Commack High School Varsity Football vs. Longwood
Exciting football game that came right down to the wire. Both teams played really well.
Since this was the first of a bunch of away night games for Commack I thought I'd review some of the challenges in photographing football at night.
Obviously, the first challenge is exposure. The games start out in fairly good daylight then the field lights come on and the sky goes dark. If you're a photographer you quickly come to the realization that field lighting is not as bright as it appears to be. Longwood, the field where this game was played, has probably the best field lighting I've seen at a high school, better than some colleges I've shot at. It's even from end to end with no hotspots. Still, after the sun goes down you're up at ISO 10,000 to get 1/500 sec. @ f/5.6. This is where those expensive 400mm f/2.8 prime lenses (the ones I can't afford) come in handy. If you're stuck with a variable aperture zoom, like me, you just have to suck it up and raise your ISO to get a high enough shutter speed to be able to stop the action. Since that shutter speed will be fairly low you'll also need to pan your camera with the motion of your subject to keep the subject sharp.
Next, you have to contend with white balance. During the game the light source will be moving from daylight into mixed daylight and field lighting and finally to just field lighting. That means your white balance will be changing as the game progresses. You can either use Auto white balance or try to approximate the white balance of the field lighting. The field lighting will be some sort of fluorescent lamp, either mercury or sodium vapor. The problem with these lamps is that they don't contain the entire color spectrum of light, so if you think you're going to dial in the perfect white balance you can forget it. Rather than obsess about it on the field, just pick auto white balance or dial in a manual white balance to get close enough and fix it in post.
Finally, take lots of photos. Lots of photos. Because the vast majority of them are gonna stink. You'll be hitting the Delete key a lot when you get home. Lots of the photos will have motion blur. Many will be out of focus because your camera needs high contrast light to be able to focus. In others you'll just flat out miss the play because you can't see the ball in the shadows. That's the way it goes with night games. Don't worry, it's not you; even the best cameras can only do so much in this kind of light.
Don't obsess. Have fun.