I (Alec) had always wanted to photograph an Alabama football game. Even if it was an away game against a no-name team, I would’ve still been happy. Little did I know that my first game would be the SEC Championship! I was able to go this year with the help of my friend on the media team at the SEC. I made the rainy drive up to Atlanta early Saturday morning with my press pass & a ton of rented equipment. One of the first things you see when driving into Atlanta is the giant Mercedes-Benz Stadium. I got there before the doors opened and was able to walk around the empty stadium. This place is incredible. The VIP clubs/lounges are beautiful. The press boxes upstairs are so nice. And the control room is jaw-dropping. Imagine a huge room with 30 monitors and a ton of control panels. This is the room that manages the 50+ cameras for the live broadcast & replays. It was so cool to see the behind-the-scenes that we don’t get to appreciate often.
One of the biggest reasons that I pursued this opportunity is not because of my love for football, but because of my love for photography. I actually have a bucket list specifically for photography. I love trying new things with my camera and sports photography is something that I’d never done before. It wasn’t even 3 minutes into the game that I realized how much harder it is than I thought it would be. Most of us watch football from a very wide point-of-view. Imagine watching it on the ground with a pair of binoculars. You have to quickly anticipate where the ball will be thrown and adjust your camera to capture the catch. Not only does it take a great amount of skill, but you have to be lucky too. You hope that the touchdown happens close to where you are shooting from. If it isn’t, you don’t get “the shot”. It was incredibly challenging which was the best part.
One of the coolest things was walking right next to the sports stars that we all know & love. It was surreal standing right next to people like Coach Saban, Tim Tebow, Mark Ingram, Gene Chizik, Lee Corso, & even Rick Flair! But don’t even get me started when it comes to the game. Wow was that stressful. It’s one thing to be sitting on the edge of your seat while you’re watching a close game from your couch. It’s completely different when you’re watching it on the field. The hardest part was that I wasn’t allowed to show bias towards either team. Members of the press are not allowed cheer. I had to contain himself when Jalen Hurts scored that winning TD.
One of my favorite parts was the celebration at the end. I got to share the field with all the players and see how genuinely emotional they were. There were some players who were screaming with joy, and then some who broke down. I was right next to running back, Damien Harris, when he started crying and ran right towards someone for a long hug (pictured below). It was such an amazing celebration after those guys worked so hard in the second half.
It was surreal being a part of that amazing game and an amazing opportunity that I’ll never forget.