Monday, September 11, 2006

Nikon D2H Sports: The Hit The Size of The Earthquake

"You're gonna tank on game day," Rob told me as I entered the office last Thursday. The comment caught me off guard. "I'm only saying that because I have to do something to get you off track" for the Sunday game against Tampa Bay for the opening game of the Ravens' 2006 season.

I didn't even want to be there. I hate humidity, despise afternoon rains, and hate regions where there's never a chance of snow. Tampa was my last choice for travel, but one city I was told to make reservations for.

Making the most out of the situation, I discovered a neat place to stay - the Mainsail Suites on Eisenhower (right next to the airport) - which resembled a gated condominium comunity instead of a hotel. Complete with a full kitchen, I made a fresh romaine salad with blue cheese dressing and cooked pasta with italian sausage and vodka cream sauce. Check out; I wrote a full review with 12 photos!

Rob suggested that I move to his end zone if ever the Ravens threatened to score, but my favorite position is staying in back of the end zone. I figure, the team's goal is scoring, so why not move to a position where the players will head straight for me?

As the Ravens threatened to score, I was concerned since they drove for the far end zone. With this being perhaps the Ravens' first score, the prudent thing was to cover the opposite side from wherever Rob was. I tried calling him during a break in the action, as Baltimore's ball was on the 20 yard line. Rob didn't answer, so I left a message and scanned the shooters for him. Everyone wore an orange security vest, so I couldn't locate him. So I set up tent at the goal line, figuring that he'd be on the opposite side, where the Bucs' team was.

Two plays later, Jamal Lewis barrels past the Bucs defenders, running right past me for the team's first score. As I headed back to the far end zone, I realized that Rob was just 10 feet away, and shot the same play. "What are you doing on my side?" he asked. Well, I had forgotten that I was told to shoot from the Bucs' side! "That's my picture," he said, "and you have to stay on your side." I couldn't tell whether he was joking or not.

I asked another photographer about it, who said that I should send my best stuff and let the editor decide. We're supposed to send our best images for the readers, forsaking our personal feelings.

By halftime, I had shot every big play that the Ravens were involved in. I sweated like a pig (even forgetting my sunblock), but at least my camera was hotter than I was. I could only liken my luck to the 5.8 earthquake that hit the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, right before game time. Rob and I met inside the photographer's room where he downloaded his pictures from the first half. I told him that I wouldn't try sending until after the game, so he could send his Jamal score first.

By the middle of the third quarter, I couldn't believe it. Interceptions, runbacks, scores, sacks... I nailed everything. By that point, Tampa was threatening to score, so I stayed against the back of the end zone, waiting for a pass in front of me. A quick pass from Chris Simms to Michael Pittman, and I squeezed the trigger. Barely a frame shot, when **SMACK!!** The crowd groaned as Pittman got hammered backwards and airborne, flattened by Ray Lewis at the 1-yard line. Ray flexed his guns as the bowl of 60,000 buzzed in awe, reacting to The Hit as some guy asked me, "Did you get that?" I didn't know. I knew I flinched as Ray-Ray speared Pittman, and I felt my focus ring move as The Hit was landed.

For a minute, I didn't even want to look. But I had to. Looking at the preview screen, it seemed sharp, but that's on a 2-inch LCD screen. I found shade and zoomed in the detail. The elbow, the ball, the feet: they all looked sharp enough. So I showed the guy beside me. We couldn't help ourselves, busting our guts about the play. I haven't shot something that spontaneous in football in a long time. The Hit capped a good afternoon.

People have been posting comments in websites about The Hit all day, and it's been rerun in 3 different angles at full speed on ESPN. The Hit even made top honors in "Monday Night Countdown." But when I got home, I saw that the shot didn't even run. An editor told me when I returned that The Hit would run Tuesday, so perhaps it'll see the light of day, after all. It gets rough when you have a really good shoot, yet your stuff doesn't run, or run well. When you do well, don't you want people to see what you've created? A shooter's work is about image. It's displaying your vision, your creation, your talent, your pride.

When it can't be seen, part of you isn't seen as well, and it hurts. Perhaps that's why we aren't ever fully satisfied. If you don't care when your best stuff doesn't get shown, what does that say about your drive? Your passion? Your desire? Someone told me that I shouldn't complain. That the layout of the photos looked well. But I didn't argue with him, because he is waiting for his chance to retire. Maybe the day when I don't care is when I'll look for my way to hang 'em up, too.

Friday, September 1, 2006

D2H Shoot: Is Opening an Umbrella Inside Bad Luck?

This doesn't have a thing to do with the Panasonic camera, for ther most part. But I'll add a line that does chat about it.

I come in to work, armed with my water-resistant Olympics (Athens, 2004) rain jacket and a pocket "Rainkist," one of those miniature portable, take-it-with-you-anywhere umbrellas, ready to cover Ernesto, whose leading edge began spritzing the Baltimore area in the morning. The only thing on the platter: look for flooding, rain, wind damage, and anything else that might make a front page image.

Already, I had no intentions of using the HVX-200.

With no rain gear for the camcorder (and, frankly, none for my Nikon D2H bodies), I figured it would be better risking 2-year-old still cameras than new gear that cost us $6,000 (and it's uninsured). One reporter chatted with me as I emptied my pockets at the assignment desk. "Are you ready for the big flood?" she kidded. Of course, I said, and I started unveiling my Rainkist umbrella. "Don't open that in here!" she replied, as the 6-inch portable telescoped to about 2 feet in length.

"Are you superstitious?" asked Chuck, our assignment editor. Pausing for a split second, I became unfazed, popping it open. Boy, did I get ribbing.

"What kind of umbrella is THAT?!" she scoffed. "It looks like it's for a girl. It looks like a purse!" Laughing, she continued yet I maintained, in defiance of her questioning my manhood. "I don't care what you think, and that shows that I'm self-confident. What, am I supposed to impress you with the size of my umbrella? Anyone uncomfortable with what your slinging has more to worry about than I do," I said with a smirk on my face.

Cut to 2 hours later, as I went from street to street, looking for weather art of people dealing with the storm. With my car parked on a side street, I walked along Lombard Street, trying to capture a good shot of people battling the wind as it caught their umbrellas. Walking west from Calvert Street, I paused to shoot some photos of the north side at Light Street, as commuters holding umbrellas stood among bright images of people smiling, which adorned a pharmacy at Light Street.

Still unimpressed with my images, I started heading for the USF&G building. Seeing that the "walk" sign burned for me to cross, I started into the street. The driver of a Ford Explorer yielded for me from the first lane of 3, and the amber "don't walk" hand began flashing. Knowing that I had time to cross, I continued, watching out the corner of my eye for traffic turning left. But I noticed a blue Saab, whose driver had her view of me blocked by the SUV. I was already in her lane, but she didn't slow down.

"What the--" I said, as I backpedaled, watching her bumper aim for my kneecaps. In a split second, I thought of my family and being thrown onto the hood of her car, my legs breaking at the impact, and laying up in a hospital, unable to move my legs. At that moment, as I scrambled backwards, she noticed in time, and her wet tires groaned for a moment as the car stopped a foot from my legs.

I shook my head as I completed crossing Light Street, my heart still pulsing with adrenaline from the experience. I did NOT want to become a news event while covering an event that wasn't news-worthy! Only moments later, I captured a nice moment as a woman, heading for the shops at Harborplace, grabbed at her umbrella which was blown backwards in a gust of wind while she stood beside me at Light and Pratt Streets. Only after I told her of my experience did she relent and give me her name (and permission to use the image in the paper).

As I headed back to my car, I recalled the talk about whether opening an umbrella is bad luck. If that was the worst of the luck I had today, I'm glad I opened it.