Photographing Friday Night Lights at a small country high school

Referee is taken on on play during the Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy
Football against Mountain Island Charter. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600]
I had a lot of fun covering my nephews high school football game. The oldest is a senior and played and the youngest was dressed if they ever needed him.

Elijah and his girlfriend
Joshua and his girlfriend

As with all small town high school football the lighting for these games is not all that great. I covered high school football in these same small towns back in 1984 for the Hickory Daily Record. Just getting a photo in focus and somewhat good exposure was so difficult to do in just Black and White. Today I am able to shoot color and get great results.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]
So the camera settings for this game were:

ISO 64000
Aperture ƒ/5.6
Shutter 1/2000

Compare this to the Billion Dollar Mercedes Benz Stadium where I was shooting the Chick-fil-A Kickoff games:

ISO 12800
Aperture ƒ/5.6
Shutter 1/2000

Basically 2 1/2 stops different in the quantity of light.

High SchoolColor Temperature 5650º Kelvin with +2 Magenta
Mercedes Benz Stadium Color Temperature 5000º Kelvin with +11 Magenta

Almost catch for a touchdown. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]
This was a big game for my nephews team. They were undefeated 9-0 before the game and needed the win to basically seal their conference win.

They went into the locker room at half time 14 – 0.

Touchdown [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 45600, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000]
They went on to win the game for 36 – 14 and now are 10 – 0 for the season in their conference.

Defender tipped the ball upsetting a possible long pass and yardage play. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600]
The visiting team was in white and in the first half were showing signs of frustration and making turnover after turnover. Their coaches were losing their cool with the kids.

[Nikon D5, Nikkor 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 65535, ƒ/5.3, 1/4000]
I think the coaches had a good talk with my nephews team. I think they explained how the other team’s outbursts and turnovers were signs that they had gotten into their heads. So they came out with more confidence in that second half.

Touchdown! [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 51200, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000]
What this made me realize is how much we all need encouragement. When you believe you can do something verses feeling like the under dog you make the big plays.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600]
During the first half the offensive line wasn’t able to create holes for the running backs, but the pep talked gave them the confidence they could play better than the other team if they just believed.

Running back (20) Bill Lay breaks for long yardarge during Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy’s upseating Mountain Island Charter for a 36 to 16 victory and givng them a 10-0 season thus far in the year. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]
While my nephews might not have played as much as they wanted, at the end of the game they knew they were as much a part of the team that got them to 10 – 0 as the star players.

(84) Joshua Poe, my nephew, on special teams kick off ended up tackling the runner on the play. This was a better photo to show him. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]
I could tell everyone was giving their all to win the game.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]
(5) Miller Outton, tail back, runs out of bounds after getting first down for Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy against Mountain Island Charter. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]
[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 51200, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000]
[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600]

PHOTO TIPS:

Here are a few tips for those of you wanting to get better photos of your kids playing under the Friday Night lights a game of football.

  1. Buy a lens that is longer than 400mm. I suggest things like the Sigma – 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Sports DG OS HSM Contemporary which is under $1,000.
  2. Use the ExpoDisc to do a custom white balance under the lights. Gives you more accurate colors in your photos, especially better skin tones.
  3. Use a monopod to help steady your camera.
  4. Use a fast shutter speed. I suggest 1/2000 if possible.
  5. Use high ISO. You may need a new camera that shoots above ISO 12800.
  6. Stand way in front of the action and let the players be going towards you. You get more photos of the faces this way.

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