29 March 2009

"Heartbreak in Glens Falls, NY." 03•29•09

The Newburgh Free Academy boys basketball team almost did it tonight. Took Rice HS of NYC into overtime, and lost by two. This team really, really showed a lot of heart and pure guts. It was a pleasure to photograph a lot of their games this season, and be around kids who to the man don't know the meaning of sports prima dona.
No overpriced salaried players here. Just pure basketball, good coaching, and great support from the school's administration, parents and fans. Their starting five are all juniors, so it'll be interesting to watch this championship team together again next year. -cg.

Newburgh's Marcus Henderson (#3) reacts after his last second shot fell short, giving Rice HS a 70 - 68 win in overtime in their 2009 Federation Tournament Championship game at the Glens Falls Civic Center in Glens Falls, NY on Sunday, March 29, 2009. Times Herald-Record/CHET GORDON


This from yesterday at a state gymnastics meet. I always preach making "detail" images while on assignment, either for work, a client or myself. Thought this one kind of worked nicely...

Jacqueline Combs waits to perform her routine on the uneven bars during the 2009 USAG Level 9 State Championship Meet for 15 - 16 year olds at Sports Fitness and Fun in Florida, NY on Saturday, March 28, 2009. Times Herald-Record/CHET GORDON

*Now at 7:30AM, on a rainy Sunday morning, I am packing up the hot-rod again for the two and a half hour drive back to Glens Falls, NY for more championship basketball covering the HS kids from Newburgh Free Academy this afternoon. They play the NYC Champion Rice HS. Oh yea, that slide show from their state championship run is still coming... -cg.

25 March 2009

"STATE CHAMPIONS...!!!" NFA defeats Niagara Falls HS 62 - 42 in Glens Falls, NY.

*Is this what they mean by MARCH MADNESS...???

Well, It's taken a little longer than expected to recover from my coverage of NFA's semifinal game on Saturday and championship game on Sunday up in Glens Falls, NY. When I say recover - I mean just that. Physically, mentally and even for a few moments, emotionally. Covering Newburgh Free Academy (NFA) the past two seasons really meant a lot to me and it's very rewarding to see them win the big game, on the big stage. Not only did they defeat the #1 ranked HS team in the state, Niagara Falls HS, they beat them good. By 20 points. The game was literally over in the second quarter, and NFA never looked back. Technically working in the Glens Falls Civic Center (GFCC) proved to be a bit of a challenge for me photographically on Saturday. Making the nearly 3 hour drive upstate is just long enough to be a nuisance, and returning home the same night is down right difficult. Doing the round trip, 300-mile drive two days in a row is miserable...

*Rewind back to Saturday's mindset & observations in the semifinal game against Uniondale. Initially this game wasn't on our work schedule, but since I had an open schedule, I took the initiative at 7AM to make the drive up. This alone proved to be one of the most important decisions of my weekend coverage. I particularly needed to see the arena since I'd never worked there, familiarize myself with the workflow operations like wi-fi accessible networks for the media, clean bathrooms and most of all - media hospitality. See: food! (There wasn't any, so I'd mentally file that tidbit away for Sunday's arrival for the title game...) I wasn't happy at all with the available light in the arena, and realized that I'd have to return home to retrieve a full set of Dyna-Lite strobes for Sunday's Final game if NFA got past Uniondale. They did. The light was pretty bad. Game time exposures were ISO 1600, 1/200th. sec. @ f/2.8. Blah. Flat. Ugly. As dark and bland as any HS gym. I'd overshot a ton of images - with plenty of them slightly out of focus and with motion blur even at this level. I couldn't stand it the whole game, and was already thinking of how I'd install my strobes early Sunday morning. There were other photographers in the arena working the other divisional games on strobes, so I knew I wanted my images for the Sunday's championship game to "pop" too. Obviously images made with arena strobes have a much better "feel" to them and this was what I'd been preparing for all season anyway. (Don't forget the impending 300 miles that still awaited me to head home after the game & return early Sunday morning.) I ended up moving 9 photos back to the paper from the game, so I knew that would at least justify the trip by sending more photos than the wire service guy. The above photo at right of guard Marcus Henderson driving to the basket made Sunday's back page, and was a nice preview to NFA winning, and advancing to the final game, but I wasn't happy at all with the quality. Yuck!

*Fast-forward to early Sunday morning. OK this was going to be big and deserved a big effort. First I had to head out to Middletown (60 miles R/T) at 8AM to pick up two additional strobes from a colleague, before heading up the NYS Thruway yet again. It was as if I knew the route in my sleep. Considering I woke myself up at 4AM thinking about Pocket-Wizards, Super-Clamps, radio transmitter frequencies I could use in the arena, and installing a remote camera if I had time, I was as ready as I'd ever be. In other words - I was a wreck. Remember to eat something I kept repeating on the two & a half hour return drive up. I did. And added plenty of fluids too.

*(more to come... -cg.)

23 March 2009

Newburgh Free Academy wins Class AA State Championship 62 - 42 over Niagara Falls HS. Glens Falls, NY 03•22•09

"Newwwww-burrrrgh ... Newwwww-burrrrgh ... Newwwww-burrrrrgh...!"

Well, the weekend is finally over for me up in Glens Falls, NY. Two round trip drives covering just over 600 miles for two HS Playoff games just about wiped me out. Shot available light on Saturday in their semi-final game, and decided right then and there that I'd have to return all the way home on Saturday night and retrieve a full set of studio strobes, cords, clamps, "wizards" and everything else needed to "light-up" the Glens Falls Civic Center for the championship game on Sunday afternoon. It was basically a 'no-brainer' call for me professionally, especially since this was the first time I'd ever seen this minor league hockey arena, let alone had to shoot state playoff caliber basketball on deadline. Why not 'light-it-up' for the title game if our local team, Newburgh Free Academy advanced on Saturday...?

I will surely post more images here tomorrow and discuss some of the pros and cons of working the championship tournament this weekend. It was almost a perfect Cindarella ending to a demanding, yet rewarding season of HS basketball coverage and a lot of fun making truly consistent imagery. -cg.

20 March 2009

*December 2008 NPPA Winners...

Three of my multiple-picture feature stories published last December were recognized by the NPPA's Monthly News Clip Contest (National Press Photographer's Association), earning a 1st., 2nd., and 3rd. Place for the month. Here's the link to the NPPA's results page above:
NPPA / MNCC. December 2008 Region 2

I had written earlier about each assignment and you can find those earlier posts here on the blog by clicking the links here:

"The West Point Experience..."
"Overnight Repairs on the TZB..."
"109th. ARMY - NAVY GAME. Philadelphia, PA. 12•06•08..."

*I must say it's very rewarding professionally and even a little humbling to be continually recognized by the organization I've been a member of for most of my photojournalism career. -cg.

18 March 2009

Newburgh's Last Second Win over Mt. Vernon. 03•13•09

My paper put together a piece for the web where sportswriter Kevin Gleason and I talk about covering Newburgh Free Academy's State Quarterfinal upset on Will Bouton's dramatic last second three-point shot beyond half court, to defeat Mt. Vernon 71 - 70 last week.
"I Love This Game...!" -cg.

17 March 2009

MARCH MADNESS! - Slideshow.

Here's a take on some of my favorite images (and outtakes at the end) from the 10 games I've covered in various venues so far this month in the HS Section IX Playoffs here in our coverage area. I will update with a shorter version and clean up some of the captioning as well. Enjoy. -cg.

*(Use the arrows at the bottom left of the player or click the image to scroll forward through the slideshow. Enable full screen viewing by clicking the 4-way arrow icon above the credits button at lower right of the player. )

16 March 2009

MARCH MADNESS! - Part V - *"Let's Go to the Videotape...!"

As longtime NY sportscaster Warner Wolff would say, "Let's go to the videotape...!"

After a much needed full day off yesterday, I'm finally getting around to harnessing my thoughts on Friday night's State Quarterfinal games over in Westchester; including Will Bouton's heroic heave that gave Newburgh Free Academy their one point win over longtime rival Mt. Vernon. In making those images, most of it still remains a blur in my head. Just before Kadeem Dinham (#24 in white) of Mt. Vernon scored off an offensive rebound at the other end of the court, giving them a two point lead with 1.8 seconds left, I do remember sliding over closer to the basket and resting the "long" camera with the 300mm along the basket stanchion; as I wouldn't need that camera anymore to shoot downcourt. I'd already made what I thought might be the game winning image of him banking in the putback with the "short" camera, including a complete view of the scoreboard. (this is the similar look of Minisink's Stefanie Dolson missing a one & one from the line, with the scoreboard showing 1.1 seconds remaining. Even though she had 36 of their 44 points, that image told the story of their loss a week earlier.) Mt. Vernon players began to cheer and fans streamed onto the court. Newburgh had called timeout though, and .2 second was put back on the clock. The court was cleared and now there were two full seconds remaining. A lifetime by NBA standards, and my experiences. I didn't figure it'd be over for NFA or anything. I wasn't upset, I wasn't shocked. It was just basketball at it's highest level - in this case an extremely important HS Playoff game for the kids I'd been covering all season. I do remember now that everything sort of went quiet inside my head. It was kind of weird actually. I was truly "In the Zone" and nothing else mattered. I'd worked extremely hard all season - purposely installing multiple strobes at just about every HS game I'd covered and at some of the bigger games, utilizing three and sometimes four cameras. Just last weekend I'd installed a backboard glass remote camera & the following day a remote in the stands at a different venue, aiming that camera back down toward the basket for a different view of players going to the bucket. With my years of covering NBA and major college games in the NYC market, all this proved to be added experience, combined with an intense patience and timing, as I knew I was about to take a measured breath, and sight-in on this last play. I don't know if I looked for the inbounds pass from the other baseline or if I was just "keyed" on watching Bouton. All I knew is that I was "on him" through the camera, saw him clean with the defender all over him, and fired! One shot. From my knees. On arena strobes.  BANG!!! 

All bedlam broke out as the crowd erupted onto the court. There was no way to avoid being run over, so I headed for midcourt. Never saw Bouton until I made my way up into the stands to try and make images of the "Jubo" (Jubilation of the players going nuts...) All I had in my hands now was the "short" camera with the 70mm - 200mm lens, and that view would be too tight for me to be in there with the crowd mixing it up with the players. The only wide angle lens I'd brought into the building was securely clamped in the basket stanchion padding as a remote under the net. That camera view proved itself again, as I'd made nice game images from the earlier Kingston girls defeat over Mt. Vernon (right) and the wonderful image (top) of Bouton's shot pasted in the net, with Mt. Vernon's Dinham (#24) looking up at the ball in shock. I don't remember at all how I fired that remote camera - but I do vaguely remember seeing a bit of the ball in mid-air heading for the backboard, and careening into the net. If you click the image & look closely at the frame you can see Bouton now seated on the floor past half court at left and even 0.0 on the game clock above the far basket. Game Over!

*Here's how the shot came about in the final :33 of the game. Video is from my colleague at the paper, John Pertel:

Everything imaginable worked out in covering those two games. As I mentioned in the earlier game post below, I'd arrived early enough to learn that the college had arena strobes, and I could utilize them for the games. There was wi-fi in the gym for media, meaning we could work at courtside. There was plenty of room for photographers and "tee-vee" cameramen along the baselines and the bathrooms were close-by.

A "best-of" slideshow highlighting my coverage of this month's coverage during the past 10 games of HS Sectional and Regional Playoff games is coming real soon... Promise. Now on to Glens Falls, NY next weekend for the HS State Championship tournament games. (*Fingers crossed.)  -cg. 

14 March 2009

MARCH MADNESS! - Part IV - (Game Winner, Buzzer-Beater, Hail-Mary, Holy S#?T...!!!, WOW...!!!)

It was some night...!!! I don't think I've had this kind of excitement in shooting sports since the days when I regularly covered the Knicks, Yankees, etc. while on the pro sports beat earlier in my career. Both of our local teams I covered last night won and now they both advance to the NY State Semi-Finals Playoffs up near Albany, NY next weekend. The Kingston girls beat Mt. Vernon 58 - 55, and the Newburgh Free Academy boys beat perennial powerhouse Mt. Vernon 71 - 70, on a 3-point buzzer-beater by Will Bouton from beyond the half court stripe with two seconds left. Bouton had 17 points to lead the NFA scorers, and was the instant hero of the game.
I was in "The Zone" most of the night, and was extremely happy (almost giddy actually) that the sports information director there at Pace University let me utilize their arena strobes, which saved me the meticulous set-up & breakdown time and headaches of working with my strobes in an unfamiliar gym. The college also had wi-fi in the gym, allowing all the media to work directly from courtside press row. Big, big help.

More about the games tonight, as I have a regular workday to get to. Stay tuned... -cg.

13 March 2009

MARCH MADNESS! - Part III - (The Best Seat in the House...)

Tonight is T-H-E Game!

Two of 'em in fact. The hottest ticket in town for HS playoff basketball anywhere in the area. For both Boys and Girls in their NY State Quarterfinal games over in Westchester at Pace University. The two best schools in our coverage area that I've been covering all season, Kingston HS girls and Newburgh Free Academy boys are playing Mt. Vernon HS in games tonight. The games are in my old stomping grounds and I'm really getting pumped to see them both playing for this opportunity to continue in the state tournament if either team wins. That's why I know I'm going to have the "Best Seat in the House..." Look for a slideshow of a selection of last weekend's games as well tonight's match-ups posted here ASAP. (Sorry I didn't get around to posting any game action from last weekend's six games that I covered. The previous Iraq War Anniversary portraits (earlier link below) and other daily work kind of tied me up the past few days...) -cg.

11 March 2009

*Honor the Fallen... 6th. Anniversary of the Iraq War.

Sometimes it starts with a single email.

Those who know me and my photojournalism career are aware of how important my brief, yet honorable military career was in the 1980's. Becoming a Marine back then changed my life and my work ethic especially in this business - but that is a story for another time. On Sunday while finishing up the second day of shooting and crazed editing of my Section IX HS Championship basketball tournament, I received an email from someone who knew my work, but had no way of knowing me. You see, I'd posted a photo of a 2007 West Point graduate poised in prayer after the traditional hat toss during the graduation ceremony on my paper's site, and elsewhere on the web. I vaguely remembered the cadet's mother had written to me from California, and I'd replied in kind. When I opened this new email on Sunday night while yucking it up with our two sportswriters along press row in the empty college gym, what I read simply floored me; the message informed me that this same West Point graduate had been killed in Iraq on Saturday. POW! All the energy and excitement of two long & tiring days of game coverage left my body as I was literally slapped in the face. It was if someone I knew had been killed as I read the message from the Lt.'s childhood friend. Who do I tell about this, I thought...? I replied quickly and promised to get the same photo off to him on Monday for the family. I wrote to our beat reporter who covers West Point, including my email correspondences, and she in turn jumped on it as a story. When we finally received details on Lt. Daniel Hyde's death, we posted the story and the photo on our website, and in the paper. Needless to say, it was all the right thing to do without any hesitation. You can view our story by clicking here.

Jump to Tuesday. Back to work. The paper is doing an upcoming Sunday story on the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, including interviews with three local military personnel & family members with ties to the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. My part was described as supplying "highly stylized" portraits. Last Fall I'd photographed West Point cadet Shuja Kazmi (below) of Long Island, NY, a soldier of Pakistani descent who previously served as a medic in Iraq, so we wanted the portraits in the piece to have a similar look. Last night I met Maddy Oremus (top image), whose son Michael was killed by a sniper's single shot in Baghdad in 2006. Maddy was nervous but agreeable to be photographed and I remember telling her to just think of a "magazine style shoot." and "let's not even think about this being for the newspaper..." I'd put up a small umbrella and wanted to photograph her outside the house with the flag that draped her son's casket, but a cold evening rain quickly chased us inside. When I asked her if Michael had a bedroom upstairs and could I see it, I knew we'd have a winner image when I saw the room. She relaxed on the bed and continued a bit of the interview with the reporter off camera. After I'd set up my single Canon strobe with a DIY snoot, and made a few tests, I remember telling her to just "do her thing" while seated on the bed with her son's ceremonial flag. The whole thing took maybe ten minutes. When I'd finished and packed up, the reporter and I joined Maddy and her new husband for a bowl of chili and quiet conversation about her 21 yr. old. son's life and his last moments after he was shot. She recalled all the details.
Next we were off to Marine Sgt. Eddie Ryan's home a few miles down a county highway in the pouring rain a few towns away. I knew I wanted to concentrate on making a "clean" portrait of Eddie with only the single light from my small strobe illuminating him. I'd gone over the set-up and finalized imagery in my head the whole day, and even brought a 4' x 4' square of black felt to drape behind Eddie. I wanted this portrait to tell who he was, and to be tack sharp with stark lighting. I knew I had to work fast and keep it simple. Everyone was great, including Eddie (left) who exercised his hands while I made a few dozen frames of him with two lenses. Again, I only worked for maybe ten minutes, because I even start to get emotional on assignments like this. I'd previously met and photographed Sgt. Eddie Ryan and his parents both at home and at ceremonies at Stewart Airport, where one of the Marines who helped save him was presented a Navy Combat "V" medal for bravery. I still can't get my mind around the struggles and roadblocks that this wonderful family has faced in dealing with what will be Ryan's lifetime of recovery. Sgt. Eddie Ryan (with his mother Angela, below) is the Marine sniper who was shot twice in the head in Iraq, and since returning home has faced continued challenges such as having his VA benefits reduced, and other bureaucratic absurdities for someone who served proudly in "My Marine Corps..."
Semper Fi. -cg.

09 March 2009

MARCH MADNESS! - Part II - (Winding down...)

"Go Early..."
9:15AM. Day #2. Arriving at SUNY New Paltz for the second full day of four Section 9 Championship basketball games in New Paltz, NY on Sunday, March 8, 2009.

*I am still winding down from the weekend's work, which actually all started Friday night after work to help a fellow staffer take down his two strobes he'd installed in a college gym for two games early in the tournament. (Ideally I like to work with four strobes encircling the court.) Followed by a 50 mile drive down the Thruway to borrow 2 more sets of Pocket-Wizard kits; including two PW Multi-Max units. (thanks again Rich!) It's all still kind of a blur right now, but I'm happy with the images produced over the two days of shooting. Covered six games at two colleges instead of the planned eight games, as a colleague shoot two middle games yesterday - allowing me to edit my girls game #1, have a decent lunch courtesy of their hospitality room, set-up camera #4, the new Canon EOS 5D Mark II. All in all I worked the weekend with 4 Canon EOS digital cameras - including a new EOS 5D Mark II that I used as a remote body at both venues,
Some of the gear I carted in included about 200' of orange extension cord, a few remaining feet of black gaffer's tape (I'm now out) and even the cheap Home-Depot gray crappy tape, too many lenses to remember, two Bogen-Manfrotto Magic Arms, 5 Super-Clamps, about a dozen Pocket-Wizards, a bunch of extra AA batteries for the PW's, one very large ladder provided at the college on Saturday morning, plenty of fresh chewing gum, and oh yea, a few packets of Tylenol Extra-Strength caplets I picked up with my mandatory ham & egg on a roll early Sunday morning on the way to college venue #2. I will post a slideshow of some of the best images from the weekend here in a bit. Stay tuned... -cg.

04 March 2009

MARCH MADNESS! - (High School Style) March 2009.

I can almost hear famed ESPN sportscaster Dick Vitale doing promos and calling games during the NCAA's Men's Basketball Tournament. Well a different level of "March Madness" has begun here in the Hudson Valley for me this year. Beginning this week, I'll be covering 10 HS basketball games, will probably help out another staff photographer working two games on deadline Friday night, as I'll need his set of strobes to use for my 8 weekend games. That's right - EIGHT games coming up this weekend in two different college venues. It all officially began for me last night, where I covered two games and was feverishly pushing deadline by the time I was sending images. Although the school has an open wi-fi network, I wanted to make sure and pack everything up, edit and send my fotos from a friend's nearby home. Was up this morning at 6AM to post photo galleries on our paper's website before starting my workday too. For most of the basketball (and swimming) season this year I took the initiative and relished the opportunity to quickly install a set of portable strobes, or even a pair of company issued Dyna-Lite Uni-Jr.'s, and in most cases a combination of the two. (or four - as in four separate light sources) while covering these games. This mindset gave me the opportunity to continually make well exposed game and feature images from all the venues I worked in this season. Looking back at the 15 - 20 or so games I've covered, I think the only two gyms I didn't strobe were Chrstyl Arena at West Point for Army Women's basketball and two early HS girls league playoff games up at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. I know from multiple games I've covered at West Point that I can install a few studio strobes there if I allow myself the early set-up, and breakdown time. Last night worked out pretty good, and turned out to be a really nice introduction to this year's tournament games was arriving at the HS gym about an hour and a half before the first girl's game, to see the home team boy's coach first standing on a desk while changing the nets on the baskets. A janitor eventually brought out a large ladder for him. From up in the second-floor level of bleachers in the still empty gym, I yelled down to the coach about making a few "nice pictures" of him and knew I'd made a good starting image for my tournament coverage package. That was a nice feature moment to shoot as I'd just wheeled in my cart of lights, cameras, extension cords, and all the other miscellaneous gear I'd need for these two games under the strobes. Made a few decent images from both games and even managed to survive about three separate collisions in the Boy's game where players ended up plowing into me seated at the baseline.

It's going to be some week for HS basketball photos that's for sure. Stay tuned and I'll look to post a sort of "best of" slideshow after the weekend. -cg.

02 March 2009

"I want this cat's job..." Mombasa, Kenya. May 2006.

With howling winds and blowing snow pounding the Northeast again today, I've been looking over some of my archived images, particularly from the warm weather climates I've worked in. With temps in the teens again, here's a favorite from three short years ago when I lived in Kenya for a few months. -cg.

MOMBASA, KENYA. A Kenyan photographer strolls the Indian Ocean surf at Bamburi Beach in Mombasa, Kenya on Thursday, May 11, 2006. Local photographers make their living photographing tourists along this stretch of public beach. © Chet Gordon / THE IMAGE WORKS

01 March 2009

"(Really) Big Airplanes..." Feb. 2009.

Friday afternoon, Feb. 20, 2009.
It was kind of ironic that I drew two assignments in little more than a week to be out at Stewart Air National Guard Base near my home here in NY. For those that know me, you know already that I'm a former military guy - so that means I dig everything to do with heavy machinery, and particularly anything associated with aviation. Now combine the two out at the air base, throw in a few Air Force cargo aircraft that I was to photograph for separate stories, and you've got a guy feeling really good about being on the flight line. When I was on active duty (which seems at times like 100+ years ago) in the Marines, I flew quite a bit on training missions on 'smaller' Air Force cargo planes like the C-141 Starlifter and of course the ancient C-130, those propeller powered workhorses that have been flying since the Vietnam War. Been in a few helos too in my day, as well as all the Cessna and Piper airplanes I've been in recently, mostly for stories here close to home. But these two assignments allowed me to get up close and personal to largest cargo airplane the Air Force is flying, the monstrous C-5A. They don't call it a "Galaxy" for nothing.

Then on the following Friday, the 27th., I was back out at Stewart to witness a C-17 cargo aircraft arrive for a "Dog & Pony Show"

where the flight crew of a the newer cargo plane returned a few Stewart ANGB personnel from their base in Jackson, Mississippi.
The C-17 is the smaller, fuel efficient aircraft that the Air Force is turning to replacing it's aging fleet of C-5A's. The NY Air National Guard command here is waiting to hear from Washington if their fleet of C-5A's will eventually be replaced by the C-17's. There really isn't anything like the C-5A flying over our skies, so either way I know those big birds will be missed.

*Sorry, couldn't resist grabbing this image on the flight deck of the newer C-17. -cg.