ESU Lacrosse Wins Over Fighting Raiders

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The Warriors started out comfortably ahead of the Raiders, but it became a battle. The contest started off with ESU scoring four straight uncontested goals. It looked like it might be a landslide, but Shippensburg took a strategic timeout and weathered the storm bravely. The battle was on!

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I still find capturing a scoring shot in Lacrosse to be difficult. Busy backgrounds and competing players blocking a clear view are among just two of the challenges. This goal (above photo) was scored by Cassidy McKenna in the second half.

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Shippensburg kept the pressure on and would not go away. The Warriors knew they were in a fight and they did not back down. The score was closer but they never lost the lead. Nicely timed goals made sure they kept the upper hand in this well-contested game.

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It was a beautiful day for a Lacroose game at Whitenight Field in East Stroudsburg. Fans from each team were cheering and encouraging the players from start to the very finish of this game. The Raiders would not go away and showed tenacious play time after time.

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The final score was ESU 14 – SU 12. It was a well-played game on both sides and bids well for these teams going into the homestretch of the season. On a day when Alyssa Oxenford was remembered for her battle with Leukemia, it was fitting for these teams to fight each other to the bitter end.

Big Day for ESU Baseball

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ESU hosted Kutztown on Monday afternoon for a doubleheader on a beautiful day. The weather was just right for baseball and the ESU players were just right for this matchup. Solid pitching and consistent at-bats were the plan of the day. Coaches just love it when a plan comes together!

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The Warriors scored 10 runs in the first game off two homeruns. RBIs resulted from getting men on base, moving them into scoring position, and then letting the bats at the plate do the work. With ducks on the pond, it looked almost easy.

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Baserunning is not as easy as it appears. Pickoff attempts, stealing bases, and line drives can wreak havoc for a runner on the basepaths. But ESU won these battles, too.

 

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An early collision at first base had some holding their breath for a moment or two. Fortunately, the play did not result in any serious injury. Play resumed with the runner on first base looking to get into scoring position.

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The second game seemed just as easy for ESU even though they scored half as many runs. Consistent hitting continued and the runs kept coming.

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Speed from the batter’s box to first base was also apparent in both of these games. Runners beat out a bang-bang play several times.

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ESU definitely had Kutztown in its sights. Most definitely!

Exciting Game to Photograph & Pocono Mountain West Wins!

I was asked to photograph the Pocono Mountain West PIAA Class 6A Tournament Game against Lower Merion. It was an opportunity I very much looked forward to because this time of year is always exciting in terms of basketball. Add to this a thrilling game and you are in for one incredible evening! The game started at 5:30pm and, of course, started with the tip off.

The teams came in evenly matched and everything was set for the thriller. The game started methodically, as each team began by testing the other and exchanging basket for basket at first. Then, Lower Merion scored and went ahead a little. It was still a back and forth game.

Then Lower Merion scored two 3-point shots in a row. They were on a roll and they appeared to know it. Pocono Mountain West did not appear to blink. They took the momentum shift in stride and went to the locker room at half-time down by six points. While the fans might not have sensed it at the time, the players seemed to exude a “we got this” attitude. Confidence is key in a big game and the second half would certainly dictate the outcome of this tournament game.

It did not take Pocono Mountain West long to erase the six-point deficit as the second half began. There was some more exchanges like two heavyweight boxers going toe-to-toe, but West was clearly gaining momentum and confidence in the game.

 

Watching this team work together on defense was one of the keys to the turnaround in the second half. Patience and persistence was paying off slowly but surely. Lower Merion was slowing the pace all game long. At fist, this seemed to frustrate the Panthers. The second half was a different story. They challenged the ball-handlers, forced some turnovers, and kept the opposing offense out of the paint. It was a strategy that worked to perfection.

The final score was 71-57 and showed how Pocono West not only weathered the storm but played confidently throughout the game and capped it with a strong finish. What a game and what a night for this talented basketball team! Congratulations, Pocono Mountain West!

Photos that Almost Made My Portfolio

My last blog post was about how to create a sports photography portfolio. I suggested that about 20 photos is a good number of photos in a portfolio. Well, today, I am going to share a few photos that almost made it into my portfolio but did not. I will explain the details of why each one did not make the cut.

This was a tough one for me to not include in my portfolio because I love the action of this photograph. The players are airborne, the hair reveals the motion, the ball can be seen, and the composition is tight. The problem is we do not see any faces in this photo. If the ballcarrier’s face was visible, that might have been enough for it to make the cut. Another problem is the tackler’s body is cut in half, which is not a good way to compose a sports photo.

This photograph definitely shows peak action. You can even see the receiver’s eyes as he is looking for the upcoming hit and he is high in the air catching the ball. I also like the definition of the calf muscles showing on the cornerback. The biggest problem with this photograph is that it is crooked–just look at the goalpost. Trying to straighten it in Lightroom would cut off some of the legs of the cornerback and hide the muscles. I could have isolated just the receiver but decided that this photo just wasn’t going to make it into my portfolio.

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This photograph was also hard for me to eliminate from my sports portfolio. It shows action, is sharply focused, and captures the baseball as it is leaving the batter’s bat. It also shows the face of the batter in some beautiful sunlight late in the day. The problem is the background–that chainlink fence and steel pole. I know some fields have this kind of fence all over the place and I find it hard to capture better backgrounds at many of the games I shoot, but a clean background is necessary to better isolate the player in a photo. I still go back and forth on this particular photo because of the magic light, but the background seems to be the breaker for me.

As you can see from these three photos, there are some photos that are the almost good enough but not quite. We have to be our own worst critics if we are going to get better and improve our portfolios. Narrowing down to 20 photos is not easy. Think about what an editor would say about your photograph. Why should it make the cut? Why shouldn’t it? Making such decisions are not always easy but they certainly are necessary.

Building a Sports Portfolio

Howie Stevens' bunted ball leaves a cloud of dust  against Stroudsburg.

Howie Stevens’ bunted ball leaves a cloud of dust against Stroudsburg.

Building a sports photography portfolio is much like building a portfolio in most styles of photography. The first step is to make stunning images that will cause a viewer of the photo to stop for a moment when they see the photograph. I am often asked about my preferred use of the verb “making” a photo instead of “taking” a photo. I was influenced by teachers and mentors who taught me that we create photographs through the use of composition and exposure. Even as a photojournalist, the eye with which we see news can and often does influence us to press the camera shutter at a precise moment and help express a meaningful moment. Why include one subject in a photograph over another? What is it that captures our eye in that scene? Instead of taking photographs, I much prefer to say we capture or make photographs. After all, we are visual artists, at least to some degree.

After acquiring a healthy number of sports photos, how do we decide which photos make it into our portfolio? This, again, is more art than science. However, a few basic guidelines might be helpful to us. First and foremost, the image must be sharply focused. A soft image is one that is not tack sharp and has no business being in our portfolio. A few exceptions might be capturing a critical moment of peak action or a panning shot where we intentionally blur part of the photo. I also believe a worthy image in our portfolio should show some action in some way. The photo below does not show a lot of action but the towel at the quarterback’s waist does help.



How many photos should be in our portfolio? I struggle with this a little bit mostly because I sometimes find it hard to decide on one photo over another. Twenty photos is what I’ve heard is a good number and I try to be around that number for my portfolio. The rule of thumb is to only show our very best work in the field of photography we are hoping to pursue. Too many photographs can be a problem and even cause boredom. Editors should be able to get a good sense of our photographic abilities by seeing twenty of our top photographs.

Another important consideration is how to share and show our portfolio. Years ago the expected standard was enlarged photos on a matte board in a portfolio folder. This can still be one way to share our portfolio, but electronic mediums have become the norm nowadays. Showing a portfolio on our website or tablet is a very good way to share a portfolio with others.

I will share one final thought on this topic today: we cannot rest on our laurels. In other words, we can never think that our portfolio is finalized. Rather, we need to be out there shooting the next photos in our portfolio in order to get better!

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New Website Design for Bob Shank Photography

Well, it was long overdue, but I finally redesigned the website for my sports and wildlife photography. You can view the redesign here: bobshankphotography.com Things have evolved over the past eight years for several reasons. When I picked up my camera again I was shooting every subject in range: sports, animals, newlyweds, musicals, plays, and just about everything imaginable. My kids were involved in several activities that provided great photography subjects along the way, too. Honestly, it felt good to pick up the camera again and shoot everything in sight.

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As time went on, I gravitated mostly to two main subjects: wildlife and sports. I am fortunate to have a cabin in the beautiful mountains of north central Pennsylvania, right in the heart of elk country! I co-hosted several photo trips, taking other photographers out to photograph these majestic animals. I still enjoy photographing the wildlife there, but many things changed in recent years and I felt compelled to stop hosting the photo trips. In the meantime, sports photography was quickly becoming my goto subject and in a huge way!

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It started as I began to work with our local high school’s baseball team. The head coach allowed my to shoot the games and then I provided a presentation at their end-of-year banquet with all the action photos and created photo collages for all the senior gifts. It was a great opportunity and a huge learning experience for me. I eventually photographed their player portraits and designed their yearly media guides, too! My work was eventually noticed by the local newspaper and so I began to cover some events for them. This, again, was a great opportunity to learn more about sports photography. I covered a football game each week of the season, had to meet deadlines, write captions, and learn how to capture the action under inadequate lighting conditions. I also covered a couple college football games for the paper.

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Then, the local university noticed my work and offered me to work on contract with them! This offered additional learning opportunities and sports photography now became my main focus. I love shooting sports! I was a high school athlete, playing football and running track. I still thoroughly enjoy the Friday night atmosphere at a high school game, but now I am also enjoying the thrill of covering college sports of all kinds!

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It has been an amazing ride so far. I don’t think I really started out meaning to focus so much on sports photography, but it sure is my preference these days! I am continuing to hone my sports photography skills and hope to keep this focus for a long, long time! I hope you like the new website design!

What is a Tear Sheet?

A tear sheet is a way for a photographer to show and prove that he or she had photographs published. It is sort of like a visual resume of your accomplished work. I was introduced to the idea by Bill Weitzmann, an experienced and accomplished photographer, who called it a “Clip File.” He showed me his clip file, which was a physical portfolio with all the newspaper clippings of his published photographs. Looking through his published photographs was truly inspirational!

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I started my own clip file right away after being so inspired by Bill showing me his extensive clip file. Over the years, I keep building up more and more published photographs and many of them are published online. So, I decided to maintain an electronic version of my clip file as well.

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As you can see in this example above, I include my photograph, the caption, and the photo credit for use on my tear sheet. This way, I can see my accumulating photographs that are being published. Over time, it is enjoyable to see all the photographs that an editor saw worthy of publication. I can also track my progress as a sports photographer to ascertain if I am improving in the quality of my sports photographs.

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Many times the university where I shoot sports, puts my photographs on their website. The example above shows an upcoming celebration for the head football coach’s 50th Anniversary. They used my photograph and provided my photo credit on the arm of the coach’s shirt sleeve in my photo.

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Sometimes my photographs even end up on various publications, like this Football Media Guide from last year. I always try to obtain a physical copy of such material, but having a record of it in my tear sheet is also good and shows others how my photographs are being used in a variety of ways.

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My growing tear sheet will hopefully show potential clients and editors that I am becoming more accomplished as a sports photographer. The tear sheet is evidence of my photographic accomplishments to date.

You can view my tear sheet here: http://bobshankphotography.com/TearSheet.html This is also a sneak peak at my upcoming website redesign. I will be rolling out the revision in the coming weeks, once everything is finalized and ready to share. I am excited about this new revision and hope it will provide a better way to show my sports photography work and capabilities. You can be sure you will be reading about my new website design here once it is ready to go!

When You Know You’re Doing Something Right



Most of us go about our work from day to day not knowing the affect we might be having on others. I always had a goal of wanting to make a difference, but quite often this is very difficult to gauge and evaluate. I oftentimes joke that I much prefer to cut the grass in my lawn than working because at least when I am mowing I can see the progress. You know, there is is truth in jest!

Compliments are rare in the workplace it seems to me these days. Attaboys and attagirls are not often heard from most bosses or employers. Our parents worked for more loyal companies who appreciated their work forces and even told them so. Worker loyalty was returned. Nowadays many of us will have two or three different jobs at a minimum.

So, how do we know when we’re doing something right? I remember an episode of NCIS when Probie Tim McGee did something right and his boss just gave him a stare. McGee’s partner said, “That look is the closest thing you’re gonna get to a compliment, Probie.” Knowing we are appreciated for the work we do seems to be a rare luxury these days. When we receive a compliment we should file it away in our memory banks or in our files for safe-keeping and archiving.

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I remember one place I worked where a colleague shared a great idea with me. She kept a “Pick Me Up” file. I had never heard anything like this before so I asked for more clarity. She explained that each and every time she receives a compliment–an email or thank you note, etc., she filed it in her Pick Me Up file. Then, on those days when she needed some encouragement, she would pull that file and read some of the contents. I’ve kept such a file ever since that day.



Here are just two examples from editors that I have in my file:

“First, thanks for the tremendous art. The photos are dynamite and we’re very pleased with the composition, timely delivery and quality of the shots. Particularly liked the shot to the helmet from today! Wow!”

Chris Mele, Editor
Pocono Record
2012

 


“Hi Bob, I’m glad that the new contract was approved and delivered.  The quality of your work is exceptional and is a great benefit for us and our student-athletes.  Also glad that you’ll be able to get to Denver for some additional seminars and ideas for how to shoot! 
Hope you have a great summer, and look forward to continuing to use your great shots!”

Greg Knowlden, Sports Information Director
East Stroudsburg University
2016

I sometimes look at these two notes and just know I was doing something right at least two times in my life!

 

Remembering My Wife’s Birthday

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Today, May 14th, is my wife’s birthday. I remember Denise’s birthday now but there was a time back when we were first dating when I got her exact birthday date confused a few times. I became a better husband and remembered her birthday each year, even though she never liked attention brought to her, even on her birthday. And a gift? Oh, boy, I got in plenty of trouble each time I got a gift for her. I sometimes think I am the only husband who got in trouble for actually remembering his wife’s birthday and remembering to get her a gift!

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Denise fought a courageous battle with breast cancer but lost that battle on October 28, 2014. While those seven weeks from diagnosis to death were short-lived, we had some very good, quality conversations during that time. We had so much in common that it made it very easy to be her husband and companion. Denise loved sports. She played sports in high school. She was a field hockey goalie and in her senior year, her team won the District Championship, with her winning a Flick-Off, and then the team went to States. She played basketball, softball, and ran track, too. When our children, Lydia and James, were born and began to grow up, Denise was right there with them every step of the way, especially in their perspective sports and other extra-curricular activities. She was catcher for James and Lydia, who both pitched, and was right with them through it all. I also remember right after we got DirecTV, I received a call from Denise. She said, “You’re gonna be mad at me.” I asked why and she simply replied: “Because I bought the DirecTV MLB Package!” Now, seriously, how could a sport-loving husband ever be mad at a wife like this?

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Now, I still remember Denise’s birthday. I admit it’s a little sad for me though. I cannot give her a gift anymore or take her out for dinner or talk sports like we used to do all the time. I miss those times dearly. But I know this: Denise enjoyed life to its fullest and would want Lydia, James, and me to keep doing the same now. Last year for Father’s Day, James bought me a ticket to an Orioles game. That night was the first time I attended a baseball game since Denise was gone, nearly a year later. I couldn’t help but be a little emotional, but a smile came across my face during the seventh inning stretch, knowing Denise would’ve sung that song: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

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Denise also supported me immensely as I began getting more serious in my sports photography. We would look through the best photos of each game and she was so encouraging to me! It helped that she knew the sports in-depth. In fact, there were times when I swore she knew the game better than some players and coaches! Her input and encouragement were a huge part of my early success. These photos in this blog post are in precious memory of Denise on her birthday. I miss her very much!

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Life is precious. Hold on closely to those dear to you! Take time to enjoy each other’s company and companionship. And of all things, remember their birthday!

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Game-Day Portraits

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I do not pretend to be a perfect portrait photographer. My brother, Dave Shank, is much more of an expert than I am in portrait work. Sure, I learned a lot, especially from my brother, and I can definitely hold my own in this specific style of photography. I am still learning about the nuances of portrait photography. It isn’t even that I don’t like portraits, it’s just that I prefer to shoot the action of sports.

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I notice, however, that even during an action-packed game, there are opportunities that arise to capture what I call Game-Day Portraits. These are closeup portraits, hopefully portraying the emotions of the athletes along the sidelines, near the bench, or standing stationary on the field.

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I am a sports photographer but even I recognize that there is more to shoot than just the action. Sometimes, a fan or athlete watching the game or celebrating makes for a perfect photograph! We just need to keep our eyes open and be willing to keep shooting after the action subsides. One thing I notice at some games is the interaction and conversations with fellow photographers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I talk as much or more than most. However, during a game, I try to keep this to a minimum. My job is not to just snap one or two photos and then say I captured the game. No, I much prefer to capture as many highlights of each game as possible. So, I do not have the luxury of engaging in long conversations during the game. This has to wait for another time, and believe me, I make up for it after a game and throughout the week. During a game, however, I will have my game-face on and pay attention to everything I can see in front of, beside, and even behind me. The more attention we pay to the moment, the more chance we have of capturing the moment!

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