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.
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.
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.
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.