From Balls to bin Laden

May 6, 2011 

There's a sports photography joke about whether a photo has a ball. Well, maybe joke isn't the right word, since people don't laugh about it, but conventional wisdom says that a good sports shot will include the ball. This obviously doesn't apply during jube and dejection shots, but for game action, it generally applies.

I faced this issue when trying to figure out what photo to run with Tuesday's soccer match between Richland and Chiawana, when I fell into an oft-tripped trap by hustling up and down the sideline trying to cover my ass with some basic action early in the game. Of course, both goals in regulation came within the first ten minutes and I have really crappy photos of both — being on the wrong side of Richland's,

and getting totally ref blocked for all the but the tail end of Chiawana's:

And a potentially cool header at the goal was squandered when Richland's Perry McNamar popped it high while facing away from me:

After running out of snack time at the woefully understaffed concession stand, I opted to camp behind Chiawana's net for the rest of my time. Richland was the favorite to win and seemed to have more quality chances in the first half. After getting burned by working with too long of a lens on this block,

I went wide and made a frame of Javier Peralta blocking another Bomber shot:

Regulation ended and I headed back to start working on photos for deadline. When I found out that Richland had won in double overtime, I wasn't sure what photo to pick. The photo of Peralta blocking a shot is kinda cool, but doesn't fit with the story of Chiawana losing. This frame of the Riverhawks' Ariel Gonzalez hurt on the ground kinda fits on the positive/negative spectrum of images since he scored Chiawana's lone goal,

but the injury wasn't serious and hardly defined the game.

I had a jube from Richland's first goal,

but it's not that good and I try to save my jube usage for the playoffs. I slogged through my healthy stash of ho-hum action shots trying to decide which was least boring, but kept stopping at one shot:

In it, Gonzalez, left, and Richland's Perry McNamar are both arguing a foul called against Gonzalez, with McNamar angling for a yellow card. It fit the close nature of the game, implies some physical play and matches McNamar's seemingly constant pleas to the officials. I still hesitated for a while, not really because our sports staff adamantly requires the ball to be in the photo, but because I've become acclimated to the standard sensibilities of newspaper photography.

It strange how just a couple years ago, I'd argue for photos to run just because they were unconventional, and it now seems I need the balls more than my sports photos do. I'll still lobby for photos I know will be unpopular, though, as readers won't see in this weekend's Sunday Extra featuring the photo staff's best shots that didn't run in print:

This shot of Ronn Campbell of Kennewick, left, offering gelatin brains to participants at the zombie walk at Columbia Park in Kennewick on April 2 was supposed to run secondary with our zombie walk coverage, but we ran out of space. I like the over-the-top gruesome colors and argued unsuccessfully for its publication. I didn't have a good counterargument for Executive Editor Ken Robertson's point that if a parent called in, upset that the photo had scared his or her child, he wouldn't have any compelling counterpoint other than "our photographer liked it."

It's a good point, and an interesting conversation to have in this newsworthiest of weeks. In case you've been living under a rock (or a million-dollar mansion without phone or internet), a Navy SEAL team took out America's Most Wanted.

Obama has decided not to release photos of Osama bin Laden, causing outrage from those who claim that the photographic evidence is needed to prove he's dead and others who argue that seeing the photo will bring closure to those directly affected by Sept. 11 and the war in Afghanistan.

To me, the fact that Al Qaeda isn't even trying to claim the U.S. is lying about killing its figurehead should be enough proof. As many have said during the non-stop coverage since Sunday, conspiracy theorists will never be satisfied. In the cynical web world, cries of "Photoshopped!" would instantly accompany any released photos. In fact, several faked death photos have already made the digital rounds, as has a fake quotation.

And while I can't say for sure, it's hard to see how the "gruesome" photo would bring any more closure to people than news of his death.

The real reason people are clamoring for the photos is from a morbid curiosity. After nearly a decade of shooting bloodless holes through paper bin Ladens and bludgeoning nothing but candy out of paper mâché versions, people want to see the real deal — splayed out in all his shameful defeat. It's interesting to see how many people want to see these images when gory photos of war have all but disappeared from mainstream American media. Sure, they make a splash every now and then, like when Rolling Stone published The Kill Team back in March, but for the most part, Americans are surprisingly sensitive when it comes to confronting the real violence we constantly see in fictional media, especially when it deals with the human price our people pay in these conflicts.

I have no doubt the photos will come out at some point, just as a member or SEAL Team 6 will probably write a memoir some day, but for now, it seems we'll have to wait.

...Wait, wasn't I talking about soccer or something?

More links about bin Laden and beyond's The Big Picture has a nice edit. Especially interesting to me is #26, which shows throngs of Japanese pedestrians reading special editions of a newspaper to learn about bin Laden's death. It's crazy to me how strong print continues to be in the land of tech and mech.'s Lens features a particularly poignant photo by Michael Appleton, who "managed to bridge a decade in a single photograph on Sunday night." We'll be seeing that image for a while. has an interesting column about the American public's reaction to news of bin Laden's death.

And CNN has a nice roundup of web reactions, though I will say that Taiwan's NMA TV did a much better job of spoofing the Royal Wedding when it teamed up with The Daily Show.

In Afghanistan, super stud James Nachtwey shot a powerful series about growing heroin addiction in the poppy production capital of the world.

Back home, there's a good read at The New York Times about injured photojournalist Joao Silva's recovery and a look into the world of conflict journalism.

And since so many people seem to think we stage our photos regularly, pop on over here to read about how seriously photojournalists take their ethics.

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