I got a pleasant surprise today when I received a congratulatory email from my friend, photographer Tim Zielenbach. The news was confirmed when I opened my mailbox and saw my photo on the cover of the new Sports Illustrated.
It’s an action photo from the Clemson – Alabama game that I shot on Saturday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Often the editors let the photographer know that they have the cover when the magazine closes on Monday night. But I didn’t hear from anyone this week and I actually felt like I had a lousy shoot. Shows what I know.
The cover story is about Alabama and college football’s Southeastern Conference. Coincidentally, two years ago I also had an action shot on the cover for another SEC story.
This is my seventh SI cover (not counting special issues), but it’s still pretty exciting news. My first one was five years ago this week. Four of the seven were college football photos.
I shot the Alabama game with the Nikon D3 and a 600 mm lens. My exposure settings were 1/800 of a second at F/4.0 (wide open on the 600) and a jaw-dropping ISO of 3200. The Georgia Dome is pretty dark and, since the game was at night, there was no extra light coming in through the translucent roof.
Unless I’m specifically shooting for a cover (which I wasn’t on Saturday), I generally leave my camera in the horizontal position. This photo was cropped into a vertical to fit the cover and held up incredibly well. The low-light ability of the D3 makes this photo possible. Images shot with cameras that were available even just a year ago would not have looked this good at 3200.
It’ll be interesting to see if the “SI jinx” affects Alabama. I don’t keep track, but I think it came into play with some of my other covers. If anyone wants to do the research, I’d love to know which of these “cursed” the team or player.
8/11/03 – Craig Krenzel / Ohio State
1/31/05 – Jeremiah Trotter / Philadelphia Eagles / NFC Championship
5/9/05 – Ben Wallace / Detroit Pistons / NBA Playoffs
11/28/05 – Joe Paterno / Penn State
10/16/06 – Tennessee football / SEC
1/22/07 – Drew Brees / New Orleans Saints
9/8/08 – Alabama football / SEC
If your favorite team was jinxed by my photo, remember that I don’t pick ‘em, I just shoot ‘em.