Whine Spectator

April 29, 2011 

As I often write, this job exposes you to a lot of things you might otherwise never think about. And after three years on the job, it's weird to think about how much time I've spent at high school athletics — especially considering that this includes several sports I don't care about. Spring is the both the culmination of the school year and this concept, with my sports shooting dominated by uninteresting targets.

Sure, I love shooting track, but it's not something I seek out in non-Olympic times, and aside from a brief stint as goalie for an intramural soccer team, the same goes for non-World Cup years. I'm largely unfamiliar with the parts of golf that don't include swearing or looking for your ball, and I feel baseball and softball are best reserved for Sportscenter highlights or as background to gluttonous beer and nacho consumption.

Golf is probably the toughest of these spring sports to photograph. It's a slow game with a ton of ground to cover filled with boring repetitive action and strict photo etiquette. And the fact that they don't wear numbers and often don't participate in other sports we regularly shoot means finding and identifying golfers can be tough. Usually, I can hitch a ride from a coach or course employee to help guide me, but the cold windy Monday at the CBBN 4A pod match at Meadow Springs in Richland kept the coaches near the clubhouse and I drove myself around.

It took more than an hour to find one of the Richland golfers I had been looking for and I ended up hanging out at the same hole for a few groups. My favorite shot of the day ended up being of Wenatchee's Chase Miller spotting where his approach shot had landed:

They're not in our coverage area, however, so that was out. Somehow I knew, as this shot was lining up through my lens, that this kid was not going to be the local in the group. My next two favorites were of the same kid, who was thankfully Richland's Jack Eiden:

We ended up running the second shot since it's a bit different from the typical golf photos we publish. He was one of the three Richland golfers listed on the photo request form, though sports reporter Kevin Anthony did note that Richland was strong overall and their top performer had been different nearly every match. After a couple hours and not being able to locate one of the three, I called it a day.

Of course, the one kid I missed tied for first. Even worse is that I asked another Richland golfer to help locate the missing winner. He tried to point me in the right direction, but ended up being more helpful in returning the battery that fell out of my pocket while chasing down a piece of paper that the wind teased away from me. I don't remember his name, but I think it may have been the other golfer in the top spot.

As you can see from the gallery, I didn't have a whole lot to show for two hours on the course.

I was determined not to suck it up at Tuesday's baseball game between Richland and Wenatchee. After getting a pretty cool sequence of Nate Zapata sliding into home, I was annoyed, however:

I haven't lucked out with shooting too many plays at home, and the fact that Wenatchee catcher Nolan Johnston tagged him out pretty much nixed the photo in a doubleheader Richland was expected to dominate. I stuck it out a little longer than I had planned and was rewarded with an even rarer occurrence as Wenatchee's Chris Woodard slid into Richland's Corey Morris as Morris tried to turn a double play. The foul negated a Panther run and resulted in a double play:

That fit much nicer with the story of Richland winning 4-1 and 13-3.

I was especially glad to capture it since I had been at a bad angle earlier in the season when Kamiakin's A.J. Griffiths avoided a similar fate as West Valley's Cody McDonald slid into second:

Still, I haven't gotten back into a good timing groove this baseball season, as evidenced by the embarrassing number of tries it took to get a shot of an impending catch by Kennewick's Garrett Wilz for Kevin's notebook:

It usually takes a few games to shake off the rust and get a feeling for each sport, which is why I'm surprised at how I did covering Southridge's 4-1 win over Eastmont. Not only did I luck out with a good angle (if not lighting) on some good action,

but I snagged a header sandwich featuring leading Suns scorer Jake Zoulek:

Not bad for the one half of soccer I've shot this year.

Even more surprising is how much I've enjoyed covering softball this year. It started with my first coverage of the CBC women,

and culminated with last Friday's doubleheader between Richland and Walla Walla. A Blue Devil home run by star pitcher Alyson Ambler gave me a nice jube to tell the Walla Walla winning half of the story,

while this atypical shot of Richland's Bailey Walthers getting Walla Walla's TraeAnn Payne out at third with ease worked for Richland's 5-4 win in the second game, which I didn't have time to cover.

I even played around with some funky layering along the way,

and the normally oppressive chain link that can strangle shooting spots provided some nice light and texture to this dugout shot:

While I will never be a true fan of any of these sports, you have to be at least a cursory student of the games you have to cover. Just because I don't like something doesn't mean I'm OK with sucking at photographing it, and in the quest to grow as a photographer, I've grown to appreciate them a little more. People often say how great it must be to get into these games for free, but the real joy in this job is how it forces you to keep an open mind.

Insert cliché analogy of minds and parachutes here.

Speaking of sports...

Sol Neelman's book of the Wild Weird Book of Sports is publishing soon. You can see some of these goofy games on his blog and become a fan on Facebook, as well.

I met Sol back in college while he was the Eugene-based shooter for the Oregonian. While we never exchanged anything more than pleasantries at Ducks games, I always admired his enthusiasm on the job and I modeled my sprint-out-of-the-starting-blocks approach to covering post-game celebrations after seeing him dart out onto Mac Court when the Ducks were good at basketball.

My admiration increased when I ran into him while trying to get credentialed for the annual Pig 'n' Ford races at the Tillamook County Fair in 2007. They didn't seem too keen on giving me much access, but seemed to think I was working with Sol after he gave me a warm greeting. This resulted in my favorite press pass ever, which sandwiches my least favorite pass with a funny note from Herald photographer Rich Dickin's daughter when my internship ended here later that year:

Note the horrible misspelling of my name in the middle.

Since leaving his staff gig, he's been going freelance, shooting the weird sports he wants to, the way he wants to. It was great to see him again and hear him speak at last year's Geekfest too, so check out his stuff. Just don't become a Facebook fan of his unless you've already "Liked" Behind the Fold.


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