Blogging my way back on the field

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So, I’ve had a website and blog up and floating around aimlessly in cyberspace for well over a year (earth time) and I’ve yet to say anything with it.

Conceived on emotional impulse, the sense of unfinished business, nagging underdeveloped ideas and the somewhat questionable concept that anyone would want to know what I think about anything, here is evidence that I exist. Here is me, reminiscing in my past and meekly making an effort to create a new future. Here is a bunch of old pictures and hopefully some new projects. Here is a typed version of things you would never be able to decipher if it was still in my handwriting. Here is the blog of a former photog.

If any of you remember my column in the Daily American and if you liked to read it and miss it even a little bit as much as I miss writing it…. Stay tuned. I hope to be disciplined (that sounds like getting a spanking) and get in the habit of putting together long and looping sentences on choppy, bumpy rhythms (that read like pushing a shopping cart down cobblestone) and tie them together with a few quick, tight, light and lyrical ones while I try to twist a few ideas and phrases between it all and call it writing (picture me with furrowed brow, tapping my pencil against my temple in a deep and thoughtful pose and feeling like I look like Hemingway– truth is, I’ve read that he wrote standing up, and I am sitting here typing in my underwear).

Beware of Oxford commas and I reserve the right to awkwardly change tense, just for the fun of it, interrupt ideas with other ideas within parenthesis that pop up in the middle of something you were already having trouble following, and to generally blabber on in sentence structure no self-respecting editor could ever approve of.

Attentive readers will see below that I’ve already ripped off Kurt Vonnegut Jr., but please note that I did yield not to the temptation of using “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  For the most part and for what it’s worth, this will be all mine. I don’t need no stinkin’ publisher.  I am a one-man-band. I am multi-media man!

 

Back on the field

Click for photo gallery

Meyers20TD 2x3

Tyler Fisher on the 1st play of  Meyersdale’s 1st home game

There I am again. Down on the sideline of a high-school football game. Instead of sitting at home all mopey and self-pitying and jealous of all the employed shooters with legitimate reasons for being there.

I don’t know if you could tell, but I was having a hell of a good time.

Some of you may remember me. I used to be the photographer for “the paper.” You used to see me at all the big games of all the small schools in the county. I used to be somebody. I don’t mean to brag, but I was once something of a local celebrity.

Well, a minor celebrity, or more of a local personality, not as much remarkable as just plain noticeable. The nature of my job placed me in plenty of public places and in most cases I over-eagerly subscribed to Robert Capa’s advice that if your pictures aren’t good enough, you are not close enough…. And I’ve never been graceful, and I sweat a lot, and I usually needed a haircut and had a Domke bag and a couple of large cameras hanging and swaying at awkward angles from a unique physique which most found on first impression to be more suitable for jobs that involved carrying heavy things than for the gentle art of photography. It is a journalist’s job to not be a part of the story, but sometimes, I admit, you just couldn’t help but notice me.

When my job was new and Facebook was new, some of the local youth even put together a “fan page” making good-natured fun of my muscles and portraying me in the same way that Chuck Norris gets his own line of jokes:

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night he checks his closet for Chuck Norris….

Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone….

Chuck Norris puts the “laughter” in “manslaughter….”

etc.

True story.

Me and Chuck Norris.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2247594148/

(Please ignore the lovely, young Russian girl, who seems to have shown up late to the party. I doubt that she is truly a fan.)

It was a good time for me. I was taking decent pictures, winning some minor awards and I was Facebook famous, at least with the high-school kids. We had a wonderfully supportive publisher and I was hired to improve the photographic presence of the paper, was very inspired to do so and I was hopeful of the future. I was a big fish in a small pond, for sure, but I was a pretty good swimmer and the water was warm and it sure was nice to be there.

When I first landed that job (taking the pond metaphor ashore) it was after having been downsized from the Cambria County bureau of WTAJ TV. I had been unemployed well past my last benefit check, in the process of divorce and in the waves of that (back in the water again), was well on my way towards bankruptcy.  So when I got the job of being the only photographer at the small paper back in my hometown, many of my friends from television news and from the bigger publications in the counties above said congratulatory things like, “It will be a good place to work, until you can find something better.”

But it was exactly where I wanted to be. Not that I had planned to move back home again, but that I very much wanted to be out doing the daily duty of putting faces in the paper. I was still passionate about my profession and still studied the masters and my main motivation was to dignify the little guy with documentary photography. Not only could I do that there, but for the most part, I could do it the way I wanted to do it and people seemed to like it. I didn’t need to “find something better.”

There are faces everywhere. And if you have ever rode around Somerset County with your window down and just talking to people and meeting folk and making someone front-page famous every day, you would probably agree that there are interesting individuals everywhere and it was a wonderful way to eke out an existence.

It was the greatest job in the world. Or, at least the best one I ever had, or probably ever will have. My salary was almost, but not quite, doodley squat, but I was taking pictures for a living and taking it pretty seriously, like art.

And I was thinking about all that while driving up the mountain on my way there. I was missing who I used to be and I was remembering the good times. I was re-feeling many memories, among them quite a few good ones of that 2006 powerhouse Meyersdale Red Raiders team:

QB’d by Matt Stahl, working behind a wall of linemen that moved like a machine and as hard and efficient as a dozer blade.  And  if I was in the right place in the right time with my camera pointed where it needed to be, it was a beautiful thing when a moment would materialize and helmets and pads and asses and elbows and grunting and muddy, grass stained aggression parted as blockers pushed defenders aside for Tyler Edwards to come darting through on a graceful cut and an angled maneuver and quick strides that left a swooshing feeling behind him much like a down hill skier does.

Or other times, the blockers hardly even needed to be bothered to open a hole– Stahl would just hand the ball to Jeremy Faidley (they called him, “Buddha.” …I guess it was a belly thing…) and he would rumble and stomp and power through carrying and dragging any pesky opposing players that bothered to cling on; and generally making entire defenses look silly– having as much success restraining him as sparrows trying to stop a bowling ball. I truly believe he only ever yielded his forward progress out of courtesy to give the opposing squad another try. I saw him carry an entire team, several coaches, some cheerleaders and even a few “chain gang” guys that tried to pile on one Saturday at Ferndale. Just one big towering mound of yellow Jackets, arms and legs dangling– but the pile never stopped moving forward. The officials only whistled it dead because they simply couldn’t find Faidley underneath it all.

And I am remembering Edwards zigzagging through and Buddha running right-the-hell over ’em all. And that team had great receivers and I-can’t-wait-to-hit-you linebackers and an army of fans that could fill up the stands with more home-town enthusiasm and love of the game than any sentence I can write could ever convey…. You didn’t just hear that crowd– you could feel them.

And then I parked my car and there I was, again, on Friday night, older, fatter, with antique lenses and lost in my memories and the building buzz of the thrill of the moment. I’d arrived just in time and barely made it to the field, fired up my new-used-outdated 7D at 1000th a second and f/2.8…

…and I know, acknowledge and have to admit that I missed at least thirty yards of good, easy money shots because honest-to-goodness tears of exhilarated joy clouded my focus when number 20 came around the right end and ran eighty yards down the sideline right at me, on the first play from scrimmage, at Meyersdale, on my first play back on the field after around five years of not being a photographer. Tears of joy, like coming home, like an epiphany or like finding something that was lost, like being welcomed by old friends, like having a Canon in my hands sighting through golden setting sunlight at a wide-open aperture channeling that kid’s energy and excitement straight back to my brain, magnified by ten artificial crystal fluorite and Ultra-low Dispersion glass lens elements and bathed in soft, sparkling bokeh…. My lens. My old friend. My favorite way to spend a Friday night.
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So, I intend this to be a publication in which I can continue my humble efforts as a writer and documentary photographer. I seriously doubt that my reputation will ever be raised again to Facebook super-hero, but for the sake of wrapping up the blabbering blog post, let’s pretend that I am “Multi-media Man!”

Armed only with used Canon cameras and ancient L-series lenses, he spends his days as mild-mannered Testing Lab Assistant, Roger Vogel, but after work and weekends he shoots sports action, human-interest images, all sorts of video and now he taps a blog out through a keyboard.

Wish me luck. And as they say:

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