The most fun part of a touchdown, sack or interception is the reaction. Capturing the peak action is vital, but almost more important are the celebrations, beating of chests, hoisting of teammates and all the raw emotion that accompanies it. A favorite celebration that I always hope comes my way is when the defense makes an interception or recovers a fumble and heads toward the end zone. It helps to be in the end zone facing defense because then they will be running in your direction, hopefully to the same side where I am planted. This past Sunday I had the best luck when I was one of a few photographers in the end zone when cornerback Donte Jackson recovered a fumble.
The fumble occurred when safety Eric Reid was able to knock the ball out of the hands of Titans running back Dion Lewis.
Usually when this happens, I try to follow the ball itself and not a specific player because you never know who will ultimately end up with possession. I was shooting with my 400mm lens with a 1.4x converter (which extends the focal length, giving me a tighter view of the scene) and trying to keep up with the ball as it bounced through players' feet until it was stopped by the weight of a body landing on it; that person was Jackson.
Of course when someone flings themselves on top of a loose ball, a dog pile ensues. That scene is a jumble of backs and flailing limbs and the best thing to do is wait. Luckily since I saw Jackson hurtle himself on the ball I knew he would emerge victoriously.
Not only was I right, but I was also in perfect position capture all of the jubilation with the defensive linemen, Brian Burns and Vernon Butler. As he was running, he held the ball up and pointed toward the end zone so I knew they were heading my way.
As they were running, I stayed on my 400mm lens with the converter, which allowed for tight photos with a clean background. However, as they got closer I knew I would have to switch to a wider lens because they would soon be too close to stay in focus.
As I moved the 400mm lens from my face, they were almost in front of me. Burns must have seen me and gestured to Jackson. I quickly reached for my 70-200mm and focused it to 90mm, which kept them all in the frame with some room the breathe. Before I knew it they were posing for me and I could not have asked for a better situation.
I want to end on another end zone celebratory pose by the defense, which came after an interception by safety Tre Boston. A lot of these scenes have ended up coming my way this season, but as luck would have it, this one went in the direction of the other team photographer, Brandon Todd. He has been waiting for a celebration like this to come to him and it finally happened. I was on the opposite end zone with one of our videographers and he said "Brandon just ran in to take the photo." He saw his opportunity and took advantage of the scene, using his 16-35mm wide angle lens to capture the entire scene, including the video board displaying "THIEVES!" in the background. It made for quite a powerful frame and marked another coveted shot off of his bucket list.