Paul F. Gero Photography News

Friday Night Lights | A Season With the L-Cats |


Fall is in the air and it’s football season!

Last week Lake Mills took on a much bigger and stronger team in the Menomonie Mustangs. Lake Mills was leading 10-7 at the half but the Mustangs came on strong in the second half and used their much deeper bench to pound the L-Cats. The final was 34-10.

Head coach Dan Ferkovich, though, was pleased with his team’s effort.

This was the first game of the behind-the-scenes football project called: “A Season With the L-Cats”.

I first did a project like this in 2014 and 2015 when we lived in California, documenting the Tesoro Titans with the goal of producing a book and video about the season.

It was a project that I have wanted to do for years, ever since Buzz Bissinger’s book “Friday Night Lights” came out. He lived in West Texas and documented the lives of the a team from the Odessa-Midland area, the Permion Panthers. That book led to a movie and then later a series on NBC by the same name.

When the book came out, I was living and working in Arizona and every season I had an idea to do this, but never made it happen.

Until 2014.

That year I had just made the switch to Sony and I wanted to do a project that was a) close to home b) a project that would take some time c) be granted access and d) produce a photo book and a video.

By a stroke of good fortune, my daughter Kate played on an AYSO Extra soccer team with the daughter of the the Tesoro head football coach. Matt and I became friends and I one day at a soccer game, I casually threw out the idea of documenting the season behind the scenes. To my surprise, he was intrigued by the idea and we met a few days later to discuss it further and it was a go.

That season and the season that followed were learning curves for me with both the Sony system for stills and for video. I couldn’t think of a better way to really get some time in the cockpit, as it were, learning to fly these new cameras.

And now that we’ve moved to Lake Mills I wanted to do the same thing for the local L-Cats. And so far the season has been great with great access and great action. As I did in that first season, I will be doing a photo book and I will be doing a video.

This time, the tools have changed — and massively.

In 2014, the cameras I used were the a6000 (still available and the best selling Sony mirrorless camera in history) and an a7 (the original full frame (24 x 36 mm sensor size) mirrorless camera. The lenses were the 35 f2.8 FE Zeiss, the 55 1.8 FE Zeiss, the 70-200 f4 G OSS and a 10-18 f4 E lens for the wides.

The next season brought on even more upgrades to the system, adding the a7RII, the 85 1.8 Zeiss Batis, the 35 1.4 FE Zeiss though the a6000 and the 70-200f4 G OSS were still my main camera and glass for action.

Now, though, the game as changed even more on the camera tech. The 400 2.8 GMaster lens, the 70-200 f2.8 GMaster , the 24mm f1.4 GMaster and the 50mm f1.4 FE Zeiss are my new “go to” lenses and the Sony a9 with all it’s 20 frames per second and focus tracking awesomeness and the a7RIII with it’s high megapixel count and back up capabilities (though it will be replaced soon with the a7RIV with Eye AF tracking both video AND stills).

This year I am working on more video as well and I’m adopting a more disciplined approach to the video using ND filtration from Sirui in front of the lenseswhenever possible (as well as a Sirui video monopod).

It has some challenges going from stills to video but using the Custom Settings on both the a7RIII and the a9, I am able to switch between 24P, 60P and 120P and then back to manual settings for stills. It’s forcing me to slow down, be deliberate and think about if the situation calls for stills or video and then leaving adequate time to make the necessary changes.

For audio, I’m using the XLR-K2M which is a shotgun microphone set up that attaches to the camera via the hotshot, or the Multi Interface Shoe of the Sony system (quite ingenious). I’m also using a Tascam DR-10L to record coach Dan Ferkovich during the game.

With the push of a button, I can literally go into APS-C/Super 35mm framing which helps with the 24 1.4 especially when I want a bit tighter crop to emulate my beloved 35mm framing. The 24 and the 50 all have mechanical aperture rings which can be de-clicked to make them transition from one aperture to the next seamlessly — a must for video.

I’m pleased to showcase these still images from Game One last Thursday (as I get ready for Game Two a bit later tonight).