I had the amazing opportunity to shoot the UNC v Duke game in Chapel Hill last week. I pulled together a few of my photos from the game (Well, okay. More than just a few...) and have started to upload them.
I'm genuinely happy with these photos, I feel like this is the best game I have shot all season - which isn't something I was expecting. About 5 or so minutes into the game I started to get the sense that the photography was going well. To make a basketball analogy - which seems appropriate here - it felt like all of my shots were hitting. It was a really great feeling and made the game twice as much fun to be a part of.
The entire experience of being at the UNC/Duke game was amazing as well. The tunnel underneath the Smith Center was packed with reporters, it had an exciting feel to it. They jammed extra tables into the press room as well as in the hallways outside the visitor locker rooms. I grabbed a spot at one of the hallway tables in part because the photo room was packed and in part because it meant I got to watch all of the activity going on in the building.
As usual, UNC basketball provided dinner, which was an amazing barbecue spread. A little girl - no doubt related to the caterers - was handing out plates. It ended up she was a Duke fan, which made me question whether I should eat the food but it was too good to turn down. Prior to getting my dinner I put down my drink and pre-game info packets in front of an empty chair to save myself a spot. It wasn't until I sat back down that I realized I had put myself in front of ESPN.com's Pat Forde. I'll admit it, once I realized this I geeked out a bit and basically clammed up and listened to him talk basketball with another writer and photographer. After he left Brad joined me for awhile.
As it got closer to game time I put together my cameras - I was FINALLY back to shooting with two cameras! - and headed out onto the court. I saw the other Yackety Yack photographer on the baseline and stood and chatted with her about shooting basketball, and the Yack in general. It was nice to catch up.
Eventually, I headed over to my spot, which was a bit out of the ordinary. Normally photographers are situated along the two baselines, which were obviously packed for this game. In fact, the high level of demand for photo spots is the reason I wasn't originally going to shoot the game, I had decided to give the opportunity up so that the other photographer could shoot it. For whatever reason the wonderful people at Athletic Communications (and I sincerely mean that, they've been super helpful to me - a relative outsider - all year long) added some spots along the sideline.
I wasn't sure how well shooting from there would go, but I was excited to try it out in large part because I've always loved the above shot of Jordan. As I mentioned above, it went really well. I loved the different perspective on the court - in fact I'd love to shoot from there again next year occasionally if given the opportunity - and I feel like I got a lot of fantastic shots that I couldn't normally get.
I don't know why the photos came out like they did, but I'm really happy with them. Don't get me wrong, as you go through them it's still very clear that I am no where near the level of the professionals shooting this game (Just look through the N&O or TarHeelBlue galleries for proof) but I'm very satisfied with how I did. For my level of experience I think I did okay.
I honestly had no sense of the score for most of the first half, I think I started paying attention in the last few minutes of the first half. I was just so wrapped up in the action of the game, and trying to capture that action, that I just never thought to look up at the scoreboard, or to check the stats on the videoboard. It reminded me of shooting the Texas game in that I became so wrapped up in the play and the photos that I had no idea how we were actually doing - aside from having a "sense" of how the team was performing.
As the game reached its final two minutes I quickly untied my camera straps so that I'd be able to quickly run over and get some photos of Roy and the teams together. I had NO idea that students would rush the court. Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about the rush the court, but I won't dwell on the fact. Regardless, it was kind of amazing to be in the middle of, even though there wasn't a huge crowd on the court. I just held my camera high, hoped my flash wouldn't fall out of my back pocket - I needed it for the post-game conferences - and snapped away. Eventually I stepped to the side of the court to watch the insanity, but when it became clear it wasn't settling down anytime soon I talked the nearby security guard into letting me back onto the court (Basically I waved my press pass at him and said "Can I get out there, I'm press!" a lot. It was kind of funny.).
After the crowd started to clear off the court the photographers were all pushed to the side of the court. We headed back out onto it once the ladder was brought out to cut down the net and I made sure to get a shot of everyone who cut off a piece. It was really cool to be standing right there as a net was cut down. I really enjoyed seeing Justin Knox take down what remained after everyone got a piece, he seemed to really enjoy his (second) senior night. I've been a huge fan of his all season so it made me happy to see that.
Once the ceremony was over I headed into the tunnel to find that I had just missed the start of Coach K's post-gave interview. I had really wanted to see that, but wasn't too heart-broken over missing it. I was in the room for - and got a few shots of - Roy's post-game. He was, as you might expect, in a great mood and it was fun to listen to him. After that I headed to the player's lounge to grab a couple more shots, and then headed home.
I never made it to Franklin, mostly because I left the arena long after the fans and because my heavy camera bag was weighing me down. Regardless, I couldn't have been happier on the walk home. It was weird to be alone at home all night and unable to celebrate with anyone, but I heated up some food, skimmed through my photos, and crashed around 1.
I hope to be able to shoot some of the NCAA tournament, but it's unclear whether the Yack will qualify for a pass. Regardless, I've really enjoyed shooting men's basketball this season. It's probably my favorite thing to shoot thus far. There's something about sports photography that is just very exciting. There aren't many other events where you can completely miss the ONE shot you HAVE TO HAVE. That sense of urgency really appeals to me for whatever reason.
My photos are available right here. I love comments, by the way. I really am happy with these photos and would love to know what you think.