Soundless Sunday: Sept. 15

Sep 15

“Curling is sweeping the nation.”

– Author unknown

Sweep!

Soundless Sunday is a weekly feature where I’ll try and feature a favorite quote and a photo that I’ve taken. Enjoy life — it’s the only way to go!

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Foto Friday: Seeing all aspects in sports photography

May 10

Though photography as a whole is a passion of mine, I really enjoy sports photography.

I have several favorite topics when shooting photos, but there’s something special about stopping action in a shot. Capturing a ball in midair or an athlete doing something really wild makes it even better. Though I love video, I’ll take a great action shot over the video any day.

Recently, I’ve shot a few softball and lacrosse games of a local college.

This isn’t a how-to post when it comes to action photography. I have to keep learning just as much as anybody else. I know I can continue to get better and that’s why I try and shoot sports photos whenever I have a chance.

The thing is trying to think a little differently. Not just the pitching or swinging photos in softball or baseball, but something different.

Baseball and softball can be tough to shoot at times. There’s the issue of timing when the ball is going to be in play somewhere, or being thrown, or being hit. There are times when you focus on somebody and nothing happens. But there’s so much more going on. It’s a true game of reaction when it comes to photos.

With all that in mind, below are some of my favorites I’ve taken of the local college and their spring sports I saw, as well as some thoughts on my process of getting them.

I actually haven’t processed all my photos from the games, so I’m going with ones I have done and have already uploaded to Flickr.

1. Quick to react

Even if you focus on a certain player or spot during a game, you still have to be quick to react. Sometimes you can fire off several shots and still not get the ball or good action. Shots like this one really work out well because it goes beyond the norm. This is one of my favorite shots because of her focus, as well as the bouncing ball — where you even see the shadow.

Stay focused.

2. Other things make good images

The photo of a sporting event doesn’t have to always be on the action. Look around. Are there celebrations? People being upset? With those two, you can capture emotion. This shot is something I liked. I knew this umpire, so I was going to get a few shots of him. This one, in between innings, really worked out for me as he flipped the ball up and down.

In between innings.

3. Close in on the action

No matter what anybody says, I’m a firm believer that one’s whole body doesn’t have to be in the image. Take, for example, this one. What more would it add if their legs and feet were in the shot? The action would be more of a wider shot. In this one, you can see the action, the expressions and the ball (in the netting of the one stick).

Battling

4. Shoot from the front or, at worst, side

Nobody wants to see an image behind the action. It’s one of the biggest issues I find with disc golf images. Try and keep it so you capture the action and, hopefully, the faces of those involved. In this one, the Delhi (gold) player is coming in on the action, but the shooter from the other team is coming almost right at me. This shot would have been worthless if taken from behind. Instead, it’s one of my favorites from the season because of the action and where the ball is.

Shooting

5. Anticipate

Sports photography is all about knowing what could happen and where. If you think something might happen, focus on that spot. Especially in baseball and softball. You can only take so many images of pitching and hitting, so look around. Is there a chance somebody could steal? Focus on that base. Is a certain player hitting one way? Stay looking at that spot. It’s all anticipation. This shot was one where I had a feeling there would be a steal coming. As it was, I snapped a whole series of shots, but this one really shows the thought of anticipation with the dirt flying up on the slide.

 

Safe

Sports is a great theme when it comes to photography. And the best part of it is it really challenges your skills and your ability. One thing I would recommend, no matter what, is to familiarize yourself with the sport you might shoot. You don’t have to be an expert, but knowing a bit about the sport will help you react, anticipate and find the good spots when it comes to shooting. Most of all, have fun with it. I have a ton of interests when it comes to photography, but sports images are still the ones that make me get excited more than most because there’s a better chance to really get that “one” shot.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Feeling what it’s like to cash at a disc golf tournament

Mar 20

(Note: For those who don’t know, I also run a disc golf blog – Rattling Chains. I have written some first-person posts over there that I think some readers here will enjoy, so I’m going to sprinkle them in every once in a while on a day when I’m coming up blank!)

Cha-ching!

I’m sure many of you tournament players out there have experienced the feeling of having your name called out after an event and being handed either a gift certificate or cold, hard cash when you place or, better yet, win.

What a feeling.

To be fair, I kind of already experienced it. But both times were pretty cheap — and I’ll be the first to admit it.

I won’t be making a living off playing disc golf, but it still felt cool to get this.

When I first started playing, I somehow won the first tournament I was involved in. It was non-sanctioned, and the other person in the division was just as new as I was. Basically, we were battling to see who wouldn’t finish last.

I also somehow won a PDGA-sanctioned event. But I was the only person in the division and the tournament director was kind enough to leave the division intact and not force me to move up and get whipped.

Needless to say, I never really experienced the feeling of cashing.

My normal goal when I play in a tournament is to not embarrass myself. That basically means I try not to melt down and I hope to avoid big-number holes. But if the course is long and for big arms, I usually start dragging by the end of the second round. I get pretty beat up and it makes the game no fun.

And I hate that.

So I really dig doubles tournaments. I normally team up with Darren Dolezel, who is another member of the Rattling Chains staff. Our goal is to usually try and compete, have some fun and see what happens.

In the past, we haven’t done so well. For whatever reason, we just don’t score. Whether it’s because we don’t play well off one another, are tired or just get into trouble, we don’t seem to place well.

A few weeks ago, I thought we had a solid chance to cash. Alas, it didn’t work so well. It was a Mr. DiscGolf doubles tournament at Tyler State Park in Pennsylvania. The course is remarkable, but it can play long — even with the pins in the short position.

Add in a 36-hole singles tournament the day before, colder weather and having to play 50 holes on this day, and it didn’t work out so well. Looking back, I can count at least six or seven stupid mistakes we made. If we erase those, we might have had a good chance at cashing.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

A few weeks later — the Saturday following Thanksgiving — we were at it again. This time at the Turkey Throwdown III at Schenectady Central Park in upstate New York. The setup for this tournament is playing best score from the short tees and the second round was best shot from the long tees.

This setup wasn’t particularly good for us as Darren is a much better player than me, so my goal was to help on a couple of holes in the first round and hope Darren could carry us.

From there, he’d have to again carry us in the second round as he’s the longer thrower. That meant from the long tees, he needed to really give us a shot to score.

The prize for my certificate… now to break it in!

Add those things together and it likely spelled doom, even in the rec division.

Our first round went decent. Our 57 put us in a tie for seventh in the 13-team division. With another team shooting a 49 in the opening round (the only four teams to score better in the 36-team tournament were the three pro teams and the team to eventually win the Am division), we weren’t counting on a win. But with some steady play, maybe we could get into the top part of the grid.

Eventually, though, something has to click.

Right?

We started out strong in the second round and were consistent throughout. We ended with a 61, which put us in good position. Still, I didn’t think we had a chance to cash as I was sure the teams in front of us would have been pretty steady as well.

I was wrong.

Our 61 did enough to put us into fourth place. It’s not the biggest of paydays — a $15 certificate each to the club store. But it’s still cashing. I also can’t lie — knowing you’ll get called up to get this certificate, even cooler.

So, yes, I was a little giddy.

I ended up with one disc for my “bucks” and in the end, I was just happy to have that feeling of truly cashing. It may never happen again. Who knows?

If you’ve never had a chance to cash at a tournament, it’s my hope you get that chance. It truly is a feeling all disc golfers should get at least once in their lifetime.

This first appeared on Rattling Chains on Dec. 11, 2012. 

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Going toe to toe with the 2010 disc golf world champion

Mar 12

Despite resembling a prizefighter of sorts, Eric McCabe uses his ability to throw plastic to earn his knockouts.

(Note: For those who don’t know, I also run a disc golf blog – Rattling Chains. I have written some first-person posts over there that I think some readers here will enjoy, so I’m going to sprinkle them in every once in a while on a day when I’m coming up blank!)

It seems fitting to have played a round of disc golf with 2010 PDGA world champion Eric McCabe in Canastota, New York.

Canastota is home to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. It’s also home to one of Central New York’s hidden gems when it comes to disc golf — Oxbow Falls Park.

I say this spot is fitting because when McCabe stepped out of the car driven by Syracuse-area pro Eric Trippany, my first thought about McCabe was not “disc golfer.”

If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought McCabe was in Canastota for a prize fight. See, with his reddish beard and smaller stature, he seemed more like a welterweight fighter than a disc golfer.

Picture the famed pugilists from Boston — that’s the first thing I thought when I saw McCabe.

All that seemed to be missing were McCabe’s fists to be taped up and some old-school trainer with a deep and growling voice (such as Mickey in the Rocky movies) hollering advice…

“Get ‘em EMac. You’re a machine! Knock him out!”

Speaking along the boxing analogy lines, if there were judges at ringside for this round I played alongside McCabe, it would have been a unanimous decision in his favor.

Reality is, however, McCabe isn’t a boxer. He’s a champion disc golfer. And the way he carries himself, you might not ever guess it.

Eric McCabe really wrenches his body when he throws — but he packs a wallop of a punch with his skills.

In fact, he’s basically one of the guys.

In my years of being a sportswriter, I only got intimidated once or twice. And I’ve had the chance to interview some of the greatest players in the history of baseball, among others. I don’t get spooked around sports figured too often.

But there was something about playing with McCabe that got my nerves fired up. Maybe it’s because I’m not a top-level player and I was about to play a casual round with a guy who makes his living off the sport?

Those nerves settled fast, however.

McCabe was outgoing, engaging and funny. He took second shots, ended up in the trees and didn’t have a perfect shot every time.

Sort of like going out and playing with your buddies.

Still, if you’re playing a round with friends, it’s likely you hope to win a hole or two. Or more, depending on your skill level. Playing alongside McCabe and Trippany. though, was like facing Mike Tyson in his prime — no chance to win, but looking for a way to score a round or two — and last the entire fight.

Even a top pro like McCabe can find his way into the woods — but the way he battles out is the impressive part.

The round was filled with some minor idle chatter — about photography (McCabe is often snapping photos, as evidenced with his participation in the disc golf photography group on Facebook), travel, the pro tour, discs and anything else.

Never did he act like he was big time. That’s refreshing. In a day when celebrities or professional athletes are under a watchful eye, it’s nice to know somebody can make a living playing disc golf, yet still act down to earth.

But one can’t help to dream when playing someone of that caliber. My goal was simple — tie him on one hole. That’s all I wanted to do. Usually, my goal is to take the box from the group one time during the round — I wasn’t setting my goal too high.

The first hole showed the nerves as I somewhat grip-locked my drive. But, the disc, thankfully, smacked a tree and it didn’t get out of whack too bad. From there, I relaxed and watched McCabe and Trippany play the course, pulling off a variety of amazing shots.

I know many in my situation would be using this time to pick the brains of somebody the caliber of McCabe, a 1027-rated player. Maybe ask for some advice or get some ideas on how to improve.

Not me.

I’d rather sit back and watch him perform. I may not understand exactly everything he’s doing, but I’m watching and seeing what kind of things he’s doing to the disc.

This is a way to have a driving contest as Syracuse-area pro Eric Trippany (left) and top touring pro Eric McCabe send shots off the 18th tee at Oxbow Falls.

Take one example on a hole that bends to the left. The basket isn’t in view, so one just needs to know the hole. He sent a high drive that curved around the top of the trees. Alas, though I thought the shot was a thing of beauty, he knew he flew past the basket.

And he did — into the brush. The shot he had for birdie was 40 or 50 feet. And he had to battle some bushes and trees. Not an easy shot for anybody of any level.

McCabe was calm, looked things over and sent a high, arcing shot right into the chains. The putt was amazing. Much like most of his putts that day. He putted with confidence and authority. And, most of the time, he made it look easy.

In the end, it wasn’t close.

But I tied the 2010 world champion on two or three holes. I think it was three, but I can’t fully remember. Now, to be fair, these ties came early in the round. Once he truly warmed up, it wasn’t close.

The ringside judges would have agreed. But who am I kidding? This would have been a TKO — a quick one.

This first appeared on Rattling Chains on Nov. 30, 2012. 

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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An ace race is a fun way to experience disc golf

Mar 06

(Note: For those who don’t know, I also run a disc golf blog – Rattling Chains. I have written some first-person posts over there that I think some readers here will enjoy, so I’m going to sprinkle them in every once in a while on a day when I’m coming up blank!)

With Discraft’s Ace Race in the books, let’s take a quick peek at this year’s tournaments.

I don’t know how many of you participated in one of these events this year. For me, it was the second straight year I played in the tournament and it was equally as fun.

This year’s Ace Race ran from August to October and had 347 events held throughout the world.

The Ace Race disc. (photo by P.J. Harmer)

For those who didn’t read that and don’t know about the Ace Race, it’s a small and fun tournament where players have more chances at aces. For your entry fee ($25), you get two discs and some other swag.The player pack this year was well worth the money as each person got the two discs, a mini, a pair of 80s-style sunglasses and a stainless steel water bottle.

The discs are the only ones you can use during the tournament.Each player throws them at each hole, counting nothing but aces and metals, which is how many times you hit metal somewhere on the basket, but without slamming an ace.

In the end, the person with the most aces wins an excellent prize package of Discraft discs.

This year’s prototype disc is classified as a long-range driver, but Discraft calls it a hybrid driver. Being I don’t have a big arm, I was interested in the disc and I wasn’t disappointed. It flew nice and seemed to be pretty pure. I liked the feel of it and had some true lines throughout the day.

That’s something I’m not used to having.

The Ace Race doesn’t really seem to be about winning or losing. It’s about the experience and the fun. There’s a laid-back feeling to the Ace Race, which is much different than most disc golf tournaments.

I knew most of the people in my group and the others I didn’t meshed in very well. It was an enjoyable 25 holes.

Another miss for an ace, but not a miss for fun. (photo by P.J. Harmer)

Unfortunately, there were no aces in our group.

In this sport, there are things that make people coming back. Maybe it’s the sound of the chains. The competition. Being outside. Or anything else.

Like many other sports, there’s also the moment.

When I say moment, I’m speaking about those times that you do something really wild that makes you want to come back and experience the feeling again.

That happened to me on the normal 13th hole of this course. It’s a course I know quite well and this hole has always been one I’ve enjoyed. It starts in an opening and goes into the woods. Trees are abundant, but if you hit one of several lines, you can have some wonderful results.

As I stepped to the tee (shortened from it’s normal spot), I peeked and figured this was my best shot. I looked things over, got ready and let it rip.

Did I tell you how true this disc flies?

From the moment I released the disc, I knew it had a chance. The disc took flight, went on the right line and looked like it was heading right for the chains.

But as beautiful as it looked, reality soon smacked me in the face.

The disc dived a little quicker than I hoped at the end and hit the basket and dropped to the ground.

Rats!

So close, but so far. It truly didn’t matter though. The goal was to get out, throw some plastic and have some fun.

Mission accomplished.

The best part of the Ace Race is that fun factor — it brings disc golfers of many levels together for a fun round in a tournament setting. Often, tournaments aren’t like this. Do people have fun? Sure. But the competitive factor is much stronger, which can, at time, suck some of the fun out of the situation.

For my local ace race, they also had a cleanup contest. The idea was simple — as you played, pick up as much trash as you can. The group with the heaviest amount of garbage would win a really nice prize package, which included discs and minis among other things.

People pulled a lot of things out this year — including an old toilet! In all, nearly 1,300 pounds (seriously, 1,300 pounds!) was dragged off the course and out of the park. No matter how many aces anyone got — that goes way beyond the sport. That goes to giving back and showing disc golfers aren’t just about the game — they give back, too.

If you didn’t play in an Ace Race this year, make plans for next year. It’s a worthwhile event to play in. No pressure, just fun. Just the way it should be.

This first appeared on Rattling Chains on Nov. 13, 2012. 

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Hurt feelings: What happens when the chains talk back

Jan 21

(Note: For those who don’t know, I also run a disc golf blog – Rattling Chains. I have written some first-person posts over there that I think some readers here will enjoy, so I’m going to sprinkle them in every once in a while on a day when I’m coming up blank!)

By Disc G. Basket, Esq. 

I’m sick of it.

You see, me and my brethren are sick and tired of you disc golfers treating us like crap or second-rate citizens.

Rattle those chains, you say. Make them sing, you say. Throw it harder and make it stick, you say.

A disc golf basket speaks up — and makes it known that rattling the chains is a painful thing!

Apparently, you don’t realize that we baskets feel what you are doing.

You don’t think it’s a coincidence that a perfect putt pops into the chains and then lands on the ground, do you?

We have to deal with a lot, you know.

Sometimes, we’ll have to smell some of that herbal stuff that some of you players bring around. You know, not all of us like to smell that stuff! And booze? How many times are you going to leave empty beer (or soda or something else) bottles in our baskets?

Our baskets aren’t made for that or other trash that people can leave behind. Now we realize that it’s not just disc golfers who leave stuff in our baskets, but they do.

People sometimes also sign us after we’re kind enough to allow an ace. Really? Sign your disc and move on. For those of you kind enough to come out and wipe all that graffiti off us, we thank you.

Back in the day, when we were first installed, we’d be treated like Kings and Queens.

Players would come by in awe of us. Kind of like a new baby. Unlike a baby, however, soon you were whipping pieces of plastic at us. Sometimes, there were sharp edges.

What the heck, dude?

You ever watch the ladies play? They treat us with respect. They don’t worry so much about the sound, rather getting it in the basket.

Most guys whip it at us. And if they miss? Then they slam it to us!

Aw, heck, who am I kidding? The ladies like to hear the chains sing as much as the guys. Maybe more.

That means I never get a break.

Sometimes, we just get so annoyed that we have to get even. One of my longtime chain buddies showed me this video — watch the disc. It’s going in. Until my buddy decided to mess with the thrower.

YouTube Preview Image

Tell me something. Would you just go up to another person and whip a piece of plastic into their face if it made the sound of chains?

If you did, you’d be looking at jail time.

But if you send a Star Destroyer or something into the chains, it’s OK to do. Some discs don’t hurt as much as others, I’ll admit that. I’m a fan of tap-in putts. Unfortunately, most of the time, people don’t have a tap-in.

I’m just looking for a little sympathy here.

We won’t get it, we know. Instead, you’ll keep firing the disc at us, just to hear that magical sound.

Look, I know the sound is awesome. After all, I am the one that makes that sound. It’s my chains. It’s my basket.

It’s not you, it’s me.

So think next time before you fire a disc into the chains. Remember, we have feelings to. And that stuff hurts!

But, if you do it and you think you have the perfect putt… well, just think for a moment as that disc hits the chains and bounces out.

Was it a bad shot?

Or am I getting even?

This first appeared on Rattling Chains on Aug. 8, 2012. 

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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