Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Rough Tee Shot

"Jodi Ewart Shadoff of England plays her tee shot on the 15th hole during the final round of the LPGA Drive On Championship at Inverness Club on August 2, 2020 in Toledo, Ohio."

Shooting golf is always a matter of endurance.

On the course for up to a week - but typically four or five days - this amount of time makes the event a marathon and not a sprint. 

With only four days of competition, the prior days are about feeling out the course and making a plan on how to navigate.

But even after being on the course from sun up to sun down every day, you still stumble across images that work, even on the final round near the end of the tournament.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Photo Seats

"A sports photographer sits in empty spectator seats as the Toronto Blue Jays play the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. MLB has resumed its delayed season without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

During the pandemic, I feel visually documenting the story on the field doesn't tell the full story.

One regular season game, and in this instance baseball, takes more than just those on the field to make it happen. 

There are lots of in-and-outs that makes the production of a sporting event. Many folks that make the operation run safely and smoothly.

One of those people who are allowed are photographers - whether to persevere history, reach clients or both. But like so many of us know, and have read here, ballparks and arenas are fan-less.

I always find imperative to turn around and look away from the field - even during 'regular' years - to make sure we all remember what each and every year looks like.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Mask Means Entry

"Fans wearing face masks and face coverings enter the race track prior to the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on July 15, 2020 in Bristol, Tennessee. The NASCAR All-Star Race was moved from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Bristol Motor Speedway due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic."

When fans returned to sports, I found myself photographing a lot of motorsports.

One of those events allowed up to 30,000 spectators.

Those people were allowed to attend the NASCAR All-Star race in Bristol - most likely making it one of the largest sporting events in the United States to allow spectators since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the sports world in March.

It was a brutally hot day and there were a lot of unknowns - and my job was to mainly show that. Typically this would be mindless assignment as we are so used to massive crowds.

However, all fans had to wear a face covering to gain entry. I found the above to be an interesting view of that stampede to be one of the first fans allow back to a sporting event.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Fanless Finish

"Cars race during sunset in front of empty grandstand spectator seating during the NASCAR Cup Series Pocono 350 at Pocono Raceway on June 28, 2020 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. The NASCAR series is currently racing without fans due the Covid-19 pandemic."

While the coronavirus pandemic stopped all live action of professional sports - photographers worldwide were looking for ways to tell the story.

Months of photographing athletes continuing to train filled my schedule. And was an amazing opportunity into their new style of working out to stay fit.

However, it wasn't until about three months later that I photographed a live pro sporting event. While many images of athletes working out at home were more than interesting - and continue to be - that itch of real competition needed to be itched.

Sports to the likes of golf, auto racing and others slowly made their return - but without fans.

It's been an adjustment for both sides of the sports returning - and seeing the empty grandstands has become a focal point.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Fans Are Back

"Race fans stand for the U.S. national anthem at Delaware International Speedway on June 6, 2020 in Delmar, Delaware. Last week, Delaware International Speedway reopened without spectators for the first time since being closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to reports on their website, as a part of the agreement for reopening with the State of Delaware due to coronavirus, masks and face coverings were required, along with other safety measures, for all spectators entering the raceway."

Looking back since March, it's interesting how quickly things have changed in both ways from the start of the Coronavirus. 

Early during the pandemic, fans were barred from attending all sporting events.

In the first week of June, I discovered that Delaware International Speedway would allow fans to return to their raceway. This was marked with those in attendance would be required to wear masks and face coverings if entering the raceway to help prevent the spread of the pandemic.

To my knowledge, it was one of the first times fans were allowed back to watch action. Yet now, about two and half months later, leagues are working on either getting fans back or already have had them back.

The new normal is still being sorted, but looking back at this, it was an interesting evening.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Home Court Advantage

"Professional WTA Tennis player Sophie Chang of the United States returns balls that are served by her father, Robert, via a tennis ball machine her grandmother's farm on June 3, 2020 in Havre de Grace, Maryland."

It hasn't been easy when searching for professionals athletes training during Covid-19, but that's what makes each shoot amazing.

The first step is always finding someone with a unique regimen. Then it's connecting with them and finally executing candidly.

A lot of problem is communication. Athletes, agents are busy - and finding a time that works for both of us is also a challenge.

With that in mind, I've driven over six hours each way to photograph some of the best athletes trying to stay in shape during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Willing to drive anywhere - I did that March through May. Long drives in the car, met by short workouts, then to turn back around. That was until I discovered professional WTA Tennis player Sophie Chang. She lived within minutes of my home.

Chang, who typically travels 30 weeks a year to compete professionally, at the time was training at her grandmother's farm - the very place she hit her first ball. Any tennis players oasis - a full size court to hit balls steps from her bed.

She continues to chase her dreams of a Grand Slam victory despite the pandemic
postponing play through July. That will be a special day for Chang and her family knowing that she started here and returned to here roots during a tough time for all.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Hand-to-Hand Combat

"Clint Connelly and Steve Golub (R) arm wrestle during the Frederick County Maryland Arm Wrestling Team's practice at the home of Sergey Svetlikov on May 31, 2020 in Mount Airy, Maryland."

In March, the NBA postponed their season and the Covid-19 pandemic was officially here in the United States.

I knew sports would still go on, but then nearly every other professional sport worldwide followed and canceled and postponed.

However, other sports had to find a way to get people to compete. So I made it a mission to find those still competing.

One of the more unique was arm wrestling.

In a world where social distancing and physical contact with others was strongly advised - one cannot simply arm wrestling without doing both of the aforementioned.

Hosted by Russian native Sergey Svetlikov, who once competed in Russia, he got his groups togethe to pracice after a long pause due to the coronavirus.

Like these gentlemen, they continued to chase their passion, compete during this challenging time in the safest way possible. I only hope others do the same.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Apartment Training Ground

"U.S. Olympic fencer Katharine Holmes (L) trains with her boyfriend Tyler Christensen during a training session at her home on May 28, 2020 in Princeton, New Jersey. An Olympian, World Championship gold medalist and Pan American gold medalist - Holmes continues to focus on winning gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics - which have been postponed to 2021 due the coronavirus."

The camera has always been a humble way enter others worlds to visually document.

Sometimes both the subject and photographer aren't aware that those environments will ever actually exist. Case and point for U.S. Olympic fencer Katharine Holmes.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States, Holmes had no idea her apartment would be an Olympic training ground for the now postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The epee fencer was training anywhere from 6-8 hours a day at Princeton University before coronavirus, but now continues that intense regime at home.

That includes using her boyfriend, who is a rock climber and ecologist, to stand in for her lessons.

It has been challenging for athletes across the globe that have been training in isolation under strict policies in place due to the virus.

But it has also been inspiring to see them do whatever it takes - and do it whenever they can - to stay in the best shape as possible.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Open Road

"U.S. Paralympian Daniel Romanchuk trains on the road near his home on May 13, 2020 in Mount Airy, Maryland."

Prolific photographer Robert Capa once said, "If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough."

That's without a doubt true. There is something powerful about zooming with your feet to get closer to whomever is framed through your view finder. Making the viewer feel a sense of place and more connected to the moment.

However, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I've been finding myself stepping back. Often way back.

It's not because of the health reasons. It's because the world most athletes are training in often is empty. The solitude is evident. They're training alone at home - or in the above case - unaccompanied on the road.

Daniel Romanchuk who competes primarily in wheelchair racing events, will represent the United States at the 2020 Summer Paralympics, which have been postponed until 2021. He should have been competing across the globe in an effort to prepare for the games.

But like all athletes across the globe, he is training in isolation under strict policies in place due to coronavirus.

Living in rural Maryland, it was easy to show that cast-away-like training routine. Because he's a competitor at heart, it doesn't matter if he's winning another major marathon in front of thousands or pushing himself on the open road alone - his goal is still a Paralympic gold medal.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Duck Diving

"Olympic hopeful and USA Swimming National Team member Phoebe Bacon (FRONT) trains with her brother Finn Bacon amid the coronavirus pandemic at a family friend's covered, 15-meter pool on April 28, 2020 in Potomac, Maryland. Phoebe Bacon, a high school senior and PanAmerican gold medalist, qualified for the U.S. Olympic swimming trials and is using the small-sized pool to continue to train in the water after COVID-19 closed pools. The U.S. trials and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed due the coronavirus, but that hasn't deterred athletes like Bacon from finding non-traditional ways of training."

Athletes and sport photographers alike don't like being in the current situation. But are certainly understanding of the pandemic as we all adapt to this abrupt change.

Because it's something no one could have ever predicted - as evidence of canceled and postponed events - athletes across the globe are now training in isolation under strict policies in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

That is the case with Olympic hopeful and USA Swimming National Team member Phoebe Bacon.

Instead of training and preparing for the U.S. trials and Tokyo Olympics, she found herself training in a family friend's recreational 15-meter pool - rubber duck thermometers and all.

As comparison, 50-meter is the Olympic size and a 25-meter pool is something one might find at their gym.

It has been amazing to see, and visually document, the changes athletes are willing and needing to take to still train.

When it's safe to return to the competition fields, pools and other venues worldwide, everyone involved will have a new respect for sport as they look back at their historically different training routines and environments.