Yesterday evening marked my third time on the field at a home FSU soccer match. And while I’ve been having a terrific amount of fun, and learning new things every time I go out there, I happened to walk away from last night’s game very frustrated. To begin with, I was late – something I couldn’t help, as I was coaching until almost 7:30, and so I missed all but the last seven minutes of the first half, and that always leaves me flustered. Then comes the actual photography. Having been coming to soccer games and attempting to capture inspiring images for almost a year now leaves me far from being an expert, but I think it does give me a little insight that I hope to share with the any of you who happen to give two hoots about what I think.

  1. The soccer pitch is FREAKING ginormous. It’s larger than an American football field
  2. The players move erratically at BEST, and hardly never in a predictable fashion
  3. Camera gear is expensive, especially super-telephoto lenses

These three factors all merge into my biggest issue: as a twenty year-old budding photographer, I am impatient. The longest lens I have is a 200mm, and while hardly inadequate, the majority of the action in a soccer match is inevitably spent outside the range of my 200mm. I wish I could afford a 300mm or 400mm, but they run between $5,000 and $12,000 brand new, so…no. Well, you might ask: “what about cropping your image, you have more resolution than any film photographer ever dreamed of!” And to that I will direct your attention to the following video clip: “Magnify that Death Sphere!”

Basically, cropping takes a giant dump on image quality when taken too far, and especially at night when you have to increase the ISO (light sensitivity) of the camera, cropping makes the grain and imperfections in the image more apparent.

So especially at night games (so far, all I’ve shot for FSU), cropping is a now. I could run up and down the field, but I would probably miss more shots than I do now, sooooooo, no. That leaves me with the same strategy that pretty much every other soccer photography has. Park near one spot on the field, and wait for the action to come to you, and when it gets close enough, hose it down – machine gun through ten, twelve, twenty, however many (usually not THAT many…) frames. But again, as an impatient young twerp, I WANT THE SHOT, and will either be frustrated that I missed the shot because it was too far away, or frustrated with the final image quality if I crop it.

Take a look at the following images.

This one was taken by the contracted photographer for the FSU soccer team, with a 300mm lens, and the same camera body I was working with, so his magnification was higher, and he was closer to the action. (All due credit to Larry Novey, and yes, the resolution is low because I downloaded it from Twitter).

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Now consider the following shot of the same play sequence, but taken by me, with a lower magnification lens, from farther away.

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Can you see the difference? Also…for kicks and giggles, in the first image, you can actually see me – I’m on the left side, maroon shirt, green vest, and in my image, you can see Larry (standing, green vest) and one of the other photographers – Perrone (seated, green vest). Not only was the outright image quality vastly different, but I cropped my image as well, so the original featured smaller players…

With seconds left in the game, as I was walking to get my stuff, play transitioned to right in front of me, and I captured this full frame, un-cropped image, mere yards away.

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To me, as the photographer, that is a huge difference, and it illustrates my lack of maturity in regards to being patient, but as one of my close friends pointed out to me last night, “…it’s a process to improve…Life would be boring if you were perfect at everything all the time.” So on I go, in pursuit of perfection at school, in athletics, and in photography. I have an American football game to shoot tonight, and another FSU soccer match to shoot in good afternoon light Sunday afternoon – opportunities to improve!

Thanks for sticking with me,

-Colin

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