After the Nike Tournament of Champions and two months chock full of terrific hoops in NYC, I had the opportunity to cap my summer with the FIBA Americas Championship in Venezuela.
The greatest players in the western hemisphere suited up for their respective countries in a battle for a bid to the 2014 World Cup in Spain. Jamaica joined the competition for its first time ever and Mexico joined the party late.
While Jamaica did not make it to the final four, thus they did not qualify for the World Cup next year, they did open some eyes with huge victories over Brazil and Argentina.
Mexico, who I heard did not have a team as recently as about two months prior to the tournament, replaced Panama and went on to not only qualify for the World Cup, but to win the whole thing. Gustavo Ayon, Mexico's star center, earned MVP for his efforts.
17-year-old Karl Towns of the Dominican Republic was impressive. The prodigious big man saw limited action, but held his own against star forwards and centers like Luis Scola from Argentina and Joel Anthony of Canada (who happens to be on the heels of back-to-back titles with the Miami Heat in the NBA). The 7-1 teen will be joining the Kentucky Wildcats soon enough with the experience of two tours of the FIBA Americas Championships under his belt.
I felt like a kid in a candy store shooting the games. With four games per day and little down time in between, the pressure was on, but I had a blast doing it.
I was able to set up remote cameras at the back of the baskets, behind the backboards, and on the catwalk above the court to cover the game from different angles. Each day I arrived at the arena a couple hours before the first game to make sure my equipment was in place.
In addition to the action on the court, I was also shooting other branding pieces for some of the sponsors, so I had access to just about anywhere I wanted in the arena.
Because of the digital branded boards around three sides of the court, there weren't many low angles to shoot from. My favorite spot was beside the benches because that was where I was able to get my lowest angles. It wasn't always great there because assistant coaches, managers, trainers and other team personnel often blocked my shot, but nevertheless it was my favorite.
One of my challenges was mental fatigue and creative stamina. After about the twelfth game in three days, I think my brain had shut down on me as far as keeping things fresh. But, terrific action on the floor and getting to know other photographers from around the world helped rejuvenate me and keep me sharp.
One of the greatest perks of covering this tournament was meeting some truly amazing photographers from around the world. While there wasn't much time to really pick their brains, there was just enough to have some great conversations and pick up on some helpful tips and tricks.
Juan Solorzano from Venezuela was awesome. Not only is he a brilliant photographer who used to shoot for president Hugo Chávez before settling in as a sports photographer and videographer. I was admiring Juan's backboard setup where he used black foam and packing tape as a gobo to block out reflections from the baseline and other lights in the arena.
After our conversation about it, Juan was kind enough to hook me up with some foam, tell me how he cut a circle into his where he put his lens through, and with some packing tape to get mine up and running.
On a sidenote, my gobo was a terrible failure prior to that. I had brought some electrical tape that was black on both sides to tape down my homemade gobo (I had used some cinefoil and gaffers tape to put it together) and when I climbed up behind the backboard and tried to apply it, the tape simply would not stick. I couldn't figure out exactly why. Fortunately, Juan came to the rescue.
I had done this plenty of times before and never experienced a tape failure like I did in Venezuela. A learning experience indeed. First, after going crazy looking for tape that was black on both sides (it sounds easy, but I had a hard time finding it before I finally settled on some electrical tape) , I now know that clear packing tape works perfectly and, most importantly, effectively. So that will be going in my bag moving forward.
All in all, I had a blast, learned a few things, and met some great people along the way. I hope you enjoy some of my images from the tournament. I am considering some of them for my portfolio. Please feel free to let me know if you feel any of them are particularly strong so I can consider that as I make my selections.