"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Saturday, February 24, 2018

zero hour...

"Zero hour, 9:00 a.m. And I'm gonna be high as a kite by then." 
Rocket Man, Elton John (1972)

Paris inspires me in so many ways. In particular, my desire to capture my love of, experiences in, the City of Light, via photography; and extend that aesthetic to everything I photograph. Ironically, while Paris was my original inspiration, I didn't discover my 'photographic eye' there. I found (and honed it) on football fields, basketball and tennis courts (for a decade now). At the end of every season, for every sport I shoot, I create a music slideshow set to my best shots of the season, for the team and their families. Today, as I was editing down to my best, one song kept playing in my head: Elton John's 'Rocket Man'... 

"Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone." - Elton John

This is my second season photographing the four year journey of the Glenbard North High School Basketball Team, Class of 2020. As you can see, they are pretty amazing. The things these Gents do with their bodies and minds: the height(s) they are able to jump; their impressive, seemingly effortless, speed and quickness; their ever expanding technical mastery of dribbling, passing, shooting; the visible evidence of their evolving intellectual knowledge of how the game is played. A litany of qualities and attributes that they are able to process and execute, under stress and pressure (exterior and interior) - and they are barely sixteen years old. But the best part? These Gents are a band of brothers, are truly friends (on the court and off) - and it's all there, for the world to see, win or lose. And I get to photograph it all...

"On such a timeless flight...It's just my job five days a week." - Elton John

I've found that each sport has its own cadence, rhythm, and syncopation - encased in rapid movement, pregnant pauses, loud bursts of color, sound and emotion. Constant movement, even in stillness, that the photographer is endeavoring to capture (the perfect combination of: facial expression, body language, apex of movement) at the exact right moment, in a millisecond = money shot! And you can't ask your subject(s) to stop, go back, and do it again. There are no do-overs. You either get the shot or you don't - and you have to accept that: take a brief moment to mourn the blurry fabulous shot(s), take another slightly longer moment to rejoice in the fantabulous keepers, self-avow to do better next time, figure out what you did wrong, take note of and file away what you did right; then...do better next time. 
The Upshot: I apply the skills, I learned in the trenches, to every other situation and subject I photograph. 
The Take Away: photographing sports action is...hard, but oh so rewarding and totally worth the challenge.  

Temple Tip: trial and error is your BFF. 
"...in infinite patience...to try and to try and to try, until it comes right." - William Faulkner 

Sports photography requires you to take more shots than any other subject (I average 800 per game, 25+ games per season). Scarier - a steady hand and eye are essential. In order to get 'THE shot' (with the best lighting and shutter speed), requires that you do so in 'Sports Mode.' That means even a slight tremble completely blurs the resulting image, ruins the shot. The Payoff: once you master your physical and mental stillness - connected to an eagle eye for subtlety, the rewards are awesome!  

"And I think its gonna be a long long time. 'Till touch down brings me round again to find.
I'm not the man they think I am at home. Oh no no no. I'm a rocket man."
- Elton John

My situation is unique - born of love, desire, determination and being in the right place/era at the right time. I'm a completely self-taught photographer. I've purchased the best cameras and lenses I can afford, regularly have them cleaned and serviced; have purchased the best iMac and Photoshop program I can afford (thank Goddess Apple has discounts for teachers). My cameras' User Manual(s) are my photography-bibles (thanks Mom and Loyola University Chicago for equipping me with the skills of focus, discipline, research, study and note taking). But here's the thing: while all of the aforementioned have been vital to my photographer's journey, what has always, and continues to be, essential are my subjects. In this case, a small group of high school-ballers, living and growing up in a small village on the outskirts of Chicago. The team had a 500 season, were understandably disappointed - had hoped to have had a better win/loss ratio. But their friendship, struggle, promise and anticipation of the mark they plan to make on next season gives me life! 

Rocket men, are we all.

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!

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