As good as the first

By Chris Ayers

I have done this literally hundreds of times before, but it still feels just as exciting and new as it did the first time. I walk through the tunnel, with “The Ecstasy of Gold” playing in my head. I finally reach the end and see the entirety if Rice-Eccles Stadium before my eyes; a sight that will never get old.

Today is the final game of the regular season for the Utes, and also senior night.

I don’t bring that much gear with me when I’m about to shoot a sports game. I bring my camera, my lens, a teleconverter to multiply the lens’s focal length, and sometimes one of the Chrony’s lenses (Canon 300mm or 400mm) plus a monopod. I would like to get a second camera so I don’t have to change lenses, but that’s not in my budget right now.

After parking in the “Media” section of the lot, I go inside and take the elevator up to the press box. There is a room that was originally a photocopy room, but photographers took it over to place their big, heavy, expensive lenses without the fear of them getting stolen. Outside of it is a buffet exclusive to those who have a pass (steak is on today’s menu).

The week before, it was sunny but cold. Then the shade crept in, and it was just cold. I was joking with other photographers that I would’ve preferred it to be cloudy on a rare afternoon game; shade diffuses light, which avoids creating harsh shadows and is more consistent and even. Luckily, it didn’t rain on our parade: it snowed instead. I’ve never covered a game in the snow before. But the Chrony’s photo editor, Chris Samuels, doesn’t mind at all, and actually enjoys it.

“The snow gives us depth perception and the clouds makes the lighting even,” Samuels says

He was correct, as I took some of my best football shots during the game. Despite the snow giving a good perception, it caused problems. Besides the obvious of it making it colder and wetter, it caused my camera some problems. Thankfully, my camera and lens are both weather sealed, but the snowfall confused my camera’s auto focus on what it wanted to capture.

As I’m covering the game, I’m always aware what is going on. Unlike basketball, I have to constantly move with the action. Wherever the line of scrimmage is, I’m at least 20 yards from it. I check my photos between plays/quarters and mark the ones I think look best. This saves a ton of time when I have to sort through them later since I typically take 800-1000+ per sports game (even more today since it’s Senior Day).

The deadline to submit is only one hour after the game. I don’t need to edit them too much since I know what settings to use on the fly while shooting, but minor edits (such as cropping) are essential. I took 1253 for today’s game and I ended up using 25, which is actually quite above the average amount of keepers (normally around 10-15). Every 20 pictures I take guarantees at least one good picture, but the number dwindles because I need to choose only one specific frame captured. I sometimes submit a couple pictures of the same play and give the burden to the photo desk to determine which is better.

Almost every single picture that is a keeper was marked previously in camera. The photos are ready and I finally upload them to our Google Drive.

After the edits are saved, I write cut lines for every picture with the AP format: “[year] [position] [player name] (number) [action] during an NCAA football game against the [team] at Rice Eccles Stadium on [day, month date]. [Photographer/organization].”

As I make my way back towards the tunnel, I remember that this is it until next year. With the sun finally creeping in, I saw a sight that would last forever in my mind. But because my long term memory isn’t great, I took a picture just to be safe.

When people tell me “you have such a cool job!” I always feel tempted to say to say something along the lines of “It doesn’t pay well” (it doesn’t). But then I remember that amazing feeling I get whenever I walk onto the field.

“Yeah, I do.”