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Best Seat in the House

Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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February 25, 2008 10:04 AM

Rocking Out

Posted by Rod Mar

More cruising...

The climbing wall at the University of Washington is a fun place to find a feature. However, because it's unique and pretty familiar, I don't shoot there but once a year or so.

With the sun shining and spring starting to roll around, I took a drive by on Sunday to see what was going on. There were about a dozen young people hanging around, taking turns climbing and helping each other out.

One of the challenges of shooting in a place you've shot before is trying to bring a fresh look to it.

I wandered around and around the wall looking for something new and was there for about 90 minutes before I found an angle that was unique, at least to me.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec, f11)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec, f11)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec, f11)

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February 24, 2008 11:42 AM

Ryan Appleby's Final Home Game

Posted by Rod Mar

I gotta think the University of Washington coaching staff is going crazy trying to figure out their team. I know the fans are. The Huskies show they can beat some really good teams (UCLA at home) and then when their faint NCAA tourney hopes are on the line, they get blown out at home by Arizona State, a team they'd already beaten on the road.

Go figure.

Saturday's loss to the Sun Devils not only ended any faint hopes the Huskies had for a spot in the NCAA's, it was the last home game for seniors Tim Morris and Ryan Appleby. Morris only played here a year, but Appleby grew up in Stanwood and played three years here after transferring back from Florida. He leaves as the UW's all-time leader in three-pointers.

I remember Appleby as a brash, flashy player in high school, but he seems to really have matured into a solid young man who plays hard for his team and is content to share any spotlight that might come his way. Many negative things are said about big-time college athletics, but Ryan Appleby survived the pressures of high school recruiting and big-time college basketball and leaves this phase of his life as a quality young man.

It's too bad that he had such a tough shooting day in the loss to ASU. He left the game in the final minutes to a standing ovation, but there was frustration in his face.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 160, 1/250th sec, f4.0)

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February 23, 2008 9:56 PM

Sun Sets on Husky Fans' Hopes

Posted by Rod Mar

Husky fans came, they saw, they got blinded by the sun as their team got blinded by the Sun Devils.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 400, 1/250th sec, f5.6)

One of the things you learn when you shoot in the same venues over and over is to always look for something new, something fresh. Not sure if it's because I've never shot a game in February where there's been actual SUN shining, or if it is the angle of the sun combined with the time of the game, but the light was interesting, the game was boring and I spent a good deal of time shooting images like this.

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February 21, 2008 10:19 PM

Cruisin'...

Posted by Rod Mar

"Cruise."

When my editors give me that order, they're not sending me to the Caribbean on a big boat with lot of food and a Lido Deck, whatever that is.

In newspaper photographer parlance, "to cruise" means "to wander around and find a really interesting feature photo that can run without a story but with an informative cutline".

We use them to break up inches and inches and pages and pages of words. Seems like we run a lot of them in election years, since many of those stories are either issue-related (not very photogenic), or candidate related (and you can't run a photo of just one of the candidates, or be accused of favoritism, unless it's a profile, and then you better be running a profile of the other candidate and soon).

Another reason we shoot them is because of weather. Changes of seasons are always visual. Even though Seattle gets a bad rap about rain, it's really the gray weather from October to April that gives our city such a depressing image.

(In fact, Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida both get more rain than Seattle. So does New Orleans, New York and Houston. Okay, that's in INCHES of rain. Seattle has 226 cloudy days a year and New York only 132. We're a gray, gray town).

So when the weather turns nice and the sun peeks out, Seattleites don shorts and newspaper photographer scamper to document said sunshine before it hides again for another couple of months ("Summer" seems to begin each year after the 4th of July).

Before I shot the UW women's game last Saturday, I wandered down to the Montlake Cut and found some runners on a trail in the sun:



(EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm lens @ 16mm, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec, f8.0)

On Tuesday, I headed for the water in Edmonds and found lots of people hanging out near the shore waiting for the sun to set:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm lens @ 153mm, ISO 200, 1/640 sec, f10)


For those of you not from here, make no mistake, it was sunny, but it was still COLD.

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February 19, 2008 11:41 AM

Saturday Went Swimmingly

Posted by Rod Mar

Was assigned to shoot the Boys Class 3A State Swim Meet this past weekend.

As you've heard me say many time, high school sports are just such a kick to witness.

There is true passion for sport, and there is little of the jadedness that comes with college and pro sports.

One danger about shooting indoor swimming when the weather outside is cold is the problems that condensations causes on your lenses. Having had to sit patiently for a half-hour one year while my glass because accustomed to the warmth and humidity, I tried to do a little forward thinking this year.

My home has an attached garage, so I often leave my gear locked in my car overnight. The temperatures can get cold, so the night before the meet, I brought my equipment inside and left each piece out in the relative warmth of the house.

And, voila, when I got to the King County Aquatics Center, my gear was ready to go as soon as I arrived.

I was still up in the informal press box when the meet started, and found a high angle to shoot the start of the 200 meter medley:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 135mm, ISO 1000, 1/800 sec., f2.8)

I go on and on about telling stories with photos all the time. Well, this story was written before the meet even started. Mercer Island High School's lead was so large going into the final day of the meet that all the other teams were fighting for second place. In fact, by the end of the weekend, the Islanders had accumulated a meet-record 374 points, and won by 204 points over second-place Newport High School.

Genius that I am, I figured I needed a photo of a Mercer Island swimmer or swimmers. Problem was, they didn't win a lot of individual events. Rather, their sheer number of qualified swimmers earned point after point by finishing high (and not necessarily winning) races.

I did see that their diving entrant, Beau Riebe, was leading that competition so I headed over to the one-meter board to see what I could find.

Riebe dominated the event, and I managed to catch him in the pike position on his third dive:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 95mm, ISO 2000, 1/500 sec., f2.8)


I found the divers to be a friendly, chummy bunch, openly rooting for each other and giving encouragement after a poor dive. Riebe made a point of shaking hands with all of his competitors after the round:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 2000, 1/320th sec, f2.8)

I was shooting wide from the side of the pool, framing the diver on my right with the American flag on the left. I was hoping to give show the environment and atmosphere of the event. By the way, how much are we hating that white flag at far left? Totally distracting. Irony is that it's not normally there. It's a banner for the WIAA, which sponsors the event. Oh well:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 2000, 1/800th sec, f2.8)

I searched and searched, and then realized that by moving to my right, I might be able to frame the divers against the flag. The problem is that they were jumping from the relatively short 1 meter board, and most didn't get enough air to be framed against the flag. I shot wide and tight, but the best photo was of Bainbridge's Cheyne Clark. I was happy he finished 2nd, instead of say, 14th, where his photo might not have made the paper:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 2000, 1/800th sec, f2.8)

Even though swimming is largely an individual event, there is plenty of teamwork to be found. Kennedy's swimmers and supporters gathered near the wall to cheer on Kevin Munsch in the 200 yard individual medley. Munsch finished second, but not because of any lack of support:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 165mm, ISO 2000, 1/500 sec., f2.8)

For the 100 meter race in the butterfly, I took a position low on the deck and the end of the lane belonging to Shorecrest's Taylor Hayden. 1/640th second was fast enough to freeze him as he came up for air:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1000, 1/660 sec., f2.8)

I stayed until the end of the meet, because Mercer Island's 400 freestyle relay team was favored to win. I shot with a wide-angle and ignored the swimmers in the actual race, choosing instead to focus on the rest of the team as they cheered their final victory and their team title:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 2000, 1/400th sec, f2.8)

I've been lucky to be able to shoot the boys' meet the past few years. Girls' swimming is a fall sport, and often my football conflicts prohibit me from photographing their championships. I'm going to make it a goal to find my way back to the pool next fall.

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February 16, 2008 1:02 AM

Face to Face with the Beast

Posted by Rod Mar

I really liked my old neighborhood of Finn Hill, in Kirkland, Washington.

Sure, it was suburbia, but the schools were excellent, the streets quiet, the neighbors friendly.

Who knew a Beast lived only a block away?

I guess I should backtrack...

The photo assignment that came my way detailed a visit with Bob Sapp, a former University of Washington football player who had a brief stint in the pros before finding his way into superstardom as a mixed-martial arts fighter.

That's "MMA" for those of you uninitiated.

As in, boxing but with kicking, wrestling but with punching, or martial-arts with uppercuts and leg-whips.

Sapp is fighting in Tacoma this weekend, and was spending some rare time in his Kirkland home in-between his frequent trips to Japan, where he is so popular he can't walk the streets without security.

Wait a sec. A guy who stands 6 feet 4, 380 pounds and who specializes in beating people up needs security?

In a land where the average male stands 5 foot 5, Sapp is truly a beast.

His size, combined with his fighting persona have earned him the nickname of "The Beast".

Sapp is a big friendly dude who's equal parts bravado and humility. He's not shy about telling us his net worth, about his rap album, and his movie parts, and has also been quoted that his position in the N.F.L. was "ass-back" (can I write that in this blog?). Asked what to what that referrred, he let out a hearty laugh and said, "Man, whenever I ran onto the field, some coach would yell, 'Sapp, get your ass back here!".

His suburban cookie-cutter looked just like my old one. Heck, they're only separated by a schoolyard and were obviously built by the same builder. Generic, suburban home. Only mine certainly didn't have a custom movie theater built into a spare bedroom.

Oh, and mine wasn't filled with all manner of memorabilia bearing my likeness.

Sapp shows us a spare bedroom filled with souvenirs and novelties from Japan, all bearing either his name, his likeness, or most often both:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm lens @ 22mm, ISO 800, 1/60th sec, f4.0 + flash)

He gave columnist Steve Kelley and myself a tour, which included a life-sized mannequin:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm lens @ 16mm, ISO 400, 1/60th sec, f4.0 + flash)

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, a tiny bobblehead doll:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70mm lens @ 63mm, ISO 800, 1/15th sec, f2.8)

National magazine covers in both English and Japanese:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70mm lens @ 29mm, ISO 800, 1/15th sec, f2.8)

Life-sized cutouts for an advertisement for an electronics company:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm lens @ 21mm, ISO 800, 1/30th sec, f4.0)

Many pro athletes in the United States have similar endorsement products, but I seriously doubt that LeBron James, Derek Jeter or Peyton Manning have their own slot machine (if you get three "Sapps", an animated video appears of him tearing meat off of a bone with his mouth twisted into a maniacal grimace):



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm lens @ 16mm, ISO 800, 1/15th sec, f8.0)

And even if they did, I KNOW they don't have their own brands of ramen noodles, dancing dolls, lighters, and...sex toys. Sapp swears that's true, but that they were confiscated in customs. Let's see you endorse THAT, Tiger Woods!

(And no, I don't have photos of them but thanks for asking, just the same.)

We sat down so that Steve could interview Sapp. It's clearly evident that as much as Sapp enjoys the stardom and the celebrity, he knows he's a businessman first. He can recite figures and contracts as easily as he can deflect a jab. He relishes the memory of getting paid $400,000 USD for doing the coin flip at a recent NFL game played in Japan. He also remembers he was paid less ($350,000 USD) in his first year in the NFL. "That's when I knew I'd made it," he recalls:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm lens @ 200mm, ISO 800, 1/100th sec, f2.8)

Steve asks him about what happened between football and his evolution into a superstar fighter. It's a poignant transformation, and you can read about it here.

I need a portrait of him before I leave. We head back upstairs and he sits on the bed in front of all the stuff. I grab a "Bob Sapp Alarm Clock" and hand it to him. The wily veteran has posed for thousands of photographs for ads, profiles and whatever else keeps the idea of "The Beast" alive.

He asks if I'm ready, and then the former football player instantly turns himself into "The Beast", and I've got my photo:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm lens @ 16mm, ISO 400, 1/60th sec, f3.5 + off-camera flash)

Here's the sports cover:


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February 14, 2008 11:46 PM

The Old Man and the...Tug?

Posted by Rod Mar

Today we're talking daily assignments.

The ones that aren't events. The ones where we're supposed to go out, meet someone in their home or office and make a photo that tells that person's story.

It can be dreadful at times. The person's home office looks like, well, a home office. And what is that really telling us about that person other than that like a million other people, they work in a home office. You can light it, pose a portrait in it, crawl on the floor, shoot wide, shoot tight, and it still ends up being generic and boring.

Not the subjects, mind you. They're interesting, otherwise we wouldn't be writing about them. But the photo are often exercises in making lemonade out of the proverbial lemons.

You get my point.

So I've been counting my lucky stars that two recent assignments have provided pleasant surprises.

First, meet Bill Mitchell. Bill is a legend of sorts up in Anacortes, Washington. Anacortes began as a railroad town, but due to its proximity to water found a calling as home to a fishing fleet and oil refineries.

Mitchell is the town's unofficial "official" artist, having painted more than 70 murals on buildings around the city. A history buff, Mitchell's latest project is trying to save the "Enchantress", an abandoned tug that sits abandoned in Fidalgo Bay. Officials want to get rid of the tug, and the local citizens are trying to keep it in the bay.

My assignment was simple enough. Make the 1 1/2 hour drive up to Anacortes, meet the man trying to save the tug.

As a photojournalist, the first thing that comes to your mind is figuring out what the paper will need to run to illustrate the story. As my kids would say, "duh". But really, you have to think about how you're going to approach each story, even before you get there. In this case, we'd obviously need a photo of the tug. Better yet would be if we could tie the man and the tug in the same photo. Given that the photo assignment mentioned that the tug was 300 yards offshore, that was going to take some trick to pull off.

Serendipity is such a wonderful part of my job. You can brainstorm all you want before you get there, but you really know what you have to work with until you get there.

I knocked on the door, and Bill Mitchell answered. In a wheelchair, he beckoned me into his home.

Check that, Bill Mitchell beckoned me into the museum he also calls his home. It was like walking onto a movie set.

Mitchell's residence is filled, corner-to-corner, floor-to-ceiling, nook-to-cranny with the most wonderful collection of art, history and flat-out junk I think I've ever seen. Add daylight streaming into windows from two directions in most of the rooms, and I didn't even have to think before shooting.

All I had to do is see.

At his desk, Mitchell made flyers by hand encouraging public comment on the tug. As you can see, every inch of his desk is covered with some form of memorabilia:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 18mm, ISO 500, 1/80th sec., f3.5)

I desperately wanted to photograph this, shoot that, do an entire picture story on Mitchell and his home. I'd tell you more about in detail, but I'm hoping our Pacific NW Magazine will find a way to profile him.

Squeezing through hallways jammed with bric-a-brac, making my way into the backyard with its junked and antique cars standing on end, I find my way back to his workshop where he creates life-sized murals of Anacortans. I want to stop and shoot this too, but the tug and another assignment back in Seattle are calling.

Mitchell tells us that he'll drive his own vehicle down to the water to see the tug. And with that, he hops into an old three-wheeled contraption painted olive drab. Turns out the odd vehicle is a 1954 Autoette Cruise About and it's what Mitchell uses to tool around this town. His buddy Jacques Moitoret is a frequent companion:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 153mm, ISO 400, 1/500th sec., f4.0)

Down at the water we see the tug in the water. The old girl is not much to see to this city slicker, but Mitchell points out the beauty in the dilapidated old ship. He tells our reporter, "Look at her — she is your classic tug boat right there. Before that tugboat arrived, nobody bothered to take pictures of Mount Baker from here. She just happens to be sunk in the right place to be photogenic", he said.

Details are often a good way to tell more of a story than a generalized portrait. Mitchell had a collection of photos of the Enchantress sitting on a steamer trunk in his living room:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 800, 1/30th sec., f2.8)

He also smokes a corncob pipe, which I hadn't seen in a long time:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 400, 1/500th sec., f4.0)

Bill Mitchell is a one-of-a-kind man trying to save a one-of-a-kind ship. I tried to juxtapose the old wreck against the oil tankers in the background:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/1000th sec., f4.0)

As I headed back to the highway to battle I-5 traffic back to the chaos of the city, Mitchell turned his Autoette around and headed back home:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 400, 1/500th sec., f5.0)

The story focused on the issue of the the Enchantress, but I was more enchanted with Mitchell. Here's hoping I'll be able to visit him again.

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February 11, 2008 6:27 PM

Bruisin' the Bruins

Posted by Rod Mar

What a Sunday, what a game.

Overmatched underdog uses stiff defense to take down the powerhouse of the league.

Giants over Patriots?

Nope. Try the University of Washington men's basketball team (ninth-place out of ten teams in the Pac-10) defeating the UCLA Bruins, who entered the game as the fifth-ranked team in the nation.

Much-maligned playmaker comes through in the clutch, outplays other team's superstars and leads his team to an improbable victory.

Eli Manning over Tom Brady and Randy Moss?

Try Washington point guard Justin Dentmon, who went from a starter his freshman year to losing that spot now as a junior. Dentmon's 20 points off the bench led all scorers, and his clutch play paved the way for Washington's upset.

Like most (okay, probably ALL) of the 10,000 people who crammed Bank of America Arena yesterday to watch the Huskies battle the Bruins, I hardly expected an upset. Even though Washington has defeated UCLA three straight times in a row at home, the Huskies were struggling. They'd lost three conference game in a row and head coach Lorenzo Romar was blaming himself for his team's record.

But like Eli and Co. showed us a week ago, that's why they play the game.

Things started out well for Washington as they came out of the gate with an aggressiveness on both ends of the court that hadn't been seen of late. Washington's Quincy Pondexter reached high to ram home a slam dunk over UCLA's Lorenzo Mata-Real and was fouled in the process:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 153mm, ISO 160, 1/250 sec., f4.0 with strobes)

I was shooting on strobes, so I had to wait the requisite three seconds while the lighting packs recharged before shooting this next frame of the celebration. I love the reaction of Pondexter, but also the players around him. This photo was a candidate for our sports cover:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 170mm, ISO 160, 1/250 sec., f4.0 with strobes)

Dentmon slashed his way through the Bruins' defense for open shots, and when he wasn't opened he found ways to pass to open teammates:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 34mm, ISO 160, 1/250 sec., f4.0 with strobes)

Senior Tim Morris contributed minutes off the bench, and symbolic of Washington's effort, took the ball right at UCLA's super freshman Kevin Love:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 26mm, ISO 160, 1/250 sec., f4.0 with strobes)

Washington credited their defense and toughness for the upset. Tripled-teamed in the paint, UCLA's Alfred Aboya gets the ball taken from him by Washington's Justin Dentmon after Aboya ducked beneath Husky defenders Justin Holiday (22) and Matt Bryan-Amaning:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 160, 1/250 sec., f4.0 with strobes)

Often the difference in a tight game comes down to what coaches like to call "hustle plays". Washington's Venoy Overton, who started the game but was pulled after less than a minute for not hustling on defense, go the message and hit the floor to compete for this loose ball with UCLA's Darren Collison:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 160, 1/250 sec., f4.0 with strobes)

In the second half, Washington's 6'8" power forward Jon Brockman sprinted out to half court and leapt to tip the ball away from UCLA's Alfred Aboya:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 50mm, ISO 160, 1/250 sec., f4.0 with strobes

No college basketball game is complete without intense emotion. It's one of the special things that sets the college game apart from the pros. Head coach Lorenzo Romar couldn't believe some of the calls in the game, and it showed on more than one occasion when the whistles blew in the second half:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO 160, 1/250 sec., f4.0 with strobes)

Neither were players immune to questioning calls, as Venoy Overton showed his surprise at a call:


(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 38mm, ISO 160, 1/250 sec., f4.0 with strobes)

Controversy reigned after Washington's Tim Morris, unable to inbounds the ball in front of the UCLA bench, threw the ball off of defender Alfred Aboya and hit him in the face with the gall. Morris tried to apologize and shake hands and Aboya would have nothing to do with it. There has been a great deal of speculation about the sportsmanship of hitting another player in the face with the ball, and there are no rules against it. I guess the officials could have decided it was an unsportsmanlike act and given Morris an technical foul. They didn't but it remained an unusual play. On the second attempt to inbound the ball, Morris ignored the shouts and taunts from the Bruins' bench and safely fired a long pass downcourt to teammte Quincy Pondexter and the Huskies retained possession:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 160, 1/250 sec., f4.0 with strobes)

The best piece of emotion I found was in the waning minutes, when Quincy Pondexter danced the length of the court in jubilation. I like the clean composition and the UCLA player small at right:


(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO 160, 1/250 sec., f4.0 with strobes)

As usual, the fans were a big part of the victory, and the noise and energy that came out of Washington's student section, nicknamed "The Dawg Pack" was amazing:


(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 153mm, ISO 160, 1/250 sec., f4.0 with strobes)

Midway through the second half, I received an email from my photo editor. Our managing editor, in San Francisco on business but watching the game on television, opined that we should get a photo on the front page (A1) of the paper. We thought the fans photo fit best there, and let the Quincy Pondexter celebration photo anchor the sports section front.



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February 9, 2008 11:36 AM

The Sport of Politics

Posted by Rod Mar

Politics? Caucuses? Me?

Of course! Just because the majority of my work involves sports doesn't mean that I'm not capable of shooting all the other kinds of work we publish in the paper and online at the Times.

Plus, today's Democratic caucuses in Everett weren't unlike a sporting event at all.
Kickoff, tipoff, first-pitch, I mean, the START of the caucuses was at 1:30pm.

And like a sporting event, parking was tough, people jammed the venue (in this case, the Everett Civic Auditorium) and most were rooting for one side or the other (in this case, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton).

(One thing did strike me as I was watching the event unfold and saw the similarities to a sporting event. Why is the "Star Spangled Banner" played before every sporting event but not before a political one? Makes you wonder, doesn't it?)

I will try not to drown you in sports metaphors (okay, I just might), but the people did come to decide a winner and a loser.

Before you get the wrong idea and think I am trivializing the caucuses, I'm not. I actually came away inspired by the process and impressed with the level of concern that people have for our country. I think it's easy to be cynical of our political process, but when you consider what options citizens have in some other countries around the world, it makes you appreciate the levels of freedom and democracy will do enjoy.

(Steps off soapbox, trips on a hanging chad...)

I arrived early and headed for the press box for a hot dog and a roster...sorry...couldn't resist...promise not to do that anymore...

I arrived early and found people crowded around a seating chart for the auditorium. Washington's entire 38th district all held their Democratic caucus at the same place, and with numerous precincts to keep track of, a seating chart was necessary. Everett residents Charles Sias, left, Rahel Gebremariam, center and Lorraine Wittel try to find where their precincts will sit:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/160th sec, f5.0)

Just before the doors opened, a caucus worker came out with a larger map of the seating plan:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 800, 1/250th sec, f8.0)

Inside, voters packed all the available seats and spilled into the aisles to listen to the introductory speeches and instructions for the day:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 150mm, ISO 3200, 1/60th sec., f2.8)

From the back of the stage, I was able to set the scene as Curt Eidem, who proceeded over the caucus, spoke to the assembled masses:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 800, 1/80th sec, f2.8)

After the introduction, the voters broke up into groups by precinct. As it was clear that the seating chart wouldn't accomodate all the voters who showed up, alternate plans were made and precincts were spread out along the campus of Everett High School, where the auditorium is located. Many groups headed up to the cafeteria where I found Trygve Anderson, precinct committee officer for Everett precinct 1, enthusiastically giving instructions to voters in his precinct:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 120mm, ISO 2000, 1/160th sec., f2.8)

Following the instructions, voters were given one minute blocks of time to support their candidate. This made for a great opportunity for me to look at the faces of the voters.

I concentrated on shooting both loose and tight. The looser photos told much about the people in the district, but by shooting tighter, I was able to show the care and concern that voters brought to the caucuses.

Voters in precinct 10 of the 38th district, including precinct chair Mike Smoody (standing on stool) listened intently as debate continued before voting of delegates:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 1000, 1/60th sec, f4.0)

At another precinct, Lei Wiley-Mydske, 32, Mark Samuelson, 50 and Rendel Jones, 17 a student at Everett High School listen to discussion about the candidates. This presidential election will mark the fourth time Wiley-Mydske has voted for president, the 10th for and the first for Jones:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 2000, 1/50th sec., f4.0)

While most discussions were polite and quasi-friendly, some featured a little more passion:
In precinct 3, Martin Moorer, left, Peg O'Meara engaged in a spirited debate:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 26mm, ISO 800, 1/60th sec, f2.8)

A couple of tables over, David Boushey made his case:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 800, 1/60th sec, f2.8)

Shooting tighter on the faces of the people who came to participate was also important, as I wanted to create a portrait of the Americans taking part in the process:

Susan Rafter of precinct 9:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 2000, 1/60th sec., f2.8)

Rendel Jones, a 17 year old student at Everett High School was inspired by a class in government to attend:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 2000, 1/60th sec., f2.8)

A tighter shot of Mike Smoody from precinct 10:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 2000, 1/60th sec., f2.8)

Wandering back downstairs to the auditorium I found a group meeting on the stage. I shimmied out onto a ledge above the stage to shoot them voting for their delegates:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 1600, 1/60th sec, f2.8)

Along with finding different angles, it always helps to tell a story if you can find the details. The presidential election process is obviously enormous, and their are millions upon millions of dollars spent on the campaigns. I kept this in mind when I saw the hand-tallied votes written on a worksheet:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 1600, 1/100th sec., f4.5)

Tallying percentages need to be tabulated, and this caucus-goer used the calculator function of his cell phone to do the math:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 1600, 1/100th sec., f4.5)

A lot of voting at the caucuses is done by hand, and so a photo of hands was appropriate:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 125mm, ISO 1600, 1/60th sec., f2.8)

Upon leaving, I was struck by another similarity with a sporting event. With the people headed home, there are often signs left littered among seats. This was no different:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 26mm, ISO 1600, 1/40th sec, f2.8)

I hope you can tell that I really enjoyed shooting the caucuses. It was not only a great chance to witness democracy at work, it was also a good opportunity to work on my photojournalistic skills outside of a stadium or an arena.

But like I always preach in sports photography, it's all about creating images that are not only visual, but also storytelling.

On this day, at least, sports and politics weren't too dissimilar. All that was missing was loud music, cheerleaders and some furry mascot shooting t-shirts into the crowd.

Sunday's A1 front-page:


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February 4, 2008 1:33 PM

Three Games in 24 Hours, Part III

Posted by Rod Mar

Welcome to Part III of my three games in 24 hours.

(Part I is here and Part II is here.)

Woke up Sunday morning feeling charged up and ready to work.

Headed back to the University of Washington for the women's basketball game against in-state rival Washington State University.

Because of the Super Bowl, I knew the photos from the basketball game would be tucked deep inside the sports section. I'd only need to make two or three photos, and it was possible we'd only use one in the paper.

The game had a predetermined story line. June Daugherty, who'd been Washington's head coach before being fired despite a winning record last season, was returning to campus as head coach of Washington State.

Daugherty, who hadn't reached the levels of success demanded by the administration, was a popular figure around Husky women's hoops, and her story had some added human elements. Her husband Mike was her assistant, and she'd suffered a cardiac arrest only a year ago.

Knowing these things made my job easier. I got to the court early and looked for Daugherty greeting her former players. She'd recruited each and every one of the current Huskies and now her new team would face them.

Pregame was uneventful in terms of photographs so I settled in to shoot the game.

I'm a huge basketball fan, but Washington State played so poorly it threatened to set basketball back about 60 years. The poor Cougars couldn't find the basket at all, and at one point were only shooting 11% from the field. They started each half shooting 1-14 from the floor.

Poor shooting means missed shots which in turn means lots of rebounds, which in the women's game means lots of contact and bodies flying around.

Which, for a photographer, is excellent! I decided to shoot from a higher angle and caught a nice series of Washington's Sara Mosimon battling for a loose ball with Washington State's Colleen Betteridge on the floor:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/640,f2.8)

After that, I didn't need to do a lot but wait for the postgame handshakes. Despite a huge lead, Washington kept pushing the ball up the floor and launching three-pointers. I'm sure it was more a case of playing hard than running up the score, but nevertheless, the handshake between coaches, was shall we say, frosty. Daugherty never made eye contact with Washington coach Tia Jackson and neither smiled:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 1600, 1/400,f2.8)

It wasn't until Daugherty encountered her former players that her smile returned and hugs were exchanged:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 1600, 1/400,f2.8)

Shooting this game was more a surgical strike than a carpet-bombing. I didn't have to hammer on my motordrives and work three cameras and multiple angles. Knowing what space was involved and knowing the key components of the story allowed me to focus on exactly what I needed. Yes, I could have set up remotes and shot a kazillion frames hoping for a portfolio shot, but the story still would have demanded a shot of June Daugherty, and anything else after that might never have seen the light of day.

In the photo workroom they have an LCD projector that shows feeds of the games on a large screen. After the game, a couple of us considered ordering in some pizza and watching the Super Bowl in our own private screening room.

Having seen plenty of football this season, I opted out and ran errands instead.

Of course, I made it home to watch that fabulous fourth quarter. I'm not that stupid...

Totals for the 24 hours:

— three games

— six teams

— one piece of pizza (UW men)

— some salad and pasta (Sonics)

— half dozen Ezell's chicken tenders (UW women)

— three Diet Pepsi's

— 52 miles driven

— one player fallen in my lap (at Sonics, Jamal Crawford of the Knicks)

— three deadlines (made them all!)

and now the big numbers...

— 2470 frames shot

— 14 frames transmitted

— 6 photos published.

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February 3, 2008 3:44 AM

Three Games in 24 Hours, Part II.

Posted by Rod Mar

This is part II of shooting three basketball games in 24 hours.

(You can read Part I here.

It's Saturday, 6pm.

I'm in the car for the relatively short drive from the University of Washington to Seattle Center, where the Sonics will face the New York Knicks at KeyArena.

I check in with my photo editor and discover that my photos have not arrived. As the wireless setup at the UW is spotty at best, I had figured there might have been a problem. I pull over, fire up my laptop and send photos using a wireless card.

Photographers face security all the time as part of our jobs. But the security at KeyArena is often odd, and never consistent. That must be part of the strategy, right? Keep the terrorists guessing? Anyway, one of the guards there always insists on tearing off all the previous security tags and inspecting your bags. Fair enough. Other nights, we get waved in or someone sticks a tag on one of the bags. I'm not sure why any of this is important enough to tell you about.

The game itself has interest because two of Seattle's best local products play for the Knicks. One is Jamal Crawford, and the other is Nate Robinson. Both starred at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School, with Crawford attending Michigan for a year and Robinson starring in football and basketball at Washington for three years.

I wanted to concentrate on the two of them because the Knicks only visit Seattle once a year, and the Sonics were in the middle of a pretty long home stand, which means we'd been running images from their games all week. I figured that showing the local products would be a nice change.

What I didn't really count on was the Sonics winning their third game in a row. As sports stories go, this was pretty big for the team, as it took those three wins to push their record to...12-35. You could say it's a rebuilding year.

Nate Robinson is often a human-highlight film and Jamal Crawford is one of New York's best players, but neither showed much energy as they had lost in overtime at Portland the night before. I did find a shot of 5'9" Robinson scrapping with the foot-taller Nick Collison of Seattle:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1000, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)

Seattle's Chris Wilcox took over down low and delivered a "double-double", that is double-figures in points and rebounds. He scores on a nice reverse layup in the first half:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1000, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)

Sometimes you guess and you guess wrong. I was focusing on Nate Robinson to provide energy to the game, but it turned out that Seattle's Delonte West seemed to have the most energy on the floor:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1000, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 45mm, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)

Sonic rookie Kevin Durant had another nice game, and I had the wrong lens on when he jammed home a breakaway dunk. You might look at this frame and think it's not so bad, but when he landed, he spread his arms wide and posed right in front of me. Oh what I'd give to have been shooting a wide-angle lens:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)

The game came down to the wire, and Robinson missed a three-pointer at the end which preserved Seattle's victory. As I said, he always makes for an interesting photo, and after the buzzer sounded to end the game he stood at midcourt with his jersey over his head. I wish Seattle's Damien Wilkins wasn't blocking the right side of this frame, but it's my lesson learned. Had I been shooting from the other side of the basket I might have had an unobstructed view:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 130mm, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)

I transmit from the workroom and call it a night. My back is a little sore. Apparently I'm getting old.

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February 2, 2008 11:02 PM

Three Games in 24 Hours, Part I.

Posted by Rod Mar

I love basketball. I used to play, now I coach and officiate, and when I'm at work I'm often photographing hoops.

So when I had the opportunity (some photographers would call it punishment) of shooting two games on Saturday and one on Sunday, I had no complaints.

The assignments were:

— University of Washington men's basketball vs. California, Saturday, 3pm at Bank of America Arena.

— Seattle Supersonics vs. New York Knicks, Saturday, 7pm at KeyArena.

— University of Washington women's basketball vs. Washington State, 1pm at Bank of America Arena.

Even though I was shooting all three games, none were slated to be our lead centerpiece art because of some football game.

All games were shot available light, mostly because they were going to run inside the sports section in black -and-white, and I like the look of ambient photographs in b/w better than strobed.

Here's a glimpse into the weekend:

On Saturday, I head to the University of Washington campus to shoot the men's game between the Huskies and California. Email comes in on my Blackberry — columnist Steve Kelley is at an indoor track meet on campus and wants me to shoot someone for an upcoming column. I call him and he describes a woman in her 50's, blonde hair wearing a leather jacket. Of course I wander around the Dempsey Indoor, which is packed with people. Over to the pole vault pit. Look around. Look around some more. Spot a petite woman in her 50's, but she's not wearing a leather jacket and her hair is brown. With blond highlights. Apparently she's "columnist blonde".

Done with that shot and I'm walking back to the arena. It's 3:20pm, and I've missed part of the first half. Knowing I'm not searching for a centerpiece is comforting. I plop myself down and hammer away at the motor drive.

The game is physical, and I'm trying to capture that with my camera. I get a good image of Washington's Justin Dentmon getting wrapped up with a Cal player:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 26mm, ISO 1600, 1/640 sec.,f2.8)

Cal's Ryan Anderson is a monster. He's 6'10", 240 lbs, and only a sophomore. After dropping 33 points and 17 rebounds including an array of 3-pointers and dunks on the hapless Huskies, it's hard to imagine him staying in school. He took over in the second half and I made it a goal to get a storytelling image of him:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/640 sec.,f2.8)

Frustration has set in on Washington's program. They won three-of-four to climb back into contention in the conference, but then got swept at home by Cal and Stanford. Junior Artem Wallace's body language tells the story at the end of the game:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 100mm, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)

Head coach Lorenzo Romar lets out a big exhale as he walks back to the locker room. Coaches all across the country wore tennis shoes for games as part of a Coaches vs. Cancer weekend:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 1600, 1/640 sec.,f2.8)

The final tally, Cal wins, 79-75. I transmit four photos and head for my car.


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Recent entries

Feb 25, 08 - 10:04 AM
Rocking Out

Feb 24, 08 - 11:42 AM
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