Photographing My First Super Bowl

When I started freelancing full time in 2013 I had certain goals I wanted to accomplish – certain clients I desperately wanted to work for and events I was hungry to cover – the Super Bowl was one of those, and this year I was able to cover my first one.

Jumping back to 2019, I got a call from the Director of Photography with the NFL asking if I’d be interested in joining their photo team and help cover Texas and a few of the surrounding states for the 2019-2020 NFL season. I quickly said I’d love to and over the next two seasons I covered around 60 games across the country for the league. A few months ago I flew back to Dallas from a game in Philadelphia, and when I landed I had a missed call from my boss and an email with some Super Bowl paperwork. I freaked out on the plane for a minute, texted my wife then responded to the email to make sure my boss didn’t send it to me by mistake.

Fast forward through the end of the season, several zoom calls and Covid-19 tests… on Friday, February 5th, I flew out to Tampa to join our team for the Super Bowl. We had a team meeting on Saturday to go over logistics, shooting positions, important storylines for the game and some general plans for how we were going to attack our coverage.

This season was obviously different than previous years – the NFL instituted an Operational Zone for a limited number of working photographers and videographers which was the front row of the stands in every stadium around the league. No photographer or videographer outside of those working with the teams were allowed on the field the entire season and that was the case for the Super Bowl, aside from my good friend and boss, Ben Liebenberg, who was on the field for the NFL.

With Ben on the field, we had 5 photographers in the Operational Zone, one in each corner and one roaming the sideline, plus a 6th photographer working from an elevated position. We all had ethernet drops at our positions so we could tether our cameras in and send photos directly to our editors in Los Angeles as well as a handful of runners and photo editors onsite in Tampa.

I may be a little biased, but I feel like we produced the most comprehensive coverage of the game out of any newspaper, wire agency or magazine there and am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it.

Gear for the big game:

  • Sony a9ii w/ 600mm f4.0 w/ 1.4x teleconverter for an 840mm f5.6 lens
  • Sony a9ii w/ 400mm f2.8
  • Sony a9 w/ 70-200mm f2.8
  • Sony a9 w/ 16-35mm f2.8

You can see more from Cooper at CooperNeill.com, and keep up with him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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