High School Photography

I've been doing sports photography at Terre Haute North High School for over 30 years. I constantly worry that someone is going to wonder why I do this and suspect the worst. This is the long explanation. It might be simpler to just say I'm insane.

In 1957 my grandmother took me on the train to Indianapolis. At the bottom of Union Station was Robert's Camera. (They've since moved to St Clair street in case you need a camera.) Of course, she had to buy me a camera. It turned into a lifelong hobby, perfect for someone with a personality disorder. A very solitary hobby. I also have a condition, aphantasia,  that makes it impossible to create images in my head. People with this tend to like looking at images.

My involvement with sports photography started with my step-daughter, Barbie. She played softball, lots of softball. When she arrived at North High School (her class was the first freshman class) the softball field was a backstop and a fence that was falling down. The parents built dugouts, with free concrete blocks we hauled from North Vermillion High School. $9,000 for lights which we had to put up. We later built the batting cage and a two-story building (cost $55,000). I learned you should always wear a hard hat when doing construction. Money from the school corporation was nonexistent. New scoreboard. Later parents and a coach acquired lockers for the second floor. Years later the school corporation replaced the lights and fence. Current parents do nothing.

I also had stepsons involved in sports at North, Brian being the swim coach at North for a few years.

I should also mention I ran the concession stands at North for seven years. I quit when I got tired of parents telling me what "I should do". My kids had long since graduated.

The two-story building at softball was the biggest problem. Credit Rick Fry for getting it done. Rick, his father, Allan Cheeseman, and I did most of the work. We hired a bricklayer and a plumber.  The bricklayer had known my grandfather, who had been a bricklayer, so that helped with the rate he charged. I was his "hod carrier". We did the rest with lots of help from volunteers. Credit Tom Dinkel for the heat in the building. A soccer parent built the cabinets. Mike Dason got his students to put the roof on. I was the softball club treasurer and tracked every penny of the $55,000. The concession stand area of the building is very large. We learned our lesson when we built Wabash Valley Girls Softball League. Concession stands can never be too big.

My favorite camera was the Nikon F3HP with a vertical grip. Frame rate 4.5 frames per second. That sucks up a lot of film fast. My first digital was the Nikon D1, famous for taking the first digital image on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Today I use three cameras, Nikon D850, D750, and D500. The D850 is 45 megapixels and makes for long nights of editing. The D500 gets used a lot at softball.

Photography is all about light and high school gyms have major problems when it comes to light. Northview High School is the worst I've ever had to deal with. This light problem makes processing indoor sports images a nightmare. That personality problem also contributes to the nightmare.

For indoor sports, I use two computers almost simultaneously. They're both very fast but the portable has an nVidia GPU (graphical processing unit) that's required by two programs I use for gym images.

Most people take digital images in jpg format, professional photographers take images in RAW format. To use RAW images they first need to be converted to jpg format. I use Adobe RAW Editor. The jpg images have lots of noise created by the high ISO from low light. Most sane people would use the RAW editor to remove the noise but ... I have to use a much more sophisticated program, Topaz DeNoise AI which requires a fast GPU. Then Topaz Sharpen AI, which also requires a fast GPU, is used to remove any blur. Then there's editing and uploading. Trying to do all this to over a thousand, 45-megapixel images requires hours. But it's all fun, right?

For fourteen years I was a volunteer at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center, photography being part of the work. IU Press published three of my books. If you'd like a copy of the last book, just ask. When I retired from EFRC I had lots of time to devote to high school photography and the whole thing got out of hand. Parents took me to West Vigo and Northview but North is home and softball is where I always show up. As of Spring 2022, I'm 74 years old. I'm close to being done.