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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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October 2, 2007 10:59 AM

Seahawks: Having a Game Plan

Posted by Rod Mar

NFL football coaches spends countless hours each week coming up with a game plan for Sunday's contest. Some sleep on cots in their offices, living off of pizza and coffee trying to come up with the perfect plan for the perfect result.

As a photographer covering games, I also try to have a game plan before heading to the stadium as well.

I will spend countless...minutes...on my game plan, but I sleep in my own bed. However, I do admit to the pizza and coffee.

Coaches create game plans that anticipate what will happen based on past performances while also being flexible enough to take into account the fluidity of the game.

Heading into last week's game between the Seahawks and the 49ers, I knew of a couple of story lines that would be important and of which I wanted to be aware. Also, like covering any news or sports event, I needed to be open-minded enough to see new story lines develop and be able to react to them as well.

Here's a recap of some of the story lines from Seattle's 23-3 win at San Francisco.

This first story line to evolve was Seattle's defense recording six sacks, including one that knocked out San Francisco starter Alex Smith early in the game. I was lucky enough to be in good position to shoot Seattle's Rocky Bernard putting all 308 pounds of his on top of Smith, driving him to the ground and separating his shoulder:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/1600 sec., f2.8)

Smith was replaced by former Seahawks quarterback Trent Dilfer, who didn't fare much better:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/800 sec., f2.8)

Dilfer was later hit from his blind side by Seattle's Julian Peterson, who jarred the ball loose for a fumble. Peterson had three sacks in the first half:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/800 sec., f2.8)

The scramble for the ball is nice because of the interplay of their hands:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/800 sec., f2.8)

One of the story lines I was aware of heading into the game was about San Francisco running back Frank Gore, who was a one-man wrecking crew against Seattle during the 49er's two victories over the Seahawks last season.

Seattle players had expressed mulitple times during the week that containing Gore would be important if they were to have a chance to win. Shooting running backs is easy because they carry the ball 15-25 times per game, so I could some good opportunities to make a photo that would tell this story. Seattle's run defense was tough on Gore:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/1000 sec., f2.8)

The photo above looks a lot like another one I shot of Darrell Jackson being tackled, but I think this photo shows more of the punishment Gore received:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/1000 sec., f2.8)

Another of the story lines I knew about before the game involved popular wide receiver Darrell Jackson, who was traded by the Seahawks to the 49ers in the off-season. This would be Jackson's first meeting against his former team. The "former player plays against his old team" is a recurring theme in the world of sports because of all the player movement, but Jackson's popularity in Seattle made me want to be aware of the matchup.

During the game, I tried to be aware of where Jackson was lining up before the snap so I could be sure to make at least one solid photo of him for our coverage.

Early in the game, Jackson caught a pass in the flat and was immediately gang-tackled by a host of Seahawks (a flock?):

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/1600 sec., f2.8)

Later, he caught a pass over the middle and was flipped in the air by Seattle's Lofa Tatupu:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/800 sec., f2.8)

Jackson only caught three passes, and I felt that either of the two photos above would represent his day, but I also wanted to shoot him greeting former teammate after the game, and caught a nice moment between him and Seattle's Shaun Alexander:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm lens @ 16mm, ISO 200, 1/800 sec., f5.6)

Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant intercepted two passes to help the Seahawks' defense. In this frame, I was blocked from getting a clean shot of Trufant as he returned the ball, and only got a photo as he was being tackled:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/1000 sec., f5.6

On his second interception, I was able to grab the camera around my neck and squeeze of a frame with a wide-angle lens. It's not a perfect frame by any means, as when I grabbed it, the shutter speed got bounced down to 1/250th of a second. But I like the different look because of the lens and the angle. It gives a bit of visual relief from all the telephoto shots:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 16-35mm lens @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/250 sec. @ f5.6)

As the game progressed, San Francisco's fumbles (five in all) because part of the story. This very tight frame of the 49er's Kevin Hicks losing the ball is one of my favorites from the day. If only his chin were up just a little so we could see his face:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/1000 sec., f2.8)

Lastly, I knew that Julian Peterson would be a big part of our coverage. Peterson tallied three sacks, but also was one of the "players playing against his former team" as he used to play for San Francisco. He came over to a group of Seattle fans and shared his jubilation with them. The hands reaching out from left and his expression make the frame fun:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 16-35mm lens @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/800 sec. @ f3.2)

Having thought about just a couple of story lines before the game helped me be prepared to catch some important moments in the game, and trying to think about evolving story lines as the game progressed helped me round out our coverage.

One of my goals when covering a game is not only to make exciting photos, but also to make ones that help tell the story of what happened.

By doing just a bit of pre-planning, I was able to give my editors multiple choices on how to visually share some of the things that happened in the game.

It's a delicate balance — it's easy to go overboard and try to simply match photos with stories, but that can sometimes evolve into using photos just to prove what the reporters write. On the other hand, pretty photos have to be more than that — it's not journalism if we're not communicating to the viewers what happened that day.

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Posted by Trent

12:40 PM, Oct 02, 2007

great shoot, Rod.

Posted by Page Level

5:03 PM, Oct 02, 2007

Hey Rod! Love the blog, man! I noticed you have a new toy to play with (1D III). Looks like it performed pretty well for you, judging by the shots. Just got one myself a couple of weeks ago and am loving it! I'm not a pro, but am aspiring to be one, and the tips you give on this blog really help out. I'll be shooting for The Daily this year.

Keep shootin' and keep those posts a comin'! Thanks!

Posted by Dan Powers

10:58 PM, Oct 02, 2007

Nice stuff Rod!

Posted by Gregory McKie

11:53 PM, Oct 02, 2007


As usual I find your posting invaluable and full of useful information.

I have a question if you would please shine some light on. When you travel, what do you check as checked baggage? What do you keep for carry-on?

I am shooting Washington @ Arizona and was wondering do you have any experience taking a monopod on in your carry-on?

I called TSA and they said they do not have monopod listed in any official document and it would be the discretion of the screener. The only consistant thing with this is inconsistency.

Again thanx,

2007 Pac-10 shots to date

Posted by Mark Buffalo

12:53 PM, Oct 03, 2007

Great stuff. I really love the insight.

I remember when you wrote an article for SS about using the Mark II...and now you have a Mark III. You rule

Posted by Rick

9:46 AM, Oct 04, 2007

Rod, I love this blog, please keep it going. And great work on the Hawks/Niners game, very strong images!

One quick question, what's the highest level ISO you're comfortable using for evening/low light sporting events?



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