Shooting Sports for The First Time / by Osase Noma-Owens

The Night Before

It was very cold that night as I packed up my gear to shoot a nearby soccer game with a friend. I was nervous that my gear would not hold up to the standards of low-light sports photography but I was about to be surprised. Once I arrived to the sports complex, I was given a media pass and shown the spots that would be available for me as a photographer. I felt the excitement build up and I couldn’t wait to start taking some photos.

 1/640 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 10000

1/640 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 10000

After I took a few photos, I realized that the lighting at the venue was not really the best, and that forced me to push my camera in order to get good and sharp images.

The game was pretty fast-paced and the teams were very evenly-matched. None of the two teams had a lot of ball possession so there weren’t many chances for me to get dramatic photos, but I did do my best.

 1/640 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 8000

1/640 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 8000

One thing I observed while shooting a scene with a lot of green tones was the tendency for certain cameras (including my Nikon D5500) to counterbalance the green tones with magenta tones, which resulted in photos that were quite difficult to edit. Fortunately, I was able to find an optimal balance between the green and magenta tones in the photos I took.

 1/640 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 10000

1/640 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 10000

As the game progressed, my friend and I started to get bored because of how evenly matched the teams were. There were now fewer photo opportunities for us as the players had gotten very tired and were almost lacking the motivation to score goals.

 1/500 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 8000

1/500 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 8000

To my surprise, close to the end of extra time, a player finally scored a goal that set his team ahead by three points. It was a glorious (and very unexpected) moment, and I almost missed the shot of the winning goal. I was happy that I had finally gotten a shot worth mentioning, even though it wasn’t the kind of shot that I hoped to get.

 1/500 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 8000

1/500 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 8000

The game was finally over and I was able to head back home to review the photos and prepare for a day that I would never forget. I recharged my camera batteries and then decided to recharge my own batteries for the event that would happen the following morning.

 1/500 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 8000

1/500 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 8000

The Main Event

The day had finally come! I was going to shoot a Big Ten football game. I freshened up, got dressed, and headed out really early so I could meet up with my friend who would take me to the stadium so we could shoot the game together. It was a very cold and windy morning and it didn’t take long till it started to rain, but luckily, the rain stopped before my friend and I got to the stadium.

After checking in my gear and getting a new media pass, I was guided down the stairs to a large media room where I could set up my equipment and grab breakfast. It was a bit intimidating to be next to photographers who had thousands of dollars of equipment, but I tried not to let it get to me.

The game was now starting and my friend and I decided to head onto the pitch to get shots of the opening ceremony.

 1/1000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 560

1/1000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 560

This was actually going to be my first time watching an American Football game and I was fortunate enough to do so from the sidelines. The band was very lively and the atmosphere was electric! I didn’t know anything about the sport, but I was willing to do my best to document it.

 1/1000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 640

1/1000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 640

The players were now running onto the pitch and this gave me the opportunity to grab some early shots before things would get crazy. I was also surprised at how many substitute players were available for a particular team.

 1/1600 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 1400

1/1600 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 1400

The game had now started and the next few photos you’re going to see were taken between the first and third quarters of the game. Halfway through the game, there was a heavy shower of snow that caused my friend and I to dash into the media room to protect our equipment. I, however, was able to capture some photos while the snow lasted.

 1/1600 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 1250

1/1600 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 1250

 1/1600 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 3200

1/1600 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 3200

 1/1600 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 1100

1/1600 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 1100

 1/1600 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 900

1/1600 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 900

 1/2000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 360

1/2000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 360

 1/2000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 800

1/2000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 800

 1/2000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 500

1/2000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 500

 1/2000 seconds, f/5.0, ISO 180

1/2000 seconds, f/5.0, ISO 180

 1/2000 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 110

1/2000 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 110

The fourth quarter was now halfway through and the game was slowly coming to an end. As I write, I am still amazed at the experiences I had while shooting such a vibrant game. Those experiences help shape you as a photographer and really help to improve your storytelling abilities.

 1/2000 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 100

1/2000 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 100

The experiences I had also helped me come to appreciate my camera more because it really impressed me with the way it handled tense action scenes and harsh weather and lighting conditions. I was totally blown away by the details in the pictures as I reviewed them, even the ones taken at pretty high ISO values.

 1/2000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 450

1/2000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 450

Another thing that surprised me was how fast and accurate the auto focus was, even while shooting subjects that were fairly close to me. I know this isn’t something that one should be excited about, but I always get excited whenever I take an amazing photo.

 1/2000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 450

1/2000 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 450

The game had finally come to an end and I was very excited to return home and look at the photos I had taken. Nothing beats the excitement of doing something you’ve always wanted to do for the first time, and I definitely was satisfied with my shooting experience.

In one day, I had braved the rain, wind, snow, and sunshine to get photos that I’ll forever cherish. To some, this might be a frequent activity, but to me, this was an opportunity to improve my vision and task myself to do something that I normally do not have the opportunity to do.

My advice to anyone who has never shot sports before is to try it out at least once. It will really force you to be creative, even when you have no control over your subject’s actions. Many thanks to Daniel Yun as I would not have been able to get these photos without him. I can’t wait to see the next adventure photography will take me on.

 1/2000 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 180

1/2000 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 180