I’ve always loved the challenge of shooting with a camera phone. For years my Instagram feed was “iPhone only” and I only followed users who abided by the same rule because of the appreciation I have for making quality, creative images under the limitations of a camera phone. I’ve since opened up my feed to my professional images because there are benefits of showing that type of work on Instagram, but I still shoot with my phone quite a bit and still enjoy trying to make creative images with it.
When I photograph NFL games I typically spend a little time early in the day and try to make some iPhone images before the real action gets started, but I’ve always thought about what it would be like to shoot an entire game with just my phone. For in-game action I shoot with a 400mm lens, so obviously my reach would be drastically cut short. The sidelines of an NFL game is one of the most busy, cluttered atmospheres you can possibly shoot in, so working with the large depth of field that a camera phone produces means I’d have to be very careful with my composition to make clean images. There are a laundry list of other factors that make shooting an NFL game with a phone seem like a questionable idea, but I’m always up for a good challenge.
You might not know that the Ravens have two team photographers. Myself and Phil Hoffmann, who has been shooting for the team since 1996. We both shoot home games, but we split up away game duties. Phil was scheduled to shoot the Giants game in New York and being that the game was so close I thought it may be a good opportunity to shoot with my phone, so I told the VP of New Media, Michelle about my idea and asked if she’d credential me. Luckily she said yes and I started planning. First, I bought a new phone! I was using the iPhone 6 and honestly hadn’t planned on upgrading, but I figured I could use an extra edge so I got the new iPhone 7. I considered the iPhone 7 Plus for it’s extra camera, but it’s way too big for me to carry around full time and they were on backorder until December when I made the decision anyway. I also new I’d need some extra battery power so I bought a Mophie Powerstation. I also new I wanted to be able to put my phone on the end of my monopod for a different perspective so I also bought a Gadgin bluetooth remote to trigger my phone’s camera.
I’m definitely not the first person to shoot an NFL game with a camera phone. Andrew Weber shot a game last year with the iPhone 6s Plus and more recently David E. Klutho shot a game this year for SI with the iPhone 7 Plus. I knew I would be limited on the in-game action I could capture, especially without the extra reach of the Plus lens. Unless I was lucky enough for a play to happen right in my lap (which I was not) I was hoping to make up for it by making a lot of feature images. I also have great access with the Ravens and I knew I had to use that to my advantage. The players and coaches are used to having me around and most of them are comfortable with me getting fairly close but I knew shooting with a phone meant having to push those boundaries a bit more than normal. I did get a few strange looks and questions about what I was doing, but I don’t think it affected things too much because I’ve spent years building trust with players and staff.
So, how’d it go? Pretty similar to what I expected. Game action was tough. I knew what I was getting myself into and was still a little surprised at how far away everything was. I tried not to use the in-camera zoom too much because it really degrades the quality and I knew I could always crop in post and get better results. Out in the sun the phone performed great. Images were sharp and clear. In low light areas like the tunnel and the locker room the quality drastically changed and I was fighting motion blur and overall image softness. In some cases I just worked with it and used image blur in a creative way to make a more unique image. For the most part I used the iPhone’s default camera app occasionally using an app called “Manual” for a bit more control. One of the biggest things I had to account for was timing. The DSLR’s I typically use react instantly when I push the shutter. The iPhone camera has a slight delay which made timing more challenging.
The best part? I had a lot of fun. It was a new challenge and new challenges always excite me. For the most part I’m pretty happy with the results and despite being a little surprised about how well some of the photos turned out, I don’t think I’ll be replacing my Canon gear with a camera phone just yet. Hopefully I didn’t make myself obsolete…
Sunday was a homecoming for two Baltimore football legends. Both showed up to M&T Bank stadium wearing outfits that were in stark contrast to the ones they donned last year.
One in a suit…one in a Houston Texans uniform.
Ray Lewis returned to Baltimore to be inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor and the second he ran through the tunnel, under those red eyes and through the smoke and flames, the stadium erupted right on cue. Fans didn’t seem to mind that he was wearing dress shoes instead of cleats or that he didn’t perform his patented “Squirrel Dance.”
Ed Reed ran out of a different tunnel at M&T for the first time in his career. No smoke, no fire, and despite the overpowering “boo’s” that always welcome the visiting team you could still hear a resounding chant of “Reeeeeed” emerging from the crowd. Cheers for Reed continued throughout the game and it was clear that Baltimore still had a lot of love for their former star. I think they all know that one day, he will have is own ceremony right there on the 50 yard line in Baltimore no matter where he is playing now.
Well, its my 2nd favorite time of year…Football is back…training camp is in full swing and another NFL season is right around the corner.
Training Camp is something I really enjoy shooting, but its not without its challenges. With so much repetition of the same thing, its easy to become tempted to shoot the same things everyday. My goal however is to find unique moments at each practice and come away with a set of images that don’t look exactly the same. So far so good.
What’s my actual favorite time of year? That time right after becoming Super Bowl Champions…
If I sat here and tried to write about all the amazing, emotional, crazy, funny, scary and intense moments I experienced during Super Bowl week I’d never get around to actually posting any pictures and I’d bore you all to death because I am a terrible writer. So, I’ll spare you all the details…
What I will say is that it has been such an honor to follow this team this season through all the highs and lows and everything in between.
I had the opportunity to photograph my first Super Bowl and the team that I work for won…that feels as good as it sounds.
Throughout the week, not everything went as planned and that certainly carried over to the game. As a photographer you are 10% picture taker and 90% problem solver. At the end of the day you do the best you can with the situation you are in and with any luck you make a few nice frames and if you are even luckier you actually enjoy yourself while you are doing it.
Looking back on this experience, I feel pretty darn lucky. I am still trying to convince myself that its impossible to capture every moment or every play. That doesn’t mean that I won’t try every single time.
There is really no other way to sum up the week leading up to the Super Bowl, the game itself and the parade that followed other than to just show you the pictures. Enjoy…