Flash for Football

Discussion in 'Sports' started by brianbarksdale, Sep 16, 2013.

  1. We all know and understand high school football stadiums are less than desirable. Even more so in the end zone. Poor end zone lighting, combined with backlighting from the stadium itself creates horrible shadows within the facemask. Test shots (players preparing for a snap) with an inverted flash attached to a monopod have some awesome results. Do you all feel this will distract the players as I'm in the end zone, shooting as they are trying to score a touchdown? Anyone deal with this before? I have awesome access and a good reputation with the administration and athletic staff. I do not want to cripple this because of my 1/8 power 8fps strobe I have going on, ha ha. Thank you for your time.
    Brian Barksdale
    Canon 1D Mark IIN w/ 400mm f2.8L, 550ex flash w/ off camera cord and battery pack
  2. you just CAN'T do this!
    Unless you are going to light them high from above (which will not light up their faces like you want)

    - the last thing you wanna do is to interfeer with the play...
  3. grh


    Oh, for crying out loud, no. That would get you booted pretty quickly, and rightfully so.
    And by way of being helpful: fast lens, high ISO, eidting, and deal with it.
  4. Denis and Gary,
    Thank you for your response. This is the reason I ask the masses before venturing off on my own. I asked the question because I’ve seen this technique used in other stadiums with multiple photographers. I’m the only photographer in the stadium and thus the students are not use to it. I also read how others use this technique on SportsShooter.com. I only asked if others have used this technique or dealt with this before?
    Gary, yes I understand fast lenses (400mm f2.8 IMHO is pretty fast) with 3200 ISO, editing is a must. I am dealing with it... I’m trying to find outside the box solutions to improve my shots. Technology only goes so far and that’s when ingenuity kicks in. Thus the reason I use this forum to run “outside the box” thinking with other professionals.
    Brian Barksdale
  5. Brian -
    Best answer is to TALK to the person in charge at the stadium - the one who got you on the sideline in the first place. Tell them what you want to try and ask if you can do it.
    Some sports where there is a chance that a flash could distract a competitor (Gymnastics comes to mind) bar all flash photography. Others such as Basketball allow it, but usually it has to be an "arena" flash - which is far away from the action and designed to light the whole arena / area - not a specific person or target.
    Personally I never use it - even if allowed. My kids competed in swimming for years and hated (no, make that HATED) it when another shooter was there who insisted that the only way to get good photos was to blast a kid from 5 feet with a flash. Even if they were not the primary target, it distracted and annoyed them. Plus, in swimming, a flash is used to signal the beginning of the race - so if a person inadvertently forgets to turn it off while shooting a start - they will cause a false start.
    Ask - then do what the stadium, league, school, coach tells you to do.
  6. A few years ago I shot quite a few high school football games in a particularly bad stadium and used a flash. No fancy technique just an SB-800 on a d70 (it had flash sync at 1/500 sec) and never had a complaint. I published a lot of those pictures.
    I think the advice to check with the respective coaches is good. So is being a bit circumspect about the shots you take. You don't want to dazzle anyone. Shooting from the end zone at a kicker or passer close in might be a bit much. I avoided that. You know how to be careful.
    These days with the low-light capability of the D4 and fast glass there is just no reason for me to do it anymore. If I so much a thought about putting a flash on my camera at a PAC 10 game they would feed me to the wildcats.
  7. David,
    Thank you and you are exactly right. I'll ask their preference. I'm more focused on doing it and needed a little grounding. I would never consider it while indoors, or right up on an athlete as in swimming. I'm a little farther out (20-30 yards), and the little bit of flash fills the facemask. Many laugh saying I’m to far out for flash, but the little bit lights up the face very well, even at 1/8th power (test shots while on the line). However, back to the beginning, I'll ask.
    Thank you for the advice. I'm shooting with a 400mm f2.8 so I'm not right on the action. My most dramatic shots are head-on while in the red zone. The backlight on one end of the field almost makes it imposable to shoot and render any face. This equates to 2 x quarters without red zone coverage. But yes, I need to ask, and why I like to run things by you gentlemen before I shoot away.
    Brian Barksdale
  8. When I shot high school football every week in my newspaper days back in the 1970s, we routinely used flash. Nobody ever complained, but maybe the players and coaches were tougher back then. :)

    David Hobby on www.strobist.com recently did a post about shooting flash at high school football. I forget the details but he uses a grid or something so that his flash has a relatively narrow beam that illuminates who he is shooting but can't easily be seen by people not on a direct line of site. Therefore fewer do-gooders seeing the flash and being tempted to complain.

    On the fields where I used to shoot, exposure was typically 1/125 at f/4 on 400 speed Tri-X. Sometimes I pushed to 1600 but it looked pretty gritty so most of the time I used flash. On the same field today with digital I would probably just go with 1600 or 3200 and not use flash. But if you're on a really dark field flash may be your only option.
  9. Craig,
    I tried to find the article (both on strobist and google) and failed:0) Do you know of the title? The funny thing is I'm only struggling with one end zone. The other, although not ideal, is better than the other. I'm talking to the athletic department tomorrow and if able to the coaching staff. Everyone is right, it's up to them if I can even use flash. Either way, Friday Night lights are just plain enjoyable. I really have the best seat in the house!! The worse day of photography is better than the best day of work!! I'll report back and let you all know how it goes. I also want to post some test shots to let everyone know I'm not crazy, ha ha!
    Brian Barksdale
  10. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    you just CAN'T do this!
    Unless you are going to light them high from above (which will not light up their faces like you want)

    - the last thing you wanna do is to interfeer with the play..​

    I'd like to see some evidence that flash is an issue. Just saying it is carries no weight.

    At professional fights, I am not allowed to use flash due to California Athletic Commission rules. It's usually not an issue, because the TV crews make sure there is a lot of light on the ring or cage. However, I have shot plenty of "smokers," unsanctioned fights that take place at local gyms. Due to the poor lighting, I have always used flash at these events, and I am close (as close as I can get without being in the ring.) Not once has anyone reacted to or complained about the flash. I am much closer to the players than most people would be at a football game.

    And, in the old days, all the photographers shot fights with flash. There wasn't any other way. I think the rule is there because so many people showed up with cameras and could potentially shoot at extremely close range to affect a fight. But it would have to be right into their eyes, and no pro would ever do that.
  11. Regarding the assertion that flash distracts athletes, I'll chip in from the side of the athlete rather than photographer. I'm inclined to agree with Jeff and Craig that flash isn't necessarily a problem.
    I was an amateur boxer during the 1970s and flash was commonly used at ringside. I never noticed it. My attention was completely on the opponent. If a photographer had popped up at eye level and fired a flash directly into my face at full blast, sure, I might have noticed. Otherwise, no, it wasn't a problem. And there aren't many sports where attention to detail is so critical as with boxing. Distractions in most sports may result in a missed goal, bad pitch, missed swing or blown play. Distractions in boxing can result in a trip to the canvas and hospital. If camera flash had been considered a serious problem it would have been banned from boxing decades before the 1970s.
    If you look at pro boxing photos before 1970, ringside flash was very common. These photos from Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott are typical of the 1950s: this Marciano right distorts Walcott's jaw, but wasn't the knockout punch; this Marciano right to Walcott's jaw was the knockout punch.
    Note the ringside cameras: mostly Speed Graphics and flash, probably loaded with GE #5 bulbs. If I'm recalling correctly the guide number for those is around 200, much more punch than my Nikon SB-800 flash.
    By the 1960s-early '70s most ringside photographers were using TLRs and 35mm cameras, mostly with Honeywell and similar hammerhead flash units. They used faster film and less potent flash. Eventually faster film and, now, dSLRs that can handle ISO 6400 and better, made flash less necessary (although it's still very difficult to duplicate those frozen peak moments, even at 1/1000th second shutter speeds).
    Eventually flash was phased out completely in most pro and amateur boxing. But I don't recall any major outcry against the use of flash from the athletes and ringside attendants. It was more annoying to TV cameras than to anything else, since the 1960s-'70s video cameras suffered persistence problems from flash. You can see this on YouTube in bouts from the 1960s-'70s where flash was still allowed, and the TV cameras suffered that afterglow or persistence. This wasn't a problem with earlier bouts that were filmed rather than video-recorded. So flash was gradually selectively banned from some championship bouts. I recall some championship boxing bouts in the late 1960s-early '70s where flash was banned from certain specific events due to the demands of TV coverage, yet the continuous lighting was so poor that you could barely see the action via closed circuit TV and the still photos were murky and practically useless.
    I'd bet if you dig into the history of why flash was phased out of use in most sporting events you'll find it had more to do with the influence of the TV networks back in the 1960s and '70s than due to complaints from athletes.
  12. Jeff and Lex,
    It is always a pleasure and educational experience when you contribute to the forum. I value your years of experience and knowledge. The history you both expounded on is amazing. I have always respected the way flash adds to any photograph. When used properly (so one can’t detect its use) it adds something special to the photograph. I’ll continue to work through the problem and report back on how it turns out. I’m pretty sure the coaching and athletic staff will work with me. They enjoy the photos I produce for them on that dark football field of theirs.
    Brian Barksdale
  13. Fellow Photographers,
    Last Friday was a productive shoot, and a heck of a high school game. I asked the coaching staff, athletic director, and finally the officials. All were thrilled I was there to help out the school. The touchdowns were all ran in from over 55 yards, so the majority of the time I was not in the darkest part of the field. However, this shot (not real exciting, but I was able to light the facemask) was taken at about 32-35 yards away. Canon 1D Mark IIN, 400mm f2.8L @ f2.8, 1/250, ISO 3200 taken with a monopod and attached inverted Canon 550 EX (1/16 power) w/ battery pack and Canon off camera shoe cord. The high school travels over the next few weeks and I'm away training. I'll update here again with some tweaking of my gear and technique. Any thoughts or comments are welcomed. Thank you all again for the help with this.
    Brian Barksdale
  14. This one was also about 35 yards away. I asked the player after the game if he noticed the flash? "What flash" was his response. I guess when your focused on something, the little things don't matter. Now, for swimming or if I was right upon him, yes, I could see it. Over 30 yards out, not an issue. As they approached to end zone, I continued to push back so I didn't have to manipulate my power settings. Same setup as above.
    Brian Barksdale
  15. Now w/out flash, same distance. Have a wonderful week!
    Brian Barksdale
  16. Looks good, Brian. Doesn't surprise me that the player you asked said he never even noticed the flash.
  17. Thanks Brian for the update. At 1/16 power (even at ISO 3200 & f/2.8) & 30+ yards, flash images certainly look better.

    (If I get a chance, I will ask relevant college volleyball people about flash use.)
  18. For 2+ years I shot my son's HS football team with full sideline and end zone access. I used a two flash set-up - a 580 EXII on a tall Stroboframe bracket (to reduce red-eye) + a 430EX on the monopod stem (to get some light on the players' faces from below). I had tried shooting without flash using a 7D + 70-200 f2.8 II + usually a 1.4x teleconverter, but the results weren't great.
    I'd seen local press photographers using flash, so didn't ask permission. I never got any negative feedback, either directly or through my embarrassed-by-his-Dad son - with a single exception. I once took a shot of a field goal attempt from just beyond the end zone, near the goal post. I was very careful to wait until the ball had been kicked to shoot (I wanted to catch the ball in mid-flight). But the kicker was bothered and mentioned it to one of the referees who in turn mentioned it to me. No big deal, but I did change my approach on that type of shots as a result. Never any complaints from QBs, runners, or receivers.
  19. Tom,
    Thank you for the contribution. I too saw this setup at another high school game and hence the reason I researched how to use flash for football. The team is away this week, but I plan on shooting this Friday. I'll work on the manual power settings this game and see what works best. I was watching Fox Friday and they showcased a high school game in California. I was jealous on the amount of lighting their stadium offered. If only we had that setup!! Either way, I enjoy trying new ideas when it comes to sports photography. Well new for me. Jeff, Lex, and the multiple others with vast knowledge, this is old news. Ha Ha. Everyone enjoy your week.
    Brian Barksdale
  20. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The ones with flash came out very well. The first one in particular is a great shot.

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