The Atoms are at it again! Basketball season is in full swing. Here are some shots of the action.
On October 8, 2018, I was contacted by the managers of the local Fairfax Falcons sports team, asking if I would be interested in photographing their upcoming basketball tournament. Having shot one of the Falcon’s practices the previous Spring, I knew that this could be another chance to use photography to help young people to see their own potential.
On September 14, 2018 the Director of Therapy Services at the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute invited me to take photos at the Maryland Crab Pot V wheelchair rugby tournament, which would take place on October 27-28, 2018. I’ve been heavily involved in organized sports my whole life, as a player for nearly 50 years, also as a coach and referee, and now as a photographer. I have seen, and have personally experienced, how participation in sports can help people discover the strengths that they possess. Now as a photographer I get a chance to capture the moments that demonstrate those strengths, and leave players with ongoing reminders of them. Needless to say, I accepted her invitation.
In mid-August, I was contacted by the team captain for the NoVA Mutiny wheelchair (“quad”) rugby team. He asked me if I would be willing to take some promotional shots that he could use to advertise what the team was up to, in particular, to help attract sponsors, as the Fall season was just starting. This is a great cause, and one that I enjoy supporting. Therefore, it was a no-brainer!
On January 15, 2018, I received an email from the Director of Student Activities at Annandale High School, asking if I would be interested in being the photographer for their very first Athletic Hall of Fame banquet, to take place early the following school year. It sounded like a great way to learn something about, and help to preserve, the athletic history in the area where I grew up. And at the same time it would give me more experience shooting event photography.
It is that time again, when school starts, and the Annandale Atoms hit the field, the course, the court, the track, the mat, the stage, and hopefully the books. Here are a few photos to remind them of the experience.
One of our friends in the neighborhood volunteers with our local Swim & Dive team. Recently, while speaking to my wife Patty, she expressed interest in me taking photos at one of the Dive Team meets. Patty knows that I’m always looking for new challenges in photography, so she signed me up.
During their 2018 National District tournament, I was contacted by a senior player on the J.E.B. Stuart High School (since renamed Justice High School) varsity soccer team, asking if I would be willing to take photos of their semifinal game. I had already committed to taking photos for at least one game for seven other high school teams, and I was well behind in editing photos for the games I had shot. But this kid had taken the initiative to contact me out of the blue, so I wanted to do whatever I could.
On May 6, 2018, a player on the Falls Church High School Girls Junior Varsity Soccer Team contacted me to ask if I would be willing to take photos at their final home game (Both of my older sisters attended Falls Church High School.). I asked the player for her coach’s email address, and then I contacted the coach to make sure she was ok with it. I was already over-subscribed with end-of-season photography commitments, but it looked like the timing and photographing conditions were favorable, so with the coach’s concurrence, I went for it.
The coach of the Edison High School Girls Junior Varsity Soccer Team told me that he had a daughter who was attending West Potomac High School, and that the two teams would be playing later that season. He asked me if I would take photos during that game, including some of the West Potomac players, including his daughter. That’s a pretty cool thing, so I tried to make sure that I would be available.
A few days after I shot the 2018 Atlantic Sectionals Wheelchair Rugby Tournament, my wife Patty mentioned that she had seen a Facebook post that described a youth wheelchair basketball team called the Fairfax Falcons that was heading to the national finals. I figured that I was already over-subscribed for the spring season, but it sounded like a very successful program, so I wanted to find out more about it.
I found the Falcons on Instagram, and I noticed that most of the photos in their feed were either team photos, or action photos that were taken from some distance. When I take sports photos, I’m trying to create something much more personal. I want to focus on the individual, catch them doing something great, and render the image in jaw-dropping beauty. I’m not always successful, but I’ll keep working on it.
I decided to follow the Falcons on Instagram, and soon afterwards I received a message from the couple that runs the program asking if I would be interested in photographing the team. From their description, it sounded like some nice photographs could help the kids to stay engaged, and possibly help spread the word about this unique adaptive sports opportunity. So I came out to one of their practices, … and now I think I’m hooked.
During the February Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Code of Honor wheelchair rugby tournament in Richmond, Virginia, I approached the coach of the ‘Punishers’, from MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital, which would be sponsoring the March United States Quad Rugby Association (USQRA) Atlantic Sectionals tournament, in Fort Washington, Maryland, offering to photograph that tournament as well, as I had done for the same tournament the previous year. My offer was accepted, and I looked forward to watching and photographing the intense competition that would lead, for the top teams, to a trip to the April USQRA National Championship tournament in Phoenix, Arizona.
Here’s Matt demonstrating his shoulder-roll technique.
This is the third season that I’ve shot photos for Annandale High School girls varsity lacrosse. Over that time, it has been great to see how a group of sophomores rose to become the leaders of the team. As they now move on to bigger challenges, I hope they will be reminded of the strength they discovered within themselves while playing lacrosse at Annandale High School.
Since I had already agreed to shoot the Edison High School Girls Junior Varsity Soccer games, I figured that I may as well shoot the varsity games that would be immediately following the junior varsity games at the same field. As it turns out, I would be shooting part of Edison’s first varsity game anyway, because it would be against Annandale High School. Trying to shoot both teams in a game certainly keeps you hopping!
On March 8, 2018, I received an Instagram message out of the blue from a player on the Edison High School Girls Junior Varsity Soccer team, asking if I would be willing to shoot their first game against Hayfield High School. I wasn’t sure how she found my Instagram feed, but I was impressed with her initiative, and her willingness to risk rejection in order to get what she wanted.
So, I asked her for her coach’s contact information. And then I sent her coach an email introducing myself, providing a link to other high school sports photos that I had provided, and asking him if it would be ok if I did the same for his team this season. He replied with an invitation to shoot as many of their games as I was able.
In coming to grips with the end of my soccer-playing days, I’ve been looking forward to applying, and improving on, what I’ve learned about sports photography to the sport that had been my passion for nearly half a century. I was hoping that the spring 2018 season would provide that opportunity, but I wasn’t sure whether the local Annandale High School teams would be interested in me providing the same type of photos that I’ve been contributing to the AHS lacrosse, field hockey, volleyball, and basketball teams.
So, I asked one of the girls varsity players who had been following my sports photography Instagram feed. It seemed like there might be interest, so I decided to come out and shoot one of their early season games.
My plan for the weekend of February 24-25, 2018 was to spend it in Richmond, Virginia, covering the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Code of Honor Quad Rugby Invitational tournament. Saturday went great. And for Sunday, I had plans to set up a backdrop and lights to do sports portraits of the players. But on Sunday morning, Patty woke up and thought that she was coming down with the flu. So, I packed her up and brought her home.
Once I got Patty settled, I started to consider how I could fill in the gap for what we had planned to be a pretty all-consuming weekend of photography. In the weeks prior, I knew I had received an announcement for a Special Olympics basketball tournament that weekend. So, I started trolling through my emails. Sure enough, there was a Sunday afternoon tournament at Episcopal High School. So, I set out with all my equipment still packed in the car.
On February 12, 2018, Patty sent me a text, to tell me that our friend Mary’s son had asked if I would be willing to shoot photos at a tournament that his wheelchair rugby team, NoVA Mutiny, was hosting in Richmond, Virginia on February 24-25. The six-team tournament was being sponsored by Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), with support from both the Virginia chapter, and the national office in Washington, DC. It would serve as a tune up for the Atlantic Sectionals tournament coming up on March 23-25 in Fort Washington, MD. For me, in addition to the opportunity it provided to volunteer for a great cause, it was a chance for Patty and I to get down to Richmond to visit her father, her sister, her brother, and their spouses for the weekend. Unfortunately, we ended up cutting the trip short, coming home Sunday morning, because Patty wasn’t feeling well.
After I had started shooting the Annandale boys varsity basketball games, I considered whether to take shots of the girls games too, both to get more experience shooting basketball, and to give these kids some souvenirs that might encourage them to stay in sports. I didn’t know whether Annandale High School had already arranged for all the professional photo coverage that anyone would want, or if parents or students were covering this need. So, I took a chance. I spoke to the girls varsity basketball coach the first time I showed up, and he was supportive.
One of the benefits of coming out to these games with a camera is that sometimes county-hired photographers are there, and every one of them has been extremely nice and helpful to myself as a novice photographer. At the first girls game that I covered, I met a professional photographer named Celeste, who was there to shoot the home team Centreville Wildcats. She actually reviewed my camera settings for me, and she made some good suggestions. Sometimes it pays to be helpless ;-).
I had been looking for opportunities to try out my new Nikon D850 Digital SLR camera in different situations, to see how I could make best use of its capabilities. So Friday night, January 12, 2018, having just returned from spending a few vacation days in Florida, Patty and I attended the Annandale High School boys varsity basketball game, at home against Mt. Vernon High School. It was great to see the local team out there working hard, and I learned a few things about my camera, and photographing basketball, in the process.
But another reason why I take photos of high school sports is give these young people evidence of what they can achieve when they work hard. And obviously, I’m not just talking about sports. So, since I had a brief pause in my government travel schedule, I looked for opportunities to shoot a few more Annandale games, so that I might offer some nice photos to more of the players.
My wife, Patty, mentioned that I take photos to an acquaintance whose daughter is on the James Madison High School varsity field hockey team. Their team had made it to the 2017 Virginia state quarterfinals, and the result of my wife’s conversation was that I was given an opportunity to give these kids some evidence showing that they can do great things.
Since high school volleyball matches are played until one team wins 3 games, the match duration can be pretty variable. So, I found myself showing up early for an Annandale High School varsity game at Mt. Vernon High School, just in case the prior JV match ended early. But as it turns out, I was there in time to see the whole JV match (I guess the Freshman match went the full length.). In any case, since I was there, I started shooting the JV match as well.
I was asked by the Annandale High School (AHS) Director of student Activities (DSA) to take photos of other 2017 Fall sports besides field hockey. I am always looking for opportunities to learn, especially in new environments, so I agreed to give it my best, and cover whatever events my work and travel schedule would allow.
Varsity volleyball was my first opportunity, so this blog entry is an attempt to capture what I learned from the few games I was able to shoot.
2017 was the second season that I’ve shot photos for the Annandale High School (AHS) Girls Varsity Field Hockey team. It is always a challenge taking action photos in low light, but unlike lacrosse, where players have to keep their heads up, and the ball is rarely on the ground, field hockey forces the players to be looking downward most of the time when they have the ball. That puts shadows on their faces, which makes proper exposure even more difficult. But it is what it is. And a photographer can compensate somewhat by getting as low as possible for his shots. This season, I did what I had to do.
Sometimes you need to do things that are easy, things that will allow you to continue to develop your skills in an environment that is not overly challenging. So, I’m obviously not talking about running around carrying a stick on a field that is filled with other people running around carrying sticks, with everyone trying to smack a tiny ball through defenders and into a goal. That’s hard. That’s real hard! I’m talking about taking action photos in actual daylight. Due to scheduling, that’s not possible for the Annandale High School varsity field hockey team. They play at night, on a field that doesn’t have professional quality lighting. But the JV, they play during daylight! Sometimes they play in strong sun! My camera likes strong sun! The high contrast helps it focus much better. All those pixels fill up with photons without having to leave the shutter open so long that you can’t capture fast action without blurring.
So, because sometimes I need things that are easy. This season, I attempted to shoot the JV field hockey games.
I was able to shoot 4 games during the 2017 season. Its always fun to watch the kids from this school go up against some of the toughest competition in the county. They’re typically out-manned, but they always maintain a good attitude and give it their best. Sometimes they come out on top.