Wish in one hand, shoot in the other

July 15, 2010 

Most sports fans cheer for teams because they’re local. Some follow teams as a link to a former home and some are swayed by future Hall-of-Famers. Off the clock, I’m no different, but when I’m working, I root for the outcome that best fits the photos I’ve made.

Last Saturday, the Dust Devils faced the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, hoping to snap a six-game losing streak. I captured some second base action when Jeremiah Sammy turned a double play early on:

Due to cost-saving measures at the paper, we never have time to stick it out through a whole game early in the season, but I try to stay until I have a good photo to represent either a win or a loss. The opportunities weren’t really showing up in the 1-0 game, however, so I played around with the pockets of warm light as I remained vigilant during the action:

and I caught this outtake of Bryce Massanari dwarfing teammate Nathan Hines as Hines looked to score from third base:

I moved to the third base line as the lengthening shadows evened the light on the field and shot Dust Devils pitcher Josh Hungerman as he committed an error on a hit by Salem-Keizer's Jose Medina, allowing him to get to first:

It’s not a stellar photo. I wish the Farmer’s Insurance banner wasn’t there and a lower angle could have incorporated some fan reaction, but after photographing this, I started internally rooting against the Dust Devils. It’s nothing personal, of course, and while the photo of Sammy leaping at second base, lack of ball notwithstanding, is a more exciting action photo, shots of second base action are a dime a dozen. And though it’s not compositionally clean, it’s been rare for me to shoot baseball photos that include the context of the other team.

I snapped another outtake I liked before the inning ended and I was office-bound for the evening:

The Dust Devils ended up hanging onto that 1-0 lead and, aside from the error I captured, Hungerman had a great game — rendering that photo doubly inappropriate.

The next day, reporter Sara Schilling and I went to Bert de Jong’s Richland home to watch the World Cup final for our localized coverage. In my past experience of localized Super Bowl coverage, I always aimed to contrast reactions from opposing sides:

This time around, we were covering Dutch-born locals. Having only one side to focus on simplifies my approach, but also limits my options. Making matters even tougher was the fact that there were only two people — a far cry from the World Cup party I had envisioned. De Jong’s friendly Burmese Gio looked to be a viable x-factor as he hung around on the Netherlands-themed orange towels:

I was hoping he’d just lounge around on the towel until an exciting moment in the game scared him into a frenzied leap that I could layer with the human excitement or dejection. I forgot that Gio was a cat, after all, and there was no way he was going to do anything remotely close to what I wanted him to. At some point during the game, de Jong’s friend Niri Govind joined the two. I hoped for either a Spanish fan or more orange when de Jong went to answer the door, but the weekend of sports disappointment continued.

One of the first close calls happened and I was able to get sense for how each viewer preferred to react:

It was a suitable shot for print if something came up and I had to leave, but while I like the subtle gross element of the cat taking care of business, the background decor connected to Lucas Visscher’s head is distracting. I adjusted my angle a little higher to create more separation, and though the emotions aren’t as extreme, here’s the photo that ran in print:

Further supporting the selection of this photo is that they’re reacting to Spanish goalie Iker Casillas blocking a shot by the Netherlands' Arjen Robben — a play that many saw as a “how did he miss that?” kind of moment. I stuck it out through the rest of the game, hoping for a Dutch victory. I already had a shot that would work if they lost, but my idea was to capture the initial jubilation and then quickly move behind the couch to try and layer the television coverage of the thousands gathered in Amsterdam watching on projection screens with the three guys in a Richland living room.

Guess what? That didn’t happen. And as I watched Spain’s Andrés Iniesta score the winning goal with my left eye, I snapped away at their reactions. Theirs was a muted disbelief, however, and the best I managed is this awkwardly framed moment:

As they watched the replay, Visscher reached for his beer, another understated storytelling moment that I briefly considered submitting:

I figured that subtlety would be lost on readers, however, and went with the safe, passable shot above, knowing that this photo would run secondary and smaller than the photo that would accompany the story about Alica Foss’ return home after a double lung transplant.

This job is full of moments like these, when a little luck could have paid big dividends in fulfilling your best laid plans. And while it’s not bad to aim high and plan for the best possible outcome, you’ve always got to be ready to roll with whatever comes your way.


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