Sunday, May 31, 2009

I love shooting track...

Outdoor Track Championship
Last weekend I shot the NCAA Div. II national track meet for NCAA Photos. Track is a close second only to football in my favorite sports to shoot. And since football happens in the fall, and track is in the Spring so it's the perfect balance. However, track is truly at its best when it means something. This is when you get those nice raw emotions from the athletes.
Outdoor Track Championship
Now, as someone who went to a major Division I college, I've always sort of looked down on the lower divisions of the NCAA. Normally, the talent is a little watered down and not as enjoyable to watch. Track is a lot different though. Division II, however, has become the destination of a lot of international athletes and it's not uncommon to see current or future Olympians competing at D2 schools.
Outdoor Track Championship
The great thing about shooting for NCAA Photos was I was always covering the winners. The problem with that though was, I was always covering the winners. Since I had no idea who was going to win the event, I had to rely on the seed times of the runners. So, my idea was to shoot a wide shot first so I would get most everyone in top seeded lanes to cover myself then try and quickly figure out who was going to win. It worked out well in all but one of the races when the racer didn't come from one of the top 3 seeded lanes (For those who aren't track junkies, lanes 3-5 are where the top three seeds are usually placed)
Outdoor Track Championship
Of course, the best way to get these results was to know who was going to win as they crossed the finish line. This was a lot easier in the distance races, since they field was more spread out the longer the race. This also allowed some time to either shoot other events or gave me time to be creative, shooting pans, the turns etc.
Outdoor Track Championship
The steeplechase is one of my favorite races to shoot. I mean who doesn't love shooting people splashing through the water during a race? It's also one of those races that I rarely get to shoot (I really wish they would add it to the high school lineup). I'm still waiting for the big wipe out shot to happen while I'm shooting the race... hasn't happened yet.
Outdoor Track Championship
Overall I think it turned out pretty well, I didn't get to shoot a whole lot of the field events since they were spread out over three days and I was only shooting on Saturday's events. But it made for a nice tune up for the high school state track meet next week. More on that later.
Outdoor Track Championship

Monday, May 25, 2009

The biggest decision of their lives...

Last Friday morning I got a call at 10:30 waking me up (working the night shift rocks). I had to shoot photos of a pair of kids at Clyde High School, about 15 miles from here. We were doing a story on the school's valedictorian, P.J. Martinez, and salutatorian, Emily Yates. Because of the swine flu overreaction the UIL, Texas' governing body over high school competition, postponed all athletic events for 2 weeks, which made all the regional track meets get pushed back, which also pushed the state track meet back three weeks. The problem with this is the state track meet was falling on the same weeks as many high schools' graduations, including Clyde's. And to make it even worse, the events that both these kids were qualified in were relays. So, whatever decision was made was going to effect three other students. Not a situation I'd want to be in (not that there was ever any question as to whether I'd be the val or sal of my school, it wasn't even close, but that's another post!).
I was really nervous while heading out there. Someone else had set up the assignment with the coach, and it wasn't the reporter. So I had no idea what I was going to shoot, or what they would have available. When I got there the coach was waiting for me. As we were walking in, I asked if they had their cap and gowns and track uniforms available, then held my breath hoping to hear they had something available more than what they wore to school. Luckily as we turned the corner into his office everything I asked for was spread out on the table. Ok, possible crisis #1 solved. My next question was "How much time do they have?" I actually laughed after asking it, these 2 kids had the best grades in the school, I doubt if they missed class they'd have much trouble. So, possible crisis #2 averted. Now, we just needed a place to shoot it. So, the coach says, "We can use my classroom." I figured it was going to be empty, but they were holding lunch detention in there, well, not for long it was kind of cool watching him tell everyone to leave so we could use the class.
I began setting up all my lights after we cleared some desks out of the way to shoot the photo. The kids showed up after changing into their track uniforms, and were suprised by how much went into taking a picture. One of them said "I thought you would just come in and take a quick photo and leave, this is pretty cool."Yates then mentioned the super team photos, and asked if I was the one who took those. After answering in the affirmative she said, "Those are such cool pictures." It was kind of nice to know that people look at them and also that someone appreciates the work put into them.
Sadly, the school wasn't able to reschedule its graduation, but both Yates and Martinez both decided they were going to run at state (both relays are going in as favorites to medal). The school is going to either video their speeches before they leave or put together a live video feed from Austin. I think they made the right decision, whether they spoke on tape or live they can't have their class staus taken away from them, they already earned it. But they can't go back an re-run their race or win a medal based on their qualifying times.

Playoff Baseball....

These are a couple shots from a playoff baseball game on Thursday. The game was pretty unexciting but I made a couple of nice shots that I liked. The top shot was a nice diving play by the shortstop. The bottom shot was a bobbled fly ball that went in his glove and popped out.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

When this guy shows up, you're good...

I covered Brownwood High School's Shelby Miller again on Tuesday. It was a one-game series so, I just assumed that Brownwood was going to win. Yes Miller is that damn good. He throws in the mid-high 90's with his fastball, and has the nastiest curveball I've ever seen out of a high school pitcher. But, that's not what showed me exactly how good he is. And, it wasn't the 14 strikeouts he had (high school games are 7 innings), the couple times he struck out the side, or the way he pitched out of trouble when errors got him in trouble.
I had to shoot another assignment that started at the same time the game started, so I showed up a little late. The bottom of the second inning had just started. While talking to one of the TV guys we were talking about Miller and how good he is. We were talking about all the scouts who had pretty much been following Miller around like Deadheads followed Jerry Garcia and his merry band of hippies. And then one of them said yeah, I doubt "that guy" would be here watching him if he wasn't any good. "That guy" was Nolan Ryan, the current president of the Texas Rangers. Now, when one of the greatest pitchers ever to play the game comes to scout your playing, I think you qualify as a great player. He didn't stay the whole game only the first three innings, luckily I got to make a shot of him watching while Miller pitched. The funny thing is, I've been trying to get this shot with the shadow of the batter for a few years now, every time I shoot a game while the sun is setting, but it has never worked out until now. I think maybe the photo gods were smiling on me to have Nolan standing there so I could finally get that shot.
By the way, the bottom photo is one of the Brownwood players, just a photo that I liked.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

State Golf & Tennis, Day 2

The second day of state golf and tennis I cover things backwards (sort of) from the first day. Tennis is only one round and (luckily) I only had 2A and 3A players, the big school kids lost in the first and second rounds, which meant I wasn't going to have to figure out how to be in two places at once. The other good thing is tennis is over by noon, unlike the day before when it didn't finish until 8pm.
Since tennis is over early on day 2, this gives me an extra few hours to walk the golf course looking for photos. Normally when shooting golf I get a cart, however, there are no media carts available for Class A golf, and for some reason I don't think my boss would be thrilled if I expensed a golf cart rental. So I get my exercise instead. I've also notice when walking the mile or three I do around the course I see a lot more too. Maybe it's because I'm not zipping around on a cart I get more time to see things around me. Either that or a mild form of heat stroke from all the walking in the hot humid weather with 20ish pounds of camera gear!
Golf is split into three on the first two days. Class 2A & 4A are at adjoining courses and Class A is at another. The beef of our area participants are in Class A, but it never fails we always have on kid or team playing in the 2A tournament. This year was no different. I made a decision that if the kid wasn't in contention for a medal I wasn't going to bother and concentrate on where we had the most players. Well, he threw a wrench in my plan when he was in first after the first day. The only way I was going to get shot of the kid without missing something else was to get up early. Luckily, the individuals tee off first on the second day, which meant an 8am tee time. This gave me just enough time to shoot the first two holes and take off for Lakeway to be only a little late for 9am tennis matches.
The tennis usually yields the best celebration, except for a handful of times golfers are uasually pretty stoic. Tennis players usually make for some nice reaction. Well, this year, except for one, the kids we were covering pretty much took it in stride. The only one who was really excitied was Hunter Lloyd (top), who had been to state three previous times, but had never won it all. Well, this year he did, after his match the day before going three sets and he nearly lost and was cramping severely. So, needless to say he was pretty happy, and brief with his celebration, I'm just glad he turned around to face the crowd when he screamed. The other two winners' celebrations were, well, downright pathetic. I guess because they've won before. At least I got one.

Friday, May 22, 2009

State Golf & Tennis, Day 1

I'm behind again, I shot this the beginning of last week. The state golf tennis and track meets are one of my favorite things to cover every year. It's one of the longest weeks of the year, but always a lot of fun and usually plenty of nice photos to be made.
This year because of the swine flu overreaction, the track meet was postponed until the first week in June. Which is going to be tons of fun! Austin in early May is hotter than hell, with humidity similar to Atlanta in mid-summer (the only thing I DON'T miss about living in the South), needless to say June is even worse. This also meant the yearly trip to Austin was abbreviated to only two days.
Every year, this trip is the ultimate test of my time-management skills, as well as how little sleep I can work on. The day starts at 4am, that's when I leave for Austin. My first trip is to the golf course to shoot golf, I get them teeing off and spend a couple hours following the area kids around before moving on to tennis. The last couple of years we've had local players in the 5A tournament and as well a slew of kids in the 2A and 3A tournaments. The problem here is the are played in two different places, and one of those places is Lakeway, which is about 15-20 miles from downtown Austin, which in Austin traffic translates into a 40 minute drive. Since there are two rounds of tennis played on the first day I always hit the local kids in the big school matches first since there is one, or this year two groups in the tournament.
The reason I wait to shoot the smaller schools until later is part because there are so many kids to cover which means the chances of some making it to the next round are pretty good, plus the matches at Lakeway ARE NEVER ON TIME!!! So, matches running 2-3 hours behind are usually the norm even without weather delays. I guess this is good since I know even if I'm running late that I'll get most of the kids playing in the later rounds, it also means even though the sun doesn't go down till 8pm you can still get shots of that while they are playing, and since there wasn't a whole lot of great shots made, I could have something decent to send back.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Marlee and me....

I actually met Marlee Hager a year ago when we did a story on her and her sister, who was a senior in high school at the time and was committed to go swim at McMurry University. It would be the first time the two got to swim together competitively. This story, however, was for something our sports department was doing about graduating seniors at the three local universities. Marlee's story was the most visually appealing of the group, she was teaching swimming to fifth graders in the magnet school that is housed at McMurry in the kids' P.E. class.
I wasn't really sure what to expect when I got there, I was afraid she was going to be teaching all of the kids by herself. Luckily there were a bunch of other swimmers there too and Marlee only had a group of four kids. This made it managable to shoot and gave some nice interaction with the kids. I got to spend pretty much the whole period following her around. My favorite pic was when she was teaching them how to start. They were doing it on the diving side of the pool, which is normally a miserable place to shoot during competition, since it is really a cave and there aren't even any lights and the skylights are all over the racing pool. However this time it worked out, there was enough light on her coming from the skylights it made most everything else blend into the background.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hanging with Pete the Penguin for Post #100!!

Well, given that the last time I started a blog 4 years ago and never actually made a post (and ended up forgetting both the user name AND password), I honestly never thought I'd get to post number 100. So, I'd like to thank the three or so people who actually read my ramblings on a regular basis. Anyway... one of my assignments Tuesday was to shoot some people from Sea World showing off their critters to kids in the local children's hospital. I was running a little late and when I walked in all the kids were packed into a fairly tiny room and the media and a few of the nurses and other hospital workers were left to the hall to peer into the windows
The Sea World "animal ambassadors" brought three different animals for the kids to see, a kangaroo, and a baby alligator but, the star of the show was Pete the penguin... well it was for me at least. He was really cool, he walked down the hall and into the room with a movie star's swagger, but without the typical douchebag movie star attitude and way cooler. It was really cool seeing all these kids who were recovering from various illnesses and surgeries to get a break from laying in their rooms and watching tv all day to see these cool animals. They all got to ask questions and touch the animals. And, at the end, Pete just strutted his way out of the room and down the hall to his cage.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Diving for the prize....

This weekend was different than it was supposed to be. I didn't have any high school sports to shoot because of this ridiculous pig flu molehill turned into a mountain causing the state of Texas to cancel all high school events until May 11. So I had the start of the Lone Star Conference baseball tournament instead of the regional track meet. The good thing is the UIL (the governing body for high school event in Texas) came to their senses and rescheduled the regional track meets instead of going with their original idea to take the four fastest times in the region from the district meets. So, anyway, ACU's first game of the Lone Star Conference baseball tournament was against Southeastern Oklahoma State. The game was pretty boring, a lot of routine plays nothing visually exciting, until the fifth inning when the outfielders started diving for balls and the runners were crashing into home plate. Sadly, I was on the wrong side of the field for those. But I was able to get a nice diving catch in the outfield. Not bad for the first day of the tournament. Hopefully it will get better.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lights out artists...

I shot this for a story we were doing about changing graduation requirements. The state of Texas is changing graduation requirements that kids no longer need to take art classes to graduate, but the schools still must offer them. Well, when I got to the school it was really dark. I joked with the lady in the office asking if this was some new "green" thing that they were keeping the lights out to save money or something. This was actually the second time this week that the school had lost power. It actually turned out to be a good thing for me. Luckily, the art class I was shooting was still doing their oil painting by using window light. After scanning the classroom shortly after walking in I saw a number of crowded tables with students huddled together doing their paintings. The shot I took only had two students at it, with some nice light coming in from the window coming in. It worked out nicely since I didn't have any ugly fluorescent lights messing up the great sunlight coming in. I had about 15 minutes to shoot once I finally got there before the class ended. It was just enough time to get the shot I wanted and try a few others that didn't work out quite as well. The funny part is as I was walking out of the building the lights started coming back on, the power outage only lasted about 30 minutes.