Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No More Tunnel Vision

There is a saying in sports photography, "Tight is right," and for the most part that holds true. Being able to zero in on an athlete's face during a moment of peak action is pure nirvana, however you don't get to see the reaction from everyone else in the venue, or where the other competitors are on the playing field, or what the conditions are at that moment of peak action. I was sent to the volleyball game between unbeaten District 4-1A rivals Water Valley and Bronte. Bronte is the No.1-ranked team in Class 1A so far this year and look to be at the top of their game. Like I have posted before, I have the hardest time shooting volleyball. I don't know if its the pace of the game or fact that I have a net between me and the subject I'm focusing on, but I just seem to be a split second off from the action or a hair off of being in focus. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy shooting the game. I just need a little more practice.
I follow Scott Strazzante's blog Shooting from the Hip and read that he likes to use a wide angle to capture more of the scene. The above photo was my lame attempt at trying something new. Does it work? Kind of. Does it have all the elements I want? Nope. I do like being able to see all the players on the court and I especially like seeing the flags hanging on the back wall. But there are no spectators or coaches and other players on the bench. Better luck next time. The game was great, though. Bronte won in four sets 25-15, 25-17, 21-25, 31-29. You can go HERE if you would like see more photos from the game.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Weekend of Football

For this weekend's round of games covered, Jennifer (our cops/courts reporter who shoots video for us on Friday nights) and I made the hour drive to Brady to cover our Game of the Week as the Bulldogs played the Ballinger Bearcats. (Anyone know what a bearcat is?) I love going to Brady, mostly because of their head coach, Glen Jones. He is always very gracious and kind when we come to town, a true pleasure to work with. Brady has been a powerhouse in 2A football locally for a few years now and Ballinger just went through a coaching change a year ago and are now coming together as a team nicely. This was going to be a good game, and it lived up to it, for the first half at least. But lets be honest, the main reason for heading out to Brady, the Hard Eight. A local BBQ joint that serves up some of the best choices of meat in the area. Jennifer and I made sure we left the office early enough for dinner before the game.
One of the the things we pride ourselves on here at the Standard-Times is the fact the we shoot a lot of features at the football games we go to. We all know that West Texas football is far more than just the action on the field. It's about the cheerleaders, fans, food and bands as well. I thought that I had better feature photos of everything off the field that I had of the action on the field, because what I thought was going to be a great game turned into a blowout. I had to leave at halftime to edit photos and send some back to the office. Ballinger had just scored three touchdowns to take the lead over the Bulldogs 21-14 heading into the locker room. When I got back to the field near the end of the third quarter, Ballinger had extended their lead. By the end of the game, the Bearcats had scored 48 unanswered points to win. You can go HERE if you would like to view the galleries and videos from the games we covered last Friday.

Jennifer and I got back to the office around 1:30 am, checked to see that everything got online okay, then headed home. Fortunately, I didn't have any early morning assignments so I could sleep in. The area was supposed to get some rain on Saturday, so local events were getting canceled or postponed, and I was hoping that I wouldn't be standing in the rain for the Angelo State game against West Texas A&M. This was going to be a big game for the Rams. They were 2-0, heading into an important game against a nationally-ranked team, and really needed a win to keep their momentum going. I really enjoy shooting ASU games. They're fast-paced, lots of aerobatics, and most importantly, usually happen while there is still some good light! The game got off to a quick start with West Texas scoring on their opening drive and ASU scoring on their first play from the line of scrimmage. There was scoring back and forth all night but in the end, West Texas was the victor. It is a consensus here in the office that ASU will need to beat one of the next three ranked teams in order to have a chance at the post season. I think they can do it. I posted a gallery HERE for your viewing pleasure.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Another Tough Central Loss

It was Central High School's homecoming last night and they were playing Odessa High. I really think it could have been anyone's game as long as the Central defense could contain Odessa's star running back. (I believe he has committed to play for Texas Tech next fall.) And for the first half of the game Central was able to do just that. Spirits were high as Central headed to the locker room with halftime lead. Usually I immediately start editing my photos, captioning them and sending them off to the office for our deadline, but last night I had to make sure I got a photo of the homecoming queen, so I wasn't able to start until almost the start of the third quarter. I raced off to the locker room, and when I finished there were just nine minutes left in the fourth quarter and Central had just a seen point lead. That's when Odessa went on a scoring rampage and won the game 40-27. It was a tough loss, especially since it was homecoming. Oh well, better luck next year. I did see a refreshing sight last night before the game though. A senior in the Central marching band had decided it would be best to wear a bright blue wig to the game. Perfect! She looked great. You can go HERE if yo would like to see more photos from the Central game.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Volleyball From Above

Last night I went up to the Junell Center to shoot the volleyball game between the Rambelles and Tarleton State. I wasn't assigned this game, I didn't have anything else to do for the evening and I just decided to go. I think the reason I wasn't given this game was because Angelo State was 3-6 and Tarleton was an undefeated 9-0. You wouldn't believe how many times people call in accusing us of only covering games that their team loses. It's a conspiracy I tell you. But, like I said, I had nothing else to do. I have never shot from the catwalk that circles the gym floor at the Junell Center before, and since no one was expecting anything from me tonight I decided to take a chance. Now, I'm not for heights, never have been, but I can usually get over it if I'm up high enough for any extended period of time. I have gone up to the catwalk before because we have strobes that we use during the ASU basketball games. I guess the main reason why the catwalk is so unnerving for me is the fact that there is no solid floor to stand on. The walkway is made up of metal grates that are placed on top of support beams allowing you to see the entire 60 or 70 feet below to the floor. But, you know what? I had a good time and I'll probably go up there again. And it turned out to be a good night for the Rambelles as well.

It was fun shooting from up top. I still think I need a little work to get the feel of the flow of the game from this angle, but I would definitely do it again. Like I said, the Belles had a great night. They were not suppose to win this game but they swept the TexAnns in three straight games. One of the cool things about shooting volleyball, whether its high school or the college ranks, is there is no shortage of jubilation moments. After every point scored, the players react as if it's the game winner. I had to sift through several to pick out my favorite ones. This one below was the final point scored in the third game to end things for the night. I have posted a gallery on the Standard-Times website. You can see it HERE.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Upside Reaches Milestone, 100th Post

I never thought that I would stick with this blogging thing, but I have since come to love it. Even if no one follows or reads this blog I find a certain comfort in writing and putting photos out there that are my own personal vision. This is the 100th post on this blog, and it is fitting that the post be of what has become my favorite assignment to shoot, our I Am West Texas photo column. This column gives me the chance to explore our community and find someone with a unique story to tell. It's easy for me to become jealous of some of the assignments and job opportunities former classmates and friends have come across in their careers. Some have photographed in far off places, wars, famine or natural disaster. Olympic games, superbowls and on the campaign trail of some of our nation's biggest politicians are commonplace for my friends who have established themselves as big time shooters. All the while, I'm here in a small community that people confuse with San Antonio. "Oh, San Antonio, I know where that is," they say. "No. San Angelo," I say. "Oh. Where's that?" they say.
I am a community photographer. And I'm okay with that.
Most of my assignments are no more than 10 miles from my office. They are not in exotic places or of people that can change the world with a single decision. I'm not jet-setting from country to country, embedded with troops or staying up late sharing war stories with fellow journalists.
I am, however, photographing individuals like J.R. Sparks, Mari Johnston, Frank Wilson and Karen Cross, who just happens to be the subject of this month's photo column. None of these people may never be known out side of our little community nestled in the middle of West Texas. They may be nobodies to the outside world, but they are somebodies to us. And, it's a privilege to know them.
Karen Cross is a local teacher, wife and mother of two. I met Karen while on an assignment about her new robotic leg and thought she would make a great "I Am" subject. The above photo ran as the lead with this column:

SAN ANGELO, Texas — By all accounts, Karen Cross is your typical individual with an active lifestyle. She is a married mother of two and a third-grade teacher at Lamar Elementary School in San Angelo. You might notice that she walks with a bit of a limp — but it is that limp that Cross uses to educate and inspire.
As a teenager Cross discovered she had a very aggressive bone cancer, osteogenic sarcoma. Her right leg was amputated. “Even after the surgery they only gave me a 50 percent chance of survival,” Cross said. “It was a very aggressive cancer and would have killed me in three weeks had they not found it.” But it was found, and in the months to come, Cross would learn how to function as if she still had two legs. “I woke up from surgery with a prosthesis already attached to my leg,” Cross said, “so from day one I was learning how to get around.” It helped that she came from an active and encouraging family, the only girl among seven children. “I was very much a fighter,” Cross said. “Growing up in a big family you learn to fight for everything.”
Now, Cross is just as active as she was when she was a kid. “I go to water aerobics at the health club, I do Zumba, I do weights with the kids, and I’m very active with my church,” Cross said. Never passing up a chance to teach, Cross brings her experience into the classroom.
“The more kids know about someone who is disabled, the more they’re going to be accepting,” Cross said. “There’s a reason why I’m still here, and it’s to educate and teach, to be a mother, to be a wife.
“Every day is a new day; every day is filled with promise.”

Hope you like slideshow. I look forward to exploring my community more and finding citizens that are just as important to the world, even though the world may never know them.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Angelo State Wins at Cotton Bowl

What a great game! At first it was a little slow, with the back and forth, the penalties and the punting, but once the scoring started happening towards the end of the first half, it was nonstop from there on out. One of the big plays of the game was an 83-yard reception by Angelo State's Dakarai Pecikonis. I had a great time, but if I had to complain about something it would have been about the heat and humidity. People in the stands were dropping like flies. Some even had to be carted out by medical staff. I went through two gallons of water by myself. (No, I'm not kidding. Two gallons!) That probably still wasn't enough with the amount of sweat coming off of me. But like I said, it was a blast. I'll have a gallery up in a day or so. I'm still in Dallas visiting my sister and brother-in-law. I'm kind of sad as this will be the last ASU game I will cover for a while. I will be making the switch to the day shift, Monday through Friday. Angelo State plays their games on Saturday afternoon. Hopefully they will keep the winning streak alive by the time the shift change comes around again.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tough Night For Central

It was a rough night for the Central Bobcats, but I think all of us knew it would be. They were playing Abilene Cooper, a team that made the jump to the 5A ranks this season. Last week Cooper beat a top-10 ranked team so it was going to be a challenge for Central for sure. They fought through bravely, but in the end Cooper won 55-21. It was also brutally hot at the game. I had visions of our long-running streak of triple digit weather coming back. And it never fails, I always end up getting my freshly-applied sunscreen in my eyes from the buckets of sweat pouring off my head. Oh well, I guess its just one of the hazards of living in West Texas. Here are a few of my favorite photos from last night at the game. The first is of a member of the Central Tex-Anns, one of the oldest drill teams in the state. It was shot with a 50mm f/1.4. I love this lens, but I don't use it near enough. The second is of sunlight being reflected off passing storm clouds. We had a chance of some rain, but again, not getting any is just another hazard of living in West Texas.
If you would like to see more photos from the various games we covered last night you can go HERE. I'm on my way to Dallas to cover Angelo State and Texas A&M Commerce at the Cotton Bowl. Hopefully I'll have a few photos (or maybe a gallery if you're nice) to post here and on the S-T website. More to come...


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Angelo State Opener

Sorry if the posts have been a little heavy on the football lately, but what can I say, it's football season in Texas. Last Saturday I spent the first few quarters at the home opening game of the Angelo State Rams. I didn't get to stay the entire game because I way over on hours and the company didn't want to pay me. Anyway, the game was touted to be a score fest and it lived up to the hype. Angelo State's Dakarai Pecikonis had a great game, making some unbelievable one-handed catches. I wish I had decided to stay just to see the end of the game because ASU came back to win with just 30 seconds left. I will be traveling to Dallas this weekend to cover the Rams' game against Texas A&M-Commerce at the Cotton Bowl in the Harvey Martin Classic. I've never heard of this 'classic' before, I'm just stoked I get to go. I'll probably stay until Monday evening since I have Sunday and Monday off from work.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Meeting New People

Probably one of the coolest things about my job, besides getting access to all the events we cover, is meeting new and interesting people in the community. On Saturday I headed out to Brady with a reporter to cover the 37th annual World Championship BBQ Goat Cook-Off. I know, cooking up a side of goat may not be for everyone, but it's a big thing in Brady and people come from all over to participate. This year there were 175 teams that entered. As I was walking around the park grounds, I came upon this trailer that had the head of a chicken mounted on the front of it with the smoke from the grill coming out of it's beak. I had to stop if only to get a photo of the trailer. There were two guys in the back with the grill open wrapping their contest entry in foil and both were wearing chicken hats, with the legs of the chicken acting as strange dreadlocks. I stopped to talk for a few minutes with Ken Janway, one of the grillers. He and his cooking partner had come from Grand Prairie, near the Dallas/Fort Worth area, to participate. They have been cooking competitively for over 20 years together. It made for a nice feature photo for the story.

Last Thursday I was assigned as a photo coach to one of our reporters, Jennifer, who has expressed interest in learning how to shoot assignments for the paper. The Standard-Times in adding a few new sections, adding to the already heavy work load, so Jennifer has offered to help us out. We were sent to the local bowling alley to cover the various leagues in the city. One of the main players in the league is named Skip Klement (the one on the right in the above photo), a quiet but cool guy. I like to bowl, though I'm not really any good. I'm routinely rolling about a 125 to 150, so I'm easily impressed with anyone who can score in the high 100s or low 200s. Skip, on the other hand, was having a banner evening and on the verge of bowling a perfect 300! A crowd had now formed with just about everyone in the building realizing what was about to happen. It was the last roll of the tenth frame, Skip released the ball as a collective sucking-in of air from the crowd quieted the entire audience. The ball struck the lead pin creating a domino effect with the rest. It came down to one pin. It was bumped, it wobbled, but remained standing as the racking system came down before it had a chance to fall. The crowd screamed out a coordinated "NOOOO!". But my camera was not on the crowd, it was on Skip, who remained almost emotionless. I was hoping for at the very least a disgusted facial expression, but no, he was just as casual now as he was when he started the game. If I had just scored a 299, missing 300 by just one pin, someone would be picking me up off the floor after I fainted.

The last person I'd like you to meet is Ovalia Fernandez, she is 82-years-old and lives in San Angelo. I was driving around town one afternoon when I came up on a bright yellow house with what looked like an elderly woman hauling shingles onto the roof by herself. I pulled off the road, grabbed my camera and ran up to the house. Sure enough, Ovalia was re-roofing her rent house by herself. After talking and getting to know her, it turns out that Ovalia is no stranger to hard work. She grew up a migrant worker having never gone to school. I couldn't believe it. Unfortunately, she had just hauled up the last of her shingles so I didn't get any photos of her doing that. The night before, someone had stolen some of her supplies, including her shingles, so she would have to go back to the store to get more. "Oh well," she said. "I guess they needed the shingles more than I did."

Mason Pounces Junction

Last Friday, since Central was not playing in town, Jennifer and I were sent out to cover the Standard-Times' Game of the Week, the Mason Punchers at the Junction Eagles. For those of you who don't know, a puncher is basically a cowboy who tends cattle and performs other duties on horseback. The state of Texas has just gone through their redistricting of schools, and last year Mason and Junction were in the same district becoming big rivals, but this year they are in different districts. However, the rivalry still exists. The game progressed as billed, with the score tied at 13 at the start of the fourth quarter. But Junction just fell apart and Mason took advantage of the opportunity, winning the game 36-13. These are some of my favorites from the night.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Community Love

Today I was reminded of how giving a small community can be. I was all set to go about my day taking care of daily assignments, none of which I was especially crazy about, but needed to be done, when a call came in from our agriculture reporter around 11:30am saying that a group of area and local farmers were getting together this afternoon to rally around a family that was going through the grieving process after the sudden death of their 12-year-old son. In mid-August, Jason Block, a 12-year-old from Wall, was mowing his sister's property on a tractor, when he came upon a bee hive. The bees started to swarm and attack the youngster, and in his effort to get away he was run over by the tractor. He was taken to the hospital by helicopter where he later died from his injuries. It was a devastating blow to the family, and in an effort to help, local farmers spread out among seven fields to harvest the family's milo crop.
It was a heartwarming situation to see community members rally around one of their own. I got to ride along with one of the farmers, Brent Halfmann, as he was driving his combine through a field near Mereta. He said, "losing a child, especially one as young as Jason, has got to be the worst kind of pain. This is just a small way we as a community can show our support."


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Atomic Football

My second assignment for the afternoon yesterday was to hang out at the Lake View High School football practice to get some shots of the team going through drills. The head coach, Sterlin Gilbert, has always treated us well here at the Standard-Times, allowing to us to shoot just about anything we want. I got out to the practice field around 3:50pm with the sun beating down. Man, it was hot. After checking in with the coach, I set about shooting the defensive linemen for the team. I had just come off an assignment that I shot indoors and forgot to check my meter for a mid-day exposure and started rolling off frames. I was way over exposed and didn't realize it for about ten frames. I saw what I had done, re-metered and went about my business.
I didn't know what I had until I got back to the office for the edit. I have seen photos from various photographers of over-exposed images before and always thought that it was a cool trick. I don't know that I could justify using such an out of whack image in the newspaper, unless it was an artsy portrait or something, just because I don't think it would reproduce through the press very well. But, I do like this image of the defensive line as they run through drills. I think it looks like what it might be like if an atomic bomb went off as we were all outside. The sky becomes a bright white just before we explode into a fine powder. Creepy, right?