My experiences with shooting field sports in natural light
When we are photographing field sports, understanding the impact of the different types of natural light and how it impacts your photographs can be as important as knowing how to operate the camera and lens you are using. The type of light we are shooting in, the quality of that light and the directionality of the sun and it’s position in relationship to the subject will make a huge difference in the appearance of the photos. The same field with the same players can appear evenly lit with vibrant colors one day then suddenly flat and/or unevenly exposed the next day. When shooting football and most field sports in general, most of this is due to not only the quality of light but the positioning of the subjects and the photographer on the field as well the field’s orientation.
Field orientation is important because at the same time of day with the same overhead sunlight on a field with a North-South orientation and one with an East-West orientation will result in your subjects being lit totally differently when they are placed on the field. For example, one orientation will leave you with the sun coming from the sidelines onto the field while the other will be lit from one end zone or the other and will become the backlit side of the field.
There are two high schools football teams that I cover regularly and although they both play at the same time of day and have identical fields the shooting experience in terms of how the images render is totally different on sunny days because one field is lit from the side at 3:00pm while the other field is has the sun falling behind the end zone.