The Answers to Two Questions

Wes Benjamin pitching against BYU in Peoria, Arizona.

Wes Benjamin pitching against BYU in Peoria, Arizona.

Ka'iana Eldredge's sky-high leap before a game with Alec Hall.

Ka’iana Eldredge sky-high leap before a game with Alec Hall.

An unexpected locked gate made the path to my rental car considerably longer on a recent trip to Arizona. However, if that gate had not been locked, I would have missed the answers to two questions others posed to me.

KU shortstop Justin Protacio.

KU shortstop Justin Protacio.

As I hauled all my camera gear along a sidewalk to my car, a white SUV rolled slowly past me before stopping. The passenger window rolled down. Suddenly, a woman stuck her head out and began thanking me. Soon her husband joined in offering his thanks for the pictures I take of their son, Justin Protacio, the shortstop on the KU baseball team.

The most popular question to me of late has been, “Don’t you wish you were in Sochi covering the Winter Olympics?” The Protacio parents provided me with the reason why I have been answering “no” to that Olympic question.

Please understand, I would not turn down an opportunity to cover an Olympics, even though I did just that back in 1972. Then, I was too inexperienced and not mature enough to do the job as well as I could today. Now, I have come to enjoy time in a ball park or arena covering a sport where the players, coaches and parents have an appreciation that cannot be matched by even the biggest sporting events in the world.

The KU baseball team opened their season in Peoria, Arizona, with a four-game series against BYU. Saturday’s double-header had been long and drawn out with the second game going into extra innings. Two photo galleries awaited production. Yet, as the SUV rolled away, my steps around the stadium picked up thanks to the kind words.

That leads to the answer to the other question asked by a media member before leaving for Arizona, “How can you possibly want to go cover baseball instead of covering KU men’s basketball here in Allen Fieldhouse? Are you crazy?”

Pitcher Drew Morovick shined in the Arizona sun.

Guess I am crazy because that is exactly what I wanted to do. It is my pleasure every summer at the Sport Photography Workshop to teach alongside esteemed photographers that have covered multiple Olympics. A very dear friend, Rob Schumacher, who I helped get his start in photography just finished covering the Olympics in Sochi for USA Today.  I followed his work on-line every day.

They tell me of fantastic photo positions at the Olympics with indoor light carefully set to optimize world-wide television coverage, and thus still photography. The organizers want good coverage and go out of their way to make sure the angles available are the best. The very best athletes compete and the emotion is constantly at its peak in joy and sorrow. The work for the photographers is long and tiring, to the point of near collapse, but grand images are there for everyone to make. Anymore for me, that is the problem. There are just too many photographers seated together taking photographs at the very same moment.

In game fun with Hawk Team Six - spotter Colin Toalson and sniper Blair Beck.

In-game fun with Hawk Team Six – spotter Colin Toalson and sniper Blair Beck.

There will be a time, sooner than I would like, when my career as a top sports photographer will end. Age is cruel and often harshly critical. Fortunately, I am not done yet, but my fascination as a photographer continues to shift to events where I can make photographs that others are not. Whether it is traveling with baseball or with softball in Orlando the week before, I have to work very hard to make my images something special and keep them different from game-to-game. I constantly try to find locations to make interesting photographs.

There is one huge bonus to all this.  It means so much to the athletes, the coaches and the fans. It is a nice ego boost to receive so many compliments, but they mean much more to me for a different reason. This is my 18th year working for KU. From the very first conversation I had with KU about taking on their photography, the importance of covering more than football and basketball was critical to me. When I finally walk away from KU, my greatest joy will be that every sport received my very best efforts.

Last night, KU won a share of their 10th straight Big 12 Conference title. I was proud to be there and proud to have covered Bill Self and the teams that keep the hearts of their faithful pounding so proudly over those ten years. Yet, on that night weeks ago when I asked why I wanted to cover baseball over basketball, I reeled off reasons to my friend. It started with the fact I was missing a game against TCU.  That was left to Laura to cover. Payback it would seem for her long stay in sunny Puerto Rico in January.

I was off to Arizona, a place where I once worked and still love, to shoot a game I love under the sunny skies with temperatures in the 80’s. However, the biggest reason continues to be my hope that people will remember that the so-called “minor” sports are happily covered in a very “major league” way.

A Tommy Mirabelli RBI cut.

A Tommy Mirabelli RBI cut.

The team celebrated a walk-off hit by Tucker Tharp.

The team celebrating a walk-off hit by Tucker Tharp.

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About jeffjacobsen

Thank you for reading my blog, Here I Stand. You can read all about me, my wife and my family on the Family page. God bless and keep you.
This entry was posted in College Life, Friends, Kansas Athletics, Laura Jacobsen, Photography, Sports, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Answers to Two Questions

  1. Mark Anderson says:

    So, Jeff, I was looking on my facebook page and got a picture from Dan Blackwood of the warrior with bow and arrow ready, silhouetted, atop the Kansas capital. Dan said it was taken by the son of the pastor who confirmed him. So I looked below and saw your name credited, and sent back a note asking “What’s Jeff up to these days?”
    While Dan wasn’t sure he posted a link to your blog and I’ve spent a little bit of time looking at your pictures and reading your accompanying notes. I enjoyed this spot and I’m sure I’ll be back. So in his way, he did tell me what you were doing. Or at least he let you tell your story. Or I guess I can piece some things together about what you’ve done the last forty years.
    There were some connections in how I came to look at things (would I have looked had Dan not mentioned being confirmed? I’ve been serving as a mentor in our Lutheran church to a 13 year old who’s building his faith statement and we’ve been working on that product the last couple of weeks). Would I have looked if it hadn’t been a picture or our spiffed up capital? Or if I hadn’t noted how bright last night’s moon was to my son and his friends who’d just arrived after a 900 mile trip from Tucson for spring break? Who knows?
    But it does give me a chance to say thanks for the completely unappreciated work you did as trainer for our football team. I don’t think I understood it then, but I see all the behind the scenes things guys like you continue to do even to this day. I saw them when my son was playing and I thought about you from time to time then.
    I’m glad to see you’ve been able to make a passion and a love your life’s work.
    Quick recap for me: I am currently an engineer for the Missile Defense Agency and my wife of 35 years and I live in Monument, Colorado. The first half of adulthood was spent as an Air Force officer with my last assignment at the Air Force Academy. I have 2 girls, 29 and 24 and a 21 year old son who’s a junior at the University of Arizona. I still love sports, too. I’m a season ticket holder for Air Force football and went to CU games while my daughter was going there when they were still competitive in football and not in basketball (and you could still get cheap seats ten minutes before tip off). I still follow KU, much easier in this age of a thousand Direct TV channels or online streaming, and I’m enjoying Arizona’s great season. They could go all the way.
    Good to talk to you, old friend. I’ll spend more time and enjoy this site. – Mark Anderson, THS 71

    • jeffjacobsen says:

      Mark, what a joy to hear from you. I am currently in Albuquerque for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship. Thank you for taking the time to fill me in on your life. You, your brothers and your father all have blessed me with your friendship and kindness over so many long years. It has been my honor for some years now to work for a week each July in Colorado Springs at the biggest and best sports photography workshop in the nation with a star-studded cast of photographers. I make a presentation at the Olympic Training Center during that week. I will keep you informed of dates with the possibility of you driving south to attend that night’s presentation. The Lord works in mysterious ways and somehow through this blog, well here we are. The very best to you and yours and the Lord’s blessings to all the Andersons.

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