How did you land the gig as Philly’s team photographer?
I shoot mostly college athletics in the Philadelphia area but have always been a big soccer fan; I was actually an inaugural season ticket holder for DC United in 1996 when the league started and I grew up in that area. When I found out MLS was expanding to Philadelphia I was really excited and knew it was a job that would fit in nicely with my schedule. I made some inquiries with some of the contacts I have developed over the years working around town, and found out that a colleague and friend of mine would be working for the team. Aimee Cicero was hired as the teams Manager of Communications and I had worked with her for the previous 5 or 6 years while she was at Drexel and Temple Universities. Once I knew Aimee was on the staff I knew I could make this happen and with her help I did! Thanks Aimee!
Much of the MLS season runs through the summer when the majority of my clients (local universities) aren’t playing, so not only is it great work shooting a sport I love in a beautiful stadium, but it really fills during the collegiate offseason.
Coolest thing about the job?
I imagine most people will say the access, but after you shoot sports for a while you learn it’s not such a crazy thing, the athletes are people too, just better at sports than most of us are! Being the Union’s Team Photographer, much like all the other places I shoot for the coolest thing is the people you meet and the relationships you make.
New ESPN Color Analyst Taylor Twellman was on the Union’s broadcast team this past season and it was really great listening to him talk before matches about the work he is doing with concussions. The Union’s Goalkeeper’s Coach Rob Vartughian is a great guy and always comes over to ask how my family is before each game. The Communications and Marketing staff are really wonderful to work with. A lot of my best friends are people I work with on a regular basis for the organizations I shoot for, and I know I will say the same thing about the Union if I am lucky enough to shoot for them for a long time.
Now back to the access…that’s not too bad either, getting to be on the field when the Union walked out of the tunnel in front of a packed house against Everton, Manchester United and Real Madrid the last two years has been pretty cool!
Here is a shot of Jurgen Klinsmann celebrating after Robbie Rogers goal against Mexico, the first goal the team scored under his leadership. It was voted Sports Illustrated Snapshot “Photo of the Day” on the Google Chrome App when I took it. If I wasn’t the Union’s team Photographer I would have never gotten the call to shoot this match from another client.
Who’s your favourite player to photograph?
Two guys come to mind here. The Captain Danny Califf makes for fun photos with his sleeve tattoos and ever changing hairstyles. He is really physical and always running opponents down with slide tackles and he gets into the box on set pieces and throws his body all over the place. Second would be Roger Torres. Although he comes on a lot of times as a sub, he always brings a lot of energy and the fans at PPL Park go nuts every time he touches the ball. I think the fact he is 5-5 137lbs really gets people energized to see him. Since he isn’t the biggest of guys he makes for some fun photos and good news is the Union just completed his transfer so he should be here for a while. He’s only 20 years old!
On an average day, say your shooting game action, what’s your go to gear?
Normal game day set up is two cameras. Nikon D3s body and Nikon D3. In warm-ups I use my 400 mm f2.8 to shoot some close up face shots of some of the guys while they are near the sidelines. On my other camera I usually have my 24-70 mm f2.8 to shoot fans or general stuff inside and outside the stadium. Once the players go in from warm-ups I take the 400mm off and put on a 70-200m f2.8 lens. Sometimes I will use a flash for the Starting XI photo (PPL Park can be a tough place to shoot when the sun is going down. The overhangs cast a huge shadow across some of the field while the stands in the background are still in full sun so it can be tricky sometimes but we make it work. I usually leave my flash in manual at 1/16th or 1/8th power or so just to get a little kick of light on the players. Once the game begins I am usually always two bodies, one with the 400mm the other with the 70-200mm for anything close along the sidelines. The Auto-ISO feature the newer cameras offer has been beneficial at times when the field is half in shadow half in sunlight. I shoot all action shots at f2.8. Occasionally I will use a 1.4x extender on the 400mm. PPL Park is great because it offers a few places to shoot from where you can actually sit on the ground which I prefer to than kneeling behind the advertising boards. The lower the angle you can get the bigger the action looks!
This year I have a few new ideas and will probably try setting up some more remote cameras. I also always bring an assistant to the games with me as it is a big field and tough for one guy to cover. You never know where the action might be and if you run around chasing it all game you might never catch it! I have my assistant shoot with a 300mm f2.8 at the opposite end of the field and he did a great job catching some key moments for me last year.
For all you gear heads, my new Nikon D4 should be here within the next few weeks, I’m really excited for that!
I know you shoot a lot of other sports. What’s the most difficult one to shoot?
Obviously each sport presents its different challenges. I shoot a ton of college basketball, about 85 games a year, so that is certainly what I have the most practice at. Indoor events are typically more difficult because you are thrust into some dark places which don’t allow high shutter speeds and might have horrible fluorescent lighting. The new cameras have made this much easier though over the last 5 years. I routinely shoot over 5000 ISO which was unthinkable before I got my D3. Thank you Nikon…
Most difficult…how about volleyball? I don’t shoot it often enough to get good at it and if you can’t anticipate where the ball is going, good luck trying to find it!
How competitive is it on the sidelines with other photographers? Do you have to stake out your territory… is it all friendly?
Like I said before, it’s a huge field, and usually there are only 10-15 of us at a regular season league match. There are certainly spots I prefer to shoot from, mainly the corners where I can sit as low as possible, but if someone else is there I don’t get too bent out of shape and move on to the next spot. Sometimes being forced to move somewhere else can allow you to make a great image you would have otherwise never gotten and sometimes you wish you had been in your regular spot!
For some of the international matches it has been a little more crowded, but not too bad. Real Madrid was a little crazy, and USA vs. Mexico also at Lincoln Financial Stadium was packed with photographers. Obviously, a big rivalry and it was new USA Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s first game at the helm.
How do you think the Union are going to do in 2012?
The jump the franchise made from season one to season two last year certainly exceeded all expectations. Everyone is saying how young they are, but they have a really solid backline, and their attackers all have a very high ceiling. Zac MacMath is a young goalkeeper and a lot will fall on his shoulders, but I think we saw enough last season to know he is capable of handling the number one GK spot. Season three of any new coaching staff or organization is really where you can see things start to take shape and I think that will be true for this group. I think Carlos Valdes is an awesome player who everyone in the league will be talking about this season. Peter Nowak is a fiery guy and I wouldn’t bet against him with all the previous success he has had in his career, and if I did I certainly wouldn’t tell him! Go Union in 2012! DOOP!
What else do people need to know about Greg Carroccio and Sideline Photos?
Between being self-employed and my kids there isn’t a whole lot of time for hobbies these days. Photography and playing sports have always been my two favorite things to do and I have fortunately been able to combine the two and create a job that I really enjoy. I still play basketball regularly with a group of friends and golf as much as I can when the weather is nice. Aside from that though I’m trying my best these days to grow my business by adding photographers and new clients, it’s a process but it’s moving in the right direction. Thanks for having me!
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