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NFL Pre-Season Broncos vs. Seahawks

Last week, a mere months after the Broncos got nothing short of spanked by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, the two teams met again, this time in a completely meaningless pre-season game.  For me as a photographer, pre-season games are both interesting and difficult to photograph.  They can be difficult to photograph because the key players are out on the field for such a short period of time.  You need to make interesting pictures action shots of several players and unlike in a regular season game when you have all four quarters to make those pictures, in the pre season you have only a handful of plays to do it.

However, it’s also fun and interesting to photograph the pre season precisely because the games are meaningless and therefor the star players and those who aren’t in a position of desperately having to try to impress coaches and visiting scouts from other teams to make a 52 man roster generally are a lot less focused on the sidelines than they would be in a regular season game.  Many folks think being a sports photographer is all about grabbing great action shots, and while it is that, it’s also about capturing a lot of boring stock images.  Surf through a sports website like ESPN.com or even the pages of Sports Illustrated and you’ll see just as many (if not more) boring stock images that essentially look like what I tend to call “candid head shots” as you do the crazy action pictures.  Sure, it’s the action shots that get the spots of front covers and full page spreads, but by far it’s the stock images that end up being used way more and for way longer.

Here’s a few screenshots (mostly from ESPN) showing how some of my stock images have ended up getting used in sports coverage.  These are in no way glamorous images.  They aren’t particularly difficult to get, but are vital for sports news outlets and so we strive to capture them.

Generally during a football game I’m constantly going back and forth between shooting the action on the field and then during TV timeouts, replays, quarter breaks, etc etc I’m on the sidelines trying to get these “candid head shots.” (Candid because you’d quickly find yourself getting tossed out of the arena and your credential permanently yanked if you ever asked a player to pose)  You’re essentially looking for the guys who happen to be looking your way and have somewhat of an interesting expression on their face.

And that is where pre-season games get interesting, because the expressions are much more interesting and generally more happy and relaxed than they are during the regular season since the starting players generally play the first few series or maybe the first quarter and then have the rest of the night off.  By the time the 3rd and 4th stringers are in the game, those on the field are playing for their jobs, not particularly for the win, and so the starters, frankly aren’t too invested in what is happening on the field which makes it a great time to get some stock images.

While I generally don’t post a lot of stock type images on the blog, since the stock images you get during a pre-season game are a bit different than the ones I typically get starting on week 1, I thought I’d post a few.

These first few images are during warm ups.

In pre-season and particularly week 1 of the pre-season it’s important to grab the new players both drafted rookies and big name free agents since this is the first time they’re appearing in uniform with their new team.  This was particularly a little more difficult with this game because the Broncos had so many big name free agent signings, almost all of them on defense.  So, when the Seahawks had the ball early on, I was actually more focused on trying to capture some action of the new Broncos defensive players than I would typically be.

Former Dallas Cowboy defensive end DeMarcus Ware (94) was probably the biggest signing for the Broncos this offseason and so I spent a good bit of time focusing in on him, and thankfully he was all over the field making big plays.

Safety T.J. Ward also found his way into the action, even if it was grabbing this blatant face mask on quarterback Russell Wilson.

Of course getting at least a couple shots of Peyton Manning being Peyton Manning are no brainers.  :)

Again, these types of shots, while not very exciting, are great because editors look for these types of images all the time.  Anytime there’s a story about the relationship quarterback Russell Wilson has with head coach Pete Carroll it’s these kinds of images that will get used.

It’s rare to see this kind of scene from Peyton Manning during the regular season.  When Peyton Manning is on the sidelines during the regular season, he’s almost always buried in the playbook, or huddled up with the rest of the offense, or on the phone talking to someone upstairs. Thankfully by getting low on the ground and shooting upwards, I was able to get a super clean image tight image of the iconic quarterback.

My hunch is, is that unless the Broncos are completely blowing out an opponent and the game is essentially over in the middle of the 3rd quarter, it’s rare that we might see DeMarcus Ware be this relaxed on the sidelines again for the rest of the season.

Mr. Von Miller didn’t suit up, but still was hanging out on the sidelines.  I think all Bronco fans will agree when I say I hope this is one of the only times we see him in street clothes on the sidelines this season (and hopefully making this a somewhat unique image since almost every other picture of him this season will be of him in uniform.)

Another kind of image that is very difficult to get during the regular season.  Teams get really finicky about photographers shooting from behind the bench during the game.  We can of course be on the sidelines and to either side of the bench to photograph both players and game action, but in general it’s a big no no to shoot players from behind the bench.  Besides just being a distraction to the players, my understanding is that they don’t want anyone (even photographers) listening in to all of the conversations that are going on during the heat of the game.  However, during the final minutes of the fourth quarter of a pre season game, nobody seemed to care if I quickly grabbed one or two of these kinds of images that just provide a slightly different perspective and angle than is typically able to be captured during the regular season.

Hopefully this is has been an interesting insight into a photographers perspective on the pre-season.  Can’t believe we’re just a few weeks away from week of the regular season!  Can’t wait!!

  • Holly E. Humphreys - August 14, 2014 - 10:04 AM

    Chris, loved these pictures and your comments on shooting preseason…and your obnoxious Aunt sent them to lots of her friends!!

    Looking forward to many more this season

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