25 January 2011

Army - Navy Basketball (Doubleheader). West Point, NY 22•Jan.•11

A large American flag is unfurled behind the cadet color guard during the playing of the National Anthem prior to the Army - Navy men's basketball game in Christl Arena at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY on Saturday, January 22, 2011. Several members of the American hostages who were held captive in Iran for 444 days in 1981 were also in attendance behind the flag. CHET GORDON/Times Herald-Record

For the second time in the last six weeks or so I'd drawn the assignment last Saturday to cover two games in another Army - Navy sports rivalry. This time it'd be in Christl Arena, a fair sized Division I basketball venue at the United States Military Academy down at West Point. To say I was just as determined to work these games with a similar mindset that I do when in an NFL stadium the last four years for the football version between these two service academies is probably putting it lightly. Same mental preparation for the long hours in the arena, continually going over imaginary packing lists of all the gear I'd need to bring along, ensuring that all the gear works as planned and just as importantly, be able to move my images back to the paper on deadline. Obviously I'm very familiar with the logistics of the arena, so the basics of the all-day assignment shouldn't pose any major unforeseen challenges or distractions. Oh, one more thing: I wanted to install strobes in the arena, as well as a remote camera on the backboard stanchion, and possibly a second remote camera in the stands aimed back at this same basket. I guess there is nothing more intense than challenging yourself with all these possibilities, even days before packing the gear and begin loading the car at 9AM. The need to strobe this particular arena is mandatory (for me) because as I've learned the last four years, the available light isn't quite as good for me working with the older work cameras at high ISO's, so the only alternative is to "light 'em up..." In other words, for all this pre-game installation and post-game break down time, I guess it adds another 5 hours to the workday, which I knew would've been long to begin with.

There's something that sort of really hits home for me in now recounting all the details of accomplishing Saturday's assignment: Preparation. Pure and simple. That's the underlying factor that kept me awake nights, easily allowed for my meticulous testing & packing of all the gear - the radio transmitters had to fire the remote(s) and strobes consistently before I left the house, and I had to know instinctively where every single item was that I'd packed, including things like channel locking pliers, four safety cables with those little pesky luggage key locks, black cine - foil, enough camera & radio transmitter cords to fire the cameras & strobes, and plenty of AA batteries in case I had to begin replacing batteries in all the Pocket-Wizard remote units. Oh yea, and gum. When I pulled up to the arena, the Naval Academy bus cruised to a halt near the main entrance just in front of me. (below). I grabbed a "short" camera in the trunk - the Canon 5D-MKII with a 16mm - 35mm zoom attached, and with the car still running and the trunk open, I stepped in position to make a few frames of the Navy players exiting their bus. When I said my customary, "Hey coach, good luck today" to Navy head coach Billy Lange as he stepped off the bus, and he replied "Thanks my friend..." I secretly breathed a big sigh of relief in knowing it was going to be a good day for making images. It was 5 minutes before 10AM...

"Go Early..."
9:55AM. The U. S. Naval Academy team bus arrives outside Christl Arena at the United States Military Academy prior to their game against Army in West Point, NY on Saturday, January 22, 2011. CHET GORDON/Times Herald-Record

For the type of workday that lay ahead for me, I knew that an image like this wouldn't have a big role in the bigger scheme of things as far as game coverage went, but it was a way for me at least to sort officially begin documenting my day. Once I got the three Dyna-Lite monolight strobes (one flash head didn't make the assignment due to a blown fuse) securely mounted in the stands, with the help of a freelance colleague who showed up just to "help out", we made a few test images of both teams going through their morning walk-throughs and drills. Now it was time to get down to the nuts and bolts of installing the remote cameras - one on the backboard stanchion, and possibly one up in the stands, aimed back at the same basket. It's a technique I really like because if all goes well, and I utilize one of the main cameras in my hands from the floor position, I can potentially have a nice play at the mouth of the basket from three different camera angles, on the arena strobes no less. (I am still working on that technique to sort of get the bugs out to get three cameras to fire simultaneously on the same target.) As I'd mentioned, a freelance colleague John Meore come to the arena to help out a bit, even suggesting that I mount my main remote in an even lower position than I was accustomed to, and another freelancer, Danny Wild passed me his Canon fisheye lens during the second playing of the National Anthem so I could make the overall view of the arena before the men's game (top image.) It was with their unsolicited help that I was able to make some of the images seen below in the slideshow. Thanks again guys! ~cg.

"Go early. Stay late. Get the uniform dirty..."

Here's the slideshow of my take on the two games:

22 January 2011

West Point in January.

Spent all day yesterday at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. This is the beginning of what may possibly be nearly 30 hours of coverage over these two days at the Academy, on two big assignments. So I wanted to start with my initial and closing images from the first day on post. More to come - stay tuned... ~cg.

9AM. Two cadets walk on The Plain (parade grounds) near the Superintendent's residence at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY on Friday, January 21, 2011. Upwards of 6" of snow fell throughout the Hudson Valley region during the fourth snowstorm in January. CHET GORDON/Times Herald-Record

5:15PM A statue of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower faces The Plain (parade grounds) with the Superintendent's residence in the background at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY on Friday, January 21, 2011. CHET GORDON/Times Herald-Record

20 January 2011

"You Gotta Have Long Glass..." 20•Jan.11

"...and use it." (Long Glass - lenses).

Today's early assignment called for our first look at New York's new governor, Andrew Cuomo. Gov. Cuomo (right) spoke at Marist College near me in Poughkeepsie, NY in the college's student center theater. The small theater was dimly lit for the governor's powerpoint presentation, which was a shortened version of his State of the State address a few weeks ago up in Albany, the state capitol. The theater was overcrowded with all the local politicians and businessmen from the Hudson Valley area our paper covers, so I easily recognized a lot of the "movers and shakers", and they me. Parking was a nightmare on campus on this January morning with temps in the mid-20º's, and like most of the audience, I was forced to park literally a half mile or so from the student center. Fortunately I'd kept our pool 300mm f/2.8AF with me all weekend since covering a high school track meet over the weekend, as well as both the 1.4X and 2X tele-converters. I knew instinctively to bring along those "TE's" on that long walk across campus with three bodies, etc. I'd also packed my compact, two-step step stool, anticipating that I might need it on the press risers if they were set up for us in the theater. When I arrived upstairs, and was hustled into the theater by a few of the governor's PR people and given the visual "once over" by more than one NY State Trooper, I stopped the PR guy at the back of the theater, literally in the shadows, and told him I preferred to work from the back of the house, as I wanted to be eye level with the podium, and of course the main subject, the governor. That was the main reason I'd brought along the "3" (300mm), the tele-extenders, a sturdy monopod, and of course plenty of chewing gum... (the step stool remained in the car, as there was no way I'd be able to hustle across campus to retrieve it unless I truly needed it in a pinch. No way did I want to get locked into the corner of the theater at stage level and only have the opportunity to photograph the governor by looking up at him from a side angle, as what some of us in the business call a "nose - bleed" view. Anyway, long story short, I managed to work from the back row of the theater, squeezed in between members of the general public who were also forced to stand in the shadows of the theater, and along the walls. There were even a few professional looking folks sitting in the aisles I'd noticed when the governor began his talk. Throughout the governor's speech I was able to change lenses (barely) make the wide images on a second camera; an older Canon 1D with the 28mm - 70mm lens at ISO 1600. By viewing those images on the camera's rear viewfinder, I knew I'd have to switch out the 300mm on the Canon 5D - MKII, to make images with the 28mm - 70mm zoom as well. Oh yea, I was also required to shot a few short minutes of video with the 5D - MKII as well. That's another good reason why I choose to shoot from the back of the house, and particularly on the long lenses. I started initially with the 300mm at ISO 3200, and by the time the governor's speech was winding down, I'd upped the ISO to 4000 and my basic exposures were anywhere from 1/40th. sec. to 1/125th. sec. depending on which lens / tele- extender combination I was using. Here's a few of the favorites I made from my standing position against the back row of filled seats. ~cg.

15 January 2011


Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

Today is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. He would have been 83 years old on this day.

Touching the engraved words, "I Have a Dream" engraved into the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on September 14, 2004, at the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous speech in 1963. © www.chetgordon.com/blog

"From where do you draw your strengths...?" ~cg.

12 January 2011

Tè Tremblé: Remembering the Earthquake in Haiti.

One year ago today, January 12th., 2010, Haiti was devastated by a massive earthquake, what Haitians call Tè Tremblé, the earth trembles. Nearly a quarter of a million people were killed and more than 1.5 million were made homeless. It was one of the worst natural disasters in history. I arrived in Haiti two weeks after the earthquake with longtime client Operation Smile of Norfolk, VA, and spent a week in the surgical compound set up at the Love A Child Health Center in Fond Parisiene, about 5 kilometers from the border of the Dominican Republic. I managed to spend my last full day of the mission in the capitol, Port-au-Prince. Here's some of what I witnessed then... ~cg.

*To view more of my earlier work in Haiti, including an in-depth slide show from last year's emergency mission with the trauma surgeons who volunteered their time for Operation Smile, click HERE. (just scroll down beyond this post, as it'll show up again). ~cg.

09 January 2011

"Where Christmas trees go to die..." Newburgh, NY 8•Jan.•11

A pile of discarded Christmas trees await the fate of the dreaded wood-chipper during the 5th. Annual Christmas Tree Recycling Party at Downing Park in Newburgh, NY on Saturday January 8, 2011. The Downing Park Planning Committee sponsored the afternoon event where the Newburgh DPW will utilize a wood-chipper to mulch the discarded trees at a later date. CHET GORDON/Times Herald-Record

07 January 2011

"More Snow..." 7•Jan.•11

The second snowstorm of the winter has blanketed our area in the Northeast. Since I made it out to the airport this morning to look for airport and aircraft related imagery in the snow, it kind of worked out nicely as we wrote about today's weather conditions, airline delays and scheduling in the paper / website. Besides being good daily images, they can be used later as file images for a business story, transportation, airline travel this time of year (wouldn't that be a business story too...?) and of course airline safety. Since I'm still required to make the local everyday images of snow-shovelers, roadway traffic and the like, these types of images at the airport are now an annual trek for me in "weather." I am still amazed that commercial pilots can fly in this weather with almost non-existent visibility and precip on the runways & taxiways. I guess this now conforms that winter is really here... ~cg.

US Airways Express Flight #3582 from Philadelphia taxis to the terminal after landing at Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, NY on Friday January 7, 2011. The second snowstorm of the winter is expected to dump upwards of 4" to 8" of snow in the region, and continuing through Saturday morning. CHET GORDON/Times Herald-Record

Snow plows clear a taxiway (foreground) and runway (background) at Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, NY on Friday January 7, 2011. The second snowstorm of the winter is expected to dump upwards of 4" to 8" of snow in the region, and continuing through Saturday morning. CHET GORDON/Times Herald-Record

01 January 2011

"Happy New Year & (finally) my POY..."

Glenda Hyde of Modesto, CA holds a graduation photograph of her son, then a 2nd. Lt. Daniel Hyde after his graduation from West Point in 2007. The Hyde family of Modesto, CA were at West Point on Sunday, August 8, 2010 for the Hyde Challenge presentations to the Class of 2014, which was renamed in honor of their son, 1st. Lt. Daniel Hyde, a 2007 West Point graduate who was killed in Iraq in March of 2009. CHET GORDON/Times Herald-Record

The POY. (Pictures of the Year.) One of those abbreviations that a lot of photographers in the business truly dread. The mere mention of organizing one's images from the year just ended for the major contest entries in the business conjures up memories of sleepless nights, headaches, teeth gnashing, bloodshot eyes, rewriting of captions, major caffeine fixes, and way too much time at the computer. (Not to mention what it was like back when entering the year-end contests required either copy slides, prints and sometimes even the actual newspaper clippings of your best work during the previous year...) As I prepare my year-end retrospectives once again for publication, contest entries, other blogs & websites in the trade, as well as a new slide show folder as my screen saver here on the Mac, I began to realize that 2010 was a good year for making pictures.
Actually, it was all a VERY good year: Two presidents. A return trip to Haiti with less than 24 hour's notice from a longtime NGO client, to document the work of their volunteer trauma surgeons treating victims of the January earthquake. Graduations - both big and small; including my fourth ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point with President Obama delivering the commencement address. Another weekend trip upstate to Glens Falls, NY following HS State Champion NFA (Newburgh Free Academy) on their quest to repeat as the top HS basketball team in the state in their division. A return personal holiday to Bermuda. A two-page piece in Popular Photography magazine. Extensive coverage again of Army Football, including the first college game played at the New Meadowlands Stadium against Rutgers in East Rutherford, NJ and my fourth Army - Navy game down in Philadelphia. The continued use of multiple & remote cameras, as well as strobing arenas and gyms for sports - and working hard to continually refine those techniques - including the installation of remote cameras firing in sync with the arena strobes for basketball, wrestling and swimming. There were some difficult moments to document as well: The ongoing coverage and funeral of little Marc Bookal; the four-year old Newburgh boy who'd been missing since December 2009 - whose death was finally ruled a homicide. Coverage of more shootings, crime scenes, a major gang raid by the FBI at sunrise, more arrests, perp walks and homicides right here in my small city than I care to think about...

*But most of all and without question, the strongest photograph for me during 2010 came in meeting the parents of U.S. Army Lt. Daniel Hyde of Modesto, CA last summer (top image). I'd photographed then 2nd. Lt. Hyde at his graduation back in 2007 (at right), and had a nice frame of him in prayer immediately after the traditional "hat toss." It wasn't even an image I'd thought about, as the "hat toss" is the real money shot that sort of seals the day's graduation coverage for those of us covering the day. Any additional images are considered "B-roll" or in my own terms, "gravy." Well, long story short; Lt. Hyde's family had seen the image of their son on our website back then, contacted me, and we corresponded a few times via email. It wasn't until I learned that he'd been killed in Iraq two years later, that I felt an attachment to this Army family on the West Coast. Fast forward to summer training this past year for cadets at West Point where I learned that Lt. Hyde's parents, Glenda and Brian and sister Andrea would be at West Point in early August for the Hyde Challenge presentations to the Class of 2014. The Hyde Challenge ends summer training for the cadets and was renamed in honor of their son. Needless to say I'd made arrangements to work that Sunday, and to personally offer my condolences to them.

This is the a prime example of what it means to me to be a photojournalist - connecting briefly with people you don't know, and know nothing about, but by being courteous, respectful, professional and above all, a gentleman - you sometimes get to make a difference in someone's life with your work. You can view an earlier post on that day's coverage at West Point by clicking HERE. I will never forget the Hyde family of Modesto, California. Semper fi. ~cg.

My 2010 POY:

*(Use the arrow at the bottom left of the player or click the image to start the slideshow. Enable full screen viewing by clicking the 4-way arrow icon above the credits button at lower right of the player. This is best for viewing the images with captions. Pause the portfolio slideshow in the right column by clicking the "II" pause button.)