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|| News Item: Posted 2011-02-15

The Super Bowl is a Funny Game
Sports Illustrated staff photographer Peter Read Miller reflects back on photographing 35 Super Bowls

By Brad Mangin,

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

This photograph of Packer's quarterback Aaron Rodgers was published as the opening spread for the game story in Sports Illustrated. See behind the scenes video by Max Morse here:
Sports Illustrated staff photographer and member Peter Read Miller has accomplished many things since he was a college classmate of O.J. Simpson at USC. One of the coolest things he has done is photograph 35 Super Bowls, including Super Bowl XLV held recently Arlington, Texas.

Miller has witnessed so much history covering the biggest annual sporting event in the United States and understands the pressure involved in documenting the big game.

"When I was starting out shooting for the NFL I thought I needed to have my best game while shooting the Super Bowl. Dave Boss from the NFL told me that was not true. He told me it was just a game and that I should do the best I can and don’t beat myself up afterwards. This is a good lesson, but you always have regrets," said Miller.

The football field is a large piece of real estate to cover. "At Sports Illustrated we have 11 photographers covering the game so there is always someone close by and behind you who will get the picture. This allows me to take a chance at a unique picture by putting myself in a different position. Every big play will yield a picture from 3-4 angles by our team of shooters," said Miller.

What Miller loves about shooting a football game is that he has a choice to go wherever he wants on the field so he can be in the exact spot where he thinks something will happen. He can also move around to shoot the light from the best angle. It is a mental game he is always playing trying to guess what will happen next. "In the Super Bowl these choices are taken away from me. At Sports Illustrated we have what Director of Photography Steve Fine calls the 'Ty Law Rule,'" said Miller.

In Super Bowl XXXVI Miller was covering the game between the St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots. Miller left his assigned position anticipating a Rams drive in the first half. Patriots cornerback Ty Law ruined Miller’s plan by intercepting a Kurt Warner pass and returning it 47 yards for a touchdown. Law ran into the end zone right where Miller had positioned before he left his spot. "Since then people pretty much stay in their spots. Whatever comes your way, you better not miss it," Miller said.

One of the things Miller looks forward to every year is seeing friends he only gets to see once a year at this annual reunion of photographers from all over the country. "Socially the Super Bowl is a great thing. We are a community that is so spread out. Getting the chance to see guys like Tony Tomsic, Mickey Palmer, and Michael Zagaris is a real highlight," said Miller.

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated

This is the opening spread by Miller from last year's Super Bowl.
Every year on the night before the game Fine gathers his staff for a special dinner. "This year’s dinner was one of the best we have ever had, but the SI swimsuit models went to the writers dinner. I rarely get to see many of our staffers from the east coast, so having the chance to guys like Simon Bruty, Bill Frakes and Damien Strohmeyer is really fun. I also get to spend time with some of the great people from our office in New York like Linda Bonenfant and George Washington. It is like an annual reunion," said Miller.

Joining Miller this year for Super Bowl XLV was his assistant and good friend Max Morse. Morse has been with Miller for the past eight Super Bowls, and he relishes the chance to spend the week every year with his good friend. "It is really cool helping Peter at the game. Sometimes I think about how much fun it would be to sit on my couch drinking beer and watching the game on television. Then I realize that I get to sit alongside a sports photography legend while he covers the biggest sports event in the world. There is nothing cooler than that. I hope he gets to shoot 35 more!" Morse said.

"Not only do I get to work with Peter, but I get exposed to some of the greatest photographers in the world. Besides Sports Illustrated, every news agency, newspaper and magazine bring their top photographers to the event- all of them vying for THE SHOT," said Morse.

Getting the shot is what it is all about to most photographers. Over the past 35 Super Bowls Miller has had some good days and some bad days. Many times all the action goes away from him. Some games he gambles and it pays off. Some games he gambles and it backfires on him. This year he took a chance working in the back of the end zone with Fine watching from behind. Miller missed the play, but it was OK with Fine. Miller was taking a chance and it did not work out, but some of the other SI shooters nailed the picture so everything ended well.

"I’ve been shut out before. You walk away from the game and wake up a few days later with a very empty feeling," Miller said.

Luckily Miller was not shut out this year. Last week’s issue featured one of Miller’s images of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as the double truck opener for the game story.

See behind-the-scenes video with the Sports Illustrated photo team at Super Bowl XLV by Max Morse:

Peter Read Miller's 2011 Sports Photography Workshop will run from Monday night, April 4 through Sunday, April 10, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The workshop will be based in the studio of one of Denver’s top commercial photographers. The studio is centrally located near downtown. Shoots will take place all over the Denver areas and the Front Range.

The 20 to 25 students will have the opportunity to photograph a wide variety of sports and sporting events. In the past these have included Mountain biking, lacrosse, fencing, boxing, basketball (including setting up strobes to light a high school gym), baseball, college football (CU spring scrimmage) and track and field. A day is also spent shooting portraits of various athletes in the studio.

Photo by Johnny Iacono

Photo by Johnny Iacono

FOUR LEGENDS GATHER IN DALLAS: These guys have seen it all. From left: Mickey Palmer, John Biever, Walter Iooss and Tony Tomsic have photographed all 45 Super Bowls.
In addition to action photography, the workshop covers portrait lighting with strobes, both in the studio and on location, arena lighting and the set-up and use of remote cameras. Student work is reviewed and critiqued every morning and each student receives a one on one portfolio review.

Additional instructors and speakers include:

• Steve Fine-New York, NY. Director of Photography, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

• Grant Leighton-Denver based advertising and portrait photographer and photography instructor at The University of Colorado/Denver.

• Max Morse-San Francisco based photographer/videographer. Max’s clients include Canon, Getty Images and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.

• Shawn Cullen-San Diego, CA. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Lighting Technician.

Students will have access to the latest cameras and lenses from Canon as well as lighting gear from Dynalite. In addition the workshop will have a pool of gear for setting up remotes and triggering options including Pocket Wizards.

Past students have gone on the shoot for major newspapers and agencies (Getty Images, US Presswire, the Associated Press) and become NFL team photographers. Many have had their work published in national publications including SI, ESPN The Magazine and The Sporting News. A student in the 2010 workshop had a photo he shot during the workshop run in the “Leading Off” section of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, while another has just had a shot run in the magazine.

Tuition is $1495. This includes all instruction, a one on one portfolio review with Peter and all model and location fees.

To apply for the workshop visit Peter's website:

A registration form will be available soon.

Related Links:
Peter's website comments
Miller's member page
Behind the Scenes Video

Contents copyright 2018, Do not republish without permission.
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