Monday, September 24, 2007

Pigskin season

"Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason breaks a tackle enroute to setting up a game-winning, 46 yard field goal by Matt Stover as time expired lifting Baltimore over the Arizona Cardinals, 26-23, at M&T Bank Stadium, Sunday, Sept.23. Mason caught eight passes for 79 yards in the win."

My weekend was littered with sports; mostly football; American and European. I thought I would take the time to describe some key differences from shooting a high school game, to a college game, alas to a NFL game.

There are many points one could mention, but I'll talk about the those I think of the most: parking, access and ambiance.

High school is easy. No paying or fighting for parking; wait a minute, it's basically the same as the NFL minus checking the for a parking pass.

At M&T Bank in Baltimore, Md. you pull in, show your pass. Simple. Great access and great people.

With that said, after shooting the NFL, I've realized that Towson University is much like trying to break into Fort Knox. For a school that on average gets maybe 3,000 fans to a football game, parking is outrageous. During Saturday's game I was forced to either pay five dollars to shoot the game, or walk two miles in the dark with expensive camera gear. I decided against the latter.

Don't get me wrong, I've shot at other college venues and have had problems, but none are as ridiculous as Towson.

At high school games you can be a parent and shoot on the sidelines, it's that easy. If that doesn't work, lie and say you're with a small local publication and at the very least you will get into the game for free (I am not endorsing this...ha...a friend told me about this).

Back to Towson. I hate to use them again as my example, as all colleges are different, but I shoot there every week. Once in the stadium I am continually harassed to show my credentials and even have my staff photographers calling me saying they aren't allowed to get on the field, even when they do have proper media credentials.

And obviously, the NFL you need to be of a large publication to get one of those snazzy red vests.

High school has zero thrills. The best thing about high school games I think is the raw emotion of players. Although all levels and all sports have emotional players, I feel the younger the players, the more emotion they show, especially at the end of a game. But, around here in Maryland, prep sports are nothing big and exciting, say as Texas high school football. Last, most have horrible lighting at night and no wireless web.

College has better lighting, but it's not ideal. As stated, access is generally easy if your with some sort of media, but that entails stadium workers that are power pushers to some sort. At Towson it's mostly the parking services. Other than that, college games are a little more action packed and give a sense of professionalism. However, I don't think the emotion is as evident in college sports.

Finally, the NFL, which I think has it all. Thousands of people screaming, energizing the stadium, good food, lots of media and always action packed. Not to mention emotions running wildly after a touchdown is scored.

But, I should note that I don't shoot any of the three any differently. In the words of NPPA's Tony Overman, "I've learned that I don't need to chase the big time. The big time is where you make it."

A high school game can be just as exciting as a NFL Monday night football game, but it all comes with the mindset you have before the game.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Gaffers tape is smarter than a 22-year-old

"From left to right, John Webb, Jordan Manning, Brian Bradford and Maurice Wilkins stand with the defensive unit's motivational 'hit stick.' The four players form the dynamic linebacking corps for the Tigers football team who play rival Delaware Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium."

Life for myself is chaotic. A friend reminded me today when she asked when I had free time. My reply? I have no free time. It made me feel miserable that I have no life outside of shooting photos and class. But I love every waking moment of it, even if I rant about it sometimes.

Simply put, I am a poor, sleep deprived, always hungry, no free timing, 22-year-old college student who loves photojournalism.

The past couple days and week to come are perfect examples of how complicated my life can be at times.

Friday evening I shot women's soccer and volleyball before heading home late to get things ready for a wedding (see last post). I woke up early and shot from 2p.m. until midnight. After catching a few hours of sleep, I trekked to The Towerlight to shoot the annual sorority event on campus. That lasted about 35 minutes before I started burning the wedding images to DVDs and editing incoming work from other photographers. Needless to say, I didn't get out of the Towerlight until around 11p.m., which isn't anything new.

As usual, I drive 35 minutes home, only to remember that I needed to do homework at midnight. Got to bed in the wee-hours of the morning and woke up at 6:15a.m. so that I could be back at Towson, find a parking spot, and make it to a weekly ed board meeting at 10a.m. then head to class at 11a.m.

If you've lost track, it's now noon, Monday. Just when I think life is slowing down, I get drowned in photo assignments; Towerlight and freelance. Only having two other photographers I have to schedule them and myself to more assignments than I know what to do with.

I call various subjects, schedule times to shoot, and call photographers for about an hour. At this point I haven't eaten anything yet and need to do all my homework that is due tomorrow. Before I know it, it's 5p.m. and I need to run to shoot the above portrait which turned out to be more of a hassle than fun.

Who ever thought lighting four football players dramatically would be hard? All I have to say is gaffers tape is smarter than a 22-year-old. I struggled to hide light stands in the background before I just taped an SB to the wall to get a desired effect. I also must thank my buddy, assistant and the one who will replace my shoes when I graduate, Kris. I think I showed him how bossy I can be when low on sleep and stressed out. Hopefully he learned a thing or two from my mistakes.

Anyways, back to my life. I am now sitting here, 10:30p.m. with Broadcasting and Japanese homework to do. I can barely keep my eyes open, but I am trying to do it because I have these classes at noon and 5p.m. with two shoots in between.

Sometimes I wonder how I manage everything. I wouldn't have it any other way though.

So, to professors reading, just remember when I can barely keep my eyes open and my work is sub par that I am a busy, busy student.

On the bright side, shooting the Ravens game Sunday. I can't wait.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The luck button

"Towson University president Robert L. Caret delivers his annual fall address in Stephens Hall Auditorium, Thursday, Sept. 6."

On a typical assignment I always carry two bodies; one with a telephoto and one with wide angle. This setup generally makes my images 99 percent of the time. However, my work is always one percent short. To fill the void I use a remote camera.

Remotes are nothing new for shooters in the industry, nor myself. Mostly used in sporting events, they can also be used in any situation imaginable. From catwalks at hockey game to underwater at a swim meet. If you never seen remote work before, you can find loads on SportsShooter.

I don't make it a habit to have a remote setup on every assignment, but lately I've had a strong urge to use mine. I've been trying hard to incorporate it into my daily assignments, whether or not I'll think it will be successful.

Today's assignment was a good chance to run a remote. This afternoon was Towson University president Robert L. Caret's annual fall address. I knew a remote setup would help me get break from the typical "try and make it look different" podium shot or wide angle image of the long speech.

Although president Caret did move away from the podium a couple times, making a better then normal image, I still like my remote shot better. Had I known he would be moving around I would have changed the location of my remote. But you live and learn, right?

Remotes are in my eyes are a creative failure. I'd be lying if I didn't say there is a bit of luck involved either. They have to be set up meticulously and fired at decisive moments. So if I think of a place to put a remote that I can fire off while shooting normally that's good news. I must note, I would never rely solely on my remote to make the image for the front page, but when you make a sub par or better remote image it feels good.

Now the only problem will be fighting the editors to use the remote image before they stoop to the least common visual denominator with respect to the assignment subject matter. Otherwise known as choosing the typical, comfortable image over the creative image.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

No show

"Towson senior midfielder Pat Healy looks for an official signal as a Kevin Ruck shot bounces into an unguarded Mt. St. Mary goal during the 50th minute of play. Towson defeated visiting Mountaineers, 2-0."

After having two portraits fall through yesterday and my day basically turning into a total waste I couldn't wait to get back out to shoot the Towson men's soccer season opener today.

I've had a lot of sports on my schedule this past week and was anxious to try out my first soccer remote. It went well today, however with little success.

The only reason I didn't have much luck was because of the manner in which both goals were scored. The first goal at the 50th minute bounced in from 20 yards away (above) and the other rocketed past a static goalie. I will be using this remote every game in the future, hopefully getting that beautiful stretched, mid air, diving goal keeper, image before the end of the season.

Although I wasn't going to mention it, I wanted to rant a little about yesterday. I've never once had anyone bail on me. Of course I've had to reschedule things, but I've never had anyone not show or literally call and cancel five minutes before a prearranged shoot. Both of these people could have easily resolved any conflict by calling.

Person number one decided to call me five minutes before the shoot because of a medical illness. I talked to this select person twice during the morning in which they sounded perfectly healthy. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, but still felt like I was being taken advantage of.

Person number two decided not to answer any of my ten phones calls nor return any of my nine messages. I was originally suppose to shoot this musical group, but called early in the morning canceling because of a conflict in my own scheduling. My message specifically said that the reporter was still coming down for an interview, but the portrait would have to rescheduled.

After my 4p.m. flaked out (aka person number one) I called the group manager back and let them know I was still on my way. I easily called them five times. But still got no answer or response. So I decided to just go down anyways since the reporter was still going down. When I say down, I mean Silver Spring, Md. almost two hours away. When I got there I began calling again. Still nothing.

To make a long story short, reporter and I sit for 45 minutes after the prearranged time and they never show. They claim it was because of my message saying the photographer was not going to be there. Ugh. Could have all be resolved by answering one phone call.

Basically I drove 200 miles and wasted seven hours of my day for nothing. I guess it was only right that I got two cancellations in one day.