I recently sent the afternoon and evening at Chaparral High School in Temecula CA. I was there as a favor to a friend who coaches one of the Puma volleyball teams. I was there to shoot some volleyball and since it was Friday, I was given field access to shoot the football game that night.

I learned two very important things during the day.

  1. Shooting volleyball in a gym is EXTREMELY difficult.
  2. Those bright lights lighting up the football field at night aren’t that bright.
Friday Night Lights 01

Friday Night Lights 01

Let me start with the volleyball. 

The games were played inside a gym, which had very low light and since the only indoor volleyball I have ever watched was on television during the Olympics, I didn’t know what I was in for.  David had told me that the game moves fast, and that he had tried to capture some of the plays before, but the lighting was too low and the action too fast.

I packed a D2X and a D700 with the battery grip attached and a 85mm f/1.4 prime along with a 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens. I also threw in a 50mm 1.4 and my trusty 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye.  I arrived at the gym 45 minutes before the game and watched the teams warm up, and started to get a feel for what would be needed to shoot the game.

Volleyball practice

Volleyball practice

Even at ISO 1250 and f/2.8, a shutter speed of 1/320 was not enough to freeze the ball in the air during this practice shot. I realized that shooting the volleyball game was going to be much more difficult than I originally thought. 

I matched the 85mm f/1.4 prime lens on the D700, set the ISO to 1600 and the shutter speed to 1/400 to capture the action. Given that I was trying to shoot two different games at the same time at two different sides of the same gym.

Volleyball 02

Volleyball game

For a full set of the photos from the volleyball games, check the gallery out here:  Puma Volleyball Gallery 1 and Puma Volleyball Gallery 2.

For more on Puma Volleyball, check out the Puma Blog here: http://chsvb.blogspot.com/

Now for the football. 

There is something very exciting about being on the sidelines of a football game, it doesn’t matter if it’s the NFL, College or even High School. There is an adrenalin rush when that ball is snapped and the quarterback drops back for a pass. 

Now for the hard part: the lights, or more precisely the lack of lights. Those Friday night lights allways look so bright on television and even in person from the stands, but through the viewfinder of a DSLR trying to freeze the action, those lights are just not that bright.


I pushed the ISO to 1600 and higher to be able to capture the action. For a gallery of all the football pics that night, go here to see the gallery: Puma Football Gallery