Editor's Note: Chris Arnold will shoot at the 'War on I-4' this Friday evening in Orlando. This will be his 199th AFL game and 174th Storm game. During his time a member of the Storm family he has been the official photographer for the team and the fan club. While the current team photographer is Scott Audette, Arnold remains a member of the family and can still be seen on the field on game day trying to capture that magnificent shot. Immediatly above is a slide show of some of his favorite pictures.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then photographer Chris Arnold would have snapped enough photographs to date to make for a lengthy novel.
He has served as a freelancing photographer for nearly two decades, having attended every single Tampa Bay Storm home game since 1994. While the number of games in that span totals out to an impressive number, it can’t compare to that of the number of snapshots that are included in his personal photography portfolio.
“One hundred and ninety-eight games,” he said. “And probably about several hundred photos taken at each.”
Do the math, and it doesn’t take long to realize that Arnold is as decorated a member of the Tampa Bay Storm family as they come.
In fact, much like the team itself, Arnold’s roots stem from humble beginnings.
The year was 1994, and the Storm was hosting a kickoff breakfast to drum up excitement for the start of the team’s eighth season in the Arena Football League. Arnold, who had been shooting as a fan since the club’s move from Pittsburgh prior to 1991, decided it would behoove him to attend to network with some of the players, as well as the team’s executives.
And boy, did the move ever pay off.
“I owe everything to being in the right place at the right time,” Arnold added. “The owner at the time, Bob Gries, was there, saw my pictures, and said, ‘these are pretty good, where did you take these from?’
“My seats,” Arnold told him, “in the stands.”
Arnold then proceeded to thumb through a stack of 4x6 photos with Storm legend George LaFrance, whose autograph Arnold desired.
“George and I were looking through them to find a picture of him, and the next thing I know, Gries was still behind us looking over my shoulder,” Arnold recalled. “He wanted to see more of the pictures.”
It turns out that Gries was so impressed, he issued Arnold a credential for the team’s next home game, which Arnold shot from down on the field rather than up in the stands from his seat.
As for what happened after that, well, is history.
“I saw Gries shortly after that and asked him if he got the pictures,” Arnold said. “He said, ‘oh yeah, I got them. They were great.’
“The next thing I knew, he looked at me and told me to keep the credential, that I was hired and I’d be working for him now.”
Even before that day, he had always been the “photographer” for the Tampa Bay Storm. But now, it was official.
As included in the job responsibilities, it is the duty of the photographer to get as close to the action as possible to get the best possible shot.
Like the time against Albany, when Storm legend Stevie Thomas barreled over him while Thomas headed out of bounds, causing Arnold’s knees to skid across the turf.
“I saw it coming, but I didn’t know whether to put the camera down and get out of the way, or to hold my ground and get the shot,” Arnold remembered.
He got the shot, but also got painful rug burns.
The scene was one that has become customary to Arnold through his many years of experience, in which even now, he continues to lay it all on the line, even in more ways than one.
With his current streak sitting right around the 200-game mark, Arnold is actually in jeopardy of having it come to an end.
One of the many connections he has made while making a second career of shooting with Storm came several years back, when he fostered a friendship with former Tampa Bay Rowdies goalkeeper Daryl Sattler, who was attending one of the team’s games that season.
As the friendship grew, Arnold had always promised Sattler he would make it out to shoot one of his games.
“It always seemed like something would pop up, and it never ever ended up happening,” Arnold said. “So I said, ‘Daryl, if I ever get the opportunity, I will make it to one of your games and come to shoot.’”
The opportunity finally did come, and is actually coming up on June 23. The only trouble is, the Storm also play that night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, as they will entertain the San Antonio Talons, forcing Arnold to make a quick decision.
“You know, I’ve thought about it numerous times,” he said. “I have this incredible streak going, and wouldn’t it be something if it came to an end?
“I actually knew it would have to come to an end sometime, so if this really is it, it would be bittersweet.”
The funny thing, though, is that Satter actually plays for the San Antonio Scorpions of the North American Soccer League, which makes for a rather ironic revelation.
“I actually still will be shooting at the San Antonio game, it just won’t be the Talons,” Arnold joked.
Rather, he will be holding up his end of a bargain for a close friend, bringing his legacy of being an Ironman not only in sharp contrast to that of the sport’s definition, but even quite possibly to an end.
“There is still a possibility I’ll make the Storm game on the 23rd,” Arnold said. “So I’m not counting this thing as being over just yet.”
Always the optimist, Arnold continues to keep a narrow focus. Even when not gazing through the lens of a camera.