There's something about this summer that feels... different.
For 17 years, May's warming rays suddenly appeared from the dreary, dismal clouds from April showers. The rush of school letting out for summer vacation and new opportunities speeds through June, but July's hangover (specifically the last 12 since my dad passed) always makes for a long 31 days.
School was a light at the end of the tunnel that I often didn't want there. However, it became my safety net to "practice, fail, and repeat" new techniques I learned during internships and to set new goals.
But that safety net isn't there anymore and in a way, I kinda like it. The last couple months have shown me that there's a strange exhilaration in not having that safety net. You have to take well-planned risks to prove yourself and to make the pictures you want.
As my time at Clarkson Creative continues, I keep hearing folks remind me to "never get comfortable" and to "stay hungry." Mountain West outdoor track was a first for me where I had to coordinate with multiple conference S.I.D.s by myself while taking a lead role working with my awesome partner-in-crime Aaron Cornia, managing as many as three remote cameras spread across a track complex at a time, and not missing an event the entire weekend. Maybe it's the mountains in Logan, Utah, but the area offered some beautiful backgrounds and sense of inner peace I've never felt before.
I didn't get the picturesque Rocky Mountain views one could want in Albuquerque, but there's something to say about a weekend of long, hot desert days and baseball that mentally pushes you. There are elements of continuity in baseball at any level that other sports don't have, whether it be the team's odd warmup traditions, the beer and hot dogs (sadly there were no veggie dogs for me) and the off-key, off-beat renditions of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch. Baseball isn't meant to be fast and exciting for nine innings (especially in harsh afternoon light), but the slower pace of the game gives you time to think about and experiment with angles and moments beyond bat-on-ball contact.
Pace and strategy, though, are two things that differentiate baseball and softball. If you ever have the chance, make the 10-hour drive (well, from Denver to Oklahoma City), and go to the Women's College World Series. If your experience is anything like ours, you might get a 17-inning Game One directly after said 10-hour drive, but it's definitely one of the most exciting NCAA championships to witness.
I remember working for Mizzou Athletics and looking forward to photographing "non-revenue-generating" sports like softball because you can see and hear the investment fans pour into these programs. You can't B.S. your way through a conversation with a lot of the fans and players because of how well-researched and interconnected they are.
Working with a photographer as seasoned at this event as Shane Bevel opened my eyes to the different angles and remote camera configurations one can think of to turn a sporting event into art for a client. A softball game can move so quickly that it's over before you're warmed up, and even though the field might be smaller, the possibilities to make fun pictures is vast.
My last editorial assignment came at the beginning of June photographing the U.S. men's soccer team's World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago for the USMNT's team photographers, ISI Photos. As the third shooter, my job was to photograph fans and ancillary activities revolving around the event. With ISI's blessing I was able to also also set up a pair of elevated goal remote cameras to document the action and be ready in the stands for fan reactions. Situations like these are interesting because one has to read the moments of peak action through the faces of fans. I'm glad that I just returned from OKC the day before because I would have never considered the setup had I not worked with Shane 48 hours beforehand.
Say what you will about the quality of U.S. soccer, but that game gave me - a curmudgeonous fan of the English game - a newfound respect for what it can blossom into in the coming years.
It's been a weird feeling being home so often during June knowing that it'll continue as the long days of July approach. Editing other NCAA championships from our pool of independent photographers gives a brief look at what other photographers look for in an image, and I'm trying to keep as many mental and written notes together for my next assignments. I think it's a mixture of the good fortune I've had these last few months and the "first-gen" Nigerian-American in me, but I have a newfound restlessness and hunger to find more to photograph in newer ways and learn more in and outside of this strange profession.
What a time to be alive.