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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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September 22, 2008 12:41 PM

Seahawks: Is It Them or Is It Me? (Wait, Don't Answer That...)

Posted by Rod Mar

To some of you, this is going to come off and kinda pouty, kinda whiny, kinda "hey you got a great job why are complaining" type of post. But to others, you will understand that I'm not really whining -- I'm wondering, exploring, trying to get better.

We're three weeks into the Seahawks season, and I still don't feel like I've made a really nice picture. This bugs me. It's my job to make compelling images and my editors are complaining. But really, if we strive to be great, we set our own measuring sticks, right?

Geez this is self-indulgent. If you're bored, I find this blog to be interesting and wonderful. I won't be hurt if you flip over to it.

So I have spent a lot of time thinking (and apparently not blogging) about how to approach my little problem.

First, what are the causes? There could be many.

-- Burnout? I did work like 25 straight eighteen-hour days in August.

-- The new gear? I'm shooting Nikon for the moment -- am I missing moments because I need more familiarity with the equipment?

-- I've suddenly "lost it"? I'll never make a Seahawks photo I like again?

More likely, it's just a bit of the first two reasons and a little slump mixed in for good measure.

To be fair, the Seahawks probably aren't as photogenic as they've been in the past. Without their five top receivers, they don't throw the long ball and they don't complete as many passes (I VERY rarely will publish a shot of an incomplete pass unless it's really storytelling like the drops in the Buffalo game).

In fact, in reviewing the stats after this most recent game, I found that the Seahawks ran the ball 46 times and threw it only 20 times. And of those 20, only 12 were completions. So, in retrospect, I only had 12 chances to shoot pass completions versus 46 chances to shoot running plays.

One of those pass reception opportunities came in the first half as tight end John Carlson made his way to my side of the field and made a nice diving/falling catch.

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f/4 lens @ 290mm, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f/4 lens @ 290mm, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f/4 lens @ 290mm, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f/4 lens @ 290mm, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

Them's some sweet photos of a ref's pant leg. Bad luck.

So if I am not shooting completions, of course I get good frames on incompletions. This has the traditional "two faces and a ball" and has some rhythm to the composition and it ended up being a pass interference call on the St. Louis player.

This game was all about the running, at least from the Seahawks perspective. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck made the play of the game with a block that took out two would-be tacklers and sprung Julius Jones for a touchdown in the first half.

Here's what that looked like:

(Okay, I was on the other side of the field and was blocked from seeing it, but I'm sure you all saw it on the television replay so just pretend you are looking at a frame of it here...)
(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f/4 lens @ 370mm, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

If you miss a big play, you have to find a way to represent it so that if it turns out being a storytelling moment, you have an image to go with a story in the paper or on the website. I hauled a-- over to the Seahawks sideline and found the offensive linemen giving Hasselbeck some love for the block. Knowing how mercilessly he teases some of them, I'm sure they also gave him some back...

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f/4 lens @ 200mm, ISO 500, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

As the game progressed, it was easy to see that a) the Seahawks were going to win easily and b) they were doing it with their running game. That would be the story. Knowing that running back Julius Jones was well over 100 yards rushing and that the rushing game had saved the injury-depleted receiving corp from having to step up, I concentrated on making a good Jones photo.

Nice action, bad background:

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens, ISO 640, 1/1250th sec.,f4.0)

Nice and tight, good eyes, but the light is *not quite* there:

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens, ISO 640, 1/1600th sec.,f4.0)

Better light, better action. The backlighting adds a bit of depth, the shadow is nice, and the action is decent as he has both feet off the ground and you can see the spray of rubber pellets in the air from the field turf:

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4 lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

Photo editor SuperKev used this last photo as the lead of the sports section.

Don't take this post the wrong way -- it's not complaining. I'm trying to constantly evaluate my performance -- my effort and the results. There is no solution. That's the fun of my job. Every moment brings a new chance to make a great picture. And you have to be of the right mind to do it regularly. You can push and push and push, but really, as a shooter you have no ability to control what happens on the field of play, you just react to it and hopefully freeze a moment.

As in life, second-guessing has no place in photography. Saying "I shoulda been over there", or "I shoulda had that lens instead of this one" gets you know where. Plan, prepare, and let serendipity do it's thing.

A former mentor of mine used to remind me, "If opportunity knocks, at least be ready to answer the door".

I'm bummed the Seahawks don't play this week, but I will be at the UW vs. Stanford game so I get to jump back on the horse, so to speak.

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