In the fourth quarter of Michigan's 31-7 victory over Western Michigan, U-M senior photographer Martin Vloet captured a distinct photo that showed the ferocity of Michigan's defense even late in the game. His dynamic shot of linebacker Obi Ezeh's hurdling blitz was included in the photo gallery on MGoBlue.com, but the image was so good it warranted extra attention in our Picture Perfect feature.
The photographer and his subject were asked to recall the moment and share their stories from different perspectives.
The play call was for me to blitz over the center. I don't like creeping up because then the lineman will know I'm coming, so I was in my normal stance waiting for the snap. When the ball was snapped, the center turned away so I had a clean shot at the quarterback, but I saw the running back coming in to block. I remembered in film that Coach Robinson stressed to us that the running back's tendency was to cut block because he was a smaller guy. I anticipated that he'd go low and as soon as he put his head down I took off.
I got pretty high in the air and I think I got a piece of the ball and I hit him too, which was a plus. I don't get up in the air like that too often because I have to know the guy is going to cut me. If I can react fast enough I'll jump over him because it's the fastest way to the quarterback.
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For this series, I was standing in the corner of the north end zone with a 400mm f/2.8 lens. I was shooting at 400 ISO and the camera set to 1/1000th of a second at f/3.2. I usually shoot with a wide aperture so the shallow depth of field on the long lens will help separate the player action from the background. By the time we reached the fourth quarter, it was even more necessary as the shadow of the press box had stretched across the entire field. .
I spent a lot of time during the game following the offensive and defensive linemen. A lot of these guys don't get as much credit they deserve from the fans and I wanted to make sure I had shots of them hard at work. When Obi lined up for this play, I saw his clear line of sight to the quarterback and decided to see what he would do with it. I could see the look in his eyes before the ball was snapped and knew he'd get to Broncos quarterback Tim Hiller fast. I didn't realize that he would hurdle running back Brandon West to get to him.
After the snap, the center moved to his left to block Renaldo Sagesse and Brandon West attempted to fill the lane to his quarterback, but Obi wasn't going to be denied. He jumped over West in stride and nearly blocked Hiller's pass.
Shooting from the corner of the end zone is great because you can see the play unfolding without the officials in the way. Still, there are moments the players get in the way. With Obi in the air, I could see everything. After he touched down he was behind Hiller and almost completely obscured and by the time he was visible again, the pass was away and the play all but over. I knew I had the shot, but had to review it on-camera to be sure it was clearly in focus. I had a pair of outstanding images from the play, but the one with Obi nearly on top of Hiller is my favorite of the day. The intense look in his eyes and the menacing snarl are evidence to how much the team wanted this win.
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