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|| News Item: Posted 2013-03-22

Covering Super Bowl XLVII

By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter Newsletter

Editor’s Note: The Sports Shooter Newsletter asked several members of about the recent Super Bowl in New Orleans. Sports Shooter founder Robert Hanashiro conducted the Q&A.

SPORTS SHOOTER: First off some background --- How many Super Bowls have you? Which one was your first?

Photo by Paul Kitagaki Jr.

Photo by Paul Kitagaki Jr.

Paul Kitagaki Jr., and Nhat Meyer at Super Bowl XLVII, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at the Superdome in New Orleans.
GEORGE BRIDGES: I’ve worked the last 14 Super Bowls. Though I get out and cover local professional and college action from my home base in Houston -- and over the years have covered anywhere from 10-18 NFL games a season -- for the Super Bowl I generally serve the role of an editor. I did shoot the game in Houston in 2004. For our company it is easier for us to draw on the talent of our shooters from our various papers and use my strengths as an editor to quickly go through the take to get images to our clients.

The games I have covered are, in order: Atlanta, Tampa, New Orleans, San Diego, Houston, Jacksonville, Detroit, Miami, Phoenix, Tampa, Miami, Dallas, Indianapolis and New Orleans.

You see a few repeat cities on that list, so NFL please make a note to select some future sites in places I have never been. Maybe Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Portland, Oregon, Butte, Montana, or Rome, Italy. Thanks.

PETER READ MILLER: I think this one was number 36. I started at IX, Vikes - Steelers at Tulane Stadium in a, to me, unexpected rain. I missed X and XVI.

BOB DEUTSCH: I have covered 26 Super Bowls. The first was XX, then all the rest except for two missed due to Olympics - Torino and Vancouver.

ROBERT BECK: What do you want from me? My Super Bowl life history? For crying out loud…I have only been to:
-Rose Bowl: A college buddy and I try to sell our tickets before the Raider/Viking fiasco. We can't get face value so we gutted faced and screw up the halftime card stunts … along with every other Raider Fan.
-Phoenix: I shoot from the top of the stadium. … next to catering and gain about thirty pounds
-San Diego: Ted Pio Roda is my asst and Elway wins fist SB.
-San Diego: My daughter is asst I get her boyfriend and my son seats. We get zip pictures but everyone has a great time.
- Houston: KK and I share a room. That will never happen again. 'Nuff said.
-Dallas: I slip on some ice and strain any and all muscles I have. Erin is once again my asst (I think … I'm on a lot of pain meds). We get our first SB cover.
-Miami: Some guy from Fuji is my asst and I sit next to a drunk and frisky pseudo swimsuit model.
-Indianapolis: Bub assists at his first Super Bowl
-New Orleans: Bub assists at his second SB and we get a second cover.

Nhat Meyer: This was my second Super Bowl, the first was 10 years back in 2003 in San Diego for the Raiders - Buccaneers. We will only cover the Super Bowl if there is a local team ---Raiders or 49ers --- or if it happens to be in the Bay Area, of course.

Photo by Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated
Sports Shooter: What was your most memorable Super Bowl game?

Bridges: There are several that stick out for various reasons. Obviously for the fact that I was on the field shooting the ’04 game in Houston makes that my favorite. My brothers-in-law also served as runners for that game and they realized that I actually work for a living.

Atlanta in 2000 stands out not just because it was my first Super Bowl but also because it was the first we had done fully digital. These were the days of Viper cards and 64mhz processors, so we were backed up with disks to edit even before the game started.

Over the years we’ve honed our editing system and it works very smoothly. Though everyone has experience doing games all-digital, at the big game I see editors from other publications doing their first SB that will be totally inundated by photographers’ disks and struggling just like our team did so many years ago. No matter how much a photographer normally shoots in a regular season game, they will double or triple their output for the Super Bowl if they are not used to doing the championship game. That is just the way it goes.

Super Bowl XL in Detroit is memorable not because of the game or the weather everyone feared that really didn’t play a factor, but because it was less than two weeks after my son was born. I flew in Saturday morning and out on an 8 a.m. flight Monday morning staying up all night to get to the airport on time. I was so anxious to get back and don’t think I’ve ever spent so little time on the ground at a big event.

As for any play that really stands out over the years it has to be from the Houston game of a hit on Carolina QB Jake Delhomme that forced a fumble. It was one of those shots that you know look good the instant it is shot, before you take a peek on the monitor.

Miller: Super Bowl XXIII --- ‘Niners beat the Bengals on John Taylor's last minute TD catch from Joe Montana. Great game --- famous for Joe Montana noticing John Candy on the sidelines during the last drive. My first SB cover of Jerry Rice making a catch across the middle to set up the JT play: 300mm f/2, Kodachrome 160 pushed to 640 ISO.

Deutsch: Most memorable game? Probably Giants win in 2008 17-14 over the Patriots. David Tyree's famous helmet catch ---unreal catch, unreal photo --- I am a New Yorker after all:)

Beck: Most memorable Super Bowl? I don't really have one. I think the playoff games are more exciting. The one in Miami was fun. Jeff Weig, Matt Ginella, (Brad Smith?) and I went jet skiing. Some family in the parking lot asked Walter Iooss if he would take a snap of them. "Do you know that Mr. 350 covers just snapped a family keepsake for you with a throw-away camera?" The ones with my kids are a treat.

Meyer: This was only the second Super Bowl I have covered. The first one I covered I did not enjoy. Almost every play went the opposite direction, it was a super boring game because it was such a blowout and we had gotten to the stadium so early that by the time the game started I was about ready to pass out. This last game was exciting and a few plays came my way including the last big play - the Crabtree pass attempt on fourth down.

Photo by George Bridges, MCT

Photo by George Bridges, MCT

New England's Mike Vrabel (50) forces Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme (17) to fumble in the second quarter of Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Sports Shooter: How did Super Bowl XLVII compare with past Super Bowls?

Bridges: The sidelines are actually less crowded now. A few years ago the NFL did a big audit and cut most organizations down on the number of credentials they are given for field photographers. Papers used to getting four on the field now get two and the NFL brass polices who gets what very tightly.

Also years ago the pass was generic for a position that could be given to anyone, even handed off to someone else to shoot the second half. Now each position (field, elevated, roamer, messenger, editor) must be designated at the time the credentials are applied for and the passes are ID’ed with name and picture. This year, field access required scanning your pass at an RFID machine.

For editors things have changed mainly in the technology and the number of images turned out. We have gone from ISDN lines to DSL lines to Internet bandwidths that send a photo before the progress window can pop up. As cameras have become faster the number of pictures edited goes up and up and up.

The first one I did we probably had a mix of Nikon D1 bodies as well as DCS520 cameras for the Canon shooters and probably an NC2000 thrown in there (been a long time the memories are worn). So the fastest camera was 4 fps with a buffer of 12 jpeg frames. Now we’re at 9-10 fps with 40 frame buffers.

Then and now, PhotoMechanic is our editing software.

Miller: I would say the trend in the past few years is towards fewer photogs on the field. Unfortunately TV and NFL Films are more than filling the gaps. I thought the vibe on the sidelines this year was particularly mellow. Maybe that's just NOLA. I rarely watch the halftime show.

Deutsch: This Super Bowl now is less crowded than 5 years ago. The NFL has limited the credentials and the sidelines are probably similar to a mid season Giants home game. No problem getting a spot on the side, end zones are full though, but manageable.

Beck: Super Bowls are too big. There is too much lead in time. The halftime is too long. I been lucky that most of mine have been competitive. How does it compare to years ago? Not sure … I've sat at the top of the stadium and I've been on the field. I've been at the fifty halfway up and in the first row. They've all been a bit different for me.

Photo by Peter Read Miller, Sports Illustrated

Photo by Peter Read Miller, Sports Illustrated

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in action during Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Meyer: Compared to 10 years ago, there were a lot less photographers. The NFL limited every publication to only two field positions. So from the Bay Area newspapers there were a total of 7 photographers - 2 from the Bay Area News Group (San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times), 2 from the San Francisco Chronicle, 2 from the Sacramento Bee and 1 from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Everyone else was in front row seats in the stands or elsewhere in the stadium.

The interesting this is that 10 years ago the San Jose Mercury News, alone, had four photographers on the field. The San Francisco Chronicle had at least four as well. So between those two papers there were six fewer photographers on the field.

Sports Shooter: Has the NFL's handling of the post-game scrum improved?
(Can you control it?)

Bridges: The NFL goes back and forth each year on how to handle post game. I think they are still trying to figure out what works best and have not found that sweet spot. Most of the time it is every photographer for himself/herself. Other years they have put security on the field to limit which photographers get out when (this year a select few had access at the buzzer while most photographers had to wait two minutes – several folks went on the buzzer not matter their assigned access.

In Jacksonville it was deemed no one would be allowed on the field. After some skirmishes with security and a now infamous arrest, that policy thankfully changed after one experiment.

Miller: It looked a little better, but I still wouldn't want to go out there.

Deutsch: The end was different this year. The NFL had security guards every two yards surrounding the field with rope to keep everyone off the field except for pre-designated post game shooters --- generally one or two per major organization. This lasted two minutes (or more) until the initial celebration was over and the stage was set and fenced off. The inside area closest to stage was also limited to the post game designated shooters. The runners were kept off the field for 5 minutes... so shipping was harder.

This is the same arrangement the NFL did a few years ago, but this time we were all advised well in advance, not a surprise sprung on us during the game. I'm not sure if it helped the "scrum" at all.

Halftime made some nice photos IF you could see past all the TV cameras and jibs. Not much room to see anything at field level

Beck: The end of the game? Nonsense. This year only certain folks were supposed to be allowed on the field right away … but the usual suspects were out there with their fisheyes. It should be like the Masters … NOBODY SHOULD GO OUT AT ALL. Then everybody would get what they need. Fans could enjoy the celebration and so could the players. The NFL could control it if they wanted to.

Meyer: It was great for me because I didn't have to deal with it at all. Between the two field passes they assigned us only one of those passes had "instant access" to the field.

Jose Carlos Fajardo, a photographer with our sister paper, the Contra Costa Times, was given that access. Those of us who didn't have "instant access" had to wait for the clock, on the scoreboard to count down 2:00 to have field access. I was near where the 49ers left the field so instead of trying to shoot some sort of celebration, I gave that up and went for dejection - the players walking off the field.

The field looked like a mess. But overall it did seem somewhat more civil - restricting the amount of people on the field right after the game seemed to be a good idea and it appeared most everyone was able to get a shot of the Harbaugh Brothers after the game.

Sports Shooter: What is the best city to host the Super Bowl (and why)?

Bridges: New Orleans is probably the best because everything is centrally located (no driving to the outskirts to the stadium) and it is a hospitality-driven city. They know how to throw a party and entertain. I do get tired of the people who are falling-down drunk at 11AM, but people seem to forget their dignity in New Orleans and don’t care if they are a 60-year-old grandfather who owns a small business. They just get hammered when they feel like it.

San Diego has great weather but won’t see the NFL return until the stadium is completely renovated or a new one built.

Indianapolis and Houston did good jobs with downtown concerts and a lively atmosphere. Miami has the great weather, but things are too spread out to make working the full week easy.

Dallas had a shot at being a good one, but an ice storm made for one of the more treacherous drives from stadium to hotel I have ever had in my life and don’t want to repeat it any time soon.

Miller: New Orleans for food, fun and culture. San Diego because I can drive
there. I hate to say it, but Indy last year was friendly and convenient.

Photo by Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Photo by Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Jacoby Jones of the Ravens returns the second-half kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown during Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Deutsch: The best Super Bowl city? Well, Nawlins gets the default vote for any sporting event, though the combined Super Bowl and Mardi Gras crowds made it almost impossible to walk or eat. Dallas gets vote for coolest stadium.

Beck: Best host city? Saw Los Lobos on the street FOR FREE in Houston. I mentioned the jet ski gig in Miami. New Orleans was fun. All of the places offer something … like ice in Dallas.

Meyer: Can't say… When I was in San Diego we flew down the day before the game so I wasn't able to spend much time in San Diego. I've spent some time in San Diego before, and I can say that New Orleans certainly has a lot of character. Although I was not able to get out as much as I hoped I did really like the city. I'm hoping the 49ers get the Super Bowl in 2016 by then the 49ers will be in their new stadium in Santa Clara which is like 15 minutes from my house.

Sports Shooter: How different is the Super Bowl from a regular season game for photographers?

Bridges: The biggest thing, for the photographers, is the pressure they put on themselves. You feel you can’t miss a play. Any one thing from a missed tackle to a fumble to a slip by the QB can mean the championship.

For us editors it’s the much greater workload. As I said before, you may have the veteran shooter who still shoots like the film days and makes 200-300 frames on a regular-season game, but they will shoot 2,000 frames at the Super Bowl

For the three photographers I edited at this year’s game (another editor had the rest of our crew), I looked at more than 10,000 frames. I would have half or a third that much if I edited three shooters during week three of the regular season.

Miller: Shooting for Sports Illustrated we are in assigned spots which basically means you get what comes your way and if nothing good of the winning team comes your way --- you suck.

Deutsch: The Super Bowl is very different for me in terms of game coverage. I normally do games alone, but for SB we have four shooters on the field, so we do "zones" or "quadrants"... much easier than running all over the stadium, but you have to be lucky that the important action is in your half of the field. Also, the halftime show is like a whole separate event to be covered.

Beck: The Super Bowl is different for me because I'm stationary in the big game. I can't say I like that aspect of it but I get it.

Meyer: For a regular season game I typically get to the game 2 hours beforehand. For this game I got there 7 days beforehand! Those were not easy days either, like I hoped, I was typically working 12 hours a day covering press conferences and outputting slideshows and videos.

The press conferences were typically at 8 am which was brutal for me because that's 6 AM pacific time - and since I usually work the night shift I don't typically get up early. There is, of course, a lot more hype, and half time is nearly three times as long as normal.

Actually covering the game - since the NFL only allowed two photographers per organization it was a vast difference from 2003 where it was tough to move around, this Super Bowl felt like a regular season game, I could, for the most part, go where I wanted to go when I wanted to go there, which was really great.

Sports Shooter: The 49ers last play: Interference? Or no interference?

Bridges: No clue. Didn’t see it. This is the first time that I didn’t’ have time to look up at one of the televisions in the workroom. I saw zero action, zero commercials and zero Beyoncé.

Miller: Interference ---TOTALLY!

Deutsch: Interference on the 49'ers last play? Who knows, I was too busy shooting it!

Beck: Interference? Hard to say. Would they have called it earlier in the game? Or does the "final play" magnify it? I think it was a good no call. The ‘Niners should have scored somewhere in that series … odd sequence of play calling there.

Meyer:This play happened right in front of me --- I thought Smith pushed or at least interfered with Crabtree before the ball got anywhere near them. I remember shooting the picture and waiting for a flag to be thrown. I was surprised it wasn't.

I haven't watched a reply of that play - and I'm probably not the most reliable person to say whether or not a penalty should have been called because I was watching it through my 70-200 - but I was surprised nothing was called.

Sports Shooter: What went through your mind when the lights went out in the Superdome? (And what did you do for 35 minutes while play was suspended?

Bridges: In the workroom we just heard a loud bang and some nearby machinery spin down. At first I wasn’t sure what happened as our overhead lights remained on and the laptops kept going on their batteries. The monitor for my server went out so I realized something was up. Our Internet was out because the network switches lost power.

A runner brought in disks from the field so I ingested those on a laptop and turned on my Sprint hot-spot device to send a few blackout images out that way while waiting for the power to come back.

Because I still had halftime disks on the laptops, I edited those and got them ready to go when the power and Internet to come back up. When it did, I sent those images, got the server started and logged in and got back down to editing action. On Windows Server OS you have to put in a reason for any shut down or unplanned stopping of the OS, so when that window came up I simply typed: “power outage at the Super Bowl” and continued working.

Miller: Part of me was amused that something like that (the lights going out) could happen under the auspices of the normally buttoned up NFL. Part of me did NOT want to come back on Monday. I went over and shot the Ravens bench.

Meyer: I should have worked this better. I shot some pictures, but perhaps I was jaded from the blackout we had at Candlestick a few years ago. For some reason I was really hot, I was sweating a little bit and I was a little light headed (I had been fighting a little sickness for the last week and half) so it was nice to have a little break.

I was sitting next to Jed Jacobsohn, shooting for the New York Times, and we joking that maybe the break was good for the 49ers and they needed two quick touchdowns once the game started again to get back in the game. Surprisingly once the game restarted I think in a span of three to four minutes (game time) they did just that. I was surprised to hear that it was a 35-minute break - I honestly thought it was 15-20 minutes. I guess I needed the break too.

George Bridges is the Senior Photo Editor, McClatchy-Tribune Photo Service; Peter Read Miller is a Los Angeles – based photographer who works for Sports Illustrated; Bob Deutsch is USA TODAY’s New York – based staff photographer; Robert Beck is a Southern California based photographer with Sports Illustrated; Nhat Meyer is a staff photographer with the San Jose Mercury News.

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