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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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June 30, 2008 11:25 PM

Olympic Trials: Splashes and Flashes.

Posted by Rod Mar

Today was a pretty short day here in Eugene at the U.S. Olympic team track and field trials.

Going into the day, there was only one "local" athlete of note -- distance runner Bernard Lagat, who attended Washington State.

His race, the 5000 meters, wasn't scheduled to go off until 9:40pm, and the powers that be decided that was too late to make the newspaper.

I found it interesting that we didn't want to put his race on the web, as conversations at ours and other papers across the country talk increasingly about becoming websites without deadlines as much as we are traditional papers.

Already I'm stepping out of my area of expertise (should you call it that), photography.

By the end of the day, however, there were two local athletes who earned trips to Beijing. Along with Lagat, who won the 5000 meters, javelin thrower Kara Patterson, who attended Skyview High School in Vancouver had won the javelin.

I began my night by photographing the women's steeplechase, which will debut as an Olympic event in Beijing. There were two semifinal heats. Like many of the other photographers, I placed a remote camera with a wide-angle lens near the pool of water that the runners have to navigate on each lap after the first of the race.

The light was gorgeous in the first of the two heats and this photo was made on the first of the laps where the runners faced the water. In subsequent laps, the water that splashed onto the lens made for an interesting effect, but the composition and golden light in this image made it stand out for me.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.,f10)

I was triggering the remote by shooting a camera with a 300mm telephoto attached, and found an image that showed the difficulty of the race as a runner nearly fell in as she took her final lap.

(Nikon D3, VR 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 800, 1/2000 sec.,f2.8)

As the week goes on we're seeing more final events in which the top finishers punch tickets to Beijing. This makes for nice celebration pictures.

Reggie Witherspoon reacts after winning his semifinal heat in the men's 400 meter dash. At right is Calvin Smith, who did not qualify.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 640, 1/1250th sec., f2.8)

Bernard Lagat won the men's 5000 meters as expected, and flashed the "number one" sign as he crossed the finish line. He's trying to win gold in the 5000m and the 1500m in Beijing.

(Nikon D3, VR 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 2500, 1/640 sec.,f2.8)

At the end of the 5000m, bronze medalist Ian Dobson collasped at the finsh line.

(Nikon D3, VR 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 2500, 1/640 sec.,f2.8)

I mentioned splashes, now here's the flash.

The men's 800 meters was the highlight of the night, where three runners with Oregon ties all qualified for the Olympics. There was a dive/crash at the end for third and fourth place, which happened just out of the reach of my remote. Bad luck for me.

Nick Symmonds won the race in dramatic fashion, charging from behind to take the lead in the final stretch for the victory. As he crossed the finish line he struck a pose, and another photographer who was apparently using on-camera flash shot at the exact same time as I did. The result is that Symmonds is lit by the flash, adding just a touch of added contrast and drama. Oregon's Andrew Wheating, wearing his school uniform, took a surprising second place, and you can see his reaction at right.

(Nikon D3, VR 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/1000 sec.,f2.8)

I'm off for a couple of days as there is no racing on Tuesday or Wednesday.

(Thanks to all who have inquired about the Nikon brand appearing alongside some of the photos. I'll be posting about that soon.)

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June 29, 2008 11:38 PM

Olympic Trials: Maybe They Should Call it "Field Town, USA".

Posted by Rod Mar

So much is made of Track, how must Field feel?

It doesn't seem fair at all.

Everyone comes to watch the sexy events like the 100m dash, where the winner at the Olympic Games gets to call himself "the fastest man in the world".

Meanwhile, events like the shot put, the pole vault and the discus go largely unnoticed.

However, this week in Eugene, which bills itself as "Tracktown USA", fans appreciate all the events at the Olympic team trials -- even the field events.

As my assignment here is to give good coverage to athletes with local ties, Sunday found me tracking pole vaulter Brad Walker and discus thrower Aretha Thurmond.

Photographers here at the trials are divided into two groups as far as getting access to the infield. We are all allowed to shoot at the end of the finish line. Bigger publications get blue vests which are "permanent" -- they can use those vest to access the infield all week. Smaller publications (including mine), are subject to sharing red, "temporary" vests, which allow us into the infield for an hour at a time.

I had to time my red vest session in order to shoot both the pole vault and the women's discus, which were occurring simultaneously.

Being a rookie here means I'm learning a lot every day. Today's lesson is that at the trials, you can put a remote with a wide-angle lens in the discus area. This is great because otherwise you're left shooting through the protective netting. It's not great if you hadn't done any proper planning and questioning like I failed to do, and were left shooting through said net.

I took my lumps, did my best, and made some frames of Thurmond during the discus competition.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 200, 1/2000th sec., f4.0)

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 200, 1/2000th sec., f4.0)

I got lucky, as I sometimes do, and she won the event, ensuring her trip to Beijing and also a sweet victory lap around Hayward Field, which would give me more shots of unobstructed photos of her.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/1250th sec., f2.8)

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/800th sec., f2.8)

Over at the men's pole vault, Brad Walker and some of the others were having a tough time with the wind, which was alternately blowing down and across the runway. Walker, of whom I need to make many photos, not only for daily coverage but also for Olympic preview stories, only made one successful jump all day. He missed on another and failed to get to the bar on the rest of his attempts.

I made a nice photo of Walker that I'm sure will run sometime between now and the opening of the Olympics in August. This one goes into the file.

(Canon EOS 1 Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/4000th sec., f2.8)

Later, he seemed to struggle, and I shot him both during and after one of his misses.

(Canon EOS 1 Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/4000th sec., f2.8)

(Canon EOS 1 Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/4000th sec., f2.8)

My best frame of the event came when Derek Miles celebrated his successful pole vault as he defeated favorite Brad Walker to win the event with a height of 5.80 meters.

(Canon EOS 1 Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/4000th sec., f2.8)

Meanwhile, everyone at Hayward Field was waiting for the finals in the men's 100 meters, in which favorite Tyson Gay was running. Gay blew away the field in 9.68 seconds, the fastest time ever recorded in that event. However, the time was "wind-aided", meaning that the wind was measurably high enough that his record will not be official.

I was positioned well past the finish line, hoping to catch the runners after the finish as they burst into the sun with the shadowed part of the stands in the background. The planning worked out and I was able to catch all the runners glancing up at the amazing time. Gay is in blue, second from the right. It's a good frame, not a great one, and I'll be aiming to improve before the Olympics.

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 250, 1/3200th sec.,f2.8)

So, on a day where I focused on the field events, a man ran faster on a track than anyone ever has before.

Field just can't catch a break.

Maybe someplace, someday will be called "Field Town, USA".

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June 28, 2008 8:25 PM

Olympic Trials: Taking Their Best Shot.

Posted by Rod Mar

The shot put.

As a measure of strength and coordination, it's a pretty fair test.

How far can you heave a 16lb ball?

If you want to win a medal in the Olympics, better make sure you can throw it at least 70 feet.

I took notice of the shot-putters when they entered Hayward Field for their event. Runners were getting ready for a heat of the women's 800 meters when the shot-putters, led by 315 lb. Reese Hoffa began to cross the track toward the infield. Some poor volunteer tried to stop him as there were runners about to start a race, but Hoffa laughed him off and walked right through. He was followed by the other two members of the "Big Three" -- Hoffa, Christian Cantwell (300 lbs), and Andy Nelson (255 lbs) and the rest of the behemoths.

Like the line of elephants at the circus, they just marched right through the line of lean and lithe women runners, right past the poor overmatched volunteer.

Shot put was fun to shoot.

Adam Nelson starts his motion during the shot put finals. One of the "Big Three" (so known because they are the current top three shot putters in the world), Nelson qualified with a throw of 20.89 meters.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/2000th sec.,f2.8)

Shot putter Dan Taylor lets out a yell after a throw in the men's finals. Despite the effort, he finished fourth and did not qualify for Beijing.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/2000th sec.,f2.8)

Reese Hoffa continued his reign as the Sultan of Shot, winning the event with a throw of 22.10 meters, and let the crowd know he liked his result.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 400, 1/2000th sec.,f2.8)

Back on the track, 800m runner Jebreh Harris appeared to have blood flowing from her leg as she got set in the blocks for the semifinals.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 250, 1/5000th sec.,f2.8)

The track at Hayward Field is reflected in the sunglasses of 800m runner Jennifer Grossarth after the semifinal heats.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 250, 1/5000th sec.,f2.8)

Near the end of the day, some final heats were run, deciding what athletes would get the chance to compete in the Beijing Olympics. This made for some really nice emotion. Unlike regular season baseball or football games, winning or losing at the Trials means either shot at a gold medal or years of work seemingly lost.

The heptathlon came down to the final event, the 800 meters. Diana Pickler had to finish within 1.5 seconds of her closest rival to make the team, and she did just that.

First and second place went to Jacquelyn Johnson and Hyleas Fountain, who hugged after the finish line.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 250, 1/2000th sec.,f2.8)

Pickler finished third to earn the Olympic berth, and seemed like she still couldn't believe the scoreboard as she looked up during a group hug with Johnson and Fountain.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 250, 1/2000th sec.,f2.8)

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June 27, 2008 11:16 PM

Olympics Trials: Golden Light at Hayward Field.

Posted by Rod Mar

Just arrived in Eugene, Oregon for the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.

Didn't do a lot of shooting tonight. Make that, I didn't do a lot of GOOD shooting tonight, but did get my feet wet.

I don't do a lot of track shooting, and there's a lot to learn, especially at big events. I'm here to cover the meet, follow whatever local athletes we might have participating, but also get familiar with the events.

As the sun was setting, the light got gorgeous as it shone on the spectators in the bleachers along the back stretch of the track.

Try as I might to work with and image of athletes running in shadow past the sunlit fans, the artificial lights shining on the track made a true silhouette impossible.

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200/f2.8 zoom lens @ 140mm, ISO 250, 1/1000th sec.,f6.3)

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200/f2.8 zoom lens @ 98mm, ISO 250, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200/f2.8 zoom lens @ 98mm, ISO 250, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

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June 25, 2008 9:57 PM

It's a Dirty Job, But Someone's Gotta Jump in the Dryer.

Posted by Rod Mar

I'm back. Took some time off (!) to rest and recharge, and found out that this story finally ran in the paper and online, so I can share a little about the shoot with you.

One of the first tenets I learned as a photojournalist was, "take your readers where they can't go".

Anyone care to jump into a clothes dryer at the Seahawks' headquarters in Kirkland?

I'm getting ahead of myself.

The assignment was to illustrate a fun story by sportswriter Danny O'Neil about href=">the ten toughest jobs in Seattle sports.

One of the bigger parts of the story would be about the Seahawks' laundry crew.

I joked with this group of young guys that I knew they went to the bars and nightclubs, telling young women they were "on the Seahawks", and they laughed, saying, "yeah, until we tell them what we REALLY do!"

What they are is, they're the truly unsung heroes who have to clean up soiled socks and jocks from an NFL locker room.

And from the brief look I got, that's a pretty tough job.

Putting a camera with a wide-angle lens on the ground in front of dirty socks and underwear wasn't really working in terms of a compelling image, much as I tried.

Followed the guys to the back where they did the laundry and watched them fold clothes. One joked, "I'm an NFL clothes folder!" as Kevin Ries , Jason Manning and Kyle Stillwell folded sweats in the equipment room.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 23mm, ISO 1600, 1/125th sec.,f2.8)

I was told the story was destined to be a centerpiece in the sports section, so I needed a more compelling photo. Players had completed a minicamp workout that morning, so there was laundry that needed to be moved from the washers to the dryers.

NFL players are big dudes with big laundry, so naturally they have supersized washers and dryers.

I tried to get all arty with the composition of the big circular doors as they moved clothes from one side to the other, but as you can tell, arty wasn't cutting it back in the laundry room. Jason Manning, left, and Kevin Ries move the clothes.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 1600, 1/80th sec.,f2.8)

Sometimes when an image isn't coming together, I find it best to take the camera away from my eye and just look around to see the scene in a different way. I know most photographers do this automatically, but it is something that I have to consciously think about or I get "locked in" to something that is visually boring.

One of the guys caught me staring at the big drum dryer. "Wanna go for a spin?", he joked. From the tone of his voice I could tell that it was very likely that people had taken dryer rides in the oversized machines, but I also knew they weren't going to admit it to a reporter.

Actually, I had other ideas. Went back to my bag and grabbed a 15mm fisheye lens. Fisheye lenses bend the perspective of photos while letting you get VERY wide with the frame. It's a lens I don't put into play often, but this seemed like a great opportunity.

"I want to get in and shoot photos looking OUT, as you toss the laundry IN," I told them.

"Seriously?" was the reply.


I'm not a big guy, so it was easy to crawl in. The difference in the range of light from inside the dryer to outside was excessive, so I decided to pop a little flash in the dryer so that the stainless steel insides would be more visible, letting the viewer know exactly where the photo was being taken.

I'd just chatted with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the equipment room. Given that Matt is a fun guy and a joker, I was a *little* worried that if he knew I was in the dryer he'd either shut me in it and/or turn it on.

Kyle Stillwell, an intern with the team, tossed in some freshly washed jerseys as I shot away. He had to toss them towards the sides so they wouldn't cover the lens.

We had to shoot a couple of times because the warm damp clothes were steaming up the front element of the lens. I thought it was a cool effect until I looked at it and decided that no, it just sucked and made a mess of things.

Couple of more frames to balance the flash (the best use of flash is when you can't tell it's there) and I had an image I liked.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 15mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/30th sec./f2.8 with flash)

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June 20, 2008 9:21 AM

Mariners: Don't Call It a Death Watch

Posted by Rod Mar

Sometimes sports photography is more than telling the story of one particular game.

Sure, it's important to have a photo of the play or player of the game, or something that otherwise illustrates what happened.

But fans are interested in more than just the game -- their primary interest is their team, so remembering I'm documenting a team's season is also important.

With the Mariners' ship figuratively sinking all season, anyone who follows sports knows that jobs are usually on the line.

After Seattle got swept by the lowly Washington Nationals at home last weekend, I was pretty confident that changes had to be made within the franchise. If they didn't make a change, they risked sending a message to their upset fans that the status quo was thought of as "good enough".

Twenty games or so under .500 is hardly good enough for a team projected by most to contend for the A.L. West title.

So, as the beat writers and columnists do their jobs and speculate in words what those changes might be, my job is to be aware of the possibilities and to be prepared visually to tell those same stories.

Keeping that in mind, I've spent much of the last homestand not only photographing the games, but also many of the personnel who's jobs might be in danger as the season continues to slip away.

As any baseball fan knows, the manager's job is usually near the top of the list.

So each day I've gone to the ballpark, I've made sure to make photographs of Mariner manager John McLaren. Now, according to nearly all accounts I've read, McLaren is a good man who's trying to lead a terrible team.

Baseball usually doesn't care if a manager's a good man, it just wants to know if he's winning.

I've shot McLaren staring at his scorecard, McLaren sitting on the bench, McLaren conferring with his pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre. I've also captured him talking, yawning, yelling, grimacing and even smiling (albeit grimly).

Along with that I've cataloged each of his assistant coaches, knowing from my time in sports that an assistant is often named interim manager when the original manager is fired.

Last week the team fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland, then followed that up by relieving general manager Bill Bavasi of his duties. At that point, you could have roasted marshmallows on McLaren's customary seat at the head of the Mariners' bench.

Prior to Monday's game against the Florida Marlins, I spotted McLaren and assistant coaches Sam Perlozzo and Eddie Rodriguez standing outside of the dugout for the national anthem. Bench coach Jim Riggleman joined them, but stood off to the side by a step. I thought that was interesting because it was as if Riggleman didn't want to be part of that line.

Of course, I'm speculating. I'm sure McLaren and Riggleman are friends and they have the shared history of trying to manage this group of underperforming players.

Still, the composition tells a story, and when McLaren was fired yesterday, Riggleman was announced as the interim manager.

When I learned the news of McLaren's firing on my day off yesterday, I remembered the photo and transmitted it to the paper from home.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 500, 1/320th sec.,f3.2)

Who else is on the deathwatch list of possibly soon-to-be ex-Mariners?

Let's just say I've spent a lot of time making photos of "sluggers" Richie Sexson (last extra-base hit one month ago) and Jose Vidro (hitting .177 in June), as well as pitchers Erik Bedard ("ace" of the staff who gets tired after 99 pitches in just his 12th appearance of the season), Carlos Silva ($48 million contract) and Jarrod Washburn ($15 million left).

And Ichiro? Rumored as possible trade bait. Got lots of pictures of him, too.

Today's front page;

Sports cover:

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June 16, 2008 11:55 PM

Sonics: Just Like Ol' Times.

Posted by Rod Mar

Back in 1995, Sonics fans called their parties "The Rally in the Alley" -- those raucous, alcohol-fueled rallies that preceded (and followed) Sonics playoff games during their run to the NBA Finals.

In 2008, the Rally in the Alley was actually held in front of the U.S. Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle. No alcohol before this rally, as fans were already drunk on a cocktail comprised of love for their basketball team and hatred of Clay Bennett, the Oklahoman who bought the team and plans to move it to his home city.

Back in the '90's, Sonics fans chanted "LAKERS SUCK! LAKERS SUCK!" until the nearby Space Needle shivered.

In 2008, they yell just as loudly, "BENNETT SUCKS! BENNETT SUCKS!".

What a difference a decade makes.

The big trial between the City of Seattle and Bennett's ownership group started on Monday at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle.

As I work the night shift and was scheduled to shoot the Mariners game, shooting the rally in front of the courthouse fit right into my schedule.

By the time I arrived, a large throng had already gathered/ Some were lining the sidewalks and getting drivers to honk their horns in support. As 4pm and the end of the court day neared, the fans gathered along the main walkway leading from the street to the front of the courthouse. They were waiting for those involved in the trial to exit, particularly Mr. Bennett (one of our fine photographers, Thomas James Hurst, had photographed Bennett entering court already that morning).

My news sense told me that there was NO WAY that Bennett was going to walk down that path, even with it cordoned off. Safety always rules, and any federal security agency would have ushered him out another way, which is what they did.

But that didn't stop the fans from yelling, chanting, swearing like baseball managers, and carrying on like it was a playoff game (as if any one could even remember the last time the Sonics were in the playoffs...).

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 500, 1/300th sec.,f3.5 + fill flash)

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 153mm, ISO 400, 1/250th sec.,f3.2)

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO 500, 1/250th sec.,f3.2)

Local Seattle product and current NBA player Spencer Hawes showed up wearing a throwback Gary Payton jersey and some sunglasses he apparently stole from Paris Hilton:

Waiting for folks to exit was intersting. As court recessed for the day, various people wandered out. Everyone was looking for Clay Bennett, but they every person who passed by was whispered about, "Who's that? Who's he? Is that one of Bennett's lawyers?"

Here's a small sampling. This dude and his buddy ran the gauntlet, getting some love from the crowd.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 17mm, ISO 500, 1/320th sec.,f4.0)

I ran up and started popping flashes into this guy's face and people thought he actually was somebody (well, his wife thinks he's somebody, anyway) but it was ESPN.COM's Jim Caple:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 19mm, ISO 500, 1/300th sec.,f3.5 + fill flash)

Then David Letterman Greg Narver, a city attorney exited and waved, getting himself some applause.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 500, 1/300th sec.,f3.5 + fill flash)

When Times reporter Jim Bruner exited, I playfully made a couple of frames. A fan said, "he's nobody!". I turned and told the guy, "well, that NOBODY is the reporter who uncovered all the emails between Bennett and his co-horts", and when the guy realized I was serious, he yelled, "THAT'S THE GUY WHO FOUND THE EMAILS!" and cheers followed Bruner down the walkway.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 500, 1/300th sec.,f5.0 + fill flash)

After it was announced that Bennett had already exited and the subsequent booing stopped, speakers took to a mic and announced that ex-Sonics Gary Payton and Xavier McDaniel were on the way.

McDaniel called Payton his "little bro" and I managed to make frame despite being squished by the crowd.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 500, 1/300th sec.,f4.0 + fill flash)

Both spoke, Payton after climbing atop a newspaper box and it was hard to make out what they were saying through the tiny sound system. A friend said he thought it was weird that Payton talked about himself most of the time, and that he wanted to have his jersey hang in the rafters of the SEATTLE Sonics.

But heck, that's what the crowd wanted to hear from him, and I think they were basically amazed he'd show up to support his former franchise. I know I was. Schultz basically ran Payton out of town.

Bottom line, Payton showed up and supported the city which is more than you can say for former Sonic legends Jack Sikma, Detlef Schrempf, John Johnson, Nate McMillan, Slick Watts, and Fred Brown, right?

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June 15, 2008 10:58 PM

Mariners: Losing Sight.

Posted by Rod Mar

I'll let Mariners manager John McLaren's profanity-laced tirade explain how hard it is to cover a baseball team that was supposed to be decent, but is instead, really terrible.

"We're playing our ass off every day and got nothing to show for it. I'm tired of (expletive) losing, I'm tired of getting my ass beat, and so are those guys. We've got to change this (expletive) around and get after it. And only we can do it."

Thanks, John. Here's Seattle starter R.A. Dickey looks out toward left field as a double hit by Washington's Jesus Flores (running, left) resulted in two of the Nationals six runs in the second inning of Friday's loss. Dickey only lasted 1 2/3 innings.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 170mm, ISO 1000, 1/800 sec.,f2.8)

Richie Sexson (feel free to start your office pool to guess the day he'll be released -- yours is probably the last office in Seattle without one) can't believe he struck out looking against the Nationals. I know that's shocking -- his 65 strikeouts lead the team.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 120mm, ISO 1600, 1/800 sec.,f2.8)

"I'm tired of (expletive) losing (expletive) every night, and we bust our ass. It's got to be a total team (expletive) effort to turn this thing around, and that's it."

McLaren was probably swearing here...can you blame him?

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/640 sec.,f2.8)

"The fans are pissed off, and I'm pissed off, and the players are pissed off. And that's the way it is. There's no (expletive) easy way out of this. Can't feel sorry for ourself. Gotta (expletive) buckle it up and get after it.

The players didn't look pissed off. They just looked defeated after dropping the second game in a row to the Nationals, who entered the series with the second-worse record in baseball. Any guess as to who is the worst?

Catcher Jamie Burke hangs his head in the middle of the forlorn Mariners dugout.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 160mm, ISO 1600, 1/640th sec.,f2.8)

Seattle reliever Sean Green stares on to the field at the end of the Mariners 4-2 loss to Washington. Green gave up a home run in the ninth inning. This guy pitches seemingly every night. I feel bad for him. His arm is going to fall off, I swear.

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

The fans? Yeah, okay, they're pissed off. In a kind, gentle, Seattle kind of way. Sure they booed Yuniesky Betancourt when he couldn't lay down a bunt in Sunday's loss to complete the sweep, but then one fan stood up and reminded the crowd the Betancourt had saved a run with a sweet fielding play the inning before. It kinda worked to calm the crowd, until one fat guy with a beer yelled, "THEY ALL SUCK!".

But this guy, even though he channeled the old New Orleans Saints fans with their "Aint's" paper bags over their heads, had to admit he still loved the Mariners even as they got swept by the lowly Nats.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 80mm, ISO 200, 1/1250th sec, f2.8)

The end of Sundays loss looked the same as the others, with a frustrated Mariner sitting looking beaten in the dugout. Today it was Willie Bloomquist, who has been moved to a platoon in centerfield with his .224 batting average and exactly zero extra-base hits.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 153mm, ISO 400, 1/320th sec., f2.8)

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June 12, 2008 10:34 PM

News: Homeless Protest at City Hall

Posted by Rod Mar

With the Mariners out-of-town, I was assigned to photograph a protest of the city's homelessness policies that was being organized by the Real Change Organizing Project.

The event was designed to raise awareness with some speeches and a sleepout on the steps of City Hall.

While I envisioned a long-exposure shot of tents jamming the plaza in front of the building in the darkness, an 7:30pm deadline and a 9:30pm sunset precluded and such thoughts of beautiful light.

I also was aware that the protest might spill into the streets. In the past, the protests haven't heated up until the next morning, when protesters can actually mess with traffic, so that probably wasn't going to be in my cards on this night, either (as it turned out, the protest did spill into the streets the next morning and some were arrested).

I arrived early, and photographed Steve Araujo, who works at El Centro de la Raza, setting up his tent in the plaza.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 19mm, ISO 640, 1/250th sec.,f9.0)

While supporters and sympathizers to the cause came to sleep in their tents (some were so new that they'd never been unpacked, much less set-up), some of Seattle's homeless community came to partake of the food and support the cause, but lacking their own tents, chose to sleep where they usually sleep -- on the streets.

Currently homeless, Chapo Cheto, left, Benny Shora (seated) and Ceasar Villegas crashed on the hard cement of the plaza in front of City Hall.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 20mm, ISO 640, 1/250th sec.,f8.0)

Some graduate students from the University of Washington had created and were erecting a memorial to those homeless folks who had passed away. The memorial featured colored tiles that let some light through, and I was drawn to them. I made some interesting frames of the students setting up the memorial, but since the event was about the homeless, I wanted to make them a part of my final image.

Things came together when I finally took the camera away from my eye and really took a good look around. That's when I found Merlyn Parker (in AC/DC hat) selling Real Change newspapers and was able to shoot him through the colorful tiles.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 145mm, ISO 640, 1/200th sec.,f5.0)

Shooting a general news event is a nice change and a way for me to keep thinking about making visually interesting images while telling stories. Sports is fun, but it is also a very controlled atmosphere. Having to make my own decisions and having the freedom (and challenge) of finding my own angles is a good way to keep my news senses sharp.

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June 10, 2008 10:05 PM

Feature Hunting: What You See Is What You Shoot.

Posted by Rod Mar

The assignment of "feature hunting" contains an interesting dynamic.

Basically, the premise is this: go out and find a photo of something fun/interesting/visual/newsy that can run in the newspaper without an accompanying story, only an extended cutline.

At best, these are slice-of-life photos that really are worth the proverbial 1,000 words.

At worst, they're a silhouette of some kid on the swings at a park.

Either way, when the editors are chomping at the bit and deadlines await, the bar for what comprises something worth publishing gets lower and lower.

For the photographer, it's a race against the clock.

Check the paper/website for a listing of the day's events.

Call a couple of your "go-to" sources.

And then, hit the streets and hope you come across something good.

The best feature photos are always serendipitous. You're already somewhere shooting one thing and you happen upon another. That's what happened when I found these dancers for a feature last month.

Then there are the days like Sunday, when I was asked to use a concert in the park as a "starting point" for a feature hunt. The concert was nice -- the music was pleasant and a few people stopped and sat for a listen. But it was not photogenic, and hard as I tried, I couldn't make an interesting photo.

So I wandered. Walked through the park at the Ballard Locks. Found a father and son looking at the fish ladder. Can't be too picky and this was a complete grab shot ("grab shot" -- see it, shoot it). Not bad, but certainly nothing to write the Pulitzer folks about.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 35mm, ISO 1250, 1/160th sec., f3.5)

Went over to Golden Gardens Park hoping for some wind-surfers or something other than beachcombers at low tide (we'd run a fistful of low-tide photos all week). Saw sailboats all in a pretty little row, reminding me of ducklings following their mother. Found a human figure standing by the shore and did my best to make a pleasing composition.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender @ 215mm, ISO 2000, 1/2500th sec., f5.0)

Sometimes that's the life of a newspaper photographer. You head out with the hope of making an incredible image, but then the clock starts to tick and it seems as if nothing interesting is happening around you. A quiet paranoia even sets in, and you're convinced there's a great photo going on right around the corner, or in the next neighborhood, or, worse, the neighborhood you just left.

In the end, the editors appreciated the photos, they filled appropriate spots in the paper, and I'd done my job.

See it, shoot it and don't get too picky. Hate to say it, but sometimes that's the job.

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June 9, 2008 6:33 PM

Mariners: A Flicker of Doubt.

Posted by Rod Mar

Pictures don't lie?

Sometimes they do, but not for the reasons people always think.

For example, last week I published a photo of the Mariners' Miguel Cairo walking back to the dugout after striking out against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.

Some sharp-eyed readers contacted us to ask about the discolored letters in the Safeco Field sign at the top of the frame.

Most were pleasant, asking what would cause that effect. Others were more critical.

One wrote to say:

"The photo of the SAFECO sign at the field featuring the S and the O recolored is irresponsible reporting. Photos should so (sic) what is real and not be retouched to make editorial comment.

I would like to see an apology in your paper and a statement concerning how the responsible parties are being disciplined."

Mixed reactions on my part to these comments.

On one hand, I appreciate that readers and viewers are looking carefully at our work and challenging what they see. On the other hand, to call me irresponsible and seeking to have me disciplined before finding out what happened is...irresponsible.

First off, let's get this very clear:


Clear enough?

Manipulating a photo in such a manner is against every journalistic tenet in existence. It's also against a very strict policy at our newspaper and is a fire-able offense. There would be no warnings, just an escort to the door.

Newspapers and journalists have enough problems (Anyone want to subscribe? Buy an ad?) that jeopardizing our credibility is career suicide.

Still, you say, it's a suspicious photo. What's going on with the sign?

Here's the photo in question:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 40mm, ISO 1600, 1/800th sec., f2.8)

As far as I can tell, it's that evil menace "flicker" that has caused the letters to appear to be different colors.

I actually wrote about it in a previous post.

I'm not sure what kind of light the sign is made of, but I will find out. Most light sources flicker to some extent.

What happens is that the light source (not sure if the sign in question is neon, fluorescent or some other source), flickers very quickly, far more quickly than is visible to the naked eye.

However, a camera capturing frames at 1/800th of a second can capture some of the inconsistencies (i.e. flicker) in the light. This accounts for some letters being fully lit, and some apparently not fully lit.

Wikipedia talks about flicker here and here. It's not limited to some forms of neon and fluorescent, it's also present in sodium and mercury vapor light.

Maybe one of you scientists can weigh in and "illuminate" the situation for me?

You don't want some dilettante explanation from me, you want (and deserve proof).

Here's one of the first frames from the series. I was thinking about the best way to illustrate the loss, and from the photo well inside of first base (near the Mariners dugout), I was close to home plate. The first batter of the inning struck out and made the long walk back to the dugout and I had an idea to shoot wider if any of the following two batters met the same fate.

I put the 24-70mm lens on a camera and made a test shot to check the composition. In it, you can see that some letters appear to be of a different color. It's my belief that those letters are not fully illuminated, but I can't say for sure. The following is a screen grab from the way the images appears, unretouched when I intially open it for editing in a software program called Photo Mechanic. You can see all the exposure, lens, and time stamp info on the right side of the frame:

In this frame, you can see that the "S" and the "O" are bright white, while the letters in the middle are warmer in tone.

After Cairo strikes out, I start shooting him walking back. This is the first frame of the series of him walking, and the "S" and the "O" are discolored:

The very next frame is taken one second later and now the word "Safeco" is white and the word "Field" is discolored:

As he continues, the "S" and "O" are yellow, and the rest of the sign is white. This is the frame that ran in on the cover of the sports section and is where readers thought I was making "editorial" comments on the game.

This is a screen grab of two simultaneous frames, shot less than a second apart. In the first frame, the word "Field" is again yellow while "Safeco" is white. In the second, the "S" and the "O" are yellow:

Suffice to say, I did not manipulate these images in any way to make an editorial comment.

The "S" and "O" are discolored by coincidence, not intention.

I do understand that readers are more critical than ever about our credibility. The power of photo manipulation software and documented cases of intentional manipulation by journalists worldwide have aided in creating the perception that journalists are cheating the truth.

I don't blame readers for being critical. In an age where there is more information available than ever, and powerful tools for manipulation can be bought at any computer store, critical thinking and reasoning are more important than ever.

But calling my journalistic credibility into question is sure to garner a response, that's for sure.

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June 7, 2008 9:22 PM

Jake Locker: You Can Go Home Again.

Posted by Rod Mar

Headed up to Bellingham tonight to photograph opening night of the Bellingham Bells season.

That's a heck of a drive to shoot what is basically a baseball college summer league.

But, it's newsworthy when the starting centerfield and number-two hitter is none other than Bellingham's own (okay, FERNDALE'S own) Jake Locker, who is better known for being the starting quarterback for the University of Washington Huskies.

With the Mariners out-of-town, local sports news is slim. So when I arrived in Bellingham, there were also four other newspaper photographers and three television crews on hand for the festivities.

Jake is a great kid and tolerates the media well enough. He endured some gentle teasing from teammates at the gathering of cameras, but it was obvious he just wanted to fit in and play baseball.

A female friend of mine saw the following image and noted, "Jake Locker is SCRUMPTIOUS (!) in this photo!"


(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 400, 1/1000 sec., f10)

Bellingham manager Brandon Newell is congratulated by Locker during pregame festivities after Newell proposed to his girlfriend in front of the crowd:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 98mm, ISO 400, 1/320 sec., f5.0)

Even when he's trying to be "one of the guys" in a baseball uniform, it's easy to see that Locker's physical presence identifies him as a man among boys:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 31 mm, ISO 200, 1/2000 sec., f2.8)

Locker fouled off numerous pitches in his first at-bat before earning a walk. "He's up there just HACKING", laughed some of his teammates, who were also impressed that he was making contact on every pitch to stay alive. Locker flashed a broad smile upon reaching first on the walk:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extenter = 560mm, ISO 250, 1/2000 sec., f4.0)

Sports wanted an action photo of him playing, but I also wanted to "place" Locker in this sub-minor league environment so I used a wide-angle lens near the on-deck circle to shoot something a little different:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 17 mm, ISO 400, 1/400 sec., f5.0)

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June 4, 2008 8:33 PM

Mariners: Pitching Doesn't Always Win Ballgames.

Posted by Rod Mar

Tough end to the home stand for the Mariners, especially on the mound:

June 1, a 7-5 loss to Boston, during which reliever J.J. Putz (can we still call him the closer?) gave up four runs in the ninth:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 500, 1/1250th sec., f2.8)

June 2, a 4-2 loss to the Angels, where Jarrod Washburn allowed four runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/1250th sec., f2.8)

June 3, a 5-4 loss to the Angels, in which Erik Bedard allowed five runs (four earned) in 3 1/3 innings:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 500, 1/800th sec., f2.8)

Luckily, I had Wednesday off, so I didn't have to shoot Carlos Silva lose his sixth straight decision.

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June 1, 2008 11:35 PM

Mariners: Ichiro is More Flexible Than You.

Posted by Rod Mar

Here's something I learned from Seattle's 7-4 loss to Detroit -- all that stretching the Ichiro does before at-bats and between pitches in the field? Apparently it's as effective as Bikram yoga.

Ichiro is flexible.

Here he calls for time after advancing from first to third on Jose Lopez' single in the third. Ichiro scored on Jose Vidro's sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2, but Seattle eventually lost after reliever J.J. Putz gave up three runs in the top of the ninth.

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

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June 1, 2008 12:55 AM

Soccer: The Beautiful Game Visits Seattle

Posted by Rod Mar

I'm a somewhat jaded sports photographer after all these years on the sidelines, but I was really looking forward to Saturday's assignment -- a soccer exhibition match (or, "friendly") between Brazil and Canada.

Don't get me wrong -- I love this job -- but after sitting through the first two months of the Mariners season, I was more than psyched to see world-class athletes doing what they do best.

I've photographer soccer in the past (Manchester United vs. Chelsea, Real Madrid vs. D.C. United), but this was Brazil! I was bummed that some of their best players weren't making the trip (Ronaldinho and Kaka), so in a way it was like watching the Chicago Bulls of the '80's without Jordan and Pippen.

But keep in mind we don't see world-class soccer in Seattle, so I was excited as a Spanish fan who got to see the Bulls at their peak. No Jordan and no Pippen would dampen the experience a bit, but if you never get to see the sport live, seeing Toni Kukoc play would get you plenty excited.

The match wasn't due to start until 7:30pm, and that's pretty late for our Saturday deadlines. I was assigned to make some early feature photos of fans, and found enthusiasm for both sides.

These young ladies are Brazilians living in Seattle as au-pairs, so they were over the moon at the chance to see their national team.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 400, 1/250th sec.f/5.6)

It was easy for Canadians to make the short trip to Seattle to see their team, and knowing they were the underdogs didn't stop them from celebrating (and, apparently drinking).

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 130mm, ISO 400, 1/250th sec.f/5.6)

I'd brought a whole onslaught of lenses with me. Most soccer shooters shoot a 400mm or 600mm lens so they can reach midfield and beyond. Knowing the Brazil was an overwhelming favorite, I wanted to shoot them scoring goals much in the manner I shoot football looser than most when a team is close to scoring a touchdown.

As such, I chose to lug a 300mm/f2.8 lens along with the 400, and two shorter zoom lenses, a 70-200mm/f2.8 and a 24-70mm2.8.

The 70-200 came in very handy just into the game. In the fourth minute, Brazil star Robinho dribbled between three Canadian defenders before passing to Diego, who scored from close range. Diego turned towards me to celebrate and I managed to compose to include him and the backs of the stunned Canadian defenders.

((Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 100mm, ISO 640, 1/1000th sec.f/3.2)

Soccer celebrations are rarely brief, so followed him as he jumped in the air to celebrate. The background is not very good and the angle is a bit off (quite perpendicular to my lens), but it's a nice moment.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO 640, 1/1000th sec.f/3.2)

Later in the half, Brazil's Luis Fabiano scores on a header for his team's second goal as Canada's Richard Hastings. I was lucky with the 300mm and saw Robinho cross the ball from in front of me on the left side of the goal. I glanced quickly and saw Fabiano being grabbed from behind by the Canadian, and figured the ball was coming there. I shot away caught him heading the ball towards the goal.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.f/2.8)

I kept firing as Fabiano fell towards Canadian goalkeeper Pat Onstad tried to keep the ball out. It's not the cleanest photo ever, but it's unusual, it captures a moment and heck, it's a pretty good soccer photo for me, who rarely gets to shoot the game at all. The second frame is better, and oh, sharper, too.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.f/2.8)

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.f/2.8)

The Brazilians celebrated and I almost had a great angle of the Canadian keeper juxtaposed with the celebration. I couldn't lean over enough to really get Onstad into the composition I wanted, and then I couldn't decided which to make the point of focus and which to let go out of focus.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.f/2.8)

After halftime, I had to decide whether or not to keep shooting the Brazilians or give time to the Canadians (who were playing great and had a legitimate chance to lead at half, except they missed two great chances). I thought about it for, oh, about one second, before coming to the conclusion that if the 1986 Bulls were in town, no one would be shooting the Golden State Warriors. Am I right?

The second half was a bit slower for photos, but I got another chance when Robinho scored to give the Brazilians a 3-2 lead. I was shooting very long with a 400mm and a 1.4x attached, looking to make cool tight action photos.

The goal itself was boring photowise, and his teammates mobbed him on the far side of the field, which was obstructed to me by the goal netting. But remembering the golden rule of soccer shooting (celebrations last a LOOOONG time), I waited a bit and caught him dancing, laughing and sticking his tongue out as he returned to play. The Brasil sign in the background? Would like to say I planned that, but no, that's just a very happy accident.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 1600, 1/640th sec.f/4.0)

Here's the two sports covers, first edition followed by second edition:

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