There is something special about going home.
On Sunday, wide receiver and Detroit native, Devin Funchess, got to do just that.
During training camp, I asked Funchess if he was excited about the upcoming regular season game in Detroit and he said, “I’m very excited. I’m going to ball out.”
Knowing he was thrilled to go back to his hometown, I wanted to look for moments that reflected his enthusiasm.
I was out early for warm-ups, anticipating Funchess' arrival onto Ford Field. When he came out, he began his warm-up routine like he usually does by jogging a lap around the field. He then walked over to the Panthers’ sideline, picked up his cell phone and started recording a video. Funchess spoke about having his family at the game, his alma mater Michigan losing the night before, and, “Even though they lost, it’s still ‘Go Blue,’ and ‘Keep Pounding’ today.”
One of our in-house videographers had his camera rolling on Funchess while I crouched at his side getting my shot – Funchess happy to be back in Michigan with his hometown team in the background.
The next opportunity to add to that narrative came when the team was waiting to be introduced.
Funchess was standing a half-step ahead of his teammates in a stoic stance, hands placed over one another. I noticed his pensive state, and with the 400mm, I shot a few frames to capture this time of reflection, with an upward gaze at the stadium, then a steady sight toward the field, readying himself for the game. I chose to shoot these with my longest lens because I wanted tight frames that focused on just his face without the distraction or messy background of the players behind him. I also wanted to make sure the viewer could connect to the photo in the best way possible: seeing his eyes. The photo in which Funchess is gazing up would not be as impactful if I had shot it wide, and you wouldn't be able to see how intently he's taking in the scene.
That said, I did switch over to my 24-70mm lens for a wide shot of Funchess standing underneath the Detroit Lions sign atop the mouth of the tunnel. I shifted my position, and despite being quite obvious, I walked up and framed it so that Funchess was standing under the part of the sign that spoke to where it all started for him: Detroit.
Games are unpredictable, and a lot of long-time shooters will tell you to avoid having a vision in your head of shots you want because then you’re disappointed if they don’t happen. With that knowledge you are always a few steps ahead, focused and prepared. However, I still thought a touchdown from Funchess could be one of the big stories from the game, and while I knew I couldn’t make it happen, I still hoped for it.
Sometimes luck and preparation come together and you can get what you want.
When the Panthers are in the red zone, I usually make my way to the end zone facing the offense, ready with the 70-200mm in-hand and with the 24-70mm around my neck in case I need to go wide. For the Panthers' final drive of the first half, I decided to vary my perspective and position myself at the side, between the two pylons. It gave me a clear view of the catch and everything after.
When Cam Newton's pass went to Funchess in the end zone, he launched his long frame into the air and caught the ball with both hands over his head. He came down from the catch and stumbled to one knee, but sprang immediately to two feet, standing tall and yelling. As his teammates rushed over to celebrate, he had already started by doing the blade dance, a move that just like Funchess himself, found its beginning in Detroit.