I've been photographing a lot of football lately and I'm always up for trying something new. I've covered quite a lot of games now and I'm always thinking about new angles or different perspectives that I could try. The behind the goal remote camera isn't something new, it's been done a lot before, but it's not something I had ever tried.... until now!
I didn't want to try it without planning it well, so I researched a fair bit on forums and on the back pages to get an idea of what works and what doesn't.
Firstly I had to consider the placement of the camera itself. I thought first time out, a simple middle of the goal a few feet back would be the way to go. In terms of mounting the camera/supporting it I opted to use my flexible 'gorilla pod', it allows me to keep the camera low to the ground but I can still adjust he height and angle simply enough. I positioned it splayed out like the below image.
The camera could then sit on a solid base slightly off the ground (to clear any longer grass or mud etc).
The camera body itself is a Canon 1d Mark ii. I'm sure there are better cameras for the job, but this is the one I had spare and for me it worked out just fine.
Then came the choice of lens. This was obviously largely dictated by what I had spare sitting in my bag. In the end I opted for a 28mm f2.8 I did think about going wider, but there was a lot of space behind the goal that I was setting up on so I figured this would give me a decent perspective when I positioned the camera slightly further back.
In terms of the settings I wanted to capture some depth of field so I set the camera to f4. I shot with the camera in Av priority due to it being a bright dry day. I set the iso to 400 and I knew there would be no risk of the shutter speed dropping below about 800-1000 so I was confident I could freeze the action. If the light had changed I could have adjusted the settings at halftime, but as it turned out I had no need. I pre-focused on the 6 yard line and then switched to manual focus, I then used some gaffer tape to make sure there was no risk of the focus shifting with vibrations and such like.
My thoughts then switched on how to trigger the camera, for me the choice was my Yongnuo RF-603c triggers.
The setup for these is simple, you set them both to the same channel and then sit one on the horse shoe of the camera and plug it in, the other trigger then stays with me and works as the shutter button. I've used these for my basketball remotes and they work fine for me. I was the only photographer at the game so there was no risk of crossed channels.
I opted to keep the trigger in my left hand. My normal shooting method is to have my main body with the Sigma 100-300 on a monopod. I found it relatively easy to hold the trigger and fire it off when I needed to whilst holding the monopod. It took me a while to coordinate because I often found myself wanting to fire the remote whilst taking photos. I've seen others use a foot pedal to trigger them. I could of course use the camera to trigger the remote but this would mean taking a shot with the remote every time I press the shutter on my main body. For this exercise I didn't want to come away with 1000 remote imaged to sift through.
I did also prepare for rain (as is always my luck when shooting football!). I had a handy shower cap with me that I could use to cover the whole rig if I'd needed to. Fortunately the weather was sunny and I was fine without it.
I set up the remote behind the goal in the middle. I had a lot of room to play with so I was able to set it further back and get the view I wanted. Obviously in some grounds you would have less room and it might be forced closer. A wider lens could then work, or even something like a fisheye if required.
My experience with using remotes at basketball is very hit and miss. You are of course shooting blind and for every 300 images I tend to find 2-3 that I think 'work'. The same can be said for my first time using the remote for football. I had a lot of shots that didn't really capture the action, or in some cases, shots that did but it just didn't fill the frame as I would have liked.
In the end I came away with 2 shots that I felt warranted inclusion in the final set that I submitted to the team. I managed to capture their second of three goals pretty well. Apologies for the large 'Do Not Copy' across the photo, the license for this league requires it.
Overall I'm fairly happy, I'll definitely be trying this again, I'll probably try to position the camera slightly higher off the ground to take some of the grass that you can see above out of the equation. I might also try and move the camera itself to one side nearer the corner and shoot more across the goal mouth.
I've got another game this weekend so we'll see what I capture there!