24 October 2009

"Rain..." West Point, NY 23•Oct.•09

Army players traditionally touch the plaque bearing a quote from Gen. George Marshall as they take the field before their game against Rutgers University in Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY on Friday, October 23, 2009. The plaque reads, "I Want An Officer For A Secret And Dangerous Mission. I Want A West Point Football Player." Rutgers defeated Army 27 - 10. Times Herald-Record/CHET GORDON

Rain. Shit. I knew it was going to be ugly. At least it wasn't cold - yet. Fighting the elements is a drag, particularly at this level when you have to make pictures no matter the conditions. There's just no getting around it. Add to it all that I had to leave the field twice and hustle up to the press box to edit and transmit photos back to the office for early deadlines. No easy task even during a day game. Fortunately too there wasn't a full house in the stands. So you're wet, your gear is mostly wet, and you're faced with the added burden's of having the equivalent of about a full quarter's worth of shooting time on the field. Translation: A lot of missed pictures as I could literally "see" them from my workspace high above the 50-yard while the game was still being played. Oh yea, did I mention leaving the press box for the third time to shoot the post game press conference too. It's still Army football, so I was faced with the usual challenges in trying to come up with game-telling images within the extremely limited time frames I had on the field. It's almost still a blur as I continue this post on Sunday morning...

*Click here to view a slideshow of my rainy night game coverage on my paper's site for now. Once again, thanks for looking. -cg.

22 October 2009

"Did You Make a Photograph Today...?"

Newburgh, NY. 22•Oct.•09 3:12PM

Two young women push a child in a stroller on Chambers Street near lower Broadway in the City of Newburgh, NY on Thursday afternoon, October 22, 2009. Times Herald-Record/CHET GORDON

*"Did you make a photograph today...?" Did you see the light? Not worry about which playoff ballgame, reality "Tee-Vee" show, or other such nonsense is on tonight...? Did you trust your equipment and instincts to make just one frame while anticipating such a moment - yet constantly observing a scene like this, marveling at the late afternoon sunlight and shadows...? *(If you've answered yes to any one of these questions, then at least for today - you my friend, are a photographer...) -cg.

19 October 2009

REWIND - Images from the Archive.

Cockfighters. Port-au-Prince, Haiti. October 1993.

Presenting REWIND - Images from the Archive.
I've thought for the longest time on how to showcase some of my favorite images here on the blog that aren't particularly in the working portfolio for one reason or another. Look for this occasional feature where I'll highlight a single image from the archives that's meant a lot throughout my career. Enjoy. -cg.

18 October 2009

*(More) Friday Night Lights... 16•Oct.•09

Worked the big game Friday night between two undefeated teams, Monroe-Woodbury and Warwick High Schools. Monroe (MW) has won something like 47 straight games against sectional opponents, and they're the team I've followed through the playoffs and ultimately to the Syracuse University Dome for state finals championship games the past two years. They're ranked again as the top Class AA team in the state and the way they've been playing, it's looks like they'll be up in Syracuse again late next month. It was good to work the whole game from my knees, making precisely the type of game images I was after with long glass - the 300mm f/2.8AF, especially on touchdown runs (top & below) & big plays, (like the QB sack at upper right). What also made this is good night was informally meeting with the MWHS administrators, and a few parents, including the father of their star QB, Dan Scalo. (top image) It's kind of another reason why I still like to arrive at the ballpark early (when scheduling allows) as I needed to insure that the school's wi-fi network was up and running. So I was at the school before 5PM for the 7PM kickoff time. This early preparation allowed me to sit in the school's gym, fire up the Mac PowerBook, and send test emails before the game. This eliminated the headache of having to leave the game - possibly in the thrird quarter - to make the nearly 30 minute drive home to edit & transmit my game photos on deadline. I also informed the sportswriter about this, so we both were able to sit in the school's empty hallways and files our story & photos on deadline. Fortunately the weather cooperated too. No rain. Big plus to game coverage on that one.
It was good to be able to work the whole game - I remember purposely looking for any "Jubo" or "Jubee" (Jubilation) by Monroe-Woodbury players. There weren't any celebrations at all and I'd pushed myself right up against the 10PM deadline to start getting my pictures sent in to the office. I guess the kids from MW will save all that for the sectional & state playoffs and hopefully another trip back to the Dome. They're a class act, that's for sure. -cg.

Click here to view a slideshow & text of my coverage of their state championship game in Syracuse last year.

10 October 2009

*"What a Difference a Week Makes..." Army 16 - Vanderbilt 13 in OT.

Just a short week ago, Army kicker Alex Carlton was literally an "untouchable" after missing the potential game winner at home against Tulane. (see my earlier post "Wide Right" below.) Today, he was the hero. It was his show. He kicked three field goals, with the last one a 42-yard shot that actually hit the upright in overtime to seal Army's win over Vanderbilt.

Army kicker Alex Carlton (#39, center) celebrates his 42-yard game winning field goal kick in overtime to defeat Vanderbilt 16 - 13 in Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY on Saturday, October 10, 2009. Times Herald-Record/CHET GORDON
What started out as a windy & overcast Saturday morning, actually reversed itself full-circle by late afternoon. Oh no, not another potential downpour in covering an Army game I kept wondering all morning. Even checked the radar track up in the press box. That surely meant packing the usual day bag with a full rain suit, small towels, plastic bags and the whole 9 yards again. Combine all that with the bright idea that I wanted to install a remote camera (right) again for this game. (This time in a "Tee-Vee" camera position at midfield on the mezzanine level. Incidentally, this camera didn't produce any images I was thrilled with, as it seemed to not fire consistently. I'm guessing the heavy duty wire mesh cage interfered with the radio receiver signals, causing the camera not to fire.) *Note to self: Insure that radio receivers have a clean "line of sight" from my positions on the field.
Weather-wise, it all looked ugly again - and I was dreading it. It's completely miserable to work in the rain. "Be prepared..." I kept telling myself. Besides all this to worry about, a SEC (South East Conference) football team was in town for this game. Vanderbuilt wasn't having a good year, but to me that didn't mean they couldn't come into Army's house and rough up the home team a bit. I knew these boys from Tennessee meant business, as I'd seen them arrive at the local airport by charter aircraft on Friday and it took 4 buses to bring the team to their hotel / ballpark. Impressive.
The first half was a game of missed tackles, dropped balls, and plenty of penalties. Ugly football. The score was tied 3 - 3 at the half, and the whole stadium was wondering if the second half would be another sleeper too. Army kicker Alex Carlton (top) managed to make it a game himself, by keeping Army in the contest by hitting 3 FG's - a 51 yarder being his longest. There were some vicious hits in the game and watching this one (at right) in the viewfinder even rattled me a little in the first quarter. Three Army defenders sandwiched the Vandy quarterback, so it was good to see DT Victor Ugenyi (#92) help the QB up off the turf after delivering such a punishing blow with his teammates. It was a major league / NFL-type hit, that's for sure.
In covering this game & completing the second day edit reminded me again of why I insist on shooting from my knees. I like the clean, out of focus backgrounds on the images made with the long telephotos, particularly those made with the main 300mm + tele-extenders. This effect brings the viewer's eye directly to the action, with no distracting backgrounds.
Working along those self-imposed guidelines, I even attached the 2X tele-extender to the 300mm, in effect making that lens a 600mm, f/5.6, and made a decent image of the Vanderbilt kicker hitting a field goal late in the fourth quarter to tie the game. This image was shot from the far end zone behind the play and resulted in an image that can be used as a filer for the Army defense. It would've surely made a nice peak action moment if one of the Army defenders had actually blocked that FG attempt as well. (In a different publication's layout, the image can also be used as a full-page, full bleed, as well as a cover.) And at that distance, approximately 60 yards away from the play, it's just about full frame as well, so at the high shutter-speeds, the image remains relatively sharp - at least publication quality, even slightly backlit in the late afternoon sun. Something to keep in mind for future games.

*Click here to view a slideshow of my game coverage on my paper's site for now. Thanks again for looking. -cg.

04 October 2009

"Wide-Right..." Army vs. Tulane 3•Oct.•09

Army kicker Alex Carlton (#39, center) reacts after he missed the potential game winning 37-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in their game against Tulane in Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY on Saturday, October 3, 2009. Tulane defeated Army 17 - 16. Times Herald-Record/CHET GORDON

Light rain. Fog. Wet turf. 10 hours at the stadium. 3 cameras on the field. 900+/- exposures. Small backpack with rain gear, small towels, duck boots, and plastic bags. I was truly ready for the weather. And this is what it all came down to: 12 seconds left in the game - and a missed field goal. Not just another Army game and a loss for the Black Knights, but for me another opportunity to explore some slightly newer techniques on the field that I knew I needed to sort of refine a little better. I'd made a mental note to myself during the pregame ritual & drive to the stadium to try and shoot the whole game from my knees. (the heavy duty knee protectors from Lowe's Hardware last year were finally put to use.) Probably began thinking about all that the night before when I'd drawn the assignment for a HS game under the lights - ironically at a school in the shadows of West Point's main gate. Shooting from your knees takes a toll on the body, considering the amount of hustling we do up and down the sidelines with two, and for this game - three cameras. (the mandatory 300mm + TE 1.4 is my "primary", together with a 70mm - 200mm and a 28mm - 70mm as "secondary" or backup bodies to provide three uniquely separate views.) In rethinking my game-day preparations, a lot of the little things helped make for good images and even the things I didn't do. One decision that totally put my mind at ease two hours before kickoff was abandoning the remote camera / fisheye view from the stadium's press box. The low hanging fog and threatening rain showers made that a simple call. After attempting to find a good, secure spot to install the remote set-up, including the metal shelf-like overhang outside of the CBS-TV booth I'd used for previous games, I knew I didn't want to be on the field working and continually worrying about one of my old Nikons up there on a bad weather day for just that one overall image of the field. Repacked all that gear, including the Magic-Arm, security cable, and Pocket-Wizard kits, and had time to finally have a pre-game meal with some of the other working photographers in the pressbox. When gameday coverage usually means nearly 4 hours on the field, a decent pre-game meal is a must.
The game had some memorable hits and plays, and I remember at one point commenting to a colleague on the sidelines; "It's like 'Rock-'Em Sock-'Em Robots' out here...!" after freshman Army quarterback Trent Steelman took another vicious hit. No wonder the kid has a cracked rib from an earlier game. As long as the rain held off, and I kept my concentration - the good images would be there I reminded myself. This incomplete pass play (left) kind of worked out nice for a peak action moment. Three players leaping in mid-air, relatively clean background & sharp focus, and just as important - the ball in the frame. Although the play didn't mean anything in the game, it has exactly what a good sports photograph needs to have. When Army is on defense, I've been trying to lay back behind the line of scrimmage, constantly looking for a quarterback sack, fumble recovery or interception by Army defenders. This image was made with the 300mm + tele-extender, actually making the primary camera a 420mm. It was shot from the visitor's side of the field somewhere around their 20 or 30 yard line and slightly diagonally across the field, so I was lucky I didn't get blocked by any interior linemen running downfield, referees, etc. It was cropped up a bit, but the focus holds up pretty well.
Another is this "stutter-step" touchdown catch in front of me by the Tulane receiver, Jeremy Williams (#20) beating two Army defensive backs at the goal line, then bobbling the ball a bit and literally kind of slip-sliding his feet in the end zone to emphasize that his feet were in bounds. I could've sworn I actually heard Williams' feet sliding across the turf. This is where the third camera with the medium 28mm - 70mm zoom worked perfectly. (I'd actually been thinking of how to be prepared for a play like this in the end zone - especially since I missed one in the Duke game 3 weeks ago, where the receiver literally stepped over me as he ran through the end zone with a TD catch.) The second camera with the 70mm - 200mm zoom would've been too tight, and of course the primary 300mm camera on a "stick" (monopod) was out of the question as this play ended up only a few yards from me. Guessed right, again. Talk about being in the zone.

You can view a slideshow of the game
on my paper's website by clicking here and my take on the game below, including the outtakes from Jeremy Williams' touchdown catch for Tulane. I will try to add a few more outtakes of the missed FG kick as well. Enjoy & thanks for looking. -cg.

*(Click the image or the arrows at the bottom left of the player to manually scroll through the slideshow. Enable full screen viewing by clicking the 4-way arrow icon above the credits button at lower right of the player. You can stop the small continuous slideshow in the right column by clicking the pause II button under that player.)

02 October 2009

*"For the one that got away..." 1•Oct.•09

Sometimes the best picture of your day doesn't make the paper. This was the case yesterday. -cg.

Support Magistrate Christine Krahulik views T-shirts hung as part of the Clothesline Project outside the Orange County Government Center in Goshen, NY on Thursday, October 1, 2009. The Clothesline Project, begun in Cape Cod, MA in 1990 in response to the issue of violence against women, where victims affected by violence can express their emotions by decorating a T-shirt. The shirts are then hung on a clothesline to be viewed by others, as testimony of violence against women. Times Herald-Record/CHET GORDON