Friday, April 28, 2006

Northwestern Lacrosse

Last year, I was fortunate enough to be around to cover the Northwestern lacrosse team's national championship run. I haven't had the chance to shoot as many of their contests this year, but I did last weekend.

Not a bad weekend to head on back to my old stomping grounds, as the #2 ranked Wildcats were scheduled to take on #5 North Carolina and #8 Johns Hopkins. My Wildcats sure did not disappoint, as they beat UNC 18-10 on Friday, and then took down JHU 18-5 on Sunday.

So how did NU come out and just smoke these two highly ranked teams? Well, they also received their 2005 national championship rings on Sunday, so I guess they were pretty much holding a clinic with UNC and JHU as to what it takes to win one ;-)

So yeah, I'd say the gals are in good shape to win another title.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Buerhle vs Santana

The "Dog Days of Summer" are here early this year! OK, not quite. The Chicago White Sox had their annual "Dog Day" today. It's a nice little PR thing they do where they let 500 fans bring their dogs to the Cell, parade around the field before the game, and sit in the bleachers with them during the game.

But that wasn't really the main event. The main event of the night was the highly anticipated pitching matchup of Minnesota's Johan Santana vs Chicago's Mark Buerhle. Matching two of the best pitchers in all of baseball is great for TV, and great for the fans, but bad when it comes to photos. Why? Because everyone pops out or strikes out. So there's no action, other than pitchers pitching, and batters swinging. It's games like these where we have to really start looking out for emotion/frustration.

Another thing we can do is get a bit gimmicky. Since pitching was the story of the game (well, at least while Buerhle and Santana were in the game), why not jazz things up a bit? Most people probably think this is a photoshop trick, but it's not. I slowed the shutter down from the usual 1/1000 sec to 1/80 sec. I also panned the camera along with the pitcher's forward movement. Doing so keeps the pitcher's face in focus, while motion blurring everything else. Pretty cool huh?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Blue Jays vs Sox

The Toronto Blue Jays were in town, and I was back out at the Cell to cover the first couple games of the series. The weather was beautiful for both Friday and Saturday's games, and I was able to go out and shoot in t-shirt and shorts for the first time this year. Everything was pretty much same old, until the top of the 9th on Saturday.

Here's the situation. It was the bottom of the 9th, one out, runner on first. The Toronto catcher, Bengie Molina, hits a high chopper over the mound. So what do you do as a photographer in this situation? Well, you know that the White Sox closer Bobby Jenks is an excitable guy, and likes to pump his fists and go nuts after a win, so anticipating the game-ending double play, you focus in on him. Another thing you could do in this situation is to focus on second base and wait for the DP turn there. So what happened? Neither. Because it was a really high, slow chopper, the second baseman Tadahito Iguchi ended up charging in to make the play. He dove for the ball, barehanded it, and threw to first for the out all in one motion. The crowd goes wild, but none of us photographers really knew why until we saw the replay on the jumbotron because most of us were all looking through our cameras at the wrong places.

Only one photographer (out of probably I think 8 or 9 of us) in the first base well, David Durochik, got the shot of Iguchi throwing to first. It was awesome. And we are all very jealous. "Durochik, you bastard!" Anyways, picture this shot (by the AP) from the first base side, and not backlit, and perfectly framed, and you have Durochik's shot. Assuming that it's in sharp (you can't really tell on the camera screens since the resolution is so poor), it would not surprise me to see it in the next Sports Illustrated "Leading Off" or ESPN "Zoom."

Looking back, I'm really kicking myself at not following Iguchi in on that ball. What annoys me was I was in the right place at the right time, but didn't get the frame. A frame like that only comes around a few times a year. But in reality, that was a difficult play to decide what to shoot in such a short period of time. As a sports photographer, you have an idea of what you want to shoot depending on what situation. In this situation, a typical first reaction the moment the ball hits the ground is "game-ending DP." Almost all of us looked immediately towards Jenks or second, anticipating what in most situations would have been "the shot." I'll tell you what, even the Japanese photographer, who's job is to basically follow Iguchi and shoot his every move, didn't even get the shot. We were all joking around afterwards in the editing room that he'll probably get fired for that ;-)

Anyways, enough rambling, here's some shots from the weekend series against the Blue Jays:

Friday, April 07, 2006

Cubs Home Opener

Man, I've forgotten how freakishly cold it gets at Wrigley in April (not to mention how much of a pain in the ass it is to get to Wrigley with camera gear). It's about 35 degrees, cloudy, the Windy City is more than living up to its name, and you're sitting in the same spot for about three hours.... NOT a good mix. Yes, the thrill of a baseball game does take the edge off, and don't get me wrong, I was very excited and honored to get the chance to cover yet another Opening Day... but the cold really wore that out about 20 minutes after the first pitch. After that, it was pretty much wishing the players would hurry things along and finish the game. I could barely caption my images and send them out during and after because my hands were so cold everytime I ungloved them to use the computer. If Jeff Roberson of the AP doesn't bring his space heater out to the ballpark soon, I think we'll all be very disappointed. Thank goodness the master of pitching efficiency Greg Maddux was on the hill today!!!!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sox Championship Ring Ceremony

The 2005 members of the World Championship Chicago White Sox were recognized today during a pre-game ceremony in front of a full house at US Cellular Field. The players were paraded out one at a time where they were awarded their championship rings by the MLB commissioner Bud Selig, Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, and Sox GM Kenny Williams. It was a very nice ceremony (although the setup for us shooters could have been much better), and it was a nice surprise to see some ex-Sox players like Aaron Rowand make it back to receive their rings.

Now that opening day has gone and passed, I'm back to shooting action from the field. The Tribe got their revenge for Sunday night and whooped up on the Sox, but that's ok. I'm not really a huge Sox fan, so I probably care more about making a good image instead of a Sox win. There was good light from the first base box all game, and despite the lopsided score, there was enough action to keep us shooters happy.

Next up, the Wrigley opener on Friday!

Monday, April 03, 2006

MLB Opening Night

The new baseball season is here! And what a long day it was. I got to the stadium around 3pm, because I had to pick up my credentials and go out and start shooting Opening Night/fan features: people tailgating, autograph hunting, pre-game ceremonies, etc. As far as a baseball game goes, I shot almost no action. I guess that's not really the point of covering an opening day anyways. Although it was pretty hard to cover this big event all by myself, especially for the pre-game/national anthem stuff, everything went pretty smoothly tonight, except for that 3 hour rain delay during the fourth inning. That made for a very long work night, but it was still great just to be a part of it all!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Obscure Sports Galore!

I went up to Northwestern today to shoot a bunch of assignments for the alumni magazine. We've been working on this big ol' feature for over a year now about club sports at the University. Club sports are those that either aren't mainstream enough or aren't at a competitive enough level to have earned Varsity status. In other words, there are no scholarships, and there is no university funding. It's all for the love of the game.

So I actually shot two sports I have never done before: men's lacrosse, and rugby. Well, I guess technically, I've shot lacrosse before... but only women's lacrosse. There's a few differences, but not enough to really throw me off.

On the other hand, I had no idea what the heck was going on in the rugby game. For one, people seemed to run around and then randomly dog-pile on each other or punt the ball. It was really hard to get a good clean shot of the action when people were constantly piled up. By the time I sort of got the hang of it, I had to move on to my next appointment (more on that). At least I think I got some decent images...

My last assignment for the afternoon was to shoot a quick portrait shot of a freshman (Samantha) on the fencing team. She's actually a highly regarded member on the Varsity team, so I'm not quite sure why she was featured. Maybe she's a standalone story or a sidebar. The team practices and competes at Patten Gym, which is a really old gym with funky yellow lighting. After meeting Sam there, I suggest we use the team locker room instead, because I know NU furnishes them pretty well. I never expected to see a women's locker room be so cramped. And messy! So it ended up not being best place for a portrait (although probably the best in Patten), but Sam was fun and easy to work with, so I snapped a few shots and called it a day. Here's one:

Decent, I guess. I thought the paper behind her head would have added to the image, because it says "Good luck at the Championships" but I think it just clutters up the image. Oh well. Most people probably won't be bothered about it unless they're picky photographers like myself or if I told you about it. I mostly shoot sports action or candids, so one area where I'm not particularly well developed is paying attention to detail when composing behind the viewfinder. I'll get better with more practice. Like I said, oh well. What I really wanted to do was put a colored gel on a second flash to make the background look purple. Now that would have been cool. But since we didn't have a lot of time, I probably wouldn't have been able to get my exposures and white balances perfectly set in time to get it done. Maybe next time...

Anyways, that's all til' tomorrow. Tomorrow's the White Sox opening night. It was freaking cold out today for lacrosse and rugby, and it should be more of the same tomorrow night, but should be awesome anyways. Just crossing my fingers and hoping the rain stays away...