Thursday, October 18, 2007

Football Star of the Future, Found Years Ago

Regular season football coverage is winding down. Some of you are looking forward to having your evenings and Sunday’s back. Some of you are battling for the playoffs with aspirations to play football at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida with a shot at a National Championship.

In 2000 I worked for newspaper that sent me down to Florida to cover a couple teams that were playing on the grandest stage in youth football. That year it was the Newington Knights…who have kept their name in the national spotlight ever since, and the New Britain Raiders. In between all my scheduled coverage I took notice of a running back that reminded me of Barry Sanders and Bo Jackson. This kid was fast…like 4.6 fast. I mean he was quicker than most of the high school running backs I photographed on Saturday’s and he was 12 years old. He broke tackles like he was lathered in baby oil and made of stone. It wasn’t fair. Right there I knew this kid would be in the NFL. His only downside was that he fumbled the ball…a lot. I’d say that was the only reason why his team from Cape Coral, Florida didn’t win the title.

Who is this football player I speak of? Not yet. I’ve watched his highlights on the internet throughout his high school career and he has continued to impress me…and the nation. I’m saying it right now that this kid will win the Heisman Trophy at least once in his college career. Then he’ll go on to be successful in the NFL and become a household name.

His name…Noel Devine. He’s a freshman at West Virginia. Right now he’s behind two veteran Junior speedsters Pat White and Steve Slaton. So far this year he has 32 carries for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns….with 0 fumbles. For those of you that have never been to “The Rent”, you may want to consider grabbing some tickets next year when West Virginia comes to town. This kid is special! Keep an eye out for him.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Show your support!

This week is premier week for most TV shows. On Sunday 9/16/07, Curtis Sports Imaging made it's debut at the home of the Simsbury/Granby Raiders at Simsbury's Henry James Middle School as they took on the Glastonbury Tomahawks.

Three games were on the slate, which was a surprise to me...I was expecting 4 and a much longer day. Speaking of the day, what a great day for football! A cool start to the morning led to a sunny warm afternoon. When the sun was behind the clouds, you felt the cool September air, when the sun was out it felt like June.

During halftime I make my way along the sidelines to hand out our business cards. These cards let people know where they can purchase photos of their little star in action. Since selling photos is how we make money covering youth sports, we give our cards to anyone willing to take them. This weekend I was very pleasantly surprised as I made my way through the well attended fan sections on both sides of the field. I encountered many people that were there watching the game that didn't have any kids playing. I thought to myself, now that's support! These kids are our future high school athletic stars, scholars, community leaders, politicians, police officers, role models, etc. By taking part in what they do now will make a positive impact in their life. I guarantee it! It's always nice to see lots of parents at the games cheering on their kids. And when extended family and friends come out to support the team, all I have to say is Great Job! It means a lot to the kids.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Never too busy to remember...

Curtis Sports Imaging is in it's busiest time of year. I'm working on picture day photos for two, soon to be three and possibly four football leagues. Youth football action coverage is in full swing every weekend and I'm happy to announce the addition of another photographer to expand that coverage. I'm still working with our new web company to get the new website launched. I promise we are close and it will knock your socks off when it goes live.

With all the work I have I shouldn't be taking the time to write today, but I feel it is necessary to reflect on this tragic day in American history. About a half hour ago, I took a moment and participated in the National Moment of Silence @ 8:46am, the exact time the first plane hit the World Trade Center in NYC. I got goosebumps. I'm sure everyone reading this has a story or two about that day. Please share them.

My wife's car is in the shop so I had to start my day a little earlier than usual and drive her to work. I was lucky enough to be listening to 99.1 WPLR this morning and heard an interview with a women who lost her husband in the attack. The woman's name was Judith Keane and she started a foundation in her husband's name called the Richard M. Keane Foundation. They're building a sports center in Wethersfield in memory of three local men that lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks. The vision of the foundation as quoted on their website is...

"The Richard M. Keane Foundation was established by friends and family of Richard "Dick" Keane to honor his memory and to perpetuate his commitment to enriching the lives of the youth in the town of Wethersfield, CT. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a safe and fun environment in which the community of Wethersfield can come together to participate in athletic, academic, and social programs with the support and guidance of caring adults."

Tonight they are having a 9/11 memorial ceremony and unveiling the plans for the sports center. This sounds like an outstanding project that will definitely make a positive impact on our youth, the future of this great country. Please take a moment to visit the foundation's website at to learn more. I'll be contacting the foundation today expressing my support for what they do.

One last comment on this day...Support our troops! They choose to risk their lives defending our country. My youngest brother Eric is a US Marine and was deployed on Friday for his second tour. He signed up for service before he graduated high school, knowing our country was at war. I can't explain in words how proud he makes brother Eric is my hero!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bring on the pigskin!!

The end of baseball coverage takes me to my favorite shooting time of year...Fall sports, more specifically, football. For the past two years (and beyond with other companies), I have covered youth and high school football throughout the state every Saturday and Sunday, and I love every minute of it. I don't see much football on TV, but nothing beats photographing the action live. Besides, there are no commercials.

A few years ago while working for a local newspaper, I had the opportunity to photograph a Patriots vs. Chiefs game at Gillete Stadium. That experience was definately up there on the cool scale. I arrived what seemed like 6 hours before the game and headed to the media entrance to sign in and get my bags checked, my on-field pass and a vest. As I made my way through the tunnel towards the field, I can't help but chuckle and say to myself..."Wow, I can get used to this!". When you watch a football game on tv, the field always looks bigger. Go to your local youth or high school football game - that's the size of the field the pros play on, minus 68,550 fans. So as I made my way onto the field area, I walked the perimeter a couple of times to take it all in. One by one players started taking the field for their pre-game warm ups, the stadium began to fill, the interviews were taking place, Tom Brady passes were being zipped to recievers that made it look way too easy! The kickers were sending the ball 50 yards down field like it was their job. Oh yeah, these guys get paid (a lot of money) to play this great game of football on the grandest stage every week. Now when I played high school football, it was the coolest thing when we ran through the paper hoop before the Thanksgiving Day Football game as your name was announced. Fast forward seven years and I'm on the sidelines at Gillette. The weather was absolutely perfect. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, the rendition of the National Anthem gave me goose bumps and the 3 jet flyover was right on cue. I can't forget about the 20 foot inflatable Patriots helmet that the team ran through out onto the field with smoke and fireworks through a tunnel of 50 cheerleaders while 69,000 fans rocked the stadium. This is the moment I had worked so hard for.

The Patriots were up by 7 with 6 seconds to go in the game. It was fourth down and the Chiefs had the ball on the one yard line. Now I've been to my fair share of rock concerts that make my ears ring. When the Chiefs came out of the huddle for this fourth down play, I never heard that much noise in a venue. I actually yelled to myself to see if I could hear it, I have no idea what I said, it was that loud. The Chiefs scored and forced overtime. However, Adam "Mr. Clutch" Vinateri nailed a 40+ yard field goal to win the game and sent the Patriots faithful home happy.

Even with the excitement of that game, I still enjoy shooting youth and high school football. I've never attempted to pursue the pro sports scene. I enjoy the fact that families are hanging the images I create on the walls of their homes. It brings great joy when I get a phone call, email or note from a customer saying they loved the photos and that they are hanging in their living room. That's why I do what I do. If you have photos you purchased from Curtis Sports Imaging and have them displayed in your home (framed, collage, albums, etc), snap a photo and email it to me at info(at) I'd love to see what you did with them.

Baseball's unofficial end

Viewed by many on TV, the PA team fell to MD 4-0 in another somewhat uneventful tournament game. It was 0-0 going into the last inning with a total of around 3-4 hits for the entire game. In the sixth, PA's left fielder made a great diving attempt on a soft line drive that found the painted grass in left field for a double. The next batter roped a base hit to right field that scored the winning run. A HR later that inning ensured the win for MD.

If there is one tip for shooting baseball it's that you have to be ready on every single pitch. Finger on shutter release button, right eye in viewfinder, left eye on batter. Why do you have to keep an eye on the batter you ask? At this stage of the tournament you have kids pitching that look like they drove their parents to the game. They throw gas! When you are in the first base photo well and right-handed batters are late on a fastball, they head in my direction....quickly! I had to duck out of the way about five times during the 6 games I covered in Bristol. During the game Monday night, we had another screamer heading in our direction and that was slowed by one of ESPN's mics that was mounted in the photo well. The mic was facing the opposite direction after the hit, but could have easily pegged one of the six photographers in the photo well. I'm getting off point is a game that can put you to sleep as a photographer when there is a pitcher's duel, but if you take a break for one pitch, it can be the game winning HR, the shortstop makes a diving play OR you can get drilled with a line drive.

With the regional tournaments over and no other baseball games scheduled (at this time), Monday night was the unofficial end of Curtis Sports Imaging's baseball coverage for 2007. Thanks to everyone that supports our coverage and purchased action photos of your athlete in action! Because of you we can continue providing you with this great service.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Saving the best for second-to-last

Covering the Eastern Region Little League tournament is something I look forward to every year. It showcases some of the best youth baseball in the country and with that usually comes the highest emotions from game competition. Until last night, the games I've covered for PA have been less than exciting with little or no emotion shown on the field. Maybe it's because these kids know they are moving on and they are saving their energy for Williamsport. Maybe it's because they have been winning all year and they take the Barry Sanders approach to the game, "Act like you've been there before".

As a photographer, I usually leave Breen Field with a camera full of peak action and high emotion. Until yesterday it just wasn't there. No close plays at any bases, no celebration during or after their wins. Myself along with other photographers covering the games can't believe the lack of "action" on the field. That changed yesterday.

For the first time in a while I set up a remote camera to cover action at home plate. What this means it that I put one of my cameras on a tripod (there are other ways to secure them) with a remote triggering device attached. I can be a couple hundred feet away and fire the camera with a remote switch. Since I was planning on shooting from the first base side, it gave me coverage of home plate from both sides. I arrived about an hour early to set this up and run my tests. Everything was operating perfectly....until the game started and I really needed it.

The bottom of the sixth inning ended (the score was tied) and I decided to make the 100 yard sprint with camera and 300mm lens in tow from the first base well around the back of the field, around the press box, past the first base bleachers and into the photo well to check on my camera. Struggling to collect my breath I found that the camera hadn't fired all game. Boy was I mad. I was sure to have a few shots from the remote camera since there was finally action at home plate. Nope, nada, zilch, no pictures. "Well", I said, "there is nothing I can do about it now." So I put it out of my head and focused on the game. I'm a true believer in things happening for a reason.

PA had the lead 3-1 going into the top of the sixth inning. PA had to change pitchers because of the new pitch count rule in affect with little league baseball. NJ managed to get two base runners on and the following batter jacked a 3-run homerun to take the lead. The NJ bleachers erupted and the momentum was with the boys from Randolph, NJ. Northampton, PA was cool at the plate in the bottom of the frame and was able to score the tying run on consecutive hits. PA tried to end the game sending their less than speedy base runner home on a base hit but was thrown out by about 10 feet.

The race was off to check my remote camera......

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, PA's utility second baseman Dylan Cochran worked a walk to keep the inning alive. Lead off hitter Zachary Fitzgerald, who has been clutch all tournament long, stepped up to the plate in what would be the biggest at-bat of his life. He drove a fastball out of the park for a 2-run walk off homerun to send his team into the finals against Maryland, a nationally televised game on ESPN, tonight at 8pm.

Fitzgerald rounded first base with both hands in air. As he rounded second, he couldn't hold back the smile pumping his fist in the air. Heading home he was greeted by 12 uncontrollable teammates, 3 confident and relieved coaches and a rocking first base bleacher section that could be heard throughout the Giamatti Complex. I had goosebumps! I knew that moment would change the lives of these kids forever. It's hard to explain what I feel, but this is what I live for. Photography allows me to capture moments just like this over and over again. It's what drives me to get better at what I do. I feel like I have the greatest job in the world. These images never would have happened if I didn't have to check that remote camera. Being in the first base photo well put me in perfect position to capture this moment, one that a lot of people in Northampton will never forget! I know I won't.

Visit our website to see photos from the game.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Longest baseball game in me anyway

My skin is a little brighter today. Yesterday's game between the boys from Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia seemed to go on and on like a bad Jean-Claude van Damme movie. I'm not a fan of quick games when it comes to this level of play, but it was painful...literally.

I shouldn't leave the house this time of year without sunblock caked on my skin. (I successfully had skin cancer removed from my back when I was a senior in high school.) Up to this point in the tournament the games have moved along at a good pace. So I departed my truck after securing a pretty good parking spot close to Breen Field in Bristol without sunblock. Big mistake! This game lasted over three hours in mid-90 degree heat with the usual high humidity in place here in New England. There were clouds in the sky, but I think when the sun got behind them, it melted them away eliminated the 18 seconds of shade we all craved. At this point I was using my lens to shade my head from the sun. To make things worse, the homeplate umpire was taken away by ambulance in the bottom of the sixth inning when he apparently passed out from heat exhaustion.....extending the game. I seamed like he would be OK.

There are some rules in place for media when we cover this event. Stay in the photo wells when you are taking photos, don't leave the field until the middle or end of the inning and some others that don't pertain to this post. I think it was around the fourth inning when I started to feel the lack of fluids in my body taking affect. There was yet another pitching change (one of seven in the game) and I broke rule #2 listed above, I made a dash for the concession stand. On my way out I said to fellow shooter Mike something around the lines of, "I'm getting a drink or they'll need to pick me up out of the photo well". I don't remember the exact words. I knew I had to be back before they started playing again or I wouldn't be able to enter the field. So I ran the 75 feet to the concession stand for a sports drink. Doesn't it seem that when you are really in a hurry everything in front of you is in slow motion? The girl in front of me was paying with her piggy bank counting change to pay for her french fries. Inside I was begging for someone to ask what I needed. Finally I heard, "Can I help you?". I was probably only 10 seconds...but it felt like 10 minutes. "Yes, (sports drink) please." What color she asked. "Red" I quickly responded. Red she confirmed. "Yes, Red!" I say this as I notice the umpire still in the outfield (out of position) so I figured I had a couple of seconds until they started playing. As I hand her my two dollars to pay for my drink, she handed me my drink sooooo slow. Either she didn't notice my complete frantic to get my drink and go or she was having fun with me and they all got a kick out of the burned photographer that was freaking out for his juice. That was the best drink I've had in a while! I think it saved my life. I made it back to the photo well in time for the game.

After the long medical delay, the game resumed and DC actually had the tying run at the plate with two outs. A slow roller to the second baseman ended the threat, the game and the pain. Good news for Curtis Sports Imaging is that PA made the semi-finals and will play another day. If they win this one on Friday, they play on ESPN for that bid to the world series.