On Sunday, September 2, 2012, Barb and I drove to northern Oklahoma to spend the week with my Dad, his brother, and his four sisters that all met in the little town of Beatrice, Nebraska (which they grew up near). I will probably make a post of that trip in a week or so. This is my explanation for why I didn’t have a new blog post last week.
The day before we left on our 780 mile (1255 km) drive, was the day of the first Texas Longhorn football game of the 2012 season. The University of Wyoming Cowboys were the visiting team.
I have had Longhorn football season tickets every year since 1984. Every Saturday when the Texas Longhorns will be playing a football game, I go out to our front lawn to put out our spinner. Barb and I truly believe that the faster it spins, the more points the Longhorns will score in their game.
The University of Texas athletic department has a policy of “no professional cameras with interchangeable lenses”, which has always prevented me from taking a “real camera” – especially a DSLR. I have taken a camera to only a handful of games over the years. The last time I took a camera to a Texas football game, it was when Ohio State University came calling on September 9, 2006 for a night game (OSU won 24-7). The camera was a 4 Megapixel Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom, and the auto white balance needed lots of color corrections later in Photoshop – due to the color of the stadium lights.
Now that I have the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, I thought that I would see if I could get into the stadium with it and a single 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 “kit” lens. I did, and here’s my story.
We usually meet our friend Greg Ringer about 1hour and 40 minutes before the game at the UT intramural fields where we get on the bus that will take us to the University of Texas campus.
The bus lets us off about 4 blocks north of the stadium, where we have to walk past all of the tailgaters.
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Playing with my camera, I ran a few yards ahead, and waited to snap this photo of Greg Ringer and my wife, Barb, as they caught up with me.
The Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium is just ahead, to the south. Our seats are in the upper deck on the west side. That is at the top of the white concrete portion on the right side in this photo.
Before we go into the stadium, we go to the alumni center, which is directly across the street from the stadium.
I rarely drink beer, but I almost always have a Shiner Bock before a home football game.
While drinking our beers, I raised my camera to take a photo of the west side of the stadium, and Greg decided that the silhouette of his hand needed to be in the photo….
After a beer (or two), we cross the street to enter the stadium. They inspect every single bag that people carry in (no backpacks are allowed). I decided that I might look more innocent if I simply wore my camera around my neck, rather that appear to trying to hide it in Barb’s bag with our seat cushions. The kid at the gate did give this camera and the rather long lens a very thorough look, but he never said anything to me. I acted as if I didn’t realize that he might not allow me to enter with it. I didn’t linger around while they inspected Barb’s bag. I kept moving, and didn’t give the inspector any extra time to think about my camera. (If he didn’t let me in, I would miss at least the 1st quarter of the game while I took the round-trip bus ride back our car at the intramural fields.)
We take the escalators up to the 11th floor.
When we got to the 11th floor, we walked over the wall that overlooks the campus. The sun will be setting just to the left of this photo.
We are about 15 minutes earlier than our normal arrival time – as I wanted to allocate a little time to walk around to take a few photos. We walk to the south of the upper deck (which is on the right side of this photo), and look down onto the field from the northwest corner of the stadium.
The field, and our seats (in the upper deck to the right) are already in the shade, but the seats on the east side of the stadium are still in direct sunlight – a very high contrast scene, which is difficult to photograph nicely.
I zoom my kit lens out as far as it will go, just to see how large the players will look. I don’t expect Sports Illustrated will be calling me anytime soon….
Looking across, I take a photo of the seats on the east side, and make sure that I get the part that lists the years that the Longhorns were the National Champions. The shadow of the west side stadium lights are beginning to crawl up the seats on the east side.
Since it is still nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius), we purchase 3 bottles of water. If you come down to the concession stand during the game, you can still see the game on the TV screen while you wait in line.
We head into the stadium, and walk up the 12 rows to our seats, where my crazy cousin Mike is already there. Mike is always early. Really early.
We are halfway up the upper deck, on the north 10 yard line. We never miss seeing a play, and even if we do, we can watch the replay on the giant TV in the south end zone. The clock under the TV is counting down the time until the game starts (26 minutes from now). The person in the center of the TV picture is Darrell Royal, who was the Longhorn football coach when they won the National Championship in 1963, 1969, and 1970. He was on a golf cart, waiting to be taken to the center of the field for the coin toss right before the start of the game.
Up until two photos ago, I had the ISO setting on the camera at 200, but now that everything of interest was in the shade, I changed it to 400 to gather one more stop of light.
I knew that the lighting was going to be changing on me a lot – from sunshine, to shade, to twilight, to stadium lights. Here is a look to the south from my seat that shows the evil stadium lights that I would have to deal with later.
Looking across the stadium, the shadow of the upper deck that I was seated in was quickly climbing up the seats on the east side.
People wear all sorts of strange items to show their support for the team.
Twenty minutes before the kick-off, the Longhorn Marching Band enters the stadium through the opening near the north end zone. Here they completely fill the end zone.
They begin to march, and quickly spread out and cover 50 yards of the field.
And then they get into the “UT emblem” formation.
When the band plays the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem, we always sing out loud – and everyone else around us does too.
After the nation, the focus of attention changes to our state of Texas. We’ve got a huge state flag that they bring out and spin around before each and every game.
Next comes the school song, which is entitled “The Eyes of Texas”. The fans who are loyal to the school raise their arm and give the “Hook ’em Horns” sign while they sing the words to the song!
With less than 6 minutes before the game begins, the TV screen shows a live feed of the team as they exit the locker room area and prepare to enter the field. All of the players and the coaches swipe their fingers across the tip of one of the longhorns mounted on the wall near the door. (Does this look familiar?)
At the end of a rousing video on the giant TV, the team enters the stadium through a cloud of smoke. The first 3 players always carry the American and Texas flags.
At this point, the stadium is really rocking with excitement and the loud cheers!
The players run all the way to the north (opposite) end zone, where they kneel for a moment in prayer, if they choose to (and the vast majority of them do).
Time for the coin toss to determine which team will get the ball first, and which team will kick-off. They help Darrell Royal shuffle from the golf cart to the center of the field for the coin toss.
Play ball! The football season is finally under way. Life is good!
As you can see, our seats are on the northern 10 yard line, but we see the entire field just fine.
Cousin Mike sits on the aisle. People walking up and down the stairs in the aisle only block our view of the extreme corner of the south end zone, but only when we are sitting down.
(Honey, Greg Ringer wanted me to take that photo. No, he double-dared me to. Really…)
Half way up the seats in the seats above the northern end zone, they list the years that Texas won the old Southwest Conference, which was dissolved when the Big 12 Conference was formed in 1996.
By now the shadow of the upper deck has climbed almost to the top of the seats on the east side.
Since the light is diminishing in intensity, I change the ISO setting on the camera to 640.
There is still some indirect sunlight coming from the sky, but the evil stadium lights are contributing a larger percentage of the light available.
I cannot see the sunset occurring behind me, but the view to the east is rather pretty, so I take a photo of it.
Twenty minutes later, the sun had pretty much set, and only the evil stadium lights were providing the illumination needed by the players, and my camera. I performed a custom white balance in the camera, and then took a photo of my ColorChecker Passport.
Here is a photo of Texas kicking an extra point after a touchdown.
At this point, I had increased the ISO setting to 800.
Across the way, I noticed that the moon was rising above the seats on the east side, but it was hiding behind the clouds. Here it finally poked out for just a little while.
Half time. The first band onto the field during half time is from the visiting school – if they bring one. The University of Wyoming marching band made the 1044 mile trip (1680 km).
Then comes “The Showband of the Southwest” – The Texas Longhorn Band.
Here they are, in the center of the field.
The next three photos are a sequence from the same original formation, where they write a cursive “Texas” on the field.
When the half time show is over, it’s time for the players to return from the locker room, which of course is done to great fanfare.
After half time, I changed the ISO setting to 1000.
Here was a play where the ball was on the field directly in front of us. Two players later, the Longhorns scored another touchdown.
By 9:18 PM, the moon had made it above the clouds on the horizon. I used the electronic viewfinder to know that an Exposure Compensation of -1 1/3 stops was needed.
Here’s a photo from sometime early in the 4th quarter, when Wyoming was on offense.
After the game, which Texas won by a score of 37 – 17, the players meet at the middle of the field to shake hands.
Moments later, the players head over to the north end zone, directly in front of the students and the band, and the band proceeds to play the school song, “The Eyes of Texas” for the last time of the evening.
Whenever the Longhorns win by more than 10 points or so, many of the fans leave before the end of the game (to avoid the traffic). We almost always stay until the very end – no matter what the score. (I can only remember leaving early twice in 28 years.)
I played with my camera while on the elevator ride down, and decided that I needed to bump up the ISO to 1600, so that I could keep the shutter speed at 1/25 th of a second. I hoped that the in-body image stabilization would do its magic – and it did.
After walking the 4 blocks back to where the bus let us off, we get into the short line to board the bus for the ride back to the intramural fields. This next photo was hand held with the shutter open for 1/5 th of a second.
This last photo, of the bus before our bus, was taken with the shutter open for 1/8 th of a second. That is still remarkable to me, as I could never do that with my Canon 5D Mark II camera!
I know that this story was very long, with a LOT of photos, so I tried to keep the number of words to a minimum. I thought about splitting it into 2 or 3 separate blog posts, but decided this was a story that would be hurt by doing so. I doubt that very many people have actually made it this far, but for those of you who did, I thank you for reading my blog!