One thing that you need to know about dirt track racing that should be obvious but was apparently not apparent to me — you will get dirty while you're out at the track. Especially if you're prone to accidents. And walk across a muddy track. And yes, I'm prone to accidents. There are two dirt tracks in our coverage area — one near Waynesboro called Eastside Speedway and another in Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge Speedway. I went to Eastside without any issues — got pictures, got names, had an overall great time. I spent most of my time in the pit, which is outside of the track, or walking to the inside of the track where many of the pit crews stood to watch their drivers race.
Natural Bridge was a little different though — most of the pit is inside the actual track itself. Cory Mull, our new sports reporter, and I got there early, before the races started, to talk to people and mill about. Before the races start, a large water truck douses the dirt track in gallons of water, making it tacky and muddy to make it safer for the drivers. And unsafe for me, apparently, crossing it obliviously.
I'm pretty sure I crossed that track immediately after the water truck had gone by. And, because I had been to Eastside and crossed that track without any problems, I didn't anticipate the insanely slick conditions that the track was in, due to the large amount of water that had just been dumped on it with no cars to pack it down.
So, I crossed the track with Cory. And didn't get far. My feet came out from under me, clad in completely traction-less Toms shoes, and I landed on my ass, camera bag barely cushioning my fall. Once I was down, I did not know how I would get up. I knew my shoes were not going to help my situation, but figured now that I knew how bad it was, I'd be a bit more careful. So, I got up, only to take one step and be back where I was, on my ass, in front of drivers and pit crews and the racing fans and track employees. And yeah, covered in mud.
I decided the only way I was going to get across was, somehow, to take off my shoes and, like, dig my toes into the mud track to provide some traction. A track employee ran over to help and him and Cory basically took my mud-soaked arms and led me across, as I practically skated on my feet to the other side. So, I put my mud-covered feet back in my mud-covered shoes, accepted some towels from some really sweet drivers, brushed off my ego, and worked for the next three hours covered in mud.
Besides my muddy accident, I had a great time at the tracks. Cory and I worked to find out how safe the dirt tracks were after a famous NASCAR driver, Jason Leffler, had a fatal accident on one in New Jersey in June. We found out that most accidents are caused by aggressive drivers and people that hold grudges, or mechanical failures, like in Leffler's case. Or poor shoe choices and walking across a dirt track covered in mud. And in that case, the only casualty was a now very muddy camera bag and a ruined polka dot shirt.
Cory wrote a great story about the very complicated issue of dirt track safety. Be sure to check it out.
Football season is over. Though I might complain about sports sometimes, football is actually my favorite — I love the emotion and glory and American-ness of it all. I've been at The News Leader for about a month now, and throughout this, my boss has been battling Nikon to send back my work camera — not his favorite task. This means I'm still using my own gear in the meantime, and I've been shooting football with my 70-200mm. Because I've mostly shot college ball, which is much more restrictive when it comes to access, a 300mm is what I'm used to. But with the nature of high schools and the access we get, the 70-200 is so perfect and I think my shooting has actually improved a bit from what it used to be.
With great risk comes great reward — and I consider getting a camera anywhere near the water at least a little risky. I pitched this synchronized swimming assignment to the paper because the sport has always been on my mental photo bucket list. It seemed like it would provide a plethora of great visual opportunities — repetition, sports action, and the always-interesting underwater shoot. As an intern and a recent college graduate, it is no surprise that I don’t have the money to throw around to get underwater camera housing. Scrimping and saving is no novel concept to me when applied to photojournalism — I routinely carry around black plastic trash bags, a poncho and rubber bands for camera protection for the inevitable sports game in the rain. Living on a budget means getting creative, after all.
Now, this isn’t my first underwater rodeo — it’s my second. I have done one underwater shoot previous to this one to get a portrait of an Israeli Olympic swimmerfor a magazine. I used a fish tank for that shoot, and after seeing one in the equipment locker here at The Oregonian, I figured I was set.
I showed up during a synchronized swimming practice at the Tualatin Hills Athletic Club. The girls were using a space that took up two lanes of the pool, so I situated myself on the ledge of the pool so that they were facing me. I placed the beach towel down to sit on — it was very wet and I had an assignment to go to after this one — and put my feet in the water so that I was square with the athletes.
Once I was situated, I got the fish tank — which holds about 15 gallons — and placed it in the water between my legs. For most of the shoot, I pushed the tank into the water and held it between my knees. The power of buoyancy pushed against any force that I applied downward so that water didn’t pour in unless I pushed too far (I didn't push it too far). For some of the shoot, the very dedciated writer, Findley Merritt, pushed down the tank while I had my arms free to move around the camera inside.
Whether the tank was being pushed down by myself or Findley, though, I could not see through my viewfinder to make pictures. I set my exposure by checking a few test shots and had the camera on an autofocus point where I knew at least one of the swimmers would be at all times (for my shoot previous to this, I used manual focus — I think both have their advantages).
Also, feel free to check out the story on The Oregonian's website.
UPDATE: I drew a terrible stick drawing diagram showing my set-up for this shoot, for those interested!
High school football rarely has good light. Since football season is in the fall, it gets dark quickly. Plus, the stadium lighting isn't always particularly good because, well, it's high school football — not the NFL. So you do what you can and get what you get and probably shoot at 6400 ISO (not really, but, well, maybe) and you're done. So, when I was given the assignment to shoot a football game on Saturday — you know, in June — I was intrigued. The solstice just happened, so the days are super long. The game started at 7 and the entire thing was played while the sun was up — it ended around 9.
And, of course, the sun set, and there was awesome light. Super awesome. And then there was rain, and it was just light rain, not the kind that makes you want to cringe and hate your job. And then there was a rainbow. It was all very beautiful.
I kept waiting for something amazing to happen in that light. Nothing super awesome happened, and it was obviously hard to focus, so if something did I probably missed it. But I enjoyed it. God, I love nice light. It was a great day to be shooting sports.
So, I'm putting up a ton of pictures. I know none of them are particularly amazing and just pretty light for the sake of pretty light, but I don't care. Because I haven't shot sports in awhile and it was the first time in a long time that I really got into it and enjoyed it and didn't hate everything I photographed. So here it is.
There are many things that, to me, as an outsider, are very Portland — beer, roses, cycling, coffee, and being weird. Keeping true to one of Portland's adopted mottos, "Keep Portland Weird," the Naked Bike Ride rolled through town yesterday. One would think that hey, sure, some people could come out and it'd be funny but not that well-attended — but you would be wrong. Thousands of people flocked to the event — I can't say how many, but it's an expected 8,000. There are a lot of questions I had before attending this bike ride. Would I get sick of seeing so many naked people? What exactly is the point of all this? And, most importantly, how do you ride a bike with, you know, your junk in the way?
I still don't know how people managed the genital-on-a-bike-seat situation, but I officially saw more naked people last night than I have collectively in the rest of my entire life. And after initially not really knowing how to get someone's name without looking at their naked parts, I think you just get really used to all the naked people running around — my only trouble was trying to squeeze through a crowd without hitting someone's butt with my camera. And, well, trying to find appropriate pictures to run online in a photo gallery for The Oregonian.
I consider last night my official welcoming to Portland because of the true cultural celebration that is being weird here. I had a blast as you only can with a group of naked cyclists, even if I was clothed.