“Gentlemen, the hopes and dreams of an entire town are riding on your shoulders. You may never matter again in your life as much as you do right now.” – Coach Gary Gaines, Friday Night Lights.
Socorro High School, New Mexico. Clock strikes 7pm, the wind dies down, the air is dry and warm from another hot day in the desert. The Warriors football team and the crowd are pumped for Friday Night Lights. The local heroes emerge in appropriate epic gladiator fashion from the locker room under a clear sky. The national anthem silences the crowd in respect before the kick-off ignites the noise and cheering. It is game time.
While the hopes and dreams of an entire town may or may not entirely be resting on the shoulders of the Socorro Warriors, the feeling of support and community is strongly present. Twice I had the pleasure of standing on the sidelines of Socorro High School stadium and photograph the warriors. Have been an NFL fan for decades but never attended a live game, these were my first live Football experiences. Friday Night Lights with the Socorro Warriors. It was a perfect first two lives game. Still wanting to see college and NFL games but this was perfect. Being allowed to photograph from the sidelines, seeing and hearing the action up close, players run, block, tackle, smash into each other, feeling the community spirit and support, the coaches calling plays and coaching their heart out, cheer leaders working the crowd, kids looking up to their heroes, smell of popcorn, zebra stribed judges, runs, passes, catches, touchdowns and cries of joy and frustration. First and 10, hut hut.
I use my Fuji X-Pro1 and Leica M6 to document the games, not obvious cameras for sports and my range is limited to 50mm – bit this works very much in my favor. I must work and create compositions that work in 50mm, no heavy zooming and speedy DSLR servo drive focus and shooting, have to really fight for the one shot. Must compose, wait, anticipate. One shot. I admit to being quite inspired by David Burnett and his Olympics images. Wandering the sidelines I find elements to use in compositions, anticipate the plays, hope they evolve in the direction of my composition and if not, I wait for the next play. I use high contrasty black and white as it lends a dramatic timeless quality to the players and emphasizes the lights against the black sky, a black sky I very much like. Circling the field I must anticipate plays, fill the frame with action on and off the field. Or sometimes just fill the frame with blackness. It’s a struggle, a challenge and it is an exceptional fun shoot.
Thanks to the great town of Socorro and the Warriors and staff. I very much look forward to returning. Wearing my Warriors T-shirt – Go Warriors!
EDIT: I must have proof read this post 100 times and still I managed to miss that I used the same image twice and was missing an image. Image 2 from the top, the dusk view of the entire stadium now inserted properly.