H1N1 and the Digital Pack Rat

As I have been learning to be a photographer, I’ve had it drummed into my head to back up my files. I even witnessed a great reason why — a couple of my friends and mentors re-used a CF card without first dumping it, thus losing an entire shoot (this of course back in the day when the cards were astronomically priced and therefore, in some instances, shared). So I have my photographic files on at least three drives and, since two of those drives are redundant, it’s technically five.

Teammates at New Leadership in Springfield, Mass.
Teammates at New Leadership in Springfield, Mass.
What do I keep? Anything resembling a picture. The blurry stuff I usually delete in camera. I also don’t keep the referee-butt images (which I call “doing the butt”) that feed my photographic fish stories (I had this award-winning shot, but a referee ran into the frame as I squeezed the shutter).

In my recent post, Girl-Wide View, I outlined my mission in photographing girl’s basketball players and how I, in the main, try to avoid the “funny face factor” in order to show girls in a positive light. Hanging on to what essentially would be outtakes in this context seems a waste, right? Not unless you consider a photographer’s mission is to tell and illustrate stories.

Last week, four of us at ESPN HoopGurlz hit hard a story about the outbreak of the h1n1 virus (aka, swine flu) and how it is, or might, impact girl’s basketball. Since 99 percent of our stories are accompanied by photographs, the challenge became illustrating this story. You can’t exactly run a photo of the virus (you could, but this is girl’s basketball we’re talking about) and running photos of players suffering from this particular flu is rife with privacy issues (not to mention that many U.S. victims felt like outcasts during the early days of the outbreak).

So I decided to focus on some of the things said about the players being in close quarters and touching the ball. In a way, the decision allowed me to break a couple of rules about basketball photos. Usually, you want the ball, of course. Mostly, you want faces, unobscured. The image that leads this post is not a poorly composed one. In fact, I used it in my video piece about Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir. I like it because it’s another take on the otherwise ominipresent celebration photo — conveyed here without the hit-you-with-an-anvil presence of smiley faces.

Another example of breaking rules is the following, which I wouldn’t use as an action shot because the faces are so obscured by either the ball, hands or other players. In this case, it worked as an illustration of how often the ball is touched by different players, thus serving as a potential platter for h1n1.

Ta'Nitra Byrd (l) and Emily Michael battle at the Nike TOC.
Ta'Nitra Byrd (l) and Emily Michael battle at the Nike TOC.

This is a not-so-obvious example of breaking the rules. I think a lot of people might use this or print a similar photo for their albums. I don’t like it as a environmental portrait because it’s not “clean” (too many competing elements in the background). However, as an illustration of girl’s hoopers in close quarters, it works.

Jodan Adams (2) in front of the Mater Dei HS bench.
Jodan Adams (2) in front of the Mater Dei HS bench.

The lesson: It pays to keep things around. They might come in handy one day in another context. This is from a person with three or four “junk drawers” in his house, and who kept his band-collared shirts and wool vests and saw the day when they all came back in style.

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