Friday, April 30, 2010

In Sports, the key is paying attention

In covering sports, especially baseball, it’s easy to fall into a rut or to become inattentive during a boring game. There’s always the “safe shots” a photographers seems to get of plays at first, second, third bases and home plate. In a recent high school game between the South Kitsap Wolves and Central Kitsap Cougars, I notice a series of signals between the Cougars’ catcher, pitcher, second baseman and shortstop used in trying to pick off the Wolves base runners.

It always helps in being in the right place as well. Sports photographers have to fight the habit of shooting from the same location. Normally, I start out near the home plate, this allows me to get shots of pitchers throwing, a good play at first base, third base and home. Once a runner reaches first, I move down the first base line and in hopes of capturing a double play at second, pick off throw by the pitcher at first or a different angle for a catcher tagging out the sliding base runner trying to score. Also moving around, keeps your attention on the game focused by looking for plays in different locations.

Having already capturing a few “safe shots” I started to pay attention to the signals being communicated between the pitcher and catcher. By focusing on the pitcher, and hoping to get something out of the ordinary, I knew I was going to make a picture of a base runner being picked off at second base. It took a few innings, but as you can see, it made for a great picture.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Serendipity, instincts and dumb luck

They say serendipity plays a big part in a photographer’s life, so does listening to your inter-voice and luck. You’ll never know what you’ll run into when traveling to and another assignment.

While driving down the Long Lake Road on my way to Olalla to cover a Little League baseball game, I came across two kids, who had set up a lemonade stand along side the road. At the time it didn’t look too interesting, so I passed by. About a mile down the road, I had this gut feeling and an inter-voice told me to turn around and just hang out for a while. Paying attention to my instincts, I went back, parked the car, shot pictures while waiting for a carload of customers to appear. I didn’t want to get too close, so I used a 300mm lens to capture scenes from up the road, down the road and across the road of these two enterprising youngsters just sitting in the hot sun on the lonely stretch of road, waiting and waiting and waiting.

Sensing all I got was a bunch of pictures of them waiting for customers, I decided to walk back to the car and continue to the baseball game. Halfway to the car, I once again heard that inter-voice telling me to turn around. As I did, the boy got up from his chair, walked around to the front of the stand, hunkered down and helped himself to a drink. Just as he started to drink, I raised the camera, focused, pressed the shutter button, and captured one picture before the film started to auto rewind back into the film cassette. I couldn’t believe it, this was my final shot on a roll of 36-exposure film and I hoped I was able to capture the moment.

This also reminds me of what another fellow photographer once told me. “It’s 95 percent being there and 5 percent dumb luck.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wake up call Vietnamese style

While staying in Hanoi in a one hundred-year-old French hotel with beds and plumbing to match, I didn’t need an alarm clock for my early morning wake up calls. Every
morning like clockwork, the hotel workers would gather on the second story courtyard balcony below my window to perform their early daily exercises. Like clockwork, seven days a week at 6:00 A.M. I was rousted out of bed. During my two-week stay what I found was two countries, one, a bureaucratic nightmare where the left hand rarely seemed to know what the right hand was doing. A country that has lived with war for thousands of years, but now in the past ten years, only has started to show the outward signs of venturing into what the Western economy has to offer.

But there is another Vietnam. A land of people whose faces read like maps marking the road of sacrifice they have traveled; a land of people who aren’t so very different from those found throughout the world.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sometimes the bull wins

While living in on the island of Terceira, far out in the Atlantic Ocean, some 850 miles off the western coast of Lisbon, Portugal in the 425-mile long archipelago of the Azores offered me many a photo opportunity during my two-year stay. One of my favorite assignments was covering the street and arena bull fights during the summer months. During the last part of the bull fight at the outdoor arena in the city of Angra do Herismo, the suicide squad, or focados, are a group of men on foot that stand in a straight line and taunts a 500-pound bull until it charges. As the animal heads towards the line, the lead man, normally the junior member of the group, tries to leap over it's neck and hang on by the horns as the others quickly surround the animal and try to slow it to a halt. I watched this poor guy get bowled over by the bull three straight times. After being steamrolled by the bull in this picture, the members picked the guy up, and supported him as the bull charged. That time he was able to hang on, with help, of course, until the bull was stopped. Sometimes the bull wins and it sure made for good photos.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Final Homecoming

This is one of my fall time favorite shots and a great story behind it.
After my departure from the Navy in 1983, I worked as a staff photojournalist for the Florida Times Union in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1983 I was assigned the difficult assignment of providing coverage of the final homecoming of a U.S. Marine that was one of 241 killed in the barracks bombing attack by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon. The editors wanted to show just how a major world-wide event affected the small town of Yulie, about 20 miles outside of Jacksonville. Marine Corporal John Blocker never saw the homecoming his parents and peers gave him when he came back to Jacksonville on November 8, 1983. He came home in a casket. The readers of the Florida Times-Union saw the weeping mother. They saw the father comforting his wife while he stared in disbelief at the casket being rolled across the tarmac, and they saw a Marine officer, sharply saluting a comrade who had died. In the one image, I had accurately portrayed the actual cost to that small town without actually showing an image of the fallen soldier. I am very proud of that. The image was nominated for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize in Spot News photography. I’m proud of that, too.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Don't Put that camera away

We have a saying here living the in Pacific Northwest, if you don’t like the weather wait 15 minutes or so, it’ll change. Especially during the winter to spring months. Once while covering a high school baseball game in middle April the weather started out sunny, turned cloudy and cold and then started to hail. While most of the other photographers ran to their cars to put away their cameras, I still photographed the game. Sometimes bad weather gives a photographer an opportunity to make some pictures that evoke a certain type of mood and atmosphere that help make unusual pictures. I took this weather feature photo of South Kitsap Wolves' pitcher Brian Cox, standing out on the pitcher’s mound standing in a flurry of hail that halted the game but for a few minutes. The photo titled, “What the Hail”, took first place in the annual
Washington Newspaper Publishers Awards. So when it rains, hails or even snows, don't put that camera away as you'll never know the picture you'll miss.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sometimes your pictures anger moms

I once received a phone call from an irate mother, who's son photo appeared in the Kitsap Sun. There he was displayed four columns wide on the sports section front missing a throw to home and allowing the base runner to safely score. She told me he was embarrassed and devastated. I mentioned to her that since their team lost the championship 17-2 by committing six errors allowing all those runs to score, the story of the game was the all those errors committed.

Still she lambasted me, saying I should have chosen another photo to run instead one of her son missing the ball, Finally, I said, "You know, I had plenty of others to choose from, unfortunately, most were your son's inability to catch the ball and protect home plate.

I think she sounded like the one who was embarrassed, not her son, otherwise I would received a call from his father. Remember rule number one: Don't piss off the photographer. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sometimes You just gotta stop for the picture

While on my way home from shooting the West District 2 Big League (16-19 year olds) Championship baseball game in Silverdale I happened to crest a hill and lo and behold I saw the crescent moonset over the Olympic Mountains. Didn't take too much effort for me to think twice about stopping in a parking lot, pulling out the tripod, attach a shutter release to one of my MK II's and with the 300mm f2.8 lens and capture this beautiful moment. Granted, it's been a long week covering 20 baseball games in six days, but I believe the end result was worthwhile. So...enjoy the photo.