Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last assignment of the year...

Today was the last game of the year for me. The Armed Forces Bowl in Ft. Worth. The University of Houston was playing Air Force. I hate 11am games, anyone who knows me, know I'm up at the crack of noon on a regular basis. I value sleeping in, it makes me happy. In fact I'm usually up in the middle of the night when I'm writing in this blog. So, getting up to leave at 6:30am was, to say the least, difficult.
The main reason I was at the game was one player, University of Houston quarterback Case Keenum (above). Case is from Abilene and I've been shooting him since he was in high school (below). He was one of those kids in high school that, on paper, didn't look all that special. But, the kid knew how to win. His high school coach told me Case's 40 time was always "one step faster than the guy that was chasing him." That's just the way he played, if you needed three yards he would always get you 3.5. He was fun to watch, so when Houston was selected to play in the Armed Forces Bowl just down the road in Ft. Worth covering him was a no-brainer.
So, while I'm shooting the game, not only am I looking for good pictures to go with a game story, I'm also thinking about getting stock-type images of Keenum for any story or stories we will be doing about him in the future. Since the University of Houston doesn't play in a major conference and isn't ranked in the top 25 getting wire photos them isn't a sure thing let alone getting photos of the one kid on the team you need. Although, it is a little bit easier since he plays one of the most important positions on the field.
The game itself was all it was supposed to be. Air Force runs an option attack, while Houston runs the spread. I was really impressed by how well Air Force played considering the limitations on them as far as recruiting because they are a service academy. Houston ended up winning its first bowl game since 1980, but it was really close.

Getting in that Christmas Spirit...

The other day I met Jack Terzian and his wife of 64 years, Marty. The story was about Jack, a WWII veteran who's plane was shot down around Christmas time. These were two of the nicest people I have photographed in a long time. I shot this photo of them on Christmas Eve, the story was running on the day after Christmas, and I didn't want to bother them on Christmas day. So, I set it up for the afternoon of Christmas Eve. From the moment I walked into their home I was greeted with a big smile from Marty and a handshake from Jack.

After talking to them for a few minutes and a few questions I grabbed my lights and set up one light with a big softbox. Jack was a former photographer so he was really interested in my gear. It was fun talking to someone who spent most of his time shooting 4x5's compared to my digital gear. After I got my light set up I told them I wanted a couple shots of them with Jack holding a photo of him with his plane, a P-47 Thunderbolt, that he named after his sweetheart... Marty. I grabbed a few test shots checking my light then I took a couple others. The first couple weren't too bad, but I know from experience after a few shots to break the ice people often will let their guard down and let their true personality shine through. And it turned out great, as I was talking to them Marty let out a great and and Jack had a nice grin looking at them that just really showed their wonderful personalities. After this shot, and looking at it in the back of my camera I knew I wouldn't get anything better than this.

These are the kind of assignments that make me realize just how lucky I am to do this job. I get to meet some really great people all the time, but it's people like the Terzians that I'm sent to shoot at just the right time. As I was walking out their door, for some reason, they made me really glad that it was Christmas.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

After 17 weeks... It's over

Well, it's been 17 weeks, but the high school football season is finally over. Over the last busy six weeks I've driven more than 2,500 miles covering the playoffs. In the last 17 weeks I've shot 30 high school games, plus a few college games. It's been a pretty crazy season. And, while it's nice that it's coming to an end, as usual I'm going to miss it. Football season is the best time of the year.
For the final game of the season Cisco High School, which I've shot the last three weeks was playing Daingerfield for the Class 2A Division II state championship. They were playing at Waco ISD stadium in Waco. The only other team I saw Cisco play in Waco they got beaten pretty bad in a state championship game in 2002. From talking to the coach the week before, Daingerfield was going to be good. After he showed me the game tape of them it was looking like Cisco didn't stand a whole lot of a chance. they would probably lose by 21.
Well, after the first quarter the score was tied 0-0. Then Daingerfield started to realize their bigger, fast receivers could make big plays by simply out-leaping the Cisco DB's, or running past them. Daingerfield took over the game and went ahead 19-0 at halftime.
Cisco started out the second half with a brutally long drive. Pulling out the classic three yards and a cloud of dust offense, Cisco drove the ball all the way down the field with a 7+ minute drive, before losing a fumble on the 2 yard line. After that I was pretty sure this one was over.
Well, Daingerfield added another TD in the fourth quarter. Cisco, to their credit, never gave up. Their crowd was still screaming for them on every drive despite it becoming more clear the outcome wasn't what they were looking for. I think going into the game, everyone knew Cisco had to play a perfect game and get a little help from the other team having an off day. It just wasn't going to happen. They did, however, score a touchdown in the final few minutes of the game, making the final score 26-8.
Looking at the score the game doesn't seem as close as it looked from being there. There were three big plays that made the score more than it was. On their opening drive Cisco lost a fumble inside the Daingerfield 20, on a drive that they were moving the ball well and looked like they would score. Then, on the last play of the first half, Daingerfield scored a 33-yard touchdown, on a play their big receiver just blew past the Cisco defender. Couple those plays with the fumble in the third quarter and the "perfect" game needed just wasn't going to happen.
And, even had all those plays gone right I'm not sure they'd have won. That Daingerfield team was big, fast and unlike a lot of East Texas teams, they were well disciplined. That's usually the one intangible that the West Texas teams at this level have over the more "athletic" teams. Well, it was a fun run even if I didn't get to cover a title winner in the end. Plus I made a few decent images along the way.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Don't be so damn lazy...

The other night I had an assignment to shoot a couple of guys playing video games. The story was about a couple of guys who are putting together a gaming league in the area. When I spoke to one of them he said they usually play a couple hours a night, mostly Halo 3. So, I set up a time I could be there to get some shots of them playing. Well, the problem I was having was how I would shoot it. Most of the time you sit on a couch and play with the TV being on the other side if the room. When I got there, that's exactly what was going on. The good thing was Jesse, top right, had a big TV, the other good part was they pull the couch closer to the TV when they are gaming. Ok, well that helped. I started out taking a few shots of the guys playing, I hung out for a while waiting for some emotions, they aren't quite like me, 1) they were really good (my Halo skills could use some work), 2) they are pretty even keeled (I have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve when I play, ask my wife whom I've woken up a couple times yelling at the TV!).

The other problem was I was having a hard time exposing them and the TV evenly. They play in pretty dark conditions. Now, here's where I had my epiphany. My D3 has allowed me to be pretty lazy, if it is dark I just crank up the ISO, the problem is I tend to forget I have a flash. The TV kind of reminded me of it. I grabbed my flash out of my bag as well as my off camera cords and my mini tripod. Then it was just a matter of exposing right for the TV and popping a little flash on these guys' faces. The ugly tungsten yellow light pretty much disappeared, leaving only the nice light on their faces. After about 20 minutes of laying on the floor shooting up on these guys I had my shot.

As I left I realized my great camera was hindering my shooting somewhat, and I made a promise to myself to not just crank up my ISO when there is a possiblity of making a great picture in another way... sounds like a New Year's Resolution to me.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Football Week 16.... only one week left

I hate being late, ok let me clarify that before anyone who knows me calls me out about how I've never been anywhere in my life within 10 minutes of when I was supposed to be there. Yes, it true, I nearly missed the boat to my own wedding... literally. But when it comes to covering football it's sort of a superstition that I get there at least an hour early, when I show up late I think it pisses off the photo gods.
Last week I had to cover Cisco High School's game against Pottsboro in the Class 2A state semifinals. The game was in Justin, about 30 minutes north of Ft. Worth, which is about a 2.5 hour trek itself. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, the game was a 6pm start. The problem here was I had to shoot graduation in the morning, plus another assignment after that. By the time got done shooting the two assignments, then get back to the office and file them it was nearly 2:30, and I still needed to run home and let my dogs out. Well, by the time I got on the road it was nearly 3pm.
Now, about 10 years ago, I'd make up for getting out late by just driving faster, well now that I'm a little older and matured (and my wallet is thinner from too many speeding tickets). Now, I just got there as swiftly as I could without fracturing the law too much. Well, after battling traffic to get into the stadium and parking quite a walk away, and hearing the national anthem being played as I drove into the stadium. Then, hearing Cisco scroing their first touchdown as I walked into the gate. I was able to start making some photos, over half the first quarter was over.
The game was pretty good, Pottsboro played a spread offense and executed pretty well. However, holding on to the football was an issue for them. To the tune of five interceptions (two in the end zone) and two fumbles. This can also be attributed to Cisco's defense.
At halftime I went to the press box to set up my computer and do some editing so I wasn't so tight to send my stuff after the game. Well, I spent a little to long editing and wasn't able to get down to the field for the start of the half and Cisco got the opening kickoff and march down field pretty quick. The stadium in Justin, like many new stadiums is really nice, but for some reason all these new stadiums have INCREDIBLY SLOW elevators. Cisco was on the Pottsboro 20 yard line and moving the ball swiftly. I knew there was no way I'd get down to the field in time to get them scoring. So, I took a shot of shooting from the camera deck on the pressbox. My thinking was I have a 50/50 chance they would come to my side of the field and I could get something nice. While if I took the elevator I'd have no chance of getting down in time. Luckily it worked out and Cisco quarterback Josh Bridges scored in the corner of the endzone (above).
Well, Cisco took a pretty big lead into the fourth quarter and was looking like they were going to win the game. So, my next move is to try and figure out every angle the reporters would take for the advance stories about the state championship the following week. Basically, I ran down in my head all the feature stories that had been done on Cisco players for the year and kept my eyes out for any other starters I hadn't shot or we hadn't done stories on. As it turns out, the main story was on the coach and how he has built the program from nothing to three straight trips to the state semifinals and two championship game appearances in three years. We ended up using a shot I got of the coach in the first quarter (above).

The other graduations...

Graduation in December just doesn't have the same feel to me. I guess I consider Spring to be "graduation time." Nonetheless, I covered it. As I've said earlier in the year, my goal is always to have something shot before the actual ceremony starts, just in case I need to leave early because of deadlines, or just for the feeling of security of going into the ceremony and allowing myself to take chances. That doesn't always happen for one reason or another.
On Friday night, I covered Abilene Christian University's graduation. I always find ACU's graduation interesting, it is the only school I know of that the students are escorted by their parents or spouses. And, while it is an oddity to me, it does make for some nice pattern shots with the graduates and escorts wearing contrasting gowns.
On Saturday, I shot Hardin-Simmons graduation. This was one I couldn't get to on time. The graduation was early and I had to go out of town that evening to shoot football. So, the pre-ceremony stuff was not an option. So, then it's time to hope for something a little out of the ordinary... you know, the kind of stuff the establishment frowns upon. Like, when the grad raises his arms in victory as he's cheered by his family (below).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Football Week 15

Ok, I'm about a week behind, so this is from last week, this week's stuff will be posted later. This week was the state quarterfinals for Division II schools in Texas. In Texas they have two divisions that they give football state championships in football. Basically, each class (Class A-5A) give two state championships, I'm pretty sure it's a money thing and there are plenty of people that don't like it, but that's not my call, nor do I really care. Heck, I kind of like it, it doubles my chances of prolonging my football season. Plus, what system is perfect... hell, it's still better than the BCS.
So, this week I went to Mineral Wells on Friday night to shoot Albany playing against Archer City in the Class A Div. II state quarterfinals. This game was predicted to be a dog fight, and that's just what it was. Archer City was a bunch of beasts, they had huge lines on both sides of the ball, and like Albany, they played smash-mouth, shove it up the gut football. Nothing too pretty, and on defense it was the same way. Both teams spent most of the night beating on each other. It was typical 3-yards and a cloud of dust (if you could get clouds of dust on artificial turf). If it was 4 down and anything less than three yards, I think both teams went for it. For one, Class A football isn't exactly known for great special teams. Two, neither defense could stuff the short run all night.
Archer City ended up making one mistake, a fumble which Albany returned to the Archer 5-yard line, which Albany ran in for a touchdown a couple plays later to go up 14-7. They then had a chance to ice the game with a 35-yard field goal. The quarterback, who is also their kicker just missed it, bouncing it off the upright. Archer put up a good fight at the end, using the hook-and-latter and a couple other trick plays, but they were stopped on a fourth down with less than a minute left.
Instead of leaving the long glass on my camera for the last drive, I switched to my wide angle lens. I made sure to be near the QB/Kicker (above) on the last drive since I figured he was going to be the most excited about the stop (or the most upset if they didn't). One of the great things about high school football is being allowed in the team area, which allowed me to do this. My thinking was I had plenty of action shots from the game and my chances of getting great reaction was going to be better, than hoping to get something better then the action I already had, and it paid off.
Saturday, I went and shot Cisco against Idalou in the Class 2A Div. II state quarterfinals in Snyder. There's only one photo (above) on here from that game. I spent most of the night out of place, or on the wrong side of the field. It happens. Cisco ended up winning the game. It was pretty close until the fourth quarter and Idalou just sort of fell apart.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Santa Claus is coming to town...

Well, it's December, so it's time for the jolly old fat man to be all over the place. I shot this while shooting the tree lighting ceremony at Dyess Air Force Base. This was the first time I had actually shot the ceremony, and for some reason I was expecting a real Christmas tree to be lit outside the Dyess chapel. When I got there it was just the tree growing outside the building with a few strings of lights wrapped around it. It was also bitterly cold, so the ceremony was cut short. Luckily my saving grace was the fat man showing up at the end. When he did, this little girl was jumping up and down and could barely contain her excitement. I figured I'd just follow her, knowing she was going to be my best chance of getting a nice shot... I guess it paid off.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sometimes, the best photos are considered "tasteless"

I was out shooting at one of the local golf courses for a story about the city thinking of buying the nice local course, and considering shutting down the municipal course it currently owns. Well, Maxwell (the muni course where I was shooting) isn't the nicest play in the world to play, but it is cheap, so it gets its fair share of college kids playing there. The group that I ran into were a fun group. There were cutting up, and trash talking the whole time. So, I knew it was just a matter of time before I would get something of them goofing around. When one of the guys was putting and his friend snuck up behind him and smacked him in the leg with the flag. They got a good laugh out of it, sadly though, it wasn't going to make the paper... for obvious reasons. So, I kept following the group a couple more holes hoping to get something else, however, nothing else happened, but I was able to make a couple other nice shots that would work. I was pushing time and could probably have stayed out a little longer, had I not had a golf cart that had a dying battery (I had to push the damn thing up the final hill before getting back to the clubhouse!). The bottom photo is what we used in print.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Day 2 games 3&4... the playoffs are half over

Well, the third week of the football playoffs is over now. My total mileage driven for covering the playoffs over the last three weeks (including the volleyball championships last week) is up to 1,729 miles. The number of local teams has dwindled down quite a bit, it now down to a fairly manageable level.
Saturday was the day for the big schools to play, since I shot the little ones the day before. The two local city schools that were still alive in the playoffs, Wylie (Class 3A) and Cooper (Class 4A) were playing 150 miles east of Abilene in Aldeo, a southwestern suburb of Ft. Worth. The good news (for me) was they were both playing in the same stadium. The bad news: the games were at 1pm and 7:30pm, which meant a LONG break in between games.
The first game was a great game. Wylie was playing China Spring, the #3 ranked team in the state. Talent-wise China Spring was stacked, however, I learned last year never to count Wylie out of a game despite how outclassed they are in the talent department. Well, Wylie ended up winning the game 24-21. It was the typical game Wylie has played this year, tough defense not a lot of offense. This team is really impressive in that they are not flashy by any means they just win, which is what they did this game.
Like I said, it was a great game to watch, however, there wasn't a whole lot of offense going on. It was a lot of good fundamental plays. Luckily for me there were a few big plays made, and for a couple I was even in the right position to catch the play!
As I said earlier there was about a four hour gap between the two games, and since they were in the same stadium, I sat in the press box and sent my pix, then worked on the slideshow. There was no sense in leaving, it was cold and Aledo isn't too close enough to anything that I could get to after sending my photos. So, I sat in the press box and put together the photo slideshow for the web, which I was able to get done before the next game, and that saved me from being up all night too, which is alway s nice.
The Cooper game was quite as exciting. They were dominated by Denton Guyer's big offensive and defensive lines from the start and never really got anything going. Heck, they didn't even get a first down until almost the end of the second quarter. Not something that helped me a whole lot with early deadlines and a photo page to fill from my two games. Luckily I got plenty from the Wylie game. The photos from the photo page needed to be in at halftime. So, I sent what I had, which wasn't all that much.
The second half of the game was a little bit better for Cooper, they at least got their offense moving in the right direction. They had a couple big plays but nothing that was going to get them back in the game. And, it seemed like every time they made a big defensive play they turned around and shot themselves in the foot on offense.
One of the big problems with a blowout from the get go, is finding some kind of emotional shot that tells the story of the game. Most of the kids just walked off the field. The disappointment seemed to already have set in. However, after the handshakes and when everyone was leaving the field I was able to spot a couple of the seniors hugging after playing their last game. It pretty much summed up the game.