When you’re going to write about photographing a high school football game AND the 1989 arcade game Final Fight, where to start? Obviously, with Final Fight.
Here’s the plot as it appears on Wikipedia (with my favorite parts in bold):
Final Fight is set in the fictional American city of Metro City “sometime in the 1990s”. The story centers around the kidnapping of the Mayor’s daughter, Jessica, by the dominant street gang in the city known as the Mad Gear Gang, which seeks to bring the Mayor under their control. The Mayor, a former pro wrestler named Mike Haggar, refuses to give in to the gang’s demands and sets out to rescue his daughter with the help of her boyfriend, a martial artist named Cody, and his friend, a modern-day Bushin ninja named Guy.
It’s a common videogame premise, where you select from the characters you want to play. Each has a strength and a weakness. There is the ultra-fast guy who can’t take a punch. There’s the all-around average player. And there’s the big heavy dude who is super strong but super slow. In Final Fight, the fast and skinny is Guy, Cody is the average, and Haggar is the big slow brawler.
For far too long I’ve been playing Final Fight as the former pro-wrestler Haggar and too often I’ve also been showing up to shoot football games as Haggar, loaded down with three cameras and all the weight that entails. It’s been an effective strategy with a lot of great photographs, but I felt it was time for a change. So for this game I selected Guy and went the light-weight approach, carrying just two cameras. On one I mounted the smaller and lighter 300/2.8 and the other camera had a 16-35 wide angle. I went without a monopod and made sure to down a large Coke and a couple of candy bars for even more extra speed.
While the 300 didn’t give me the same reach as the 400 I usually would use, I stayed close to the action, mostly shooting within ten yards of the line of scrimmage.
Above: Davis’ Troy Hinds celebrates sacking Layton QB Camren Applegate.
My biggest technical hurdle was the dark, horrendous lighting. Just look at those weak lights! And it varied all over the field; every third frame had a horrible reddish hue. I switched to shooting RAW for the second half when it got dark just so I’d be able to correct the color shifts.
Still, it was very dark and for a while I played with the artistry of a slower shutter speed. That was a mistake when Davis made this touchdown:
The 300 worked well throughout. While its reach wasn’t as tight as I’m used to with the 400, there’s not much you can do with either lens when the action takes off clear across the field. Shooting loose can sometimes add to the shot, like this touchdown where the marching band adds a nice detail:
But back to Final Fight, here’s the description of Guy (again from the Final Fight page on Wikipedia):
Guy is the fastest, yet weakest member of the group, in which he can unleash fast punches against his opponents and use an off-the-wall kick to knock them down.
So true. When Kimble Jensen made the a late interception to seal the win for Layton, I was right up close and in place for the shot. Call this one my very own off-the-wall kick to knock them down:
Full Disclosure: For almost twenty years I’ve played Final Fight as Haggar and I probably won’t change, so Alex… you’ll still have to play as Cody.