102nd Grey Cup

This season was an amazing season to be photographing the Calgary Stampeders (for Metro News Calgary). I have been shooting this team for about three years now for the paper and it has been fun watching the team evolve. So when the Stamps won the Western Final over the Eskimos, I wanted to finish out the season at the Grey Cup as well.

Shooting the Grey Cup was one of the most fun and frustrating games I have ever shot.

I am writing this blog from a photographers perspective, so it will probably not relate to everyone. For those skipping ahead, enjoy the photos!

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Calgary Stampeders Juwan Simpson hoists the Grey Cup after winning the 102nd Grey Cup game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 20-16 at BC Place on Nov. 30.

I should say that I took a bit of a different approach to covering this game than I normally would. My goal was to track the Stampeders and tell their story of the game, so most of these photos are of the Stamps, not Hamilton. No matter what the outcome (thankfully it was a win), I wanted to show their journey, whether that meant victory or defeat.

Nov. 29:

I was a bit behind a lot of the other media getting to Vancouver and only arrived on the Friday before the Sunday game, so there was not a lot of time to document the week. Saturday morning, I attended the Stamps final walkthrough to get a feel for the venue. Always a smart idea when it is a venue you have never shot in before, and BC Place is the exact opposite of McMahon Stadium.

I have never shot football indoors before. The first thing I noticed was the haze. Anything I shot on the other side of the field looked flat and grainy, but not like it is any worse than a field that is in half shade and half sun. Still was going to prove to be a bit of challenge as the light was really flat.

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Calgary Stampeders Jon Cornish arrives at the last walkthrough before the Grey Cup game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

I also went to get some shots of the Stamps quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell the day before the big game, as he was the big headline. I guess after a week of non-stop media attention (Grey Cup attention), he had gotten a little more comfortable in front of the camera.

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Calgary Stampeders Jon Cornish and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell during walkthrough the day before the 102nd Grey Cup game.

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Calgary Stampeders Jon Cornish and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell during walkthrough the day before the 102nd Grey Cup game.

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Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell at the end of walkthrough the day before the 102nd Grey Cup game.

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Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell at the end of walkthrough the day before the 102nd Grey Cup game.

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Calgary Stampeders Shawn Lemon and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell joke around at the end of walkthrough the day before the 102nd Grey Cup game.

Game Day:

I guess I should say why I think this was the most frustrating game/day ever to shoot. I like to call it the “Game of a Million Missed Moments”. I just could not be everywhere, there was just so much happening on and off the field. It was extremely difficult to decide whether to focus on certain players to get the “perfect photo” or to shoot the “perfect moments” happening around me. This is something that is going to eat me up for the rest of my life.

The day of the game, I arrived three and a half hours before game time. Getting there early allowed me to get shots of the players arriving at the stadium.

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Calgary Stampeders Marquay McDaniel arrives at BC Place for the 102nd Grey Cup game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

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Calgary Stampeders Deron Mayo and Keon Raymond arrive at BC Place for the 102nd Grey Cup game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Calgary Stampeders Lin-J Shell arrives at BC Place for the 102nd Grey Cup game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Calgary Stampeders Lin-J Shell arrives at BC Place for the 102nd Grey Cup game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

After the players were inside, I did a walk around the stadium looking for some great Stamps fans all dressed up, but got sidetracked when I saw these two walking down the street together.

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Hamilton Mayor-elect Fred Eisenberger and Calgary Mayor Naheen Nenshi head to BC Place on foot for the 102nd Grey Cup game.

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Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi poses with some Stampeders fans outside of BC Place before the big game.

While I felt it was important to capture atmosphere, it was not completely capturing the Stamps story, so I went back inside to catch warmup.

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Calgary Stampeders fan and Hamilton Tiger-Cats fan pose together before the game.

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Calgary Stampeders Jon Cornish warms up before the game.

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Calgary Stampeders Brandon Smith warms up before the game.

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Calgary Stampeders Rob Maver.

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Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell warms up before the game.

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Calgary Stampeders Juwan Simpson motivates his team before the game.

Calgary Stampeders Juwan Simpson and Lin-J Shell get pumped up before the game.

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Calgary Stampeders Keon Raymond before the game.

This is probably one of my most embarrassing photos. I was just running back to the field from the pressroom when I saw the cup so I snapped a couple of frames and kept running through. My exposure was set for the field still, but did not think it was really anything I was going to use. Until a week after the game when I realized who was in the photo. Thankfully Seahawks photographer Rod Mar did not give me too much grief about not knowing.

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Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon with the Grey Cup before the game.

Once the game was about to begin, I had to choose my spot wisely and not move. I chose to shot closer to where the players came out, meaning I missed everything else happening at the end of the field or in the middle.

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CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon brings the Grey Cup out into the stadium before the game.

First out of the tunnel were the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I was in a decent position for this. Although the background was a little messy, I still like the way the photos came out.

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats cheerleaders.

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Justin Hickman

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Courtney Stephen

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Devlin Breaux

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Brandon Stewart

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Craig Butler

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Erik Harris

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Simoni Lawrence

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The rest of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Unfortunately, being in a great position for the Hamilton players meant I was in a terrible one for when Calgary came out. So I ran across and had a terrible spot with nothing I could work around for a lower angle, unless I wanted my head stepped on.

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Calgary Stampeders Marquay McDaniel enters the stadium for the game.

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Calgary Stampeders Nik Lewis enters the stadium for the game.

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Calgary Stampeders Dan Federkeil enters the stadium for the game.

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Calgary Stampeders Jon Cornish enters the stadium for the game.

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Calgary Stampeders Bo Levi Mitchell enters the stadium for the game.

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Calgary Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel leads the rest of the Stamps into the stadium for the game.

Once the game started, I always stayed facing the direction of the Stampeders. Even if Hamilton had the ball, I was prepared for any interceptions, sacks, or any big plays by the Calgary defense. This strategy paid off early into the first quarter with a forced fumble by Calgary’s Deron Mayo. While we did not recover the ball, it made for some great photos (despite whether the players think so or not).

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Calgary Stampeders Deron Mayo makes a tackle on Hamilton Tiger-Cats Nic Grigsby, forcing a fumble.

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Calgary Stampeders Brandon Smith dives to recover a fumbled ball.

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Calgary Stampeders Juwan Simpson tries to recover a fumbled ball during the first quarter.

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Calgary Stampeders Marquay McDaniel makes a catch during the first quarter of the game.

For this series of photos, I am going to say, I never expected Lewis to jump so high. He was right near the goal line so shooting with a 400mm, he nearly jumped right out of the frame.

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Calgary Stampeders Nik Lewis leaps over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defense in attempts to score a touchdown during the first quarter, but is brought down at the one-yard line.

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Calgary Stampeders Nik Lewis leaps over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defense in attempts to score a touchdown during the first quarter, but is brought down at the one-yard line.

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Calgary Stampeders Nik Lewis leaps over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defense in attempts to score a touchdown during the first quarter, but is brought down at the one-yard line.

This would have been a much more exciting touchdown photo than the one below.

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Calgary Stampeders Drew Tate scores the first touchdown for the Calgary Stampeders.

But whatever, it is still a touchdown.

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Hamilton quarterback Zach Collaros.

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Calgary Stampeders Simon Charbonneau-Campeau is brought down by the Hamilton defense in the first quarter.

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Calgary Stampeders Jon Cornish is brought down by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defense in the first half.

I am not complaining about the touchdowns themselves, just how they photographed and my position on them.

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Calgary Stampeders Drew Tate scores his second touchdown of the game.

The photo below is the only photo of punter Rob Maver that I got of him in action before the massive hit in the third quarter took him out of the game. I was in the pressroom when that happened (beginning of the second half), and did not realize he was even out until late in the fourth. Again, missed moment.

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Calgary Stampeders Rob Maver punts the ball in the first half of the game.

Speaking of kicks, from a good one, to a bad one.

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Calgary Stampeders block a Hamilton Tiger-Cats field goal attempt in the first half.

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Calgary Stampeders Shawn Lemon celebrates the blocked field goal attempt.

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Calgary Stampeders Eric Rogers.

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Calgary Stampeders Maurice Price tries to dodge a tackle.

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Bo Levi Mitchell throws a pass during the first half of the game.

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats Bakari Grant is tackled by Calgary Stampeders Brandon Smith.

The second half of the game was a complete blur and seemed to go by in about three minutes.

The following photos are of one of Mitchell’s only mistakes throughout the game, when his pass is intercepted. While not a moment, I am sure he wants to remember, the face is just too good.

Bo Levi Mitchell rushes to get the pass off.

Bo Levi Mitchell rushes to get the pass off.

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Bo Levi Mitchell reacts to having his pass intercepted.

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats react to picking of Calgary’s pass.

This photo of kicker Rene Paredes is in the fourth quarter, and the first time a realized it was not Maver.

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Calgary Stampeders Rene Paredes punts the ball in the fourth quarter in place of injured punter Rob Maver.

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The Grey Cup arrives on the field for presentation.

Once the cup started to make its way onto the field, I made my way to the Stampeders bench, with about three minutes left on the clock.

Since I went over to the bench, I was on the other side of the field and behind the players when Hamilton went for the almost game-changing run. I do not regret my decision to be on the Stamps bench at this time. If we had lost, the photos I wanted were still of the Stamps and the emotion that would have taken place on the bench. While I missed a lot of amazing emotion on the Hamilton side, I could not be everywhere.

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Calgary Stampeders Drew Tate celebrates a call on the Stamps bench.

The celebrations began as soon as Hamilton threw their last chance into the ground.

Here is another moment that was frustrating. I spent too much time looking for Mitchell, Huf, or Cornish celebrating, that I nearly missed all the great emotion happening around me.

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Keon Raymond

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Keon Raymond celebrates the Grey Cup win.

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Keon Raymond celebrates the Grey Cup win with Junior Turner.

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Freddie Bishop III celebrates the Grey Cup win.

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Rene Paredes and dad celebrates the Grey Cup win.

As always, we had to fight for position for the presentations, but this time was much more civilized than the Western Final.

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The Grey Cup is placed for presentation.

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Bo Levi Mitchell is presented with the Grey Cup MVP award.

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Bo Levi Mitchell on stage after winning MVP award.

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Head Coach John Hufnagel kisses the Grey Cup.

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Juwan Simpson hoists the cup.

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Juwan Simpson gently hands over the cup after realizing it ‘may’ have come apart in his hands.

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Corey Mace celebrates the win.

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Juwan Simpson celebrates the win.

Once inside the locker room, they did not let us in until AFTER the champagne.

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Bo Levi Mitchell and Jon Cornish, celebrate the win.

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Keon Raymond celebrates the win.

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Juwan Simpson (I am not going to pretend I know what he is thinking here).

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Rene Paredes drinks from the Grey Cup.

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Corey Mace celebrates in the locker room.

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Maurice Price, Nik Lewis and Matt Walter with the two pieces of the Grey Cup after the cup separated in Lewis’s hands.

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Matt Walter celebrates with the Grey Cup and a beer shower.

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Brandon Smith celebrates in the locker room.

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Bo Levi Mitchell continues to celebrate in the locker room.

Overall, it was a great experience and I am happy to have seen the season out from start to finish. I am still mad about not getting more great photos though. And mad about all the gear I broke as well, but it is all fixed now.

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