Remember when you'd watch cartoons and the protagonist suddenly had a bright idea, and an animated light bulb would appear over his/her head? That's kind of what this most recent home stand felt like for me. It was a long one - 11 games - allowing plenty of time to get creative. Since last summer, each mentor I've had has pushed me to explore light, and admittedly it's been a challenge for me. For many of my peers, working with light in photography has come naturally. For me, for so long, it didn't. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was because I was trying to photograph things in the same way my peers did, instead of working it into my own way of shooting and my own vision.
Stan Alost was my capstone class professor during my final year at Ohio University. I once went to his office while struggling with a project I was working on. I told him I was having trouble thinking outside of the box. I didn't feel creative, like many others in my class. And his response, while I listened to it then, it didn't really click until now. Instead of trying to think outside the box, he said, why not try to work within my own box? Instead of blaming myself for being unable to come up with the same ideas as my classmates, why not trying tapping into my own unique skills, vision, and tools to document something my way? I didn't feel confident in my own vision. It's hard to, I think, when your worth as a photographer depends so much on what other people like to see. But I needed to change that.
This home stand we had some great light. We had a lot of games. I was starting to get creative. It was fun! And I felt like I finally began to understand how to work with light, and all of the possibilities that come with that. It clicked; the light bulb came on. I feel like I can finally see light in the way I always wanted to. It feels like a relief.
But sports photography is so challenging because it is a balancing act - one that I'm still getting used to. Sports photography demands many things - a high level of creativity, the ability to think and move on the fly, speed in editing, and the composure that allows you to predict and be ready for anything that might happen next. And for the 11th, and final, game of this homestand, I decided to get creative. The Red Sox were down, they had been the whole game. I decided I wanted to shoot really tight features. But when the big moment happened, a walk-off single in the tenth inning that would win it for the Sox, I wasn't ready. I didn't position myself in the right place given the gear I had on me. And I felt awful about it. But I also feel re-energized.
I've always loved sports photography for the challenge. A lot of people think it's simple, after all, the same movements happen each game. But the best sports photographers are prepared for anything, all the time. The split seconds that change the mood or outcome of the otherwise normal baseball game. I want to be ready for those split seconds too, while also producing work that's unique, thought-provoking, and different. That's my new challenge.