It's important to remember to turn around while covering events. Spectators often display some great storytelling emotion and can convey the energy of an event better than a photo of what they're watching.
I still like this photo better than any shot of an actual air show I've photographed,
and the resourceful crowd made for a funnier picture at graduation than the kids with mortarboards:
Also, who knew Ginuwine had this effect on women who should be too young to remember Ginuwine?
Part of the fun is picking out the interesting faces in the crowd, like the sidetracked Scout,
or Kamiakin High junior Kyler Gattis, 17, who sang soulfully along with the national anthem:
Sports is the obvious time for crowd searching, with moments before,
and after being the most obvious:
Those moments where things line up with the action are usually fun,
but the key is to have a focal point of interest amid the chaos. If I am able to get to a game early, I like doing a couple laps past the sidelines to spot potentially emotive fans or people with costumes. Costumes aren't always the greatest indicator of enthusiasm, though:
As with all things photographic, being in position when something happens is critical, since walking up and photographing a crowd that's cheering for the camera,
is never as good as a crowd that's actually cheering:
That positioning is also key since sniping the crowd from where you happen to be shooting action from doesn't have the same impact:
The ultimate in watching-people-watching-stuff here has been the local angle on Super Bowl Sundays. It's been a pretty basic formula for those photos, where I try to line up fans of the opposing teams in search of juxtaposed reactions:
After chatting with reporter Sara Schilling about this year's angle, we decided to feature Jack and Jordan Anderson, who coach wrestling for Chiawana and Kamiakin high schools, respectively, to mirror the storyline of the Harbaugh brothers facing off in the big game.
My early concern was that neither brother was a fan of the 49ers or the Ravens, but Jack told me on the phone that he'd root whatever team Jordan wasn't going for. It was definitely our best all-around story option, though, and I went in hoping they'd make it interesting with a brotherly bet on the game. Alas, the only minor stir came from Jack's son Isaiah after he printed up a sign in support of the '9ers:
His daughter Mylie was pretty entertaining, too:
And this shot of Jack and Jordan laughing at her and Baylie, right, playing was one of my considerations:
It really had almost nothing to do with the game, though, so I went with a fairly static moment, but one I hope people could relate to, as Jordan complained to Jack about him using the DVR delay (caused by our interviews, mostly) to skip the commercials:
It's perhaps the least exciting photo of people watching sports, but was the best mini moment of the first half and I had to head back to the office to edit a video:
and tend to other desk work.
It was slightly disappointing, but somewhat expected and no fault of the Anderson brothers. That's pretty much how I, as another non-fan of either team, would have watched the game -- especially the lackluster first half.
One bonus was not losing my mind as the 49ers mounted a comeback. Had I gone the traditional route, I would have had plenty of celebratory Ravens fans and none of '9ers fans, and probably would have rushed back out to whatever alternate location we had gone to only to have the same basic outcome. That frustration would have led to an even longer and more rambly entry than this one.
Maybe they got more into the game after Sara and I left. The second half play had potential, minus the half-hour blackout delay. And while a friendly wager on the game like forcing the losing brother to coach his next meet in his old singlet,
would have made for more drama, I couldn't ethically suggest anything like that and the moments would have been as tainted as those crowds mugging for the camera. And while the photo of the Andersons fell far short of telling the story of the game, here's hoping the unique story made up for the lack of excitement.
Speaking of a Super segue...
One of the hits among this year's ads was Dodge's God Made a Farmer spot, an epic homage to the romantic idea of the American farmer. Photographers were especially pleased with the high-profile use of stills. And while I wasn't the biggest fan of the overly dramatic toning used to homogenize the styles of 10 photographers, God Made a Photographer, compares the Super Bowl ad with the inspiration. The difference of photographic quality and its impact is clear.
While the blackout was a bore for fans, I and many other photographers were jealous of the chance to play in interesting light. Here's what the NFL looks like without the flat, boring TV lighting we're all accustomed to.
And I forgot to add this conversation with Ian Ruhter last week at the LA Times' Framework blog. You may remember Ruhter as the photographer behind Silver and Light, a project that redefines what large format photography is.