Archive for the ‘football’ Category
The state of Alabama has become the state of football supremacy. Alabama has won three of the last four national championships and the one the Tide didn’t win, Auburn did. As if folks in Alabama needed any more reasons to love their college football.
Alabama put a merciless whoopin’ on Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game Monday night. The only thing the Irish won was the tailgate party outside the stadium. Inside, it was all Bama all the time. Now the Irish fans did throw down out in the parking lot. I mean, those folks know how to party. Bammers, take notes.
What happened on the football field was different. Alabama did exactly what I thought they would do in dominating the Irish. I heard pundits all month talking about the vaunted Notre Dame defense and I was not impressed. They talked about their front seven and I was not impressed. They talked about the emerging young quarterback and the dominating linebacker and I was not impressed.
I felt like every Southeastern Conference team has an impressive front seven, I mean, if you don’t count Kentucky! Sorry guys, y’all have the round ball to dominate with. Alabama didn’t score less than 30 points in any game this season except against a truly dominant LSU defense and against Texas A&M, a game where Bama slept through the first quarter and then outscored A&M 24-9 during the final three quarters. Everyone else, including Georgia who had far more athletic defenders than Notre Dame, got steamrolled by the Tide. I have no idea what folks were looking at when they thought this game would be close.
Now, on to the important stuff, the photography. I actually had a really nice action game. Then there was the abysmal post game. Oh my, I could not have stunk more. It seems that no matter what approach I take to covering the post game, I take the wrong approach. Literally, I managed to get two photos of significant players who were not on stage. I intentionally shot from across the field to the Alabama bench to make sure I had the shot of the Gatorade dunk and missed that when a player got between me and the dunk.
Then, when the celebration began, I couldn’t find a single player that played and I mean not a single one. I am in a sea of Alabama players and I can’t find anyone who played a role. Finally, I found a local guy who probably only played on special teams doing a little dance. Couldn’t find AJ McCarron. Couldn’t find Eddie Lacy or TJ Yeldon. Couldn’t find Amari Cooper. Had Lacy not been on stage as the offensive MVP, I doubt I would have ever seen him.
Talk about frustrating! Then, with the game being a blowout, there was not much emotion anyway and when you deal with Alabama they are basically flat liners on the emotion scale and then you have every local TV station on the planet grabbing players and stopping their legit jubilation so they can get an interview. That about makes me want to cuss. One of these days I am going to shoot a post game and feel I did a good job. This wasn’t one of those days.
I felt I had a really nice set of action photos. I was very, very pleased with the game action. I don’t think I could have hoped for more. Wait, there was one shot I could have hoped for, no, two. I would love to have had a shot of Eddie Lacy throwing that poor Notre Dame defender down with one hand. I saw it happen and it was one of those moments that was just pure highlight reel stuff. I was on the opposite end of the field and didn’t have a clear view. The other action image I wish I had is on the front page of USA Today. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix made an acrobatic interception down near the goal line and the photo is sweet. I saw that one too, from the work room, on TV, while I was in editing moving pictures! Ahhhhhhhh.
Otherwise, I felt good about what I submitted. By the way, big game like this one, you may wonder how many photos I sent. Last night, on deadline, I moved 62 or 66, not sure which, from the game action and post game celebration. Forty of those were moved by the end of halftime. I came back Tuesday and did a supplemental edit and moved another big batch of images bringing the total of game day images moved to over 150. All those had to be posted in photo galleries as well.
I think we made it to bed between 3:30 and 4 am. We were up at 8:30 am to go back to the trophy presentation press conference. And I didn’t get to sit on the beach, at all. It has been 80 degrees down here and, aside from working where the beach happened to play a roll, I think I had no more than a few minutes of beach time and I was wearing long pants so I couldn’t even get the full effect of sea and sand. I know, poor me.
Everyone seems to think this is kind of a working vacation. Keep the working part and delete the vacation part and you pretty much have it. Today, the “off day,” with nothing to cover but the Saban press conference, I finished working about 5:30. Yeah, vacation. I actually did plan to sit on the beach a little bit today but work got in the way.
Now it is time to go back home to north Alabama and freeze with everyone else. I guess I now understand the whole snowbird mentality. In fact, with my photojournalist income, I figure it is about time to buy a condo down here in south Florida for a winter home. If you are not laughing right now then you clearly don’t know what photojournalists make!
The slideshow below features some of my favorite images from the week. Hope y’all enjoy.
It has become something of a tradition over the last four years to start the year with a trip to cover the BCS National Championship game. This year it is Miami. I now have a nice collection of luggage courtesy of the BCS, kind of a grand slam of luggage. It all started four years ago on the west coast with the Rose Bowl, moved to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl, then to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl and now in Miami for the Orange Bowl.
To compensate for all the glamor and glitz, the BCS folks stack your day with press conferences which are a tad repetitive. I was joking around today saying we could just past new faces on old photos and have about the same thing. Hard to make a unique photo from a press conference. Today was only round one, maybe round two if you count the arrival at the airport press conference.
The schedules are pretty well managed but everything takes a long time. Want to go to shoot practice? Nice, it takes 30 0r 40 minutes to get there, you wait around for 45 minutes or an hour, shoot for 15 minutes and then ride the bus again for 30 or 40 minutes. I had 15 free minutes today and managed to cram down a sandwich. Did I mention the scenery wasn’t bad. I pounded that sandwich from the back deck of the media hotel overlooking the beach and the Atlantic Ocean.
I know what to expect now but I had forgotten all about the stress. I had to make a run to Walgreen’s for ibuprophen to handle the headache/neck ache/back ache combo. I know my colleagues back in Decatur think I am on vacation. It is only a vacation in the sense that I am not in Decatur. In every other sense it is a jam packed, non-stop, never ending press event that finally culminates in a game. Is it game day yet?
Oh yeah, the fan features haven’t started yet. Most of them will be arriving Friday and Saturday so then we will add fan events to the schedule. Lots of fun but nothing will be worse than New Orleans last year. I am pretty sure part of me is still down there trying to chase assignments down in the French Quarter. To this point, I have worked for two days down here, shot four assignments and moved over a hundred pictures. Each assignment gets its own photo gallery and each photo gallery goes on two different web sites; although, I have had a little help with the web galleries. Each set of photos gets uploaded to three different ftp sites and all that takes time. Below is a sample of some of the work I have moved. If you want to see all the galleries you may visit decaturdaily.com.
Now you have a tiny look behind the scenes from the photo point of view. I know some of y’all are already thinking you would gladly trade places. Nahhh, I will struggle through since it is 80 degrees here and about half that back home so don’t cry for me, I will probably survive. Now where is my drink with the little umbrella in it?
This year’s version of the SEC Championship in Atlanta was among the best games I have ever covered. I think there is some consensus this was the greatest SEC Championship game every played. The SEC started the whole idea of the post season conference championship and the art was undoubtedly at its highest form Saturday in the clash between Alabama and Georgia.
I do have to say, after seeing the top teams in the SEC this season, there is not much that separates them. You could take Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina and line those guys up against one another in a last-man-standing cage match and there is no way to predict how it might come out. The teams are all that good and very little separates one from another.
Georgia was literally one play from beating Alabama just as Alabama made one play to beat LSU and failed to make one play to beat Texas A&M. The top of the SEC this season has been amazingly good. I believe you could line any one of those top squads up against Notre Dame in the finale and any one would acquit themselves very well.
Now, on to the coverage. There were a bunch of media there and my normal shooting positions were frequently unavailable. I shot much more from the sides of the end zone than from the end line like normal. Honestly, you wouldn’t think this would matter much but it actually does change your comfort level and the way you see the game. I like shooting beside the goal line pylon but I am not comfortable there. I am very comfortable shooting from behind the end zone. As a result, my first quarter was abysmal. I finally settled in during the second quarter and started making some pictures but it came slowly.
By the third and fourth quarters I had zeroed myself and I was feeling comfortable again. Fortunately, I had the time because I was not on a tight deadline. The game action was fine but I have yet to do a post game where I am happy. I look around and see what my fellow shooters produced and I get very frustrated. (I am talking about you Michelle Carter with your photo of the Kouandjiobrothers praying!) Working alone means you have to make some kind of choice and if you make the wrong choice you miss the good stuff. I made a choice and it cost me a bunch of pictures.
As the game came to a conclusion, Dee Milliner appeared to make an interception. I moved toward the Alabama bench to get in position to shoot the jubilation. Then the refs overturned the interception. I had to snap on the long glass again and retreat to the end zone since Georgia was definitely making a push to score. I had to be there in case they won the game in that end zone. As it turned out, Bama held and the game ended and I was dramatically out of position and literally missed that first, very critical, 30 seconds. After about 30 or 40 seconds the TV people are all in the way stopping the jube to get interviews. That nearly makes me want to cuss out loud! Just let the kids have fun for a couple of minutes, would ya!
Be that as it may, I made the choice to station myself right up front for the trophy presentation. I had a good shooting position but I missed a lot of good, spontaneous moments. I have tried this many ways and there is just no right answer. The trophy presentation was anti-climatic and then I was scrambling for any remaining jube from players. There was very little left to be had. Alabama is simply the most unemotional team you can imagine. Well, they act like their coach. He is very reserved in victory or defeat. It is a big deal to get a photo of him smiling so the players kind of pick up on that vibe and are very reserved. Plus, Alabama has been there and done that so this is not new to them.
The game action was not the most exciting stuff for a still photographer. There were heavy, heavy doses of the Alabama ground game with both Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon gashing the Georgia defense. Both backs garnered more than 100 yards rushing with Lacy punishing the Georgia defense for 181 yards and Yeldon for 153 yards. They combined for 45 rushes. That is a lot of pictures of dudes running the ball. Passing plays are usually more acrobatic and more visually interesting. I had a few nice frames of pass plays so the action turned out ok.
On the defensive side, Alabama got a decent pass rush on Georgia’s explosive quarterback sacking him a few times and pressuring him out of the pocket many others. In spite of this he still managed a number of big completions and almost, almost won the game as the time ticked off the clock. Who knows what would have happened if Georgia had one more play.
Now it is time to get ready for the big game in Miami. I have to confess to some pure hatred for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I am sure it is a school of great repute and full of excellent people. Still, there is something in my DNA as a son of the south that the mere mention of their name is like screeching fingernails on a chalkboard. I usually refrain from any partisanship when I write the blog. After all, I pull for both Alabama and Auburn. That said, I hope the Tide goes down to Miami and crushes the Domers!
On a final note, going to big games like this is always a treat on a personal level. I renewed an acquaintance with an old friend, Brant Sanderlin who works for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He was a kid in high school back when I worked in Elizabeth City, N.C., the town where he grew up. I also met long-time blog reader Richard Hamm who works for the Athens Banner-Herald, home of the Georgia Bulldogs. I met a new friend, Sara Caldwell, who works for the Augusta Chronicle as well as renewing friendships with lots of long-time Alabama friends. You may think, “Why is this dude writing this here?” With the way things are changing in the newspaper world right now, one never knows when the last time you might see another shooter will be. So many are losing jobs now, and who knows that I won’t be next, it is good to cherish the relationships built while covering football.
Talk about football! You should have been in Bryant Denny Stadium this past Saturday. Johnny Manziel, otherwise known as Johnny Football, led Texas A&M into the game as a two touchdown underdog against the top ranked University of Alabama Crimson Tide. Before the end of the first quarter, Johnny Football had the underdog Aggies up by 20 points. Alabama finally woke up from their post-LSU victory slumber and we had ourselves an amazing game.
I have shot many, many football games over the years and this one will be one of my favorites, not because of the outcome but because of the game. First of all, the game kept giving up nice pictures. That makes any game great from the photographer’s point of view. But the atmosphere was as intense as you could hope for, maybe better than last year’s game of the century between Bama and LSU in the same stadium. The Bama fans were as intense as I have ever seen them during the game and the stadium was as loud as I can remember it.
All that gets the juices flowing. You know when you are shooting a special game and that causes you to rise to the occasion. There is nothing like a big game to inspire your best work. On the other side of the coin, two weeks before against Mississippi State, the fans were kind of flat, the game was kind of boring and Alabama did what Alabama does and made a victory look, well, boring. That takes the wind out of my sails too. By mid-second quarter of that game I was looking at the clock just hoping the thing would get over with. No so Saturday! I was thirsty for more.
The game came down to the final Alabama drive. AJ McCarron was working his two minute magic. In fact, Alabama may have pulled off the victory had McCarron not slightly under thrown a pass to a wide open Kenny Bell. He made the catch but was tackled. Had the pass hit him in stride he would have walked into the end zone and Bama would have taken the lead. Such was the nature of the game. McCarron, scrambling on third and goal, nearly made it into the end zone two plays later. He was stuffed on about the two yard line but wow, what a game.
Johnny Football is, I think, part eel. That guy was so quick and slippery the Alabama defenders could not catch him and when they did catch him, he frequently squirted away and still made a play. That kid is going to win a Heisman, if not this season, then soon. I have several photos where Alabama defenders have him surrounded yet he manages a Houdini style escape and still makes a play. Bama’s defense, highly effective all season, was suddenly unable to get off the field on third downs. It has been a strange turnaround from the early part of the season. If you watched the LSU game, Bama’s defense had the same problem.
Now, how does all that add up to photojournalism. I will tell you, it was tough keeping up with A&M’s offense. My norm is to shoot from behind the opposing team’s offense because Alabama’s defense has been so effective. In this game, it was a coin toss. Do I stay behind them and watch defenders chase Manziel or do I get ahead of them and watch Manziel either pass or run free through the Alabama defense. That was the way it went so I did a lot of sideline running Saturday.
Normally, shooting the Alabama offense this year has been easy. I would get in the back of the end zone and let them come to me because they were simply eating up opposing defenses. I am not sure what A&M did to Alabama’s offense but they definitely slowed down the Crimson machine. There were several three and outs which seriously limited the chances to get shots of the offense and made the choice to be down field from them seem like a poor one. Again, it was kind of a coin toss where to shoot from.
For the last two seasons, I have used a 300mm f2.8 with a 1.4 extender and I am really comfortable shooting with that combo. In fact, it gives me a slightly longer than 400mm equivalent and I only go to f4 to get it. With the D4′s high ISO performance, f4 is not an issue at all. I think I have been shooting at ISO 5000 and getting a shutter speed around 1/1250 at f4 after the sun goes down so that is not bad at all.
I don’t always carry a second body but I did for this game. I keep looking for that elusive shot of a guy diving for the pylon. I like that shot but I have never done it, mainly because I have usually only had one body. I carried my Canon 5D with a 24-70 in hopes of nailing it. I got close once but only close. An incomplete pass with the guys tied up happened right next to me. Not bad but not what I wanted either.
Well, here is hoping that K State, Oregon and especially Notre Dame lose in the next two or three weeks and Bama gets back to being Bama. A trip to Miami in January seems like such a good thing. I may have to write a letter of complaint to Coach Saban if I don’t get my January BCS trip! That would get a laugh, or at least a smile, out of the coach, maybe.
I love, love, love to travel. I hope whatever my future holds, it holds a significant amount of travel. I love traveling with my wife, my family, even by myself. I love travel. When I can combine travel with covering a big football game then I am doubly happy. The opportunity to cover the Alabama vs Michigan game in Dallas came as a big surprise to me. I hoped but I did not put much stock in those hopes; however, at the last minute, our editor gave the approval and I was happily on my way.
I know most folks listen to music when the drive. I do, but only a little. What I love is hearing my car sing the highway song. No, I am not crazy. The little engine hums along and the tires sing as they coast along the pavement and I am a happy camper zipping along watching America pass by outside my windshield. The thing I love about driving is being able to stop whenever and wherever I want to. I am not tied to airports and their notorious hassles. So far, TSA does not check my bags, nor my person, as I zip along the highways. As a double bonus on this trip, I was able to take a side trip to visit two of my kids who now live in Texas. I still don’t know how that happened. I am not old enough to have grown children spread all over the world but, in spite of my youth, they are spread all over the world anyway.
Does this post have a point? Oh yes, I was lost in my travel musings. I mean, really, if I could find a way to make money shooting on the road like that I would put the newspaper world in my rear view mirror. I love travel and I love photography. Can’t you just see it; me, my lady and an RV zooming down the highway looking for the next cool thing to photograph! My, my. Oh, the point! Yes, there is a point.
I was amazed by Cowboys Stadium out there in Arlington. It looks like a big old space ship or something that landed so the aliens could go to the Texas Rangers ballpark next door which is a beautiful new stadium built in the traditions of the old baseball parks. Beautiful place. Love to shoot there someday. Back inside Jerry Jones’s space ship, I knew I wanted to get a picture from the upper deck to show the scope of the place but doing that can be tricky. Even a big, modern stadium like that has limited elevator space and around game time you can have a long wait for a trip up and another long wait for the trip down. I had done a pre-game video and was debating if I had time to get up and down and not miss the first quarter. I talked to one of the stadium security guys. He gave me directions to the best elevator and then said, “See ya next week.” Not very encouraging but I was committed.
I only waited two or three minutes on the elevator to show up and in no time I was exiting onto the upper concourse. I walked straight out to a beautiful spot just below the upper deck and had a nice angle then I saw I was on the wrong side of the field. Bama folks don’t care to see a bunch of yellow in their photos. I had to make a mad dash around the crowded upper concourse to get to the Alabama side. Now very worried about getting into position to get the shot of the team coming on the field and making it back without missing too much of the game, I was almost puked on by a sick fan. This young guy turned around and projectile vomited right in front of me. Seriously, another step and I would have been gacked on.
After doding around to the Alabama side I found a very satisfying spot to shoot from. I wanted to get a good shot of the crowd and that giant, and I do mean giant, TV hanging from the roof. The Alabama band was on the field spelling out B A M A and I got that shot from a couple of angles. The only problem, using a wide lens you get the wide perspective. That is nice for showing the scope of the crowd and the stadium but it diminished the size of the giant TV. Without doing a panoramic and stitching something together, which I had not time to do, I had to compromise. I got my shot as the Crimson Tide team came on the field but I liked the band photo better when I did the edit.
Now for the mad dash back to the field. I was seriously hoping to get back to field level before midway through the first quarter. God was with me. I hit the elevator button and the door opened within a minute. I was back at field level within a couple more minutes. The stadium security guy yelled, “How did it go?” as I ran past. I gave a thumbs up and yelled great and emerged on the sideline just after the opening kickoff. I missed literally one play!
Normally, going from press level to field level is an ordeal of waiting. In fact, most of the time I could be faster doing my Spiderman impersonation and climbing the outside of the stadium rather than wait on the elevator. This time it worked. God was smiling. I didn’t miss the first quarter, a quarter where I got most of my best game photos, and was able to send 40 photos back to the newspaper during halftime. You can bet the photo of the Alabama band shot from the upper concourse was in that edit!
All that for a photo I had to have that most people took a glance at and moved on quickly to the action images? It meant something to me. I figured I may never be in that stadium again and if that was right why would I not do my best to get every photo I wanted to get? Was it extra work? Sure, and the pay is the same whether I do the extra or not. No one asked me to shoot the picture just like no one asked me to do the video so why do it? Hey, I might never be here again. Why not leave it all on the field, as the old sports saying goes? Why shortchange yourself? Moreover, why shortchange the readers? Why not go above and beyond expectations and give people something they might never have the chance to see? If I have learned anything over the years, you may never have this chance again so you should make the most of every chance you have.
Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story!” You tell ‘em Paul. Y’all go make a picture.
Freshman running back TJ Yeldon slices through the Michigan defense during the Alabama and Michigan game in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas Saturday, September 1, 2012. For complete photo galleries visit www.decaturdaily.com or click on the photo and you will be taken there via internet magic!
“Are You Ready For Some Football?” That’s the question we get every Monday night through the pro season and I guarantee you that in Alabama the question is always answered with a resounding ‘yes’ no matter whether you are an Auburn fan or a Bama fan. If you are any other kind of fan living in this football crazy state all I can ask is, really?
Had you polled Michigan and Alabama fans before the Cowboys Classic Saturday both sides would have said yes. If you asked after, Michigan fans might have asked for one more week. Alabama just pounced all over Michigan in a very one-sided 41-14 drubbing in the palace that Jerry built. Really now, how many bars and restaurants does one need inside a football stadium? But hey, if you spend a billion dollars… I digress. I was talking about football but, dang it, that is one amazing stadium, if it can be called a stadium. It is more like a five star resort hotel with a football field in the middle of it and the world’s most amazing TV hanging from the ceiling. Well, dude did spend a billion dollars. But I was talking about football.
Alabama struck quickly, efficiently and often. I left the field about four minutes before the half to edit my early take and Bama was up 31-0. Was Michigan really supposed to be in the top 10? The Wolverines did score a touchdown right before half but it was so far gone by then we all were simply waiting for it to end. By the time the final points were tallied I think the nation knew that Denard Robinson is not going to win a Heisman but Alabama might just win another BCS Championship. I mean, it looked real easy and Bama had it in cruise control for the entire second half. Of course, the SEC schedule is yet to be played and that is where championships are won or lost anyway so the Crimson clad should not get too cocky.
By the way, did you know they have luxury suites built dugout style all around the stadium. I mean, you can’t see a thing on the field but you have a great view of the big TV in the ceiling and you have your own bar and food service and a server wearing a white jacket in there with you. But, I forgot, I was talking about football.
I had a great luxury shooting this game. No, I didn’t cheat and shoot stuff on the big screen TV during replays! I had two quality cameras and that is the first time in years that has been the case. I had both a D3 and a D4. I didn’t know how to act! I shot the D3 with a short lens, usually at ISO 3200 at 1/640 @ f5.6. The D4 I generally used with the long lens (300 f2.8 with a 1.4 converter) at ISO 5000 at 1/1250-1/1600 at f4. You know, the lighting was the only thing that surprised me in the negative about that stadium. It was about one full stop less than I would have expected. But hey, I guess a billion dollars only goes so far. But, I forgot, I was talking about football.
The game went like most Alabama games have gone in the Saban era. The Crimson Tide pounds you to death with a smothering defense on one side of the ball and they wear you out with outstanding running backs on the other side of the ball. Just to keep things interesting, they have a quarterback who can get the ball into the hands of some very quick, and in this game, wide open receivers for touchdowns. I usually stay in front of the Alabama offense and behind the other team’s offense. That keeps the Bama players facing the camera as much as possible. (Same goes for covering Auburn.) I got most of my best images in the first quarter and certainly the majority of all my best images came in the first half while Alabama was still trying to score points. The second half was mainly drumming my fingers on the turf wanting the clock to run faster to get the game over so I could make deadline.
There are no great secrets to reveal. I kept the camera focused on Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson at the start of each offensive play because he was the focus of Alabama’s defense. When Alabama had the ball I focused on a lineman when the play was likely a running play. When I thought there might be a pass, I generally looked over the top of the camera to see where Mr. McCarron was looking then focused down field on whomever I thought he may throw to. Like I said, no big revelations; just predict, react and shoot.
As a final note to this story, and something that 99 percent of you won’t understand, it has been a pleasure, Mr. Almond, kneeling beside you on sidelines across the south. You have challenged me and I have enjoyed your friendship. It is a sad day and I will miss shooting with you. Many blessings to you my friend. May we again meet on a sideline somewhere in this great land in the not too distant future.
Alabama is the undisputed king of college football right now. Teams from this great state have won the last three BCS National Championships and yes, we are justifiably proud of the boys in crimson and white and burnt orange and blue. Roll Tide! War Eagle! Talk about a wild ride and who knows if it is over yet or not. I made myself a book last year with pictures and words from Alabama and Auburn’s back to back championships. I gave it the title, One State, Two Champions. I guess I will have to update it now.
They also updated the dictionary after this BCS title game. If you go to the dictionary now and look up butt whipping you will see a video of this game. Wow! Alabama absolutely dominated LSU. It was the most one-sided game I have ever photographed between two teams as talented as these two are. From opening kick off to final second, Alabama dominated LSU in every offensive and defensive category. It was the kind of game that could easily have been 35-0. The only thing LSU managed to do was keep Alabama out of the end zone forcing them to kick seven field goals, five of them were good. Trent Richardson put the nail in the coffin, which was already pretty tightly shut, when he rolled off the left end for a long touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
That was the actual game. The game within the game is really played inside my head as I try to shoot the game, figure out what the teams are doing and where to get to make the best photos. It is always difficult to evaluate your own work but, that being said, I felt like I had a good game. I don’t have nearly as many photos from this game as from the Auburn game last year or the Bama win over Texas two years ago. My shooting time was much more limited because of an insanely early deadline. (We didn’t even use a photo from the trophy presentation on the front page. Frustrating but nothing I can do about that.) I spent all of half time and part of the third quarter editing and transmitting and then shot the rest of the third quarter and returned to the workroom to edit that and transmit more. I got back out to the field with about seven minutes left in the game.
You will see below a selection of my favorites from the game. BE WARNED: There is one photo there which is difficult to look at. CJ Mosley suffered a separated hip when he was tackled by Jordan Jefferson after he intercepted Jefferson’s pass. It is not grotesque like a broken bone but the human body is not meant to bend some ways. I have two favorites from the game. Wait, a word about including this photo. Some might think this is glamorizing an injury and that is not the intent. This is a very violent game and the young men who play it subject their bodies to one of the most extremes of physical endurance on the planet. It is an absolute tribute to their toughness that they are willing to play this game the way they do. I include a sequence here showing not only the injury, but also his pain, the reaction of teammates and him leaving the field on the cart waving to the crowd. This was only one play in a big game so don’t take it out of the context of the entire game or the whole photo take from the game.
Back to the point, my favorite photo, well my two favorite photos are made large in the post. Neither is an action pic. I love the shot of Marquis Maze with the confetti falling all around him. I love it because I think that is the way I would feel if I were standing where he was standing. It is a moment of pure joy. The other is a shot before the game in the tunnel of AJ McCarron praying with one of the assistants. It is a quiet moment that only a very few people saw. My coworker Deangelo McDaniel was standing with me and we both shot it and there was one other photographer standing there looking up the tunnel who got the shot. It may be my favorite. The photo shows a side of these big time athletes that we seldom get to see.
On the technical side, I shot the game using the D3s, a 300mm f2.8 and a 1.4 extender, an 80-200 f2.8, a 17-35 and a 14mm. Obviously, the wides got their work before and after the game while the long lenses were used for most of the action. The Superdome has great lighting. I shot mostly at ISO 2000 and my action was shot at 1/1250 at f4. Just in case you are wondering, there was a crowd of photographers on the sidelines. They told us there were over 200 credentials issued for still photographers. Video was on the sidelines too so we had a crowd. Still, the sidelines were well-managed and I never had problems finding a shooting position. Hope y’all enjoy the photos.
This is the third year in a row I have been able to start my year with a BCS Championship Game. This year it is in New Orleans. Okay, not my favorite city but at least the food is good. This has been a very, very busy week and tonight it wraps up with the actual football game. Can’t wait. The press conferences have ended and now it is time to do what we came for.
The week began with coverage of Bama’s arrival in New Orleans. We were carted out to a truly remote corner of the New Orleans International Airport where, even if fans were in the city, they would not have found this spot. A brass band is there and it is cool. I mean, really, really cool. The sun was going down and it was getting cold and I had not coat. The wind was blowing enough to make things uncomfortable. Finally, just before the light is gone, the Alabama charter lands and we get nice photos in the best possible light. Then they had a press conference, the first of many.
Of course, we wandered around the French Quarter seeing the wonder that is Bourbon Street. No nastier street in the country. I am pretty sure the gate of hell is down there somewhere. I got a ton of nice images, some quiet, some loud and some distinct. Y’all know I am a Christian so the one I like the best is a quiet image, hard to find on Bourbon Street, of a couple of guys with the cross witnessing to a man. No place is without a witness. It recalled to my mind a man I heard about as a little kid named Bob Harrington who was known as the Chaplain of Bourbon Street.
Then there were press conferences and practices and more press conferences and practices, media day for both teams and about a dozen trips in the Quarter for feature stories and fan stories and pep rallies. By the way Bammers, y’all should all be ashamed of yourself for that lame, and I do mean lame, effort at your pep rally. Last year in Scottsdale, the Barners shook the earth with the noise they made. I wanted to grab the mike and yell at all you Bammers to wake you up. Come on now!
My biggest adventure has been my 80-200 going belly up yesterday, Sunday, and trying to get a replacement. I snapped it on the camera and it looked like I was looking through a kaleidoscope. No idea a lens could get drunk but it sure looks like my did. My boss, John Godbey, using Facebook, located someone who was willing to bring me down a substitute from Decatur. John is a great boss and what he did was really going the extra mile.
Tonight we come to it. Now that I have figured out a way to work around my WordPress upgrade that leaves me without an ability to post, I will give everyone an update. Grab you a big bowl of red beans and rice and enjoy the game tonight. By the way, I will be the guy with a strip of zebra tape around the end of my long lens! In the gallery below are some of my favorites from the week leading up to the game. Enjoy and give a little love to us poor working stiffs down here in Nawlins!
This is the twentieth installment of the Twenty Moments 2011 series. I sense a tear in your eye as you read this. Be of good cheer, Santa Claus is coming to town and he don’t like cry babies!
Last but not least, my final choice for the Twenty Moments series, is a photo of a man getting a bath but it is the kind of bath most men would relish. Most men would, in fact, enjoy having a photo of themselves getting this bath. This is a state championship bath for Hartselle High School football coach Bob Godsey. The Hartselle Tigers, my home town team I might add, won the State 5A Championship in Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa this month. It is the first football state championship by any high school in Morgan County since championships began being decided on the field. There was a time in Alabama when the state championship was mythical and voted on by sports writers, I suppose.
Hartselle played Vigor High, a team that frankly looked like a much better football team. They were bigger, seemed faster and had several Division I prospects on the team. Hartselle, by comparison, seemed small and much slower and I doubt a single kid from Hartselle’s team plays in major college sports. So how did a bunch from Hartselle defeat a team that seemed bigger, faster and more talented. The Hartselle kids were the personification of the word “team.”
On the first day of practice I was talking with Coach Godsey and I told him that day what a big difference there was between well-coach programs like his and Decatur’s and maybe a couple of others and most of the other teams we cover. You go to practice and see a well oiled machine at work. Everyone does what they are supposed to do, when they are supposed to do it and how they are supposed to do it. And, if they don’t, they learn real quick or they don’t play. I had never seen Vigor before but, like many extremely athletic teams I have seen in the past, they seemed a bit undisciplined. Sometimes you will see teams that are amazingly gifted not do the small things and it was the small things that won the game for Hartselle.
The final score was Hartselle 13, Vigor 3 but the real final score was Hartselle 6, Vigor 3. The last touchdown was scored with about a minute left after Vigor had to go for it on fourth down near their own ten yard line. When they failed, Hartselle was able to jam it in the end zone for the extra score. When a game is that close and the smaller, less athletic team wins I mark that up to two things; heart and coaching. That makes Coach Godsey’s bath pretty sweet. I can’t deny feeling a little bit of civic pride as I shot the picture too.
Every year I have written this blog I have done a “Twenty Moments” series. I like doing it and I am continuing the series this year. This is the first post in the 2011 series.
In the state of Alabama, football is definitely king. There are still signs around that say cotton is king but that alludes to a time long past. The real king in this state is football. The University of Alabama has ruled the roost with 13 National Championships. Auburn had one and it was a long time ago, in 1957 in fact. When the season began, most experts picked Auburn near the bottom in the SEC West.
All that changed with the emergence of Cam Newton. Auburn was not a one man team but Cam Newton was the catalyst, the spark, the motivator, the engine. Pick your modifier. He was it. All through the season it was Cam that cranked the Auburn bus and then drove it into the end zone. On the other side of the ball, a rather pedestrian defense from 2009 emerged with a few play makers such as Nick Fairley. They were not a great defense but they were no longer pedestrian either. In the end, Cam’s offense and Nick’s defense were enough to pull Auburn through an undefeated regular season, a blow out in the SEC Championship and on to Arizona.
The Oregon Ducks loomed as the opponent. Many in the national media doubted Auburn’s ability to neutralize Oregon’s fast paced and potent offense. I bought into the hype. I thought it might be tough for Auburn to win the game. Then I saw the Ducks in person at practice. It was then I realized that Auburn was going to be National Champions. The Ducks looked about as big as a decent sized high school team in Alabama. They might be fast but so was Auburn and Auburn was both big and fast. You don’t play through an SEC season unbeaten and not be big and fast and talented. The Ducks were going to bounce off of a formidable opponent. I actually told my daughter, who was an Auburn student, two days before the game that Auburn was going to win and win big.
I believed Auburn would blow them out. In fact, there were two or three dropped passes by Auburn receivers in the game that would have blown it open. As it happened. the game came down to the last play. Wes Byrum lined up for a chip shot field goal. I made good use of a timeout for a review to run to the other end of the field to get behind the play. I set up with a 400 f2.8 and a 1.4 converter. Byrum nailed the short kick and he turned toward me as I hoped he would celebrating. I got the kick. I got the reaction and Auburn was National Champion. The game was much closer than I thought it would be but Auburn won. The celebration was on.
That second National Championship doesn’t quite bring the Tigers up to the level of Alabama’s 13 but it goes a long way toward quieting the Bama fans for a year. People are always asking me who I am for. In Alabama it is practically law that you choose sides. I can’t do it. I have always pulled for both teams. When the Iron Bowl rolls around I tend to pull for the team with the most to gain by a win. I suppose if you chained me to the wall I would pick Alabama but it is not by much. So this time, with a nice championship for Auburn, I give you one big WAR EAGLE!