Behind the Photo

The Image, Deconstructed is a weekly blog that spotlights different photographers. The blog looks at one or two pictures from a photographer and then interviews the photographer on every detail that went into making that photo. While I don’t consider myself at the level of these professionals, I do consider myself a fairly decent photographer, and I thought it would be interesting to share one of my own photos and how I made it.

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This photo of Mike Gesicki, a Penn State tight end, was taken at the annual Lift for Life event in July 2015. The Penn State football team’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes raises money and awareness to fight kidney cancer. Every year, the team holds a “Lift for Life” event as one of their marquee events. Basically, the team gets people to pledge money and then they lift very heavy things such as massive truck tires.

When I showed up to the lacrosse field for the event early in the morning, it was already a sweltering July day with temperatures reaching the 80s. On arrival, after I picked up my press pass, all media was herded behind the outer lines of the field and told to stay put. Getting good photos was an exercise in jockeying around other reporters — definitely an important skill for any aspiring journalist.

Split between offense and defense, the players compete in teams to finish a series of challenges, such as bench presses, tire rolls and deadlifts. There’s a lot going on, so I needed to pick and choose which events I wanted to focus on. This picture was definitely unplanned, but I’m so happy with the way my “accident” photo turned out. I was on my way to the other end of the field when I saw some of the offense getting ready for the sled pull event. I was able to elbow my way across the field just in time.

Sometimes, being five feet tall can be a hindrance while covering live events and trying to get the best shot. But in times like these, being elbow height to other reporters is an asset that allows me to dash through the crowd.

Gesicki’s team had just won the sled pull event, and I was just in time to capture this moment as Gesicki celebrated. One of the reasons I like this shot is the color. The blue and white of the players’ uniforms is a great contrast against the green field and blue sky. And I like that I was able to make the shot with Gesicki in the foreground.

But looking back, there are a few things I would have liked to do differently. I would have liked to get Gesicki more centered in the frame so he would be more of the focus. I also would have liked to frame the shot with less  distractions in the background. And of course, I would have loved to get a few shots of his face, but being corralled behind the field lines prevented that.

Covering this event was definitely one of my favorite assignments during my summer internship. I don’t usually get to cover football-related events, and as a huge football fan, it was definitely cool to see. It was also a chance to try a new style of reporting and a great learning experience.

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