All Images, reflections, memories and fabrications ©2011 Tony Hernandez Photography

Friday, January 8, 2010

Free football and Pom Pom girls

It finally happened. I'm sure I still have the "official press pass" here somewhere after all if these years. I finally get to shoot a Varsity football game. The gods on high, Bob and Larry, the two seniors in charge, have granted me the opportunity to be on the field to record the piece of history that was our beloved high school football team. I'm sure there are people out there who know exactly what I mean. When you go to a "football school", you just know it. The vast majority of our school was hooked up on the program. You still had your cliques, groups and bands of social outcasts, but even they were into being at the games. I came to find out later, the outcasts were using the game as an excuse to go out and get high. But at that point in my life, I was clueless about things like that. It was the place to be on Friday nights. The stands were always filled on both sides of the field with students, parents and fans from both schools. The one area that was off limits to most, and by far the best place to be, was on the field. The first time I got past the teacher and cop at the gate to get on the field was a heart racing moment. Kind of like Niel Armstrong stepping on the moon, only not as important to the history of the world. There, past the dirt running track was Bob and Larry.... and Frank .... and one other guy who's name escapes me at the moment, on the sidelines, all with cameras in their hands, working every part of the field the photographers were allowed to go. I suddenly understood. Yes, you had to have a pass to get on the field according to Mrs. D. But once you were part of the crew, it seemed as though there would always be "an extra person or two" who happened to be there with his, or her camera, that always seemed to get on the field. This even happened at some of the away games. Talk about one big photo party. Mrs D, our fearless leader and still to this day, one of the most intense people I have ever known, called us on it when it started showing up in the amount of film we were going though during the course of one game. The new guy, which was me, and the underclassmen were given two rolls of film each. The upperclassmen however, probably had five or six rolls each in their pockets. Shooting those games were such a blast. If you wanted to get right in there on the sidelines and shoot the action, which was always there when your school had a good team, you could. High school football  players are no match size and speed wise when they're compared to a college or a pro player. But when you have two, three or more guys, running at full speed in your direction, and you don't get out of the way fast enough, that comparison won't help you in the end. I found when you can only see a players numbers in your viewfinder with a 200mm lens, and he's heading right at you, with a couple of guys chasing him, it's time to get the heck up and run! This critical information would come in handy only four years later while shooting  photographs at the Fiesta Bowl. A flash of memory during the days action was confirmed by a replay of that years bowl game highlights. I had just gotten home from working the game. Tired and hungry from shooting all day, I sat down in front of the TV for a bite and to put my feet up. On the boob tube was a recap of the big sports plays of the day. One of them was from the Fiesta bowl I had just come from. As I watched one such replay, I could see myself running like I was wanted in fifty states in order to get out of the way of four or five players flying out of bounds, taking out a couple of photographers on the sidelines in the process. I knew it was me from the red jacket I was wearing. Then, all of a sudden, the "flash of memory" hit my brain. It was one of the photographers who was right behind me on the field, being taken out by the fast moving group of very large football players. I saw him go down right behind me as I was just able to get clear of the carnage. I remember seeing his cameras flying into the air along with his bag and other gear. It only took seconds but, it seemed to take forever. And there was that memory, from a completely different angle, on the nights sports report. I'm sure the play was awesome, I don't think I ever looked at the football players. All I saw was the guy behind me, flying in the air, equipment being gobbled up by the momentum, with myself a half a step in front. I can almost see his eyes right before they got him. You gotta love shooting sports! It became a rush to see what was on the film after shooting a game. All of the photographers would pour over the contact sheets on Monday to see who had the best shots of the game. Even though the crew was shooting ten to twenty rolls of film per game, there were only two pages of varsity football in the entire yearbook. So space was limited to only the best of the best shots. I'm pretty sure I didn't get any of my shots into the football section my first year, but that's o.k. I had some of the best times of my life on that field with those guys. And I wouldn't trade those times for every shot in the book.

Having been given only two rolls of film per game put a premium on shot selection. It was a fortunate consequence of being a new guy. Shoot too fast and your standing around with a great view of the game, a couple of o.k. photos and that's about it. But pick and choose your shots, and all of the  sudden, your rolls of film are filled with great captured moments in time.

Or at the very least, lots and lots of pom pom girls.