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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2013-05-09
NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT DIARY
One Season, a Handful of Cameras and an Orange Team
By Nate Shron
I had just finished processing and uploading my edits in the photo work room in the underbelly of the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., the internet connection seeming to move faster as more photographers and editors headed home.
Photo by Michael Johnson
Photographer Nate Shron talks with players during pre-game warm ups as the Orange get set to take on the DePaul Blue Demons at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY on March 6, 2013.
The Orange had just defeated the Hoosiers, and I had scored possibly the most perfect picture of head coach Jim Boeheim in my four years photographing the Syracuse basketball team. I loaded the image onto my iPhone and decided to take a stroll through the tunnels of the arena. The security team said their goodnights, assuming I would not be back, but my team had won, which would place me right back in the arena again two days later. And of course I would be there a few hours longer, because writers take forever.
As I walked the halls I heard the familiar talk and laughter of the team exiting, starring Boeheim. I quickly pulled the photo up on my phone, slowed my walk and allowed the Coach with 900-plus wins to walk up right behind me at which point I showed the picture to him with a casual, “Hey Coach, what do you think?!” He smiled, laughed and answered with a resounding, “Ha! That’s me!”
My name is Nate Shron and I am a staff photographer for The Daily Orange, the independent school newspaper at Syracuse University. At Syracuse, I have been fortunate to work as a contributor for Getty Images, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to many away games this year thanks to the Daily Orange — or “D.O.” for short.
NOVEMBER 9 - ABOARD THE USS MIDWAY, SAN DIEGO, CALIF.
The season began with an unbelievable trip to the west coast for the Battle On the Midway between Syracuse and San Diego State University on the USS Midway Museum, an aircraft carrier docked in San Diego harbor.
USS MIDWAY GALLERIES:
Setup and Practice: http://dailyorange.com/2012/11/gallery-setting-up-for-the-battle-on-the-midway-game-between-syracuse-and-san-diego-state/
The photos tell a better story than I could ever write in this article. The season carried on in the Carrier Dome back in Syracuse, the home of the Orange. Thanks to other photographers in the Dome, here are a few things that I learned during the regular season:
- Photos of seat covers are not good shots. Run a search on Getty and see how many pictures of “seat covers” I made. It’s not a number I am proud of. However, these pictures often made me look around to find something that maybe was just a bit more interesting than a giant ‘S’ on an uncomfortable, but classic, orange seat.
- If you don’t have a professional body camera and/or don’t have a battery grip, don’t “Chicken-Wing” it. This not-so-courteous move occurs when you rotate the camera body counter-clockwise to obtain that vertical shot when shooting a basketball game. The problem is that your elbow juts out high up into the air, guaranteed to block the friendly photographer’s shot next to you. How to solve this problem? Get a battery grip, or rotate clockwise. Kevin Rivoli, Dennis Nett, Richard Mackson and Mark Konezny, Mike Johnson, Mike Okoniewski and Rich Barnes (the Syracuse sideline photographers) will appreciate this tip.
MARCH 21 – SECOND/THIRD ROUNDS SAN JOSE, CALIF.
After a successful regular season, my “Big Dance” trip started out with some crazy connecting flights to San Jose, but hey, Writer Mike Cohen and I made it. Arguably more important than the game(s) was my planned trip to In-N-Out Burger. Thanks to some guidance from SI assistant Andrew Villa, I made it, but Mike didn’t and I’ll never let him live it down.
We arrived to the stadium for press conferences, which tend to produce some pretty ordinary photos. For this round of the tournament, I had with me a Canon 1D Mark IV, a 7D, 70-200 f/2.8 IS and a 16-35 f/2.8. I shot the practices and press conferences, making sure to tweet a few photos from my iPhone in the down time. I got a few shots of the players dribbling across the logos on the court, which I liked. Without a 300mm lens, my best bet was wider shots from above. Without a tripod, I held my camera tight to the top of a trashcan outside of the HP Pavilion for a long exposure night shot of the front of the “Shark Tank.”
The next day I arrived early for the two games, although I knew that I would only be shooting the nightcap (Syracuse vs. Montana). I placed my gear down in the photo room next to a few other photographers. As I plugged in my laptop, I recognized Ezra Shaw, a Syracuse grad and Getty Images staff photographer, across the way and to my left, a laptop alone with a pair of card readers labeled “BECK” in sharpie marker. “BECK”? I thought to myself. As in Robert Beck?
Photo by Nate Shron
Nate Shron's floor remote camera setup.
Sure enough, Robert Beck would sit next to me later on, offering up what he claimed to be the last of the complimentary fruit supplied by the NCAA to other photographers and editors in the media workroom. I stuck to popcorn and Diet Coke, which quickly became a trend of the tournament.
I pulled away with a great reaction shot of California’s Richard Solomon after their upset over UNLV and a gallery of the Syracuse/Montana game. The gallery included a lucky shot of all five players in the backcourt at once — something that rarely happens. During the game, I reached over to show Shaw a shot of Michael Carter-Williams celebrating with teammates to assist in identifying one of the bench players. I thought it was a decent shot, but my mentor and Syracuse Post-Standard photographer, Dennis Nett whispered, “If you’re going to show him something, show him something good!” I laughed and kept this in mind before reaching over to the coveted Getty corner photo position again.
Both Getty and Sports Illustrated had a handful of remote cameras set up, one at the corner of the baseline (which I found to be an interesting shot of players driving through traffic to the basket) and remote in the rafters that I was able to pick out as I squinted in search of long glass lenses hanging from the catwalk. I was certainly jealous of the 1Dx’s sported by AP, Getty and well, just about everyone except for me but my 7D (no chicken winging here - I had a battery grip) and Mark IV would do the trick as long as I looked for those “jube” shots.
(See every Sports Shooter Academy video ever, stressing the importance of jubilation pictures.) I probably used my 70-200 for 90% of the shots that I took in both games in the first round.)
Next came another day of press conference pictures and finally the game against California on the following day. Caution: There’s a seat cover photo in this gallery but come on, it even says “The Road To The Final Four,” which had to be foreshadowing, right? I like to look for photos during the game of players on opposing teams walking past each other and making some sort of gesture or facial expression, which could be an image depicting a win or a loss. I like the photo of Allen Crabbe throwing the ball away as the fans cheer, and C.J. Fair smiles toward the back right of the same image.
However, as far as I was concerned this early in the tournament, the key was making connections and introducing myself to as many photographers as possible. And that’s why I volunteered to run cards for Shaw and Thearon W. Henderson. Because this was so early in the tournament, they did not have a card runner and I was happy to step in. I literally ran on and off the court, shuffling the cards as many times as I possibly could to get the images back to New York quickly. My game ended without any “Crazy” shots, and as I packed up after a late west coast night, wondering what time zone I was in, Mr. Beck turned to me and said, “Nate right?” I said, “yeah” (nervous, almost scared by what @SHOOT802 the “Surfing SI staff photographer” [via instagram] would say). He pointed towards the gigantic “Photo Work Area” sign and said “You need a sign.” I smiled, and carefully peeled the sign off the wall and, with the help of SI’s Kohjiro Kinno, cut down the poster to fit as a slightly larger-than-allowed carry-on for my journey back to Syracuse. Turns out, I “stole” a slightly smaller one from Georgetown later in the tournament, which is now hanging above my desk in ‘Cuse.
SAN JOSE SECOND/THIRD ROUND GALLERIES
Syracuse vs. Montana: http://dailyorange.com/2013/03/gallery-syracuse-battles-montana-in-ncaa-tournament-opener-in-san-jose/
Syracuse vs. California: http://dailyorange.com/2013/03/gallery-syracuse-vs-california-in-ncaa-tournament-matchup/
MARCH 28 - NCAA MEN’S EAST REGION WASHINGTON, D.C.
The Indiana game in Washington, D.C., is where I got that gasping shot of Boeheim, and I was generally happy with the rest of the shoot. I was disappointed I didn’t get a better view into Baye Moussa Keita’s flip over Cody Zeller, as the focus was on Southerland in front of me. But hey, sometimes that happens and there’s not much you can do despite the “Did you get that?!” texts flooding my phone. Another difficulty was shooting in the presence of strobes . . . without strobes. I probably lost two peak action shots to over exposure.
The Syracuse - Marquette game is where I got one of my favorite shots of the entire tournament. The celebration in moving to the Final Four and becoming the East Regional Champions was exciting, but I went for the high angle in the group shots holding up the trophy. Bad idea. I was blocked by CBS and every other taller photographer around me.
Looking back, I think I’ll always go for the low angle, considering my height as a photographer. As one of my colleagues pointed out, “Some of the best photographers are short.” My favorite shot from this game turned out just fine: a shot of James Southerland cheering. This picture went on to run as a double-page spread on the front and back cover of the D.O. When I got back to Syracuse, I was proud to see the paper taped to almost every storefront window on Marshall Street.
The other noteworthy shot in this game is the picture of President Barack Obama. When I was at the Georgetown game a few weeks prior, (See Gallery : http://dailyorange.com/2013/03/gallery-syracuse-travels-to-georgetown-for-big-east-regular-season-finale/) I had thought, ‘Hey, maybe the President will show up!’ Well that would have been too easy, because there would have been a nice courtside seat to make him easily photographable. Like I said, too easy.
Photo by Nate Shron
Catwalk remotes at the NCAA Final Four.
The NCAA has spectator courtside seating so the President was seated in a luxury box with Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor and NCAA President Dr. Mark. A. Emmert. Keep in mind, I don’t own a 300mm lens and the view to a suite is quite a long throw. So when halftime hits, I get a text from my editor, “Obama’s there, you’d better get a shot of him!” As the photographers scrambled to find him, quickly losing track of game shots, I realized the “See him? He’s just to the right of the exit sign!” shot just wasn’t going to cut it. So, during the next time out, I ran up the stairs to get as close as I could. As close as I could meant approximately three sections away due to security, but it was better than a 200mm shot from the floor!
In Washington, D.C., I was able to meet Rob Carr who was extremely friendly. He introduced me to Mike Heiman who was editing on scene for Getty. It was great talking with both of them and hearing how their system works to ingest photos.
After the win over Marquette, the Orange had ruined the planned vacations of many photographers typing away at captions on their computers that night, but for me it was an extension to miss even more class (Hi Professors!) and to travel to a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Atlanta.
Syracuse vs. Indiana: http://dailyorange.com/2013/03/gallery-syracuse-defeats-indiana-61-50-2/
Syracuse vs. Marquette: http://dailyorange.com/2013/03/gallery-syracuse-battles-marquette-in-ncaa-matchup/
APRIL 6 - NCAA MEN’S FOUR, ATLANTA, GA
Here’s where my photos get a lot better. That’s thanks to some wins, some luck and probably also because of some additional camera gear. This is where I made my best images during the tournament and the season as a whole.
Including a lens borrowed from a friend, a rental, and a lot of gear from Canon Professional Services, here was the setup:
2 1Dx Camera Bodies
1 1D Mk IV Camera Body
24-70mm f/2.8 Lens
70-200mm f/2.8 IS Lens
300mm f/2.8 Lens (FINALLY!)
8-15mm f/2.8 Fish-Eye Lens
300mm f/4 Lens (spare)
After luckily gaining access to a couple 1DX’s, I immediately jumped on Sports Shooter to run through Peter Read Miller’s article on EOS-1D X custom settings. (See: http://www.sportsshooter.com/news/2678)
Nate Shron at the NCAA Final Four on April 6, 2013.
I keep a Canon fanny pack (because it’s cool) around my waste with a 480EX flash, memory cards, a pen, tape and my Pocket-Wizard Multi-Max. I don’t think I could have been any more excited with my press pass, penny, fanny pack and long glass all around my neck standing on the court.
A few nights before the first games, I made a trip to Home Depot and asked my Dad to FedEx an old tripod mount from home. After some much-appreciated help from a Home Depot associate, I was ready to go with a floor mount. The mount was blacked out in gaff tape, and I mounted a 1D Mark IV and 16-35mm lens on the bracket with a Pocket-Wizard Plus (I was channel 3!) and pre-release cord.
I have experience with backboard remotes from high school, but I had never setup a floor remote before. So, I followed the lead of the numerous other floor remotes that sat across from the Syracuse bench and waited to focus it until game day. I did my best to introduce myself to some of the US Presswire — I mean, USA Today Sports Pictures — photographers as well as the Getty Images photographers at the Georgia Dome. I recognized Streeter Lecka and introduced myself only to basically follow him around and ask for his advice on focusing my floor remote. (Thanks @StreeTweeter ! )
The morning of the first games, I asked Porter Binks, the photo event manager for the tournament, if I could go up to the catwalks with him as he inspected the remote cameras up there. I wanted to see the remotes and how they were setup as well as what safety precautions were taken so that I could put one up next time. Also, I really wanted an awesome Instagram. I’ll admit it, I did use Instagram and Snapchat to keep in touch with friends sometimes even during TV timeouts. What can I say? I was excited to be there! Chatting with Porter about photography and his journey through sports photography was one of the highlights of the trip. I’m also confident that I can hang a remote compliant with his standards of a future event.
All of the cameras in the hands of photographers on the floor, in addition to remotes throughout the stadium, were tethered back to the photo room via Ethernet cables (except mine). The NCAA prohibits wireless networks, so this was the way to go. They also prohibit any drinking cup that doesn’t say “NCAA” on it, but that’s another story...
A few hours before the game, I realized that I would have a seat in the second row on the court. Not a big deal, as I was happy to even be there shooting the event, but I would need more than my folding chair to save my knees and prop me up high enough for a view over the photographers’ heads in front of me.
In all the professions I have ever dabbled in, I’ve never found people as willing to help and offer their assistance as people do in professional sports photography. No matter what question I had, someone was always more than happy to help. I needed a stool, or a “Bed Bath & Beyond” stool as they tend to call them. A few editors at USA Today helped me to ask around, and George at McClatchy was more than happy to let me borrow one of the stools for his photographers.
The Michigan game went great. After shooting the Louisville game prior, I was relaxed and ready to go. My favorite shot of the entire tournament was of Michael Carter-Williams “flying” or falling. But take a look through the gallery... To be honest, this is the best shoot I’ve ever had. The typical camaraderie among photographers was no different at the tournament.
We smiled and laughed on the sidelines, and as USA TODAY and Sports Shooter founder Robert Hanashiro pointed out to me last week, photographers really are the closest people to the action, much closer than the press box or even writers seated in courtside positions. We get to hear the interactions among the players and refs and we occasionally are seen on television, most often when we are run over by a run-away player or ball. Being in the back row, I couldn’t help but smile at the familiar site of a photographer in front of me texting family and friends “I know! Everyone’s texting me saying they just saw me on TV!”
I don’t want to talk about Syracuse losing, but there’s one shot in the gallery after the loss to Michigan of assistant coaches Gerry McNamara and Mike Hopkins in the locker room. McNamara is speaking to a reporter as Hopkins sits in the locker room. I was almost nervous to take a picture, but I was later reminded that the locker room was “open” for a reason and I’m glad I got the shot.
I was able to score a photo position from above for the Louisville/Michigan game. Thanks to packed courtside positions, this was an opportunity that I would not have had otherwise. I found it difficult to shoot game action, but some of the best celebratory shots were from up here.
ATLANTA FINAL FOUR GALLERIES
Louisville vs. Wichita State: http://dailyorange.com/2013/04/gallery-louisville-battles-wichita-in-the-final-four/
Syracuse vs. Michigan: http://dailyorange.com/2013/04/gallery-syracuse-takes-on-michigan-in-the-final-four-in-atlanta/
Author note: Thank you to Getty Images for allowing me to shoot the home games this year, as well as to the staff and alumni at the Daily Orange for allowing me to shoot many away games this season. P.S. The Canon 200-400 1.4x f/4 IS does exist. I saw it.
Nate Shron is a senior at Syracuse University. You can see more examples of his work at this Sports Shooter member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/members.html?id=10339
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