Gravel, sweat and cheers

September 16, 2010 

While I enjoy covering high school sports, I rarely get excited about games, especially during the regular season. With no local allegiances to any teams, more often than not, I’m just rooting for a conclusion. Last week’s historic first time face-off between Chiawana and Pasco stirred an anxious thrill that I hadn’t felt since my college days of covering Ducks football and basketball. Just like those days, I was much more excited about the game day atmosphere than I was about the game, so I showed up about an hour early and worked out a good parking spot by the ramp at Edgar Brown Stadium. Interestingly enough, the number of photographers on the field was the most I’d seen since my college days, as well.

Unlike those carefree college days, however, this night would do its best to beat me down with tough lighting and a hectic schedule that left me drained of both sweat and energy by the end of the night.

After both coaches agreed to let me into their locker rooms before the game and at halftime, I wandered around looking for features. This included shots of The Rock, which will serve as the trophy for what has been dubbed The Gravel Pit Championship,

some pre-game practice, like this shot of Pasco assistant coach Jay Covington,

and, of course, the fans:

The exposed bellies were later mirrored by the Chiawana student section,

but despite numerous loops through the stadium, I wasn’t seeing any Chiawana students reppin’ the Riverhawks. I wandered behind the visitors’ section where I snapped this graphic feature

before somebody tipped me off that all the Chiawana students had gathered outside the stadium and were planning on a “white out” — entering the stadium en masse. I tried layering the group as they wound down the ramps,

but ended up liking the shot from the stands better, despite the lackluster emotion from the non-students in the frame:

As I finished working this scene, I noticed the Pasco players heading into the locker room, so I ran across the field after them. I decided to focus on Pasco before the game because they’re the older school, but it was a largely arbitrary decision. As soon as I got in there and prepared to start shooting, they killed the lights and cued up a scene from Remember the Titans. As one of the coaches kept the energy up after the scene, they kept the lights off. I shot some photos anyway, hoping the lights would come back on soon:

I did my best to focus in the darkness, but with my wonky focusing screen, that’s tough enough when there’s adequate light. Then I rattled off a few frames at a very slow 0.3 sec., which helps accentuate the animated coach’s movements. The lights thankfully came on for the pre-game prayer, where I captured this OK shot of Pasco QB Brandon Search:

My pre-game remained Pasco-heavy as I prepared to shoot the players busting through the butcher paper, this panned variation amped up a bit by Josh Cuevas’ enthusiastic jump:

followed by some purple fans cheering on their bulldogs:

As game time approached, my excitement faded with the sun. The lighting at Edgar Brown is awful. In addition to the wildly uneven coverage, the old lights shift color temperature at high shutter speeds. You can read more about the phenomenon here, or just watch this animation of untoned frames from a burst during Pasco’s game against Wenatchee last year:

Early on, I felt the sting of a dark spot as well as my poor positioning when Search grabbed an interception:

Later, despite slowing my shutter speed to 1/400th sec., 2/3 of a stop lower than it is in the bright middle of the field, the first score in the history of the match up was swallowed in weird darkness. I was able to bring it up a bit, but it looks pretty bad. I suppose I could have gone a little slower, but you can already see a good deal of motion blur as it is:

Soon after, I got a slightly different touchdown celebration as Chiawana's Brett Adamson (23) rushed to congratulate teammate Jordan Downing in the end zone:

It would be a lot stronger with some more emotion, but maybe it’s better that it wasn’t a whole lot stronger since the touchdown was negated by a holding penalty. I missed that announcement over the P.A. system that I had trouble understanding all night, and, opting to get some crowd features instead of the extra point, was out of position for the play after. I wasn’t having much luck in capturing Pasco’s offense, either, and as I witnessed the week before in their 21-0 loss to Richland, much of their attack revolves around Search rushing up the middle:

My luck started to turn, however, as Chiawana's Charles Joshua Edrington grabbed an interception alongside teammate Brett Adamson, who had the other two on the night:

Not only did I get a good angle on it, but it happened in a bright spot during a favorable lighting cycle and I was near the Chiawana student section:

That positioning fortune never quite worked out on the Pasco side, but it wasn’t tough to catch the rowdy student section in action,

and I liked how close at hand they kept the band:

At halftime, I followed Chiawana into their locker room. They had played OK, but only led Pasco 10-6 after that holding penalty cost them a touchdown. Coach Steve Graff spelled this out to them rather calmly,

and while I could feel some of the frustration amongst Riverhawk players, I didn’t manage to capture that. I only really captured “tired” in this shot of Nick Vincent, whom you may remember as the watermelon smasher from last week:

Maybe I could have gotten something better if I stuck around longer. Maybe picking Pasco for the halftime peek would have yielded more emotional results. I’ll never know because I was in full on tweaker mode at this point. I sped over to try and get a few frames of the halftime action, just missing the dancers. I snapped a few of the marching band, but only really like this shot of the drum major:

Then it was a mad dash up the ramp, to my car and off to Fran Rish Stadium for the Richland vs. Hanford game. As I exercised great self-control with my driving speed, I had two big concerns. First was that the timing of the games would be way off. Heavy reliance on running by both teams meant that the Pasco game had whisked along. Arriving as the Richland game started halftime wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I was anxious to get back to the Gravel Pit as soon as possible. My other fear was that Hanford would surprise everyone and I’d arrive at a close game. I pulled into the obviously full parking lot and looked for one of those hashed out no-parking zones us media types like to utilize and saw some Richland police hanging around an empty one. After getting their parking blessing, I jogged in to see the halftime clock ticking down with less than a minute left and Richland dominating the Falcons 31-0. It was just enough time to check in with Herald sports writer Kevin Anthony before the second half kicked off.

I remembered from the previous week’s matchup between Pasco and Richland that the Bombers often ran left. Kevin helped confirm this strategy and I posted up on that side of Richland, hoping that star running back Jake McKinney was still in the game. Sure enough, he ran left on the first play,

I was tempted to head out after that, but stayed for a few more plays in hopes of getting something stronger. As they wrapped up their first series, I was ready to head back to Pasco to cover the end of the game and the handing over of The Rock. Kevin Rock-blocked me, though, and asked if I could stay for a Hanford series since his story would focus on Richland’s defense. Richland’s D obliged with a sack soon after,

and I took off. As I jogged back to my car, I saw somebody who looked like a Richland student talking to the police. I didn’t think anything of it until one officer said she’d had enough, twirled him around and cuffed him:

Ordinarily, I would try to figure out what had happened, but I was pressed for time and it didn’t seem like anything serious since they had been talking semi-cordially as I approached. I arrived back at Edgar Brown, huffed and puffed my way down the ramp to see that Chiawana was in control, ahead 31-14 with around six minutes left. As Chiawana’s victory loomed, I picked a spot on Chiawana’s side to look for crowd features

and to get the reaction on the sidelines as time ran out:

I worked in the scoreboard as the teams shook hands,

and struggled to get a good shot of the actual handoff before sprinting over to get photos of the ‘Hawks’ celebration:

Strangely enough, with all the photographers on the field, I didn’t notice anybody else rushing in for the Hail Mary angle. They all stayed back, where I snapped this frame before rushing in:

And while I hope I didn’t ruin anybody else's shot, I don't feel bad if I did. This distant angle is fine if field officials aren’t allowing access, but given the opportunity, I (and the vast majority of other photographers I’ve seen cover games) will always try to get a closer look at something the spectators have to view from a distance. In this case, I kept my shutter speed a tad slower to try and get a hint of motion blur to help give the photo the boisterous feeling that was happening on field. I hope that feeling comes across and I hope I did this historic game justice with my coverage. Though the hectic evening, bad lighting and sweaty hustling degraded my enthusiasm throughout the evening, it felt good to have documented this historic matchup.

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