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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 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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Posted by Scott

12:17 PM, May 18, 2008

Rod - love this blog. As a Storm fan, I've been happy to see you on the baseline the last couple of games.

When you're shooting in the Key and not using the strobes, where do you set your white balance to get decent/consistent color? The lights seem to cycle through a variety of color temps that make it tough to settle on a good overall white balance.


Posted by Liz

9:00 PM, May 18, 2008

Terrific job on the blog. Love the coverage and awesome photos. Keep up the great work.


Posted by psheehy

9:57 PM, May 18, 2008

It would be SYLVIA Fowles, not Ashely, but your Swin Cash shot on the ground is priceless. I forgive you for anything else for at least two games.

Posted by lesliefanrealMVP

10:22 PM, May 18, 2008

Yes Rod, nice pics and blog! Please don't follow in the footsteps of the lame PA announcer Matt Pittman and call players the wrong names. If you have that clear of a photo of a player, it's not too hard to find the correct name. Sylvia Fowles..and I asked her before the game about her nickname "BIG SYL"..SHE HATES IT! She goes by Sylvia. And I'm sure she would hate anyone shortening her name to "S-Fowles" like the poorly educated broadcasters who have no correct grammar.

Posted by Rod Mar

10:24 PM, May 18, 2008

thanks for the note on the correction.

one of the challenges of getting a blog post up after a night game when i have to work in the morning (shot the mariners today) is that i'm up working until 2am or so.

i think, in the interest of accuracy, that some postings will just have to wait until i have the time to do them right!

thanks again,


Posted by Rod Mar

10:27 PM, May 18, 2008


Thanks for your note -- I'm so used to flickering color temp issues that I just make the changes in the Curves menu of Photoshop. I have some custom curves for various venues (Safeco Field is notoriously greenish), but other than that, I just make adjustments. Even a custom white wouldn't help much because the temps are flickering multiple times per second.

With the Mark III, I let the camera take over the white balance (Auto), and I correct from there.

Thanks for your note.


Posted by scowl

10:48 AM, May 19, 2008

I'm going to try to trust the AWB during the next game. In the past I've just applied custom curves I've saved to each shot depending on what I see. There's KeyGreen, KeyLightGreen, KeyVeryGreen, and so on. I've had trouble with AWB in the past because a greenish background would throw off the balance of a player with a different tint in the foreground. Sometimes you can't win.

Recent entries

May 19, 08 - 10:57 PM
Mariners: Stealing on Sunday

May 18, 08 - 11:38 AM
WNBA: The Perfect Summer Storm

May 16, 08 - 11:18 PM
Mariners: Out at Home?

May 14, 08 - 10:24 PM
Prep Soccer: Shooting the Shootout

May 13, 08 - 11:03 PM
They Could Have Danced All Night...







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