Monday, December 29, 2008

Roaming the Cavalier, Shrine Bowl sidelines

(First published in the Morganton News-Herald, Dec. 21st, 2008)

On the practice field Monday morning, East Burke High School's Tyler Shatley lay on the ground, apparently injured from the previous play. On the sidelines was the familiar face of Tracy Hefner, the athletic trainer also from East Burke. The practice was for this year's Shrine Bowl. Hefner walked to assist Shatley and helped him off the practice field after he had twisted his knee. Two plays later, the second fullback for the North Carolina squad was also hurt. Hefner now had 2 players to assist and half the team's offense in his hands. Both individuals were treated, encouraged and sent back on the field. The head coach Gary Fowler from Cary High School was relieved to see his offensive players back on the field.

Tracy Hefner, also known as Tracy or Coach around the East Burke Cavalier campus has been a teacher in Burke County since 1993 after graduating from North Carolina State University with a degree in History and an apprenticeship in sports medicine. Hefner was no stranger to East Burke since he graduated in1988, having spent most of his high school life on the Cavalier sidelines, not as an athlete but as a student trainer for three years under head trainer Bob Bliss. He is a fixture around the campus and over the years Hefner has worked for 5 principals and over 20 different coaches in their prospective sports.

Monday was the first day of practice for the players of this years Shrine Bowl game. The game matches up the best high school football players from North and South Carolina. These are the players that you have all read about or seen on television. They are their respective schools pride and joy star players and most are college bound. Hefner is very much aware of this. He can point out most of the players and tell you who they are and where they may be going to play college football. He is also aware that any injuries will ruin a prospective scholarship as well.

Hefner has been an active member of the N.C. Athletic Trainers Association for many years and is currently serving a third term on their board of directors. He was chosen for his permanent position as Athletic Trainer for the NC Shrine Bowl team at the end of the 2004 game. As Tracy puts it, the outgoing trainer, John Burney, "had me on the sidelines for the game and when the game was over, turned over the keys and left me to do the field cleanup."

As part of his permanent position, Tracy also gets to select another individual from the state as an invited trainer. He likes to make the invitation phone calls at a time when the individuals are in a least expecting it. This years invitee, Lynn Bundy, from John A. Holmes High School in Edenton says she got her call in the middle of class. Hefner has also made the call during the dinner hour with small children involved. "He is just a different individual who loves what he does, but does it his way," says Bundy.

Most people who don't know Tracy Hefner, but have been around him at any give time may think that he is outspoken and rude. He has an opinion on just about anything. Bundy says she has know him for many years and that most people don't get his dry humor. She also said he was much smarter than most people gave him credit and to never ask him about politics! She said that she remembered one time he was teaching a summer clinic, he walked into the classroom wearing a plastic bucket on his head. When he took it off, he made the statement to the class that he was illustrating how it felt the first day of football practice after putting a helmet on for the first time.

I spent the day with Hefner at the Shrine Bowl practice on Wednesday and fortunately, there were no injuries. Tracy made his way around the field stopping and moving on and always watching the players. While we were watching the second round of practice, Hefner noticed that the kicker, Matt Millisor, from Page High School in Greensboro looked bored. He made a comment that the poor kickers should get to do their 10 minutes of practice and then go back and play video games because they were so bored. Hefner made his way over to Millisor to talk with him as he had one knee on the ground, helmet in hand. That's just how Hefner operates. He could not stand that the place kicker was to be so honored chosen for the Shrine Bowl team but he now looked bored.

As I was watching and observed what Tracy "does", I noticed he did not do that much on a slow day but was corrected to know that on Monday night after 2 very long first day practices they worked late in the evening on many players, some of whom had not played in over 5 weeks. I guess the life of a trainer is under appreciated to the casual observer. It was put to me in another way by Lynn Bundy. She says, "If we do our job right, you shouldn't know we are here". That goes a long way with most people, but not with Hefner. He always makes it known that he is in the room offering up opinions about anything, but when it comes to his "night" job, he prefers to be invisible.

The next time you are around East Burke High attending a sporting event, make an effort to find Tracy roaming around the complex on call as always. If you can't seem to find him, just look for the guy in his trademark shorts even in the coldest winter evenings because Hefner always does it his way.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Where oh where are they hiding?

When I fell into the studio photography I never knew this side of working with models! I enjoyed the first session setup by my client and started looking around to work with other talented models. Never did I know that there was a whole other side of men and women out there looking to be photographed.

I never knew that people would give up their time to shoot for a few hours and not ask for anything in return other than a few images. Well, I do much more than that for them as they know. It is very hard work to model and to shoot a session as well. It's not like in a sporting event and the actions are totally out of your control. In sports, the hardest part is knowing where to be for the play to happen. In modeling sessions you have to direct each and every move and see things as they are or can be. This is very hard to learn. In a typical session, I will shoot between 700-1000 shots, one at a time. Yes, on the football field, you can just hold down the trigger and shoot 30 in about 10 seconds and fill up a memory card pretty fast. I a fashion shoot, its one shot at a time with total concentration. I sometimes get over heated from the pressure at hand. I don't need to go to the gym as I feel like I've done 300 pushup and squats at the end of a session.

So what is it that I enjoy about working with models? I really can't don't have a basic answer. I guess I enjoy working with people one on one and seeing what kind of art we can find during a session. I don't usually have a full blown plan of shots that I want to have. I treat it as a natural event. Yes, we have talked and we have some direction of the type of images we are trying for, but I then let the model choose where they want to go from there.
I have been criticized for working in this manner, but hey, everyone has a style and mine is to play it by ear. This past week, I shot with a wonderful model Cassie. We had planned out several ideas but then we came near the end of the session and we stumbled on something. It was perfect and the images are outstanding!

So where are they hiding huh? Well, that really means where is the next fantastic model hiding and the fantastic shots that go with them. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bye, bye cold, rainy, foggy nights!

At least for now I can enjoy working inside for the winter. Yeah, you figure right, the football is officially over for High schools in this area! It's sad but ok too. This year I have experienced weather for one season like no other. It is like mother nature wanted to make sure everyone knew she was in control and did not like "normal" conditions for football!

Its been a terrific season. I experienced a new kind of zoom lens, rented of course, that just helped me capture the most outstanding images ever! You can go back through my gallery and you can absolutely pick out the images that were shot with the pro lens. My customers will almost always be there, but they seemed to pick up when I used the expensive lens. I guess I am gonna have to buckle down and get one for next year. Luckily I don't need it for basketball or wrestling seasons.

I am still having a blast with the photo business, but it is becoming a job to keep it running smoothly. Some nights when its after midnight, I wonder why I am doing this. Then all I have to do is walk down the hall and look into a couple of bedrooms and see what my obligations are. They are still to young, but hopefully they will appreciate my long hours and that I do have my office at home so I can see and interact with them. I was raised on the work ethic and the harder you work, the more you get out of it. My parents look at me as if I work too much, but they should take a look back and realize that I get it honestly from their many hours and overtime as I was growing up.

Bring on the indoor sports! I look forward in sitting under a basket and dodging balls, referees, and players too! But I have to remember that as soon as winter ends, I will be standing outside again, wandering where the warm gyms are and those darn loud buzzers!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What is the big deal with socks?

Socks, you know the things that you keep in your top drawer. The things that always seem to lose their partners after taking a bath! The things that start out brisk and soft and end up strong and hard. Yeah, you got it now, Socks!!
I have been working with a client now since March on a sock webstore. It has been a task in itself but who knew when I signed on for this project that I would still be working on it in November! There are so many variations of socks. From the colors, color combos, the styles and then the lengths that just keep on growing. You have ankle socks, crew socks, Knee Hi's or High's, OTK or as most of us know them, Over the knee socks. Then you have this strange thing called a Flip Flop sock. It kind of looks strange but it has potential.
The process of making a sock is actually a daunting task. Yes, there is a machine that weaves them up but the process starts in the designing stage. From there, the web of yarns and elastics is utterly amazing when walking through the plant. Every minute or so another socks pops out and then its off to the toe stitcher. After that, it goes to the dryer to make all the yarns shrink up a bit and then they are pressed and packaged.
I have been living a every fun loving sock hell these past few weeks tyring to put these variations of socks online so that the world can see and buy. They even have Boxed Sets, but I digress. The next time you take for granted the morning routine and are sitting on the side of your bed getting ready for your day, take a minute and and just glance at your feet. Ask your feet, "are you guys worth all this effort that went into keeping you warm and dry today?" I think so!
Buy some socks!

Monday, November 10, 2008

What's the point anyway?

Today the lonely life of a high school teacher was in full play. We offered a full day for parents and teachers to get together and talk about how their children are such angels or lack there of. The only thing missing was the parents!
I felt like the Maytag repair man today. Out of all the students that I teach, I only saw 3 parents the WHOLE day! And to top it off, it was parents of some of my best students too! So whats the point? Is there a law that states we have to offer Teacher conference days to parents? Is it a law to have teachers restricted to their classrooms all day long, not allowed to wander around and visit colleagues so that they not miss the rare parent wandering the building. We have been so programmed to not leave our rooms that they will actually page us over the intercom to let everyone else know you are not where you are supposed to be and are actually not bored!
So what did I do? I worked on the school website, took a picture for school/community promotion and tried to assist our band director with some pictures. Amazingly, the day went by rather fast. I am not really sure why either, but neither am I complaining!
I love what I do with the exception of a few things. Paperwork and rude students are at the top of the list but today was right up there that just seemed like a waist of time and money!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Fish are Back! well, almost!

I am a true Miami Dolphins fan! I have been following them as long as I can remember. And that is not lie. I have a pennant from their undefeated 1971 season that says "World Champions" on it. I know that I should not toot the horn to hard or fast as they only won 1 game last year, but I still pulled for them! It sure was great to turn on the NFL pregame shows today and they were all talking about the Dolphins as they were a contender.

Maybe one day I will actually get to see them play. Now here is an idea, lets get them schedules to play the Panthers and I will try to get a sideline media pass to shoot the game. I love it when I have had a good days rest and can think clearer!! Go Fins!!!
Have you ever. . .

Had those times in your life where you just thought you would never get caught up? I am there right now. Every time I think I am getting close, more projects pop up. Today for example was supposed to be my catch up day but turned out entirely different.

Last night, we had the final Fat Friday game (county rival) at the school where I teach. After the game, I stayed behind to take a few requested shots of the marching band so they may submit to the upcoming inauguration ceremonies in Washington, DC. All pretty harmless, if you include all the trash left behind in the stands that had to be photoshoped out in post production. Anyways, I got home and began the enduring task of photo processing. This time we had 907 images to process. Before you freak out, let me tell ya, that a normal night or assignment will be between 300-500 images and I can process those in an hour or so from start to finish. So I was hauling butt to get things going. About 12:30AM got a message from the newspaper wanting to know if I was going to upload my images. Long story, a bit short, I got to bed around 2:30AM!
This morning I woke at 8AM, got up and almost immediately started working in my office. I had some team photos to send to the coaches for names. Then I was off for the youth football championship games and a womens basketball scrimmage. In total, I shot 4 games today! Btw, the basketball was going on at the same time of the football games, 5 miles away!

I finally got finished submitting to the newspaper today about 4:30PM, then decided it was family time! We went to our church for a benefit BBQ! NO, it was not eastern NC style, but it was still good. We went over to the in-laws for a visit with them and my nieces and got home around 8:30PM. I really needed the time away. I have not had much time with just family and not actvities in a while. It is now 12:30AM, and I am beat but wanted to write in my blog. I am hoping to write at least 5 out of 7 days a week.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Happy Appy!

Let me just say, that being a full access photographer is pretty cool. I was able to attend the recent Appalachian State vs. Wofford game in Boone on Halloween night. Not only attending but with a field photographers pass! I have been wanting to attend a game as I have not been in recent years, but to go and actually stand side by side with some local and national media was surreal.
I have people all the time tell me I am doing a great job with my photo work, but you just want more. I really have not seen the quality of my work as being that great. I wanted to see what it was like to shoot in a big time environment with good light!
I took almost 800 images and had a hard time omitting some. Just overall had an excellent time and I believe the body of images that I obtained from this experience shows for itself!