I started writing this in May 2013. The combination of life getting busy (not bad, just busy) and struggling to finish the story puts us in September. So, turn the clock back as far as you need to and please…. read on.
2013 brought the return of CIFL indoor football to the Tri-State. After the 2012 season with the Evansville Rage, I considered taking on more responsibilities with the team. In fact, I volunteered for the role of Director of Game Day Operations. As a project manager and a planner of several personal events with friends and family, I felt this was right up my alley. When I originally considered this role, I was having lunch with my good friend Eddie Cronin who took over the General Manager position a few days before the 2012 season began. We were talking about putting together a sponsorship (or partnership as another friend suggested) package for the 2013 team. What the team needed more than anything was MONEY! There was plenty of passion and desire to field 100 teams. But, money is what we needed to keep the doors open. We also needed a leader and sadly, in July of 2012, we lost our leader, Eddie, in a traffic accident. His fiancée bought the team somewhere around the end of the season (not being part of the Rage business end, anything I knew was shared by someone else) and she agreed to push forward and make the 2013 season happen in memory of Eddie.
At the time I threw my name in the ring, I still thought the team would be in Evansville. However, shortly after volunteering officially, the team was moved to Owensboro, KY, about an hour away. And shortly after that, I was given an “out” and I took it. Even though I knew I would be letting Eddie down, I didn’t really want to spend my Saturdays (ALL day) in Owensboro knowing that the bookends would be hour-long drives to/from home. My retirement lasted about a month and with my darling wife clenching her teeth (remembering how much of the weekend would be spent either shooting pictures or processing them) saying to do what makes me happy, I asked if the Rage had found a new photographer yet. The answer was no and I was back doing what I love – taking pictures!
I really meant to phlog (is that what you call a photo blog?) throughout the season; but, time just didn’t allow. So, here I sit with the playoffs happening (May 2013) and us all sitting at home. It was an interesting season that offered some new and some returning twists. The cast of characters changed for sure with only three former Evansville Rage players and one coach on the roster at the end of the season. The venue also changed offering a new set of challenges.
I managed to get out to two of the three local tryouts including the first and the last. I tell you, there were definitely some talented guys who didn’t make the roster let alone even get invited to camp – that’s a good thing when you are trying to build a winner. We had some guys whose hearts were bigger than their actual football “talent”. Please don’t take that as a negative. I’m one of those guys myself – I’ve never had the physical skills most of the other players had; but, I would (and still will) put my heart, determination and passion up against even the team superstars! Photo-wise, I had a bit of a struggle getting back into the swing of things. First tryout was indoors and I did just fine adapting to the lighting and such. The second tryout I attended, however, was outdoors. I honestly should have trusted AWB to take care of my white balance. But, I thought I would be smart and use the same white balance trick I use indoors. So, I used this cardboard box that I thought was white (have I told you I’m color blind?) Well, I guess I was off because when I got the photos on the computer….. they were all GREEN! It was disheartening and hilarious at the same time. What a dope!
Back to the football team… something interesting we had this season was more NFL experience. Last season, we had Reco Tucker (man do I miss that guy) who had played with the Tennessee Titans. This season, we had DaMarcus Ganaway, a VERY talented wide receiver who spent some time in NY Jets camp. And at the end of the season, we picked up Jared Lorenzen who spent time with the Manning brothers in the NFL and even earned himself a Super Bowl Champion ring as backup to Eli Manning with the 2007 NY Giants. Jared brought his ring to the last home game of the season. PRETTY COOL!
As you can imagine, the personalities shone brightly with the Rage players AND coaches. It was great to spend another season with Head Coach Mike Goodpaster. The man certainly knows how to get the most out of his players. Also, he was never one to shy away from the camera which I appreciated. Too bad I was out of focus on so many of his shots. Some of the players were also quite camera friendly. It’s pretty cool that as the players (not all of them but certainly many of them) got used to me being there, they would know where I was and make sure they played it up for the camera. And it was my job to try to be ready for them. I managed to capture some good action. But, MAN did I miss a lot. It’s mostly my fault for trying to Tweet updates from the game and even worse for talking with fans – definitely a good thing/bad thing. Okay, I have to admit that another reason I missed a lot of shots was the same reason I missed a lot of hockey shots when I did that – I got caught up being a FAN! Whoa! Did you see that play…. oh mannn, camera is still hanging around my neck. SO many times folks! If I want to ever get top quality action shots, I need to learn how to answer the following question – am I there to be a photographer or to be a fan? To be honest, I kinda enjoyed being a fan most of the time!
When the Rage were in Evansville in 2012, we were at an ice arena. My photo options were to shoot through glass (pretty crappy glass much of the time mind you) or netting. Those conditions made things difficult, at least for an amateur such as myself. 2013 brought us to Owensboro and The Next Level Sports Facility. This was more of a big indoor gym than an arena. Gone were the troubles with turf. ALSO, gone were the glass and netting! Woo hoo – nothing between the players and me! We still had some diffused lighting from above that made me have to experiment. But, overall I did okay and had a lot of fun. I got into some good conversations with photographers from the Kentucky Xtreme and Dayton Sharks. Too bad both of their teams destroyed us. Ugh!
THAT’S ALL FOLKS
So, we made it through most of the season and were sitting in third place in the CIFL (I think). It was a character building season for sure. For me, I had a blast. I had very photogenic players who never shied away from the camera. The dance team also played it up. I didn’t repeat the same shadow troubles I had the season before when shooting player portraits. I DID struggle though. I think portraiture is something that requires some practice and a lot of lighting knowledge. I think there is a reason that so many portraits are not shot straight on.
Oh yeah, back to the Rage. We had two games left in the season coming off two weeks of exhibition games to make up for a home and home series against the defunct Chicago team. The attendance at the second exhibition game was pretty dismal much to the actions of one Louisville Cardinals teams who were in the Final Four. Being only an hour from Louisville (and the fact that it WAS March Madness), a lot of fans stayed home to watch the game. That was pretty much the last straw for the Rage. There were not enough funds to keep the doors open for the upcoming final regular season home let alone for the season ending road game to Erie, PA the following weekend. The doors were closed and the Rage were no more. Just like that.
Although the season ended way differently than any of us had hoped, I still had a blast! And I would not change it for anything in the world. I want to thank Melissa Logsdon, Owner of the Owensboro Rage, for allowing me to be the ONLY photographer the Rage have ever had. Yes, I am VERY honored to be able to say that. I also want to thank all the guys who let me take pictures of them this past season (if I forgot anyone, I apologize as it is not intentional)…..
David “Juice” Akins
John “JJ” Jackson
David “DJ” James
Rodney “RJ” Morris
Quadarius “Q” Wallace
Thanks to all of you and GREAT luck! Go Rage!
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!
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
It’s go time kids! Time for the first preseason game for the Evansville Rage! Evansville, IN; Swonder Ice Arena; 7:30pm CST. That’s what you need to know. Check out the Evansville Rage page (ha, that rhymes) on Facebook or go to www.evansvillerage.com for tickets and other information.
So, what’s been going on? Last Saturday, I shot Pick Your Seats Day where the Rage season ticket holders were able to choose their seats for the season. It was fun being around fans, players, cheerleaders, staff AND out mascot, Rage. He is awesome with the kids and I think the team had a lot more fans at the end of the day. Photos… I will be the first to admit that I am not a flash photographer. I struggle with the flash – where to bounce, when to bounce, how to decrease the intensity of the flash and so on. So, we ended up with some nice photos and others that I struggled with. Yeah, I shot on automatic. The highlight was a bunch of kids getting Rage to Tebow with them. Fun times! I used my Canon EF28-135mm, f3.5-5.6 lens for most of the time. Then, I decided to try out a different lens, my Tamron 28-75mm, f2.8. I struggled with it the first time I used it last year. AND I read reviews saying it has soft focus. I figured I would give it another chance and was again disappointed. SO, if you or anyone you know is looking for a lens like that, let me know!
Last Sunday, I shot the second and final Evansville tryout at Metro Sports. There were a lot of guys with a lot of heart. I used what I learned last time and shot at ISO 1600 and varied between 1/125 and 1/250 shutter speed depending on where I was shooting. Tough lighting there – high lights with netting in between. So, the light source is far away AND diffused by the time it gets to the subject. Yuck! Still managed to get a few good shots and honestly, I am still working on them. Better hurry up! Oh yeah, lens I used was my trusty Canon L70-200mm, F2.8 II. Love love LOVE that lens!
Making it three straight days, on Monday I took player photos for the program. I emailed some photo friends asking about shooting flash and received some really good tips. After thanking them for their input, I proceeded to violate about every single rule! I had two separate shoots – one for defense and one for offense. And each room offered different conditions. Anyway, let’s talk about the rules I violated. 1 – I shot automatic (should have given AP a try); 2 – I shot straight on which helped give me lovely yellow shadows behind and below the ears; 3 – maybe this should have been #1 or 2, I had white jerseys on a white background and the guys were too close to the background. Okay, there’s three-plus mistakes. The first room was dim, too, which didn’t help. The second room had much better lighting and I kept the guys farther from the screen which helped me avoid most of the shadows. Oh and something else that I need to work on – metering. I need to work on my point of focus and properly metering my shots when I do portraits like this. Keep in mind that we had white jerseys with white backgrounds. Likewise, we had several players who were quite pale and some whose skin color was quite dark. If I am not mistaken, situations like this SCREAM for proper metering. Before I shoot the staff portraits, I will have to read up on my own notes – attended great exposure and flash classes with Chicagoland Digital Photography. Good notes are no good if you never refer back to them!
So, that brings us to today. First preseason game is tonight. And I found out at the staff meeting on Thursday that I will probably have NO good access to the field. What I am saying is that our turf will be rolled out on the ice – Swonder IS an ice arena. The glass will not be lifted (and it’s NOT the cleanest glass) AND there is netting all the way around. I’m heading over there in a bit, after a stop by Ace Hardware to see if they have any really good glass cleaning stuff, to see what is in front of me. I also plan to help with some gameday setup if they need.
I’m really excited for this football season to begin. I love football and I am kind of looking forward to the challenges ahead if I do, in fact, have to rely on through glass or through netting shots. I hope to be able to give the team AND the fans some quality photos and maybe even some cool desktop wallpaper! If you are in the area, come on out to a game. Bring the whole family. And LET’S GO RAGE!!
It’s official, I will be a team photographer for the 2012 Evansville Rage (www.evansvillerage.com) of the CIFL (www.ciflfootball.com)! I admit that I struggled with lighting at tryouts. We had dim lighting and I ended up shooting at ISO 1600 (something I do NOT like doing), f2.8 and shutter speeds between 1/100 and 1/200 sec. With constant body motion and many different colors ranging from whites to blacks (and everything else in between), it made for a tough day. The next round of tryouts is next weekend. So, hopefully I can use what I learned last time to make for better photos THIS time.
A little push for the Rage, if you are in the Evansville area and want to take in a game, all home games will be played at Swonder Ice Arena. I haven’t been there yet, but have been told that the lighting is significantly better. I’m glad because I want to make sure to give the Rage some really great shots this season! And to my Chicago friends, we have a road game up there against the Chicago Vipers on April 15. Come on out!
I will post through the season. However, I do not expect to be allowed to post any photos. I would imagine that all photos will be the property of the team and the league. I’m sure I will be able to keep some for my portfolio; but, that is not able to be published here. Oh well. I’m STILL excited to get to shoot football this spring! Can you feel the RAGE?!?!?
It took the better part of two months to take the camera out in Evansville. A new life, new job, new location and so much else that is new has given me little time and little inspiration to take the camera out. A couple weeks ago, my lovely wife and I decided to go check out the Evansville IceMen game downtown at the new arena, http://www.evansvilleicemen.com/. We took the camera and BOTH took a bunch of pictures. We had a blast and it felt really good to have that big 7D back in my hands!
Last week, we went to check out a UE basketball game where they got completely outplayed by Drake. The game stunk; but, we had fun. Next time, I think we’ll take the camera.
Now for the fun stuff. This weekend, I will be trying out as a photographer for the CIFL’s Evansville Rage, http://www.evansvillerage.com/. The Rage will be holding tryouts for players and cheerleaders. They will also be trying out a certain photographer who, might I say, has not only a love of sports photography and football but also sports boyish good looks. Ha! I’m really excited and hope to be able to report to you soon that I am the newest photographer for the Evansville Rage. Bring it on!
I hope you all enjoyed your holidays and have a wonderful, safe and healthy 2012. Until we chat again, smile for the camera!