The time has come to turn, turn, turn back to this blog. From what I have written – or not written – it would seem I have not been “standing” any where recently. Truth is, I have been standing in so many places over the last few months that trying to get everything written has been impossible. The time has come to get back to writing. No better way to do that than to start with my annual school year kickoff classic song.
Pete Seeger put Turn, Turn, Turn to music in 1959. However, it was not until 1965, when the legendary Byrds recording rocketed to #1 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart, that millions of listeners came to appreciate anew the oldest lyrics ever written for a #1 song. Seeger added the refrain, rearranged some of the words and added the song’s final line, but most of the lyrics are close to verbatim from the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes, chapter three and its author, King Solomon.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the Heaven.
The first verse from Ecclesastes, chapter three and the opening line of the song are perfect for this is the start of the many seasons in my work at KU. Truly there is a “purpose under the Heaven” for everything I do, especially at this time of the year.
My school year story the past three years appeared when student-athletes reported early in August. Truthfully, there is only so much I can write about mug shot upon mug shot and all the media guide work I have been cranking out since early August. It is an insane amount of work, but work I still love, as you know if you have read the past year’s entries. I decided long ago to wait with this story for this past weekend, the kickoff of so many “seasons” for me.
What coach has not uttered a variation of the words from the second verse from King Solomon and used in the song.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
Imagine this coaching version – “It’s a new season, boys. You have a great opportunity in front of you. Put last season out of your minds. Let it die. We have a great game plan. You’ve been working hard all off-season to get ready for this moment, now its time to reap what you have sown. Let’s go out there and win.”
Now fired up, let me take you through a huge kickoff weekend that actually started a day early, far from KU.
Thursday, August 30, 6 p.m. – Washburn football vs. University of Nebraska at Kearney: As soon as I wrapped up the first part of the women’s golf team photos late Thursday afternoon, Laura and I raced to my alma mater, Washburn University, to photograph their home opener. This is a freebie to give back to my alma mater and friend Gene Cassell, the school’s media relations director. As we drove to Topeka, we both were unsure we should have volunteered again.
Laura’s August proved to be unusually taxing. New opinions by the NCAA over the eligibility of foreign athletes and the hoped for admission of another athlete to a specific school on campus left Laura as stressed as I ever remember. While I scrambled to get all our gear together for the Washburn game, she stood in the studio babbling thoughts that really made no sense. This looked bad in so many ways.
Thankfully, Cassell’s promise of a big surprise got us there. By the start of the second half, we really were glad we did not miss the glorious sight of Moore Bowl brilliantly lit by four massive banks of new lights. Trust me, I was absolutely overjoyed to bask in their fabulous glow.
I have been photographing night football games in Moore Bowl since I was 18. The light was never good and has only grown drastically worse over the years. Capital-Journal photographers would load their film in our high ISO developer of choice, Acufine, and walk away praying. The base fog would build up to dense levels on the Tri-X film, but somehow an image appeared no matter how grainy it would look in the paper the next day. Honestly, a full moon would help as did rain that reflected light, but truthfully, there was little hope for a good image.
That is until last Thursday. Images on the back of my digital camera shot with a 600mm f4 lens at 3,200 ISO looked great. Thinking about all the newspaper alums who would be shocked beyond belief made me sentimental but still very happy. Laura proved to be the big winner with her photograph of a Washburn hit that sent a helmet flying. We were off to a good start.
Friday, August 31, 11:30 a.m. – Kansas Volleyball vs. Sam Houston State: Volleyball is a fan favorite. Student-athletes from other sports have flocked to watch the action over the years and to be seen and to see others. Many great athletes have made many great photographs for me over the years, and I thoroughly enjoy my time shooting volleyball except for one problem – the setting was never really built for volleyball.
While volleyball needed their own arena, basketball coach Roy Williams also wanted additional practice courts early in my time at KU. The marriage of the two worked for years, but the volleyball court and seating allows for very limited photographic angles since there is no end of court elevated seating.
I tried to have a platform built during the summer allowing access to new and different heights, but that proved to be too complicated. While the opening match went well, I had to stare often to where I hoped to be shooting. Fortunately, there was no time to worry about it. A photo gallery awaited from the three-set KU victory. The day was just beginning.
Friday, August 31, 5 p.m. – Kansas Soccer vs. Creighton: Everyone and everything needs rain so badly now. How could anyone complain that by the afternoon a steady rain fell throughout the soccer match? KU has been good to me over the years with equipment. While I have an outstanding array of cameras and lens to use, on a day like Friday, without something as seemingly simple as high-tech covers for the cameras and lens, I would be the one drowning.
With a KU Gore-Tex rain suit and those shields, I actually wished it would have poured. The steady rain was too easy on me and the players. A good gushing might have challenged everyone, but it surely would have made for some great pictures. A KU victory and a gallery to do, but first I needed to dry out and get back to another volleyball match.
Friday, August 31, 7 p.m. – Kansas Volleyball vs. Tulsa: This match was an in-and-outer. The soccer gallery awaited. I needed only two images for the web, but had to make sure they were of players of importance to go with the story.
That gave me time to marvel again at the volleyball’s sports supervisor, Jim Marchiony. A long-time associate athletic director, Marchiony is KU’s biggest volleyball fan. A remote camera dedicated to capturing his reaction after every point of a match would be a real life scoreboard. Run the images together, and everyone would know the outcome of every point, good or bad from his reaction. Even though it took four sets, KU volleyball remained undefeated.
Back to the soccer gallery, but then Laura arrived with good news on one of her academic issues. Talk about happy, but the relief of some of the pressure almost left in her tears. Back to the song and Solomon’s words in verse three and four.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
It was a long day, and a longer Saturday awaited, but we made sure we “danced” some that night before bed.
Saturday, September 1, 9 a.m. – Kansas Cross Country at the Bob Timmons Classic: Named for the long-time KU cross country and track and field coach, Bob Timmons, the classic is held at Rim Rock Farm north of Lawrence on property Timmons owned and lovingly developed into one of the finest and toughest courses in the nation. Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease, Timmons gave the property to KU years ago, but for me, the course will always belong to Timmy, my dear friend.
Rarely do I get more than one chance to photograph cross country in a season. We need multiple images of every KU runner competing which leads to plenty of running of our own as Laura and I try to get to different locations.
Throughout the meet, heavy, dark clouds could be seen to the east while blue sky glowed in the west. The course split the two fronts with spitting rain throughout. Since the trip to the course covers gravel roads, our first stop back in Lawrence was a car wash to remove the heavy coating of clayish mud from the car and our shoes. Over delicious shrimp tacos at Fuzzy’s, work on another photo gallery began.
Saturday, September 1, 2 p.m. – Kansas Volleyball vs. Arkansas State: Another quick trip to volleyball. My limited time means volleyball gets the shortest straw throughout the weekend, but I do make up for that throughout the season. The time had come for the main event.
Saturday, September 1, 6 p.m. – Kansas Football vs. South Dakota State: Never can I remember a more anticipated football game in my years at KU. The Charlie Weis era was ready to begin. The past two seasons were such disappointments. No one really had a handle on what would happen, not just in this game but throughout the season. Fans wanted to be excited, but expectations were clearly tempered by the reality of the crushing losses from the past two years. Verse Five sums it up.
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
After the game, my guess is no one still has an answer. The stands were close to full, and the play on the field offered enough glimpses of good play that a full house is coming soon. New players contributed and many returning players played to a higher level. However, the game was against South Dakota State, and no one can really be sure of what lies ahead other than hope. As we wrapped up a big photo gallery early Sunday morning, we both felt good about the start of a positive season for the team and us. After the woes of the past two seasons, we know they do go together.
Sunday, September 2, 1 p.m. – Kansas Soccer vs. Arizona State: You might think by now I was hoping the weekend would just end, but Sunday’s soccer match proved to be as entertaining and exciting as any event of the weekend, and it ended in a 2-2 tie.
After scoring early in the match, KU goalie Kat Liebetrau spent much of the game under attack. Coming off three shutouts, Liebetrau continued to stop shot after shot. As the game wound down, my plan was to use Liebetrau on the front of our website. Unfortunately, those plans evaporated as fast as the KU lead. Suddenly trailing 2-1, senior Whitney Berry saved the day with a free kick that rocketed off the top bar of the goal, bounced straight down behind the Sun Devil goalie and squirted across the line despite a desperate lunge by the goalie. Twenty minutes of hard-fought overtime were not enough as two very good and very weary teams had to settle for a tie.
Sunday, September 2, 9:30 p.m. – The Aftermath and the Week Ahead: Eating a very late dinner after the final gallery and a run with our dog, Rocket, we looked back on quite an opening weekend. More photographs taken than either of us want to count, five photo galleries using 162 images. Hours and hours of production yet to come and another weekend ahead with three more volleyball matches, two more soccer matches, a football game and a Sunday night awards show.
Our web designer, Kevin McCarty tweeted Sunday night that KUathletics.com had their sixth best day of traffic in the last nine months for the opening football game. Four of the other top days came during the NCAA basketball championship run. My hope is that Laura’s and my photographic efforts are a big part of the reason for the big days.
Yes, there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. We are very happy to be part of that purpose. Reaching out to hold my wife late Sunday night, I happily thought of the final sentiments in the scripture and the Byrds great song as the long weekend finally wound down.
A time for love…A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.