Layton , Utah

Final Fight! – Layton vs. Davis

When you’re going to write about photographing a high school football game AND the 1989 arcade game Final Fight, where to start? Obviously, with Final Fight.

Here’s the plot as it appears on Wikipedia (with my favorite parts in bold):

Final Fight is set in the fictional American city of Metro City “sometime in the 1990s”. The story centers around the kidnapping of the Mayor’s daughter, Jessica, by the dominant street gang in the city known as the Mad Gear Gang, which seeks to bring the Mayor under their control. The Mayor, a former pro wrestler named Mike Haggar, refuses to give in to the gang’s demands and sets out to rescue his daughter with the help of her boyfriend, a martial artist named Cody, and his friend, a modern-day Bushin ninja named Guy.

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It’s a common videogame premise, where you select from the characters you want to play. Each has a strength and a weakness. There is the ultra-fast guy who can’t take a punch. There’s the all-around average player. And there’s the big heavy dude who is super strong but super slow. In Final Fight, the fast and skinny is Guy, Cody is the average, and Haggar is the big slow brawler.

For far too long I’ve been playing Final Fight as the former pro-wrestler Haggar and too often I’ve also been showing up to shoot football games as Haggar, loaded down with three cameras and all the weight that entails. It’s been an effective strategy with a lot of great photographs, but I felt it was time for a change. So for this game I selected Guy and went the light-weight approach, carrying just two cameras. On one I mounted the smaller and lighter 300/2.8 and the other camera had a 16-35 wide angle. I went without a monopod and made sure to down a large Coke and a couple of candy bars for even more extra speed.

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While the 300 didn’t give me the same reach as the 400 I usually would use, I stayed close to the action, mostly shooting within ten yards of the line of scrimmage.

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Above: Davis’ Troy Hinds celebrates sacking Layton QB Camren Applegate.

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My biggest technical hurdle was the dark, horrendous lighting. Just look at those weak lights! And it varied all over the field; every third frame had a horrible reddish hue. I switched to shooting RAW for the second half when it got dark just so I’d be able to correct the color shifts.

Still, it was very dark and for a while I played with the artistry of a slower shutter speed. That was a mistake when Davis made this touchdown:

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The 300 worked well throughout. While its reach wasn’t as tight as I’m used to with the 400, there’s not much you can do with either lens when the action takes off clear across the field. Shooting loose can sometimes add to the shot, like this touchdown where the marching band adds a nice detail:

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But back to Final Fight, here’s the description of Guy (again from the Final Fight page on Wikipedia):

Guy is the fastest, yet weakest member of the group, in which he can unleash fast punches against his opponents and use an off-the-wall kick to knock them down.

So true. When Kimble Jensen made the a late interception to seal the win for Layton, I was right up close and in place for the shot. Call this one my very own off-the-wall kick to knock them down:

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Full Disclosure: For almost twenty years I’ve played Final Fight as Haggar and I probably won’t change, so Alex… you’ll still have to play as Cody.

Provo , Utah

BYU v Wyoming

Provo – BYU vs. Wyoming college football, Saturday, September 20, 2008, at BYU’s Edwards Stadium. BYU defensive back Brandon Bradley (5) mid-air tackle on Wyoming’s Devin Moore.

Layton , Utah

Layton v Davis

Layton – Layton vs. Davis high school football, Friday, September 19, 2008, at Layton. Davis coach Ryan Bishop in pre-game huddle
Layton – Layton vs. Davis high school football, Friday, September 19, 2008, at Layton. cheerleaders

Green River , Utah

Novices Kayaking the Green River

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I have to be honest. When I first heard the concept for the Tribune’s Novices in Nature, I thought it was terrible. Sending a pair of writers with no outdoors experience into the woods so they can write about their complete lack of knowledge and the mishaps that ensue? No thanks, I thought. The correct model is to have our reporters be the experts. I am used to working with writers who are experts in their field, with a clear grasp of what’s going on and how to do things. Why would we even entertain the idea of giving up that position?

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After photographing Maggie Thach and Roxana Orellana kayaking for the first time (at Butler Wash, Green River), I finally understand why this idea might actually be brilliant. It’s because Maggie and Roxana are genuinely free-spirited and funny people. Their perspective is fresh. We get to experience their hard-earned successes as well as their failures.

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Tech-wise these photos were made with my camera in an underwater housing that my friend Trevor was kind enough to loan me on short notice. It’s basically a heavy duty plastic bag that goes around the $4,500 camera so you can dunk it under the water. Luckily, no leaks whatsoever.

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The only thing wrong with the Novices in Nature premise as I see it now is that it isn’t really a newspaper article. This is a TV show. There were so many hilarious moments that I couldn’t capture working solo in the water. Having to drive 50 miles away, twice, to cover a plane crash also impacted the coverage. To do this right we should have two videographers (one on each writer) and two sound people working booms. And since this is a fantasy Christmas list, we need at least a week to edit the final, twenty-minute piece. I’m telling you, this would be a great TV show. Maggie and Roxana, get an agent.

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Salt Lake City , Utah

BMX Dirt – Workflow

Working on deadline you’ve got to be fast and accurate. Having a well thought out workflow is key to both. Here’s my workflow from the BMX Dirt competition at the AST Dew Tour last Friday night.

1. Before the event even started I typed out my cutlines for all twelve athletes:

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Writing the cutlines in advance saves time but also cuts down on deadline-pressured errors. Next I made twelve folders, one for each athlete:

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I’ll describe the use of those in step 4.

2. When shooting, I made sure to take visual notes. In this event the athletes take their runs in a pre-set order. Between each rider I would shoot a photograph of the ground, giving me a visual placeholder between each athlete:

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I shot everything in both RAW and JPEG formats. 3. To speed up the ingest (the downloading of my memory cards into the computer) I imported only the smaller jpeg files before deadline. Here is Photo Mechanic’s ingest window with that setting highlighted:

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The BMX Dirt competition works like a lot of winter sports. You end up with a lot of great photos, but you need to 4. Get out the most important photographs first (usually meaning: move your photo of the winner before you move your artistic shot of the loser).

With hundreds of photographs of the thirty-six runs of twelve athletes, I needed a way to quickly see just the photos of the winner, local boy Mike Aitken. Going through the contact sheet, I began dragging the photos of each athlete into their respective folders:

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By spending just a couple of minutes sorting the entire take, I saved many more minutes digging through looking for specific athletes. Now I could open a contact sheet of just the Aitken photographs, caption them in bulk and edit the best ones:

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Once selected, we’re into Photoshop for a quick crop. Then I trigger a PhotoShop action that sizes and saves for transmit. FTP from Photo Mechanic and I’m mostly done. Next I’ll go through everything and look for other shots that are worth sending.

At this point the job used to be over. But in today’s newspaper environment it just means that it’s time to start work on a multimedia piece.

The next morning I will sometimes walk out to the porch, pick up the paper and see how they used the work:

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Salt Lake City , Utah

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