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Best Seat in the House

Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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September 10, 2006 6:09 PM

Happy New Year -- It's Football season!

Posted by Rod Mar

Sure, the calendar says that the beginning of every year is January 1st. But for me, it seems like the start of fall is more than a change of seasons, it represents both an ending and a beginning.

The three-day Labor Day weekend marks not only the end-of-summer, but it also gives us the beginning of the school year and the start of football season.

For me, the "kickoff" (sorry, I couldn't resist) of football season is the start of what seems to be the natural cycle of my year.

(I should point out that in my view, this "new year" commences on the first Sunday of the N.F.L. regular season, even though the high schools and colleges start the week earlier.)

This weekend I traveled to Detroit for the Seahawks' regular season opener against the Lions at Ford Field.

If you're a Seahawks fan, you may have watched the game on television, seen highlights on television, and already read a bunch of stories, sidebars and columns.

So I won't bore you with that. Plus, I'm a photographer, and I see the game in a different way.

Here are some general observations about Sunday's game:

1. Games that end on field goals are great equalizers for photographers. I could have a great game (meaning I have lots of good photos) or a poor game (for whatever reason, I don't have great shots of big plays), and if it comes down to a field goal, I know the likely photo of the game will come from that play. It's easy and anyone can do it. Focus on the kicker and record his joy or dismay if he makes it or not. Simple as that.

2. This game was a bit different since the Seahawks had see their first two field goal attempts blocked. Having that in mind, I chose to race to the far end of the field to shoot the last play. My thought was, if Seahawks kicker Josh Brown makes the field goal, he might turn and I can get a nice celebration shot. But if the kick was blocked, I would have a perfect angle on a game-changing play. It looked like this and we chose it for the cover:

(Canon EOS1d Mk II, 400mm lens, ISO 1000, 1/500 sec., f2.8)

3. I had equipment problems all day. That usually never happens. But my main piece of equipment, a 400mm, 2.8 telephoto lens, was not tracking focus correctly. It wasn't obvious when I was shooting, but looking at the images later revealed that the focus was often lagging (more to come on this, with some examples, once I have time to look harder at my take).

Check out these photos of Seahawks kicker Josh Brown right after he made the game-winning field goal:

Brown sees the field goal is good and starts to turn:

Brown (3) turns more, and the a nice image starts to come together:

The problem is, the autofocus isn't autofocusing any longer — for whatever reason, the focus remains on the Detroit player in the background, which is really bad, in this case.

Had it remained in focus, the photo would have been a nice moment capturing a jubilant Seahawk and a stunned Lions player and the Detroit fans.

Cropped it would have looked like this:

Notice that the Seahawks players are out-of-focus. Check out the closeup:

Gross. Oh well, It happens. It's the photographer's job to get the photo, no matter the circumstances. Having this photo would have been great, but everyone at the paper was really happy with the one we used, because it had so much going on in the frame. And, given the story of the game, which focused closely on field goals, both blocked and made, the frame we used worked well.

Finally, here's what the sports cover looked like:

Final thought — I think this was a pretty good cover. Storytelling, and visually compelling. The photo ran big enough that one could look at it and see how close the Lions came to blocking it. Also, using a celebration photo felt odd since it was such an ugly game — did the Seahawks have a reason to celebrate escaping with an ugly win?

Although, in the N.F.L., ANY win on the road is a good win.

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