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|| News Item: Posted 1999-09-27

Friday Night Football: covering prep football
By Bob Larson, Contra Costa Times

Photo by Bob Larson/CC Times

Photo by Bob Larson/CC Times
Here are some tips that I've learned over the years of shooting high school football. Believe me, I've shot a few games over my 11 years at the Contra Costa Times, most of those years working Friday night at some dark high school football stadium.

If you do work Friday nights and shoot a lot of high school football you know what fields have good, average, bad and just plain ugly light. And you also know what fields have a hot spot in the middle of the field (50 yard-line) and as you get closer to each end zone the light drops one, two and maybe three stops in the end zone. You also know what teams have light color uniforms and dark uniforms. And last but not least you also know what the light is like in the locker room, sure you do.

I don't really have any rocket science formula for shooting high school football. Pretty basic and most of the work is done in Photoshop. But here are some of the basics:1) Fuji 800 ASA color neg film. 2) monopod. 3) lenses - either 300 2.8 or 400 2.8 Canon, that's what I use 4) on camera, direct flash with a battery pack, a Quantum or whatever.

Photo by Bob Larson/CC Times

Photo by Bob Larson/CC Times
Shoot with 800 ASA Fuji color neg film, NO PUSH at 250, 2.8 with direct flash. I use a Canon 430EZ flash (I suppose the newer 540EZ or 550EX would do an even better job). I set it at TTL and I play with the exposure compensation buttons on the back of the flash, playing with the + or - depending on the field. I usually dial down -1/3 or -2/3 on the flash and go for it. Depending on the end zones I'll go up to normal or +1/3. If you have decent light, all 100 yards of it, just set at -1/3 or -2/3 and shoot your game.

Some tips when you scan in the photo. If the neg is a little hot due to white uniforms or whatever, take down the contrast and brightness when you pre-scan and then hit scan. You can also use the lasso tool or try burning it down. Chances are some of your photos will have, "RED EYE". The best way to take care of this is with the rubber stamp tool. Click on a black area of the photo and with a small brush you can click on the part of the eye that is red, its like burning the area down so the players don't look like they are aliens.

When you need to reduce noise in the photo the despeckle filter can sometimes help or go into channels and reduce noise in each channel. One other important tip: shoot tight, avoid blowups, it cuts down on noisy pictures. There's nothing better than using 75 to 100 percent of your negative.

Photo by Bob Larson/CC Times

Photo by Bob Larson/CC Times
Earlier I asked if you knew what the light was like in the locker room. You can make some good features before the game starts and at the half that can be used later in the week or season. What I have done in the past is get permission from the coach ahead of time to be in the locker room before the game and at the half. I know this is only high school football, but most coaches don't want you in the locker room at those times.

Go over to the school and talk it over with the coach the day before the game. I have been working with nationally ranked De La Salle high school for years and it wasn't until a couple of years ago that they finally started feeling comfortable with me being around. If you like shooting high school football and do a lot of it, get to know your teams, it's worth it. If you have any questions, you can email me at

(Bob Larson is a staff photographer at the Contra Costa Times.)

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