The Friday before last the Philadelphia 76ers played a preseason exhibition game against the Boston Celtics at the University of Delaware. The venue shift from Wells Fargo Center was to help promote the franchise’s new D-League team, the Delaware 87ers, who will play their home games at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center.
This was a first for Delaware so I wanted to do something different from the standard floor shots we always get from basketball. I first thought about doing an overhead remote camera from the catwalk, but with increased security for the game, it would mean setting the camera up 36 hours before the game and I’d have no way to turn it on the day of the game, let alone get the card out in time for deadline.
Instead I settled for a backboard camera and had my SD card clot on my 1DmkIII not failed I would have had some amazing shots of the 76ers flight crew going nuts on the basket I set up at halftime. Unfortunately, I didn’t get anything from the end of the first half onward from the backboard remote.
The game itself had to be a success as far as the 76ers were concerned. They announced a sellout crowd (though the arena was probably only 80% full) and the 76ers won pretty easily. The Celtics aren’t exactly the team they were four years ago, or two years ago for that matter, but the 76ers are in a major rebuilding phase, so any wins are a plus for them.
I also got my season credential at the game, so hopefully that means some more games in the future.
Sunday before last I woke up at the crack of dawn to drive to East Rutherford, N.J. to cover the Eagles game against the New York Giants. It was the second time I was covering an Eagles game at MetLife Stadium in the past two months, but the last one was the final preseason game of the season against the New York Jets.
The Giants were trying to avoid an 0-5 record, the Eagles were trying to avoid falling to 1-4. Who knew that by the end of the game, the Eagles would have a share of first place in the division.
As NFL games go, I had one of my best days shooting. When Michael Vick was injured in the second quarter, I was in the right place to grab the shot. When Jason Avant decided whiff on a touchdown reception, sending safety Antrel Rolle careening into a photographer, I was in the right place not to get obliterated.
Probably the oddest event of the day, though, came just as I was walking in at halftime to transmit images. Across the PA system came the introduction of the halftime performance: The Ohio University March 110. I couldn’t believe what I had heard, until I heard the signature rolling drum beat of the 110 as the marched on to the field. It brought a tear to my eye to see my college marching band I hadn’t heard since covering my last football game at OU in 2009. I snapped a few shots to have, and rushed in to send images. I still have no idea what they were doing there, but it was a great surprise.
Overall, the game was a fun one to cover. The Eagles came away with the win, I came away with some solid shots that fit our stories well, and for once a gallery from an NFL game did decent, but pro sports gallery numbers on out site.
Just a few Super Bowl notes: MetLife is a nice stadium, and should be a good host for the Super Bowl. I can warn you now, though, they need to make some serious internet upgrades before they’re ready for 100 photographers trying to transmit at once. Getting images turned in was a major challenge. The sidelines also aren’t the deepest in the league, so I’m wondering how they’ll stack up with that much traffic. The light in the stadium, though, is super bright. Any photographer shooting a night game like the Super Bowl (while they’ll be freezing) won’t be complaining about lack of light.
Continuing my path to catching the blog up, here are my favorites from September. I felt like I hit a bit of a rut in August, but September brought some good images and assignments my way.
This frame from my first Friday night high school game of the season – actually my only Friday night high school game of the season now that I think of it – is one of my favorites. I watched as the gorgeous evening light started to fade while Sussex Tech’s band (seen in the background) played before the game started. The game looked like it would stat late and by the time it did, nearly the whole field was in shadows. I saw this patch of light and prayed to the photo gods, and they rewarded me. On the second play of the game Henderson streaked through it. Five minutes later there was no golden light left.
While covering a group of Wilmington residents holding a sit-in on the corner of one of Wilmington’s most dangerous neighborhoods, a shooting broke out at an equally dangerous neighborhood across town. A police cruiser streaked through the intersection I was working at, and since the group was wrapping up, I decided to follow. I arrived to find a crowd gathered, shooting photos with their phones, and emergency responders working to save Buford’s life. Unfortunately, he did not survive his wounds, and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
It was an odd scene, I guess because shootings have become so commonplace in Wilmington now. People gathered around, laughing, taking photos and videos while a man was dying just a few feet away.
I covered my first regular season Eagles game, their home opener, on September 15th with Daniel Sato. We had to get their early for a second story we were doing on the cheerleaders and their new uniforms (I know, tough life) and had the task of shooting the game after. Because we were in the stadium early, we missed out on much of the outside tailgating photos common of the first-game-of-the-season assignment, but made up for with a good balance of action and crowd and atmosphere shots. The Eagles, unfortunately, seemed doomed by their own hand in the game. When they tied the game with two minutes left, thanks to their fast-paced “blur” offense, there was too much time left for San Diego to kick a field goal.
I shot the NASCAR race at Dover for the third time in my career in September. I realized then that it was REALLY hard to not keep making the same photos at a NASCAR race that rarely features a crash anymore. I made a nice candid frame of Ryan Truex before the race started, but most everything else, sadly, was something I’d done before. Maybe with more shooters there I could have experimented more, but with just Suchat and myself to cover the race, I had to make sure we had what we needed before I could take any risks.
I covered the 153rd’s final training exercises at Fort Dix before their deployment this past winter, and I didn’t have a good feeling before they left. Not only is training the Afghan Uniformed Police one of the most dangerous operations in Southwest Asia now, but the team looked like they needed a lot more practice before they left. The training exercises didn’t exactly go smoothly.
The 153rd blew me away, though, when they completed their mission early and returned every member home safely to Delaware City. Covering their homecoming was awesome since I’d seen them the last time they were home, and right as they were returning. I couldn’t have been happier every one of them came back in one piece.
Continuing the month-favorite blog posts, here’s my August favorites together into one post in an effort to catch the blog up and hopefully get back on track again.
The vigil for Goins was a tough assignment all around. I spend the afternoon with his parents, interviewing them for an hour about their son and how they learned of his death after people saw photos of his body on twitter. After the emotional interview, I came back to the office to edit the video to find the mic cable had gone bad and I had no audio. It was crushing, but thankfully stills from the vigil saved the assignment somewhat.
The deployment ceremonies for the 150th Engineering Company were the first deployment ceremony I’d covered. While filled with the emotion of the homecoming’s I’ve covered numerous times, it was hard to interrupt families this time for names, knowing I was taking minutes with their loved ones away. When I made the image above, I was hoping Staff Sergeant Hill was leaving, and saying goodbye to his daughter, but instead he pointed me in the direction of Sergeant Brittney Poore, and her wife.
Poore and her wife Bianka Desure were embracing just a few feet away in the crowd. Admittedly, I thought I had heard something wrong when Hill said “she” was saying goodbye to “her wife,” and then it dawned on me that I’m an idiot. Not only had “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” been over for almost two years, but Delaware had also legalized gay marriage in May, with marriages allowed to begin July 1st. That’s when it hit me that just two years ago I couldn’t have made this picture.
The Cal Ripken World Series is a familiar event for me. Growing up in Maryland, just a short drive from Ripken Stadium, I’ve been to a few as a fan. My dad even helped with signage for a few of the tournaments when they were played in the main stadium, before the little league complex was built. Covering a Delaware team in the series was nice way to forget I wasn’t headed to Williamsport to cover Delaware’s Little League World Series team.
Honestly the baseball in the Ripken series is better. The field is bigger, so every double isn’t a home run, and players can steal. But what really made it exciting was watching Piedmont attempt, and successfully execute, a suicide squeeze to win the game in extra innings, when a throw to the catcher went over his head.
Covering the Eagles/Jets final preseason game might sounds like a chore to a lot of seasoned photographers. No player you’ve likely ever heard of plays in the fourth preseason game. Most of the guys you’ll photograph won’t be in an NFL uniform again, and maybe a handful make the team. I’ll never complain about getting to shoot an NFL game, though, and getting to check another stadium off my list was awesome. I don’t know what the old Meadowlands stadium was like, but MetLife is a nice venue. They have a long way to go to get ready for the Super Bowl (the photo workroom isn’t NEARLY large enough, and internet connectivity is a challenge with just two dozen photographers) but the stadium has a ton of light.
It’s been months since I updated, again, but after layoffs hit the paper things have been far busier than ever before. Add in a new puppy at home and even outside of work, there’s always work to be done.
That said, here are some of my favorite assignments from July, with notes on each.
I love shooting baseball. I don’t care what level, majors, minors, high school, you name it. Most games happen in the evening in gorgeous light, the stadiums are rarely full anywhere I’ve worked (giving me ample opportunity to move around) and no matter how bad the game, there’s an opportunity for a nice image any time you go out. At this point in the season, the Blue Rocks were pretty bad. Any prospects had been promoted to the next level, and the team had no hope of making the playoffs. The light was nice though.
This image is one of my favorites from any homecoming. I didn’t realize it but I was stand next to these two daughters just before their dad came out from debriefing. They sprinted past me to their dad and I was left with a tough decision on which frame to use as the whole embrace was beautiful. Nothing makes you feel better than families being reunited after war.
This image came out of a “Fourth of July crowds at the beach” story. The waves were pretty rough in Rehoboth, at least by Rehoboth standards, and there weren’t many kids taking them on when I ventured down to the beach for some shots. Kellar showed no fear though, getting sucked under a couple waves but hopping right back on for more… right before he got enveloped by this one above.
Covering Paul McCartney is one of the highlights of my career. When I saw he’d be playing ing D.C., and I’d be on vacation, I decided to take my own time to cover the concert. At McCartney’s age, it’s hard to say if I’d ever have the chance to cover him again. It was a challenge getting credentials, and even came down to the day of the concert before I was sure I was in, but the hassle was worth it.
The Gold Cup was probably the most fun I’ve had in a downpour, but just getting to the game was probably the biggest challenge I’ve ever had. I had an earlier assignment in Southern Delaware at the State Fair and had to spring across the Bay Bridge and up I-97 to Baltimore to try to get to the game. Just like the last time I covered a soccer game in Baltimore (AC Milan vs. Chelsea FC in 2009) traffic was an absolute nightmare. I sat outside the stadium and listened to the roars from the crowd for 30 minutes of the first half of the U.S. taking on El Salvador. Luckily, I made it in for the second half, and Landon Donovan rewarded me. He scored a goal just to my right, and celebrated right in front of me.
I’ve let the blog fall behind again. I blame vacation and a busy work schedule again. It’s time to get caught back up.
Four the fourth of July I was sent down to Dewey Beach, Del. to cover the first ever fireworks the town had put on. Every year a much larger show in Rehoboth Beach, Del. overshadows anything in surrounding towns, and draws most residents and vacationers to Rehoboth’s beaches to see the fireworks.
Some enterprising club owners in Dewey, most likely tired of losing their crowds to another town, decided they would attempt to set a “world record” for most fireworks set off in a 10-minute period. The show was said to be a 10 minute finale.
I left for Dewey early, knowing parking would be limited in the small town that’s essentially just a small strip of land about four miles long and a quarter mile wide, between the Rehoboth Bay and Atlantic Ocean. I was lucky enough to find the last parking spot near the prime spot I wanted to set up. From there I waited.
I waited, and waited, and waited.
Finally, around 9pm, the fireworks started and began firing away.
I talked to former News Journal and National Geographic photographer Kevin Fleming earlier in the day to get some tips, as he’s produced amazing photos of the Rehoboth fireworks for years. His advice was invaluable, but with only a 10-minute show to look forward to, I didn’t have much leeway for trial and error to get the shots I needed.
It only took about one failed 30-second exposure to really get on track, but I only managed to get about half-a-dozen photos taken before the sky went dark. Only maybe four minutes had elapsed but that was it, the fireworks were over.
As the crowd dispersed most mumbles went along the lines of “publicity stunt.” That organizers were simply tired of seeing their profits go to Rehoboth and given the show didn’t come close to its billing, I can see their frustration.
Add on to that the massive traffic jam that had me stuck in the parking lot for four hours after the fireworks ended, and the traffic on Rt. 1 North that kept me from getting home until 4 a.m. and I think I can say I’ve had my fill of Dewey Beach fireworks for a while.
On Wednesday, June 26, 2013, The Supreme Court brought two big victories to gay rights advocates across the country. By ruling proponents of Proposition 8 in California did not have legal standing to challenge that the law should be upheld the court effectively re-legalized gay marriage in California. At the same time the court also struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, meaning the federal government would now recognize same-sex marriages across the country where they were legally performed. Before, while a gay couple might be legally married in Iowa, the federal government did not recognize their benefits for purposes of taxation, etc.
Melissa Etheridge, a vocal supporter of gay marriage, just happened to be performing in Wilmington the day the the decisions were announced. Etheridge announced that day that she planned to marry her long-time girlfriend, Linda Wallem, now that their marriage would be recognized.
With so much good news coming for Etheridge that day, she turned the performance at The Grand Opera House into a party celebrating the newfound rights she, her partner, and millions of gays in America were afforded by the Supreme Court that day.
Dozens of members of Equality Delaware packed the front of the theatre and held signs of support for Etheridge, one even read, “Congrats!”
Much like the information of new rights was a surprise that day for Etheridge, covering the concert was a surprise for me. I had just done The Rolling Stones a few days before and was actually photographing a relief group preparing to leave for Haiti for another trip to aid those still suffering from the earthquake that ravaged the country years ago.
I got a phonecall from our chief photographer asking when I was leaving for “the concert,” to which I had no answer. Somewhere in the shuffle of the day, the assignment had gotten lost and never found it’s way to me. I rushed back to Wilmington with just 45 minutes before the concert was supposed to start and got a drive-by hand-off of a 300mm lens from Suchat in front of the Opera House right before the concert was set to start.
I only got to shoot the first song, but there wasn’t anyone policing the two or three of us there, and I was able to sneak a few shots of Etheridge reacting to the crowd and speaking about the ruling earlier in the day.
I already made a detailed post on how I went about shooting the Supermoon over on The News Journal photo staff blog, First State Focus (Shooting For The Moon). That post was a little more of a how-to though, and less about the assignment itself.
I remember looking at the schedule a few days before Sunday rolled around and the day looked empty. Usually something drops in Friday or Saturday night, but on Sunday there was still only one assignment in the system, and Ginger took it. That left me free to have a little fun.
I had wanted to shoot the moon on Saturday night for myself but the long lenses were all spoken for between the Blue and Gold football all-star game and the Firefly Music Festival. The official “full moon” was Sunday night anyway, even if the moon was most “super” in the early A.M. hours on Sunday as it set.
Rain clouds hovered over Delaware all day, and I kept going back and forth on whether or not to hit the road to Dewey Beach and try the shoot. If I drove 200 miles round trip just to get rained out, I’d have a bit of explaining to do. I seriously lucked out though.
While the entire drive was like driving through a waterfall, the closer I got to the beach the more the sky opened up.
Once I arrived, it was just a matter of waiting out the sunset on the beach and waiting for the moon to crack the horizon.
Once I did I bounced through a flurry of different shots before loading up and running down to the Indian River Inlet Bridge to see if I could set the moon against it. The exposure differential was something I wasn’t ready for at all. The moon was exposing at 1/3000th of a second, while the bridge’s blue spotlights set it at 1/30th. It also wasn’t long before clouds started to haze the moon over too.
All in all, I came away with some good shots, and 33 mosquito bites.
I was driving back from Dover one day listening to Classic Rewind, my go-to XM station, when the DJ came on an said The Rolling Stones had announced American tour dates and began rattling off cities the band would playing in. When he got to Philadelphia, I immediately called our chief photographer to call dibs.
The Rolling Stones don’t need an explanation. They’re one of the greatest bands to walk the Earth. The experience of seeing them live, is something I actually got to check off my bucket list. It’s honestly something I never thought I’d get to do, since they hadn’t toured in half a decade, and the last time they did said it would be their last hurrah.
For the fiftieth anniversary of the band, though, they decided to give it another lap around the globe, and after 50 years of playing sold-out arenas you’d expect the band would have lost a step. I’ve not seen the Stones live outside of concert DVDs from shows decades ago, but they haven’t slowed down a beat, even if they’re all late-60′s, early-70′s.
Shooting a band of this magnitude, I expected a headache of an assignment. Even if this would be one of the coolest moments of my photojournalism career, it was going to have to be a nightmare of bureaucracy to deal with. Forms would need to be signed, I’d probably get 30 seconds of one song from the furthest point in the arena from the band with ten other photographers elbowing me for position. If I was lucky I’d get one photo.
Damn was I wrong.
Aside from traffic into Philly nearly giving me a heart attack I’d be late for the show, the entire experience was a breeze and incredibly fun. I was never asked to sign anything (which I even questioned because that was a total first) and was escorted out with a dozen other photographers before the show started to the inner pit. We were 50 feet from the band inside a walkway Mick would traverse at some point during the show. At one point he was maybe 10 feet from me. We got to watch song one, “Get off of My Cloud,” and shoot songs two and three. We had to leave during song four, but were allowed to come back out during song five for song six, which featured a special guest. We found out right before we walked back out it was Brad Paisley.
I don’t know how the night could have gotten any better. Not only do I love the Stones, but Brad Paisley is hands down my favorite country artist, and one of the best guitarists out there (in my opinion). I could check two things off my bucket list when Paisley came out to perform “Dead Flowers,” one of my favorite Stones songs, with the band.
Afterward, we were ushered out, the show raged on behind us and I filed my photos.
On my way back from Philly I stopped and grabbed a bite to eat just before crossing into Delaware. I flipped through my photos on the back of my camera and got really excited with what I’d captured. So excited I was humming Dead Flowers on my way out to the car, and the whole way Northbound on I-95, the opposite way I needed to be heading. It took until I reached Philadelphia International Airport before I realized in all my excitement I was going the wrong way.
Three weeks ago I went down to a non-descript building pretty much in the middle of nowhere outside Smyrna, Del. The barn/storage center at the Aquatic Resources Education Center was home to a family of barn owls, who lived there courtesy of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Barn owls are evidently disappearing from Delaware. Whether it’s a lack of barns as farm land is continually sold off as families age, or an environmental factor like climate change or sea level rise that’s chasing them off, no one is quite sure. The Division of Fish and Wildlife has set up nests that have attracted a few of the birds, though, and they’re tracking their movements with metal bands applied when their young. If the owls are caught again later in life, the bands will tell the department who catches them where they were banded as young birds, before they could fly.
Owls themselves are amazing birds. From their precise hearing and vision, to their hunting prowess, they don’t get the raptor love that eagles and hawks do but they are adept hunters.
They also have (at least barn owls) the most terrifying screech you’ve ever heard. While still inside their nest and out of sight, the juvenile owls let out a collective shrill and haunting call that has to be the cause of any “haunted barn” story in history. It definitely sounds like something wicked is living in there, and since they hide out of sight, no one is trying to figure out where it’s coming from for long.
Once they’re bagged, though, they generally give up the act of terrifying ghost monster and hush up.
You have to hope the population makes a rebound. Outside of just being awesome birds, they help keep the rodent population in check. If I remember correctly, a single nest can consume hundreds of mice a week.
All content Kyle R. Grantham 2002-2010.
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