A sport that I have loved for years and one that I LOVE to photograph is hockey. We were fortunate to move to a city where there was already an established hockey team, the Evansville IceMen. When we moved here, they were in the CHL, a few ticks below NHL. And for the 2012-2013 season, they joined the ECHL – NOW they have NHL affiliates! The IceMen are having some growing pains this season; but, they are still a good team, have a solid fan base and give an AWESOME way for sports photographers to play!
The IceMen play in the new Ford Center (opened in late 2011) in downtown Evansville. Beautiful new arena with wonderful lighting! Now THAT is the way to watch hockey. My wife and I have been to a few games now. Being able to shoot f2.8, ISO 800 and about 1/640 sec from the cheap seats works for me. Yeah, I could go higher ISO and speed up the shutter speed; but, generally I can catch the action with that speed and keep the noise to a minimum. I’m okay with this. I sure wouldn’t mind sitting closer; but, then would have to shoot through glass. And you hockey fans may appreciate the fact that when we are higher, we get more sounds, one of my favorite parts of the game. It’s cool sitting close; but, the glass filters out the sound of the skates and more.
I actually inquired about shooting for the IceMen. That was a big negatory, mission control. No worries. I can still go, sit up high and shoot my pics. And honestly, that’s all I ever want to do. I learned something a few years back. I learned that I can be content with just me and my camera. I don’t care who else is around. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE going to events with my wife and with friends; but, I’m just saying that if it’s only me, I’m okay with that.
How about you? Are you okay if it’s just you and your camera? Have you ever gone out by yourself just to play with your camera? If not, give it a try. You may be surprised.
My second trip to a threshermans event was even more enjoyable than the first. This time, my brother and I went to Boonville, IN to see the old steam tractors. More than that, one of my buddies from work, Kyle, has vintage tractors and we had been trying all summer to get together so I could take some pictures for him. Two years ago, when my wife and I went to Wisconsin with my Dad, we sat and watched the tractor parade and were “treated” to nasty black smoke all over the place including our lungs thanks to the wind.
In October 2012, the goal was to get pictures of a friend, his tractors and his family. And we did just that! Since I knew we would not be taking a bazillion photos this time, I got to shoot on RAW which I always enjoy doing. I always do sport shooting in JPG mode. Yeah, I know how much the data is compressed and that it stinks losing the creative control you have over RAW; but, JPG is much faster and smaller allowing me to fit more photos on a memory card. Also, I can turnover the photos much more quickly when shooting in JPG. Now, if I were getting PAID to shoot, I am pretty sure I would do whatever necessary to shoot in RAW, i.e., get more cards!
When we got there, Kyle was not in the normal show area. We had to walk out to the back forty where he was plowing! He had a 1951 Farmall still with many original parts and a plow that might have been of the same vintage. Kyle’s wife showed up a little bit later on HER tractor! She had a 1951 Farmall that looked more like a show tractor, bright red paint, it looked good. And she had a plow on the back also – she showed up and started plowing. Their three kids were there as well – Kyle towed them around on an old lawn mower (he’s into that, too) while they rode in cut-out 55-gallon drums. Are you imagining it? Yeah, he made a train for the mower! It was GREAT! It was really cool how he has made this a family affair. And the whole family looked happy to be there.
Oh, forgot to mention – I plowed! Yeah, Kyle got off his tractor after seeing us get there and within minutes asked if I wanted to try. It only took me a few seconds to accept the offer. Now, this is NOT something I would normally do! And my brother’s jaw about hit the ground – he was shocked that I was about to get on a tractor. I made one pass and was scared to death most of the time – what if I kill it, what if I mess up, what if I break the tractor, what if I kill Kyle (he walked alongside of me the whole way and helped with the plow), what if what if what if. But, nothing bad happened and it was definitely an enjoyable experience. My butt was a little sore; but, that was probably mostly because of a big butt and a hard seat! My brother ended up making a plowing pass after me and he was a natural.
I look forward to a follow-up trip to Boonville Thresherman’s Park in 2013. Wish I could share a link here; but, I couldn’t really find one worthwhile. If you are interested, I would just Google it.
My wife and I both enjoyed our time working with the Evansville Rage in 2012. And I kind of kept track of some of our guys in preparation for the 2013 season. Turns out that we had 5 guys from the 2012 Rage playing summer ball for a semi-pro team in Indianapolis, the Indiana Mustangs. So, late in July we made the trek (would have just been a trip; but, thanks to all the traffic and construction on I-70, it was at minimum a trek, more likely a journey) up to Indy to watch Josh Cox, Mike Cupp, Robbie Piper, Jordan Cook, Rodney “RJ” Morris and Dontae Hart play football.
We had a blast and Josh talked to their GM to get me a sideline pass. I had SO many of my favorite things happening right there – up-close, football, outdoors and daytime! Man, I had a blast! The action was intense and the orange jerseys offered some nice change of pace with colors. Football-wise, the Mustangs played a hard fought game against the Indiana Generals, also based out of Indy, and won with a closing minute touchdown. It was an exciting game!
It was a treat to shoot football outdoors. I was able to shoot f2.8 and ISO 250 at first. I ended up at ISO 800 as the skies started to grow dark and the stadium lights started to come on. Shutter speed was pretty nice most of the day – 1/1600 sec. That’s almost like setting your camera to Auto – just make sure you focus!
If you are up for watching OR playing summer football, check out the Indiana Mustangs on their Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Indiana-Mustangs/107632097085?fref=ts. Oh, and if you want to see Jordan Cook and RJ play in the winter of 2013, come out to an Owensboro Rage game – http://www.owensbororage.com or http://www.facebook.com/OwensboroRage. More to come on the Rage…..
To say I was ECSTATIC when I heard professional cycling was coming to Evansville is an understatement. As some of you know, cycling has been one of my favorite subjects for years. And since we moved, I REALLY missed the International Cycling Classic Superweek Tour (http://www.internationalcycling.com/). With a couple races in the Chicago area and even one near my old stomping grounds of Rockford, I was seriously missing it. But, in early June, the criterium came to Evansville in the form of the River City Classic (http://rcbclassic.blogspot.com/). We had beautiful weather and a good turnout of both cyclists and spectators. The local business community jumped on board and it seemed like there was good support for the event on that end, too.
I can’t believe how lax I have been in updating my page. A lot has happened since March of last year. Well, almost a full YEAR has passed! I’ll try to catch everyone up in the next couple of months.
So, I just finished enjoying my first weekend in a month with NO football photography. Okay, “enjoying” may not be the right word. I am LOVING my time with the Evansville Rage. And boy am I learning a lot. I made it through the first regular season game photos, the 63-35 defeat of the Indianapolis Enforcers. I shot the entire game on Av and ISO 3200. I am pretty happy with the pictures. I definitely need to keep going to practices and getting my own practice on panning. I have had pretty good success with panning at car races. But, in the big picture, that’s pretty easy since everything moves together. When you deal with body motion, you’ve got SO much movement – head, arms, legs and everything else! I’ve been trying to keep my focal points on either the helmet logo or jersey number. Sometimes that is easier said than done! Still plenty of room for improvement.
Something I am going to try for our next home game, an April 7 meeting with the Dayton Silverbacks, is working my way back to Manual. I’ve been shooting manual for some time now and have been shooting aperture priority for the Rage as I get comfortable and used to the new environment AND sport. It’s easy to shoot outdoors with good light. And it takes more skill (or luck) to shoot indoors with questionable lighting, at least for someone like myself. But, I’m learning and plan to practice hard to get the team and the players the photos they deserve! Anyway, planning to shoot ISO 3200 and 1/320 shutter for our next home game.
In the meantime, the next Evansville Rage game is Friday night, March 30, at the Saginaw Sting. This will be a true test to see where the Rage are as a team as I just heard that Saginaw won three of the last four championships. I have faith in our team though. If we play OUR game, I think we have a good chance of coming back home 3-0! Game time is 6:30pm CDT and will be broadcast on ESPN Radio, 106.7 FM in Evansville. I think you can also listen online at http://goo.gl/nWJeR (I grabbed a shortened link). Let’s go Rage!
Well, tonight is the first regular season game for the Evansville Rage. And I have to admit, I have some pregame butterflies. Seriously? I’m only the stinking photographer – why on EARTH would I be nervous?
My insides are aflutter as it is now go time. I’ve been practicing different camera settings trying to find that sweet spot where I can accept that the shot is crisp enough and that I can also capture the “action”. Blur can be cool sometimes. But not ALL the time. I need to be ready. And I need to be able to anticipate. Do I pick a big playmaker for each play and follow him? Do I just go full wide down the middle of the field and play the part of the mad cropper when it’s time to process the pics? Am I gonna wear my Rage shirt tucked in or out? Am I even going to wear it? Arrrggghhhh!
I feel like Tweek from South Park! Maybe I need coffee? Nah, I just need for the game to start and to find my comfort zone. I’ve been practicing as our players have been practicing and I am ready for this. Thanks to my buddy Cong, I had the courage at practice this week to journey beyond ISO 1600. I worked my way all the way up to ISO 4000 which, at Metro, was allowing me to go up to 1/320 and even 1/400 sec shutter! I am only making my first pass through the pictures but am already liking the results! I KNOW there are grainy pictures in there; but, I am thinking who really cares about graininess?
This is kind of a philosophical topic – graininess. We all know that as ISO increases, so does graininess. How does that REALLY affect us? If I was a fine art photographer or a portrait photographer, you’re darn right – I want my ISO at 100, 200 tops! But in sports where we are shooting action, does it really matter? What’s the biggest anyone will ever see my photos? 3×5? 4×6? MAYBE someone will blow it up on screen. But, I’ll bet folks almost NEVER zoom in to the detail that I do when I run the shots through Lightroom. Any other photographers out there agree or disagree? I would really love to hear different views on this topic.
So, here I am about to head out to wash windows before tonight’s game. Planning to shoot ISO 4000 pregame, see how things come out and then make a decision for the next home game. For the game, I will shoot like last week – ISO 1000, f2.8, aperture priority. I will try to keep getting better at metering as that made a WORLD of difference.
Peace out and we’ll see you after game 1!
Inspiration. Have you ever been inspired? Have you ever been so driven that you were willing to do ANYTHING to achieve your goal? I want to share with you something happening right now, TODAY, that has inspired me. And that thing is a brand new football team called the Evansville Rage.
On January 22, my life took a very cool little turn as I took the red pill to see how far the rabbit hole goes. As I was having an audition of my own for a chance to broaden my photography skills to football, 40-plus men came out to Metro Sports in Evansville to see if they had what it took to become members of the city’s newest professional sports team, the Evansville Rage, an indoor football team and new member of the CIFL. One week prior, the Rage had their first tryout near Cincinnati. And then a month later, February 26, there was a second tryout in Evansville where 30-plus guys came out, but only a couple were invited to stay in Evansville for the next two weeks for training camp which would begin the following day.
My small role in this story is that I am an avid sports photographer and I wanted to be even just a little part of this new team. I love photography and have loved football since I was a kid – I had pictures of the likes of Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Dick Butkus and others on my bedroom door and would say all their names before bed each night. As I have grown older, my love for football has grown and now I wanted to photograph this game I love and I wanted to meet new people in my new town. The regular season hasn’t even started and I am happy to say that I have already achieved those goals. Now there are new goals that include honing my football shooting skills (learning to get crisper photos and to anticipate big plays) and giving the team and fans alike exciting photos of THEIR team! The fact that my wife also has a role with the Rage makes this journey all that much sweeter. But, this is not about my wife or me, at least not directly. It’s more about the effect the past few weeks with the Evansville Rage has had on me.
When you think of football, what kind of people do you see? I’m talking about both fans and players. Think of all those folks and I’ll bet at least one of each showed up to tryout for the Rage. There were short guys, tall guys, skinny guys, big guys, fast guys, slow guys and the list goes on and on. I’m sure every one of you could have found someone you could pull for to make the team. Some of the players who tried out are natural athletes who have a gift. Others had to rely on heart, desire and sheer effort to have a chance at making the team.
I don’t have a lot of direct experience with professional sports – neither minor league nor major league. Sure, I’ve taken my camera with me to NBA and NHL games; but, I’ve never been a PART of it. I have enjoyed watching and learning about the business of building a new team. I have watched how different people react to the stress of making it all come together. I can tell you that budgets are plenty tight, especially in this economy that has been struggling for several years now. Hopeful Rage players had to pay a small fee just to tryout. I wouldn’t doubt that there were even a couple guys who had to take those last couple laundry quarters just to be able to afford their tryout fee. I certainly have more humility than I had going into this. I appreciate more what I have. I also have a greater appreciation for what it means to these men just to have a chance to make the team. And for what? Money? I highly doubt it. This is about MORE than simply playing professional football. This is a story of desire and the love of football and the reason I am inspired by the Evansville Rage players.
With a few days to go before the season starts, I have to say what an amazing experience this season has been already. I am loving doing my thing for the Rage, photography. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE in this organization has been friendly, cooperative and most of them even offer a smile when I point the lens their way. The Evansville Rage players are not here to make bank. Oh no, these men are here because they love football. Some of them may want that last hurrah before they accept that their knees can’t make it any longer or that their shoulders can only take a couple more hits. I never played football myself. But, I can imagine how it feels for these guys to put on their pads, strap on their helmets and step on the turf. Indoors or outdoors, football is football… well, except when it’s soccer. This is hard-nosed, only-the-strong-survive FOOTBALL!
As the Evansville Rage roster becomes finalized, I am learning some of the players’ different personalities and quirks. There are players who motivate and inspire their teammates. There are players who are more workmanlike and just go out and do their job. There are also players whose hearts have to make up for lack of size or football pedigree. This past Friday night, the Rage played their second and final preseason game, a win over the Kentucky Xtreme. It was a chippy game with the visitors getting in several hard shots on the Rage. But, our guys fought back and refused to back down. I believe that the Rage dressed 29 men for this game, several players having to share jerseys and gear come halftime. Think about teams you have played for – did you ever have to go into the locker room and put on the sweaty jersey from a teammate at halftime so you could get in the game for the second half? Not trying to gross you out – I simply want you to think about how much making the team means to these men.
For the regular season, it is my understanding that the Rage will dress only 19 and will include another 6 or so on the practice squad (if I get that right). This means that some of the guys we’ve been watching for the past couple weeks might not be at Clarion Field at Swonder Ice Arena this Saturday night for the season opener against the Indianapolis Enforcers. Instead, they may already be on their way home and that breaks my heart.
Heart. I have seen SO much heart in the past two weeks. Some people find it difficult to understand why others (especially guys) like sports. And others find it difficult to understand why we PLAY sports. It’s because of moments like this. You watch regular guys, many of them excellent athletes mind you, leave everything behind for awhile to play a sport for which their passion runs deeper than everything they know. They don’t know the word ‘quit’ and they leave absolutely every ounce of their being on the field. They sacrifice their bodies. They take risks. They do whatever it takes to a) make the team and b) win the game. These should probably be labeled a) and a) as I think both are right at the tops of everyone’s minds. Inspired yet?
Over the past couple months, I have seen players with impressive Big Ten football resumes, guys who played JuCo football, guys who are coaches, guys who drive cabs for a living, guys who may already know more about manual labor than the rest of us will ever know and also probably some guys on the other end of the spectrum who have flourishing new careers outside of sports who put everything on hold for awhile so they can have a chance to play the game they love.
Three qualities that I have seen from our Evansville Rage are desire, passion and HEART! These are the reasons I love this team and why I am inspired by our Rage players. Believe me when I tell you that they are most worthy of your adoration and support. City of Evansville, you should be proud to call the Evansville Rage YOUR team. If you are in the area, please come out to a game. It’s great family fun and every single player, coach and staff member will be glad you’re there. You can even hang out after the games to meet the players, YOUR Evansville Rage players.
You will see posts from me throughout the 2012 Evansville Rage season right here and I will post to Twitter (follow me at the little button at the upper right hand corner of this page) when I can. For game and ticket information, you should check out the Evansville Rage website (click here) or their Facebook page, what I have been calling the Rage Page (click here).
Come out and Feel the Rage!
The last couple of weeks have given me an opportunity to really get myself into football photography. Prior to this past January, I had NEVER shot football save one practice for the Chicago Force, a Professional Women’s tackle football team who practiced near our old home. Now, I am taking my game indoors where I’ve already learned a lot and have been having a blast!
I’ll be writing another post about my recent experiences with the Evansville Rage shortly after this one. First, I want to talk about the photography aspect and then I will get a little philosophical, perhaps mushy, with the second one because I have really grown to appreciate the team (players, coaches and staff) and have become a fan of OUR Evansville Rage!
So, what am I learning about photography? I am definitely learning to be patient and not force the shot. I am used to shooting outdoors, specifically auto racing and cycling, two of my absolute favorites where bright sunshine is my biggest obstacle. I also love shooting hockey, which is similar to indoor football in the fact that they are both indoors. Football has a green floor though while the floor in hockey is, well, white ice. The Rage also give us two different environments – practice and game.
The two Evansville tryouts were and practices are held at Metro Sports. The lighting is dim and the action is fast, a tough combination for a guy who is trying to get used to panning with football players. Actually, the lights are plenty bright, they are just some 15-20 feet in the air AND there is netting between meaning that whatever light we get on the field is already diffused. My main lens is a Canon EF 70-200mm, 2.8L IS II, my BABY! So, when I talk, know that I am almost always shooting f2.8. Also, I try to shoot Manual when I can. Anyway, I ended up shooting ISO 1600 and about 1/160 sec shutter. Hello grainy! This week, I went to the final practice before gameday, a walkthrough. The action was not intense and I had the chance to practice. I kept f2.8 all night. I practiced with shooting mode, ISO and for probably my first time ever, metering! Thanks a lot to my friend Nancy for helping me with metering.
First thing I wanted to accomplish was to get some of the graininess out of my shots; i.e., reduce the ISO. I honestly don’t like shooting higher than ISO 800. But, sometimes you do what you gotta do until you learn to be better at panning. Panning is easier in a game as everyone is wearing the same thing and there are small targets on the jerseys, helmets and elsewhere to serve as points of focus. By the way, when I shoot sports, I am almost always on single-point focus mainly because it lets me use the # button on the back of the camera body for quick autofocus – this let’s me push forward when I click rather than push down. If you’ve tried this, you know what I mean. Anyway, practice offers a number of obstacles both in contrast and minimal focal points. We get a lot of high contrast (dark clothing/light skin and dark skin/light clothing). This is really a matter more in metering which we will discuss in a second.
Okay, I’m rambling. Where were we? Oh yeah, ISO. I wanted to shoot ISO 800. I tried it; but, the 1/40 and 1/60 shutters gave me troubles when guys were moving. I ended up shooting about ISO 1000 at practice and on gameday which offered better lighting meaning that more light could reach the sensor resulting in shutters between 1/100 and 1/125). I also decided to give up some of my photo-machismo and change my shooting mode to Av, aperture priority. If you haven’t shot in Av (on Canon, might be AP on Nikon and others), you are telling the camera, “hey, I want my f2.8 or whatever) to be constant and you go ahead and choose my shutter speed.” At ISO 1250 (practice), I ended up shooting right around 1/100 sec shutter speed. At the game Friday night (Clarion Field at Swonder Ice Arena), I was able to shoot ISO 1000 and generally was shooting between 1/100 and 1/125. I admit that I dumped a bunch of shots. But, I was SO happy with how crisp the keepers came out and , how about this, how some of the blurred shots looked. Sometimes blurry looks pretty cool. This was true for both Thursday practice and the game on Friday.
So, we’ve discussed ISO and Av. I also practiced with and REALLY loved the effects (or is it affects) of metering. On the back of the camera body is a * button that allows you to meter to the lighting conditions. I used spot metering and I think this button only works when you set it for spot. If I use the wrong terminology here or just plain have it wrong, please do leave a comment as this is something with which I have VERY little experience and I want to improve. For practice, what I did is before I shot in a certain part of the field (since the lighting changed), I would autofocus on an area (sometimes I would use skin for lighter complected guys or lighter colored clothes), hit the metering button and then recompose and shoot. Does that make sense? I also made sure not to meter on white as the darks would have been really dark! On gameday, there was a strip of turf right around midfield that was lighter than a lot of the rest and I often metered on that which I REALLY attribute to the improved photo quality.
So what’s left for this season? The next game is the Evansville Rage season opener against the Indianapolis Enforcers at Clarion Field at Swonder Ice Arena; Saturday March 17; 7:30pm CDT (you know the time changes this weekend, right? Spring forward.) I plan to shoot Av, f2.8, ISO 1000 and will meter on midfield much of the time. I will work on panning and will hopefully be able to work my way down to ISO 800 in a game or two and hopefully below 1/100 shutter speed in a few games. Fingers are crossed.
One more thing – if you read this before the Indy game and want to help me with window duty (I clean a bunch of the hockey glass before each game so that I can give the Rage clear photos), I’ll be out at Swonder around 5:30pm. I’ll bring the cleaning supplies!
Evansville Rage website - http://www.evansvillerage.com/
Evansville Rage Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/EvansvilleRage