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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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May 28, 2008 12:13 AM

Mariners: Walk (Off) This Way

Posted by Rod Mar

Some nights I come to the ballpark and finding a good picture is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Some nights, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Some days (okay, most...), this blog is filled with cliches.

Tonight was one of those nights when pictures come in droves.

It started with the first batter of the game. Boston's Coco Crisp (one of the all-time great names in baseball) popped a bunt foul towards the third base dugout. I was shooting from the outside photo well on that side of the field and when Seattle catcher Kenji Johjima couldn't get enough glove on it, I had a picture.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens , ISO 500, 1/1000th sec, f2.8)

Crisp then dove for a ball in the left-centerfield gap hit by Seattle's Raul Ibanez that resulted in a double:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens , ISO 800, 1/1000th sec, f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens , ISO 800, 1/1000th sec, f2.8)

Made my photos of the starting pitchers, and they are boring so you don't need to see them.

(Close your eyes, imagine a pitcher winding up...now...FREEZE YOUR MENTAL IMAGE!...ah, see, not so exciting and you saved me some coding).

An unusual thing happened in the sixth inning when Boston shortstop Julio Lugo was tossed by third base umpire Angel Hernandez BETWEEN PITCHES WHILE THE RED SOX WERE IN THE FIELD.

I've never seen that happen before. I think it happened when Boston wanted a strike called against a Seattle batter on checked swing. That led to arguing, which no one really saw since when do you expect a fielder to argue balls and strikes with a field ump?

Lugo argued and left, bringing out Boston manager Terry Francona. This was weird, too. Francona and Hernandez argued a bit, not too angrily, or so it appeared. In fact, Francona and Hernandez were laughing when Francona headed back to the dugout. Then I guess he remembered he had to stand up for his player, so he turned around, said one more thing and Hernandez tossed him.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens , ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec, f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens , ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec, f2.8)

I'm figuring I've got a pretty good game going, photo-wise, anyway. Got something that will work if Seattle loses (Johjima not making the catch), something if Boston loses (Crisp diving in vain, Francona getting tossed), so I make my way to the centerfield area. If I can, I'm supposed to get a photo of Mariners pitching coach Norm Charlton for an upcoming story.

My picture editor tells me not to worry about the Charlton thing since the game is tied at 3-3. I tell her that I will go to center anyway, make a quick Charlton picture and see what happens.

At night, it's tough to shoot from centerfield. The throw (distance from lens to subject) is over 400 feet (okay, 405, to be exact for you Safeco Field veterans). That's too far to shoot with 400mm, and adding a 1.4 extender "costs" a stop of light. At night, at ISO 1600, I'm shooting at a shutter speed of 1/800th sec. @ f2.8. If I "add" that stop of light with a 1.4 extender (560mm), I can only shoot at f4.0 instead of 2.8, so to compensate, my shutter speed as to come down as well (from 1/800th sec. to 1/400th sec.). But I "cheat" it a bit and shoot at 1/500th sec., which is kind of a universally accepted "slowest" shutter speed with which to freeze action. The resulting exposure is 1/3 stop under, but that's okay for me.

Things get interesting in the seventh inning. With Seattle's Jose Lopez on second base, Boston relief pitcher Manny Delcarmen leaps but can't get to a ball hit back over the mound by Seattle's Jose Vidro. It makes for two nice frames.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec, f4.0)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec, f4.0)

The score is knotted at 3-3 in the ninth and the Mariners get runners aboard. I'm thinking, if this game ends in a play at the plate, I'm screwed. I'm too far from home plate, even at 560mm, to get a great photo. I can get a good photo, but I want great. The Mariners are going to be the centerpiece of the sports cover on Thursday.

With Wladimir Balantien on third base, Seattle's Jose Lopez lashes a walk-off, game winning RBI single down the left field line. In the shot of him swinging, the ball is not visible (I think it's being blocked by Ichiro, who was on second at the time). I've left this shot uncropped and full-frame so you get an idea of how "loose" home plate is from where I'm shooting. If the game ended on a plate at the plate I'd have something, but it might have been looser than ideal. Anyway, in this case, you get the pitcher in the photo, and that's interesting as well.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec, f4.0)

I can tell by the sound of the crowd that Lopez has hit the game-winner so I follow him as he runs towards first.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec, f4.0)

After he touches first base, the celebration begins. He knows his teammates are coming to mob him, and luckily for me, he starts backpedaling away from them, but towards where I'm at in centerfield. This is good because as he gets closer, the composition of the players celebrating is tighter in my viewfinder. Less cropping means better image quality, especially at ISO 1600 and shooting with an extender.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec, f4.0)

The last image made out sports cover. Folks in the office were intrigued that I was "in the right spot at the right time". I figure, there's 81 home games. Take some risks, and some will work out.


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May 25, 2008 11:33 PM

Prep Baseball: 4A Title Game.

Posted by Rod Mar

The 4A state championship game started late due to the 36 (!) runs put up by Kennewick and Kelso in the 3A title tilt.

I certainly wasn't expecting a run-fest like that one, but the 4A game was entertaining in its own right.

Snohomish's Cameron Woolsey stole second base safely as the ball got loose from Kentlake's Zac Sturza. The second base umpire's butt is just enough out of the way to see Woolsey's face:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 800, 1/800 sec., f2.8)

Kentlake was facing Snohomish, and it looked good for Kentlake early when pitcher Doug Christie helped himself out of a bases-loaded jam by making a catch while falling down backwards off the mound:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 800, 1/800 sec., f2.8)

His celebration with teammates after play was good for me, since he was facing me and I could see his expression, but also, since the game was going to run past our deadline, I'd have a Kentlake celebration photo if they won the game:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 800, 1/800 sec., f2.8)

Kentlake's joy would last only briefly, as Snohomish rallied for five runs in the third. Brian Wolfe tripled, driving in a run, and he celebrated upon reaching third base. This photo assured me I had celebration photos for both teams now -- if Snohomish won, we could use this one, if Kentlake won, we could use their players celebrating the catch by the pitcher. Lance Armstrong says, "It's all about the bike". For us, "it's all about the deadline":



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 800, 1/800 sec., f2.8)

His teammate Ethan Hargrave broke the game open with a homer later that same inning, and was greeted by a group (gang? pride? what the heck is a group of Panthers called, anyway?) at home plate:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 800, 1/800 sec., f2.8)

Snohomish got into Kentlake's bullpen and eventually raced to a 10-1 victory. All that was left was to wait for the celebratory pileup. I made a nice frame of Snohomish catcher Tom Chandler hugging pitcher Aaron West after the final out:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec., f2.8)

As for the expected pileup? The Panther's didn't disappoint:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec., f2.8)

Obviously, I didn't want to transmit two photos of players piling up at home plate, but deadline was beckoning and any hopes of working the situation longer (trophy presentation, etc) were out the window.

As it was, the editors used the photo of Hargrave being greeted at home plate as the photo from the game.

No more high school sports for the year -- so, what's next?

Mariners baseball, Storm basketball and preparing for the Olympics.

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May 24, 2008 11:50 PM

Prep Baseball: Piling On in the 3A Title Game.

Posted by Rod Mar

Car trouble had me running late to the Class 3A and 4A state finals in baseball at Safeco Field.

The games are seven innings long, and I'd only missed the first inning of the 3A final between Kennewick and Kelso, so imagine my surprise when I walked into the stadium and saw that that score was 8-0 in favor of Kennewick after 1 1/2 innings.

Crap (or something like that). The game was over, for all intents and purposes, right?

Who comes back from an 8-0 deficit?

Apparently Kelso, that's who. Because they scored six in the bottom half of the sixth to trail by only two runs headed into the third.

"Game on!", as Wayne would say to Garth.

Or, in the case of Kennewick's bats, never mind. They weren't able to match the four runs they'd pushed across in the first two innings, no, they scored FIVE in the third, and FIVE MORE in the fourth.

The rout was clearly on.

Mariner's announcer Dave Niehaus always refers to "the scoreboard totals", and boy did they tell a story. Slapping a 1.4x extender onto the 400mm lens allowed my to compress the scoreboard against Kelso shortstop Spencer Downs in the later innings, when they trailed, 24-7:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4 extender = 560mm, ISO 800, 1/400 sec., f4.0)

Yes, it was baseball, not football.

Because neither team is from our circulation area, I knew we wouldn't use a lot of photos from the game, but that doesn't come into play when it comes to shooting pictures. You have an opportunity to shoot? Use it. Practice. Hope for great moments. Find the cool light.

I made a decent double-play photo when Kennewick second baseman Austin Pentecost got air as he tried to turn a double-play when Kelso's Kelly Rice (left) was forced out on the play.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/1000 sec., f8.0)

Near the end of the game, the reality of the situation set in to the Kelso players, as they lost, 24-12. And really, if you'd have told them before the game they were going to score 12 runs in the final, none of them would have imagined they'd be on the losing end of things:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4 extender = 560mm, ISO 800, 1/400 sec., f4.0)

Championship baseball games always end in a pileup of players at the mound, and this one was no different.

I'd brought a 400mm, a 70-200mm, and a 16-35mm lenses to the game, and decided to put the 1.4 extender on the 70-200 for the endgame pileup. I was afraid the 400mm would be too tight, and the 70-200mm a bit too loose:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4 extender @ 240mm, ISO 800, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

Zooming into the pileup, I was able to capture Kennewick's Garrett Woods showing everyone who is number one in 3A baseball:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4 extender @ 240mm, ISO 800, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

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May 23, 2008 10:19 PM

Folklife: Flippin' Sweet.

Posted by Rod Mar

Send a sports photographer to the Folklife Festival and what do you get?

Gymnastics, apparently.

My photo editor emailed and this appeared on my Blackberry:

"Attached are a few schedules for Folklife today (assignment to come). It's you're call...A1 needs a lead man".

Sweet, right?

But then the kicker came -- I'd have less than two hours to make the photo.

My shift started at 2pm, and I had to have photos back to the paper no later than 4pm.

Two hours. Is that a long time or a short time?

Given that most festivals are rich with imagery, it seemed like it would be easy to shoot a photo and get it transmitted back to the paper in that amount of time.

But A1? The editors are (rightfully) super-picky about images that go out there, and two hours seemed a little tight to get a compelling image that would leap off the page in the newsstands the next day.

So my strategy was "Don't (Mess) Around."

Walk. See. Don't waste time on boring crap.

(Sorry, that's not to say that much of Folklife is crap...on the contrary, much of it is lovely. But what one sees as lovely in one frame of reference can also be very likely seen as craptastic by a bunch of demanding A1 editors and designers).

Walked through the food booths (Chicken satay? Hmm. A little chicken on a stick never hurt the hunt for the elusive A1 photo. There goes 15 minutes...dang).

Past the very few musicians (remember this is Friday afternoon, and the festival is just starting).

Wade through the throngs of teenagers (yes, 13-18 year-olds) gathered in circles on the lawn north of International Fountain, many of them smoking from Hookahs.

Teens? Smoking? In public?

I wouldn't deign to guess what was being smoked, but the air around the area near fountain did have a distinctive, slightly sweet, sligtly acrid aroma about it that smelled reminiscent of an NBA player's limo.
Just sayin'.

Okay, stopped to shoot some photos there, but then made the executive decision that those were photos that people wouldn't want to wake up to with their coffee and scones on Saturday morning.

Marched on.

Neared the Fisher Pavilion and found photo nirvana...breakdancers. Members of Project Seattle, to be exact.

They didn't have much of an audience, but they all of a sudden had me!

Plus, I'd approached from the north, and the background was all right there for me, as huge banners noting the name of the festival were stretched across the adjacent building.

One guy was getting serious air doing backflips, so i put the camera on the ground to see what i could get.

Risk and reward. Risk that by putting the camera on the ground, I'd shoot too high or too low. Crop off part of his body, or get too much sky.

Reward that the low angle would put him high against my background, hopefully "clearing" him into the sky for a cleaner image.

The first try was pretty much a grab -- he was about to do the flip and I just laid the camera down and fired. Had no idea what I was capturing in terms of background at all. A test shot, really, but knowing these guys wouldn't be backflipping all day long (that's gotta take a lot of energy, right?), I was hoping for the best.

This man's name is Brian Ung, and he's getting some good air:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 31mm, ISO 400, 1/640th sec./f2.8)

I was right about the energy thing, because just after I made that frame, he took a breather. While he rested, another dancer named Alejandro Luna-Juliano started doing his moves. He stayed mostly on the ground, and I tried to get the Space Needle in the background for a reference point:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 400, 1/1000th sec./f2.8):



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 400, 1/1000th sec./f2.8):

Ung took to their makeshift stage again (okay, it was a patch of concrete that they eventually covered with a piece of scrap linoleum ), and executed two more flips. Having studied his takeoff points, I tried my best to center him against the signs behind him. I was hoping to be close enough to him so that when I aimed my camera up from the ground his body would be higher than the signs, but it wasn't to be.

On the first try, he jumped out of the frame (or, more accurately, I aimed too low):



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 400, 1/1000th sec./f2.8):

And on the second, I got a frame I liked:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 400, 1/1000th sec./f2.8):

Just after that, a light rain began to fall, and it got too dangerous for aerials and even basic breakdancing, so they taught a clinic to some passersby. By this time, it was 3:45pm, so I whipped out my laptop and transmitted from right where they were dancing. A light jacket makes a great cover for a computer in the rain!

Of course, I hauled ass to transmit photos by 4pm and then emailed the editors to let them know I'd done so.

And wouldn't you know? My 4pm deadline had gotten soft. The email reply (sent at 4:31pm) read:

"We're all still in meetings man. We'll ck em soon. I'm sure they're stellar."

Hmm. Stellar? I'd hoped so. We'd see as soon as the paper came out the next day, and for this day at least, the photo was good enough for the cover.


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May 21, 2008 12:20 AM

Storm: Battling Back Again.

Posted by Rod Mar

Once again, the Storm looked their age in the first half of a game, only to battle back for a hard-fought victory at home.

And once again, they made editing on deadline a challenge.

Tipoff was scheduled for 7:30pm because it was being nationally televised, and my first deadline was 8:30.

This meant that I'd only get to shoot the first half before editing and transmitting.

The Storm more resembled a light breeze rather than a dangerous and threatening weather system through the first two periods of their game against visiting Sacramento.

As if a couple hundred mediocre photos of Seattle being out-hustled and out-played again weren't enough, a peek at the halftime box score only reiterated the obvious.

Seattle had been outrebounded 25-9, and was a miserable 9-31 (29%) from the field.

Ugly.

Some good action had taken place in front of me, and one scramble for a loose ball was too fast to catch, even when shooting at 1/500th of a second.

Usually, that shutter speed is okay for basketball (probably the lowest shutter speed you want to use if you're hoping to freeze action), but because I was bailing out of the way as the players came falling into us, the first frame is particularly full of motion. In this sequence, Sacramento's A'Quonesia Franklin beats Seattle's Ashley Robinson to a loose ball along the baseline and threw it off of Robinson to keep possession for the Monarchs:



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

The second frame is sharper in terms of movement, but lacks the "moment" of the first frame:



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

Sacramento's A'Quonisha Franklin and Laura Harper shared a high-five after the play:



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

Sue Bird struggled with an uncharacteristic four turnovers in the half, including when she lost this ball after colliding with Sacramento's Rebekkah Brunson:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70mm/f2.8 zoom lens @ 30mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec, f2.8)

Satisfied I'd made some decent frames with the wider lens, I switched to a 70-200mm lens and decided to shoot really tight, even though I was sitting very close to the basket (the 70-200mm lens is much more realistic when shooting from nearer the corners of the court). I got a lucky series when Seattle's Sheryl Swoopes got tangled up with Sacramento's La'Tangela Atkinson. The irony is that I shot these frames at 70mm, so it wouldn't have mattered which of the two lenses (24-70mm or 70-200mm) I used.

I really liked this image because it's a bit unusual:



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

A tighter crop of a subsequent frame was also interesting:



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

So, I was satisfied I'd told the basic story line in my first edit -- Storm is outplayed, outhustled. But I could hear the roar of the crowd from the photo workroom, and when I returned to the court, the fourth quarter was beginning and the Storm had rallied back.

Sheryl Swoopes and teammate Shyra Ely yelled and watched as their teammates regained the lead in the fourth quarter:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm lens @ 145mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec, f2.8)

I was conscious we'd used a celebration photo from the Opening Night game, and I liked the horizontal tussle photo for the lead, so I was looking to make sure I also had photos of the important players. Plus, this was only the second game of the season for a team hoping to go deep into the playoffs -- I didn't want to burn all my celebration photos in May...

Three players had scored 17 points to lead the way, but I guessed that sharpshooter Katie Geralds would figure into the game story. She only had nine points, but they were on a trio of three-pointers and all were at key times in the comeback. The editors and I decided that a photo of Geralds would be more appropriate than the one of Sue Bird committing a turnover. A quick spin through the fourth quarter frames yielded a frame that's not great, but served the purpose:



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

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May 19, 2008 10:57 PM

Mariners: Stealing on Sunday

Posted by Rod Mar

Even though the season hasn't been all they expected it to be so far, the Mariners still managed to take two of three games from San Diego this weekend and break a record in the process.

The record in question is the career stolen bases mark, set by Julio (Can You Take Me On a Sea) Cruz (that was the nickname occasionally used by ESPN personality Chris Berman back in the day) way back in 1978.

Ichiro broke the record with his 291st career stolen base in the first inning. I knew he'd tied the record Saturday night, so I took a spot that would allow me a good view of him stealing second if he got on base.

After reaching first base on a single, Ichiro soon took off. The throw to second base was slightly off-the-mark, and San Diego shortstop Khalil Green had to leap to try to make the play. Two frames of the play were interesting. Even though Ichiro's face is obscured (usually the kiss of death), the acrobatic body language helps:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 250, 1/1250th sec., f4.5)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 250, 1/1250th sec., f4.5)

After shooting pictures of both starting pitchers (never know when one is going to toss a no-hitter), I decided to take advantage of the sunlit day game by shooting from the centerfield photo porch, which is right behind Ichiro. One reason it's tough to shoot from there at night games is the distance to home plate demands an extender. A 1.4 extender (making a 400mm into a 560mm lens) costs one stop of light, and a 2x extender (800mm, natch) costs two stops of light. Considering that I'm already shooting at ISO 1600 for night games, adding another two stops of light would be ill-advised.

The other reason for shooting from the outfield is that it's right in the middle of the beer garden out there (the Mariners always remind me it's called something else less blunt, like "standing area", but if you've ever been out there, you know what I mean). The fans out there are fun and nutty, like the one fan who started a spellout for the Mariners shortstop when he came to the plate.

"GIMME A Y! "Y!" GIMME A U! "U" GIMME AN N!" "N!"...etc, etc. until he'd spelled out "Yuniesky", drawing huge laughs from the crowd.

But he wasn't done, and as people laughed and cheered, he started in on Yuniesky's last name, which is "Betancourt".

The lusty spellout of all 18 letters of his name took nearly the entire at-bat, but was great entertainment, nonetheless.

Shooting from the outfield is pretty boring, especially when the home team is held to two hits through the first seven innings.

That all changed in the 8th, when hot-hitting second baseman Jose Lopez doubled to right field, driving in the two runs that would give the Mariners a 3-2 lead, which they would hold onto for the victory.

I was shooting with a 1.4 extender on the 400mm lens, which is loose for home plate, but I had decided that I'd take the sharpness of the 1.4x over the 2x. The 2x is a finicky extender. Not only are you losing two stops of light, but focus is more of a challenge, and the image degrades through all the added glass.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 400, 1/1600th sec., f4.0)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 400, 1/1600th sec., f4.0)

Shooting from centerfield is a nice change-of-pace from all the photos we normally shoot from the photo wells along the foul lines. It's pretty similar to the angle of the television cameras, but the still frames can be interesting because you have the chance to see the faces of a lot of people -- players, coaches, and fans, all at the same time.

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May 18, 2008 11:38 AM

WNBA: The Perfect Summer Storm

Posted by Rod Mar

If the thermometer in Seattle hits 90 degrees, it can only mean one thing:

Basketball season?

Actually, today's 90 degree mini-heatwave is really unusual for May in the Pacific Northwest, but that didn't stop over 10,000 fans from packing KeyArena to watch the WNBA's Seattle Storm from opening their season against the Chicago Sky.

(Seriously, who chooses these names? When I think of Chicago, I think of wind, lakes, beer and brats, but I guess you really couldn't name a women's basketball team "The Chicago Beer". But really, it's as appropriate as "Sky", right? Am I wrong here?)

My strategy (wow, is THAT a stretch) was to try to visually acknowledge all of the changes that the Storm has undergone since last season. That would include new owners, an new coach, and some new high-profile players.

The new owners were easy to spot. Unlike Clay Bennett, who hid from fans all season with the Sonics (I GUARANTEE you that Bennett will have a throne installed for himself at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City), the four new majority owners were seated together courtside. They are (l-r) Ginny Gilder, Lisa Brummel, Anne Levinson and Dawn Trudeau:



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

Popular local songstress Brandi Carlile was on hand to sing the national anthem:



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

The players were introduced on a stage at midcourt and emerged from beneath the stage amid fog. I was shooting for a first edition deadline and we'd agreed that we'd use a pregame photo so I could make a 7:15pm deadline. As tipoff was scheduled for 7pm, I didn't have a lot of time to get choosy about pictures.

Keeping in mind the new players added to the roster, I wasn't concerned about getting longtime Storm stars Lauren Jackson or Sue Bird onto the sports cover. In order, my preference was Sheryl Swoopes (former MVP and one of the biggest names in women's basketball), Yolanda Griffith (another former MVP) or Swin Cash (former All-Star).

Obviously, if another player made the best photo, I would have considered that. But Swoopes is newsworthy, and her introduction was made the sports cover in the early editions:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm, f2.8 zoom lens @ 75mm, ISO 1600, 1/250 sec.,f2.8)

I went up to the workroom and hustled out a photo back to the paper before heading down to shoot the game. The Storm looked slow and sloppy in the first half. I wondered if this heavily veteran team was also getting a little long in the tooth as they were getting out-jumped, out-ran and out-hustled. Griffith had her shot blocked by Chicago's Sylvia Fowles:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm, f2.8 zoom lens @ 70mm, ISO 1600, 1/640 sec.,f2.8)

New head coach Brian Alger prodded his team as they struggled through the opening two quarters:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm, f2.8 zoom lens @ 95mm, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)

We needed a large photo for the cover and at least two photos for the inside pages, so I went wide for part of the third quarter. The Storm started hitting on all cylinders and rallied. Seattle's Swin Cash scored over Chicago's Brooke Wyckoff:



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

Cash scored and was fouled a couple of plays later and ended up up on her back on the floor celebrating. I got lucky and had the right lens (24-70mm) to make a frame that also included fans cheering. At 46mm, I wasn't too loose not to be able to see her face well, and also not too tight to have not been able to include the fans:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70mm, f2.8 zoom lens @ 46mm, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)

I was trying hard to make a good action photo of Sheryl Swoopes, but just couldn't make it happen. I settled for a shot of her clapping as the Storm took the lead:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm, f2.8 zoom lens @ 153mm, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)

After Seattle locked up the victory for the team's first win with the new owners, the entire team went over to where the ownership group was cheering and they hugged and celebrated. Owner Ginny Gilder was all smiles along with fellow owner Lisa Brummel (at right).



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm, f2.8 zoom lens @ 16mm, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)

The entire group gathered at midcourt for a team cheer, owners included. I made a few quick attempts at a "Hail Mary", but they were very average, as these shots tend to be. Plus, I'm not exactly tall enough to get a good high angle.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm, f2.8 zoom lens @ 16mm, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)

I then spotted owner Dawn Trudeau simply beaming in the "eye of the Storm" as fellow owner Anne Levinson can be seen to her left:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm, f2.8 zoom lens @ 16mm, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec.,f2.8)

It was obvious to everyone that the effort these women have put forth to keep the team in Seattle has resulted in a great gift to the city. I hope they will be able to enjoy their team for a long time.

First edition sports cover:


Later editions sports cover:


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May 16, 2008 11:18 PM

Mariners: Out at Home?

Posted by Rod Mar

When is an out not an out?

When the ball is not in the catcher's glove on a play at the plate, but is instead rolling in the dirt between the catcher's legs.

That's what happened in the top of the ninth inning of Friday night's game between the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners.

San Diego's Justin Huber comes barreling home as the ball arrives at Seattle catcher Kenji Johjima. The throw beat Huber to the plate but Johjima did not catch the ball cleanly (or, at all, apparently), but Huber was ruled out by the umpires.

I was shooting from a photo well between home plate and third base, so I actually had a better look at the play than the ump, who was blocked by Johjima. Actually, the Padres dugout had the best look, since they were yelling the loudest that the ball was on the ground.

Here's a look:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/800 sec., f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/800 sec., f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/800 sec., f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/800 sec., f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/800 sec., f2.8)

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May 14, 2008 10:24 PM

Prep Soccer: Shooting the Shootout

Posted by Rod Mar

Last week I was on my way to Sumner to shoot track when I got sidetracked by spot news.

This week, I actually made it to Sumner without being detoured and had the opportunity to shoot a great high school soccer match between Auburn-Riverside and Shorecrest.

Soccer is fun for me to shoot because I don't have the chance to do it very often. I wanted to sharpen my skills because I'll be shooting a match between Canada and Brazil at the end of this month, and also will likely shoot some soccer at the Olympics in Beijing.

Because I was shooting for the paper and wanted to get the best possible image, I made use of the chance to shoot along the sidelines. When shooting professional soccer, photographers are often limited to shooting from the endlines.

Early in the game, Shorecrest's Josh Rudnick attempted a bicycle kick on a shot on goal:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 2000, 1/500 sec., f2.8)

Shorecrest scored first, on an own-goal by Auburn-Riverside after Mickey Crudo smashed a free-kick into the area in front of the goal. He celebrates with teammates after the goal:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 2000, 1/500 sec., f2.8)

The score at halftime was still 1-0, but Auburn-Riverside's Oscar Diaz scored twice in the second half to give his team a 2-1 lead. Shorecrest goalkeeper Andrew McDonald dove to his right but could not make the save on Diaz's header:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/400 sec., f2.8)

Diaz turned and celebrated in a classic soccer pose:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/400 sec., f2.8)

Shorecrest tied the game late, and after a scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout.

Even though he'd allowed two goals in the second half, Shorecrest goalkeeper McDonald saved the first shot of the shootout, a rocket to his left by Auburn Riverside's Jermaine Haller:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/500 sec., f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/500 sec., f2.8)

Shorecrest converted all of their five penalty kicks and McDonald's save proved to be the difference.

Because of overtime and the shootout, the game didn't end until just before my 10pm deadline and we scooted the photos into the paper just in the nick of time.

And yes, for those of you who look at the exposure data, it was DARK. But it's fun to push the cameras to ISO 3200 and to see what happens. I know the new Nikon D3 is a monster at high ISO's, but with the financial state of the newspapers the way they are, I don't see us switching systems anytime soon.

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May 13, 2008 11:03 PM

They Could Have Danced All Night...

Posted by Rod Mar

Sometimes you just wander into a photo.

The subject is there, the light is there, and you really just have to compose and shoot.

In this case, I walking back to my car after a feature assignment when I saw this couple dancing in the hallway of a former elementary school.

Their names are Heather Maas and Steve Crain, and they were practicing Argentine Tango in the hallway of the University Heights Center. Admitted "beginners", they were practicing to the soft strains of music coming from a portable music player.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 zoom lens @ 70mm, ISO 800, 1/250th sec, f2.8)

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May 10, 2008 2:04 AM

Side-Tracked for Spot News

Posted by Rod Mar

One of the paradoxes of being a newspaper photographer comes when faced with shooting a spot news event. Often, these are tragic events with a human toll, which pulls at the heart of even the most cynical journalist. The paradox comes with the adrenalin rush that comes with covering spot news.

How can you be excited at an event in which someone has died? You're not excited in the sense we normally think of that word, but the adrenalin courses through you and every sense has to be sharp.

It's so complicated. You're racing against the clock in so many ways -- to get to the scene quickly, to size up what's going on so you can make a coherent report, and finally to get the photos back to the office so they can be posted on the web and also make the deadlines for the newspaper.

You have to have adrenalin and a clear head to news.

On Friday, I was driving to Sumner, WA to cover a high school track meet when I got an urgent email from the editors. A small plane had crashed into a house near the town of Covington. They didn't know anything else. Where was I, and could I get there quickly?

It just so happened that I was driving on Highway 167 southbound, which put me fairly close. I turned and headed for the general area, figuring more information would come. I turned on the news radio station and caught one of the traffic reporters describing the scene from his airplane. I looked up and found the airplane circling the scene and headed in the direction.

Soon, more info appeared on my Blackberry. The plane was experimental and had taken off from a small airfield before crashing just after takeoff into a nearby residence. The radio told me that the pilot had died, but luckily no one had been hurt in the residence.

At a stoplight, I booted up my laptop and examined a Google map of the area. The address the photo desk had sent was wrong -- they told me the "3400" block of a street when the actual area was the "30400" block. Good thing for radio reporters and laptops.

As I drove, I did a lot of quick thinking. I'd want two bodies, one with a wide-angle, and another with a 70-200mm/f2.8 zoom. The light was still decent so I would add the 1.4x extender to the zoom and also bring a 300mm/f2.8 in case our vantage point was far away.

I also thought about what I would see and what would be storytelling. That sounds so basic, but in the heat of the moment, it's easy to overlook the easiest things. I knew the basic elements were the plane and the wrecked house. If I could get an investigator looking at the crash that would lend an important human element.

We don't, as a general rule, want to show dead bodies, but I did want to find the surviving resident and get a photo of him or her if I could. At a long stoplight I grabbed the equipment from the back of my car and reformatted the compact flash cards. Selected an ISO for both cameras that would allow me to shoot in pretty low light (the radio had said, "down a ravine or hillside", and it was also getting close to sunset).Also got my laptop bag ready to go so I could transmit right from the scene.

It only took me about 15 minutes to find the right place. The road leading to the crash site was blocked off by a sheriff's deputy. He stopped me and I showed him my business card and media parking pass.

"Anyone can print those up", he barked. "Got anything with a photo?".

Really? Okay. He had every right to examine my credentials, but really, there were already two dozen neighbors milling around. Was his logic that someone would actually go to the trouble of printing up fake business cards, haul around thousands of dollars worth of camera gear just to drive an hour and a half into rural King County and walk to the scene of an hour-old plane crash?

I didn't have time to figure it out. I walked down the road to the scene ready to shoot the first thing that made a photo. In my experience, media is often corralled to one part of the scene across the street for safety purposes. Nothing wrong with that. But it's often not the best place to make a photo, so I was ready to literally shoot first and ask questions later.

From the road I could make out the wreckage of the plane with a sheriff's deputy standing nearby. Knowing that accident investigations can be stagnant while the proper authorities arrive (in this case, the sheriff's had secured the scene but were waiting on the medical examiner and also officials from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The scene had all the elements I had preplanned for, so I knelt and shot a couple of quick frames before reaching the assembled media and the public information officer on site.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens w/ EF 1.4x extender @ 185mm, ISO 200, 1/320 sec., f4.0)

It was only then that I introduced myself and got the basics of the story and where we were allowed to shoot from and where we weren't.

Not much was happening, so I got out my laptop and made a little office in the gravel next to the road and transmitted a photo quickly back to the paper for the website. I'd only been at the scene for less than 10 minutes.


Done transmitting, I reassessed the situation. A big tarp was hanging from some trees and blocked some of the scene. I assumed the deceased pilot was somewhere behind the tarp. Meanwhile, the editors asked for a photo that showed more of the house. I told them I would try, but that there were no people around the wreckage. Then, they moved a car out of the carport and I shot that as a backup.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 105mm, ISO 800, 1/160 sec., f8.0)

Finally, some more investigators showed up and I was able to put humans, the plane wreckage and the damaged house all in one frame.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 105mm, ISO 800, 1/400 sec., f6.3)

After a while, they removed the tarp (not sure what it was blocking, but a body was not visible, thankfully), and I was able to get a clearer shot of the damage to the house. Again, though, no human elements.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 85mm, ISO 800, 1/250 sec., f5.6)

Editors needed to make decisions for the print edition as it was now after 7pm. I told them I had a clearer view of the home, but no people. "Want or wait?" I emailed. They replied, "wait".

About 15 minutes later, one of the deputies went back over to the scene and I was able to tie everything together.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 100mm, ISO 800, 1/200 sec., f4.5)

I quickly moved this photo back in time for the print edition.

Lastly, I wanted to make a record photo that showed the whole scene, including the bank behind this home from which the plane had come over. The airfield is on top of that bank.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 800, 1/250 sec., f8.0)

As spot news goes, this wasn't visually spectacular, nor was it the biggest news in the world. But it got my adrenalin running and "news brain" chugging along again, which is good exercise for a journalist. If, heaven forbid, a large earthquake or other disaster were to happen, all those skills would have to be recalled quickly.



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May 7, 2008 1:33 AM

They're Poets and They Know It.

Posted by Rod Mar

Seems even when I'm not shooting sports, I'm either shooting in a sporting venue (like the Dalai Lama at KeyArena or Qwest Field), or I'm shooting a competition of some sort.

Last month (okay, TWO months ago), the competition was a youth poetry slam.

Why two months ago? Well, sometimes it just takes that long to get stuff into the paper. Seriously, feature stories do have longer "shelf life" than news stories, and this falls into that category.

Youth Speaks, a local non-profit, has been holding a competition for young poets vying in slams to be part of a five-member team who will travel to Washington, D.C. later this month for a national contest.

On this night, 12 contestants took to the darkened stage and stepped into the spotlight in front of a panel of judges:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO 2000, 1/6 sec, f2.8)

One by one the young poets read, no -- performed, no -- that's not right either, LIVED their poetry in timed segments. Some were eliminated after each round until only three were left to advance.

Arianne Bergman referenced the old song "Fly Me to the Moon" during her poetry, proving that the youth of today can appreciate the words of the past:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 3200, 1/50 sec, f2.8)

Mikeya Jackson-Harper used body language to get her point across as she took her turn beneath the lights:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 80mm, ISO 2000, 1/2.5 sec, f8)

When shooting an event that features person after person standing in the same environment, I always look for small details that can add to the visual impact of the story. It not only adds depth to the storytelling, it breaks up the visual monotony:



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

Ronnie Reynolds captured the attention of the audience with his raw, edgy poetry. His body language alternately suggested rage and defiance along with solitude and insecurity.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 110mm, ISO 2000, 1/100 sec, f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO 2000, 1/100 sec, f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 120mm, ISO 2000, 1/100 sec, f2.8)

Despite the competitive nature of the slam, everyone in attendance cheered openly for one another. If a line was forgotten, the listeners rubbed their hands together creating a whooshing noise that served as encouragement for a momentarily lost poet. As Reynolds forgot his place, he joined the crowd in rubbing his hands as he searched for the words he'd lost.



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

Reynolds, Bergman and Jackson-Harper all advanced to the next round and will compete on May 18.

Here's a link to the story and more information.


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May 5, 2008 6:24 PM

UW Crew: The Rain and Windermere Cup

Posted by Rod Mar

Well, at least the sun was shining the other morning that I was assigned to shoot crew racing.

The races that are held on the Opening Day of boating season (Opening Day? Does that mean the first tilt of your boat to the left is the "first pitch?") are the local highlight of the crew season.

Washington's oarsmen will have more important races (last week's victory over Cal in Berkeley, the upcoming Pac-10's and the IRA Championships after that), but none will be bigger for local race fans.

Yachts started lining the log boom outside of Montlake Cut on Thursday in anticipation of the races and the boat parade that follows:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF100-400mm lens @ 400mm, ISO 800, 1/640th sec., f6.3)

Despite the drizzle, fans still lined the Montlake Bridge and the shores along the cut:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 100-400mm lens @ 400mm, ISO 800, 1/250th sec., f5.6)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 100-400mm lens @ 300mm, ISO 800, 1/400th sec., f5.6)

Meanwhile back in Conibear crewhouse, men's varsity eight coxswain Kaitlin Snyder put the finishing touches on her race plan:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 26mm, ISO 1000, 1/160sec.,f2.8)

And the guys in her boat stretched out to get ready for their Windermere Cup race against Poland and the US Naval Academy:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 1000, 1/100sec.,f2.8)

One of the things that makes this race so special is the Montlake Bridge, which is lined with fans watching the shells pass beneath it during the race, so I wanted to make sure to incorporate it into my image for the sports cover. The men's varsity eight is undefeated this year, so I chose to focus on their race:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/1008sec.,f2.8)

Moved to a telephoto lens as they passed. One challenge with shooting the wide-angle from close to the bridge is that I wasn't able to shoot the finish line. As the men won by a fair distance, not having photos of the finish didn't end up being a problem:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 100-400mm lens @ 270mm, ISO 800, 1/500th sec., f6.3)

As I looked towards the finish line, a group of young women in swimsuits had jumped into the cut at the conclusion of the last race. I found out they were members of the UW swim team, and that this is somewhat of an annual tradition:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 100-400mm lens @ 400mm, ISO 800, 1/250th sec., f10)

One of the great sights of Opening Day is seeing all the boats make their way back through the cut back to the boathouse after the races. It's a cool sight from the top of the bridge, but I couldn't hustle up there fast enough and settled for a shot from the shore:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 100-400mm lens @ 375mm, ISO 800, 1/250th sec., f14)

An awards ceremony followed the races, but the best part of post-race is when they throw the winning coxswains into the water. It's an easy, cliche' photo, but one that's always fun to shoot:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 75mm, ISO 800, 1/1000sec.,f4.5)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 800, 1/1600sec.,f9.0)

Shooting crew is a blast. I wish I could follow them as they compete in the Pac-10 championships and the IRA Nationals.

And the added bonus to hanging around all those fit bodies is it makes me want to go work out!


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May 2, 2008 6:09 PM

Seahawks: Already?!

Posted by Rod Mar

Dang.

Time flies when you're having fun!

Doesn't it just seem like that one dude caught the ball on the top of his helmet and that one team beat the other team in the Super Bowl?

Heck, I feel like I just finished thawing out from hat playoff game in Green Bay.t

The NFL draft took place last weekend, and I am so sparing you the "big dudes holding up their jerseys with the coach and general manager" photo.

(If you really need to, just close your eyes and picture it....is it still has boring in your imagination as it was was when I shot it?)

The Seahawks broke out the helmets and pads for their first minicamp of the season.

I could picture my assignment now:

"What: Seahawks hold their first minicamp of the season without recently released running back Shaun Alexander. Please get photo of Shaun Alexander not being at minicamp."

Fortunately, my editors trust me a bit more than that.

I did go out and make photos of new running back Julius Jones and transmitted them right away for our home page.

Whereas we used to go to minicamps and spend the day shooting for news stories and file photos, now I spend the first part of most events shooting for the web, and then going back and shooting for the paper.

Minicamp practices are largely uneventful, much like any other practice, so I ran down the list of players I needed to shoot and then started practicing on my football shooting and tracking receivers.

Receiver Logan Payne made a nice catch in front of cornerback Josh Wilson:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 800, 1/640th sec., f4.0)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 800, 1/640th sec., f4.0)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 800, 1/640th sec., f4.0)

It's one of those weekends in sports where lots of sports blend together. For example, there are NFL minicamps being held all over the league, Major League Baseball is in full swing, the NBA playoffs are moving along, and the Kentucky Derby is running for the roses.

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Recent entries

May 28, 08 - 12:13 AM
Mariners: Walk (Off) This Way

May 25, 08 - 11:33 PM
Prep Baseball: 4A Title Game.

May 24, 08 - 11:50 PM
Prep Baseball: Piling On in the 3A Title Game.

May 23, 08 - 10:19 PM
Folklife: Flippin' Sweet.

May 21, 08 - 12:20 AM
Storm: Battling Back Again.

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