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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 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="http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sports/2008011181_toughjobs22.html>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.

Yep.

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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