24
Mar

A few months back I had the privilege of shoot behind the scenes with NFL superstar Kurt Warner for an ESPN.com story. With ESPN writer Wayne Drehs in tow we got to work documenting Kurts life on and off the field.

The shoot began with meeting up with the family at a local high school where his 8 year old daughter Jada was having her first cheerleading competition.

After introducing myself to the family I got to work shooting some photos. Instead of focusing on the actual competition I instead chose to shoot Warner as he and his children watched the competition and cheered.

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/200th

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/320th

At the conclusion of Jadas performance proud father Kurt was standing and cheering. Its pretty funny to see a Superbowl MVP cheering at the top of his lungs for a cheerleading competiton!

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/400th

Following the performance I followed Kurt into the hallway outside of the gym to wait for Jada to finish her post performance meeting to conclude.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/250th

Then it was time to congratulate Jada on her performance.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/250th

When you have seven kids it doesn’t matter that you’re is a superstar athlete as evident by his young daughter dragging him away to take her to the bathroom.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/125th

After that Wayne and I headed to Chilis for a quick lunch then over to North Phoenix to meet with a young child named Isaiah Acosta who was born without a jaw.

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/200th

Isaiah met Kurt and eventually was invited, along with his family, to Florida to spend a week with the Warner family at Disneyworld. Since the trip Warner has stayed in close contact with Isaiah and family and frequently sends them autographed Cardinals merchandise as well as game tickets.

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/100th

Meeting with Isaiah and his family and hearing all the wonderful things Warner has done for him instantly made me a lifelong Warner fan.

The next day was a home game against the Minnesota Vikings that I was to focus on Warner and get some action/feature shots for the story.

Here are some of my favorites from the game.

Nikon D3, 85mm, 3200iso, f1.8, 1/125th

Nikon D3, 400mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

Nikon D3, 400mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

Nikon D3, 400mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Nikon D3, 400mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Nikon D3, 400mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

It was a rough game on Warner with him being sacked multiple times in a game they would end up losing, but in typical Warner fashion he was gracious following the game.

First up he congratulated star player Adrian Peterson on a big game.

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

Then came the post game prayer with players from both teams.

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

Then it was off to the locker room. (ESPN tried getting me access but were quickly declined)

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

Following the game Warner met with a local church youth group for a quick Q&A as well as autograph signing after his ice bandage was allowed to be removed. While he waited for the 30 minutes of ice to elapse Everyone watched a small TV that was showing highlights of the game and being very critical of Warners performance. Awkward!

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/320th

The next day was a fun one as we were invited to the Warner house in Paradise Valley to have dinner with the family as well as document the making of the feast.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/125th

While dinner was cooking Kurt spent most his time relaxing and hanging out with the kids.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/100th

Evidently the Warner family hasn’t seen the all in one universal remote!

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/100th

Nikon D3, 85mm, 3200iso, f1.8, 1/160th

Then it was back into the kitchen with wife Brenda to check the food.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/100th

One thing that was pretty crazy was walking to the bathroom and walking by a safe in the corner of a room and seeing all of Warners awards and trophies such as a Superbowl Trophy and league MVP awards. Crazy!

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 250iso, f6.3, 1/250th

Kurt had gotten up and was gone for a few minutes so since the story was about the life of Kurt Warner I walked around the house to see if he was doing anything that would make for good shots.

I found him in his twin daughters bed reading a story to them. That’ll work!

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/60th

I didn’t wanna be too annoying as they shared a nice moment so I quickly looked for one more angle to shoot. I noticed a little sign saying “keep out” so I used that in a photo.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/60th

A short while later dinner was close to being ready so Kurt went into the dining room and put a table cloth on their wooden table that they use for all meals.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 800iso, f5.6, 1/60th

As Kurt buttered some bread Brenda jokingly gave him a kick to his backside.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 1250iso, f5.6, 1/100th

Finally the food was all ready and the Warner family enjoyed a typical family dinner.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 1600iso, f5.6, 1/125th

Nikon D3, 85mm, 3200iso, f1.8, 1/160th

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 1600iso, f5.6, 1/125th

After the family dinner they were nice enough to feed Wayne and I a nice lasagna dinner. It was my first home cooked meal in forever! And it was great.

The next day we met up with Kurt at a small elementary school in Phoenix where Kurt was taking part in a charity program where they built a playground for the school.

It was raining which made things a little cold and soggy but that didn’t stop Kurt and the rest of the volunteers from getting to work.

First up was mixing and laying concrete to secure the playground equipment into the ground.

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 500iso, f8, 1/250th

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 500iso, f8, 1/250th

Then it was time to plant some flowers near the playgrounds entrance.

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 320iso, f8, 1/250th

All throughout the event Warner would pause and interact with the children.

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 500iso, f8, 1/250th

Then they took a break for Warner to sign autographs for all the children and volunteers in attendance.

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 640iso, f8, 1/250th

After the autograph signing everyone went back out in the rain for the official dedication and group photo.

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 200iso, f7.1, 1/250th

After drying off all my wet gear and packing up we headed back to Warners house to document the yearly stocking stuffing the family does for less fortunate families.

One of my goals during the 4 day shoot was to get some portrait time with Kurt, I even had all my lights with me, but as these things tend to work there ended up not being any time to do the portrait.

When Kurt was being miked up and set down for a TV interview I decided I could take the lazy mans approach and use the TV hot lights to do a quick and adequately lit portrait.

After getting permission from the TV people I told Kurt to smile for a quick portrait. Smile, click, done!

Nikon D3, 85mm, 200iso, f1.8, 1/320th

After his interview Kurt wrangled the family together and they formed a mini assembly line circle in one of the living rooms and got to work stuffing the stokcings with various items from candy, to gift certificates to school supplies.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/160th

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/160th

I wanted a different angle so I went upstairs and shot down from a balcony of the family hard at work.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/160th

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 1000iso, f2.8, 1/250th

Back on the ground floor I shot a few more shots.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/250th

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/250th

I had all the shots I needed for the story so it was time to head out.

After thanking the family for their hospitality I headed home with a newfound respect for a guy I previously only knew as a football player. Now I know he is much more.

Here is the link to the full story which I recommend you read. Its a real eye opener.

For more information about the Kurt Warner Foundation click here

 

Here are a few web clippings from the shoot.





 
Posted in Cardinals, Football, NFL, Portraits   | 7 Comments

7 responses to “A Week with the Warners”

  1. Carla Bryce says:

    Speechless! What a star.

  2. Matt Graves says:

    Damn. I always am torn about Kurt as a fan. I like him as the QB, respect him as a person.

  3. Alex Wong says:

    i love seeing the otherside of superstar athletes
    gives a depth you won’t see elsewhere
    good stuff mark!

  4. Kyle Pochek says:

    It’s stories like this that really make you realize how much you don’t know about a person. It makes you think how much family matters. Thanks Mark for this story really really great stuff.

    -Kyle

  5. Joey says:

    What a great shoot! The story was excellent. Your shots of him “being a father” at his daughter’s cheerleading competition say it all about the man!! Nice Work !!

    -Joey

  6. Holly says:

    This is my fav shoot by far. I’ve actually paid more attention to football since learning about what a wonderful man he is. He deserves all his success and stories/pics like this show the world that there are good people out there! Glad you had fun, jealous of course. And admit it…you hate lasagna. ha.

  7. As always, your work is fantastic and has again provided us with a real look at the “individual in the helmet”.

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