It all progressed so fast. One day I went from writing sports commentary as various pets to covering Nashville for an up and coming website called "The Hockey Writers." The first season's work was pretty much a series of well-written shits and giggles observations about ice hockey in Nashville. Then I was credentialed for my second season at THW and had to take everything very seriously. By April of 2011, I was burned out. What kept me going were the supportive people I encountered on the ground at Bridgestone, the guys at the helm of THW, and the athletes I'd come to like and respect. I wanted the Predators to end the playoffs with a ring and a day with Lord Stanley's Hardware.
There was actually one other thing that kept things magical. A week or two after midseason break, I got a message from, well, we'll just call him Deke Throat. He told me to bring a camera to morning skate. He wouldn't say why. At the time, the only camera I had was a little Canon Powershot I have since named Baby Canon aka The Bitty Canon For Dummies. Once I got there, I saw why Deke told me to bring a camera, Steve Sullivan, who had been on IR, was skating and Jordin Tootoo was back from leave. The energy in the arena was different. The guys seemed so pulled together and focused. That was when I fell in love with taking pictures of the team.
There were plenty of other compelling reasons for me to stay the hell out of the press box for the rest of the season, but the biggest was that I found myself better able to show The Hockey Writers' readers the team I saw. Through the lens, so much was revealed that wasn't said. Sometimes it was about intrateam dynamics, sometimes what was conveyed was as simple as how someone might have felt that particular day. With a camera in hand, I was no longer floundering as a creative writer trying to be a journalist. I was using my visual anthropology chops to convey why I and over thirty thousand people in Middle Tennessee claim citizenship in what is sometimes called "Predsnation."
Every photographer can point to moments when it's more than just a good day at work. Everything has the feel of a golden moment. It's that lightning in a bottle instance that perfectly captures the person on the other side of the dasher boards or at the end zone or onstage. They're the shots that are -or should be- iconic. John Russell, Nashville's official photographer, caught plenty of those. I'm sure most people have their favorites. There's one picture in particular that inspires enough envy to make me wish I'd taken it:
Let's face it. That picture perfectly captures Shane O'Brien and Jordin Tootoo. There's no way anyone who has ever photographed those guys can not wish that shot was theirs.
Which brings me to a photo essay I did for THW. The pictures for "Rinne With a View" were taken one April morning (if I remember correctly) before the team headed off for a long western swing through California, Alberta, and British Columbia. I sat on the other side of the glass, made sure my flash was off, and snapped pictures through the scratches as each squad came at Pekka Rinne like a fleet of besweatered Smart Cars.
What you'll see at the link is just a small sample of my shots of their shots. When I find the rest of the pictures, I'll post a slide show of more of the better photos from that morning. In the meantime, I invite you to pay a visit to THW to see the original essay and maybe check out some of the current talent on the masthead over there.