Friday, January 18, 2008

Football is over

Yes, it's sad to say, but my football season is over. Watching football on TV became meaningless to me when the Jacksonville Jaguars knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs - or more accurately, the Steelers allowed the Jags to come back and win. After that happened, I pinned my hope on the Colts. I thought there was just no way Indy would lose to San Diego, and I was getting excited about going to Foxboro to shoot another AFC Championship game. Well, the Bolts did it, sending the Colts home with another disappointing playoff loss after a stellar regular season.

I am disappointed, but not heart-broken. I mean I would have gone to the Super Bowl if the Colts went, so how could I not root for them? But as the Colts' season goes, so goes my season. I'll still watch the playoffs on TV, and I suppose I'll root for Bret Farrrrrvruh to win another Lombardi Trophy - mostly because I want anyone but the Pats and the Cowboys to win it. I'm also hopeful if Farrrrrvruh wins, he'll retire so we don't have to hear the same Bret is 56 years old and still in love with the game stories. It's like he's a kid at Christmas ... you know the same tired lines. I am happy for Mr. Favre. He's been through a lot with his wife and addiction issues, but he should know when to say when. Go out a winner.

So for me, it's back to high school sports, more high school sports, and when that's done even more high school sports. Oh, and the occasional IU, Purdue or Michigan State game. By the way, I'm not complaining about the high school sports. I love sports of all kinds, but as my boss always says, the prep beast needs to be fed and that's never going to change. With a staff of 5 writers covering 40+ schools the prep beast is more like Godzilla. Nowhere will you find a staff our size working for a newspaper with our circulation (25,000- 30,000) covering as many schools as we do. Obviously, we can't get to all the schools all the time, but we are certainly trying to cover as many events as we can.

I've been on the swimming beat lately and have learned quite a lot about the sport. So, look for plenty of swimming pics in the weeks leading up the state finals.

Take care and send me a comment if you have something to say.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's not all equipment

Concordia Lutheran swimmer Luke Hoffman for The News-Sentinel's Prep Sports Page. Photo by Chad Ryan

I have to admit that it's frustrating to continually hear people talk to me when I'm on assignments, assuming they could shoot the same pictures that I do if they had my cameras, lenses, etc. Well, I'm not saying they can't, but what really bothers me about those conversations is that people generally seem to think that my pictures are strictly products of the equipment I use. I can say, confidently, that is not the case. I won't say my equipment doesn't help, but not to the extent people assume it does. Honestly, if more expensive gear makes the job so much easier, I can't see why everyone doesn't go out and invest $50,000 or so to get it.

I use the Canon EOS 1D series of cameras - currently I have two original 1D cameras (4.2 mp) and one Mark IIn (8.4mp). All of these cameras have every auto feature known to man. I shoot almost 100 percent of the time, however, in manual mode. I want to control everything. My cameras can shoot 8.5 frames per second unless I am shooting on strobes - then it's one and done (see photo below). Almost 75 percent of the time, I use the first or second frame in any given series because I am timing the action, so the motor drive isn't as big a factor as many think it is. Even with my speedlights and other strobes, I set the ratios manually to control how the light looks. Rarely do I use the auto-exposure functions on my flashes. My point here is the camera can do a lot of thinking, but not near as much as a photographer who knows what's going on.

The biggest advantage I get on an equipment-specific basis is from the large f/2.8 aperature of the lenses I shoot use. They allow a lot of light into the camera and allow for shallow depth of field. Those lenses are available to everybody, it's just a matter of who thinks it's important enough to drop the coin on them. Beyond that, the pictures I make are products of my imagination, my determination, my concentration on several elements of composition, my judgement of peak action and knowing when to use what camera/lens combination for a given situation ... just to name a few.

I would never assume that if I had Sports Illustrated photographer Peter Read Miller's gear bag I could make the same pictures he does. The fact is: pictures are in your head. Sometimes you do need special gear for them. But sometimes you need to just quit worrying about what someone else uses and go out and make your own pictures.

But, people will continue to talk to me, asking questions they already know the answers to and assuming they can do what I do. I'll give the same response I always give: just smile and continue to answer the questions my time will allow.

Mad Ants guard Earl Calloway, left, steals the basketball out of the hands of Sioux Falls' Jason Klotz as he takes a shot in the first half of the Ants' 100-92 win over Sioux Falls on Thursday, January 3, at Memorial Coliseum. Photo by Chad Ryan

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Weekend's over

I keep a pretty crazy schedule these days. My weekend usually happens on Monday and Tuesday. If you shoot sports for a living, you have to be there when they're playing - nights and weekends. Sometimes it stinks, but I do get the occasional Saturday or Sunday off. This weekend will be one of those times when I'll have Sunday off thanks to the Colts who picked up a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, of course, if someone wants me to cover the Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville game I would certainly give consideration to that. Considering the chances of that happening are slim, I'm hoping we still have snow on the ground or get some fresh snow. I'd like to take my two boys out to the sledding hills. My older son always has a blast sledding, and I'd like to take my seven-month-old on his first trip down one of the small hills. Besides, I'd have to get pictures of the little guy all bundled up in his blizzard suit. He's become quite a little adventurer already. I think he would have fun sledding once or twice.

In any case, now that my weekend's over it's back to work for me. I have a pretty full slate of basketball and wrestling this week, not to mention some portraits of swimmers that have to be done soon. I need to force myself to change up my basketball coverage. I think my pictures need a new look, probably because I've shot so many basketball games lately it's hard for the pictures to not look similar. I'm think I'll choose some different angles from which to shoot.

Oh ... one other thing. I know this is premature, but I want to throw it out there right now. If, the Colts should make it to the Superbowl this year I will be looking to find a local group of fans who might consider driving to the game in Arizona. Ideally, I would like to find some fans travelling in an RV that I can follow out there and do a photo story on their trip. If anyone out there knows of a group of fans (or fanatics) who might consider a trip like this, please put them in contact with me through this blog.

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