Team photographer Eric Lars Bakke has been working with the Broncos for 26 years. His photography blog will serve as a unique look from the perspective of an NFL photographer, periodically updating the site with tales from the sidelines, some of his favorite photos and the stories behind them.
Each week I look forward to a new game and the photographic challenges that present themselves on the field.
By this point of the season I have fulfilled many of the requests for certain games, players and on-field events needed by the various departments for which I report.
Still there is always a need for more and better photographs.
I try to document the game as best I can by keeping track of key plays, tendencies of the offense or defense as well a individual players that are making an impact.
The most frustrating time during a game is when you think you have anticipated a play or possibly the direction or area of a play and then come up empty-handed.
We have all seen the occasional play on TV when the cameraman hasn’t quite picked up on a play or the camera being called upon by the director or producer appears to be out of position.
The other tricky aspect is learning the tendencies of individual players. Some running backs stay erect when they run and others tend to hunch over more. Some receivers, because of their routes, tend to extend their bodies more or bob their heads or shift their shoulders.
The more you learn about players, the easier it is to cover them photographically.
The other frustrating part of covering a game is when a terrific play has developed and you are locked in and dead on the action only to be slightly out of focus or in many more instances blocked on the play by another player or an official.
It’s a sport of many consistencies and inconsistencies. You have to anticipate be alert to all zones of the field and use your hand-eye coordination, but even then you can get beat on a play.
The last three elements that often work their way into a potentially great photograph as a spoiler are yellow flags, fumbles and incompletes. They happen every game all around the NFL.
You never know when they are going to happen, so one covers the game like the next play is going to be the great one, the one instance that will make the best image of the day.
Let’s take the fourth quarter from last Sunday’s game as an example. During the Broncos impressive comeback, league-leader Brandon Lloyd (58 receptions for 1,122 yards and 9 touchdowns for the season) was continuing his “pants on fire” performance.
He had five balls thrown his way. Three were incompletes ,one of which I will describe momentarily, and the other two were caught for touchdowns. That’s impressive!
Like the players, when photographing, you don’t give up on a play. That one incomplete to Brandon I mentioned came at 3:58 remaining in the game.
He had the secondary beat. It was a deep ball from Kyle Orton. Lloyd began to dive. I locked in on him and the ball anticipating a phenomenal catch.
It was, however, with the speed and the all out effort he gave, it exposed him painfully to the turf.
He had the grasp of the ball as clumps of grass and dirt exploded. The impact robbed him of all but probably a single breath of air and squeezed the life out of his grab.
Five plays later Brandon broke in front of a defender on the goal line and snagged a five-yard touchdown pass.
He never gave up on the ball. And I never gave up following him.
-Eric Lars Bakke, Team Photagrapher