Backpack Journalism

Journo2Go is a blog focusing on multimedia reporting - specifically backpack journalism. Steve Johnson, the blog's creator, is a freelance journalist and adjunct lecturer at the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.

Filtering by Tag: Gators

Shooting into the sun

Mom said to never look directly into the sun, right?


Sometimes the best photos are made shooting directly into the sun. In this case, Florida Lacrosse was up more than 10 points before the first half was over, and because of the time change, the sun was setting at 7:40 p.m. just around halftime.

Most would think that shooting directly into the sun would drastically underexpose your subject. This is also a myth. If properly exposed, you can get that deep orange glow of a late sun and your subject still exposed.

Here are a few examples from the game:

Nikon D3s (120mm, f/4, 1/800 sec, ISO500)

Nikon D800 (14mm, f/4.5, 1/160 sec, ISO50)

Once the light was lost after halftime it was a waiting game for twilight - arguably my favorite time to shoot.

While the action may not be the best, the sky proved to be worth shooting at 14mm.

Nikon D800 (14mm, f/2.8, 1/160, ISO800)

So the next time you find yourself shooting around sunset make sure to always look up - despite what mom says.

Ides of March

March Madness certainly earns its name even before Selection Sunday. College basketball proves itself time and time again each spring when the Cinderella team goes up against a champion and wins, or when an obscure group of five athletes comes out of nowhere and lands on the front page of


We all remember the Gators’ two national championships vividly. We remember the “Year of the Gator” issue of Sports Illustrated. We remember the chest-beating screams of Joakim Noah. We remember the pictures of dunks, steals, fouls and net cutting.

The journey is madness.

And in recent years, the Gators have come close to that madness again.

Clearly, this year’s team is special. Despite a few unexpected losses, the Gators are primed and ready to go into the ides of March.

This means, we must prepare to go with them. Not just packing our bags and showing up, but stepping up our coverage.

For photographers, this means documenting a team that could make a significant dent in Gator history. Remote camera, warm ups, team practices, traveling and, of course, March Madness coverage.

It is a crapshoot trying to plan how far a team can go in March, and it always conflicts with every plan, or every shred of a social life, you thought you had in spring. But the reward, much like for the players and fans, is always worth it.


Photographing basketball in March is like taking a bowl game and multiplying it by eight. The crowds are better, the stakes are higher and the players show more on the court than they ever have at the sold-out home game.

And once you’re in, you’re in for the long haul. The NCAA requires that you cover every game in the tournament if you plan to be at the Final Four – meaning you can’t just wait it out and see if the Gators make it to Atlanta and then suddenly plan a trip.

So what do you bring to March Madness? Well, pretty much everything you’d bring to a regular-season game and then some.

We cover basketball with multiple cameras, from behind and under the basket to inches above the wooden court to those behemoth lenses you see at football games – all of these make a difference in how you see the game online and in print.

I’m a Nikon guy, as many of you know, and Nikon has some amazing glass (lenses) that allows us to cover the games in very special ways.

One piece of glass that makes your feel like you’re in the middle of a packed home crowd or in the midst of madness is the 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. The 14mm is an ultra-wide lens that is pretty much like a fisheye lens, but without the bowing (fisheye) look to the edges of the frame.

This lens makes you feel like you’re sitting on the court, under the basket or in the rafters of the O’Connell Center.


It has a unique purpose in not bringing the action close to you, like a longer 200mm or 400mm lens, but bringing you into the scene that we are covering. This lens makes for fantastic full-page spreads in the magazine and galleries online.

The heart of covering basketball is a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. With its wide aperture (f/2.8), which allows more light to get into the camera and gives you that nice blurry background causing your subject to really stand out, it gives you the versatility to cover almost anything on your side of the court. Long enough at 200mm to zoom to mid-court and short enough at 70mm to cover a layup or dunk, this lens is used for majority of what you see online and in the magazine.


Now when you want to get crazy (as I often do), you bring longer glass to cover the defensive game – especially when you have a guy like Patrick Young who likes to make dramatic blocks. You can’t be on both sides of the court at once. So why not bring the glass that allows you to be in two places at once?

A 400mm f/2.8 is what you often see on the sidelines at a Gator football game. It is the bread-and-butter lens of all field sports photography. 

But it also allows you to get some tack-sharp photos of details in basketball that most photographers don’t bother with because of the shear size and weight of this lens (roughly 10 pounds).

All of this complete with remote triggers to hang cameras under the basket and a slew of memory cards and your trusty MacBook Pro, and you are ready to dive into March.

Now, you just have to find the best way to pack all of this and get it safely to each venue. We’ll save that for another time.

So as you enjoy March Madness both online and in print, at the big game or at home on your couch – make sure you check out the galleries and take a look at all of what we do to bring you closer to the action and tell a complete story through photos.

I’ll be in the bottom corner of your television set.