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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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January 13, 2008 7:29 PM

Snow Patrol

Posted by Rod Mar

I had such a blast at what ended up as the final Seahawks game of the season.

Snow, the playoffs, a natural grass field, and Green Bay's legendary Lambeau Field all made for an incredible environment in which to shoot photos.

As many of you know, Seattle got run over by the Green Bay Packers, 42-20.

And as the old cliche' goes, "the game wasn't as close as the score indicated".

My day started as columnist Jerry Brewer and I headed from nearby Appleton to drive the 30 miles to Green Bay for the game. To show you how small Green Bay is, visiting teams stay in Appleton, because it has the biggest hotel in the vicinity. We saw the team buses lined up, and I stopped to make a frame of the players heading to the bus. Not visually exciting, but our paper wanted an early pregame photo for the website:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 800, 1/500th sec., f2.8)

At the game, I sought out some Seahawks fans in the stadium.

How did she paint her eyelashes like that? I'm told they're glued on. Oh...:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 800, 1/500th sec., f4.5)

These are Seattle cheeseheads. I'm pretty sure that guy on the left is actually Brett Favre just goofing around before the game. Tell me he doesn't look like Brett Favre. Go on. Tell me:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 132mm, ISO 800, 1/500th sec., f4.5)

Two stories got a lot of coverage in the week preceeding the game. One was Josh Brown's heated warm-up pants. "JOSH BROWN! HOT PANTS!" I gotta admit, I think I'd have rather seen Jessica Alba in hot pants. No offense, Josh :

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 155mm, ISO 800, 1/500th sec., f4.5)

Another was the coin-toss in overtime years back when Matt Hasselbeck was overheard saying "we want the ball and we're going to score!". I wanted to make sure to get a frame of the pre-game coin toss in case it became a story again:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 90mm, ISO 800, 1/500th sec., f4.0)

Green Bay's fans have a reputation for being very loud, visual, and fun. Apparently, some of them are also very fat and drunk. As great as it is, my job does have some drawbacks. Here's one — I had to zoom in on this photograph in my computer to check out the word on the sticker covering the guy's nipple (I JUST TYPED "THE GUY'S NIPPLE" IN MY BLOG. EWWW). But I saw a four letter word ending in "--ck" and had to make sure it was a publishable word. Luckily, it says "Pack". But really, the sacrifices I have to make:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 180mm, ISO 800, 1/500th sec., f4.0)

Seattle scored two touchdowns in the first four minutes of the game, capitalizing on two Green Bay fumbles to take a quick 14-0 lead. I could imagine the Hawks fans in Seattle jumping around their living rooms, but having covered plenty of football in my time, I knew the game was far from over.

I can't remember a time when a photo of a big play that I shot in the first quarter of a game ever ended up being my lead photo, or even an important one by the end of the game.

From my vantage point on the sidelines, it was pretty obvious after Green Bay's first scoring drive that they weren't going to have too much trouble handling the Seahawks.

I remember remarking to my assistant after the Packers tied the score at 14-14, "you know, Green Bay has all the momentum and Seattle can't do anything. This could be 42-14 by the end of the day".

My guess wasn't too far off. My point in telling you that isn't that I'm an expert prognosticator when it comes to football — I'm not. But in my never-ending quest to tell stories with photographs, it was comforting to know the outcome of the game by halftime.

Knowing that Green Bay was in the process of total domination over Seattle left me free to concentrate on how I wanted to visually present the story. Barring a miracle, there would be no specific plays in the second half that would be game-defining. Instead, I would seek to find moments that could speak to the bigger themes.

Those themes, at least in my mind, where:

— Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre.
— Seattle's inability to do anything offensively or defensively.
— Seattle's ineffective running game.
— Green Bay running back Ryan Grant.
— Poor play of Seattle tight end Marcus Pollard.
— The possibility that it might be Seattle coach Mike Holmgren's final game, if he chooses to retire in the offseason.
— And of course, the snow.

As much as the fans might have wanted a closer game, I was able to create that list at halftime. From then on, I was free to check those off my mental list, and concentrate on being really visually open as to seeing the photo possibilities in front me.

I'm convinced that Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre sold his soul to the devil in the off-season in an effort to have one more great season. Make no mistake — I love Brett Favre. He's tough, talented and was in "Something About Mary". But for the past two seasons, he's played, well, not very "Favrian", and this season his team is 13-3 in the regular season and is on the cusp of another Super Bowl appearance.

My sportswriter friends tell me it has to do with his offensive line, his better corp of receivers, and an improved defense. I maintain that Favre has a deal with Beelzebub. But that's just me. Anyway, I was shooting on the Green Bay sidelines for the first half, and wanted to make sure I got the traditional photo of Favre raising his arms after a touchdown. Because I'm an awesome photographer, I cut off his hand at the top of the frame. Really. How hard can I make my job? Sometimes I think I should be a painter. Because then I can control how much hand gets in the frame. Just looking at this pisses me off:

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

I got lucky and was in the right position when Favre made his best play the game, avoiding a sack by Seattle's Craig Terrill and flipping the ball while falling down to his tight end for a key first down:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 160mm, ISO 800, 1/800th sec., f2.8)

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 160mm, ISO 800, 1/800th sec., f2.8)

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 160mm, ISO 800, 1/800th sec., f2.8)

Matt Hasselbeck had tried to make a similar play, but was being hit as he let go of this ball, resulting in an incomplete pass:

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

Seattle's inability to run the ball effectively was an image that was deceptively hard to get. Why? Because most runs got stuffed either in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage, and it's hard to see faces in those situations. In fact, we're doing a post-mortem on the season, and when it comes to images of Shaun Alexander, my editor had to incredulously as me, "did you really only move one photo of Alexander?". Uh, yes? Anyway, the frame shows what it needs to show. I just didn't have more than one:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/800 sec.,f2.8)

Green Bay's Ryan Grant fumbled twice in the first four minutes, and neither of those plays ended up meaning anything when all was said and done. Want to make up for fumbling twice in a nationally televised playoff game? Just run for over 200 yards and chalk up a couple of touchdowns and lead your team to victory. People will forget the fumbles. Trust me:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/800 sec.,f2.8)

Grant, a rookie, doesn't perform the famed "Lambeau Leap", in which players launch themselves into the stands to celebrate a touchdown. However, that doesn't stop his teammate Brandon Jackson from showing how it's down after his third quarter touchdown reception gave the Pack a 35-17 lead:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 800, 1/640 sec., f2.8)

Seahawks fans remember tight end Jerramy Stevens' horrible Super Bowl. After getting rid of Stevens in the off-season, they signed a veteran, good-character guy in Marcus Pollard. Pollard had probably the worst game of his career, and while it was certainly his last as a Seahawk, at age 35, might have been his last game ever. I hate having to shoot players at their lowest moments, but if my job is to shoot them at their highest moments, then I want to be objective:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 800, 1/640 sec., f2.8)

Knowing that coach Mike Holmgren takes time off right after the season to assess his situation and make a decision about returning to the stressful grind of coaching, I made sure to shoot him at the end of the game. He's such a great coach and seems to be an incredible leader that his retirement is sure to be huge news:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/640 sec.,f2.8)

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/640 sec.,f2.8)

The interesting thing is that just after I shot those frames, equipment manager Eric Kennedy came and retrieved Holmgren's headset and gave him a new dry hat for postgame.

I'm glad I've gotten to know coach Holmgren's security team, because I think I could have gotten kicked in the face by an overzealous guard in this situation. I put the camera on the ground with a wide-angle lens because I wanted to make Holmgren look larger than life walking off the field he helped make famous when he coached at Green Bay:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @19mm, ISO 800, 1/250 sec.,f4.5)

You've heard me bitch and moan about indoor stadtiums and domes, so you won't hear me complain about the cold and snow. I'll take it any day.

Snow was the easiest subject to shoot, since it was everywhere. As I've written before, the snow can really mess with the autofocus on the cameras. But hey, it's white, fluffy and pretty. What's not to like?

With the game's outcome pretty well in hand, I was able to take some liberties. The snow got so bad for awhile that visibility was limited to about 40-yards or so. Reporters in the press box looked up from their hot dogs long enough to note that they could barely see the field for a five-minute period. At one point, a snowplow appeared on the field. You don't see that everyday. I half-expected a Zamboni:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 153mm, ISO 1600, 1/640th sec., f2.8)

One of my favorites is shot from the third quarter (when the snow was at its worst). I slowed the shutter speed down in an effort to really show the swirls of the flakes as they fell on the players. By the way, this is one of my favorite pictures from the game (I know some of you will wonder why I shot it at such high ISO when I could have slowed everything down — it's because I had to be able to switch back to a high-shutter speed as the teams started the next play):

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 110mm, ISO 800, 1/20th sec., f13)

Curiously, this image has been apparently selling like crazy off of our website. It wasn't published, but was in our online photo gallery, which leads me to believe a lot of these prints will be hanging on walls in Green Bay:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO 800, 1/250th sec., f5.6)

The season has come to an end. What a blast. I had so much fun this season going out and making pictures. I was charged up from start to finish and looked forward to every game.

I'll take a couple of days off to rest, then get back to work and figure out what to do next.

Thanks for taking the time to check out the blog, and thanks for all your great feedback.

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