UF Women’s Basketball

I haven’t had a lot of time to post some of the shots I’ve taken over the last month and a half. So, here’s a compilation of a few games.

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UF Women’s Lacrosse

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Back to ‘Normal’

Whenever I try coming up with a word or two describing how my life has been since photographing the Te’o interview last week, I come up empty-handed. The amount of webs traffic Steve and I both received on our blogs, relative to our usual number of visitors and views, was unbelievable. To give some perspective, I received just over a 2,400 percent increase in views on Tuesday; Steve, probably somewhere near a 20,000 percent jump.

I’ve been featured in a couple local newspapers (actually had an interview for the Gainesville Sun earlier this afternoon) and have been the focal point of articles on websites from fellow photographers and bloggers, as well as making it to a featured page on Petapixel. I actually received an invite to be on a radio show in Tulsa. I was hoping to talk with the guys there, but due to some last minute craziness with school, I had to cancel right before I was to go on. To those at The Buzz, you once again have my apologies.

During the interview today for the Sun I was asked if I thought whether or not this would be my 15 minutes of fame or if I’d be trying to stay in the spotlight a bit more. I said I was totally fine if this is my 15 minutes; it’s been enough to last a very long time. I’m more than okay with going back to my regular routine and shooting smaller stuff for the time being. I actually have a UF lacrosse match to shoot tonight; but that’s not to say I’ll turn down something as interesting as the Te’o shoot.

Now that I’m on ESPN’s rolodex, we’ll see what happens. This is my busiest and, arguably, most important semester I have over the next year that will be spent at UF; I just hope balancing any future work that may come with my schoolwork will be easier than I’m thinking it might be.

Covering The Manti Te’o ESPN Interview

There’s been one major question floating through my thoughts over recent weeks. That question is this: How does one become a professional? I’ve only been heavily involved with photography for two and a half years, so I have no trouble admitting I’m still a novice. However, I may have stumbled upon the answer to the aforementioned question. The answer…well, my answer…is this: By taking a leap of faith and not being afraid of where you land.

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Though I’ve not updated my blog in some time, I feel as if I may have good reason for not doing so. As I find myself digging deeper and deeper into the core of my passion that is the craft of photography, I also find myself in a constant state of wonder and surreality.

As the fall 2012 semester came to an end, I was lucky enough to be asked by Heinz Kluetmeier of Sports Illustrated to work with him and a few other photographers for a week in Tampa during the first week of Christmas break. We were working for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, taking photographs for ads, marketing, social media sites and program books. I wrapped up the week by driving from Tampa to St. Petersburg and meeting with Steve Johnson at the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. Steve was kind enough to invite me to come along as a second shooter.

I learned so much during that week. I not only felt myself grow as a photographer, but as a person. One of Heinz’s many mantras regarding photography is that, at its core, it’s about more than just taking pictures of people; it’s about connecting with them. I feel as if I was able to do that, and officially shooting my first football game, finally getting a chance to work with some serious lighting equipment and photographing the circus animals was an unbelievably awesome bonus.

This was around the time when I first thought of the question posed earlier and started looking for an answer. When Heinz asked if I’d be interested in working an internship, there was no second guessing before I agreed to do it. The very same goes with when Steve asked me about the bowl game. A person cannot afford to get caught up in insecurities and self-doubt for too long. Don’t be afraid to say yes and take a leap of faith!

Now, to bring everyone up to speed, I thought I had jumped into the deep end with assignments like the two undertaken during Christmas break, but I feel it was nothing compared to my latest adventure.

ESPN Homepage, 1/19/13

ESPN Homepage, 1/19/13

It was 4:47 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 18, when I had just finished washing several dishes used to prepare what would’ve been the evening’s dinner when I saw I had a missed call and voicemail from Steve. After listening to his message, I called him immediately. Most of what Steve said to me has been forgotten as it all happened in a flash, but what gist I do remember went something like this: “Do you have plans tonight? No? Good. Pack your camera gear, you’re driving to Bradenton to shoot the Manti Te’o interview. I’ll send you the address.”

(I feel I should mention that Steve was the one originally slated to take this assignment, but he was out of town. So, he called me.)

My mind was racing as I threw my gear into my bag and printed out the directions Steve sent in a text. At 4:59 p.m. I received a call from Bob Flanagan of ESPN Images and was briefed on what would be happening and what I should do upon my arrival in Bradenton. Te’o’s interview was scheduled for 7 p.m., but the crew was doing what it could to stall the talk for at least another 30 minutes.

At 5:00 p.m., only 13 minutes after receiving Steve’s voicemail, I was in my car and headed toward the ramp that would put me on I-75 South.

Two and a half hours after leaving Gainesville, I pulled up to the IMG Academy security gate to explain why I was there. Since the whole situation was so last minute, my name was not on any sort of guest list and I lost the battle of convincing the guard to let me in.

After making a few phone calls, Bob put me in touch with Shawn Fitzgerald, the producer on site. I met up with Shawn around 7:45 p.m. and, to my relief, was told the interview had been pushed back to 8 p.m.; everyone was still awaiting Jeremy Schaap’s arrival.

Jeremy drove up to the gates at IMG at 8:23 p.m. when Shawn and I jumped in to accompany him inside. The three of us walked into a small lobby at the front of the complex where Shawn and I were told to stay while Jeremy went to a small conference room down the hall. Less than 20 minutes later Jeremy returned and said they were ready to begin the interview and for Shawn and me to come in and meet Te’o.

Jeremy led the way back into the conference room, followed by Shawn and myself. After a quick introduction and shaking Te’o’s hand, I had just enough time to adjust my camera’s settings and fire off three shots before the interview began.

“Is the photographer going to be in here the whole time?” Te’o asked.

That was my cue to leave. I was in shock and utterly terrified. I left the room wondering just how badly I ruined the night by only managing to grab three mediocre photos and started praying that I’d have a chance to redeem myself by the time this thing ended.

Shawn said to send the three photos I had taken back to the desk at ESPN; they were received about 15 minutes later. Around 30 minutes after that, someone in the PR office was apparently given the go-ahead to release information that an interview was happening. The first image I recall seeing was included in a story from Big Lead Sports. ESPN was not far behind as they tweeted updates about the interview; two of which included two of the pictures I had taken.

While I was looking at my photos, the reality of the situation hit me. I finally started understanding that I, by some miracle, was the one photographer in the building; the photographer that took these pictures that were exploding all over the Internet.

Te’o (or possibly his agent) had requested that there be no video during this first interview. I was the only one who had the chance to capture the visuals that would tell this story. As you can imagine, the excitement of it all quickly morphed into an overwhelming sense of nervousness once again, and I spent the next 2 hours wondering if I would get a real chance to prove myself; to get back in that conference room and take some decent photos to send to ESPN.

IMG Conference Room

IMG Conference Room

Around 10:45 p.m., Shawn received a phone call from Te’o’s agent and gave me the green light to grab more images as the interview began winding down. Photographers are sometimes said to act like flies on the wall, but in a situation like this, it’s impossible. In a room no larger than maybe 150 square feet, with three other people, you can’t hide; especially when you’re armed with a D600 attached to a 70-200mm lens. I spent the next 10 or 15 minutes shooting as much as I could without shaking my camera to pieces as I was still so nervous. This was unlike anything I’ve ever done or could’ve ever imagined doing.

After sorting through the photos, I settled on nine to send ESPN. The rest, as they say, is history.

Not long after the final images were turned over to ESPN, I had the chance to relax as Shawn ordered pizza around midnight and I was able to start my attempt at wrapping my mind around what exactly happened over the last 8 hours. With Te’o and his attorney in the conference room down the hall, Jeremy and Shawn left me in the lobby to unwind with a medium pepperoni pizza all to myself as they went outside to get ready for the live post-interview broadcast. Also, I am both proud and ashamed to admit that I ate nearly all of that pizza by myself; I thankfully managed to convince Te’o to take a slice as he walked by and back toward the conference room.

I believe it was around 12:45 a.m. when I heard a voice from the down the hall, inviting me in to watch the live coverage that was happening just outside the building. It was simply uncanny; there I was, eating pizza with Manti Te’o while watching Jeremy on ESPN giving one of the most impressive breaking news story rundowns I’ve ever witnessed.

If this experience isn’t considered taking a leap of faith and jumping into the thick of things, I’m not sure what is. Steve and ESPN took a chance on me and for that I’m grateful beyond words. I also took a chance on myself. I could’ve easily turned it down out of fear of messing up, but I’m happy to report the situation turned out much better than I think anyone expected it would; receiving a text while driving home at 2:00 a.m. from Bob saying just that was definitely a huge boost of confidence.

As I rolled back into Gainesville around 4:30 a.m., I realized how it’s only but a few weeks into the new year, and I became excited beyond all reason thinking about what could possibly be thrown at me next. This experience and reassurance in where and what I’m supposed to be in life was exactly what I needed. Once again, to Steve, Shawn, Jeremy, Bob and the staff at ESPN, I thank you all for placing such an amazing opportunity in my hands; for trusting and believing in me and my abilities even when I sometimes cannot. From the bottom of my heart — thank you.

 

Telling Stories Through Photographs

For our third project in Visual Journalism, we were presented with the challenge of writing an article but, more importantly, creating a photo essay to go along with it (as this was the photography section of the class).

“Storyshowing”, rather than storytelling, is what our instructor, Steve Johnson, called photojournalism. To tell a story without words is the mark of any good photographer. I must admit that it’s a skill I’m still working on and the development of such was recently undertaken for a class photography project.

Anyway, this is what happened:

Logan Marconi is a third year graduate student at the University of Florida studying drawing and painting. His current theme of paintings illustrate, through library interiors, the artist’s view of the pursuit of knowledge and clarity while balancing the secular and spiritual aspects of the human condition.

These libraries, Logan said, are places of knowledge and science; the darkness is an uncertainty; and the encroaching light, possibly of a spiritual nature, a path to clarity and balance.

I didn’t go into this shoot thinking of any subsidiary themes to convey, but as I was getting closer to the end I thought to maybe mimic, through my photographs, the feel of Logan’s paintings. The last two photos here I think do that fairly well. The lighting was perfect and I was able to play with the shadows and the feel of uncertainty as I saw in Logan’s paintings.

UF Women’s Soccer

A couple weeks ago I picked up a 70-200mm f/2.8 and was able to first test it out at a UF women’s soccer game for The Alligator. To make a long story short, I love this lens. 200mm is still a bit on the wider side when it comes to some sports, but I’m looking forward to hopefully shooting basketball when it begins and baseball later on in the spring…and maybe some concerts along the way…

Kae-Sa-Luk

Today’s assignment for The Alligator was the first I’ve had since the Childish show last week. After a rather crazy week it was a nice way to ease back into ‘work’.

It was during her time in middle school when Pam Maneeratana was instructed in Kae-Sa-Luk (the art of fruit and vegetable carving) by a teacher trained at the Royal Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. It wasn’t until 1979 when Maneeratana moved to Tallahassee, Fla., and began carving professionally several years later.

Maneeratana has since moved to Gainesville where she and her family has been for just over 20 years. Today she stopped by the Alachua County Headquarters Library for a short demonstration – carving a couple of pumpkins for a few lucky onlookers.

Her dream is to one day carve the world’s largest pumpkin…

Kae-Sa-Luk Master Pam Maneeratana, 60, carves a pumpkin during a small demonstration at the Alachua County Headquarters Library on Saturday. Maneeratana was trained by an instructor from the Royal Palace in Thailand as a child and has been carving professionally for over 30 years.

The Baughman Center

(This post is coming straight from the blog I had to start for a class — a photo-tutorial type of thing)

When I discovered the Baughman Center several weeks ago, I knew I had to make my way over to grab some shots. I finally found the time to do so last weekend, unfortunately it was closed.

It appears I’ll have to try again sometime during the week as the weekends are apparently used for more private gatherings.

I really liked the lines and layers in this capture, so I figured I’d share it here…

For this shot I set up as low as the tripod I had on hand could manage — I’d like to try again from even lower. I set the aperture to 8.0 for a greater depth of field and played with the shutter speed until I got the in-camera image as close to what I wanted the final image to look like.

Editing for this one began in Lightroom where I adjusted the highlights, shadows, whites and blacks; added a bit of clarity; and turned up the vibrance just a touch. From Lightroom it went to Photoshop for some additional curves adjustment to brighten and darken certain areas of the image in an attempt to keep the attention in the correct spots.

From Photoshop it went back to Lightroom for a final crop before making its way onto this post!

  • Camera: Nikon D600
  • Lens: 24-70mm f/2.8
  • Shutter: 1/2 s
  • Aperture: f/8.0
  • ISO: 50
  • Tripod

Childish Gambino & Hoodie Allen

It was about two weeks ago when I found out that Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) was coming to perform in Gainesville. Anyone that knows me well enough will tell you how big of a fan I am of this modern-day genius – an actor, writer, comedian and musician.

It was about 3 years when I first saw the NBC comedy series Community and instantly fell in love with not only the show, but Donald Glover’s character, Troy Barnes. Glover seems to be one of the few people who can truly break through that fourth wall of acting/entertainment and connect with an audience, whether it be through the television or one of his concerts.

Needless to say, when I walked into the office of The Alligator and saw ‘Childish Gambino’ written up on the assignment board, I nearly lost my mind. I really lost it when I was asked if I wanted to shoot it. I had tickets to see Gambino perform in Atlanta back in April, but wasn’t able to make it. He also broke his foot around that time and had to reschedule the performance, so it wasn’t too terribly inconvenient.

Now I was getting to see him for free AND shoot it for the paper! Crazy how some things work out, huh?

There were a couple guys up before Childish…

This first one is of Twilight Zone – he was just doing a bit of mixing on the turntables before Hoodie Allen opened the show.

It saddens me that I had never heard of Hoodie before this show, because he was awesome. One of the more energetic performers I had seen in a while. Trying to keep up with him on stage with my camera was a workout.

Hoodie did an excellent job of getting everyone riled up for Childish. I had never seen a crowd bounce so much before. But it was nothing compared to the insanity that ensued when Gambino took the stage…

Now, I had just purchased a D600 and 24-70mm f/2.8 for this concert – thinking that we’d have the typical first three songs to hang out in the pit and take photographs. We were allowed down front for all of Hoodie’s show…but security asked us to leave for Childish. So, I had to use my 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 in the middle of a crazy crowd…after spending what I did on the D600 and 24-70, I couldn’t stomach the idea of spending more for a 70-200 at the time. But I wish I had.

I was shooting on my D90 with the 18-200…ISO pretty much maxed out and still having to shoot at about 1/30-1/40s because the aperture took a dive down to f/5.6 when zoomed all the way in. So, that’s why these ended up rather grainy.

CG performing ‘Bonfire’ for nearly 5,000 fans in Gainesville on Friday.

CG ending the night with ‘Lights Turned On’

Moondog

Last night my assignment took me to The Red Onion. I knew I’d be photographing a music show of some sort, but wasn’t entirely sure what kind. I happened to catch Moondog, a guitar and bass duo (John Stephens and Jon Rhoads, respectively) that performs every first and third Wednesday of the month at The Red Onion.

I’d pin these two mostly as a cover band, but I heard they do some originals every now and then. Among the artists covered last night were Jack Johnson, The Eagles and, per my request, Johnny Cash.

With John Stephens on guitar and Jon Rhoads on bass, Moondog performs on the first and third Wednesday of every month for diners at The Red Onion restaurant in Gainesville, Fla.

John and Jon were super nice and did a great job. I’d like to get back to The Red Onion and spend a bit more time listening to them, perhaps while eating rather than photographing.