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On Assignment

Behind the Scenes, On Assignment

Dream Project – The 2016 Chicago Cubs


Every once in a while, an assignment comes along that you absolutely can’t refuse. Even if that means having to bring family in from across the state and across the country (thanks everyone!) to help with the kids while the wife was sidelined for over six weeks and unable to walk/drive thanks to a broken foot and the ensuing surgery, you find a way to make things happen. Such was the case for me this summer. But first, a little history.

I am a product of the WGN effect. Despite being from Texas and growing up with my Texas teams, the Astros and the Rangers…I was also a Cubs fan. As a kid I would wake up in the morning and have cereal while watching Bozo and Cookie. In the afternoon, when I would get off the bus and get a snack, I would turn on the small television we had in the kitchen and watch the Cubs because they were always on and I would rather watch baseball than play video games before it was time to go to either soccer or baseball practice. I listened to Harry Caray and Steve Stone, watched with interest the craziness that was the bleachers, the ball hawks on Waveland chasing down every ball hit out of the stadium. I grew up rooting for Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston and Andre Dawson. Each afternoon I was always curious as to whether or not the wind was blowing out or in off the lake. I felt close but at the same time, Chicago felt like a million miles away.

In 2003, I graduated from Texas A&M. I had never been north of the Mason-Dixon or east of the Mississippi River. I was offered a job at a small paper in northeast Indiana and took it blind over the phone because there was no budget for me to come visit and I knew that this is what I was meant to do. I found myself near Chicago and in the region of Cubbie blue.

I also met my wife, Maria, soon after I moved to Indiana. Our first trip together after dating a couple of months was to Chicago…to go watch the Astros and the Cubs. It was my first trip to Chicago and Wrigley was still a mythical place to me. We bought tickets from a scalper as soon as we got off the red line at the Addison stop. It was one of the most memorable trips I have ever had with Maria. I still have a photo from that trip on my nightstand next to the bed. I still have the ticket stub from that game.

We married in 2005. Soon after we got our first dog. Her name? Wrigley.

In 2012 when we were expecting our first child, Maria finally was starting to feel better and wanted to have a weekend trip with just the two of us and asked me to skip shooting the Kentucky Derby that year. I complied. Where did we end up? In Chicago watching the Dodgers and the Cubs.

Despite all of that, I only covered two games in my career at Wrigley…both were while I was working for my first paper. In my years shooting assignment for Sports Illustrated, I never covered a game on the north side, but multiple games with the White Sox on the south side. Fast forward to 2016. It was June and I was in Galveston with the family, Maria sidelined at the beach house with a foot and ankle she managed to break the night before we left. The phone rings with a number from Bristol, CT and despite chasing both girls around the beach house, I knew I had to answer.

It was Tim Rasmussen, the Director of Photography at ESPN, who brought me into the fold last fall. The conversation in its simplest terms went like this:

Tim: How flexible is your schedule for the summer and into the fall?
Me: For the right project it can become flexible.
Tim: Good. We want to put you on the Cubs for the rest of the season.
Me: Lets do it.

I would shoot at least one game a week (sometimes seven games in a week) for the duration of the season. A rare opportunity to create a large body of work in covering one of the most talented, deep and fun baseball teams that has been assembled. It has been written that it has been over a half a century since baseball has seen a team this loaded with talent.

My first game was against the Reds on July 5. Since that time, armed with two Nikon D5 bodies, a D500 a D4s and on a couple occasions adding a D750 and a D810 to the mix, I have amassed 3TB worth of photos in covering the team and the Wrigleyville community.

Some of my season work would manifest in the September issues of ESPN The Magazine and online at ESPN.com. As the Cubs keep rolling, so will my coverage. Now that the Cubs are about to begin the NLCS, I wanted to share some of my favorite (not necessarily my best, but my favorite) frames from the regular season.

While you are at it, check out some of the finished product as well!

THE MASTERMIND — Theo Epstein

WELCOME TO WRIGLEYVILLE

JAVIER BAEZ – His Story Through Tattoo

AROLDIS CHAPMAN – A Day In The Life

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A special thanks to Cubs team photographer and all around fantastic shooter and guy, Steve Green and Cubs Director of Media Relations, Peter Chase for all of their help this season and for putting up with me and my continued barrage of questions, ideas and requests.

On Assignment

The Relentless Pursuit

Creating an image that has never been attempted or successfully taken is always my primary goal. The relentless pursuit of something new and fresh. My mind never turns off from this consuming creative thinking. While this can certainly weigh heavy on my shoulders, it is a driving force.

Last year, I was able to do that in covering the greatest two minutes in sport, the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby. Much like a powerful race horse, I began developing the idea and putting things in motion to make it happen a year in advance. Remote cameras in covering sport are nothing new. However, I am always working through ideas and viewpoints in my mind to put myself, and the viewer, in a position they have not been in or seen before. Last year, that manifested in placing a remote camera on the light pole at the finish line at Churchill Downs.

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While there are definitely those who are very content in following what has been done before and replicating those photos and playing it safe, for me, that is just unacceptable. I demand and expect more out of myself and my clients expect the same from me as well.

LOUISVILLE, KY. - MAY 2, 2015: American Pharaoh victorious during the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. (Andrew Hancock for The New York Times)

LOUISVILLE, KY. – MAY 2, 2015: American Pharaoh victorious during the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. (Andrew Hancock for The New York Times)

While I wont be there this year as I am up to my eyes in two big projects requiring my full attention (that and a little bit of family time after being on the road most of the year so far), I passed on my assignment for the Derby. That being said, I wish my friends who will be covering the race the best of luck and hope that they have a great shoot and can’t wait to see what gets created!

Even though I decided against covering this year’s Derby, don’t worry, if there is another chance at a Triple Crown, I will be back at Belmont to do it again!

On Assignment

My Basketball Journey

Saturday, February 1, 2003. That was the last time I photographed a Texas A&M basketball game at Reed Arena. It was a 64-59 win over Texas Tech. It had been 16 years since the men had played in the NCAA tournament.

I was never a basketball fan, but I enjoyed shooting the sport, even though I did not follow it closely. I grew up in Midland, Texas. Football country. The home area of Frida Night Lights, the book and the movie. Football was king.

Soon after I photographed that last basketball game as a student at Texas A&M, I found myself moving to Indiana to begin my career as a photographer. That first fall, when the stadium lights illuminated the sky on Friday nights, I was in shock. This was not Texas at all. Nothing was the same and the football to me, was a joke.

Then came December…and my first winter north of the Mason-Dixon. With wind blowing and snow falling outside, I finally witnessed something that could compare to high school football in Texas, and that is basketball. I was hooked. Since then, I have photographed at some of the most iconic gyms in Indiana (many of which were featured in the movie Hoosiers), and the most iconic gyms in the country.

Over time, my approach to photographing basketball has become more refined, and much more involved. Over time, I incorporated strobes and remotes…then a lot of remotes and a lot of strobes, all to constantly push myself to make the best images possible every single game. I dont get caught up in the game, I get caught up in the photography. That is what separates the fan photographers from the serious pros.

As my interest in basketball has grown, I have followed Texas A&M basketball closely. I have seen the team ride the best of highs and seen things come crashing down. I watched from afar the mens team go winless and I photographed the women’s team winning a National Championship in Indianapolis, the home of basketball. However, as my abilities have grown, I have often thought of what it would be like to shoot in Reed again, pull out all the stops and photograph the teams like they never have before.

13 years and three weeks removed from that last game in Reed Arena, I was back. All access with the women’s and the men’s teams for their games against LSU and Kentucky respectively. I was refreshed with the crowd and enthusiasm for both teams and the support that was shown by fans in the seats. It was certainly something I never saw as a student. It felt like basketball should feel. It was a rush for me not only as a photographer, but as a fan as well. Still, I am a photographer first and foremost and making the best photos is my paramount objective above all else, regardless of outcome. Yet, I do have to admit, at the end of the men’s game against Kentucky, I was a little jumpy and emotionally invested.

Looking back as both teams begin their NCAA Tournament this weekend, I wanted to share some of my favorites from the games I covered. My thanks go out to both programs for their access, their class and for being great to work with!



Blog, On Assignment

2015 College Football Playoff Semifinal – Cotton Bowl


This past week, I rang in the new year in a fashion in which I had not done before. As the ball dropped, I was hanging 50 feet over a football field. Typically I like to spend my NYE at home with the family. This year, duty called and I was in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl.

Today I am packing my gear and getting ready to head out to Arizona for the College Football Playoff National Championship game between #1 Clemson and #2 Alabama. In looking forward and preparing for the game, I wanted to also share with you a handful of my favorite photos I took last week on assignment for ESPN in covering the Cotton Bowl between #2 Alabama and #3 Michigan State.

It was as dominating of a defensive performance as I have seen in some time as the Crimson Tide shut out the Spartans. I was beginning to wonder if I was a good luck charm for Sparty (I covered their season-opening win over Western Michigan which was closer than the score showed and their crazy win over rival Michigan), however Alabama proved to be far too dominant for the depleted Michigan State team.

The game was especially fun for me as it was my first time working in AT&T Stadium, AKA Jerry World. The building truly is a spectacle and it was a great pleasure to get to work there and around all the incredibly wonderful Cotton Bowl staff.

For those of you that follow me on Periscope, you got to come along when I set up the camera inside the bottom of the giant 600 ton and 70 ft tall video board that hangs large above the field and also while I installed cameras in the catwalk. I hope that you will all join me again in Arizona this coming weekend!

Until then, I hope you enjoy the photos from this past weekend and are excited about the championship game where I will be teaming up with my good friend and fellow Nikon Ambassador Bill Frakes (who ESPN had covering the Orange Bowl) to provide you with our view of the game.