Dejection Letter

December 2, 2011 

The crushing cloud of Black Friday carried over last week for the Mustangs and Braves as the pair of perennial pigskin powerhouses were punched out of the playoff picture during a doubleheader at Lampson Stadium in Kennewick.

A sunny, noontime kickoff for Prosser didn't have the dramatic flair the previous week's snow bowl between Kennewick and Kamiakin and Archbishop Murphy's 50-13 nails-in-a-baseball-bat spanking of Prosser continued that lack of drama.

Kamiakin looked ready to avenge their 38-0 shutout by Bellevue in last season's state championship game, going into the locker room at halftime with smiles and a 3-0 lead. The Wolverines showed why they've won eight of the last 10 titles, though, and ground out a 21-10 win.

After Zach Umemoto punched in Kamiakin's final pride points with about a minute left, I chatted with Herald sports writer Kevin Anthony on the sideline. I turned and crouched mid-conversation after noticing T.J. Tolliver crouching in dejection near by:

The moment passed, I stood and Kevin said, "You're like a vulture — an emotional vulture."

I'm pretty sure he was joking, but that comment echoes a sentiment I'm sure a lot of people share. One of my first blog posts was on this very subject, and three years later, my opinion that crushing, emotional loss is as much of a part of sports as jubilant victory hasn't changed much.

One change is how crappy I think that photo is now, and I think the reason it sucks is because it's shot so timidly. This was due to inexperience and unfamiliarity with local teams, and while I'm far from a seasoned veteran, I've been here enough to get good access to the major sports we cover. Only one coach told me I couldn't come into his locker room at half time, and I think that was only because his team had made some serious errors right at the end of the half.

That being said, nobody really wants their picture taken while they're crying. I can certainly empathize with that, just as I can empathize with the devastating feeling of a high school season coming to an end.

It was about 13 years ago and my high school water polo team was in the district playoffs. I can't tell you who we were playing against or even what round it was. I was a pretty minor part of the team, but I distinctly remember one shot that I should have made that went barely wide, hitting the cross bar. It wouldn't have won us the game, but that was my little Gordon Bombay moment. I also couldn't tell you what the final score is, but I remember what it felt like.

These images of dejection can tell the story of a season's end better than an action photo, and I hope that they'll resonate with people who have experienced the same feelings I did when my season ended earlier than planned.

Prosser's loss seemed all but certain after the first few drives, and games like those don't provide many opportunities to show dejection since that awful feeling is spread throughout the game.

Seth Glossen hung his head after the Wildcats jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter,

and Rodolfo Cruz was having a rough time after the half,

but neither works to tell the story of the game. Glossen's dejection doesn't have that ended-season feeling (understandable since it was only the second quarter), and it's not like Cruz's injury is what cost them the victory. I tried finding moments after the game, but the consoling camaraderie loses its impact in this composition:

The most telling shot was probably Isaac Anderson hoisting the team's third-place trophy as most of his teammate hung their heads:

I knew the photo was going to run fairly small and on inside pages though, and the photo only really works if you can read their expressions, so I went with a tight action shot that shows Archbishop Murphy's Alex Galgano breaking a final tackle attempt by Prosser's Danny Raap en route to a 73-yard touchdown run, which symbolized Archbishop Murphy's total dominance:

Kamiakin's hard-fought battle yielded grittier emotion and I'm sure it hurt twice as much to the players who faced the same Bellevue team last season. Drew Oord took it especially hard,

and he put his helmet back on during the end-game pageantry. I liked this shot of teammate Chris Murbach consoling him,

but didn't think it said "season ended" strongly enough. The Braves' version of the sad trophy featured a wistful Coach Scott Biglin,

but didn't show the sadness I saw as they accepted their loss. The same goes for this final team cheer:

I ended up selecting this shot of Joe Hunt, right, and James Swinyard to run as a feature shot on the front page:

And these two action shots on the sports front featuring Zach Umemoto as he flipped through the air after jumping over Bellevue's Bishard Baker:

Umemoto had a strong day, rushing for 126 yards, one touchdown and snagging two interceptions.

This shot of Johnny Jansen forcing a fumble by Bellevue quarterback Tyler Hasty ran secondary:

While a photo of Kamiakin performing a positive play is counter to my usual goal of finding images that fit the story of the game, it helped highlight one of four first-half takeaways that the Braves were unable to capitalize upon.

I also turned in this shot of Corey McLean diving to try and stop an extra point as Bellevue kicker Mitch Johnson put his team up 21-3 with about three minutes left to show the Braves' determination in fighting til the end,

but they ran tight on space.

Almost any of these rejects is better than that lame shot from three years ago I vainly lobbied so hard for, but there's been more than a change in my abilities and rapport with local teams. I used to default to a mindset that the end of the season means I should be getting only jubes and dejections.

While I still believe in the storytelling power of a strong dejection photo, I find myself scrutinizing them a lot more now. I don't think crying over a bitter loss is anything to be ashamed of. It's certainly less shameful than not having cared or tried hard enough during your loss, but seeing how touchy readers can be over the past few years has made me more sensitive to those concerns.

Rapport goes both ways, and I'm sure that factors into my evolution as well. I don't have a favorite local team or cheer anybody on, but part of me wishes Anderson's kickoff return touchdown sparked an epic comeback so I could have run this photo:

A Prosser win would have also put this fun shot of Prosser students and cheerleaders dancing to Sugarhill Gang's Jump On It in the running for the non-action front-page feature shot:

The same goes for Kamiakin fans, who erupted after one of Umemoto's interceptions, which yielded a nice age contrast in pom-pom wielders:

The disappointingly lethargic student section also finally came alive this game, especially after one of the fumble recoveries:

Despite all my media training that taught me to only focus on the negative (see how ridiculous that sounds?), it would have made me happier to run any of these positive angles. It's my job to try and tell the story the best I can through my photos, and sometimes nobody is happy about that.

In other sad news...

CNN looks to lean more heavily on unpaid iReporters and announced that it's laying off at least 50 people, including several photojournalists — continuing its campaign to go from the most respected cable news network to the most ridiculous. The move comes a couple years after The Washington Times infamously wiped out its photo department, and Stephen Colbert has a great take on CNN's decision.

A New York photographer made one Polaroid photo a day for 18 years until his early death. It's an interesting, if not totally original, body of work that I'd love to see in person. It also makes me wonder, with how common self-generated-photo-per-day projects are these days, how digital versions will be archived, discovered or displayed.

Some contributing photographers for National Geographic have started The Photo Society. Visit the "Reality Check" section for some fun insights into the sometimes unfun job of making some of the world's best photos. And for shooters who have to deal with constant requests for free photo work, this handy dandy explanation can serve as a time-saving link to explain why that's stupid.

Fstoppers has a cool feature about creative portraits pairing an infrared camera with an Xbox Kinect.

A Canon lost at sea made its way home, with about 50 invaluable pictures salvaged from the wreckage.

People looking for point-and-shoot suggestions from the pros should check out this guide at Photoshelter.

And thanks to my brother Ian for this too-cool stop motion short that uses Google Maps street view called Address is Approximate.

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