January 23, 2012
Covering NFC Championship Game

My passion for photography started in 1988 as a teenager in rural Fresno County. My first photographs were of clouds rolling past the cotton farm we lived on in Huron. I've traveled to many places since then and covered many assignments, but one thing I have always remembered is you have to be prepared to make the shot.

Recently, while covering the California Hall of Fame, I heard this statement: "If you do what you love, you'll never have to work a day in your life." For the past 20 years I've been doing just that.

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Last Saturday night, while traveling to San Francisco for Sunday's 49ers NFC championship game, our photo assistant, Reggie Pascual, pointed out the glowing illumination of the Coit Tower. Poor José Luis Villegas who was driving, missed a chance to capture this image. As we drove across the Bay Bridge I quickly pointed my Nikon D3S camera with a 24-120mm f4 lens. To make sure the image wasn't blurry I shot it on manual at 6400 ISO and at a 200 shutter speed. It pays to keep your eyes open, or at least have Reggie in the car with you. Sorry José, next time I'll drive. Thumbnail image for 20120122_ha_NFC_champion0986.jpg

Covering sports can be rewarding and stressful at the same time. Sometimes you get lucky, but most of the time you have to make your own luck so it's especially important to be prepared. A few days before the game we had a staff meeting to discuss our photo coverage plan. The field was divided into quadrants and each of us, Bryan Patrick, Paul Kitagaki Jr., José Luis Villegas and myself were assigned to specific sections of the field. We rotated spots at halftime and as luck would have it, I was positioned to capture Kyle Williams critical mistakes.

We carried a lot of equipment into the game. I used three Nikon D3s camera bodies with a Nikon 400mm f2.8, a Nikon 24-120mm f4, and a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8. The most important part for this day was to stay dry. Digital cameras are very sensitive to water - trust me we've learned from experience. We used the Hydrophobia protective covers from Think Tank and they kept our cameras and lenses dry.


This photo of Kyle Williams dropping the ball on a punt return was made with the Nikon 400mm f2.8 lens. When photographing sports it's important to have some knowledge of the sport that you are covering. Whenever possible I listen to the live radio broadcast of the game. Being able to listen to the analysis of the game gives you a good idea about what pictures are most important to tell the story of the game. As my boss says: "show me how the game was won or lost, and show me how it felt."

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