) press conference and when I asked him if the press conference was over he said "we didn't really have one but are there any questions you have?" When I told him I was just the photographer and I didn't have any for him we just started chatting until another reporter came along and started asking questions.
Coach Ellerson gladly answered all this guy's questions at like 9:30 or something, without rushing anything or evading anything. He's a real class act and he'll be missed.
According to news reports from The Merc, The Emerald Bowl may have made a deal to secure Cal for the bowl game later this month. The assumption is that this would mean an instant sell-out for the game, with as many as 35,000 of the 40,000 seats going to Cal fans. I shot the Emerald Bowl last year in the light rain (there's a gallery here of what I got) and I'm looking forward to shooting it again. Pac Bell Park is a little bit of a weird place to have a football game since it's really a baseball stadium, but that's OK - it's still an adventure.
Having a local team and a packed house will really raise the energy level and hopefully I'll do better than I did last year. And while the rain makes for a nice gritty "in the trenches" sort of feel, as a photographer, I could do without.
Edit: Yes, Cal was there, and I shot the game. It was great!