In the world of sports photography, a remote camera can be extremely effective and rewarding addition to any assignment. Part of what I love about my job is the challenge to continually think outside the box in an effort to capture a special shot. To that end, I’ve put a remote camera in many different places over the years - underwater in a pool, inside a hockey net and above a boxing ring, to name a few.
The invention of the GoPro Hero 3+ has been a great tool for placing a remote camera. The small size, light weight and durability of the camera, combined with the quality of images, makes for many possibilities.
For many years I have wanted to try mounting a remote camera on a football player during a live game. I’ve seen GoPro’s used in practices and passing drills in both the NFL and College, but never in an actual live game. I finally got the opportunity with some help from my alma mater, Stony Brook University in Long Island, NY. During my time there, I played on the football team and still have some ties to the program. When I received an email that the Stony Brook Football team was holding its annual spring game – a scrimmage with real tackling and hitting – I thought this could be my opportunity.
Stony Brook University linebacker Al Bello (55) in action against Hofstra in 1988. (Photo via Al Bello)
On my behalf, my old coach, Sam Kornhauser, contacted the team’s current head coach, Chuck Priore about the idea. As you would expect, they had some questions. They wanted to know how big the camera would be and if I had any samples of the camera in action. I quickly sent several YouTube clips of past events where the GoPro was used in football situations and just a few days later I got the green light.
Since I had never done this before and wanted it to be a success, I studied up online and reached out to the good people at GoPro for some advice on using the GoPro Hero 3+ for this shoot. When gameday arrived, I was very excited. I met the equipment manager and my old coach a few hours before the game to set up. I placed one camera on the top of the helmet and one on the left side by the ear hole.
Views of the two GoPro Hero 3+ cameras mounted on the helmet. (Photos by Al Bello)
I positioned the cameras the way I wanted and tightened them down. We then met with the starting quarterback, Conor Bednarski to make sure he was comfortable with the setup. He was totally into it and ready to go. I connected to a live view format with the GoPro wi-fi and hooked one camera up to my phone and the other to my iPad. I set the camera to fire every .5 seconds.
Stony Brook Quarterback Conor Bednarski tries on his newly enhanced helmet. (Photo by Al Bello)
At the opening kickoff I started the cameras and hoped for the best. With all the live hitting I was sure they were going to be destroyed. Luckily the cameras only bent at the hinges a few times which I was easily able to adjust during timeouts.
Stony Brook QB Conor Bednarski (16), with cameras in tow, sees TE Tanner Nehls (85) downfield. (Photo by Daniel De Mato)
After the first half was over I took the GoPro cameras off Conor’s helmet because I ran out of space on the memory cards. Upon looking at the photos I was happy with the results. I got several frames that were able to show the quarterback's unique perspective and take the viewer inside the game. In all, my experiment was a success.
The entire experience was a thrill on both a personal and professional level. It is projects like this that keep me going as a photographer.
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