Digging for Gold

With a new coach, a new front office, and at least four promising new players, the Nuggets’ 2013–14 season is certain to be a roller coaster ride of transition. We mined the history books and picked the brains of local analysts—and of the Nuggets’ new coach himself—to give you an insider’s look at the franchise’s past, present, and future. 

October 2013

Sure Shot
The Nuggets’ team photographer, Garrett Ellwood, who has worked for the NBA since 1995, shares the keys to capturing an NBA game.
Setup. I usually sit right next to the basket on a fold-up camp chair. I use six cameras: two in my hands and four at the other end that I’ll fire remotely. They might sit on a catwalk, behind the backboard, or above or below the basket, depending on who’s playing. If a team like the Miami Heat is in town, I’ll use every camera I have.
Photo shop. I send about 50 select shots to Getty Images each night, out of about 800 I shoot during a game.
There will be blood—but you won’t see it. The photos are marketing for the league, so I’m looking mostly for “cleaner” action shots. I have a ton of pictures from fights or players bleeding from injuries, but they rarely see the light of day.
Crash test dummy. I’ve been run over I don’t know how many times. I got killed at summer league this year; there were just a lot of guys trying to make the team, and I got crushed four or five times in Vegas.
Say “cheese.” I was in L.A. when Shaq was there, and he knocked the shit out of me one time, under the seats and into someone’s nachos. I was on the Jumbotron. It was a disaster; I had that cheesy sauce all over me the rest of the game.
How to take a hit. We photographers just hope we don’t hurt one of the guys. We’re sitting there with metal objects, so the last thing we want to do is cut someone or trip them up.
Tight quarters. Some buildings are way worse than others. Sacramento has to be the worst. The patrons’ knees are in your back, and you’re getting kicked by a ref the whole time.
The money shot. We try to make the crowd look good. It’s easier during the playoffs when they hand out towels and T-shirts. And Getty has big demands for celebrity shots, especially during the NBA Finals or an All-Star Game. Sometimes it seems like you focus more on that stuff than on the game.
Rocky bombs. My remote cameras get knocked out all the time. The one above the basket is especially vulnerable to half-court shots. But it’s mostly Rocky. I want to kill him when he does that half-court shot; he’s drilled my camera like three times, but it’s such a good angle I have to put it up there and deal with what happens.
The camera loves them. Allen Iverson was awesome to shoot—he was always slashing to the basket, yelling, flailing. Melo was great. Nenê always seemed like he was looking at the camera. JaVale McGee is a goofball, just a funny guy, so he’s fun to shoot.