Last year I was tasked with covering a press conference for the New York Times. Not the most exciting assignment on the surface as I am sure you can imagine. However, this was no ordinary press conference. The incredibly talented Jeffrey Furticella, sports photo editor at The New York Times, sent me to the NFL Combine with the need to create a compelling photograph of the Michael Sam press conference. This would be the first public meeting with Sam and the media after his announcement that he was gay and had the potential to be the first openly gay professional football player to play in the NFL.
The scene was an absolute circus. Photographers and journalists spread about the building trying to anticipate which entrance Sam would find his way through. Sports writers, photographers and cameramen densely packed around the podium where Same would make his first public statement in advance of his workouts at the combine.
In a situation like this, I knew I had to find a way to escape from making the picture that everyone else would make. Photographers rushed to the back of the room to get in position to get a clear shot of Sam at the podium while also in a position to capture a wide angle shot showing the scene – which would be the photo that would ultimately tell the story. In anticipating what would happen, I decided to run a trick play of my own. Instead of rushing to the back to get a spot, I went the opposite direction.
Behind Sam was a large backdrop screen. I wanted to show what the event was like for Sam, with cameras, microphones and lights all pointed towards him. An intimidating situation for anyone. To get the shot, I placed my camera on top of a monopod with a ball head on top to angle my 14-24mm lens down at the podium from behind. I set the intervalometer on the back of my camera to take a picture every few seconds. I triggered the camera and then raised it using the monopod to get a view looking over the background and showing the scene for the circus that it was.