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On Assignment: Playoff season keeps photographer at a sprint

Drey Centre Daily Times, file

Playoff season. It comes three times a year and always leads to some exciting high school sporting events to cover. I like photographing the intensity and emotions.

It’s also tiring and confusing. There is a lot of travel around the state as teams progress in the brackets. Last week, I was in DuBois for basketball and Hershey for wrestling. This week, Lewistown for swimming.

Then there is the confusion. Fall sports aren’t bad, it’s mostly teams so not as hard to keep track of who wins and where in the brackets they move on to. With more individual sports, it’s tough to keep track of those who qualify and move to which competitions.

If you’re new to a wrestling tournament, give yourself some time to figure out which mat you want to catch the action on. I go through programs and circle all the bout numbers that I need to be watching for. At districts and regionals I never know which mat my bout will take place on, which keeps me always on the go.

Luckily, this year at the state tournament in the Hershey Giant Center a brand new, large scoreboard made it a lot easier to see the bout numbers, weight class, wrestler and even their school. It also showed who was on deck on each mat, which is convenient when you need to cross an arena full of bouncing wrestlers warming up.

I’m on the go between all the bouts, but also on my toes all the time. I sit right on the edge of the mat for the best photos, which means some quick skooches. Dodging a basketball is one thing, dodging two young men falling full force in your direction when you’re sitting on the floor is another thing.

Swimming is difficult, too. First, I scan the psych sheet to find the athletes I need to capture. Then, once at the event, I track down the heat sheets, which will let me know which heat and lane the swimmer is in. I take a photo of the lane number on the edge of the pool before the heat starts so I know which swimmer I’m photographing. If there are two swimmers in one heat, I try my best to identify when I’m photograph different lanes, or hope they have different color swim caps on.

Then you hope they breathe … really. I’m impressed by the swimmers who can do a 50-yard freestyle race without ever coming up for air, which means no photo of their face during those twenty-some seconds. Or some may breathe, but to the opposite side than where I’m standing.

Swimming comes with diving, which is slow and meticulous. Diving jargon goes over my head, maybe I’ll work on that for next season.

Spring sports have track and field, and we’ll get to that in a few weeks.