Nothing more to see: Documenting a loss
Shooting basketball is easy. More correctly, it's pretty easy when compared to photographing a heartbroken student-athlete with his face buried in a towel, still crying 20 minutes after a loss to a less-established opponent.
In cases like Saturday's 69-67 defeat to Northern Iowa, the only photos that dutifully speak to the gravity of the loss are one's of utter dejection. It's only on the rarest of occasions that these are not the final photographs I or other photographers make of some of the most storied basketball programs at the end of their tournament runs. The only real exception, when you consider a team with high expectations like Kansas, are those that come after an NCAA championship win.
Shortly after the buzzer had sounded, coworker Mike Yoder and I made some photos of players looking despondent on the bench, walking slowly from the court and helping each other off the floor.
We then made our way back to the media work area to send a few photos before heading toward the Jayhawks' locker room. When we arrived a large cluster of media members had already gathered outside, waiting to be let in to interview the dethroned number one overall seed. NCAA policy after tournament games allows for a "cooling off" period; 10 minutes for the winning team and 15 for the losing team before media members are allowed into the locker room for interviews.
I've never heard of or met a photographer who lives for these bummed-out locker room situations because frankly, they can be pretty awkward. You're literally in there, photographing these players at their lowest point and the idea is to respectfully document and communicate a representation of the sadness shared by the players, staff and thousands of fans. However, I'm not sure the compassion behind these photographs is immediately apparent to the players when we're in there.
What typically happens is that most of the television cameras will huddle around the high profile players. It's not to single any particular player out or to rest the blame squarely on anyone's shoulders but rather to get a word from the team's leaders. In this case it was Sherron Collins and eventually Cole Aldrich after he returned from the press conference. Around the outskirts of all the attention is the rest of the team and this is where most still photographers try to work. Slowly but efficiently, and without a hint of eagerness is usually the best approach, I've found.
Plenty of hours can be spent fretting over shutter speeds, apertures, lenses, remote cameras or any other devices employed to capture athletes, but it's always the photographs of the athletes who are motionless, sitting along by a locker that are the most difficult to take.