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More on the NBA experience Monday, December 29, 2008

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I thought I'd write a bit about shooting pro basketball (now that I have all that experience under my belt).

This was the first basketball game I've shot since last March, so I expected to be a bit rusty. My reactions were a bit slow, and there were some things I kind of forgot about until partway through the game.

For the most part, though, it went really well for me. To be honest, in most respects I found shooting the game a lot easier than shooting high school hoops. Why? Let me tell you.

Shooting NBA is easier than HS because:

  1. The lighting is better. It's brighter than a HS gym—two full stops better than some gyms I've been to. And the lighting is even across the court—no dark spots. Most of the light comes from the outside, so you can see the faces of the players when they're looking at the hoop. Every lamp gives off the same color of light—a pretty decent color at that—and, best of all, they don't flicker. Not only does the bright light allow for a faster shutter speed and lower ISO, it also makes it easier to focus.
  2. The background is better. The fans aren't as brightly lit as the court, and most of them a lot farther away from the action than at a typical high school gym. Yeah, you have to put up with some advertising in the photos, but it beats fluorescent lights and steel girders.
  3. The NBA 3-point line is farther from the hoop. That spreads everybody out, leaving more room for them to drive to the basket and more room for me to shoot between them.
  4. The players are better. They're bigger, they're stronger. They jump higher and seem to hang there longer. They make—or at least attempt—amazing plays on pretty much every possession.
Having said that, there are some challenges in shooting the NBA that you don't face with high school hoops.

First of all, the access is much more restricted. For high school games, you can pretty much shoot from any position outside of the court, as long as you don't block the team benches or scorer's table. For my game at the Rose Garden, I was assigned shooting lane no. 20—that's third from the right side of the court on the south baseline. It's a pretty decent place to be, but it doesn't offer you much variety. Between the court sweepers, Blazers Dancers, the Reuters photographer, the AP photographer, the team photographer, TV crew, and other media photographers, there isn't much room to move.

With so many other shooters in the house, the other problem you face is shots overexposed due to other photographers' flashes. Some of the guys who shoot regularly at the Rose Garden have strobes up in the rafters that give the court even more light. That's fine, except when they fire at exactly the same time as you—mostly at the key moment of big plays. That's what happened with all of the examples in this post. It's hard to believe that you could pick the same 1/800th of a second to shoot as the guy next to you, but it happens.

I imagine I'll be shooting a bunch of high school games over the next few months—I'm looking forward to fighting through the challenges that brings and making great images in spite of them.

For a limited time only, you can see more of my images from the Trail Blazers game on my SportsShooter page.

Blazers burn Raptors, 102-89 Sunday, December 28, 2008

LaMarcus Aldridge rejects Chris Bosh's layup attempt in the first half of the Trail Blazers' 102-89 win over Toronto Saturday night in Portland.

The Portland Trail Blazers faced Toronto Saturday night at the Rose Garden, and I had the opportunity to shoot the game. It was a pretty exciting assignment for me as I'd never shot any of the four major pro sports before.

The Trail Blazers have been playing pretty well this year, but many of the key players have not been playing up to their potential recently. Saturday night, though, they were firing on all cylinders.

Toronto came out firing in the first half, building a 57-49 lead at halftime. (They should have had a 11-point lead, but Travis Outlaw launched a Hail Mary from the center line just before the buzzer.)

The Blazers took control of the game in the third quarter, though, outscoring Toronto 20-10 and taking a 2-point lead into the final frame.

The Raptors, who had played the night before in Sacramento, completely lost their legs in the fourth quarter. Brandon Roy tore up the court scoring 18 of his 32 points in the last 12 minutes.

LaMarcus Aldridge and rookie Greg Oden both had their best games in a while for Portland. Aldridge scored 21 points and grabbed 9 rebounds for the Blazers. Oden recorded his team-leading ninth double-double, with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

When the final buzzer sounded, Portland won 102-89 to improve their record to 19-12 and move within 1/2 game of Denver for first in the Northwest Conference. Toronto fell to 12-18.

[left] Portland's 7-0 center Greg Oden puts a hook shot up over Toronto's Andrea Bargnani in the second quarter.

[right] Brandon Roy fakes an outlet pass as he drives the lane against Toronto's Jermaine O'Neal.

[below left] Steve Blake (no. 2) chases a loose ball in the third quarter.

Read the full game story here.

This is getting crazy ... Wednesday, December 24, 2008

As you probably know by now, Portland is experiencing its snowiest December in 40 years. The temperature hasn't been especially cold—in the 20s and low 30s—but it's stayed that way for more than a week now, and we've had quite a bit of precipitation to go with it.

Several times over the week I've seen cross-country skiers go past on the street below my window. If I knew where my ski boots were, I might join them. But just a few minutes ago, I witnessed something I never expected to see on the streets of Portland: dog sleds.

That's right: a pair of honest-to-goodness dog sleds turned onto NW 22nd Ave. off of Flanders.

It's kind of a bad picture—I just happened to look up from my desk and see them, so I grabbed my camera, threw open the window and fired a frame just before the second one got out of site. I had my wide-angle lens on there (not the ideal) but at least the exposure was set pretty close.

Unbelievable. I wonder if the polar bears are far behind?

[update: No polar bears yet, but I just saw a snowmobile drive down NW 22nd.]

Walking in a Winter Wonderland Sunday, December 21, 2008

This weekend Portland was socked with the biggest snowstorm to hit the area in at least 10 years. At least 6 inches fell across downtown Portland on Saturday, followed by about 3/8-inch of freezing rain. More snow fell this afternoon, and more is expected tonight.

The temperature has been below or close to freezing for more than a week now. For an area that typically gets just a couple of below-freezing days per year, the current cold spell is astonishing. And forecasters say the temperature won't get above 36°F until next Saturday.

Here are some photos I made today walking around Washington Park, the International Rose Test Garden and the Northwest shopping area.

Making a Christmas wish Thursday, December 18, 2008

Make-a-Wish recipient Kim Hale sits on Santa's lap Dec. 7 at Macy's in downtown Portland. The teenager, who has leukemia, was given $1800 in Macy's gift cards and the assistance of a personal shopper for the day.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oregon is in the business of making dreams come true for kids across the state. Kim Hale's special day arrived Dec. 7.

Kim arrived at Macy's around 10 a.m. with her father and sister. They were joined by three people from Make-A-Wish, four or five people from Macy's, three television crews and me. Santa Claus even made a brief appearance.

[left] A gaggle of media and others followed Kim as she moved around the store.

Kim is pretty shy, and I think it was a little overwhelming for her. I don't think the television crews got any usable audio from the three wireless mics she was wearing. But, to be fair, if someone gave me $1800 to spend at Macy's I wouldn't know where to start.

Kim's wish included a limo ride to the store, lunch downtown, and the assistance of a personal shopper for the day.

Her shopping list included a dress for an upcoming dance at her school.

Having her jeans hemmed.

Jene Hale, left, stands out of the way as his daughter tries on some outfits.

You can watch KGW's story here.

Elliott Brood: not a person, not bluegrass Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Casey Laforet (left) and Mark Sasso, two-thirds of the Toronto band Elliott Brood, pose by the fire pit outside the Doug Fir lounge in Portland.

It took a little longer than I'd hoped, but my recent interview with Elliott Brood is online now at Northwest CanCon.

The guys were great to talk to ... and so the interview went longer than usual. With that, and the fact that we had to move from one room to another part way through, I broke the interview up into three parts for your listening convenience (if you download the podcast on iTunes you get one file with all three parts).

Next up is Issa (formerly known as Jane Siberry), who made a quick stop in Portland last week to deliver her new album to fans. Look for that podcast before the end of the year.

What in the world ...? (answer) Sunday, December 14, 2008

People are starting to ask me for the answer to last week's "What in the world ...?" puzzle, so here you go:

A giant Foucault pendulum swings from the north tower of the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. The 900-pound (408-kg) bob may be the largest in the world. It is suspended by a 27-m (90-foot) wire, among the world's longest.

Here are some additional pictures of the Foucault pendulum hanging at the Oregon Convention Center.

First demonstrated in 1851, Leon Foucault devised the apparatus to show the rotation of the Earth.

Because the pendulum is free to swing on any plane, its apparent path changes as the Earth rotates underneath it. At the north and south poles, the plane of the pendulum will rotate once per day. On the equator, it won't change at all. At points in between, its rate varies with the sine of the latitude. (In Portland, which is close to 45 degrees north, each cycle is about 1.4 (the square root of 2) days.)

You can read more about the history and physics of Foucault pendula here and here. Wikipedia has a list of pendula here.

As usual, Jef was on track when he recognized the tower of the OCC. But I have to admit that I was surprised when my brother, Stuart, emailed me with the correct answer barely two hours after I posted it. (Well, he didn't identify the OCC, but he did figure out that it was a Foucault pendulum ... pretty impressive.)

[below] The Oregon Convention Center sports twin glass towers that make a distinctive mark on the Portland skyline. (The north tower is on the right.)

Winter comes to Portland

A couple walks through the South Park Blocks in downtown Portland, Ore., Sunday afternoon as a snowstorm dumped more than 3" of the white stuff on the Rose City. Weather forecasters expect area temperatures to remain below freezing throughout the week.

A severe winter storm slammed into the Northwest Sunday morning, dropping temperatures well below freezing and dumping inches of snow on the area, even down to the valley floors. Additional snow is expected Sunday night, and again on Wednesday or Thursday.

Travel is treacherous as roads across the region are snow-covered and icy. Several sections of major highways and freeways have been closed at different times throughout the day, and ODOT is requiring drivers to use chains or traction tires on all state highways in the Portland area until at least Monday morning.

Most schools in the area will be closed on Monday, and many other events have been postponed or canceled.

The streets of downtown Portland were unusually quiet Sunday afternoon. There were shoppers in the malls, but not as many as one might expect on the next-to-last weekend before Christmas.

[below] The snow does make the holly look good.

What in the world ...? Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I made this photo on a scouting trip this afternoon, and thought it might be good for another "What in the world ...?"

This might be the toughest one of these yet. Unlike most (all?) of my previous WITWs, this is not a small detail from a larger photo—this is the whole thing.

Any ideas on what it might be? Hints: it's here in Portland, and it may be the largest of its kind in the world.

(Another) new home for nwCanCon Thursday, December 04, 2008

Just a quick note to mention that Northwest CanCon now has a permanent home: The site is still hosted by Trillium Media Services, but the new address is much easier to type and remember. Feel free to update your bookmarks if you so desire. (The old address will still work.)

And be sure to stay tuned for our next interview, with Elliott Brood, who are playing at the Doug Fir tonight. It should be online in about a week.

All aboard the grocery bus! Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Here are a couple of pictures I shot on assignment for The Columbian a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure they could have run the story right away, but in November newspapers typically like to build up a bit of an inventory of non-time-sensitive stories to keep the paper full over the holiday weekend. I'm sure the same is true around Christmas.

Anyhow, the story is about a church that organizes bus rides from the Fruit Valley area of Vancouver over to WinCo Foods in Hazel Dell so that seniors and others who have trouble getting around the city can stock up on groceries. (I won't rehash the details here. The story ran Dec. 1; you can read it here.)

I was called last minute on this one because they had just found out that the one and only bus trip for the month was going to happen that night.

It was a pretty tough assignment, really: the sun sets early at this time of year, so it was already pretty dark by the time I got there. Add to that the confinement of a moving bus, fixed seating positions for the subjects, and the presence of a reporter who has limited options in trying to stay out of the picture. And then, for this trip anyway, the turnout was lower than expected—just two riders—limiting the opportunities for interaction between the driver and passengers.

On top of all that, you have a photographer who thought the story was going to focus on the driver (Val Bieber, right) and spent most of his efforts trying to get good pictures of her. Laura did a much better job on the story than I would have; I guess that's why she's the writer and I'm not!

OHSU Heart Research Center Monday, December 01, 2008

Dr. Perrie O'Tierney treats fetal sheep cells at OHSU's Heart Research Center Nov. 27. Her work at the center is focused on the impact a mother's health has on the baby.

My friends Joe and Kate were gracious enough to invite Perrie and I over for Thanksgiving dinner last week. (As Canadians who celebrated the same holiday six weeks earlier, we didn't have plans of our own.)

But on the way to Joe and Kate's, we had to make a stop a
t Perrie's lab at Oregon Health & Science University so that she could do some work on her cell samples. I guess it had to happen about 48 hours after she started the experiment last Tuesday.

Here's the scientific explanation of the procedure, in the passive tense favoured by scientists for pretty much the same reason it's abhorred by journalists*:

  1. The samples were removed from the incubator and placed in neat rows on the lab bench.
  2. The pink juice was sucked off with a special sciencey sucker hose.
  3. Each sample was doused with clear juice from a bottle on the bench.
  4. That liquid was sucked off by the sucker hose.
  5. More clear juice was added to the samples.
  6. The containers were stacked six high and wrapped in an expensive scientific saran-wrap substitute.
  7. The samples were placed in the fridge where they won't change until at least Monday when the cells can be counted under a microscope.
[right] They may not look like much, but these little dishes of pink liquid are leading-edge science: the fetal sheep cells in each dish will help scientists understand the effect of the mother's health on the development of her baby's heart ... in sheep and, by extension, in humans.

* It doesn't convey any emotion.