Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lambeau in the Snow!

This past Saturday, I had the honor of stepping out onto the hallowed ground that is Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, for the very first time. Lambeau Field, aka the Frozen Tundra, is arguably one of the most iconic stadiums in all of American sports... right up there with Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium.

The occasion this time around was the NFC divisional playoffs between the Green Bay Packers and the visiting Seattle Seahawks. I honestly thought the Seahawks would make this a close game and pull out a victory over the favored Packers, and at the start, it looked like it would, as they recovered two early fumbles and converted them into a 14-0 lead just 5 minutes into the game.

Sadly for the Seahawks, that was about it for them, as the Packers piled on 42 of the last 48 points of the game behind their legendary quarterback Brett Favre (3 TD passes), their largely unknown running back Ryan Grant (201 yards rushing, 3 TD runs), and their suffocating defense.

Now, as you can tell from the pictures above, it was snowing a decent amount up there. Like I said a year ago when I was writing about the NFC championship game, I love shooting football in the snow. The white droplets everywhere in the frame adds a very unique and beautiful element to all the images. However, like all good things, it is only good in moderation! In the third quarter, you couldn't call the weather simply "snow" anymore. I mean, it was hard enough that it required a tractor to plow the field in between plays so that players could see the yard markers! Yeah, that would be a "snowstorm."

The biggest problem with the snow was not that it was wet and made for a slippery and dirty field to work on, but was that it really killed autofocus performance. Cameras are so sensitive these days, that the white snowflakes can trick the camera into focusing in front of the subject. For the most part, the snow wasn't heavy enough to affect us too badly. Except in the third quarter when we pretty much had a white out (the Seattle receiver pictured below dropped a wide-open ball in the end zone... I don't blame him... try to find the ball in the frame... it's there, I swear!).

Despite the challenges that the snow gave us in the second half, it was great to be out there. With the Giants taking out Dallas today, it means Green Bay will be hosting the NFC Championship game. Forcasted game time temperature: 4 degrees.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

East Coast Deadline

Happy New Year, everybody! Well, one week down in 2008, fifty-one more to go. The first week of my new year was filled with lots of basketball... and all on east coast deadline. What that means is that I was shooting a night game that involved a visiting team from the eastern time zone.

Newspapers have deadlines as to when images and stories must be submitted so that a layout can be created in time for the morning editions to go to print. There are typically several deadlines, but for simplicity's sake, I'll just say that there is an early deadline, and a late deadline. The deadlines vary for various newspapers, but early deadline is probably around 9:30-10pm for most papers. This is so that a the paper can be designed, printed, and shipped to subscribers and newsboxes in suburbs further out in a paper's distribution area. Then there is a late or final deadline, probably somewhere between 10:30-11:30pm, for areas more that are closer to the printing/shipping facility.

The most difficult thing for photojournalists (in Chicago at least) is when there is an 8pm game involving an east-coast team (meaning the game is starting at 9pm in their time zone). This means that the game starts pretty close to early deadlines. Normally, we will shoot a half of a game before going in to transmit images. But when there is a late start and an east coast early deadline, we are forced to transmit pictures after only about 10 minutes of game action. Obviously, the most annoying thing that comes out of this is the potential for missing some big play. The other problem is that so early in the game, it's usually pretty tough to see any story lines develop, so instead of filling the most story-telling images, we're just sending pictures of what we hope will be pertinent to the story later... or whatever looks cool.

So the two basketball games I shot this past week were both 8pm CDT starts, but both involved teams from Pennsylvania: Penn State and Villanova.

I kind of got lucky in the Northwestern-Penn State game. After about 10 minutes of action, I went to file some images. Hard to tell what the story of the game is going to be after such a short time, so what I did was I filed a couple images of Penn State's high scorers, and also a photo of Northwestern looking bad (because you know they're probably going to lose).

As it turns out, those two Penn State players ended up being the high scorers in the game, and NU lost. So all there was left to do after the game was over was to just send a few extra bs action shots, and call it a night.

The next night I shot the DePaul-Villanova game. Again, after about 10 minutes of action, I went to file some images. At that point, there was really no indication of how the game was going to shape up, so as before, I just filed some images of the current high-scorers and top performers along with some random action shots.

However, unlike the previous night, those images did not end up being the most story-telling images of the game, because another player on both DePaul and Villanova stepped up in the second half and led their respective teams in scoring, so I had to file some of those as soon as the game was over.

On top of that, DePaul pulled off the pretty big upset of a nationally ranked team in Villanova, and I had not sent any pictures of the Blue Demons celebrating or looking all that dominating in my original transmission (how could I have, 10 min into a game is usually too early for players to be going nuts after every basket?). So jubilation photos were also filed for late deadline.

Now, don't get me wrong. I was happy with the overall game take. I managed to get pictures of all the key players and moments in the game, but I still feel kind of annoyed knowing that papers on early deadline will be running a picture that doesn't really have anything to do with the game other than a generic action shot. But that's east coast deadline for ya.....