Yup, my first press pass in Chicago, when I started blogging independently was a photo credential at Northwestern University. I posted 20-plus galleries of game photos that first season of Chicago College Basketball - from NU, Loyola (IL), UIC and Chicago State.
What I learned that season is that the experience from behind the camera is very different from the one on press row.
As a writer watching the game you're looking at the flow of a game. Who is playing well? What is a team doing to control the game? How is this going to turn out? What's the story? If you're a good reporter, that's what you ask yourself the entire time. The answers probably change every five minutes or so, but that's the joy of college basketball.
As a photographer your entire perspective changes. You're looking for moments. Emotion, high impact plays or displays of athleticism. The camera is actually the most neutral observer of a college basketball game, because all it sees is exactly what happens on the court.
So as I sat down at Rose Hill Gym on Saturday afternoon, the sun was shining brightly through the windows behind the Fordham student section. I knew what I was in for. I pulled out my Canon Rebel XTi, threw on a straight 50 and started shooting.
And things started happening. Fordham, which had lost its last two Atlantic 10 games by more than 40 points, started out playing tenacious defense. The Rams shut down George Washington's Tony Taylor for the first 20 minutes and hit the glass hard. By halftime I had a couple photos I liked and Fordham had a seven-point lead and just one fewer rebound than the Colonials had points.
At halftime I had a decision to make. Should I stay at the end I was on - which was into the light streaming in through those big windows - and try and shoot some defense, or should I stay on the offensive side in hopes of getting something juicy? I decided upon the latter and like many of the photographers in attendance (there were a surprisingly large number) I moved down to opposite baseline.
Once I got there I figured out I had definitely made the right decision. The extra light from those beautiful windows allowed me to pull out the 70-200 lens in my bag and really get up close and personal. That's how you get the good photos. I didn't have to wait for the action to come to me, I could go to it.
But as the half went on I started wishing I had one more lens. Something in the mid-range. That's the thing with shooting photos, unless you're a professional you can never have enough tools in the toolbox. What I really could've used on Saturday was a 24-70 f2.8. For as Chris Gaston dunked on the fast break to open up an even bigger lead for the Rams, I didn't have time to get the shot.
I kept working. So did the young Rams team for Tom Pecora in front of an excited, packed house. I took over 300 photos in an exciting 63-58 win for the Rams, which pushed them to 2-5 in Atlantic 10 play. Rose Hill continues to become a dangerous place for opponents to play. Fordham now has wins over Harvard, Georgia Tech and two A-10 teams there.
As a photographer when the game is over your work is just beginning. It was time to digest everything I'd worked on. Under a critical eye those 300 photos became 25 that I liked enough to take a longer look at. That 25 became 11 which actually ended up online
I don't know if I'll go back behind the camera more often after this game. Like I predicted, it was hard to feel the rhythm of the game behind the lens. But it was good to get back to those roots once again.