— Dane Creek

Assignment and Editorial 3: Seattle at Night

I was looking forward to this assignment from the first day of class. The syllabus had dire warnings that we couldn’t miss this evening and that we had to bring all the necessary gear to shoot, process, and submit that evening. I figured we’d show up at class, find out what the assignment was, run out, get pictures, come back, and submit, all in one evening. Just like a real newspaper assignment.

I was mostly right. Turns out Matthew’s fiancée suggested he have some pity for us and tell us the assignment the night before, which he did. And then the next day class was cancelled due to snow, so we actually had a full week to think through what we were going to shoot.

The assignment: your newspaper editor has a hole to fill in the next day’s paper and wants to to go and get two photos that show people in Seattle at night. You can start shooting at 6pm, and have to submit your images by 11:30pm.

Awesome.

Even though I had the extra week to prepare I totally blew it and didn’t try to find places to shoot until the day of class. I found this part stressful because I wanted to be different. I guessed (mostly correctly) that many in the class would turn in photos of restaurant windows and people walking Capitol Hill. Those were the obvious locations, and I wanted the non-obvious.

Through a friend I arranged for access to a dive bar (just in case), and then started to see if I could come up with something better. I tried the Seattle Symphony and the Seattle Shakespeare Society, both of which had performances that evening, but since I was late getting in contact with them their responses didn’t get to me in time (in all fairness they were willing to work with me, just not on such short notice).

Finally, in desperation, I talked to some of my Storm contacts and got the name of the PR person for the UW Husky Women’s basketball team. He was kind enough to get me a press pass for that evening’s game so I was set: shoot the first half of the game to get one photo, then go to the dive bar for my second shot.

The basketball game was fun. It had been months since I shot a Storm game and it was great to get back in the groove and to see so many familiar faces. While shooting my goal was capture all the activity around the game, rather than trying to grab a game action shot. I came away with several candidate images, and in the end submitted with this one:

Holding his megaphone, Senior Shadain Akhauan cheers the University of Washington Husky Women during a basketball game in Seattle, WA, on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. The Huskies beat the Arizona Wildcats 77-48 and improved their record to 3-5. (Photo/Neil Enns).
Holding his megaphone, Senior Shadain Akhauan cheers the University of Washington Husky Women during a basketball game in Seattle, WA, on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. The Huskies beat the Arizona Wildcats 77-48 and improved their record to 3-5. (Photo/Neil Enns).

The photo provoked a heated debate in class. Several people felt it didn’t fit with the assignment criteria as it wasn’t obvious that it was taken “at night”. A few people also didn’t like how Shadain’s eyes were squinty. I don’t agree with the “at night” comments, but the squinty eyes are a little bothersome.

After shooting the game for a while I packed up to head out to the tavern, which honestly I wasn’t wild about. I was saved by two people playing tennis. Outside. In the dark. On a Husky tennis court. Awesome! I never did make it to the bar, because for the next hour I worked the scene trying to find a unique angle. When I found the angle I wanted it became waiting game, standing in the cold with my finger on the shutter for the moment to happen. Finally it did, and I had image number two:

Crashing the net, Vicky Tran, left, and Kevin Huynh, right, play tennis under the lights at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. The cousins say they were craving tennis after growing up playing the game daily in their hometown of Kent, WA. (Photo/Neil Enns).
Crashing the net, Vicky Tran, left, and Kevin Huynh, right, play tennis under the lights at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. The cousins say they were craving tennis after growing up playing the game daily in their hometown of Kent, WA. (Photo/Neil Enns).

This photo wound up being my second most successful image from the whole class (you haven’t seen the most successful one yet, it’s coming up in a few assignments). I also learned a valuable lesson shooting it: hide your damn camera bag! I’d left my camera bag on the ground next to the benches in the image, and about halfway through shooting realized it was in every shot looking out of place. I had to go down and hide it behind the garbage can. Good thing I caught that early, because I’d have been mighty disappointed if the above image had my bag in it!

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that we are allowed to submit a handful of alternate images for each assignment. Of the alternates I submitted for this assignment Matthew liked the following:

Dancing during a song, 14-year-old Caryln Beaudry, left, and 13-year-old Jubilee Cho, right, perform with the Whitman Middle School Grade 8 band during halftime at the University of Washington Husky Women's basketball game in Seattle, WA, on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. The Husky Women beat the Arizona Wildcats 77-48. (Photo/Neil Enns)
Dancing during a song, 14-year-old Caryln Beaudry, left, and 13-year-old Jubilee Cho, right, perform with the Whitman Middle School Grade 8 band during halftime at the University of Washington Husky Women’s basketball game in Seattle, WA, on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. The Husky Women beat the Arizona Wildcats 77-48. (Photo/Neil Enns)

In class the week after this assignment we took everyone’s “Seattle at Night” photos and, as a class, edited them down to a final set of 12. That was crazy fun and and prompted vigorous debate about several images. I’m proud to say that the photo of Caryln and Jubilee, as well as the tennis photo, made the final group of selects!