I was extremely thankful again this year to be asked back by the NFL to photograph Super Bowl LI as a part of their photo team. The amount of talent and experience in the group is nothing short of phenomenal and it was extremely flattering to be asked to be a part of the team again.
Compared to shooting regular season games, Super Bowls are their own animal that are generally approached a little differently. Normally when I cover games I’m shooting with at most one other person and occasionally by myself and I’m totally comfortable with that. I follow the game up and down the field and try and put myself in the best position to capture impactful moments. Working with a larger group of eight other photographers at the Super Bowl, my task is different…stay in one spot (this time, a corner of the Falcons end zone) and make sure I have that area covered. Working with a team of other photographers is always something I enjoy. Everyone has each other’s backs and you know if something is out of your range, someone else has got you covered.
Sometimes you are lucky…yes, lucky enough to be in a spot where action comes your way. From experience, that doesn’t always happen. I was fortunate to be in a position to capture some pivotal plays of the game and when added to the amazing shots captured by the rest of the crew, we ended up with a body of work that we all can be proud of.
My post-game assignment was to follow the winning quarterback. Immediately I knew I was going to be in for a challenge as the post game scrums after the Super Bowl rival some of the actual rugby scrums I was in in college. Luckily the last play of the game, the winning touchdown scored by James White, happened right in front of me. I was able to make any image of the score then sprint over to Tom Brady and try my best to stick with him amongst the chaos and hopefully make some nice images. I’m always critical of my performance, so I’ll let my editors determine how successful I was, but I’m always up for a challenge and I think I made a few frames that captured the emotion of the moment.
In the last 8 years I have photographed a lot of NFL football games…all of which were shot as a team photographer for the Baltimore Ravens. A few days ago I photographed my first NFL game that did not involve the Ravens…It just so happened to be the Super Bowl. A few weeks ago I was contacted by the NFL asking if I wanted to be a part of their photo team if the Ravens didn’t make the Super Bowl. Of course I said yes. (Insert a giant thank you to Ben and the rest of the photo crew for having me along)
I was excited to be able to approach a game purely as a photojournalist, not caring who won or lost, just there to capture what happened. Although this was my first time shooting the Super Bowl for the NFL, it was not my first Super Bowl. I was with the Ravens when they won the Super Bowl two years ago. Naturally things were a little different. As a team photographer I am allowed on the field during pre game warmups, in the locker room and inside the bench area. That was not the case in Arizona (which I expected). During a game for the Ravens I roam the entire sideline working opposite the team’s other photographer Phil Hoffmann. For the NFL I was stationed in the same corner of the field for the entire game.
My assignment? Shoot whatever happens in front of my lens. After the game, I had a more specific task. Originally I was supposed to shoot the winning coach. Just before the game things got switched around so that each photographer would just shoot the coach/QB on their sideline. I just happened to be on the Seahawks sideline. Although not as fun as shooting the winner, I made a few frames of Pete Carroll shaking hands with Bill Belichick then somberly walking off the field. After that I tried my best to work my way back into the media scrums which were already jam-packed.
All in all it was a great experience for me. Although I’d love it if the Ravens went to the Super Bowl every year, if they don’t, hopefully I’ll still make my way on to the field.
For the second week in a row the Baltimore Ravens defeated a team led by a future hall of fame quarterback…and this time they didn’t need a field goal in double overtime to pull it off.
Although the first half of the AFC Championship got off to a slow start at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, the Ravens absolutely dominated Tom Brady and the Patriots in the second half of the game.
But hey…you already know the details and you already know that the Ravens are going to the Super Bowl…pretty sweet!
However that also means one very important thing… I AM GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL
Let me have my little kid moment.
It really hasn’t sunk in yet. To have the opportunity to photograph on the biggest stage in football, amongst THE BEST photographers in the world is a crazy and somewhat daunting thought.
Luckily I have two weeks to let that thought marinate and focus on shooting the biggest game of my career.
The air was too thin. The quarterback wasn’t elite. The linebacker was past his prime. The opposition, too great to overcome.
No one gave the Ravens a chance……except the Ravens.
Last week when Ray Lewis walked out of the tunnel at M&T Bank stadium for the last time, I thought to myself. “OK, this is the emotional pinnacle of the year.”
Not so fast.
I’ve never photographed such an amazing roller coast of a football game in my life.
Needless to say with as much action went on, as fate would have it, I didn’t have a great shot at most of it. The first four touchdowns were either on the opposite side of the field, facing away from me or completely obstructed. It was pretty frustrating.
But in the moment I realized that the game was bigger than my ego and I was happy to be there to witness such a monumental game in Ravens history.
Luckily my focus during any given football game attempts to go beyond the action and delve into the intense emotions that surround these games.
After the game, the locker room was absolutely ecstatic. Hearing speeches from Coach Harbaugh and Ray Lewis you realize that there is something special going with this team, you can just feel it.
As the Ravens continue on their journey, their faith in each other and their faith in a power greater than themselves guides them along the way.
Next stop, Foxborough. See you there.