You know it’s not just any old game when ESPN The Magazine sends 13 photographers and 30 writers to cover the faceoff between Louisiana State University and Alabama University. The two teams are arguably the biggest rivals in college football, making for an instantly classic game – complete with hardcore fans, all-day tailgating, the biggest band ensembles in sports, and oh right, football.
This year, ESPN The Magazine actually dedicated an entire 40-50 page issue (and an iPad version) to the event, titled “One Day, One Game.” Not only that – they streamed photos live to an online gallery during the game as well. Usually the magazine will send one photographer to shoot solo, so the fact that there were 13 photographers there that day is no small feat.
Veteran sports photographer Rob Tringali, who’s been shooting games like this for nearly 25 years, was part of the photo team commissioned to shoot anything and everything related to the big game. “I realized very quickly that this wasn’t just a game anymore,” says Rob. “I knew I needed to take my game to an even higher level. It was like a photo project on steroids.”
And while this was in fact a sporting event, the photography far transcended traditional sports action shots. Rob and the other 12 photographers took portraits of fans, architectural shots of the stadium, and group photos typical of event photography.
“Sports photography has become so formulaic when you’re on the field or court or whatever,” says Rob. “But there are so many things going on during the game that it was great to have someone say, ‘Take a great picture, we don’t care what it takes.’”
Without the pressure to capture the game itself, Rob found some equally riveting moments off the field. One was in the locker room before the game even began – in his 25-year career, Rob has never had locker room access before. “The eerie silence of the room and then bursting out into a 95,000-person stadium is one of the top five moments I’ve ever experienced,” says Rob.
“College football has so much more tradition, pageantry, and passion. You might see something like this in the Super Bowl, but college games have this color and enormity to them. Electricity seems to run through your body during the hair-rising moments when you realize how cool it all is – just something you don’t see in the NFL.”
Because ESPN was doing live updates, the magazine’s photo editors were actually stationed in one of the stadium’s press boxes. Runners would grab the photographers’ cards and select which photos were going to be tweeted, Instagrammed, or featured in their online gallery. “The goal was to get them out quickly,” says Rob, who guesses he shot over 4,500 images that day.
“We worked as a team,” says Rob,” but there was definitely a sense that you were trying to one-up everyone.” Still, each photographer brought his own unique perspective on the game. “You could be shooting shoulder to shoulder with someone, and each person got a completely different shot. It was basically like having 13 different perspectives at the same time in the same place.”
Despite the fact that ESPN’s online gallery received 200,000+ hits – and featured many of Rob’s images – the greatest anticipation was around the printed magazine. With 13 photographers present, whose photo would get the cover?
“As great as online technology is, the printed piece is still so important – and ESPN continues to invest in that,” says Rob. “Knowing that the magazine is going to come out and I’m going to see my pictures in print is so much more impactful.”
When the “One Day, One Game” issue showed up on newsstands nationwide last Wednesday morning, you can bet Rob was thrilled to see his image gracing the cover. The feeling never gets old.
The 13 photographers who helped cover this game were: Rob Tringali, John Loomis, Nathaniel Welch, Brian Finke, Landon Nordeman, John Huet, Dominic DiSaia, Emilio Collavino, Jamie Squire, Ross Dettman, Pouya Dianat, Andrew Hetherington, and Darren Carroll.