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Super Bowl Photographers Damian Strohmeyer and Peter Read Miller
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Super Bowl Photographers Damian Strohmeyer and Peter Read Miller

We interview two top SI sports shooters

We caught up with Sports Illustrated photographers Damian Strohmeyer and Peter Read Miller to find out what it's like to cover the Super Bowl—and about the friendly competition to get the coveted cover shot.


In order to be a stellar sports photographer, you need skill, determination and a quick eye for the right moment. (Having access to at least four camera bodies helps too!) Damian Strohmeyer and Peter Read Miller are sports photography veterans who have each covered over 25 and 35 Super Bowl games, respectively. Here’s what they had to say about shooting the Super Bowl.



Photo © Damian Strohmeyer / Sports Illustrated.


First of all, what attracted you to sports photography?

 

Damian Strohmeyer: Well, I was always a sports person. I played all sports in high school and played college basketball and, y'know, just always loved being around sports. Then I met some people who were involved in the photography industry and sports photography and I kind of stumbled into it.

 

Peter Read Miller: I started photography in college as a hobby. I went to Los Angeles University of Southern California and sports were really big there, and they still are, so I found myself shooting a lot [of sports]. When I got out of school, I started working for the athletic department, shooting. I did a lot of other photography, and I still do, but in this business you get pegged pretty easily and put in a niche, so that's kind of my niche and it's gone on to be pretty good for me.

 

Are there any technical areas that need more attention when shooting the Super Bowl?

 

PRM: No, it's pretty straightforward.

 

DS: The volume is greater on the server-end and transmission end. [The digital techs] are opening up more bandwidth to get the photos moved faster; but from a camera and lens standpoint, it's no different from any other game.



Photo © Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated.

 

Are you assigned a certain area of the field or is it just a turf war?

 

PRM: At Sports Illustrated, we have a system of covering of the Super Bowl where we usually bring in 11 photographers and everyone has a position. There are usually two [photographers] put in each end zone, one [photographer] at each sideline, four [photographers] in seats at the corners of the end zone and one [photographer] overhead. You have your area and you're really not supposed to move out of it. So what comes your way, comes your way. You don't really have to make a lot of decisions as to where you are going to be on the field for each play.

 

Is there a lot of competition among photographers for capturing the most iconic shot of the night?

 

DS: It's a team effort, but there's always competition. There are 11 guys, y'know, we all have huge egos, and the Super Bowl cover obviously is a huge competition. We have a really veteran group of people. I started 20 years ago and most of the guys that I work with now were all there 20 years ago. In terms of prestige, the Super Bowl cover is right there with Olympic covers, the Final Four cover and NBA Finals [covers]. In terms of prestige, the Super Bowl cover is probably the biggest cover. Guys like Walter Iooss had 280 covers or something and John Biever had 150 or something covers. Even somebody like me had 65 [covers]. We've all had covers... so the Super Bowl one is one you compete pretty hard for. It's competitive—but it's not cut-throat competitive—it's friendly competitive because everybody hopes it happens on your end. You're working with ten other really competent people and you feel really confident that if it doesn't happen in front of you and it happens in front of one of them, they're going to get it.



Photo © Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated.


PRM: We're working as a team, but everyone wants to get the cover. Everybody wants to get the big pictures. So in that sense, there's still competition, but at the end of the day, we want to have a magazine come out that has every significant play and all of the best pictures available.

 

Are you constantly shooting throughout the entire game?

 

DS: The entire game. Never, never stop.

 

So how many CF cards do you go through?

 

PRM: We have our editors on site, so we have runners taking our cards after any significant play and at the quarter and half, etcetera, and after the cards have been dumped, we get them back, so it's hard to say. I'll probably have eight to ten cards in play at any given time, but that means four are back in the trailer being downloaded while the other four I'm shooting and they kind of rotate out.

 

Are you using flash at all?

 

DS: Occasionally post-game. Now the light[ing] has become so good and the digital files are so good when using a higher ISO, I find it's not necessary [to use flash] and [using a flash] probably restricts you in terms of how much you can shoot and what you can shoot.

 

What's in your camera bag?

 

DS: 400mm, 300mm, 70-200mm, 24-70mm [lenses] will be my basic kit and a 16-35mm for the run-around, post-game stuff. I'm a Canon photographer. I'll bring five camera bodies. I transport my checked stuff in a Versa Flex system [case] made by this guy in Cleveland Ohio, similar to a Lightware case, and then I use a Tamrac rolling bag.

 

PRM: I'll use four Canon EOS Mark IVs. I may have a fifth one. I always feel like I should have a fifth one. Basically, I'll have a 24-70mm [lens] around my neck for stuff that happens right in front of me; a 70-200mm, which I'll use when the play gets somewhat close to the goal line; and the 400mm f2.8 and 600mm f4.

 


Photo © Damian Strohmeyer / Sports Illustrated.


Do you pack anything specific to deal with inclement weather?

 

PRM: It's indoors [this year]. N year it's going to be in New York, outdoors, so that could be a whole different story. I've had rain in Miami a couple of years ago and really nobody was expecting it, so that was really uncomfortable—rain without any rain gear.

 

Is it more difficult to concentrate on your work when a team a like is playing?

 

DS: I'm not a fan at all. I could not care less who plays in the game. I think having a team you are familiar with in the game effects how you cover the game because you have more familiarities with their plays and what they are prone to do, and position yourself accordingly.


PRM: I am a fan of sorts, but I am not a fan of any particular team. I am a fan of teams that are [physically] close to me that are good to work with. When local teams are good, that means my travel is less. I'm in L.A. There are no pro teams so I'm going to have to go somewhere pretty much either weekend. It's like, do I go to San Francisco or do I go to Denver or do I have to go up to Seattle? My fandom is very pragmatic.

 


Photo © Peter Read Miller / Sports Illustrated.

 

Peter Read Miller is southern California-based sports photographer and Sports Illustrated staff photographer who teaches an annual Sports Photography Workshop in Denver, CO. This year's workshop will run April 9-15, 2012 and is limited to 30 students. 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. For more information, please visit http://www.peterreadmiller.com

 

Damian Strohmeyer is a Boston-based sports photographer and Sports Illustrated staff photographer who contributes regularly as a faculty member to The Sports Photographer Workshop in Colorado Springs, CO. Strohmeyer has received many awards from the National Press Photographers Association, Pictures of the Year, The National Headliners Awards and The Pro Football Hall of Fame, who also exhibits some of his photographs. You can view his portfolio at: http://www.damianstrohmeyer.com


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