My Sixteen Favorite Football Photos of 2016

This past football season went by far too quickly. Football is the only sport that I cover that I really played at an organized level. This year it seems as if something was always coming in between me and the sport that I love. I was able to photograph a couple of awesome games, and next year I have a road trip to Knoxville planned that I am really looking forward to. There were some great moments this past season though, and I have picked sixteen of them to post here. As I write this I realize that I compiled the list about a week and a half ago, and I have already changed my mind about the placement of some of the photos. In all reality the numbers do not matter here. These are sixteen photos that I really liked from this season, and for the sake of a countdown I have assigned numbers to them. Here are my favorite sixteen photos in numerical, but no particular order.

16. As I compiled this list I realized that many of the images came from the Indiana State game at Minnesota. I think that the access I was given made it a special game for me. It was real fun finding ways to show the gameday experience. When you are with a team your job is to show the audience something that they cannot see. I took my job at that time to show the people looking at the photos a lot of what they could not see behind the scenes. This is what makes photography fun for me. Indiana State gives me a great opportunity to do that.

15. Here in West Lafayette we have a lot of good football teams very close by. The closest to me the West Lafayette Red Devils. I usually try to make my way down the street a few times to see them play during the season, but this year the only game that I could make was half of an early season game. That is too bad as it is fun to watch football under the Friday night lights. This coming season Purdue will have an early game on Friday night under the lights.

14. This year I was able to meet an online friend who like me went from shooting from the stands to shooting on the field. It was cool to catch up with him in person. While we were doing that the team he was covering, Iowa, scored right in front of us. I made this photo of the celebration after the touchdown. I love these types of photos, and even if it was for the wrong team at the time I made it.

13. This was a moment that was a lucky one for me to capture. I was switching ends of the field with my 300mm when a big play happened. I was out of my normal position, but right in position to make this photo. This was a lucky capture, but when the moment happened I made the most of it.

12. This story has a funny ending to it. I made the photo of the coin toss as ISU took on Minnesota. As the team photographer that is my right. Into the first quarter I had someone with a security jacket on tap my shoulder and ask me to walk with them. Play was going on, and my team was driving toward me so I asked them what was going on. They explained that I had to leave for making this photo. I explained that I was the ISU team photographer, and everything was okay. I like this moment though. The day was made better by the blue skies that seemed to match the colors of the Indiana State uniforms. 

11. One of the true highlights of the season was covering the LaPorte Slicers as they played rival Michigan City for the Duneland Conference title. before the game started a beautiful sunset happened over the field. I grabbed my speed lite, and went to work trying to capture some of the players in the great light. This was my favorite of those images.

10. As with the photo above this one was made prior to the football game. When nearly all of the photographers were capturing the players running out onto the field, I hung back to capture their moments just before they went into battle. Here center Kirk Barron takes a moment to himself. I tried a wide angle here, but this tight shot with my 400mm lens really seemed to bring me into the moment more. It is nice to capture the peak action of the game. These shots though seem to mean more to me.

9. Sometimes you get lucky when you make an image. It is something that can be said for many photos, but this is one example of when you get lucky. The morning of this game I really was not feeling myself. It was more than pregame jitters which I do not really get. Something did not feel right. On the Indiana State series before this one I realized that I was sick. I waited until Minnesota had the ball, and I ran to the bathroom right behind this position to throw up. I hurried back out onto the field in time to capture a great moment as ISU used a great catch on a tipped ball to move downfield. Then shortly after that Robert Tonyan made this catch to tie the ballgame. I was still not feeling the best, but I was in the right position to make the shot. Of course right after I write about not caring so much about peak action I post a picture of it. A nice mix makes for good game coverage.

8. This was a weird year covering Purdue football. For most of the season Purdue coverage dealt with the coach. At one point it seemed like coach Darrell Hazell might be gone if he lost to Illinois. A field goal in overtime made sure that he stayed another week. Here the bench reacts to that field goal going through the uprights. I knew that the field goal was not the story so I shot the bench the entire time. You could see just how much the win meant to those around Coach Hazell by their reactions.

7. Sometimes the light just works in your favor. As one game was winding down I stayed on one end of the field to work with the light a little. I wanted to capture Purdue turning around to catch the football, but I also wanted this dark background. Of course Saquan Barkley who would go on to have a great season ran right at me. I loved the look of this photo. It reminded me right away of an old Roger Craig photo from a football card that I had as a kid. It was not the right team, but the right moment. At some point  at a Purdue football game I am in a no man’s land. For other sports they use my photos, but for football they have so many cameras at the game that they do not care about mine. With that knowledge I then just try and find moments no matter what the team. Of course a photo like this one will be seen by virtually nobody as it is of a team that will not see it.

6. Here is another shot where I was roaming around at Memorial Stadium. For the second half of the game I used a lighter setup and roamed around the field. I was hoping that the running back would run right at me like this, but I had no illusions that I could make a stiff arm photo. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. It is probably my favorite action shot of the season.

5. The rest of this countdown is all about emotion. This is the second time that Kirk Barron has made the countdown. I don’t go to games to make images of him. He seems to be the type of player though that makes for good images. Here he is rallying the troops during a pregame drill. I was shooting something else at the time, but panned over just in time to make this image.

4. The football game at Illinois was a good one for photos. Purdue was playing inspired football, and that leads to great images. Here after a touchdown run Brian Lankford Johnson is congratulated by Jason King. I loved this little moment, and the sun glint off of the helmets just makes it for me. These are the moments that you shoot for. The run was nice, but this tops that every time in my book. Thankfully it happened right in front of me.

3. As I said before this game for LaPorte was one of the highlights of the year. Many, many years ago I played for the Slicers when a Duneland Conference title was something that we thought we could achieve, but it probably was not a real possibility. This Slicer team was steamrolling through the season, and right here you could see that nothing would stop them from achieving their goal. They played a great game, and in the end won the Duneland.

2. As I said earlier Purdue played an inspired game in Champaign. They took advantage of a couple of breaks to win the Purdue cannon as well as keep their coach around for another week. This shot at blue hour of the team holding the cannon was worth the hits I took to get it. This was a special team. They could have quit many times during the season, but they kept fighting until the end. They will always be a special team in my book.

  1. As I said at the beginning of this, the numbers really don’t matter here. This is the number one photo, but many of these could have been number one. This is one of my favorites though because it is so different from what I normally capture. This is the place I am trying to get to as quickly as possible. I tried to capture the ISU runout, but a fall ruined any picture that I could get there. As I was walking quickly to the ISU sideline to follow them out onto the field I found this photo. No matter what kind of a hurry I was in there was time to make this photo. I love the story that it tells.

So there you have my favorite sixteen football images from 2016. This has been a fun year to make photos, and I think that my list this year is better than my list last year. That is the goal every year isn’t it? I want to keep growing and improving. Next year will bring some new opportunities for photos. I don’t know exactly when this will post as I write it, but there are good things coming that may already be common knowledge when this posts. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings for me.

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About Pinola Photo

I am a sports and lifestyle photographer based in West Lafayette, IN home of Purdue University. I cover sports for Big Ten teams as well as other colleges. You can follow me on twitter @pinolaphoto. You can also view my website at www.davewegielphoto.net

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