Ball Play

January 12, 2012 

I love basketball. Growing up as Blazers fan, that love was estranged for some time, but it rekindled while covering games at legendary McArthur Court. I remember starting out at the Oregon Daily Emerald and eagerly shooting my first couple of games.

The energy of "The Pit" from my baseline seat on the floor was electric even during early season games and we even got free leftover hotdogs and pizza after getting a taste of being a working pro while trying to walk the line between schmoozing and annoying with local shooters Sol Neelman, Kevin Clark, Thomas Boyd and Chris Pietsch.

I was hooked.

And while I follow basketball more closely than ever, obsessively checking in on Blazersedge like it's Facebook or something, shooting it has lost its luster. It's not because I'm covering smaller games. The infinitely better access and freedom to move help keep things more interesting, but the ease of getting a decent action shot has the opposite effect.

Looking back at a gallery I posted in 2006 shows that I haven't really improved much since then. I'm better at using my freedom of movement to find clean backgrounds to work with and work in crowd reactions,

but other than that, my favorites from this season relied on some lucky layering,

and a desperation play that worked well to tell the story of Kamiakin's 73-29 domination over Moses Lake:

Mix in the huge disparity between the good and bad local teams, and shooting hoops has fallen in favor to an unlikely victor — wrestling.

I had always enjoyed covering wrestling, but mostly because of the immature entertainment that certain compromising positions provided while editing photos:

But continued exposure to the sport has led me to look past the scantily clad teenagers and unfortunate hand placements to start really appreciating the purity of its competition. The intensity is all over their faces, only occasionally obscured by the contorted body of an opponent:

It can be fun to frame when limbs flail for leverage:

And it wouldn't be sports coverage without some refs' butts getting in the way, but it's usually not hard to step up and work around them,

and sometimes I like what they bring to the photo:

Funky light casts and shadows sometimes make black and white the better choice, and you can see the exposure difference between these wrestlers,

so when I can get a higher vantage point, I tend to use it. The light works better and the colorful mats add some graphic eye candy instead of reflecting unnatural tones into wrestlers' faces:

Blood cleanup looks pretty cool from above too:

I also like that the coaches are close and involved,

and what other sport allows a coach to put an official in a headlock while arguing a call?

I've been missing strong frames outside of the action. It's been mostly run-of-the-mill warming up,

and ho-hum crowd snaps:

I haven't had a chance to play with Hanford's dramatic spot lighting this season, but what I'm really craving are some post-season meaningful matches.

This shot of Southridge's Matt Gibson looking like he's about to get that dirt off his shoulder after pinning his opponent is pretty indicative of the business-as-usual-good-sportsmanship-in-winning attitudes I've seen at these early meets:

Lopsided wrestling victories are usually much more entertaining than drawn-out basketball blow-outs, though, but I'd still love the chance to cover the state wrestling tournament. It's that same missing element that has sucked some of the fun out of shooting basketball for me. Without big, meaningful, season-ending contests to cover, the early uncompetitive matches seem even more hollow.

I got a taste of that excitement before covering the Connell girls' team at Ki-Be as the Connell junior varsity squad closed a gap late in the game and threatened to win or send it to overtime:

And as much as I was cringing at the thought of a J.V. game delaying the game we were there to cover, another part of me was excited to feel that electricity, especially if the J.V. Eagles pulled off a stunner.

Yeah, it was great to see the Prosser girls win last year, but that tournament was the first I had covered them all season. It's just not the same as following certain teams and athletes throughout.

With current budget constraints, I'm not sure how many local kids would have to qualify before we send a shooter out west, so maybe wrestling will fall prey to the same storytelling predator after its freshness fades.

What I do know is that my perpetual immaturity ensures that awkward wrestling photos will always be good for some chuckles.

Speaking of inappropriate...

You've probably heard of the controversy surrounding Colorado high school senior Sydney Spies' yearbook photo submission. I'm not surprised that it was rejected, but I also don't think it's all that bad to begin with. What I do have a problem with is how these photos are being credited on all these stories. The Today Show has the gall to credit themselves with the photos, the Daily Mail credits Facebook and a few other sites simply credit Sydney.

I'm nervous about digging too much more, lest my IT department start wondering why I'm so obsessed with racy high school girl photos.

It'll be interesting to see if the photographer comes forward with some retroactive invoices to all these media outlets or if they had already worked something out behind the scenes. Or maybe s/he's just hesitant after seeing the $28,000,000 lawsuit against Jason Lee Parry last August.

The Image, Deconstructed has a great interview with Brian Clark about his iconic shot of the first lesbian military kiss. The stuff behind the scenes is nice, but I particularly enjoyed the discussion about juggling stills and video duty. Also, check out TID's spotlight on Bettina Hansen's phone photo project in Hartford, Conn. Good stuff, as always, and a nice reminder I need to scale back on Skyrim and get some personal work going.

Overzealous policing kept veteran White House photojournalist Mannie Garcia from his bread-and-butter gig after he was arrested and charged for disorderly conduct. The pending charge, which is was later acquitted of, delayed his press credential renewal. My dealings with local law enforcement have been generally positive, but even the worst situations don't come close to Garcia's account of what happened. It sounds like they may take civil action, so there might be more to follow.

Sportsshooter has a cool feature on the Hulcher Camera Company, and the American-made high-speed heavyweights' place in sports photography history.

And if you're already tired of elections and their staged photo-ops, check out Preston Gannaway's off-beat portfolio "Politickin'."

I also covered a wrestling meet on Thursday night, but it was a little too late to fold into, uh, Behind the Fold, so here's a link to the gallery if you're interested.

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