Getting the game-winning touchdown
Reuters photographer Brian Snyder is seen at center in his position at the Super Bowl. (Photo by Jeff Snyder)
When Reuters photographers cover a major event like the Super Bowl, each photographer is assigned a specific position on the field. Reuters places a photographer in each corner of the end zones to cover the action, touchdowns and reaction occurring in front of them. We have one photographer on each sideline, moving with the play and concentrating on the quarterbacks, sacks and their reactions. In Tampa for Super Bowl XLIII there were two photographers way overhead in the upper part of the stands, covering both the action and making wide pictures to show the whole scene. I was assigned a position in the first row of the seats in one of the endzones (center in the photo above) — high enough to provide cleaner backgrounds while avoiding being blocked by the security personnel and NFL film crews on the sidelines, but low enough to see the players’ faces and not just the tops of their helmets.
When you boil it down, you are responsible for making the pictures of the action that happens in the portion of the field that you are assigned to cover. For most of the game, all of the action went away from me; the touchdowns and sacks took place mostly on the other end of the field. When the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald scored the go ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, I could see none of it. The Reuters photographers on the other end of the field – Gary Hershorn, Shaun Best and Hans Deryk – made great images of that touchdown. Had the Cardinals held on to win, their photographs would have been the ones on the front pages and sports pages of newspapers everywhere.
But the Steelers got the ball back in the last minutes of the game and drove down the field towards me. What proved to be the winning touchdown, the pass Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw to wide receiver and MVP Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone, happened right in front of me. I had switched to my shorter lens since the only pictures that mattered at that point in the game would be of the winning score (or failed attempt).
That focal length proved to be just wide enough to keep Santonio Holmes in the frame from head to toe, which proved significant since extensive video review by the officials was required to make sure he came down with his feet inbounds. Not often is a still photograph as (or more) conclusive than video replay, but the still picture clearly shows Holmes with control of the ball and both feet touching the ground for the game-winning touchdown.
The next morning, after the picture had appeared on newspaper front pages and sports section fronts here and abroad I would hear from friends, as well as people I had never met before, who contacted me to say that until they saw my picture they were unsure of the referees’ call on the play. Despite seeing the play again and again on television, this still picture, seen the next morning, had been the thing that convinced them that the referees had made the right call.
On the field, once the officials had reviewed the video replays and confirmed that it was a touchdown, my runner took my disk to the photographers workspace on the other side of the endzone, and via Reuters remote editing software Paneikon, editors remotely editing from other parts of the country were seeing my images of the play, as well as those of the other Reuters photographers, within minutes. The editor looking at my take, Mike Segar, chose several of the images from the sequence I shot to move on the Reuters wire.
Since I was slightly farther removed from the play, my photographs kept all of Santonio Holmes in the frame, while Reuters photographer Scott Audette’s images from field level in the corner of the endzone nicely complimented mine with a tighter view of the catch. Each of us had fulfilled our role at the game.