Photographing football is a fast paced and exciting thing to do. Players are at the peak level of physical fitness and sprint across the 100 yard field with ease. They juke, spin and smash into each other at a pace that is often only captured by slow motion television cameras. Making beautiful photographs of this process is a challenge on the best day, but when mother nature decided to dump almost a foot of snow this Sunday during the game between the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts, the difficulty level knob was broken off.
I will try to answer what I think the most asked questions were in the past few days.
Was it really that insane?
Yes, it was absolutely nuts. I obviously did not watch much of the CBS broadcast so I can't compare, but during the first half and at the end of warmups I could not see the other side of the stadium. This is not a tremendous distance either, and to be clear that's just a distance marker I could gauge, I also couldn't see other things on the field which were of course closer. To add to this confusion and how extreme the situation was, none of us expected any snow until late in the game. I photographed removal of snow from days prior very early just to be sure I had any sort of weather picture.
How did you focus your cameras?
Most people assumed I would be manual focusing my camera to get anything usable. I've read about people doing that and there were some on the sideline that were forced to those lengths. I was lucky enough to have equipment that works hard in any conditions and was able to continue focusing properly despite the weather. That's not to say it worked as well as normal or got every shot, but I made just over 200 usable pictures during the game which I would say is a good amount all things considered.
I shoot with Canon cameras, 1DX Mark II bodies specifically for sports and most assignments. These are professional grade cameras and are built to work in extreme conditions such as these. Mine were paired with a 70-200mm lens and 200-400mm lens, both of which are weather sealed and performed pretty flawlessly (again given conditions). I normally like to have another body with a 24mm or similar lens on it, however given the conditions I felt the risk was too high that the camera would be damaged to have it out there. Both cameras were wrapped in weather protection equipment and I spent much of the game shoveling snow out of my lens hood with my hand (not joking).
That must have been awful!
I love cold weather and snow. I look forward to it all year long and curse summer as I wait for winter to start. I was in heaven and laughing and smiling the whole time. Yes it was extremely difficult to make pictures. However on a positive note, what would have been a game that no one covered or talked about instead became the must see photos of the week. That's what we're all trying to do in this career, make the pictures that everyone says "wow" to and if a little luck brings that my way, I'll gladly accept it.
Here are a few outtakes from the game that I loved. You can license these and many other photographs via Getty Images. (Cover photo by Bryan Bennett)