Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gross, Man

Bears fans, you are getting your wish... after a disastrous performance on Sunday Night Football that led to a 34-10 whipping by the Dallas Cowboys, Good Rex, Bad Rex is out, Brian Griese is in.

Quarterbacks in the NFL receive far too much credit for good play, and far too much blame for poor play. A lot of Grossman's struggles this year is because the offensive line hasn't been holding up, the running game by Cedric Benson has been very inconsistent, and the wide receivers are not going after the ball and dropping passes.

Yeah, the Bears played poorly, but let's not forget to give credit where credit is due. The Cowboys also outplayed the Bears. They made the clutch catches and the clutch throws when it mattered. Hmmm, that sounds kind of familiar... That's the Bears last season!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Broken Shutter, Broken Heart

It finally happened... I blew my first shutter yesterday at the Cubs-Pirates game. For all you photography newbies out there, the shutter controls when light enters the camera and for how long. That click-click sound you hear whenever you take a picture? That is the shutter opening and closing.

As with any other piece of technology, you use it enough, it will wear down and break down. Canon rates the shutters in their 1D Mark II cameras for 200,000 cycles. Other than having Canon count it for you, I don't think there is a way to get an accurate count on how many actuations your camera has gone through, however there are ways to estimate it. The most popular way is to use an EXIF reader (I use the very originally named program called EXIF Reader). It is just a small program that will read and display the camera settings used for each shot such as aperture, shutter speed, flash settings, etc. It also reads the number of actuations, however it is limited in that for some reason, it seems to reset itself around every 65,000-68,000 clicks.

All that said, I plugged my very last image taken and the actuations read 13,402. My best estimation of my shutter actuations on this camera is roughly between 200,000-210,000 actuations (I bought it with about 50,000 actuations, and I have turned the counter over three times), which is just about what Canon rates the 1D Mark II's shutter.

Anyways, this is first frame in which I knew something was up. It was a base hit by the Pirates leadoff hitter. Right when it happened, I heard a strange sounding cracking noise, which I originally thought was maybe his bat cracking.

I knew from past readings about blown shutters that finding white streaks in your images is a big clue that the shutter has gone out. So I took another photo to make sure.

Yup, now there's a black streak along with the white streak, which is the shutter showing up in the frame. Well, off to the repair facility it goes!

Friday, September 21, 2007

500 Home Runs

I mean to post this last weekend (when it actually happened), but I got so busy that I'm only now finally able to find the time.

On Sunday, September 16, 2007, Chicago White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome joined the 500 home run club by hitting a walk-off home run to defeat the Los Angeles Angels. It was the first time in baseball history that someone's 500th home run was a walk-off job.

Now for the entire week, we had been covering Thome's chase for 500 with two photographers (one shooting from first base, another from third), but I was shooting solo on Sunday. The Bears were playing their first home game that same day, and because the NFL rules all, our resources were stretched pretty thin. Because of this, and I hate to admit it, but part of me kind of dreaded taking on this game. I was hoping that Thome would hit his milestone homer the Friday or Saturday before my assigned day, just so I wouldn't have to deal with the pressure of nailing the moment. Of course, he didn't, and for a long time, it looked like he wasn't going to do it that Sunday either. He was 0 for all his at bats, and the Sox were down by six runs.

However, it was Jim Thome bobblehead doll day, and his picture was printed on all the season tickets. Clearly, if there were ever a perfect day where Thome would club out number 500, it would be today. Against all odds, his Sox teammates made it possible by rallying for 6 runs to tie the game up going into the ninth inning with Thome due up second.

I had joked around during the top half of the inning that the hitter ahead of Thome (Darin Erstad) would ruin a perfect ending to Jim Thome bobblehead doll day by hitting a walk off of his own. He didn't, and big Jim socked it to the Angels, sending US Cellular Field into a frenzy.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

13 innings!

When you take a baseball assignment, you know you're in for a long night, since the games average about 3 hours in time. But on top of that, there is always the "risk" of extra inning games. Yesterday, I shot the longest game in my short photo career: it took the White Sox 13 innings (and about 4.5 hours) to knock off the visiting Minnesota Twins.

As usual, it was a pretty ordinary baseball game. Shoot the pitchers, shoot some action:

But as it turns out. It was anything but ordinary. In fact, it was historic. The two teams entered the ninth inning tied at four. The two teams left the ninth inning tied at ten! In the history of major league baseball, no two teams have ever scored six runs each to keep a game tied and force extra innings. While it was a historic as far as comebacks go, the photos from the ninth inning were anything but. The weird thing about shooting baseball is that just because there is a lot of scoring, doesn't mean there's going to be a lot of action. Especially if there are home runs involved, because all you get is a picture of somebody swinging the bat, or players congratulating each other at home.... pretty boring!

So onto extra innings. Shooting extra innings in baseball is kind of annoying. Because the game can end on one swing, you have to shoot every swing, just to make sure you get the photo of the player who gets the game-winning hit. So you get a ton of super repetitive photos of different batters swinging that will never be used in any publication. To put into perspective of how many extra photos I ended up taking last night, in an average 9-inning MLB game, I end up taking 525 photos (I calculated this out about a month ago because a friend was curious). But in yesterday's 13 inning game, I shot 1,094 photos, 611 of which were taken from the 9th inning and beyond.

On the flip side, chances are pretty good that after the game-winning hit photo, you get a really nice jubilation photo, like this one where Luis Terrero got mobbed by his teammates after scoring the winning run in the bottom of the 13th.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Fight! Fight! Fight! For IOWA!

Non-sports fans in Chicago probably noticed that there was a lot of people wearing yellow this Saturday. The reason? The Iowa Hawkeyes were in town to take on the Northern Illinois Huskies at the first college football game ever held at Soldier Field.

Now, Hawkeye fans are well known for traveling well, but I was still blown away by their turnout. Although NIU was technically the home team: wearing the colored jerseys, providing the PA announcer, scoreboard graphics, credentials, etc., you might as well have called Chicago "Iowa City East" for the day. Out of an announced crowd of over 60,000, I would have to say at least 50,000 were Hawkeye fans, and of those, at least 45,000 wearing some shade of yellow or black. Now I covered an extensive playoff run by the Bears last season, but it was arguably nuttier and louder at Soldier Field today than it is at a Bears game. So who's got great fans? Yeah.... IOWA.

So in my last post, I mentioned that after two NFL preseason games, I felt the rust was gone and I would be ready for a great regular season: in both the NFL and NCAA. Sure, the action tracking/shooting rust is gone, but it does no good when you have no luck! My job is to tell the story, and a big story line in today's game was Iowa's defense, who limited the Huskies to only 3 points en route to a 16-3 victory. However, I was not able to make a solid photo of any of Iowa's three sacks or three interceptions. I was either on the wrong side of the field, or even more frustrating, someone would run right in front of me (like a referee or another player) and block the play.... grrrrr....

Well, I like to say I got a C- in this game. I still did my best to tell the story, but they aren't necessarily the most compelling images for the story. I hate to make it seem like there is so much luck involved in shooting football just based on where you happen to be shooting from, but when shooting a game solo, there is just so much ground to cover, you can only make your best guess as to where the action is going to go. In retrospect, maybe I should have positioned myself to shoot more of Iowa's defense, but NIU had shown flashes throughout the entire game, so I didn't want to miss a big offensive play for them. Hmmmm, maybe I'm still rusty afterall....

So I may not have gotten a solid sack or solid interception picture, but at least I got a decent frame of the defensive back who got two picks. However, it would have been even better had I gotten a shot where the ball was a bit closer. Oh well...

Another story line was that Iowa introduced a new starting quarterback, and he came out and responded by throwing a touchdown pass. And there was much rejoicing.

Finally, Iowa had two 100 yard rushers, which helped keep the Huskies off the field. Here's one of them, breaking away from the NIU defense:

And of course, your token random action shots to help fill out the day's take: