De’veon Smith is barreling at me full speed as my knees dig into turf and I zoom out my lens with fingers numb from cold.

The shutter of the lens I purchased only weeks prior is going almost as wild as the crowd. I pause for just a moment, leaning back to quickly scroll through the last minute or so of action captured by my camera before resuming my stance.

I never realized just how big the Big House actually is until I stood sidelines of the field, ears ringing from the thousands of fans surrounding me. It is a place I was not expecting to find myself on Saturday afternoons but throughout this college football season, there I have been, inches from players that could easily crush me and my camera if they ever approached the edge of the field. And I have been relishing every minute of it.

I have been to plenty of events with my camera and I can honestly say I never expected Michigan Stadium to be one of those places I brought my prized possession along to. Even with the experience I have gained behind a camera – portraits, weddings, concerts – shooting Big Ten football didn’t seem like something I was prepared to do. Regardless of my confidence (or lack thereof), when the opportunity to shoot Wolverines football came, it is one that must be taken. At least my new lens made me look like I had even a slight clue what I was doing.

For the first few games, my shots were decent. I was capturing players, but not a whole lot of action and I couldn’t even follow the ball. As a result, I was always running around the field hoping I’d catch something with my camera, which is NOT an easy task when there are photographers, camera crews, cheerleaders and players everywhere. I’ve actually almost been run over by the marching band more times than the football players have come close to hitting me. It took a few games to get a hang of what exactly I needed to do to produce the best possible images, but with only one home game remaining, I think it is safe to say I finally was able to find a successful niche.

It’s truly an overwhelming experience to be so close to the action (and a rather stressful position for someone who had never even aimed their camera at sports before), but wow, is it sure an overpowering feeling. While it always feels like the pressure is on to catch the best shots and the exterior competition is guys at least three times my age with camera equipment that costs more money than I even make in a year, to see those final shots and realize those images came from my camera is one of the most exhilarating feelings.

It can get cold, it can get tiresome, and when the photos aren’t seeming to turn out as great as I am expecting, it can get discouraging, but every time that I walk down the tunnel and find a place alongside the field, I know that I am right where I belong.