Friday, August 31, 2007

Preseason Football

For fans of the game, preseason football is probably one of the biggest scams out there. Teams charge full price for tickets, parking, concessions, etc., but fans get an exhibition game in return, where many star players play very few snaps, or like San Diego's Ladainian Tomlinson, don't play a single snap. Basically, fans are paying full price to see football... but are paying to see second and third string football. And this goes on the first four weeks of every football season. What a crime!

However, in the NFL's defense, there is a very good reason for having these preseason games (besides the whole money thing). First off, teams generally know who their starters are going to be, and what they can do. Often times, teams can only do more harm by playing starters in the preseason as compared to having them sit out the four weeks. They might play poorly for some reason or even worse, get hurt... in a game that doesn't even count!

I'll use the Bears for example. Quarterback Rex Grossman supposedly had an outstanding training camp, but he struggled in the preseason with fumbles and was the subject of lots of criticism. First round draft choice Greg Olsen, who was going to be a big part of the Bears offense got hurt in the final preseason game and is out for 2-4 weeks.

So why is the preseason so long? Well, the main reason is that it does serve as a good way for coaches to evaluate the depth of their team in a glorified practice setting. But the reason I like to give is that it also serves as good practice for photographers! Many of us (including yours truly), have not shot football in nearly nine months, so the preseason marks our first game action of the year. I know the pictures may not necessarily show it, but in my first preseason game, I felt like my timing and my tracking skills were a bit off. So of course, I was tested right off the bat when Grossman decided to chuck it deep to one of his receivers.

After the second preseason game, I felt a lot better... again, the pictures probably don't really show it, but I felt more comfortable out on the field.

Bring on the regular season! DAAAAA BEARS!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pleasure's Delight

I am not paparazzi, nor do I want to be labeled as one. I hold them in the same regard as most of the general public do: that they are scum of the earth who need to get a life and leave their poor subjects alone. An article that was published in the Chicago Tribune only strengthened by views on that particular line of work. You can read the article here. To me, it's absolutely ridiculous how these people sit in their cars all day waiting for celebrities to come out, then chase them around town in their cars (with little or no regard to public safety), and then go and try to get photographs of them running errands. As quoted in the Tribune article "We aren't trespassing, we're just trying to get a story."

What story? Angelina Jolie visits toy store in Chicago? That's not a story!

So why this rant right now? Well, I was assigned to go photograph Gwyneth Paltrow at Macy's in Chicago. I don't consider this assignment paparazzi because I didn't have to stake out her house or chase her through the city streets or anything like that. I just got the assignment handed down to me by the AP's assignment editor knowing that she was going to be doing a sponsored, public appearance to sign bottles of her new fragrance.

And even though it controlled environment, it was crowded as hell. Photographers I have never seen before from organizations I have never heard of up the wazoo. All of us regular photojournalists (like the Tribune and Sun Times photogs) as well as regular TV guys just looked at each other and rolled our eyes. Ugh.

I thought it was funny how Paltrow was once quoted as saying she loved Chicago because there are no paparazzi. I think she was in for a shock, because that sure wasn't true because Bradgelina was in town!

Despite the working conditions, it was a pretty simple assignment. See Gwyneth Paltrow, photograph Gwyneth Paltrow. Check, and check:

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Punch Out!

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

Well, here's a new one for me: boxing. On Saturday, August 4, challenger Erik Morales of Mexico took on Chicago native David Diaz for the WBC World Lightweight Championship. Don't ask me what that means, because I have no idea. Is it just me or does every boxing match seem to be some sort of championship bout?

Now, I've been to the Allstate Arena many times to cover DePaul basketball games, so I knew the lighting was going to be pretty crummy: roughly 1/500, f/2.8 at ISO 1000. However, I also knew that my assigned shooting position was from the 200 level seats, which means I would probably need to use a 1.4x teleconverter (which makes me lose a stop of light) otherwise the fighters would be too loose in my frame. So for the fights, I was shooting a touch underexposed at 1/500, f/4.0 at 1600 ISO. Eeesh. Thank goodness I shoot Canon.

Anyways, I thought boxing would be a really easy sport to shoot. I figured it'd be a lot like other individual sports like swimming or track: just focus on the athlete and machine gun away anytime someone flinches. While that is pretty much how one would go about shooting boxing, the problem is that the "hit percentage" of good shots is extremely low. I found boxing to be somewhat similar to baseball or hockey where the photographer tries for the "bat-on-ball" or "puck-on-stick" photo. In boxing, we go for the "fist-on-face" photo. Of course, those plays happen all the time, but actually getting that moment is surprisingly difficult (although there is timing involved, a lot of it is just luck of when you mash the shutter). Although the speed of someone's fist is obviously significantly slower than a speeding baseball or hockey puck, it was still surprisingly difficult to nail one of them "fist-on-face" photos. I think I only ended up with two "fist-on-face" photos the entire fight out of about 500 photos.

Luckily, like baseball and hockey, it's not just about the "fist-on-face" photo. There are other types of action as well, like deflecting or dodging punches:

And of course: VICTORY!

So why was I shooting from the 200 level for the fight? Well, I was there as the second photographer, so the other, more experienced staff photographer (as opposed the less experienced freelance photographer) got to shoot from ringside. I guess it worked out well because that meant a couple of things: 1) no risk of blood, spit, slobber, or miscellaneous bodily fluids from hitting me or my equipment and 2) I didn't have to worry about action shots from the other fights that evening: only worry about jubilation/dejection photos.

Of course, like any other photographer, I shot some action anyways, just to get a feel for the lighting and timing the action even though those probably weren't going to be moved to the wire unless I shot something exceptional in those other bouts. Well, I got something all right! To quote our editor that evening: "Well, we were doing well as far as action goes on those other fights.... and then we found this one!"

Ouch! I can't figure out why anybody would want to be a boxer. Seems pretty ridiculous making a living either beating the crap out of someone or getting the crap kicked out of you. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.