Ok, so I didn’t necessarily break the internet, but I did have a blog post go insanely viral. You can read the original post here.
After covering the Eagles game against the Lions in absolute white-out conditions, videographer and “Anything Once” star Ashley Barnas, got on me to do a blog post for our “First State Focus” photo blog here at The News Journal. I have to admit, I’m the worst member of the blog team when it comes to getting stuff up. Anyone who follows this blog knows how long it takes me to do a post, and even then I do them in clusters. But, this game was pretty neat, and a challenging experience for me shooting, so I made it a point to get a post done.
It took me all day, literally it was approaching midnight before I got the post up. It seemed every time I sat down to do it, something came up: A backlog of editing I needed to get done, a last minute assignment, a deadline change on a story, a shooting. It was nuts.
I decided to do a post on the challenges I faced shooting the game to give readers an idea of how I do my job, much like I post here. I figured a dozen people who are interested in how we do our job might read the post, but when I woke up I had half-a-dozen emails from other bloggers asking to repost my original post. I had a ton of tweets where people shared the story. Before the end of the day I found out I’d made Reddit and the post had started climbing the photography threads, before it took over the NFL thread.
The next day PetaPixel picked up the post, and linked to our gallery of game images. The gallery did literally 100 times better than any normal Eagles gallery, and was our top viewed website item every day the entire week. When we corrected an error in the site metrics that prevented the photo blog hits from being counted, the blog post ranked second the rest of the week.
When it showed up on Deadspin, SI’s Extra Mustard and The Verge, our blogs actually crashed and went down for about an hour. Whether that’s a coincidence or my fault, I don’t know, but it was insane.
Through all of it I’ve received praise and criticism. Some commenters lauded the images I was able to create in such a mess, some boasted they’ve used manual focus exclusively their whole lives and didn’t get the big deal. Some questioned how, as a professional, I got a job having rarely ever used manual focus. I’m secure enough as a photojournalist to know none of those people are professionals, because I don’t know one who would opt to shoot any NFL game with manual focus over auto. When I read what Sports Illustrated’s Al Tielemans (who shot that week’s cover image of Nick Foles at the game) had to say of his shooting experience, and how he found the shooting situation just as challenging, I felt even better that I wasn’t alone.
Through all the commentary, the coolest thing was getting a friend request and congratulatory message from Dave Burnett, who has covered everything you can imaging. From Bob Marley to the Olympics (over and over again) to the Iranian Revolution in 1978, he’s seen everything. “The ole “manual” focus thing sometimes is a giant blessing,” He messaged me. “Nice work.” He even noted how he enjoyed looking through them, with a caveat: “Fun pictures to see, especially from my warm living room watching the game, knowing I wasn’t freezing my butt off.”
And it was freezing.
I can remember midway through the fourth quarter shivering on the sidelines, soaked through, saying to myself, “I’m making the best photos of my life, but this is really starting to turn into work.” My hands were starting to stiffen up, my knees were starting to ache. I can’t put into words how good it felt to get into the photo room when the game was over and just get warm.
Through it all it was the most fun I’ve ever had shooting a football game. I hope I get a chance to do it again, despite how hard it was, and how miserable I felt physically by the end of it. The images I produced put a new bounce in my step and have really fueled me through the rest of the month and into the new year. Doing a lot of the daily newspaper grind you can get bogged down, burnt out, frustrated. You start producing the same images over and over again. But when you do something like that snow bowl, where everything but the kitchen sink gets thrown at you and you meet the challenge head-on, it just recharges your batteries. You need one of those every once in a while.