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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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December 12, 2008 10:17 AM

Halftime of My Career: Leaving the Seattle Times

Posted by Rod Mar

That sound you just heard was the horn signifying the end of the first half of my career.

The clock has wound down to :00, but the game is not nearly over. There's plenty of action ahead.

However, it is the end of my stay at The Seattle Times.

I have accepted a buyout from the paper and my last day is next Monday, the day I return to Seattle from covering this weekend's Seahawks game at St. Louis.

Leaving the paper is not easy. The Times has been the only place I've worked over nearly two decades -- the cliches you hear when people leave a longtime place of employment all apply here.

The place feels like home (except I don't leave my socks on the floor -- well, most of the time, anyway).

The people are like family (hugs, bickering, hugs, more bickering...)

The family metaphor is not too much of a stretch. The Times has helped me grow, both as a photojournalist and as a person. I will never forget a performance review a number of years ago when then-Managing Editor Alex McLeod said to me, "Kid, you're gone from young and green to old and smelly in record time."

I took it as a badge of honor. Only in newspapers would "old and smelly" be a compliment.

My career here has allowed me to witness history through my cameras, and it has always been clear to me that my way of repayment was to share what I saw with you, the readers.

From Buffalo to Beijing and all points in-between, I've had more fun than anyone should be allowed to have at a job.

Even calling what I've done here a "job" feels weird. I was fortunate to have a career that allowed me to get paid for witnessing moments that others had to pay to see, if there was public access at all.

Though I am leaving the Times, I will continue to photograph, to witness and to explore.

I have a new blog at where I will continue to share my successes, my challenges and everything in-between. The new site will larger images, categories and an area for comments.

It is my sincere hope that you'll head over for a look and join me as I take the field for the second half.

Grab a hotdog. It's just about kickoff.



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December 8, 2008 10:10 PM

Seahawks: Good Until the Last Drop.

Posted by Rod Mar

Seahawks vs. Patriots.

Tom Brady vs. Matt Hasselbeck.

Okay then, Matt Cassel vs. Seneca Wallace.

Laurence Maroney vs. Shaun Alexander.

Fine. Sammy Morris vs. Maurice Morris.

And at least we still had Mike Holmgren vs. Bill Belichick.

So this matchup didn't have the lustre it appeared to have when the schedulers initially made it the Sunday Night Football game.

Which is why it got switched back to a 1pm kickoff.

As a mediocre game on paper, it was actually a riveting contest on the field. (No, smartpants, they didn't imitate Rosie the Riveter in football pads, the game was actually kind of compelling).

Seattle played well for the first three quarters, They ran the ball at will, converted third downs into first downs, and led the Super Bowl runners-up 21-13 heading into the fourth quarter.

Much of Seattle's offensive success was due to a superb game by former Patriot receiver Deion Branch, who scored two touchdowns. Maybe it's luck, but after spending the past four weeks watching plays go away from me, all of Seattle's touchdowns ended up in my lap.

Branch scored the first touchdown on a little out route in the first quarter, then ran straight towards me in celebration before stopping to bow not once, but twice. The frame I like best didn't have him bowing. To my way of thinking, when one's record is 2-11, one shouldn't actually be accepting applause for a first quarter touchdown.

(Nikon D3, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 44mm, ISO 1600, 1/1250th sec.,f2.8)

In the second half, Branch set up his second touchdown with a weaving and wandering 63-yard catch and run that ended up with his celebrating with quarterback Seneca Wallace.

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 200mm, ISO 2000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

New England challenged the call, which was ruled as called on the field, and Branch let out a wide smile as he returned to the huddle.

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 2000, 1/1250th sec.,f4.0)

Branch scored on the same drive after catching a little four-yard pass in the back of the end zone. As he got up in front of me, I realized his field suite (where his family watches him play) was right behind me. He rushed by me towards them, and I was lucky to have a wide-angled lens ready.

(Nikon D3, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 1600, 1/800th sec.,f2.8)

Seattle's fine rookie tight end John Carlson had another good game, hauling in a team-high eight catches including this touchdown in the second quarter after he got past New England linebacker Junior Seau.

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 210mm, ISO 1600, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

Meanwhile, Seattle's defense followed its same routine of starting fast and ending slowly. They brought pressure on Cassel early, but then began to fade near halftime. New England tight end Benjamin Watson got behind Seattle linebacker Leroy Hill for a touchdown catch making the score 14-10 in favor of Seattle.

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 1600, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

New England clawed its way back throughout the second half, finally taking a 24-21 lead in the final minutes.

Seattle, needing a field goal to send the game into overtime, got a good kickoff return and a nice Seneca Wallace run to get to the New England 43-yard line. They needed maybe 10-15 more yards to get into field goal range. Instead, what happened was a variation on the last minute turnovers of the past few games.

Wallace, dropping back to pass, was smothered by New England's Brandon Meriweather who came through untouched on a blitz, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Patriots and sealing their victory.

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 2400, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

Here's the cropped version we ran in the paper:

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 2400, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

After the game, I tried to get Seneca Wallace and Mike Holmgren in the same frame.

(Nikon D3, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 48mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

As after every game, Holmgren is greeted by his daughter Gretchen after the loss to New England.

(Nikon D3, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

Wandering into the scrum that is the coaches meeting at midfield is always a dicey proposition, especially if you're not tall (hint...I am not tall). There are some rules of engagement that pretty much everyone follows, though. Some pushing is allowed, as are "hail mary" shots where you hold the camera straight over your head. Everyone is cognizant that there are others in the scrum too, and while you are trying to get your shot, you are aware that there are others trying to shoot as well.

That is why holding your camera out to one side in front of the lenses of other shooters is poor form. An Associated Press photographer decided to be selfish, and put a camera out in front of me. As you can tell from the frame below, she didn't have to do it. With the camera in front of her own face, she had a fine frame. Holding out two feet to her right didn't help her, it only hindered me.

(Nikon D3, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

Like any subculture, there are accepted mores and other actions that are inconsiderate. File this under the latter. This photo is featured in my current gallery over at, and I've received emails from around the country agreeing with my assessment. And yes, I did get a very usable frame besides this one, but this is the most fun one to show. Or, it's at least a new ad for Canon.

Last thing I do each game is head over to Mike Holmgren's press conference. Sometimes I shoot pictures, most times I listen so I know what angles were important to the game and so I can edit accordingly.

This time, I was thinking about the strain on Holmgren. It's his last year coaching the Seahawks, and the strain has to be getting to him. Shooting with an abnormally long 600mm lens (at least for a press conference, I was able to capture the stress of the situation.

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 2400, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

I cropped it for my Sportsshooter page:

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 2400, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

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December 6, 2008 11:46 AM

Atlanta Photojournalism Workshop: Bill Eppridge.

Posted by Rod Mar

Just got back from a nice three day trip to Atlanta, where I was asked to lead the Sports Photography Workshop at the famed Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar.

Founded in 1973 by a group of working pros, the Seminar has continued its fine tradition of promoting photojournalism via an impressive list of speakers, a photo contest and other associated events.

I was responsible for two 90-minute sessions, and it was fun to talk about the Olympics, this blog and the job of sports photographers in the ever-changing climate of newspapers.

It's always fulfilling to meet young talented students and to see the passion in their eyes as they pursue their dreams.

Of course, I had to inject a dose of reality and spend some time talking about the challenging economic times, but I also reminded them that there will always be a place in the world for great visuals.

One highlight of the trip was reacquainting with legendary photographer Bill Eppridge. For those who are not familiar with the name, Bill was a longtime photographer for Life magazine. His most famous photo (of which there many) is his image of the slain Robert F. Kennedy lying in the arms of the busboy who was holding him after Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles on that fateful day in 1968.

Bill has a new book out, entitled "A Time It Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties", documents the time that Eppridge spent with Kennedy during his campaign up until the time of his death. It's a beautifully photographed book, and Eppridge was kind enough to sign copies for many of us during a dinner before the start of the seminar.

In his presentation, Eppridge noted that while the book is timed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Kennedy's death, he sees amazing parallels between R.F.K. and another current politician, President-elect Barack Obama. Those parallels, he noted, not only referenced the popularity each politician had with the public, but also the inherent danger that each lived with on a day-to-day basis.

Eppridge's was a compelling talk and slideshow that earned a standing ovation and rave reviews from everyone in attendance.

I was sitting next to Blake Discher, a noted speaker and commercial photographer based out of Detroit, and we were both enraptured. At the end of the talk, I said to Blake, "you know, I've seen him speak twice, and it's still amazing". Blake turned to me and said, "I just saw him speak in New York in October and I'm back for more".

Amazing stuff that inspires. You know I don't do a lot of linking/endorsing on this blog, but if you are looking for a great holiday gift this season, Bill Eppridge's new book is a great choice.

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