In the 10 years off and on that I have been covering the Arizona Cardinals they have always been the butt of all jokes in the world of sports. Things finally began changing this year when they actually started playing up to the potential they entered each preseason with. One win away from clinching their first playoff appearance in over 30 years left all the local media (myself included) wondering how would they screw it up this time.

Prior to the game I worked my ass off trying to shoot cool pre-game features on top of all the stock I need to get. 

Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner has been gaining a lot of steam in the media as a potential MVP candidate so I was sure to shoot as much good stuff of him today as I could. As he was warming up on the sidelines I saw one of the team guys laying on the ground  few feet away and I ran over to get in on the action. The shot really had some potential to be great except the empty grandstands (and player in background) really killed it for me.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/1600th

Now for most Cardinals games I shoot the players coming out through the inflatable tunnel. Today would be no exception BUT I also was determined to shoot some tunnel features of the visiting St. Louis Rams as well. Obviously it would be impossible to shoot both teams coming out at the start of the game so I spent some of my pre-game time shooting the Rams coming out to warm up and stretch. Here are a few.

The below photo I exposed for the dark tunnel as players were just about to enter the stadium so the bright lights of the stadium are way blown out giving the appearance of walking into the light when you die (or so I’ve heard).

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/50th

Now take the same basic angle and expose for the bright lights of the stadium and you get a completely different looking shot.

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

The next shot is from the same spot except facing away from the tunnel and back under the stadium. It gives a different and interesting look as St. Louis Rams quarterback (10) Marc Bulger and quarterback (13) Brock Berlin head to the field to warm up.

Nikon D300, 14-24mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/160th

That ends my explanation of getting 3 distinctively different looking shots from the same spot. 

After a quick transmit then it was about game time. I headed to the blow up Cardinals tunnel to see what I could come up with.

My initial exposure was way too dark but had a bit of an abstract appearance to it that I kinda liked.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/800th

After getting my exposure under control I went to work stalking…uh I mean shooting Kurt Warner.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/40th

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/320th

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 6400iso, f2.8, 1/250th

After all the tunnel shots it was time to get in place for the start of the game. I noticed Cardinals player Darnell Dockett crouched down waiting for the game to start and got low to shoot a quick portrait.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

Let the game begin.

Right off the bat the Cardinals defense had their way with Rams quarterback Marc Bulger. Cardinals linebacker Chike Okeafor heads toward Bulger like an out of control freight train.

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

A few minutes later Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald thought he had a touchdown but was ruled down at the 1 yard line. He thought otherwise and yelled at the referee.

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

The next play the ball came to Fitzgerald in the endzone but it was blocked by Rams cornerback Ron Bartell.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Then the next play he once again got the ball and finally broke into the endzone for a touchdown.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

As he ran back towards the sidelines he pointed towards a section of the grandstand. If only he had pointed with the other hand then it wouldn’t have blocked his face and would have been a cool shot.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Disgruntled running back (and future hall of famer) Edgerrin James shows his excitement from the sidelines.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

I rarely get good photos of running backs flying through the air so I was pretty happy to get the below photo of Rams running back Steven Jackson going airborne as he leaped a Cardinals defender. While its garbage compared to some of the images my friends have shot its at least something.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

In the second half the Cardinals were pulling away so it was imperative for the Rams to make something happen. Instead they made a fumble happen which was recovered by Cardinals defender Darnell Dockett and returned for a touchdown. It was his first career touchdown so he celebrated with a pre planned celebration of running into the goal post and pretending to be knocked out.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

And was brought back to life through CPR by a teammate.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Rams head coach Jim Haslett was not very happy with that play and looked like he wanted to cry.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

It was a rare day that they actually had the roof open and it ended up making for a pretty cool photo. As the sun dipped towards the horizon the light came in and lit up the bottom of the stadiums roof with really nice glowing orange light. When I saw it developing I said screw the game and ran my ass around to the other side of the stadium to shoot a wide angle overall shot.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/2000th

Ok back to work.

Cardinals first round draft pick from this year Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been really turning heads around the NFL with hard work ethic and great performance and he did well in this game. Below he makes a tackle on Rams tight end Daniel Fells.

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

His day would get much better a few plays later when he made an interception at the 1 yard line and returned it 99 yards for his first NFL touchdown.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

The crowd went wild as it all but sealed the game for the Cards. I did however find one sad Rams fan in the crowd.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

In the closing minutes of the game I once again looked for another wide shot to shoot with the roof open and nice sky.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

The game ended and the Cardinals players celebrated their first playoff appearance in over 30 years. 

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

I was really expecting more excitement out of them but oh well.

As I mentioned earlier Kurt Warner was my focus of the game so I followed him (along with every other photographer) as he headed off the field.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

Next up the Cardinals will take on the Vikings this weekend.


Posted in Sports   | 5 Comments

5 responses to “Hell Freezes over as the Cardinals make the Playoffs!”

  1. Dan Powers says:

    Is that Miralle on the right of your last frame…harrassing you? ;0)

  2. Yea Dan, he was following me around all game asking for advice about camera settings! haha yea right.

  3. Matt Graves says:

    I saw you on TV Sunday after the game. They cut to Kurt Warner and you were trying to get a shot of him in the middle of the field. Very cool.

  4. Rodrigo says:

    Hahaha It looks like Miralle wants to destroy another photographer for getting in his way for a shot… and hes trying to do it with his mind.

  5. Glad I wasn’t the only one to think it was Don…great work Mark. I really dig the last shots of Warner and the other overall shots. Thanks for posting–


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