Monday, December 28, 2009

Home for the Holidays...

Dec. 23 is the busiest single travel day of the year. It's also really close to Christmas and usually a pretty slow news day! So, my two choices were to either go hang out at a rest area or truck stop or shoot photos of cars zooming down the interstate or or hang out at the airport waiting for people to welcome family members home for Christmas. I chose this for two reasons, 1) it usually makes nice emotional photos of people welcoming family members they haven't seen in a while and 2) by simply reading the flight schedule (and the luck of the plane being on time) the whole thing can be done in about 15 minutes.
Usually when I shoot these stories, I keep an eye for the big families especially those with kids since they are usually the most excited to see grandma/grandpa etc. Well, I made a few decent shots when people were getting off the plane at the gate... the nice thing about the Abilene airport is there is only one airline and gate gate being used so everyone goes to the same place and then they pick up their luggage at the only luggage carousel. I decided to go down and try to get photos showing the large crowd of people waiting for their suitcases. That's when I noticed the two little girls grabbing their dad's suitcase, the one with her tongue out made the shot... 15 minutes and I was done.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

State Champs...

Abilene High football has always been special to me. When I was here interviewing for this job 10 years ago the 1999 season opener was the was one of the first assignments I shot for the newspaper. It was also the first season AHS had made the playoffs in 40 years. Since then, they have made the playoffs every year since.
After seeing this team at the beginning of the year there was no question that they had talent, however, they had plenty of questions too. In particular the defense. They were small and looked like the first big physical team they played was going to push them around. Well, it didn't happen the first 14 games of the season, and by that point I was doubting that they knew how to lose. Their final hurdle was Katy, the 2-time defending state champs.
The game started out pretty quick. Abilene High took the ball down the field and scored on their first drive and then their second drive. After that Katy started playing defense and kept the game close until the fourth quarter when Abilene High put things away. A final long touchdown run by running back Herschel Sims sealed the game. After that I spent the last 4 minutes of the game roaming the sidelines looking for celebration features, of which there was no shortage of them. As the clock ticked down I kept my eyes on coach Steve Warren, as giddy as he's been after winning the last few games I knew he'd be excited about the win, it was his first state championship. Plus the other big players were on the field kneeling the football and I'd find them later.
It was really cool following this team for the last 10 years. Talent-wise, I wasn't sure this was the best one, but as far as chemistry goes and playing as a team there was no doubt about how good they were, plus they just wanted it more. The team kind of came out of nowhere and finished as the only Class 5A team in the state to finish undefeated at 15-0 and was ranked #2 in the nation in a couple of different polls. It was the school's 7th state championship, but first in 53 years. Needless to say, they were pretty happy.













Friday, December 25, 2009

Driving all over the state, part 2...

The other half of my trip around the northern half of the state was going to Dallas to cover Wylie playing in the state championship game against Gilmer. Two years ago Wylie gave Gilmer everything they had in game they had a shot to win. This year's Wylie team was a lot better on both offense and defense than that team. However, the Gilmer team was a lot better "team" this time around than the uber-talented group of individuals on the 2007 team.
I wasn't sure if Wylie was going to win, but every time I expect them to lose, when they are out-manned or what they always seem to make me look bad. I think a lot of that has to do with really good coaching and discipline. So, I figured this time they were going to keep it close and maybe in the perfect storm they could win it. Well, they ran into a brick wall. I think it was a combination of Gilmer having great talent and being able to play as a team, something I've noticed in the past not a lot of east Texas teams do. But it was another great season for Wylie and making it to the state championship game is not really something to be ashamed of. And my total mileage, just for the weekend... just a tad over 750.





Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Driving all over the state, part 1...

It's getting to that part of the year when there aren't a whole lot of games left to cover and the most important ones so the distances get even farther. Like having to go to Lubbock (150 miles west) on one night and then to Dallas (180 miles east), but that's another post. The first game was the Class A state semifinal game between Albany and Stratford. It was a rematch of last year's state semifinal game that Albany lost 28-0.
This year's game was different, but it started out looking the same. Stratford started our with a drive that looked like the game was going to be really quick. Stratford's first drive lasted almost 10 minutes! However, they couldn't score on it. Two plays later Albany (completely out of character) threw a long pass for a 65-yard touchdown. That pretty much set the tempo for the game. During the next drive Albany picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown. After that it was the typical run it down your throat football that the Lions are know for.
Late in these game with such emotions running wild if the game is in hand I usually put down the long glass and start roaming around the bench area looking for the emotional photos. This is one of the great things about high school football is being able to walk around and make photos in the bench area... try doing that at a college or pro game! While I was watching everyone was crowding around Albany head coach Denney Faith. Since most of the starters play both ways they were out on the field as the clock expired but a couple of the kids and assistant coaches were jumping around. They mobbed the coach and one of the assistants in his excitement ended up pulling down coach Faith and I think kids thought it was a dogpile, the top photo is from the start of it. The funny part is after the pile let up on coach Faith his glasses were missing a lens and all twisted metal! No one was hurt and I mentioned it to the reporter writing about the story. He was able to get a good quote about it and mention it in his story.




Thursday, December 17, 2009

Football Excitement in December

With Wylie playing in the state championship game and Abilene High still alive in the playoffs, there is quite an air of excitement in the air. So, for a story we were doing about the excitement on the south side of town I spent a little while driving around before going to a pep rally being put on by the booster club. It really kind of amazed me there wasn't a whole lot in the way of signs showing support for the team. The it kind of hit me, there really aren't that many businesses in the Wylie district it's mostly just the school and a bunch of houses. The only think I could find were the purple and gold streamers on all of the road signs and a sign at a resaurant down the street from the school. "Football in December" has pretty much described Wylie football over the last ten years. To the point that they pull out this tattered old sign that they first made a while back.
So after shooting the sign I got to the school about 30 minutes before the actual pep rally started. When I got there I saw the cheerleaders running around decorating all of the players cars so I followed them around for a while and made a few shots of them painting windows. Then it was time for the pep rally. Now what I heard was they were going to bring out a car painted in Gilmer's (the team they were playing) colors. And, what I thought was that the players were going to be beating the cars. But, what actually happened was the team stood around and watched as a group of dads took sledge hammers and beat the snot out of the car. It was pretty funny and I was able to make a nice little spread of photos for the front page.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

By the skin of their teeth...

After spending the night in Arlington, Saturday was a trip south to Waco to cover Wylie to cover the Class 3A state semifinal football game against Lucas Lovejoy. The winner of this game would play in the Class 3A Division I state championship game the following week. This was Wylie's third straight trip to the state semifinals. The previous two years they lost, once being stopped on the three yard line losing by four, then last year they gave up a 2-point conversion to lose the game by 1. Well this year, I guess the third time's a charm. In what was probably the most exciting game of the year (I think I'd give this one the slight edge over the Brownwood/Graham game since this was a playoff game).
The game didn't start out all that great for Wylie, the defense was playing well, but the offense was making all kinds of mistakes, bad decisions, bad throws etc. But, the second half was a different story. One thing I've always noticed about Wylie is that they always seem to make great halftime adjustments, and this game was no different. Lovejoy went down the field and scored a touchdown with 2:24 to go. Then Wylie got the ball, down by three and made a great drive down the field scoring a touchdown with 8 seconds left on a really nice play. After this, I don't even pay attention to the field. The shot of the game is going to be reaction. Since the kid who caught the winning touchdown was playing defense I found the starting quarterback who threw the pass. My camera was pretty much trained on him for the kickoff and final play of the game. I have no idea how the game ended, the play didn't matter. But I go the reaction shot I was looking for of the players running on the field as time expired. I can read about the last play of the game in the game story.




Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Past the halfway point of the playoffs...

After the previous week's effort of beating the number one team in the state Abilene High started getting all kinds of state and national recognition. After their early exit there were a lot of people wondering if they were going to start believing all the hype surrounding them and they may slip up in the next round. Well, that didn't happen. They played Arlington Bowie High School, who was coming off a rather big upset of their own the previous week and the Eagles came out and just punched them in the mouth and never really looked back. It was kind of cool to see how well the team was supported. Bowie was playing in their home stadium and the AHS fans who had to travel more then 150 miles outdrew the local fans who were only a few minutes from their homes.



Friday, December 11, 2009

Strike up the Band...

The day I shot this was a slow news day and we got a press release from Hardin-Simmons University about the school's band "The World-Famous Cowboy Band" playing that weekend in a parade in Dallas. It also mentioned that the band was going to be marching around the campus and surrounding neighborhood for one final practice before leaving for the parade the next day. I didn't bother to ask how far they were going to be marching... that probably would have been a good idea. I certainly got my exercise for the day though.
It was pretty cold that day and everyone, including me was pretty bundled up. However, the cymbals player was wearing shorts, along with a scarf and the regulation cowboy boots the band always wears. Now, since it was just practice, the band's full uniforms weren't required to be worn, but I guess they had to wear their boots. That and the shot of the kid watching as the band marched by were my two favorite shots .

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Playoffs Week 3, Day 1, Game 3

The final game of the weekend for week three was a rare home game for Cooper playing Denton Guyer, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year. The game started out pretty bad and Cooper was down 28-0 early. They did make an effort to come back but it just wasn't going to happen. Luckily their offense looked a lot better in the second half. For the third quarter I decided to change things up a little since I still had daylight and some nice light was coming in, so I went up to the camera deck in the pressbox and thre the 2x teleconverter on my 400mm lens. I shot the whole quarter from up there and made some nice images. This works really nicely when there are deep passes and the players are looking up for the ball, which Cooper does plenty of... especially when they are down.