If I got upset every time a photo I liked ran small, my tears would have long run dry in my short time here. It's out of my control for the most part and the limitless space to publish work online helps ease the disappointment a little.
Covering sports is when this consolation most often comes into play. Often, my favorite sports photos are either away from the action or don't fit the typical sports section mold. When we have the opportunity to actually shoot a whole game, there are often many options to choose from for print. How the story is featured greatly affects this decision, as it did last Saturday when I covered both the Chiawana girls' thrilling double overtime win over Gonzaga Prep and the Tri-Cities Fever's landslide 76-28 victory in their home opener against the Arizona Adrenaline.
The Fever also won on the sports front, earning the main spot, and we ran this shot of Mike McClendon returning a field-goal attempt as teammate Joseph Thornton lays a block on the Adrenaline's Sergio Velesco:
It's an OK shot, though I wish I had a better angle to get rid of the first-down marker and more light to really freeze the expression on Velesco's face. I would have been fine having that shot or a tighter game action frame running secondary to the best girls basketball game I've seen, however. And while I got to run two shots for the Chiawana game, they were both going to be small, so I went with this standard (read: boring) jump shot of Hayley Hodgins out front because she led all scorers and was a big factor in the Riverhawks' success:
It's essentially an action mug shot, and I offered it up front since I knew the photo would run small. Inside was this shot featuring Gonzaga Prep star Tia Presley getting swarmed by Chiawana – a common theme throughout the night:
Both are adequate, but there are plenty of shots I liked better. Several are from before the game, so they would not have run, even if the game story had taken the main spot:
This contested inbound pass has some nice layers, but wasn't exactly crucial or cool enough to pitch,
and the standard juxtaposed winner + loser = storytelling frame didn't come together. The closest was this photo, which doesn't convey the energy and excitement of the game:
I was lined up with the Chiawana bench hoping for a jubilant eruption, preferably with a dejected Gonzaga Prep player in the mix, but their celebration was brief,
and the dejection was muted:
The local girls looked happy enough as they ran off the court, which could have been a contender,
but had there been more space, I would have pushed for this less conventional, though more storytelling shot:
In it, Gonzaga Prep coach Mike Arte, the Bullpups bench and cheering section all argue that Tia Presley should shoot three free throws after Chiawana fouled her with 2.5 sec. left of overtime at Richland High School. Referees ruled that the foul was on the floor and Presley made both free throws to tie the game at 61. Chiawana went on to win 69-65 in double overtime, eliminating Gonzaga Prep from the state tournament. Of all the shots I have, I think it best captures the tense energy I felt at the game, and the call could have been pivotal, as Presley calmly sank both from the charity stripe to tie the game. It's easy to imagine her sinking a third one and putting the game away in the first overtime had she gotten the call.
It ended up living in the gallery, however, as the angry faces would have been a tough read at the small sizes available in print. It wasn't that crushing, however, as I've grown accustomed to having local sports coverage play second fiddle to regional or national stories. At least this game was close by, unlike the track meet I once covered in Connell a couple years ago that was banished deep inside the sports section, barely two inches wide.
These head-shakers don't just happen in sports, of course, and earlier in the week, my shift started an hour early after the Tri-Cities received a light dusting of overnight snow. As I looked for something of interest in relation to the dry sprinkles of powder, I kept heading up in elevation. After about an hour of hunting, I snapped this frame of uniformly light-colored roofs, not wanting to come back empty-handed:
Looking for another way to show how little snow there was, I crouched down and made this throwaway frame of short grass towering over the white bed sheet that was still down.
Later that day, my one scheduled shoot was of a hike kicking off the Ridges to Rivers Open Space Network (RROSN) Vision Plan. That mouthful basically amounts to a tour of Badger Mountain for media and elected officials to see one of the most-used open spaces in the area. RROSN was providing a shuttle to the top, but I opted to hike along with the group, making frames along the way to show some of the open space:
And since the group's goal is to preserve these spaces from development, I tried to include nearby buildings:
My best shot ended up being near the bottom, when I hustled in front of the group to take advantage of the winding start of the trail, also including nearby development:
I was pretty happy with this, but had already told them I'd hike up, so I went along trying to make better frames, but only getting more photos to include in the gallery. It's not a very strenuous hike, but the windy, sub-freezing conditions definitely made it seem much longer. The RROSN group commended my commitment since no other media outlets even rode the shuttle up, and I figured the shot would run at a decent size. The photo won't knock anybody's socks off, but it had some news value and included some pertinent information, as well as a pleasing line of people in a generally non-visual situation.
Based on this week's theme, you've probably guessed otherwise, but I was surprised and annoyed when I saw that the hiking photo was squished into two columns (about 3.5 inches across) — small enough to make me wonder why the hell I had even bothered trudging up the frigid, windy hill. That boring snap of grass poking up ran nearly as large as my hiking photo. Even more shocking was that my rooftop shot was the main photo of the front page despite the snow's negligible local news impact.
Though the endless online news hole does soften the blow, gallery images run similarly small and even the most-visited photo galleries only get a few hundred visitors, paling in comparison to the 30,000+ copies of the paper we print every day. The reaffirming, sanity-preserving notion that photographers need to shoot for themselves and not worry about what gets published helps me back from the ledge a few more steps than galleries do. But even that theory, extrapolated to a long-term goal, really only means that I hope to work my way into a bigger publication only to have the same things happen on a larger scale.
True, nobody cares and it doesn't matter how much effort goes into making a photo. The only thing that matters is how successful the photo is on its own. While I still think the hiking photo is more interesting and newsworthy than the rooftops, that's not my call to make.
Still, after only three years on the job, I'm starting to see why so many veteran photographers are such jaded curmudgeons. Covering death and tragedy definitely has a bigger impact, but little things like these have a way of grinding your teeth, gears and motivation.