Salt Lake City , Utah

BYU vs. Utah – The End

There’s nothing more powerful than one photograph that tells the entire story. And that’s what I got after BYU quarterback John Beck threw a touchdown pass to Jonny Harline with no time left on the clock to win the game and shocked the crazy loud Utah fans into silence.

After the winning catch I ran onto the field for some wide shots and noticed the BYU players lifting someone up on their shoulders. I ran over and held my camera up over my head for a few frames. Ultimately, that photo (above) is the shot of the game for me. The winning quarterback being held aloft, crying. The sea of red Utah fans. And the scoreboard in the background that says it all (for this year, anyway): Utah 31, BYU 33.

Backing up to the play, I didn’t have a clear angle on Harline, so didn’t have a shot of the catch. But immediately after he caught the ball the place went nuts. The entire BYU team and coaching staff ran out onto the field in celebration, while the sea of red fans in the stadium stood stunned and silent.

I ran out onto the field, trying to narrow in on specific moments. There was a big pile-up on Harline right where he caught the ball, but I ignored that since Tribune photographer Rick Egan was covering that end of the field. I knew he must be in the scrum getting great stuff there so I looked elsewhere. It was pure chaos, and things happen so fast you’re lucky if you catch them.

I noticed BYU’s Sete Aulai standing alone, stunned in disbelief that his team had won.

Hands down, one of the best games I’ve ever seen.

Salt Lake City , Utah

BYU vs. Utah – Irrelevance

I’ve been meaning to write about this year’s BYU-Utah football game. I’ve photographed a lot of these games and this was, hands down, the most dramatic finish yet.

But let’s back up. In any normal game, scoring a touchdown for the lead (with what, a minute or so left in the game?) means you’ve come from behind to win. Game over.

Utah did just that, as Utah’s Brent Casteel ran for a touchdown. Even better, he ran right at me and I got the whole sequence (which is posted above). In my mind, I knew that one of these shots could run large as the key play of the game, the go-ahead score.

His teammates piled onto him in celebration, and again I had a great spot for that photo.

Then, the unbelievable happened. as Casteel run back to the sideline, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham hoisted him into the air and let out a celebratory yell. Whittingham rarely lets loose like this, which made the photo that much more cool. Even better, most of the photographers were on the other side of the field and probably didn’t even notice this moment.

But unfortunately for Whittingham and the Utes, BYU then ran down the field and scored to win as time ran out. As that touchdown knocked the Utes out of a win, it also knocked these photographs into irrelevance.

Salt Lake City , Utah

Don’t Do It

I had the privilege of photographing a Ballet West dress rehearsal at the Capitol Theatre last week. The dancers were amazing and there were only about 10 people in the audience. The PR contact told me to sit wherever I wanted: “front row, balcony, the place is yours.” It was one of those great moments that I get with this job. But all I could think of is how jealous my wife would be when she found out I got to see a Ballet West production from the front row, so close you can hear the dancers’ feet pounding the stage. The next day I was photographing World Cup Luge, and in the press room among the other free snacks there was a bowl filled with Lindt Lindor Chocolate Truffles. Forget the ballet, she was more jealous when I told her about the chocolates.

With all of the fun things we get to do on the job, photographers can be quite boring when we’re off duty. After spending our work shift in the front row of the ballet or on the sidelines of the big football game, the last thing we want to do is actually go out and enjoy culture on our off time. (Not that football is culture.) In fact, I would warn everyone out there: never get involved romantically with a photographer. It’s a horrible idea.

My wife has had to deal with this for many years. I remember that it snowed the night of our first date and I actually took a few weather shots for the newspaper that night. On our first date! Can you imagine?

Another reason to stay away from photographers (and there are simply far too many for me to write about in one post) is that photography consumes us. While we love our partners, we are also in love with photography and spend far too much time thinking about it, reading about it, and making love to it with our eyes. And our meager incomes often go into buying yet more expensive equipment to feed our habits.

I can’t stress it enough: don’t get involved with a photographer. The only thing worse is when two photographers have a relationship. I just can’t imagine how bad that must be. It’s one thing when I want to spend money on gear, but what if my wife had a 24mm tilt-shift lens on her Christmas list in addition to mine? Oh, the horror!

Salt Lake City , Utah

NBA Strobes – Intermediate Level

Shooting the Jazz vs. Sonics with our strobes last night, I had a breakthrough. As I’ve written before, shooting basketball with strobes is a whole new approach for me. We only get one shot every 4-5 seconds, instead of the 8-frames-per-second I’m used to with available light. And with strobes you have to accept the fact that you’re going to miss moments left and right while you pursue that one perfect moment in each play.

As positive as I’ve made it sound in the past, I’ve got to admit that a few games ago I was ready to trash the entire strobe idea and go back to being an available light, 8-frames-a-second sports photographer. That night I had a lousy game, coming back with several “OK” shots but nothing at all memorable. It was frustrating trying to learn a new approach while knowing that I would have done better the old way.

But I decided to stick with the strobes and the next game was a slight improvement. Last night, however, may have been the breakthrough I was looking for with the strobes. From the opening tip-off, things were clicking. I was getting the shots I wanted, and my timing was very much improved. Most important, I was seeing the action in a new way, anticipating the peak moment of each play where I should take my shot. It was like I had progressed to a new level of timing, though still far short of what I’m working toward.

The game was very close at the end. A nail-biter. For the last minute of the game I decided to play it safe and switched my setup. I moved across the court to be next to the Jazz bench. If they hit a game-winning shot, they probably turn to the bench to celebrate, so I wanted to have the best angle. One camera, my long lens, I left on the strobes. The other I set to continuous shots (8 frames per second) and set the exposure for available light (1/500 @ f2.8, 1600 ISO). That way I could cover the close action quickly and be sure to get any celebration that might occur as the players left the court, walking right past me.

With less than 10 seconds left, Mehmet Okur hit a three-pointer that completely rocked the arena and gave the Jazz the lead with 1.6 seconds to go. Every fan was out of their seat. It was one of those moments, and the strobes came through, as you can see here:

I love this moment of Okur’s. I love how the fans are out of their seats going nuts. Okur has that look on his face that’s immortalized in a really bad rock song. (Do I have to spell it out?) Looking at the photo now, I realize he’s giving that steely look to the Sonics bench after knocking them out of the game. We ran that photo big on the sports page and I thought it looked great. One photo that tells the story. When it works, that’s my favorite thing.

I got more photos of Okur as he came closer (below), without the strobes, and the difference in quality is striking (notice especially the lack of color). Now I’m sold on the strobes and it’s all about perfecting the timing.

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

Salt Lake City , Utah

Utah Jazz v Seattle Sonics

Salt Lake City – Utah Jazz vs. Seattle Supersonics, NBA basketball.
12.02.2006 Utah Jazz center Jarron Collins (31)

Salt Lake City – Utah Jazz vs. Seattle Supersonics, NBA basketball.
12.02.2006 Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur (13), of Turkey, after hitting the game-winning 3-point shot.

Salt Lake City – Utah Jazz vs. Seattle Supersonics, NBA basketball.
12.02.2006 Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer (5)

Salt Lake City , Utah

Ballet West

Salt Lake City – Ballet West dress rehearsal at the Capitol Theatre.

Draper , Utah

Phony Campaigning

I had an interesting experience about a month ago, before the election. My assignment was to photograph a candidate for one of Utah’s congressional seats campaigning door to door. He was supposed to be out in a suburban neighborhood knocking on doors to explain his views and ask people for their support on election day.

There was a little mix-up on the time and location, mainly the location, so by the time I found the candidate he was inside the last house of a cul-de-sac after having visited the other homes.

Before I could go in, one of his staffers met me on the sidewalk and had me wait for the candidate to come out. And then a photographer for the other newspaper in town came out. That’s why they were holding me back, they wanted her to get her photographs. No problem. I started talking to her and found out she had just photographed the candidate visiting each home in this cul-de-sac. She went on her way.

Now the campaign staffer started explaining to me what was going to happen. He said the candidate would like to re-visit the homes in the cul-de-sac so I could photograph him interacting with these people.

Can you hear the red flags snapping up to attention? We were here to photograph some real campaigning, and this staffer wants me to photograph some fake situations, set up and staged for the camera, with families they have handpicked for the situation. I stopped him and said that we were expecting to photograph the candidate actually campaigning, and that I couldn’t photograph a staged situation like this. It had to be real.

To my surprise, he didn’t get it. In my mind, his suggestion of having the candidate fake his way through a series of visits with selected families was a clear violation of standard journalistic ethics. There was just no way I could photograph this.

It took a good five minutes for me to explain to the staffer that his proposal wouldn’t work for me. I don’t know if he ever fully grasped what I was saying, or why I couldn’t shoot his plan, but the candidate had no problem knocking on some unfamiliar doors and meeting some voters. He was actually very friendly and accommodating, and to be clear, he never suggested anything untoward. That’s what we did and those are the photos you saw in our paper. A true situation.

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