After a few days home I wanted to put down some thoughts and memories from my 15 days in Omaha where I was documenting the Oregon State baseball team's eight-game run to the National Championship. In the 26 years, I have been a professional photographer; this was one of the highlights of my career. Writing is hard for me, I wanted to write this epic post about covering OSU Baseball in Omaha winning the 2018 National Championship and give a game by game blow of how each game was, what photos I like, what went right, and what I messed up on. I am running out of time though and want to get these photos and my thoughts up online. So I am just going to ramble on with my thoughts and get down what I can before I forget it all.
Omaha by the numbers:
15 days in Omaha
34,000 photos shot
1.2 TB of photos
860 photos edited and delivered to OSU
35 photos on average transmitted during each game to OSU for use on social media
109 photos in the slideshow above (My favorites from the trip)
4 hours and 31-minute rain delay during the Washington game. The longest delay in College World Series history
12 pieces of carrot cake I ate during the rain delay. Kasey Byers, the OSU videographer, was worried I was going to be sweating cream cheese frosting when the game resumed
4 hours and 24 minutes in the first game vs. North Carolina the longest 9-inning game in College World Series history
110º temperature on the field for the first game against North Carolina. With the humidity, it was the hottest weather I have ever shot photos in. It was miserable to work in
Omaha is a beautiful town, and they embrace the College World Series. It is the perfect place to hold the event, and I hope they never move it
Block 16: Ate lunch there three times and had the same thing each time, Nashville Hot chicken. I am craving it right now.
The Mercury Lounge: Great cocktail bar with couches and ample seating areas for large groups to hang out. It was where we celebrated the Beavers making it to the Championship series. The best drink was their Rich $ex cocktail
Nite Owl: Best cocktail place in Omaha, one of the best bars I have ever been to. I went here twice; they had a riff on a Rum Old fashioned with cold pressed simple coffee syrup. It was the best cocktail I have had in a long time. I had four of them. Nite Owl is an in an area called Blackstone, it is out of the downtown tourist area where most of the fans hung out. Nite Owl has great bartenders and great food. The Sriracha Honey Chicken slider was the best thing I ate.
I tried to walk each morning, Omaha is a great walking town and our hotel was right in the middle of downtown. They have a park that runs through the city and connects to a path along the Missouri River. The best part is that they have a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Missouri River so you can walk to Iowa. I walked across the bridge five times. It was a great way to start the day.
I will never forget standing next to the dugout in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs, knowing that with one more out the Beavers would win a National Championship. Before the Beavers won the National title in 2006 I thought I would never see an OSU team win a national title in any sport, and now in 2018 I am got to see them in person win their 3rd, and I am there to photograph it. I was nervous, adrenaline pumping through me. I was trying to collect my thoughts, what am I going to shoot? Who should I focus on? What should I shoot after the dog pile is over? Are my cameras all set correctly? Questions like that. Right before the last out, The NCAA photographer (I wish I could remember his name) asked me if I had ever shot a championship before, he could probably tell I was getting anxious. He gave me some advice. He told me that "The dog pile comes quickly," and something like "Focus on one person," and then he gave some words of encouragement. It was great advice and it calmed me down enough so I could do my job.
The night before was maybe the most exciting five minutes of my career. OSU is down to its last out and down to its last strike, Cadyn Grenier pops the ball up in foul territory on the first base side, right near me in the photo well. The game was going to be over, Arkansas was going to win the Championship, OSU would be going home losing two in a row. Every other photographer was focused on the pitcher because they wanted to get the dog pile photo. As three Arkansas players barreled towards the ball, I remember thinking that it was over. If you watched the game you know what happened, the ball dropped between them. I grabbed the camera around my neck and was one of the only photographers to get the photo of the play. After that Cadyn got a base hit to tie the game, and Trevor Larnach, the next batter hits a two-run home run into right field, and the Beavers win the game. It was magical, electric, and unbelievable.
The thing I think I will remember most from the 15 days is the celebration the day after. We landed in Portland and had two busses, along with two limos for the players to ride into a rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square. I did not ask, I just hopped into the second limo to get photos of the celebration. It was an enchanting ride. People in cars were stopping to honk and wave. Players were hanging out the windows, waving and enjoying every moment of the trip. Pioneer Courthouse Square was packed with fans in orange. Early on I decided that I was going to shoot the fans and not the ceremony. I ran around shooting from every angle I could think of. I knew I needed to get up high to shoot an overall of the whole crowd. As soon as the ceremony started, I quickly ran from building to building until I found one that I could get into and up the elevator. It was amazing to get up about ten floors and watch a sea of fans dressed in orange. It was beautiful. The ride from Portland to Corvallis was just as fun. I skipped the limo and hopped in the bus which was a great decision. We followed the limos down I-5, traffic was slow, of course, so that gave the players a chance to hang out of the top of the limo's sunroof and celebrate with motorist almost the whole trip down I-5. When we turned on to Highway 34, things got crazy, people on both sides of the highway were pulling and over honking their horns and getting out of their cars to and wave at the team, and the closer we got to Corvallis the more people there were, and the slower we drove. The players soaked it in. When we got to Goss Stadium, the plan was for the team to park and walk on to the field, but someone at OSU made the brilliant decision to drive the limos with the team on top on to the outfield of Goss. The place went crazy. It was an incredible moment to be a part of.
The celebration on Friday was a highlight for me. When we won the game on Thursday night, of course, I was ecstatic, but I also had to work. I did not have time to celebrate because I was taking photos and sending them as fast as I could to my great friend and fellow photographer, Ryan Gardner, who was editing and sending the images to Hank Hager, Kylie Murphy, and Trevor Creamer at OSU so they could get the photos out as fast as possible. When the celebration was over, and we were back at the hotel I was almost too exhausted to celebrate. I did, of course, have a few gin and tonics.
These are the notes for me to help me improve the next time I shoot one.
I put up a remote-controlled camera every game trying to cover a different angle, I put them low to shoot home plate, high to shoot the whole field, I tried everything. I Did not get any good photos from the remotes. Two reasons, the remotes did not fire well at TD Ameritrade Park. Talking to other photographers who were there and also set up remotes informed me that no one had great success with the remotes. We concluded that there was too much metal in the park and that interfered with the signal. I need to figure out how to get the remote cameras to work before next year. The other reason was just the luck of baseball. For most of the games, I had them set to shoot home plate, to get that great play at the plate photo. For all the great plays at the College World Series, none happened at home plate. I have to keep setting up remotes at events. It is a pain sometimes and I would have to get to the ballpark at least 3 hours before the game to set them up, but I have the equipment and no excuses not to do it.
I tell myself all the time that it is okay to miss photos. When I look back, there are so many photos I'm angry for I missing. Two, in particular, I wish I had. First, after the dogpile freshman pitcher Kevin Able, who pitched an incredible game to win the series for OSU, had the trophy in his hands and his teammates lifted him up on to their shoulders, and he lifted the trophy above his head, it was very quick, I was in a bad position and did not get the photo. I wish I had that, I am still beating myself up. In game two vs Arkansas, the Beavers had tied the game in the top of the ninth, and Trevor Larnach came to the plate. Before ever batter, I go over in my head all the possibilities of what to shoot if they get a hit, home run, bunt, etc. It depends on who is batting, the situation, the photos I have already shot, and the score of the game. When Trevor came to the plate you knew he was going to get a big hit, the Arkansas fans in right field were taunting him the whole game, chanting "Trevor sucks, Trevor sucks" it was too perfect, I knew he was going to get a big hit to win the game. Trevor is not a big celebrater, so I told myself to shoot the benches reaction, When Trevor launched the ball into right field, I shot the bench, got a great photo of Adley Rutchman jumping and celebrating, I really like the picture. When I watched the replay of the game, Trevor celebrated around the bases. I wish I had those photos.
During the games, I need to move around the stadium more to better capture the atmosphere and more photos of fans in the stadium. I did a much better job of this last year. This year I have a lot of excuses, I am disappointed in myself for not pushing myself harder. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to document this journey and I hope I will have the chance to do it again.
Cameras D5, D850, D4, D3
Lenses 400 2.8, (2) 70-200 2.8, one on remote one on me, 24-70mm, 50mm, 20mm, 14mm,
Two magic arms, four super clamps, six pocket wizards, Tethertools Case relay
One NCAA vest that I wore for 12 of the 15 days, bad luck to wash it so it is a stinky, sweaty mess, but I keep it
15 days away from home is a long time, but we did have a good time, and it would not have been as fun without the crew I got work with. I would like to give a shout out to the following people:
Aaron Maisel, my roommate for every road trip I go on with OSU, I have spent more time in a hotel room with him then I have my wife.
Kasey Byers, OSU videographer, an incredibly talented storyteller who pushes me to be better. One day I will get him to quit drinking vodka and t to start drinking better drinks.
Hank Hager, #Omahank, Sports information director and the hardest working man in Omaha. He puts out an amazing amount of information and takes a lot of good-natured crap from the team.
Evan "Big Cat" Bany, Equipment Manager, It's impossible not to have fun when he is around. He is the perfect millennial, a jaded, smartass that takes no shit from anyone.
Eric Edison and Kylie Murphy, OSU Ideation, our two relief pitchers they came in for the Championship series right when we need a lift, there energy and passion got me through the last few days.
Keith Warner, a graphic designer for OSU and was not on the trip, but the cool things he does with my photos makes me look way better then I am. Thanks Keith.
Jacque Burns, my one goal in life is to find one cocktail that you love, and not a Gin and Tonic.
Marianne Vydra One of the most authentic person I have ever meet, she kept me informed, entertained, enthused. Even though I am not an OSU employee, I am a contractor, she makes me feel part of the team. Always working behind the scenes doing her job to make it easier for everyone else to do their jobs. I don't think it is a coincidence the sports she oversees at OSU are some of the most successful ones.
My brother, Eric, who flew out for the championship series, and because of the rain delay, he only got to watch the first to games. There is no one I would want to celebrate an OSU win then with him, it was great to share the game two victory with him in Omaha.
Kyle Nobach, All the players were great to me, letting me into their world for a short time to document this incredible journey, I enjoy photographing every one of them, but Kyle, it is impossible to point a camera at him and not get a great photo I could do a gallery of 100 great shots of just him, see below.