If power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then what about minuscule amounts of power?
In my experience, it turns people into big poopy jerk faces.
Pardon my French.
Last month, I covered Kamiakin's matchup with Hanford at Lampson Stadium. It was my third game at Lampson after shooting Southridge's rout over Sunnyside and Kennewick's struggle against Wenatchee, and my fifth overall in the season.
A veteran of the high school football scene I am not, but when somebody approached me before the game to ask if I knew the rules of shooting from the sidelines, I nodded and smiled.
In my brief experience, the rules had been fairly loose. Teams had been flexible about where the TV photographers and I shot from — even if that happened to be in the no-shoot zone that extends on the sidelines between the 25-yard lines. As long as I stayed out of their way, they were cool.
But the Friday night I spent on Kamiakin's sidelines was a rude thrust back to my college days of covering NCAA Division I football. Except that back then, the anal attention paid to the rules made more sense.
For one, lighting makes a huge difference in lens selection, and the dim, uneven lighting at high school football fields necessitates a faster lens to freeze the action, which means a shorter lens. A shorter lens means you have to be closer to the action in order to get the shot. Obviously, I don't expect local high schools to have the facilities and equipment that big-budget universities can afford, but that is a factor in my desire to be close to the action. Plus, the average Saturday morning kickoff negated the need for artificial lighting.
Second, the media presence at even the best high school match ups pales in comparison to a blowout Division I game. This doesn't even take into account the hoards of distinguished alumni, university athletes and the well-to-do who are given sideline access. I once had my camera smashed into my face by an excited fan since the only spot I could shoot from was behind two rows of people who had no business crowding the sidelines.
And most importantly, the sheer size of a Division I school's operation warranted that much sideline real estate. Misting fans, numerous trainers, benches, stationary bikes and what seemed like one coach for every four players filled the sideline area to the brim.
Which is why I was surprised when I was kicked out of that hallowed ground for the third time with a sideline that looked like this:
I'll admit, the first offense was pretty blatant, as I was standing amongst the players. However, in the dozen or so games I've shot this season, every team has been OK with me shooting from where the players are, so I took that as a lesson learned.
The second perceived infraction was annoying, as I had kept a five-yard buffer between me and the players, though I was still shooting in the blue zone.
But the final scolding I received from Kamiakin's staff, which I'm assuming is overstaffed due to the diligent eyes they were able to keep on me, took place all the way back by the yellow line you can see on the right of the photo, a few steps closer to the camera than the man walking on the sidelines.
When I questioned the lunacy behind removing me from an area so out of the way and so far away from the team, he smugly replied, "those are the rules."
Two weeks later, I had the fortunate task of covering the Cavalcade of Bands.
Why fortunate? No, it's not because of my love for 20th Century Fox’s 2002 classic Drumline.
While I was looking for work as a staff photographer, I shot a few marching band competitions as a hired gun for a company that sold photos of kids to parents. It was mindless, tedious and tiring to shoot up to 35 marching bands in one day when your sole goal is to get as many individual shots as possible.
I was excited to finally shoot a competition the way I wanted to, and I was eager to explore the other facets of an event I had grown to hate.
But an overzealous field manager had to get all bossy on me to ruin what should have been a magical day.
After one of the bands finished performing, she told me that as a courtesy to the bands, I shouldn't move around while taking photos. I told her that doing so wouldn’t work for me and that I've shot several marching band competitions and never heard of that before. She politely said, "okay, but you should probably check with the bands beforehand."
It seemed like one of those "maybe you should"s that happen all the time when I'm finagling access, and I thought I had convinced her that I knew what I was doing, so I was caught off-guard when she came storming up to me after Southridge performed, her face scrunched into tight mass of fury and the wind violently whipping her hair.
The main point I gathered from the verbal onslaught was that I was distracting the competitors.
I responded that there were at least three judges ducking and weaving their way between the kids:
"Well, you're not a judge," she said as one might say, "checkmate."
"Well, there's no way I'm more distracting than they are," I replied. After all, these kids play music and march in formation. If one guy yards away taking pictures is all it takes to unravel their months of practice, then marching bands are far less impressive than I had thought.
"You're done," she said.
"I just have one more school left to shoot," I said as Richland took the field and began warming up. "Are you kicking me out?"
"I'll call security if I have to."
"This is ridiculous," I said as I walked away, not wanting to make a scene. After all, having security haul me off the field would have been a huge distraction, though I think the irony was lost amidst her rage.
But she got the last word in.
"Those are the rules."
Ah, the final defense for the unreasonable and seldom authoritative.
"But the rules are the rules," you might be thinking. "Man, this photojournalist kid is a complainer. Good thing he’s not featured in Blog Central."
Well, if you're ever ticketed for jaywalking on an empty street or going 2 mph over the speed limit, then maybe you'll agree with me that reason should always trump blindly following the rules.