Sunday, October 28, 2012

59th annual Cinch Roping Fiesta

RopingFiesta02 RopingFiesta08 RopingFiesta03 Believe it or not, San Angelo is a rodeo town. For two weeks in February the city hosts one of the largest rodeos in North America and several other cowboy related events throughout the year. On the last weekend of October the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo Association hosts a huge roping contest, the Cinch Roping Fiesta, at the outdoor roping arena. The event that the Standard-Times covers is the invitational calf roping competition in which 40 of the best ropers in the business go head-to-head for a $10,000 prize. Along with three rounds of roping there is also a match roping competition between two of the ropers and the man with the fastest time after 12 calves is declared the winner.

It's been a few years since I last covered the roping fiesta and it seems like every time I get the nod for the assignment it ends up being the hottest day of the century. However, a cold front came through on Friday setting the weekend up with near perfect weather for photographing outdoors. The high for Saturday was around 60 degrees, there was light cloud cover and a cool breeze out of the north. Being a person whose body temperature runs like a blazing furnace, I was in heaven.

RopingFiesta09 RopingFiesta04 RopingFiesta10 RopingFiesta01 RopingFiesta11 If you ever have the opportunity to photograph any kind of rodeo-style event... do it. You will find yourself in a visual wonderland. The action is second to none and the people involved are salt of the earth. It is a uniquely American experience that everyone should have.

Tie-down roping is pretty straight forward. Both a calf and the roper (on horseback) are loaded in the gates and when the roper gives the nod the calf is released. The roper chases the calf and tries to throw his rope around the calf's neck. If the calf is caught the roper jumps of the horse, races down the line, throws the calf on its side and ties its feet together. The point of this is to do it in the fastest time possible. Any time under 10 seconds is considered a great run. Obviously it's a bit more technical than that and there are specific rules and regulations that apply, but that's pretty much the gist of it.

Having lived in San Angelo for almost nine years and covered tons of roping events, the challenge for me is to find an angle to get peak action photos. It's actually a very beautiful process when everything goes according to plan. The mixture of brute force, raw power and accuracy is all very exciting to watch. I have to be careful to not get caught up in all the excitement and to remember to keep taking photos.

RopingFiesta05 RopingFiesta12 RopingFiesta06 RopingFiesta13 RopingFiesta07 RopingFiesta23 RopingFiesta14 This year's contest was pretty exciting, but it's hard not to when you have the likes of Tuf Cooper, Tyson Durfey, Justin Maass and the legendary Cody Ohl. Noticeably absent from this years contest was Fred Whitfield and Trevor Brazile who both hold numerous world titles. But the way of the world is that as the old guard goes out, new stars emerge. At the beginning of the event as the announcer was introducing the competitors the crowd erupted into cheers when Westyn Hughes made his way into the arena. Hughes was the youngest competitor at just 15 years of age.

For me, the event went pretty smooth. I shot action photos for the first round of roping and then switched over to shooting feature photos during the second round. One of the highlights of the day is the match roping, this year between Tuf Cooper and Cody Ohl. The match roping is a contest within a contest. Both Cooper and Ohl were given 12 head of cattle to rope and the one with fastest overall combined time won a handcrafted belt buckle. Ohl had a few miscues this year with a broken rope and a missed first throw that put him about 30 seconds slower than Cooper after the fist six calves. With a lead like that, all Cooper had to do was stay consistent and not mess up to bad. Cooper won the match roping contest with a combined time of 155.37 seconds after 12 calves.

It was also a good day for me shooting wise. I think I came away with some decent photos that we will be able to use for future publications such as the rodeo tab which comes out every year before the start of the stock show and rodeo. Plus it's a nice little refresher for my shooting skills before the rodeo kicks into high gear early next year.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Friday Night Football Week 8: Eldorado vs. TLCA

EldoradoTLCA04 I might as well take up permanent residence in District 6-1A. This will be the third game in the district I've covered in as many weeks, tonight though I got to stay in town as the Eldorado Eagles came to challenge the TLCA Eagles to continue the drama for district superiority. If you remember from last week's post Eldorado is the only team in District 6-1A to remain undefeated. With a win tonight over TLCA, the Eagles would clinch the district title and cruise easily into the first round of the playoffs.

From the outset it looked like the game was going to be a defensive battle with neither team able to muster a scoring drive in the first quarter. But all of that was about to change in the second quarter. Eldorado managed two long touchdown runs to go up 14-0 late in the quarter and just 60 seconds after their second touchdown, Eldorado defensive back Brian Shriver picks off TLCA's Alex Garcia near midfield and ran the ball back for another touchdown. Just like that the Eldorado Eagles held a comfortable 21-0 lead heading into halftime.

EldoradoTLCA03 EldoradoTLCA02 EldoradoTLCA01 EldoradoTLCA08 TLCA is a local school in the city limits of San Angelo so I didn't have to drive to any of the outlying towns to cover tonight's game. I like covering the area games, and I've had a lot of opportunities to do that this year, but I was glad to be close to home tonight. As I was editing my first half photos I had the the radio in my car tuned to the game so I could hear what was going on during the third quarter. I missed a few of the early scoring plays so when I finally started to listen both teams had scored. Eldorado was now leading 28-7. TLCA wasn't able to counter anything Eldorado was throwing at them. Two more touchdowns later and Eldorado was taking a knee to run out the clock ending the game on top 42-7.

I really do want to see TLCA have some success with their program. They are only in their third year of playing 11-man football and their combined record for their first two seasons was 0-20. So when they started winning games this year we started covering them regularly. However, for the games I have covered, they have lost. I still have not seen TLCA win a game yet. I must be the same bad luck for TLCA as I am for Irion County.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Susan Cantu's Transplant Story In Print

CantuPrint01 As promised, I have posted the newspaper pages on story about Susan Cantu and her life-saving transplant as it appeared in the Standard-Times on October 7. Like I said before, I was very proud of the work that Justin Zamudio and I did on this project and very thankful for the access both the family and the hospital gave us.

Justin and I went to cover Susan's operation in early August and after the stories had been written and the photos edited, it was still unclear as to how the package was going to run. There was talk of running it as a series over a few days, then someone suggested that it take over the My San Angelo section with a tip from the front page and finally there was mention of taking over the Local section with a tip from the front page. From the start I was against running the package as a series. I didn't want to see the overall story get chopped into pieces and risk the readers losing interest. And if the story ran over several days there's no creativity in the design and essentially gets treated like any other daily assignment.

When so much time, effort and resources gets put into a project like this you want to give it some space on the page and present it as one cohesive unit as well as give the page designer the ability to be creative. I was really happy when the editors decided to run all the stories and photos as one big special section. A large photo ran on the front page of that Sunday's edition that tipped to the Local section where the package started.

CantuPrint02 CantuPrint03 It was getting close to nearly two months of us completing the story and the page designer was finally able to get to work The pages started to come together the Wednesday before publication and I have to admit, no one really felt 100% about how they were turning out. First of all, we were only given eight empty pages to work with. Justin had written seven stories, one of which was over 70 inches in length. Added to each story were at least three to four photos, graphics, info boxes and timelines. Needless to say, we were running out of space in a hurry. The photos were not getting the play they needed and the stories were jumping to different pages all through the package. A decision had to be made. Fortunately, the editors got together and decided to increase the page count. I was hoping for a total of 12 pages, but in the end we got 10. And what a difference two extra pages makes!

When I first saw how the photos were being played in the eight-page section I actually doubted whether or not I had told Susan's story to the best of my ability. With such limited space and the massive amount of information we were trying to cram into it, some of the photos were not going to run and the ones that did make it on the page were running way to small. I hated the way the photos looked and I started to question whether or not we had picked the right photos for each story and I even started to question my ability as a storytelling photographer. That's how disappointed I was with how the package looked. And I wasn't angry with anyone else, just myself. I went home pissed and dejected. It was a dark day in the Dove household.

But the clouds parted and a ray of hope began to come through when my editor, Lakeith Kennedy, came to me and said that we were upping the page count to 10. I immediately logged on to our system where I could watch the designer build the new pages. It's amazing how much better you begin to feel when your work starts to get the space it needs to breathe and flow. At the end of the day as I was packing up to go home my attitude had changed about the package and my role in the overall project. I would have liked to see the page count go to 12, but I'll take the victories when I can. Overall, I was pleased with the result. Now, it's off to find another long-term project to work on.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Friday Night Football Week 7: Miles vs. Eldorado

MilesEldorado11 Okay, so for this week's Friday Night Football post I'm not going to bore you with all the little game details. I ran into the same problems as I always do and quite frankly, it's not really worth repeating. So I'm just going to post photos from the game instead. I covered the Game of the Week again this past week between Miles and Eldorado and judging from the district records of these two teams, both undefeated, it was supposed to be a good game. Eldorado won the game 28-12 and now hold the only undefeated district record in District 6-1A. HERE is the game story by freelance writer Kim Gierke if you want to read about the night.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Night Football Week 6: Miles vs. TLCA

MilesTLCA01 Another week, another football game. This week I was sent to Miles to cover yet another Standard-Times Game of the Week. The Bulldogs were playing Texas Leadership Charter Academy, or TLCA, a relatively new school to 11-man football. TLCA was formerly a private Christian school which played six-man football, but a few years ago they decided to become a charter school and the increase in student population and fact that they were now a public school forced them into the realm of 11-man ball. Their first few seasons were terrible, not winning a single game for a record of 0-20. But this year they have seen quite a bit of success and heading into this game against Miles with a 5-1 record and tied for first place in District 6-1A.

MilesTLCA02 MilesTLCA03 I should have known better than to get my hopes up for an awesome game (I must be bad luck or something) because TLCA fumbled the opening kickoff which was recovered by Miles. Two plays later, Miles was up 7-0 just 55 seconds into the first quarter. With a bye week before this game, the Miles defense had two weeks to prepare for TLCA's running game led by standout running back Brandon Garcia. Garcia went into the game with over 1300 rushing yards and is one of the state's leaders.

By the end of the first quarter Miles led 14-0 and by the half, Miles was up 21-7. I headed off to edit and transmit photos back to the office in one of the nearby classrooms. I know that I have said it before, but trying to find a place to connect with the Internet is the hardest part of shooting football on Friday nights. But thanks to friendly school staff members and all-around do-gooders, most of the time my connectivity problems are solved.

The rest of the game was pretty much like the first half. TLCA did make a few more good plays, but Miles was able to keep the Eagles in check. The final score was 34-17 in favor of Miles. The Bulldogs and Eldorado, another small school about 40 miles south of San Angelo, are the only schools left undefeated in District 6-1A and they face each other next week in Eldorado. I hope I get to cover that game because, fingers crossed, it will be a great contest.

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