What’s it Like to Shoot The Super Bowl?

Super Bowl Veteran Photographer Rob Tringali shares his view from the sideline

by Grover Sanschagrin

UPDATED 2/2/2011: We checked back in with Rob recently and he’s back at it. He’ll be shooting his 21st Super Bowl this Sunday in Dallas for ESPN. He also got some fantastic images from the Steelers-Jets AFC Championship Game. Heading into the big game, his tales from the sidelines are worth another look…   

As the Indianapolis Colts get ready to take on the New Orleans Saints this Sunday in Super Bowl XLIV, Photographer Rob Tringali is preparing to attend what will be his 20th Super Bowl, anevent that, after all these years, still gets him excited.

His images appear regularly in ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated, TV Guide, Newsweek, Esquire, and the New York Times Magazine.

I find that when I’m watching the Super Bowl, I’m more interested in spotting the photographers I know on the sidelines, than watching the game itself. But I’ve never actually worked a Super Bowl.

Wondering what it must be like to be a photographer on the field, I thought I’d ask Rob, who shot his first Super Bowl when he was just 19 years-old, for his veteran take.


PHOTO BY ROB TRINGALI: Guard Chris Snee #76 of the New York Giants celebrates with family the victory against the New England Patriots at Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Giants defeated the Patriots 17-14.

Grover: What’s different about shooting a Super Bowl game as compared to regular season NFL or college game?

Shooting the Super Bowl is far superior to anything else I’ve shot except for maybe a World Cup Final. Everyone knows you’re there, and you know that friends and family back home are looking for you on TV.

I once got hit with a ball during the Giants – Pats game a couple of years ago and got 10 text messages right away from people who saw me. Stuff like that doesn’t happen at any regular game.

I usually get to the game about 6 hours before kickoff, and I always make a phone call to some friends right before the National Anthem, as they watch from a bar in New Jersey. They can hear the Anthem live from the cell phone in my vest pocket. Everyone in the bar seems to get a kick out of that.

The end of the game scrum produces an adrenaline rush like no other. Imagine trying to take pictures while walking backwards, over cables and other bodies, while being shoved away by huge security guards.

The last few years has seen less still photographers and more TV and NFL film cameras.

Grover: There must have been major security changes throughout the years, especially post 9/11. What are the biggest differences now, and has it changed anything in how you do your job?

Rob: At Super Bowl XXV in Tampa we were in he middle of the Gulf War. We had to go through a metal detector, and have all our bags checked, and this was the first place we saw FBI sharpshooters at the upper levels of the stadium, which was unsettling. Unfortunately this is part of our everyday life now.

It may take a little longer to get into the stadium, so getting there much earlier is probably the only major difference today. Our team did buy about $100.00 worth of gourmet heroes in Miami and they would not let us through security with them. We ended up eating a couple and giving the others away. The NFL does a good job with the security detail.


PHOTO BY ROB TRINGALI: Defensive end Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants spits water before a game against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Grover: Are there any rules in place for photographers shooting the Super Bowl?

Rob: They used to have different colored vests for the 4 quadrants of the field. Now I believe there are far less field passes but everyone has the same access. There are usually different colored vests for the inner circle for the trophy presentation. I actually find it an easier game to work. Unlike a regular game, there are hardly any photographers that don’t belong there. Everyone who is shooting belongs there.

Grover: What’s the atmosphere like among the photogs? Cooperative? Competitive? Does everyone work together in the same room at the end of the game, getting images out?

Rob: It’s good to see some people you may not have seen all season and the atmosphere is both cooperative and competitive. Most of us have done several Super Bowl’s and there is a lot of respect amongst us.

The only time it’s gets a little mano-a-mano is at the end of the game. I’m sure I’ve elbowed a few people along the way. All in good fun. The larger outfits AP, Getty, Sports Illustrated, etc. have their own trailers in the photo compound. The rest have a shared media room with high-speed Internet.

Obviously time is crucial during the game in getting images out. There are photo runners all over the stadium grabbing cards from photographers and getting them back to the editors who then get the images out. I believe some wire services have images go directly from the photographer to the editors in the trailers. If everything goes well the image of the opening kickoff could realistically be out on the wire before the first play from scrimmage is run. I think that’s pretty cool.


PHOTO BY ROB TRINGALI. Adam Vinatieri kicks a game winning 41 yard field goal to win Super Bowl XXXVIII played at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots.

Grover: What equipment will you be lugging around the field? Is it more, or less than a normal football game?

Rob: I tend to go with my same equipment I use all season. Three Nikon D3 camera bodies, a 400mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8, and a 24-70mm f/2.8 wide angle around my neck. The 400mm lens is on a monopod, and I use a belt system from Think Tank Photo. I also carry another lens just in case I need another wide lens, a 14-24 f/2.8 lens.

The only difficult thing if you don’t have an assistant is leaving the 400mm lens somewhere as you run onto the field after the game with your wide bodies, it’s almost impossible to do while still holding that big lens. Then the trick is finding it again and hope it’s hasn’t been swiped so that you can shoot the trophy presentation.

Rob is shooting this year’s Super Bowl on assignment for ESPN The Magazine, his images can be found in the magazine, and on their website. His images will be uploaded into his PhotoShelter archive by the next morning.

Rob’s website: http://www.robtringali.com
Rob’s PhotoShelter archive: http://www.photoshelter.com/c/robtringali

Grover Sanschagrin is co-founder and Vice President of PhotoShelter. Follow him on Twitter at @heygrover.

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