17
Jan

My favorite part of the college football season is without a doubt the end of the year and all the bowl games. Living in Phoenix is a perfect location during that time, and no not just because of the fact that I can wear shorts while everyone else around the country is shoveling snow! With several bowl games being played within a few hundred miles of my location it enables me to do several bowl games. This year I would have three bowl games within 40 miles of my house, including the most important bowl, the BCS National Championship.

Before we get to the BCS Bowl lets start off with a few photos at the first Arizona bowl of the season, the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe between the Missouri Tigers and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The last few years I would say the Insight Bowl had been one of my favorite games due to the afternoon start which flooded the field with some phenomenal light. Here is my blog from last years game and here is the prior years game so you can see what I mean about the light and the photos it provided.

Unfortunately this years game would be a late start due to it being an ESPN game. While losing out on the aforementioned cool light we would be rewarded with better teams playing in the game so it was a fair tradeoff.

On to the game.

Below, Missouri Tigers quarterback (11) Blaine Gabbert throws a pass in the first quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 2010 Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Iowa Hawkeyes cheerleaders celebrate as running back (34) Marcus Coker runs into the end zone for a second quarter touchdown against the Missouri Tigers

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

The below photo is a perfect example of great action ruined by horrible backgrounds as Missouri Tigers running back Henry Josey (41) dives into the end zone against the Iowa Hawkeyes for a touchdown during the second quarter.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Missouri Tigers tailback (4) Kendial Lawrence is tackled by Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back (30) Brett Greenwood, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Missouri Tigers tailback (26) De’Vion Moore leaps over Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back (18) Micah Hyde in the 2010 Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

While it was a close game it really didn’t provide me with too many good photos.

The play of the game would end up occurring in the final minutes of the game with Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back (18) Micah Hyde intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown against the Missouri Tigers, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Hair flies (below) as Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman (94) Adrian Clayborn celebrates in the closing seconds of the game.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback (12) Ricky Stanzi lifts his helmet as he celebrates with teammates following the game against the Missouri Tigers.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Next game for me would be the Fiesta Bowl where the Oklahoma Sooners would take on the Connecticut Huskies at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

Below, Oklahoma Sooners players huddle prior to the game against the Connecticut Huskies in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, Oklahoma Sooners players do hitting drills as they warm up prior to the game against the Connecticut Huskies.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1600th, Manual

One of my favorite things about my new Nikon D3s is the fact I can take it up to ridiculously high ISO’s to get shots in dark locations.

In the below two photos I took the camera up to the ungodly high ISO of 10000 (ten thousand!) as the Oklahoma Sooners congregated in the tunnel beneath the stadium prior to running out on the field.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 10000iso, f2.8, 1/160th, Manual

Oklahoma Sooners defensive end Billy Batchlear is lit by light from the field as he jumps up and down in the tunnel prior to the game.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 10000iso, f2.8, 1/80th, Manual

Prior to the opening kickoff Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops (below) talks to his players in the huddle against the Connecticut Huskies.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

As expected the Sooners would quickly begin to dominate the Huskies.

Below, Sooners running back (7) DeMarco Murray celebrates as he scores a touchdown in the first quarter against Connecticut.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Just like the Insight Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl didn’t provide too many great photos during the game. After shooting sports for several years now it has gotten harder and harder to get photos that I look at and think wow, this pic is cool. If I could get one photo like that a game I would be a happy guy but it isn’t that easy. Luckily for me I would actually get a shot I really liked in this game.

Below, Connecticut Huskies wide receiver (31) Nick Williams would have his helmet pulled off as he is tackled by Oklahoma Sooners kicker (43) Patrick O’Hara on a kick off return in the second quarter in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 6400iso, f4, 1/1000th, Manual

That pic was cool but the next shot in the sequence would be my “money shot” for the game as the Sooners kicker would actually end up pulling Williams helmet off his face in a painful looking moment, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 6400iso, f4, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Oklahoma Sooners quarterback (12) Landry Jones drops back to pass in the second half against the Connecticut Huskies.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 3200iso, f3.2, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver (2) Trey Franks is upended by Connecticut Huskies offensive linebacker (45) Martin Hyppolite on a big hit in the second half.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 5000iso, f4, 1/1000th, Manual

As the final seconds ticked off the clock to end the game Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops would be doused with gatorade, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 4000iso, f4, 1/800th, Manual

After the clock hit zero officially ending the game the Sooners took to the field to celebrate their Fiesta Bowl victory.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Two games down one to go.

For the BCS National Championship game I had to cover several events in the week leading up to the actual game. Here are some highlights from the weeks activities.

Below, a Delta 747 jumbo jet taxis in at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. Inside the plane was the entire Auburn Tigers football team, family members and staff.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f4, 1/1600th, Manual

Under a nice sky the plane would come to a stop on the tarmac.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f4, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

Below is a behind the scenes shot showing the media running towards the plane after being given the go ahead from security.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f4, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton greets fans as he walks down the red carpet from the airplane to the waiting team buses.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/250th, Manual

Below, a Phoenix police officer stops traffic as the buses containing the Auburn Tigers players and staff departs the airport.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/125th, Manual

The rest of my week would be spent covering several boring press conferences and practices. Here are a few “highlights.”

Below, Cam Newton is surrounded by media as he answers questions during an Auburn press conference.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f3.2, 1/320th, Manual

Anyone who has shot press conferences quickly realize how boring they are for cool photos. Sometimes I get so desperate for an interesting shot I will go way abstract in an attempt to make something out of nothing such as the below frame of Newton shot through a small opening in the crowd of media and television cameras surrounding the stage.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f3.2, 1/250th, Manual

Following the press conference I walked with Newton to his bus to take advantage of the huge Auburn logo on the side of the team bus, below.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

A crowd of media greets Newton as he walks out to the practice field at Scottsdale Community College for a practice.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 400iso, f5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Below, Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Nick Fairley waves to the media as he runs through a crowd of photographers who were busy shooting Cam Newton (I was one of them). While most of the media spent all their time shooting Newton, it is really Fairley who we should have been focusing on since he is projected to potentially be the top pick in this years NFL draft.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

As is customary with team practices, only the first 15 minutes of practice was open to the media. Most of that 15 minutes was spent with the players stretching so getting cool action shots wasn’t really a possibility.

The below frame of special teamers practicing plays with some mountains in the background was as good as it got in my 15 minutes on the field.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 400iso, f4.5, 1/8000th, Aperture Priority

Later that evening I was at the US Airways Center to shoot an NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. Prior to the game I found out the Auburn Tigers as well as their championship game opponent, the Oregon Ducks were in attendance to watch the game. Much to my surprise I would spot Cam Newton down near the court being interviewed by ESPN. Following the interview I got the below frame of a crazy fan hanging over a railing trying to offer Newton his beer. (In the interest of fair reporting, Newton declined the friendly gesture)

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

Over an hour after the game Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant would come out to spend a few minutes talking to the Oregon Ducks players. Below you can see Kobe in the middle having some fun with the Ducks players.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 6400iso, f3.2, 1/640th, Manual

On the evening before the game I headed to Scottsdale to shoot the Oregon Ducks pep rally for some shoe company named Nike. I figured a few thousand people may show up. While sitting in traffic for close to an hour (the drive is usually 15 minutes) I learned that it was closer to 50 thousand fans who decided to show up for the rally.

Below, fireworks explode over the crowd during the Oregon Ducks pep rally.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/250th, Manual

A photo of Oregon Ducks running back LaMichael James is projected on the huge beer tent (below) during the pep rally.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/200th, Manual

Once the sun had set, the fans were surprised with a cool treat as a multi million dollar laser projected the Oregon Ducks logo onto the nearby Camelback Mountain, below.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/1.6th, Manual

Ok enough with all the practices, pep rallies and press conferences, lets get to game day!

Oregon Ducks fans tailgate in the parking lot outside the University of Phoenix Stadium (below) prior to the BCS National Championship game against the Auburn Tigers.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/640th, Manual

During warm ups prior to the game I would get the below frame of Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton talking with head coach Gene Chizik.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

When it comes to my job as a sports photographer I know the rules of where I can and cannot be shooting photos but sometimes I like to push the boundaries of where I can go in the name of getting cool photos. The tunnel leading to the field is usually one of those gray areas in the rules.

Prior to the beginning of the game I got the idea to go back there and attempt to follow the team from the locker room to the field. TV always has a cameraman or two following the team out to the field so its usually really hard to get good shots not ruined by the TV cameraman, his two cable pullers and a random assistant or two as well.

I would end up getting lucky as no security gave me the boot as head coach Gene Chizik led his team out towards the field, below.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 8000iso, f2.8, 1/125th, Manual

Below, at the opening of the tunnel to the field Chizik brought his players to a halt and they hung out there for close to a minute waiting for the go ahead from the officials to take the field. It was a surreal moment to be so close to the players as they were preparing for the biggest game of most of their lives. The players screaming, smiling and yelling prior to running on the field was an electric moment that is just one of the million reasons I am such a lucky guy to do this job.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Below, right off the bat AUburn showed they would be the team to beat as Oregon Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas (right) is tackled by Auburn Tigers defensive tackle Nick Fairley (90) during the first quarter of the 2011 BCS National Championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Auburn Tigers quarterback (2) Cameron Newton throws a pass against the Oregon Ducks in the 2011 BCS National Championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Oregon Ducks running back LaMichael James (below) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter of the 2011 BCS National Championship game against the Auburn Tigers.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Cam Newton goes airborne towards a first down in the first half.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Auburn Tigers wide receiver Emory Blake (80) celebrates with wide receiver Terrell Zachery (81) after scoring a touchdown during the first half.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Oregon Ducks wide receiver D.J. Davis (10) leaps over Auburn Tigers cornerback Neiko Thorpe (15) and safety Zac Etheridge (4) during the first half of the 2011 BCS National Championship game.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 3200iso, f3.2, 1/1000th, Manual

Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton (below) is tackled by Oregon Ducks safety John Boyett (20) during the second half.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 2500iso, f3.2, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Oregon Ducks wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei (80) makes a juggling reception against Auburn Tigers cornerback Demond Washington (14) during the third quarter of the 2011 BCS National Championship game.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Auburn Tigers head coach Gene Chizik (below) reacts from the sidelines after Auburn stopped the Ducks with a goal line stand in the third quarter.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton (2) is pressured by Oregon Ducks defensive tackle Brandon Bair (88) during the fourth quarter.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

After a late score from the Ducks it was a tie game with just over two minutes remaining in the game. I was hoping for some overtime (because I wanted more time to get some good pics) but Auburn running back Michael Dyer had other plans in mind.

Before showing you the photo first check out the below video of what most of the media dubbed the play of the game.

Here is my shot as Auburn Tigers running back Michael Dyer (5) uses his hand to stay off the ground as Oregon Ducks defender Eddie Pleasant attempts to tackle him during the fourth quarter.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

As is normally the case with me when I am really focused on doing my job,  I didn’t realize the magnitude of the play until well after the game. Reminds me of another time I got the play of a big football game and didn’t even realize it…  remember this play anyone?

A few plays later Dyer would punch into the end zone for a touchdown and celebrate in the end zone, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, teammates mob Auburn running back (5) Michael Dyer after scoring the game winning touchdo….. NOPE! On a replay it would be proven that he was actually down at the one thus making these celebration shots rather useless.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

With seconds remaining in the game the Oregon Ducks players and fans could only helplessly look on as the Auburn kicker took to the field to attempt the short game winning field goal.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

From the foot of Auburn Tigers kicker Wes Byrum (below) the kick is up….

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

…. and its good! Tigers win!

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, even though he had an average game by his standards, Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton is mobbed by the media after defeating the Oregon Ducks 22-19 in the 2011 BCS National Championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Auburn Tigers defensive tackle Nick Fairley celebrates in a cloud of confetti following the game against the Oregon Ducks. Fairley would be named the defensive MVP of the game.

Nikon D700, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Following the celebration with his teammates Cam Newton ran around the field celebrating with the fans, below.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

And with that my fifth BCS National Championship comes to an end.

A few hours after the game the US Presswire crew posed for a group photo, below.

Then I just had to act like a douche and play in the confetti for a photo.

That wraps up my college football season. Can’t wait for next year!


 
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