I have spent most of my career in sports photography as a contractor or staffer at Sports Illustrated. During that time, I’ve shot about every sport imaginable including 9 Olympic games and 40 Super Bowls.
Lately, I have been shooting as a contributing photographer for the Associated Press and my main focus has been NFL football.
To that end, I am showing you the gear I currently take to most games.
Over my years of shooting football I have used almost every lens made up to and including Canon’s massive 1200mm f5.6.
Back in the days when I was always accompanied by a young man or woman with a strong back and fast hands, I tended to shoot games with at least four cameras, usually with a 600mm f/4, 400mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8 and something wide around my neck – a 16-35mm f/2.8 or maybe a 24-70mm f/2.8.
These days, I am more of a one-man-band and have reduced my gear accordingly. I travel with my gear in a Think Tank rolling camera bag, either the Think Tank Airport International or the slightly larger Think Tank Airport Security. This gear fits in either, but the International does better on smaller regional jets or airlines with restrictive overhead luggage policies.
I don’t like gear on my shoulder and I hate belt pouches, so what gear I carry either goes around my neck, on my hand or in the pockets of my cargo shorts/pants.
So here’s what’s in my bag:
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 IS III USM – The latest and greatest incarnation of a lens that has been one of Canon’s flagship lenses since the 1980’s. Lighter, sharper and faster focus than any of its predecessors – a thing of beauty and a joy to shoot with.
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Camera x2 – To me, the best action photography camera made in the world today. Beside the fast frame rate and brilliant auto-focus, I am continually amazed by the quality of the files. I never hesitate to shoot ISO 4000 or higher and I am still able to crop an image for maximum effect. (See other great sports photography cameras here.)
Notice the padded strap on one body – that goes around my neck, the other body is for my long lens and has no strap to get in my way.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM – This is my around the neck lens. It is a newer version of the traditional 24-70mm’s that Canon has made for many years. It’s quite a bit lighter than the f/2.8 version and focuses as fast or faster.
Shooting in Pro or major college stadiums these days you can shoot an f/4 lens with no problem. When I do shoot a 70-200mm, I now use the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 IS II USM (not shown), again a big weight saving on a great lens.
Canon Extender EF 1.4X III – A great companion to the 400mm f/2.8 when you need a little extra reach. Still super sharp.
Canon Angle Finder C – This allows me to shoot the low angle I like without tweaking my neck.
Gaffer tape – Don’t leave home without it! Why grey and not black? Because you can write on it to save a spot or list some important player’s numbers.
Sharpie – To write on the Gaffer tape.
Memory Cards – I prefer Sandisk 128 MB CFast. I can usually cover one game on two cards with room to spare, although I carry more.
Spare Camera Batteries – I usually don’t need them, unless I get to the game and realize I’ve left a camera turned on.
Oban Monopod – After I left my $350 Gitzo monopod at a UCLA Tennis match, I found this one on Amazon for under $100. Fits in my roller, but goes higher than I need, even standing up.
Knee Pads – Essential for my old knees.
If you want to find out more about gear for shooting football or sports photography in general, check out my website below where you’ll also find details about my upcoming Workshops.