Being Fieldside: The Quinn-tessential experience.
Actually me when I came up with the title:
This one requires a little bit more of an introduction before the photos really start rolling. I shoot working for the Seattle Seawolves (like no, really? I only mention that once or twice a minute). When I first heard that Seattle was getting a professional Rugby team, this short clip from Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life” represented basically all that I knew about rugby: (R- Rated; NSFW video)
So as you can imagine I had a lot to learn. The first season was the birth of a team, and as such was very short. I made every single game except one, because I was late arriving from a wedding I was shooting in Denver. The second season is where the ball really got rolling for me, thats when I started to get to know the guys a little bit, and finally understanding the run of play; which makes it a lot better to photograph. As most seasoned photographers, , I have habits that help me form a more or less winning formula without my photos getting repetitive or stale; and have several methods of success. Not going to lie either; starting to get to know the guys on the team is really helpful when trying to predict what they are going to do next. Or who celebrates and who doesn’t. Who gives the best ‘game faces,’ and who is going to go up on the next line out or who is the best at weaving through traffic to get to the try line. While so much is up to chance, I hardly ever make mistakes.
What does a winning game look like for a sports photographer? I really can’t speak for anyone else; but I can tell you what constitutes a win for me. The winning home team doesn’t always mean I’m going to get outstanding photos. It helps, but if points are scored through other means besides tries, or if they are teams with very different play styles then often times the game becomes very unpredictable. While frustrating from a photography point of view, it at least helps me broaden my thought processes to help me better figure out my next steps during a match. Now a losing team makes for a lot more movement for me than I prefer. I always wait until the twenty minute mark before deciding if i need to move over to the defensive end; its a really tough choice; because the only thing I ever want out of my games is to capture their tries or goals; and to capture the emotion that happens after. If I miss so much of a smile on someone’s face; I take it as a real loss. In fact if my laptop had ears it would probably think I’m the worst person on the planet for all the anger that i’ve directed at it (obviously not it’s fault, its a great laptop and has been my fieldside companion for many years.) All of this, by the way, is not just limited to rugby, I often do this in soccer games as well.
Here’s a couple insights to my process on the field:
Don’t move too much. Players more or less coming at you is the best opportunity for clean individual shots, or those brisk 1v1 battles. Chasing action is a damn near guarantee you’re going to miss it, moving creates unwanted distractions on the sidelines for the audience and referees, and lets face it, hauling 30+ pounds of gear, a lens as long as my arm, a laptop, and likely 2 or three layers of weather appropriate clothing is a real pain. So post up. I have a spot staked out at the 18 yard line, and once the run of play moves close to it I move around the corner to the spot halfway between the 18 yard line and the 6 yard line.
Always be thinking two or three steps ahead of the ball. In soccer its know your team’s positions, know their play style, know if they are stronger on the right or the left wing, know if their forwards are runners or if they just like to stand up top and poach what they can. In Rugby, its more like to whom are they sending the ball in order to get out of traffic. This has been my biggest fix for the last two Seawolves games, and the focus on that has been paying off. I’ve shot a lot more of their practices and I wait for drills that display this specifically in order to get a better idea of what could happen during the run of play. Working with a bigger lens this season has made me a lot slower, and I’ve had to rethink a lot of what I easily got away with last year.
Always make your team look good. I don’t show them getting kicked in the face, I don’t show them getting ran over, i don’t shoot them when they lose possession and I rarely, rarely show them without a ball in their hand or, in other sports, at their feet. Obviously there are exceptions to all of this; but the bottom line is that even if your team loses a million to zero; you aren’t there to judge; you’re there to make them look like the best thing that ever walked this earth. This is almost one of my biggest faults, because i will focus so hard on ‘my’ team that I often forget to get a handful of photos for the other team, which sometimes may be requested. Always manage to pull a few out though. Showcase your people well; because you are their creative arm.
You are now at the mercy of the weather. Is it raining? Better go to f/3.2 so your focus doesnt affix itself on one little raindrop and throw your whole shot out of focus. Oh! You’re shooting against the sun? Enjoy a blown out background! (I have vastly improved on this particular one, as it turns out). Greens coming out yellow? Have fun adjusting in post! Sun went away and you weren’t thinking about it? Guess that persons face is just gonna be dark. Pro tip - shoot dark. Most times you can bring it back; but you are going to have a lot more trouble fixing an overexposed photo.
Here’s the point of all this. I think I may have shot my best game. Now, after most games I always come home saying ‘I think I shot my best game,’ which is actually a really nice mental place to be in. But this time I really think I shot my best game. This past weekend, first weekend of February in case you are referencing this piece from the future, I shot a game featuring the Seattle Saracens Women’s and all of these four aforementioned things? I blew them out of the water. On top of all that? I got to showcase some female athletes, and there was mud, there was some great light, there were angry and passionate faces, hair flying everywhere, grass chunks being separated from the ground at breakneck speeds, we got hugs, we got tries, we pretty much had everything I could have asked for.
Lets break this game down by photo real quick.
Dramatic Skies - If you ever happen to come up to me and say ‘I wish the weather was sunnier for this game’ I will probably not be completely honest when I say ‘oh, definitely.’ Where I really want to break into elegant and pendantic gestures and wax poetic about dark and dreary skies. “The line-storm clouds fly tattered and swift, The road is forlorn all day Where a myriad snowy quartz-stones lift, And the hoofprints vanish away.The roadside flowers, too wet for the bee, Expend their bloom in vain.Come over the hills and far with me, And be my love in the rain.” - Robert Frost. Seriously just give me rain, rain all the time.
So first - theres a few pieces to this photo. One; we’re covered in mud. Which is great. But here i have the ending of a pretty clear 1v1 tussle. I have both players faces, and the photo itself i desaturated quite a bit so it looks dark, it looks dirty, we have two women who both struggled against each other to get into this spot; and theres a determination that really shows it in both their faces. One in victory, and one in defeat. Immediately this was my favorite of the entire game. This photo was just featured on USA Rugby's Website covering local clubs.
Celebration photos are my golden goose of photos. There is so much that comes between me and getting that perfect celebration shot; I have definitely stooped to coaching players (teenage ones) to find the camera if they score a goal. And hey, If you’re over the age of sixteen, I shoot for you on a regular basis and you just happen to be reading this, i’m not going to try and pull anything but um, you know. HINT HINT. Anyway, a hug and smiles is all I can ask for. I love it.
Theres obviously a lot more to debunk here but I’m already quite aways into this post; and I’d rather not be known as an old windbag. Although it might be too late because I literally made you read a Robert Frost poem. Here is a slideshow of a few of my favorites of this game. Final tally ended up being about 330 photos; I promise they aren’t all included.
Let me polish this one off by saying Its so important to have our local female athletes showcased, and showcased well. There are huge implications to women in sports that have made headlines in recent current events. I enjoy doing what little I can to help give them a stronger presence representing a sport that through really strange circumstances with a less than normal role, I have come to really enjoy.