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It is all about perspective

John Vogel, of Aberdeen, reaches to return a volley during a singles match Sunday at the Hub City Open tennis tournament on the Northern State University tennis courts. Photo by John Davis taken 7/23/2023

In this day and age of political discource and everyone having their own take on what is real or how things should be, it came to my attention the other day that I often look at things differently than other people do.

Dave Vilhauer and I were talking shop as we watched some of the matches at the Hub City Open tennis tournament when he brought up the idea that I look at things from a different perspective than others watching a match. 

That is a very true statement. When I watch some event, even ones on television, I am 90 percent of the time thinking like a photographer. I am not watching like the casual observer or the fevered fanatic. 

When I am on assignment the thoughts going through my head are often very logistical. How much time do I have at this event? Am I looking for anyone in particular? Can I or should I do a gallery? Do I need images for the archive or do I only need an image or two? Once I know those answers I can settle in and go to work. 

Each event presents a different approach to coverage, including what kind of images I should look for. The first day of a three-day golf tournament isn’t the same as the last conference football game of the season that determines which team makes the playoffs. Even within each event there are differences. When covering the big state championship game I look for peak action and the key moments of the game early on. But often by the late stages of the contest those action photos aren’t nearly as important, so my mind turns to what kind of celebration photos can I take and which side of the field or court do I need to be on to catch that moment.

Getting back to the tennis, I do watch things differently. I don’t let my head bob back and forth watching the ball. I key on each player and try to find an angle that limits the clutter in the background. After just a few points scored in the game I can usually tell if the player has a good serve or is prone to using their backhand. I also pick up on little quirks, the most common of which I see is the Michael Jordan tongue. 

The other oddity about tennis is there are no numbers on jerseys. For example when Aberdeen Central or Roncalli players are dressed in similar shirts, shorts and/or skirts, I have to find a way to distinguish player A from player B. I do that by making a note of how they wear their hair, or the color of cap or visor on their head or fluorescent shoes they may have on. The average fan isn’t consciously thinking of that kind of thing.

Another approach I try to do with tennis that helps me to be quick about my work and move on (since I usually have another assignment coming up) is to treat it like a concert. By that I mean the music promoters and act managers want their artists to look nice in photographs so they typically limit media coverage to the first three songs. That way the singer doesn’t start to “glow” or sweat that much during their performance and they still look nice. When I can, I try to give the athletes I cover that same courtesy.

Even with all these tricks of the trade going on through my head the most important thing I have to do is get THE moment. Capture that image that makes the reader (or the boss….especially the boss) go WOW! That doesn’t happen every time, believe me I wish it did, but I know too well it doesn’t. So all I can do is keep taking images and trying new angles and techniques. 

At least that’s my view of it.

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