There are two things that I take great joy in aside from photography: Football and Georgia Tech. I graduated GT with a degree in Biomedical Engineering and hated every minute of the curriculum. I loved everything else about the Institute though, especially the football. Go ahead and sneer and laugh, but I love Paul Johnson and the triple option offense. They both perfectly embody the stubborn, determined, damn-the-torpedoes attitude that is Georgia Tech. Needless to say, I’ve always wanted to combine my passions and get on the field to take pictures of GT football games.
During my last semester at Tech, I worked as a photographer for the school paper, the Technique. Thanks to my hard work and poor spending decisions, I had sufficient gear to be allowed to shoot several of the games. They were incredible experiences, and I cherished every Saturday I spent on the field and the hours going over the images I was so fortunate to capture. Once I graduated though, I assumed I was solely going to be enjoying games from a stadium seat or through a television. With the Virginia Tech game looming, I was preparing for a great night in the stands with friends and fellow fans. My arrangements though were to change for the better.
The night before the game I was contacted by one of the photographers who is still shooting for the Technique. To my utter amazement, I was offered a pass to shoot the game. So after I did a celebration equivalent to that of the New York Giants beating Tom Brady and his Patriots in a second Super Bowl, I immediately threw together my gear, called my friends, and sold my seat. The biggest lynch pin was whether or not I could snag a 300mm f/2.8 lens from a local camera shop, Professional Photo Resources (PPR), for that following evening. I called 5 minutes after they opened that Thursday morning and was again favored by fortune. Reserving the lens was easy, and I was officially on cloud 9. As an aside, PPR is a fantastic camera shop located in Atlanta. They have a very knowledgeable staff and a large supply of lenses that are available for rent. I highly recommend them if you need a camera repair, consultation on gear, a class for studio work, or want to try/rent a piece of equipment.
If you’ve never been to a college or NFL football game, I suggest you go right now. It’s a great experience and incredibly fun. This particular game was one hell of a match because of the nature of the rivalry. Since Virginia Tech joined the ACC, it’s been either them or GT who as played in the ACC championship game to represent the Coastal Division. The team who represents has almost always been the winner of this game. Needless to say, the night was incredibly important for both teams and the stadium was charged with energy. Rivalry games are loud, intense, and incredibly fun. Go to a game now. Do it, seriously.
Now I know I was at the stadium for the purpose of taking pictures, but as an avid football fan, there were times I completely forgot I had camera gear with me. I was enthralled (and infuriated) for so many moments of the game, that I missed some key images. I was even doing some of the cheers from the student section while on the field (that drew some laughs from the ESPN photographers). I love football, my teams, and the atmosphere, but definitely need to save those whims for after the moments pass and the images are captured. Still, even with my dedication to the team, I managed to snag some incredible images. Many of those images I can attest to that 300mm lens. What a fantastic piece of equipment! I gained so much more reach while maintaining high shutter speeds thanks to that sharp, wide-open f/2.8 aperture. It also implements wicked fast and accurate autofocus. Combined with my 7D, the only out of focus shots were my fault. Of note though, after reviewing my images on the computer, I’m officially over the high ISO limitations of APS-C or crop-sensor cameras. Shooting at 1600 or higher ISOs does not render highly resolved detail at distance; especially once noise reduction is applied. I was shooting next to my buddy with a full-frame Nikon, who was working at 4000 ISO. His images were sharp and maintained similar noise levels to my 7D – at 4000 ISO! That difference is just unreal. So 5D Mark III, you’re officially on the list. Now, back to football.
That evening ended bitter-sweetly as GT lost to Virginia Tech due to a dominant defensive line, poor offensive play calling, and a first-year QB who made the mistakes of his seniority. There are still tremendous signs of hope for this team and I’m excited for them. I am incredibly pleased with my images though (minus the ISO vs. detail debacle). What’s even better, I have a permanent “stand-by” spot for any available passes in the future. I’m going to start working on my karma now for the GT vs. UGA game.