For the second week in a row I was in the perfect place for a game ending photo. Lucky? As they say luck is all about how you position yourself.
It’s always a conundrum when you’re photographing both teams for a publication. In this case it was actually three publications as the Daily Southtown, Aurora Beacon News, and the Elgin Courier, are all part of the Chicago Tribune collection of newspapers, but are published separately. Each included one of the two teams in their coverage area.
So with under a minute left in the game and the team with the ball down by only 4 points, who do you cover? Maybe more importantly from a still photography point, where do you position yourself?
More photos from Batavia vs. Mt. Carmelhttps://vincentdjohnson.zenfolio.com/batavia-mtcarmel-7A-2nd-round-2021
While there can be several arguments for covering the defense, I’ve always been inclined to shoot with the offensive action coming towards me. There is nothing more definitive than scoring in sports and nothing that garners an instant celebration. There’s a reasons we use the terms “touchdown” & “home run” outside of the sport’s world to mean good things. Where “interception” & “sack”, not so much.
Choosing the direction you’re going to be photographing is one thing, but now you also have to choose a side. As in side of the field, and here’s the real trick, there’s actually three sides to choose. You can either pick the home or away sidelines, which give you quick access with a short lens to the bench & coaches near you, or a diagonal to the other side with a longer lens. The downside here is if the play goes to the other sideline, your photos are basically the back of the key player’s helmets, or worse the backend of the linemen & refs.
Your third side option would be shooting directly into the offensive action from the back of the end zone, which puts you right where a celebration may be, but also can be fraught with defense, non-ball carrying offensive players & refs running through your frame from a clear photo of the ball runner. This also takes out most chances of a good shot if the defense makes a sack or tackle behind the line.
In the end I chose the home side for the last 2 minutes because the offense was in the red-zone and with a right-handed quarterback and most players right handed, I increase the chances of having ball and faces in the same frame. Teams generally run plays left, right, and middle at about the same percentage, so I know chances are 2/3rds of the plays could come my way. Luckily for me only one play goes that way and it wasn’t the crucial moment.
Benefit of being on the side that shows right-handed players.
My choice also put me front and center for what’s probably the closest view of controversial pass-interference call on the final timed down of the game.
The ensuing play would be Furlong’s touchdown run and I snapped photos as the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory played out right in front of me.
On the opposite side of things
The previous week I was covering the Wheaton Warrenville South vs. Brother Rice game, which also game down to a final a play in the final minute. Scoring with just 46 seconds left in the game and now down by only 1 point, the Tigers decide to go for two against Brother Rice. My decision on who to cover was made easy, as Brother Rice was the only team in the coverage area for the Daily Southtown and none of the other Tribune owned papers cover Wheaton.
I would have been on the home side waiting to get a reaction shot from the bench, but the play leading to the touchdown was a massive pass, so I shot the two-point conversion from the visitors side for three reasons; first, I needed to be in position to shoot the defense, which meant I would not only need to get to the other side of the field. Second to do so, I would need to get from the visitor’s team box to about the 10-15 yard-line on the home side. Now I’m quick, but with 30 pounds of camera gear around my neck it just wasn’t going to happen. Add to that, that there was almost a minute left in a game that was looking to go into overtime and the only photo that really mattered was the extra point kick. I put myself to have enough room to get a kicker in frame, with the d-line going up, so any potential block would be on camera, but then the offense lined up for the two-point conversion.
Once again, luck and positioning had a pass attempt come to my side of the field and I got a clear shot of the broken up pass that helped seal the Crusader’s victory.
More photos from Wheaton Warrenville South vs. Brother Ricehttps://vincentdjohnson.zenfolio.com/wheaton-warrenville-wouth-v-BrRice-7A-1st-round-2021