Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Adventures in Photojournalism - Part 1 (Blitz)

The 2009 K-12 Championship is completed. I got back from Dallas on Monday. What did I do for post event relaxation? I went to the chess club to direct our Monday night action tournament. I was so hoping I would not have to play. Fortunately there was an even number so I was off the hook. The only reason I went to the club was because I forgot to see if someone else could direct. Despite not sending out the weekly email I still had 10 players.

I really did not want to play. I was exhausted from the weekend, and the thought of playing chess was giving me a headache. I did not play one single game of chess when I was at the tournament. I didn't play blitz or bughouse at all, and I didn't play in the Parents & Friends tournament. That's unusual for me. I usually want to play blitz or bughouse with the kids, but by the end of each day, I just wanted to relax. I kept myself amused at the club by working on this post.

I never quite realized how much running around I would be doing during the tournament trying to take pictures, and track down interesting stories. At Super Nationals I was running around a lot taking pictures, but I didn't have hunt for results, track down winners for interviews, and try to be in three places at once. Thursday night was the blitz tournament. The lighting was really poor, so it was hard to get good shots even using my new flash unit. I've yet to figure out all the tricks to making it work right. Rule #1 of Photojournalism: Purchase and test new equipment several weeks before the real thing. However I've been picking the brains of some the other photographers that have been taking pictures. Nothing like lessons on the fly! I must have done something right because Chess Life Online used everything I sent out to the editor.

Getting the shot I took of the K-6 winner, James Black got me into my first confrontation with a crazy chess parent. I have a 70-300 mm zoom lens, so sometimes I have to stand a few rows back to get the shot. I try to make sure I'm not too close to any of the players that are in the row that I'm standing in, but this one father is annoyed that I'm standing there. He comes over and says "You're distracting the little kids. That's not fair." I didn't have my press credential yet, so he had no idea who I was. I said "I'm writing the article for Chess Life and taking pictures." He wasn't impressed. He says "It's not right to be disturbing the little kids."

Fortunately I had gotten the picture before he started complaining to me. I moved away. The funny thing was the kids near where I was standing didn't even pay much attention to me, but perhaps his child looked up at me while I was shooting. Though I appreciate parents wanting to look out for their child's interests, I think it's a little excessive to be making a fuss during a blitz tournament which is more fun than serious chess. The serious blitz games were happening about 30 boards away from where I was standing.

I'm a people watcher. I love seeing their facial expressions, and observing the body language. As watch the kids playing, some are very animated at the board. Others are deep in concentration. Often wandering around the playing room I see a particular child who is making interesting facial expressions, or just doing funny things at the board. When I spot one of these kids I might just set up my camera, and just wait for the shot. It takes patience and luck. Some of the kids just ham it up when they see a camera pointed in their direction.

In one of the later rounds I spot two little kindergarten kids playing on the last board. They're both chattering away, and playing around with the pieces. Very cute scene. I go to take some pictures and my telephoto lens seems to be locking up which it will do if it can't get the proper exposure and focus. I run back over to where I've set my bag down, and quickly switch lenses. I go back and try to get the shot, but now realize my battery has died. I go back and switch batteries. I run back over to the board to take the shot, and one of the TDs says "I hope you're not using a flash." I had been using a flash all evening and no one said anything. (I don't use flash during the regular tournament games.) I finally get a few shots off, and after all that running back and forth, the pictures were slightly blurred. I hate when that happens. Fortunately in a tournament like this I will have more opportunities to get the shot. Rule #2 of Photojournalism: Have all lenses and spare batteries on you at all times. (Next purchase will be a photographer's vest.)

As my long time readers know, at times I can be rather forgetful. I forget recharge my Mon Roi so the battery dies during a game, or I forget to put it in the bag I'm taking down to the Marshall. How many times have I needed to buy another pair of reading glasses because I forgot to put a pair in my bag. I don't want begin to count how many times I've walked out the playing room, and left my jacket on a chair because I put it down, and then forgot about it. There are times I feel like I'm suffering from early onset senility. It's amazing that in 37 years of tournament play I've never lost a chess clock. Then again that might have to do with the fact that I've seen too many chess clocks mysteriously grow legs and walk out of tournament or skittles rooms when their owners weren't looking.

I do not have the memory of my friend here.

Thursday evening after the blitz tournament we ordered room service for the kids on our team. As we were waiting for the food to come, I remembered that I needed to recharge the camera battery that had died during the blitz tournament. I went to my room with the battery, and look through my bag where I had packed all the gizmos for my various electronics. Cell phone charger, check. iPod charger, check. Power cord for the laptop, check. AA - AAA batteries and charger, check. Point and shoot camera, spare battery and charger, check. Mon Roi and USB cable, check. Mini tape recorder and spare cassette, check. Battery charger for my real camera...... Ummmmm. Where is it??? I proceeded take my knapsack and just dump the entire contents of it on the bed. I dump everything out of my briefcase. No charger. I look in my suitcase, but I know full well it's not there. Instead it's..... on the floor of my home office.

Now I'm in a panic. How the hell am I going to photograph the remaining three days with one battery? Our team coordinator has the exact same camera as mine. She bought it because she loved the pictures I took on our hiking trip in July. Problem solved? No. She decided to just bring her point and shoot camera since she figured I'd have things covered, and she tends to just do snapshots over the weekend. Then I remembered that Chris Bird, one the floor directors has the same camera. I go downstairs where the tournament directors are having their meeting to go over rules, procedures and assignments. I quietly pull him to the side and ask him if he brought his camera. No. Duh! Floor directors, especially the chief floor directors don't have time to be taking pictures. Why bother lugging a big camera with you that you're not going to be using? Rule #3 of Photojournalism: The Santa clause applies. "Making a list, checking it twice." Having all your gear would be nice.

At this point I figure I'm going to have find an electronics store like Best Buy on Friday and go out and buy another charger. I can use the little point and shoot at the Kosteniuk simul if necessary. It figures the one tournament that none of the parents in our group decide to rent a car would be the year I need to go somewhere by car. Normally at these events I go into the hotel on Thursday, and don't leave the the premises until Monday when it's time to go to the airport.

That was just the warm up to the main event that started on Friday. Stayed tuned for Part 2.


chesstiger said...

I wonder why you dont have a camerabag with all in that you just have to check that it includes all when leaving home?

I know how exhausting a (childrens)tournament can be even if you just have to run around to follow your kids. So i can imagen how exhausting it must be to run around for winners and such.

LinuxGuy said...

I hope you are getting paid for all that fuss. :-)

Intermezzo said...

Hi Polly,
Thanks for stopping by my blog back in October and for your kind words of welcome. I've been away for a while and have just got back to posting again.
I figured the least I could do is stop by at "your place" and say "Hi". I should also say "Congratulations" as you were the first "US resident" to post a comment on my blog.
I can relate to the irate chess parents stuff. I've had a few run ins myself down the years. One guy came to analyse a game I had just finished against his son and was so critical of the lad's play that I wanted to take outside!
Catch you later.