Cavaliers, WWW

Photography is Hard: While We’re Waiting

Scott Sargent/WFNY

The NBA provides some of the best imagery in sports, but the final product is oftentimes a result of many, many missed opportunities.

Hauling my way up the stairs to my seat in section 100 prior to Game 3 of the NBA Finals, I ran in to long-time friend of the program—and someone I’d consider a friend behind the scenes of these interwebs—Martin Rickman. Martin was in town, like many others, to cover the Finals, and just as we were for the 2016 edition, we were seated next to one another in the third row, he with DIME Magazine, me with WFNY. Martin had been waiting for a fist bump, but he had to hold it out there for a few seconds so I could set down all of my belongings: Macbook, requisite charging cables, my notepad and pen, and my camera.

“I’m a one-man band, my friend,” I told him as I situated my instruments for that night’s festivities. We chatted for a few minutes, catching up on the last few months, discussed his recent promotion, how cool it was to be back in those exact seats a year later, and what the hopes were for the coming days. We adjourned from our formal discussion, stood for the National Anthem, and then went about our various paths for the night. As editor, Martin’s job for the week rested mostly in coordination of the next 24 hours of coverage. As I had mentioned in my analogy above, mine would consist of coverage throughout the game, finding an angle for that night’s recap, and taking pictures throughout the evening.

Many of you may have noticed the imagery we’ve been using for Cavs pieces over the recent months, steering away from wire photos, adding even more “WFNY” to the pages. Some of you may have even noticed my Instagram bio which lists “Wannabe photographer” as an occupation. What you will not have noticed is that of the four or five images I upload during and after a given game, there are roughly 300-400 others that never see the light of day. Wannabe, indeed.

LeBron James Cavs NBA Finals Game 4

Scott Sargent/WFNY

I’ve always been intrigued by angles and colors and the way things appear in a given moment, be they sunsets or skyscrapers. They take a certain kind of eye, and if not captured, will be gone shortly thereafter. But the thing about sports photography—unlike those buildings and what not, these guys are moving so quickly that even shutter speeds near 500 frames per second make it tough to chronicle. Tristan Thompson only appears to be plodding at times because we compare him to the explosiveness of LeBron James or the path-shifting dribbling of Kyrie Irving. You may think you have the perfect shot, but once you engage the shutter and then look at what you’ve obtained, more often than not it leads to a deep sigh and another attempt later in the game.

Basketball as a sport, in my opinion, provides some of the best imagery in athletics. There were some amazing shots taken during the Olympics, and I’m always fascinated by those who can grab shots of the hockey puck passing over the line or the soccer ball grazing a goalkeepers fingertips before sailing into the back of the net. Think about those moments for a second: There may be just a handful of opportunities in given match where these shots are possible, much like a diving catch by a shortstop, or a picture of Odell Beckham Jr. using three fingers to catch a touchdown. But in basketball, you get the combination of speed and musculature and athleticism and those wow moments like, say, a huge chasedown block or game-winning three-pointer in Game 7 of an NBA Finals.

Take, for instance, this shot from Game 4. First quarter. Kyrie Irving is about to have on of the best 12 minutes of play in Finals history. Golden Sate’s Klay Thompson (6-7) could not have played better defense on Irving (6-3). Not only did Irving get the shot off, but he made it as well.

Kyrie Irving Klay Thompson Game 4 NBA Finals

Scott Sargent/WFNY

Over the years, I’ve befriended David Liam Kyle, the team’s photographer for 20-plus seasons whose byline you see at the bottom of every home game shot from NBAE/Getty. When David was playing basketball overseas (he was drafted by the Red Auerbach Celtics out of Cleveland State) he picked up a camera to help pass the time while living in a foreign land. Today, he shoots his pictures with a camera about four times the size of mine, but uses corner-mounted strobes which means he has to wait several seconds before he can shoot again.

Despite these headwinds (and the constant risk of a 250-pound man running full speed into you on the baseline) he’s able to capture jaw-dropping moments throughout games—like Kyrie levitating past Steph Curry, for instance…

David’s images are pristine. Brad Mangin’s work for Sports Illustrated is another who comes to mine, his Instagram feed comprised entirely of shots taken with his iPhone. It’s the work of these guys who have inspired me over the years to be super picky about what I share with the rest of the world. But for all of the dunks and blocks and crossover dribbles I’ve managed to capture over the years, there are so many that were just a split second too late, were obstructed by someone or something, or simply didn’t have the right focus in place. You know how they call baseball a game of failure? Extrapolate that many times over and you have photography.

Oh, and one tip I’ve gleaned over the years: Never attempt to compliment a photographer with “you must have a nice camera.” It’s akin to saying Jimi Hendrix must have had a nice guitar.

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  1. Back when news could be broken in a book. []
  2. Actual sportswriting on deadline. Probably the best recap of Game 3 I’ve read to date. []
  3. I’m always fascinated by stories on generation gap, evolution, and adaptation. Given the downfall of malls and retail in general over recent years, it’s a fantastic overlay for the entire narrative. []

  • RGB
  • RGB
  • RGB
  • JNeids

    The kid on the left looks like if Kyrie and Draymond had a baby.

  • RGB

    If I’m Notre Dame, Kelly’s office is already in boxes on the curb, and a dumptruck full of cash and a touchdown Jesus credit card is sitting in Stoops’ driveway.

  • MartyDaVille

    One of our all-time favorites. He wore that Browns bandana under his helmet for the first-ever Ratbirds game, and it was captured on TV. I believe the NFL turds fined him for it.

  • Harv

    omg. Get outta my head, dude

  • jpftribe
  • BenRM

    As an ND guy, I’d sign on for that. As much as people have issues with Kelly, and want him fired, no one has ever had an answer for the follow up, “Who are you hiring that’s better?” question. Kelly is a world class d-bag, but his teams have been the first continuously good ND teams since the 80’s (until last year).

    Stoops would totally be an upgrade.

  • chrisdottcomm

    I dont remember who releases those black/white spotlight really solitude looking photos of in-game play but I’d seriously hang all of them in a gallery. Maybe they’re league photos?

    They’re all gorgeous.

  • Steve

    If it was as easy as dumping bags of cash on people, they would have had Stoops or Meyer already.

  • RGB

    It worked for Alabama.

  • jpftribe

    FWIW – The WFNY home page logo has returned to the upper left corner of my page, but many pictures, like Scott’s above, haven’t.

  • jpftribe

    Maybe Stoops will do it right and insist on a Bentley.

  • Steve

    Alabama doesn’t just offer the cash that ND does for coaches. There are more benefits. Especially when it comes to recruiting.

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