Tue, 03 Oct 2023

Depth Of Field: Week 1 Preseason

Arizona Cardinals
16 Aug 2022, 05:03 GMT+10

"Preseason form"

What some may use to describe NFL players, coaches or referees, photographers sometimes use to rate their overall portfolio from a game. You obviously want to always be in "mid-season" or even "post-season" form, but with my first game as the Team Photographer for the Arizona Cardinals being the Week 1 preseason game in Cincinnati, I'll take any form I can get.

This photo essay series goes into detail about the flow of an NFL game for a photographer with behind-the-scenes info about some of my favorite photos of each game.

Starting with the pre-pregame warmups, I always try to be more of a fly on the wall until I scope out an interesting moment. Players kneeling in prayer, Coach Kingsbury walking out of the shadows, intimate portraits and a hyped-up Budda Baker were my top selects from this period in the day.

As far as equipment goes, my pregame setup for this game was a Nikon D6 with a 24-70mm f2.8 lens as my main camera and a Nikon D850 with a 70-200 f2.8 lens as my secondary.

Another thing I look for while I'm roaming the field and tunnel areas before the game is details. Since the team photographers and NFL league photographers are the only ones allowed on the field for pregame, it gives me a unique opportunity to find hidden gems. Sometimes, you get lucky and stumble across something you haven't noticed before, like J.J. Watt stretching in the tunnel outside of the locker room.

Caitlyn Epes/Arizona Cardinals

After the players head back to the locker room to get dressed in their pads and uniforms, I wait by the tunnel for the real pregame activities to start. Since this was my first Cardinals game, I wasn't sure what pregame would look like or where certain position groups would warm up. I approached it hesitantly and opted for more huddle and group shots, but I look forward to what I can photograph going forward.

Once the players run out onto the field and line up for the National Anthem, I start to get excited for the real action to start. I take the anthem moments to explore players' faces and emotions, since this is one of the last times you see them with their helmets off all game.

Caitlyn Epes/Arizona Cardinals

Dennis Gardeck was very interesting to capture during this time. He looked right into my lens with his game face ready, then took a moment to himself before taking his place as the Cardinals captain for the coin toss.

Game time.

Right after I photograph the coin toss, I sprint (if you can even call it that) to my extra gear behind the Cardinals bench. I switch out my 24-70mm for a 400mm f2.8 on my Nikon D6, and hobble over (that's a better description) to the best spot on the sideline to prepare for kickoff.

Caitlyn Epes/Arizona Cardinals

One of the hardest things about photographing a football game is trying to be in the best spot on the sideline to get the best angle of the action. For away games, being on the Cardinals sideline is slightly better because there aren't as many photographers competing for spots. But, there is still about a 20-yard gap (the team bench) where you can't see anything.

That's when you have to make a decision: stay with the line of scrimmage as close as you can, or book it (awkwardly) to the other side and hope they throw it long.

I opted for being on the far end of the field towards the Cardinals end zone for most of the game, and since the action came pretty quickly across the 50-yard line, my strategy worked. Take note for future photo essays: it will not work every game!

While I felt like I was in a good spot in general, I still missed some great shots just from being on the wrong side. With Andre Baccellia's touchdown seen above, I wish I could have been closer. What's that quote about not worrying about what you can't change? I need to remind myself of that pretty much every play.

Even when I miss the touchdown or don't get the best angle of it, I always enjoy photographing celebrations. This Cardinals team is full of fun characters, and it was awesome to capture their emotions.

As the game dies down, I take a look at all of my surroundings instead of focusing on the field. Bench portraits, sunset silhouettes and a new play-caller caught my attention this week.

Once the game ends and everyone swarms onto the field, my ears start to ring with "Can you take our picture?"

It is always nice to see players from different teams interact and reminisce. Especially when they're all from a certain university in Oklahoma where I may or may not have gone to school...

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