The 2016 Belk Bowl was the third Virginia Tech bowl victory that I have been fortunate enough to photograph. The post-game celebration and presentations afterwards are very chaotic and frequently result in several hundred additional photos. This year I took 704 of these (24% of my total) following the game, and I thought it would be interesting to walk everyone through my thought process before and during.
Once the result of the game is clear, I change lenses, adjust camera settings, and position myself behind the winning team's bench with about 4 minutes left to go. Technically, the only photographers allowed inside the team bench area are the school's so it's a bit risky going in too early, drawing attention to yourself, and potentially being pulled out by security.
With around three minutes to go, I noticed a couple of players removing the lids from the Gatorade buckets. Thinking I had a little time before Justin Fuente's bath, I moved down to the corner of the bench area to encroach a little and test the security situation. From here I was able to take many frames of Woody, Terrell Edmunds, Charley Wiles, and Vinny Mihota celebrating and hugging. Once I looked up again to check the status of the Gatorade bath I had just missed it! It happened really early with 1:30 to go; even the TV cameras were too late.
I quickly made my way over to Fuente to capture his reactions and noticed Bucky flashing his Keion Carpenter tribute shirt.
Already being near Fuente I decided to join the photographers' scrum to get a photo of the coaches shaking hands. I don't always try for this, mostly because I don't think it's a very good storytelling photo, but sometimes I join the scrum just for the fun and chaos of it.
After the head coach, the next thing I'm always looking for are important players celebrating. It's one thing to get a good photo of a second or third string guy yelling, but it's far more important to find the game's playmakers and focus on them. I quickly noticed Jerod Evans and Brenden Motley embracing. Perfect! I thought. Their story and support for each other has been well documented throughout the season.
With Evans being so important, I stayed with him to see what he would do next and was rewarded with probably my favorite photo of the day. I love its slightly imperfect symmetry and his jubilant expression, but most of all I love it because it's unique. There was only one other photographer that broke off with Evans and me, and I don't think he got in there as close to capture this.
Next I knew I needed to get to the stage and stake out a good spot in the front of the rope barrier set up to contain photographers during the formal presentations. Once I posted up beside my old boss and team photographer Dave Knachel, I knew I had a prime spot.
I was looking for an interesting detail photo of either trophy, and although nothing really materialized as I envisioned with the big trophy, I really like this frame of Cam holding his smaller hardware.
After the stage photos were done I followed the trophy for a bit as the team and coaches passed it around and posed for individual and group photos.
Lastly, with the team taking their traditional away-game victory lap, I sought to make a more interesting photo of this in addition to the traditional close up shot. Looking to incorporate Belk Bowl signage, I backed off a bit, stood on the VT benches and framed up the Belk logo and two players walking the crowd line.