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.)

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