Recently I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about a job I worked a few weeks ago.  The conversation was what goes into working for a LARGE event that spans multiple days potentially needing multiple different cameras, lenses and locations.  The event in question was the B1G Ten Football championship which I photographed for the Indianapolis Sports Corporation.  The event itself spans multiple days, and several indoor and outdoor activations, or individual events including an NCAA Football game at the end.  At the end of the two days of shooting, I had created 547gb of data this year, which had to be edited and delivered not only promptly, but in multiple resolutions, as is my business policy. My friend wanted to know what it took to do a job like this in terms of equipment, and planning, and thanks to his suggestion I am here to write it all down for the masses.

My gear, as packed in the back of my Subaru Outback Saturday Evening after it was all over.  I’ll be honest, this looks like a really light load for me….

The B1G Ten football championship events usually take place on a Friday and Saturday during the first weekend of December.  Indianapolis has been the host of the B1G Ten Football Championship now for a few years and it looks like we will have it next year also.  (Too early to know if I’ll be at the 2020 events but I hope so!).  The event starts out like many others, in regards to getting a shot list and an agenda.  My contact at the Sports Corp is fantastic, and she puts all of the schedule and shot list into one document.  This year the shotlist/schedule was 4 pages long and as usual, includes things that are slightly different than the year before.  Sometimes these things include items that are dictated by weather and some are dictated by needing to be in two places on opposite ends of the festivities within minutes.

(Nikon D850, 3200ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8E@200mm.  1/400th@F2.8)

Once I get the shotlist, I then have to decide what equipment I need to take with me.  This can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be, and it’s definitely easy to overpack despite the need to be mobile.  For this particular type of thing, the kind of events/activations/environments I needed to consider were as follows:

  • VIP Parties (Very dark)
  • Outdoor general Parties (Very crowded)
  • Indoor sports workshops (Football, Basketball, Cheerleading) (Usually dark and need fast shutter)
  • Outdoor RV tailgating area (Reasonable walk from stadium)
  • General fans (indoor, outdoor)
  • Filled Stadium (indoor very wide-angle needed)
  • Individual fans in the stadium (Very dark, OR very light depending on location)
  • Game action (need 400mm)
  • Postgame Celebration (Need 70-200 and to figure out what to do about 400mm)

Here’s a quick selection of stuff from the Saturday daytime portion of the event to give you an idea of the variety of things that get shot.

The above list is just a small cross-section of the 4 pages of shot list, but those are the big things that stood out to me to consider when it comes to packing the gear.  Some of those things required specific items and that is what makes it tough.    (I won’t link all the gear in this post, so if it’s not linked check out my GEAR Page for direct links to the stuff online) I usually travel relatively light with a 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200 but with how dark things are would the 200F2 be necessary? I know I’ll need 400mm for the game, but that’s usually too much for postgame.  Does that make the 200-400 the best choice? Do I want to carry it around all weekend?  Let’s work from big to small.  For the game Action, I know that I need my 400F2.8, 70-200 and 24-70.  The camera body is relative here as I could shoot it with any of my bodies but the 400 is the largest lens that I have physically so how I pack and move around for the event will be dictated by this.  I didn’t want to carry the 400 around all day, so I decided to split the gear into two bags; the first to be left in the Lucas Oil Event Headquarters office during the rest of the Saturday festivities.  That will go in my Think Tank Airport Takeoff 20 along with a few other things that I’ll only need later and it will get dropped off bright and early around 7:30am Saturday.  I opted to put the D850, D500, and D4s and an extra 24-70 inside the Thinktank with my 400F2.8.  That along with my laptop were to stay in their bags in HQ until game time.  My Second bag was for the rest of the day.  I packed/carried a Nikon Z7, D5 and Sony A7r3 with a 14-24, 70-200, and Sigma 24-70F2.8 in E mount respectively; a couple of speedlights and Nikon 300F4PF all inside of my Tenba Axis 24L.  I didn’t carry the bag with me the whole day though, I left it and the miscellaneous extras inside the Fan Fest HQ while I wandered around checking items off of my list.  Originally I had intended to leave the D5 with the 400, but decided I wanted to have one camera body with me that could do ultra-high ISO since you never know what you will run into at an event like this.

(Sony A7R3, 3200ISO, NEW Sigma 24-70F2.8Art in E Mount, 1/640th@F2.8)

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I was carrying Nikon and Sony at the Fanfest during the day.  No, I am not switching to Sony.  Sigma was kind enough to send me their NEW 24-70F2.8 Art in E Mount to review the week of the game, and when someone sends you something to try, you need to try it.  So YES.  I did carry around three very different camera bodies during the day, which was silly to be quite honest, but if the NEW Sigma 24-70 for E Mount was worth its beans, that would be an excellent test for it.  (And it was but more on that in another post).  The bodies and lenses I had during the day needed to be fast and cover a great range because I went from very tight quarters in FanFest, to very sloppy wet action in the St Elmos eating contest, to the relatively cold tailgating out in RV Nation.  Going from inside to outside to just plain watching food and liquids sprayed everyplace means you need tough stuff and both my Nikon and Sigma lenses performed flawlessly.

(Nikon D5, 500ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8E@200mm.  1/640th@F2.8)

OK so the gear was decided and the game gear was to be dropped off early.   Next was pregame and post game planning along with plotting out where I needed to be at different points during the day.  I’ve got a helluva range with me all day, but I still needed to be mobile to hit all the things I needed on my list.  There were all the festivities from Fan Fest, and outside plus Pregame, Game and Postgame to think about.  This year as a change, for pregame I needed to be in the coin toss (Where I apparently spent some good time on TV), so I knew at 8 pm I needed to be at the Ohio State side 50-yard line.  I couldn’t miss that so that’s what I planned around.  Then I was planning to spend the first half of the game in the stands with the fans getting some fan stuff, but mostly VIP areas, Suites, and shots of the stadium FULL.  I also had to make sure I could get a shot of the party outside super full which meant I needed to go from the eating contest, back to Fan Fest, back outside at sunset (which included 8 flights of stairs), back to Fan Fest to get the crowd, and to grab my stuff before bolting over to the stadium.  I am sure you are starting to see the planning that goes into getting the timing just right and that doesn’t even include events earlier in the day! It’s also worth noting that all media needs to open up all their bags being taken into the stadium and go through metal detectors as well.  You can’t forget this, or you’ll not leave yourself enough time to get where you need to be; especially if there is a line.

(Nikon Z7, 160ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8N@15mm.  1/13th@F5 Handheld). 

On a side note, this was an amazing game to shoot a full stadium at.  Both team’s colors were Red and White, so the whole stadium looked great being filled with Red and White!  So I enacted the plan as outlined above.  After successfully hitting all the needed spots, and getting through security (again) I would set my cards to download to my laptop, set up the D5, D500 and D4s up for football and then take the Z7 and D850 out to the coin toss with the 14-24 and 70-200 for the lenses.  From there it’s up into the upper part of the stadium to work my way down using the same lens/body combos until around halftime.

(Nikon Z7, 800ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8N@14mm.  1/200th@F5.6)

At halftime my plan was to grab the D5 with my 400 on it, the D500 with the 70-200, and the D4s with 24-70 (all of which I had already set up).  In the end, I opted to take the D850 with my 24-70 instead.  Why?  The resolution for cropping is all.  Sometimes plans change, oh well.  For the post game I needed to quickly drop the 400 back in HQ because I’ve done that race to get to the trophy presentation and had to juggle the 400 while shooting the 70-200 in standing room only and it’s no fun.  This year my plan was to go in about 2 minutes before the end of the game and put the 300F4PF on my D500, and the 70-200 on the D850 for the awards presentation.  This also allowed me to shoot the very end of the game as well since on the D500, my 300F4 is essentially a 450mm F4.  First I had to get through shooting only the second half of the game though.  I really do enjoy shooting football, but only shooting half a game makes it hard to get as much action as I personally like out of a game.

(Nikon D5, 1600ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR, 1/1000th@F2.8)

So before even going to the event, I had a game plan.  Then it’s the easy part of just following the schedule and checking things off the shot list.  I cannot imagine just flying by the seat of my pants, but many people do and it works for them.  I like to know where the best place to be when is and that’s why I take the time to try to plan it out as best I can.  Was it necessary to have 6 camera bodies with me at this event?  Nope.  Having a backup is always a good idea, but 6 bodies was a bit on the heavy side for sure.  I very easily could have shot the whole day with just the D4s and D5 and that likely would have been my go-to if I had been shooting for news.  I chose to run the high-resolution bodies because my client needs these images for marketing materials, advertising and promoting future events.  So during the day, I wanted to give them very large meaty files, and for the game, I was going to be shooting High Volume so the smaller files out of the D5, D500, and D4s would be better for editing later on.


(Nikon D850, 1250ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8E@135mm. 1/400th@F4)

As I said earlier in this post, I created 547gb between Friday and Saturday.  Some will easily say that’s probably overkill but I’ll say it sounds about right for an event of this size for me.  I created the same-ish amount of data shooting the Hockey All-Star game a few years ago.  Just the game.  (Fies from remote cameras add up you know).   In the very end, the client was happy, and that’s the most important thing to me.  The game was much better this year than previous years, and yes Ohio State won again.  For a Third time.  In a row.  I can’t think of any major hiccups on my end over the course of the days but they are just long days and there is quite a bit that goes into it.  All said and done, the data sleeps safely on my Synology Backup server which I originally detailed HERE.

(Nikon D500, 1250ISO, Nikon 300mmF4PF. 1/400th@F4)

Every big event is a little different, and each photographer’s methods of tackling large events like this are very different.  This is how I worked my way through this even though.  I hope you found it helpful in some way, and know that you aren’t alone in trying to figure out terribly long days with a TON of stuff to shoot.  Also if you have any questions about this or a suggestion for a blog post.  You can always email me to ask. Until then.  More soon.