Director of photography Michael Clemens shares his perspective from the sideline as he breaks down five of his favorite photos from the 2022 season.
Teacher and student
The bond between a coach and player is really special. This photo was a moment shared between running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu and running back Josh Jacobs after Jacobs sprinted for an 86-yard game-ending touchdown in overtime against the Seattle Seahawks. Sure, I got many shots of the run, but to me, it's these kind of moments that make photography such a strong storytelling tool. Also in this game, Jacobs had 303 yards from scrimmage – the most in franchise history. It was just one of the many incredible games that led to him becoming the NFL's leading rusher this season.
Black and white imagery is special to me. I may over-romanticize it, but sometimes removing the color allows focus to be more on the "moment" – at least to me. When I took over as director of photography, I started a weekly in-season series called Silver and Black and White which I'm very proud of. They are typically shots of those moments in between the moments.
Denzel Perryman's different perspective
To say Denzel Perryman makes the game fun in an understatement. He works as hard as anyone on the field, but also knows how to enjoy the ride. This was during warmups for the first game of the preseason at the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. After working out hard in warmups in the awful humidity, Perryman took to the stands to watch a little from there. He ended up posing for pictures with fans, signing autographs and sharing his large personality with everyone there. I love these moments where we're reminded that these incredible athletes are people too. It's a gift to be around Perryman every day, and that day, the fans got a little taste of it too.
A matchup for the ages
Davante Adams vs. Jalen Ramsey? Yes please. I was near the corner of the end zone, saw the ball in the air and Adams streaking down the sideline. That's when my internal dialog started. "Please don't miss this shot, please don't miss this shot." Well, luckily, I didn't miss (and neither did Davante). While it all happened so fast, I had no idea of what I actually captured until I looked at the back of the camera to see one of the most incredible catches of the year. With Ramsey draped all over him, hand grabbing his facemask, eyes blocked from seeing the ball, one hand literally behind his back, Adams made this one-handed "Houdini" catch against one of the league's best cornerbacks. Davante is a special talent and he gives me the the opportunity to make some special images.
The Condor takes flight
A little secret for NFL photographers is that half of our success is luck. Was I in the right corner? Did a referee step in front of me at exactly the wrong moment? Did the receiver make the catch when I was in perfect position? Let's face it, if I point my camera in the direction of Maxx Crosby, I'm going to get a special image. No matter what the down, no matter what the score, no matter what the record, Maxx treats each and every snap with the same "Maxx-imum effort." I continue to marvel at his effort and passion for this game and this team. I know he and I have very different jobs to do on the field, but he continually inspires me every day to my very best and never take a play off.
Stepping into the spotlight
This was the first practice after Jarrett Stidham was named starting QB. With big shoes to fill, Stidham walked out to practice and stepped up as this new role required him to do. I tried highlighting this moment by waiting for that "emergence" into the light as I knew what this day most likely signified for him. While Jarrett had more responsibilities, it didn't prevent him from acknowledging me with his special greeting he gives me each and every day.
I love shadows. Shadows are the blank canvas, and the light is the paint that creates the picture. An abundance of light and you see too much. I always want to try and use it sparingly. Less is often so much more.