On Sunday night, I got the opportunity to shoot my first NFL game. And man it was a fun one!
It was a battle between numbers 1 and 2 in the NFC West. San Francisco was looking to clinch the Division title with a win while Seattle was seeking a playoff berth. I won’t go into the details of the game, because you can read that anywhere. Instead, here’s the perspective of a soccer photographer’s first football shoot.
The last time I went to a football game it was in Cleveland, years before Art Modell left for Baltimore. I can’t tell you who played, but it’s probably a safe bet that the Browns lost. (Some things never change, right?) I grew up in a household where Sundays were sacred. We’d sit around the kitchen table, my dad reading the point spread for every game, and each of us would make our picks for the family pool. So, even though I haven’t followed it much in recent years, football is not unfamiliar territory. However, shooting an NFL game is a whole different story.
First off, there is a lot more running. When the play moves down field, you have to run behind and past the benches, then try to find a spot on the sidelines among dozens of other photographers doing the same thing before the next snap. Of course, you can also sit behind the end zones, but unless the play is near that end, you need a long lens.
Another big difference from shooting soccer matches is the increased chance for bodily harm – or worse, damaging your camera gear! At soccer matches, you don’t have to worry about a 250 pound linebacker plowing through the sidelines at full speed. But last night, I had to clear out of the way on more than one occasion.
Many of the more veteran photographers I’ve talked to said that shooting a football game is just pure chaos. And it was. But to be honest, by the third quarter I was starting to find a groove. Shooting the action was still tough – especially passes – but I know I would get better with practice.
I don’t know when I’ll get another opportunity to shoot a game, so here’s a really big gallery. Hope you enjoy it, I had a blast!