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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 www.rodmarphoto.com 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.

Thanks,

Rod


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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 Sportsshooter.com, 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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November 27, 2008 9:30 PM

Seahawks: Stuffed on Thanksgiving.

Posted by Rod Mar

Happy Thanksgiving from Texas Stadium.

I'm sitting up in the press box, looking down on to the field, empty except for the roadies taking down the final remnants of the stage used for the halftime show.

Seattle came to Dallas without much hope of winning and left, well, without a win.

Cowboys 34, Seahawks 9.

Seattle players hit their knees for a prayer before kickoff -- it was the only time they'd find the end zone all day. The Seahawks reached the red zone only twice, and settled for three Olindo Mare field goals to account for their scoring.



(Nikon D3, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 25mm, ISO 1600, 1/640th sec.,f5.0)

There were Seahawks fans in the house. This woman pretty much didn't get her wish.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 250mm, ISO 1600, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

Craig Wrolstad, who was the Field Judge today, is a guy I've known for years. It's great seeing his success -- making the NFL in any capacity is incredible. But it only took one play -- the first play of the game, a screen to Terrell Owens, for Craig to earn the wrath of Mike Holmgren.

I was 50 yards away, but I could hear Holmgren screaming that Owens had pushed off. Craig tried to offer an explanation, but apparently Holmgren didn't like it much, because he just turned up his volume.

Here's what it looks like when 6'5" and over 250 pounds of snortin', stompin' head coach comes bearing down on you.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens + 1.4 extender, ISO 2000, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

Because Dallas was scoring seemingly at will, I took positions in the end zone along the sideline. I was hoping for a fade route to Terrell Owens. What I got was a shot of a real cowboy. Okay, he's not a real cowboy, well maybe he is. But on this day, he was a flagboy. You know, the guy who runs around in the end zones with the big flag after his team scores.



(Nikon D3, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec.,f2.8)



(Nikon D3, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec.,f2.8)

Oh, the football game? Yes, they did play one. Kinda. After the first drive, it felt on the field like there was no way Seattle would compete.

Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo shredded the Seahawks for 331 yards and three touchdowns. When Seattle blitzed, like on this play where cornerback Josh Wilson fell short, Romo found ways to escape including just leaping out of the way.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/800th sec.,f2.8)

Dallas receiver Roy Williams gets behind Seattle's Josh Wilson for a 38-yard reception that set up a field goal in the first half.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens + 1.4 extender, ISO 2500, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

Halftime came, and because it is Thanksgiving, the NFL provided a special halftime show, featuring....The Jonas Brothers Band.

If you know who these guys are, it's because you probably have a tweenaged daughter, or a curious taste in music.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens + 1.4 extender, ISO 4000, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

One story line of the game was pretty easily illustrated. Seattle allowed seven sacks of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck who gamely resembled a boxer who gamely kept getting back up only to get smacked down again.

Hasselbeck is swallowed up by Dallas nose tackle Tank Johnson:



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens + 1.4 extender, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

Dallas linebacker Bradie James got him once:



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens + 1.4 extender, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

Then once again:



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 250mm, ISO 5000, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

Greg Ellis who beat Seattle's Sean Locklear as Hasselbeck fruitlessly tried to duck out of he way:



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec.,f2.8)

DeMarcus Ware had two sacks, and used his 4.5/40 speed to pound Hasselbeck with all his might.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 270mm, ISO 5000, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

At the end of it, Hasselbeck was beaten up pretty good, and after one being sacked by DeMarcus Ware he just stayed on his knees. It pretty much summed the game.


(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 34mm, ISO 5000, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

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November 24, 2008 11:54 PM

Girls Soccer: Capturing the Thrill and the Agony.

Posted by Rod Mar

One thing you know when you are shooting the championship game of any sport, at any level, is that you will have to opportunity to make great reaction photos.

Note that I did not say "you will make great reaction photos" -- it's an opportunity, not a guarantee -- and I mess up those chances often.

Let me explain.

It's really easy to make an average photo at a title game. It's like shooting a protest or a rally. There is a prescribed set of events, and just pointing an autofocus camera at them should yield decent results.

I don't know how many local photographers have images in their "best of" collections from the W.T.O protests, or more recently, the post-election celebrations after Barack Obama was elected. But I do know it's a large number. I really don't mean to rain on anyone's parade, but many of those images are pretty easy to make.

The images that really, truly stand out have that something extra to them that give them a visual energy and depth that others don't have.

That is what I try to keep in mind when I shoot jubilation (aka "jube", in shooter parlance) and dejection.

If the outcome is decided near the end of the game, there's a mental checklist that I run through. Do I have a wide-angle with me? Are all settings correct? Where are the winners? The losers? Will I shoot with a long lens as the contest ends and then wade in with a wide-angle? Does it appear that there will be an angle in which to combine winners and losers in the same frame? Who is important -- why shoot the girl who didn't play if you can shoot the one who scored three goals? Etc.

As you can see, it's not an exact list or set of rules. As both Peter Venkman and Captain Barbossa have famously said, "it's more of a guideline, than a rule".

During the semifinal between Shorecrest and Seattle Prep, I was just coming down from the press box where I was transmitting when the game ended (and yes, the following is a rule and not just a guideline: DEADLINES WILL OFTEN PREVENT YOU FROM SHOOTING THE END OF A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.

Shorecrest's Jessica Rankin, fell to her knees at the end of the game and I made a pretty mediocre frame.



(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 160mm, ISO 5000, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

Didn't have time to mess around, and had to get back upstairs to move this frame quickly as I had another game to shoot right afterwards. Shoot action, transmit, shoot end game, transmit, lather, rinse repeat.

By halftime of the second semifinal it was pouring rain with a wind blowing the rain sideways. Good times.

Shooting in the rain is a pain -- you have to limit what you try to do. I try to get very simple in my equipment and technique so that I can really concentrate on making one or two strong images.

The other important aspect of shooting in bad weather is the mental aspect. Know that if you can shut out the bother of the wind, rain and cold, you have chances to make different, dramatic pictures.

As the clock ran out on Jackson's hope of a state title when they fell to Woodinville, I noticed a player sitting on the ground in the rain, unable to move. I ignored the rest of celebration and just concentrated on Jackson's Ellen Favale as she sat dejectedly on the turf. There's a security guard in a yellow jacket who is not helping this frame, but I'm pretty sure he was just headed somewhere warm and dry.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 6400, 1/320th sec.,f2.8)

Teammates approached Favale on their way to the bench. One eventually stopped and tried to help her up.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 6400, 1/320th sec.,f2.8)

In the end, she walked by herself, wiping rain and maybe tears off her face. Notice that I say "maybe" on the tears. Yes, it is easily assumable that she was crying. But I can't assume that from all the way across the field. If I can't verify it, I can't publish it. So being careful about cutline information is a must. I was taught very early in my career to avoid words like "ponder" ("Seattle quaterback Matt Hasselbeck ponders what might have happened if he had not thrown that last interception" -- unless I ask Matt what he was thinking about, I don't really know, right?).

The falling rain, the composition of her body in the frame, her slumped posture and the wiping of her face all suggest the disappointment of losing only one game away from the championship.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 6400, 1/320th sec.,f2.8)

Fortunately, the weather was better the next night when the finals were played. Everett easily won the Class 3A contest. As they had led comfortably all game, the jubilation at the instant of game's end wasn't great. Because I don't follow these teams throughout the season, I couldn't instantly recognize key players, or seniors to whom the victory might be extra special. In lieu of that, I looked for the best picture. Wading in with a wide-angled lens, I found Everett's Gabrielle Wagonblast with a precious reaction.



(Nikon D3, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 50mm, ISO 5000, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)



(Nikon D3, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 50mm, ISO 5000, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)



(Nikon D3, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 26mm, ISO 5000, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

Because I had an extra minute or two, I followed the team over to their fans where they sang the school song.



(Nikon D3, 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 5000, 1/250th sec.,f2.8)

The Saturday games were running late, so my schedule of shooting action then jube was all messed up. But I got lucky in the final game of the night which pitted Woodinville against Skyline. Skyline scored first and I managed to get Woodinville goalkeeper Leslie Greer (on ground, left) seeing the ball in the net as Skyline's Kiara Williams celebrated with teammate Alisha Connors after Connors' goal put the Spartans up 1-0. Thus, we have a celebration shot that has elements of action, and is early enough that I can send it for deadline before game's end.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 5000, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

After that, it was a matter of finding a good photo at the end. I struggled -- everyone I aimed at was just kind of skipping along (and I'm not complaining -- they won, they get to celebrate however they want -- my job is to get a good photo.

Finally, Skyline's Christina Enyeart (23) hugged teammate Kiara Williams (facing camera) and it was decent.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 5000, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

But I could see Woodinville players walking off and when one of them, Taylor Bolibol, paused for a second appearing to take it all in, I made a better frame.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 5000, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

I think the most telling frame of the last game is the one with the celebration after the game. Not just because they're hugging after the goal -- it's the reaction of the goalkeeper on the ground and the Woodinville defender reacting that add the extra depth to the image.

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November 22, 2008 11:22 PM

Girls Soccer: Alive and Kicking...and Shoving...and Grabbing...

Posted by Rod Mar

While most of the state's media contingent descended upon Pullman, Washington for the Crapple Cup game between Washington and Washington State, I found myself in Lakewood, just south of Tacoma for the semifinals and the finals of the high school girls state soccer tournament.

I watched some of the Apple Cup on TV, and I'm pretty sure that the soccer matches I witnessed were harder hitting and more physical.

The soccer was awesome to watch. Every girl on the field could play, and play smartly. That wasn't surprising to me. What was a bit of a shock was how rough the game is at that level.

I've photographed the boys soccer tourneys in the past, and they're not nearly as physical. I guess that should n't be surprising, given that girls basketball is often scrappier than the boys game.

Here's two frames from a play that symbolized the physicalness of the games. Everett's Annie Sittauer tries to escape the jersey hold of Seattle Prep's Ellie Harrington during the 3A girls finals as they battle for the ball.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens @ ISO 6400, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

Sittauer controls the ball and as she dribbles gets a little payback as she grabs the jersey of Harrington.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens @ ISO 6400, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

And you thought soccer was just played with your feet and head.

Later, Harrington gets a little revenge as she gets her elbow up near the head of Everett's Hannah Hawkins in the second half.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens @ ISO 6400, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

Skyline's Kiara Williams attempts a bicycle kick from the top of the box during the first half of the girls 4A title game and is put down by Woodinville's Adrienne Biddle (green) who was called for a foul.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens @ ISO 6400, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

The athleticism of the game -- the combination of power and skill -- was evident all weekend. Skyline's Kiara Williams (11) battles Woodinville's Amanda Coba for control of the ball as both got up in the air.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens @ ISO 6400, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

By the way, the quality of these photos was just not possible even a year ago. Nikon's two new cameras -- the D3 and the D700 have amazing low-light capabilities. I've shot with other camera systems, and none of them can produce such good image quality at an ISO as high as 6400. It's so unreal it still surprised pros who have been shooting for decades (yes, that makes me kinda old -- without the "kinda").

What Nikon's success means for all photographers is that the bar has been raised yet again. The other camera companies will soon follow suit. The technological advancements just don't benefit the camera company who is in front at any given time -- it really benefits us, the photographers and gives us better tools to work with all the time.

This was a fun and exciting weekend for me -- I love photographing high school sports, and the chance to see the best of the best compete is a treat for me.

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November 19, 2008 11:22 PM

Seahawks: It's Not in the Cards This Year.

Posted by Rod Mar

Well, if you're a Seahawks fan, that just about does it.

Sunday's loss to division rival Arizona by the score of 26-20 pretty much ended any hopes of repeating as division champions.

Fans were blue, with their team holding a 2-9 record. Get it? Blue.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

Seattle got two of its offensive starters back in quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and receiver Deion Branch.

Branch was back in uniform after spending weeks watching from one of the end zone suites, but made his way back to those suites to give pregame kisses to his wife and daughter.



(Nikon D3, 14-24mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 800, 1/250th sec.,f5.6)

The Seahawks' much-maligned defense came out fired up, and linebacker Lofa Tatupu's blitz on the first series forced Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner to misfire a pass into a teammate's helmet.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 300mm, ISO 1000, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

Even the defensive backs played better early, with safety Deon Grant upending Leonard Pope in the first quarter. By the way -- white bottomed pants are brutal when they dominate a frame. Just my two cents.



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

But to paraphrase former Arizona coach Dennis Green, who once famously said of the Chicago Bears, "they are what we thought they were", the Seahawks are who we think they are this year -- an injury riddled team that has lost all confidence and apparently, a great deal of talent.

Pretty soon Warner was throwing the ball around Qwest Field like he did back when he was leading the St. Louis Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf". He passed the ball to bigger, stronger receivers, and the game started to resemble a seven-on-seven flag football game.

Defensive backs coach Jim Mora and head coach Mike Holmgren struggled to find answers.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

Meanwhile, Warner's counterpart Hasselbeck, trying to shake the rust off being sidelined with an injury, got the rust flat knocked out of him when Arizona's Adrian Wilson smashed him on a blitz. The play left Hasselbeck understandably groggy -- I'm pretty sure that's not where the chin strap is supposed to be worn.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

A fumble by Hasselbeck ended up being recovered by lineman Mike Wahle (looking on). Because the only luck the Seahawks have is bad luck, Wahle suffered an injury during the game and might be out for a game or two.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 310mm, ISO 1000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

Even as the Cardinals dominated the stat board, Maurice Morris' touchdown just before halftime kept Seattle close. Yes, I'm using a wide-angle, and yes, I brought it down from my eye right after this picture. 'Cause a camera to the face is not a pretty thing.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.,f2.8 -- *the Nikon wide-angle is in for repair*)

My co-worker Jim Bates caught me trying to literally "shoot from the hip". Or waist, Or whatever. Okay, fine, maybe I was bailing out.



(photo by Jim Bates/The Seattle Times)



(photo by Jim Bates/The Seattle Times)

Seattle fought back furiously and some mistakes by Arizona kept the Seahawks in the game. A blitz on Warner resulted in a fumble that bounced away from him, to be recovered by Seattle's Darryl Tapp. I moved two versions of the play.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 300mm, ISO 2000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 300mm, ISO 2000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

(The eagle-eyed of you will notice that I'm shooting at ISO 2000 (!) -- yup -- and it looks pretty good.)

Arizona's fine receivers made only one mistake, and even that one didn't cost them. Larry Fitzgerald coughed up the ball on a fumble caused by Seattle's Josh Wilson, but of course, the Cardinals recovered.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 350mm, ISO 2000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

Hasselbeck was, as usual, a total gamer. Despite his injuries and the hits he took, he tried to drive Seattle down the field for the game-winning touchdown, but threw an interception instead.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 2000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 2000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

After the game, I looked to find him in the post-game mess, but instead found him on the sidelines, hidden by team personnel as he wretched his guts out for ten or so minutes. He finally walked off the field, and his face showed what legions of Seahawks fans have felt for weeks.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 2000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

As games go, this one should have been better than I shot it. Not sure why these photos are so tepid. Maybe it's because I've shot in nice light for that past few weeks. I was taking some different positions and trying to go tight, and when I did I would get burned. Dunno. Ten weeks into the season. Can't let burnout set in. Gotta keep fighting to be visually fresh and energized. No excuses.


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November 16, 2008 11:43 PM

Huskies: Ruined by Bruins

Posted by Rod Mar

The second game of my three-game weekend featured the winless Washington Huskies and the UCLA Bruins.

Everyone tried to make a big story line of UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel returning to Washington, where he had been unceremoniously fired six seasons ago. Even though two coaches have been at the helm of the Huskies since then (Keith Gilbertson, followed by Tyrone Willingham), somehow the pregame storyline involved Neuheisel and Willingham.

While Neuheisel's return was interesting because of his inglorious exit after the 2002 season, it seemed like a stretch since with a loss, the Huskies would face their first winless season in 88 years of Husky Stadium.

Given the history and tradition of the Washington football program, this seemed it would be a pretty big deal.

Sports are games of statistics, and 88 years is a big number. As is 0-10.

Anyway, we had strict instructions that a photo of Neuheisel, and only Neuheisel, would be used for the cover of the sports section.

Co-worker Mark Harrison did a great job of shooting Neuheisel before the game, and we both shot features for the online galleries.

Wandering through the south parking lot in the dark before the 7:20pm kickoff, I found neither the late start nor the poor football team had dampened the spirits of the tailgaters.



(Nikon D3, 14-24mm/f2.8 lens @ 22mm, ISO 3200, 1/10th sec.,f2.8)

Chris Jolley, Dan McNamara and Sara Lynde enjoyed a fire during their tailgate party



(Nikon D3, 14-24mm/f2.8 lens @ 18mm, ISO 3200, 1/50th sec.,f2.8)

There were plenty of empty seats for this one, as evidenced by the west end of the stadium.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 200mm, ISO 4000, 1/320th sec.,f4.0)

I've been using the Nikon 200-400mm lens along with the 600/f4 for most of my long lens football, but tonight decided to forego the 600mm and try the 400mm/f2.8 with a 1/4 extender. The focal lengths are close, and the maximum apertures are the same since you lose a stop by adding the extender. I wanted to know if the combination of the 400mm and the extender focuses as quickly as the 600mm, and how the image quality was.

Because of the late kickoff, tonight was once again a game of shoot, transmit, make deadline, shoot some more, rinse, repeat. Thankfully I had upgraded from transmitting from my car during last night's high school game to a makeshift tent just at the end of stadium.

Once the game began, it was pretty much all UCLA.

After shedding would-be Washington tackler Mesphin Forrester (23), UCLA's Derrick Coleman heads for the end zone with the first touchdown of the game, giving the Bruins a 7-0 lead.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 200mm, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

UCLA's Akeem Ayers knocks the ball out of the hands of Washington quarterback Ronnie Fouch in the first half for a fumble that the Bruins recovered.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens + 1.4 extender, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec.,f2.8)

Domination continued as UCLA's Reginald Stokes puts all 243 pounds of his atop Washington quarterback Ronnie Fouch on a sack for a loss of 15 yards with the Huskies facing fourth down in the second quarter.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens + 1.4 extender, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec.,f2.8)

On offense, UCLA had its way as well. Washington's Matt Mosley leaps on top of UCLA's Nelson Rosario after a first half reception and still struggled to bring down the bigger receiver.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 280mm, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

Washington coach Tyrone Willingham suffered his tenth loss of the season, his 12th in a row.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 200mm, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

The final home game is also Senior Day, where the seniors are sent off with special introductions and recognition of their contributions to the program. Obviously losing every game of their senior season wasn't in the plans, and it showed as Jordan White-Frisbee reacted on the sidelines near the end of the game, steam rising from his body.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens + 1.4 extender, ISO 4000, 1/3200th sec.,f2.8)

Now for some tech talk.

The 400mm/f2.8 + extender experiment worked pretty well. I was satisfied with the results. I think another 1/3 stop of exposure would have helped in some frames, although that's user error and no fault of the equipment.

Would love to hear thoughts about the 600mm/f4 vs. the 400mm/f2.8 + extender. Obviously the 400mm + extender gives one the flexibility having basically "two lenses in one" -- the 400mm/f2.8 and the 400mm + extender/f4.0 lens.

The advantages of the straight 600mm/f4 lens are that it doesn't have the added complication of the extender, but lacks the speed that of f2.8, which has served as a baseline for sports photographers for years.

Not having a long lens capable of shooting at f2.8 makes photographers nervous, but Nikon's image quality at high ISO's means that f/2.8 might not be so important anymore.

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