Choosing is the Hardest Part
I don’t know my final shot total from the tournament, but it has to be up there. I spent a lot of time out at the Purdue Soccer Complex shooting the seven games of the tournament. On day one I thought that I had ten images worthy of being on this list. It was a day of great games with a lot of emotion. Little did I know that the emotion would just keep building. I think that I have said it before, but I will say it one more time. I had a great time making images during the tournament. As I walked away last Sunday I was a little sad that it was over. There is something to be said about pouring everything that you have into a few games in a row. You also get to see the teams up close, and you see what it means to them. It was very interesting to stand at midfield after each game. You would have one team celebrating that they were moving on, while the other team deals with the fact that their season is over. Some careers ended on the field, and that cannot be easy. A long time ago my athletic career ended, and I still remember that feeling. With all of the upsets Wednesday though you knew that the kids went out with at least one last big win under their belt. The hard part about covering college sports is the fact that I see many careers end. The thing that you can take out of that though is that those athletes now go out into the world to help make it better.
The Top Ten
I will not even try to put these photos in any kind of order. I think that the best way to do it is to just post the chronologically as they were made. It was hard enough weeding the top ten down let alone ranking those. These may not even be the top ten best images that I made, but they are the ten that have stuck with me this week. I tried to get away from them for a bit to see if they still spoke to me. I had twelve in the folder, and a little time away made it easy to eliminate the final two.
Michelle Manning may have made the goal of the tournament. There were eight goals scored in the seven games including a double overtime goal to win the entire thing. The goal by Michelle on day one of the tournament though is the one that sent the top seed Penn State Nittany Lions home, and paved the way for the biggest underdog to move on. I have a photo of the goal, but I loved the embrace after it. In soccer the initial celebration is often the best. The first couple of players to get to the scorer make the best photo for the most part. That was the case here.
The second photo is from that second game yet again. Actually it is from the post game celebration. I was having some fun making some photos of the girls celebrating the win, and I moved over a bit to get the celebrating parents in the bokeh. That is when the team put Michelle Manning up over them to honor her. It was a brief moment, but I was in a great spot to make this photo. I was very lucky to be standing where I was, and I am happy with how the photo turned out.
The first day of the tournament was full of great light. The first two and a half games were played in a great golden light that you only get this time of the year. The sun never made it very high in the sky to cast the harsh shadows on the players. As it went down the show just got better. For some reason I really have enjoyed this photo of Kinley McNicoll bringing the ball up the field. Her airplane pose that was also mimicked by the Illni defender just struck me for some reason. Kinley would go on to score the championship goal as the second overtime of the title game was almost over.
As the light faded Wednesday of course a brilliant sunset occurred. I wanted to put a player in front of that sunset, and Wisconsin goalie Genevieve Richard was in the right place at the right time. At the time I did not know that she was the Big Ten goalie of the year. That just seems even more fitting now that I know that. Big Ten Gen as her teammates called her never gave up a goal during the three games she was in between the pipes. Not a bad tournament, and she received the defensive player of the tournament award.
Shortly after making the above photo of Genevieve I made this photo of the field as the sun set. The Purdue Soccer Complex is placed in a perfect position to have the sunset in the background of a photo like this one. You get the press box, the field, and the sunset all in front of you. I have made a few sunset photos at the complex, but this is my favorite one. This is a three shot HDR image that I made in Photomatix. I used the program to choose just the one image of the players that I wanted for this photo. This eliminated ghosting, and made the photo for me.
The first game of the second day of the tournament involved Iowa and Northwestern. Both teams won in upset fashion Wednesday, but one of them had to go home Friday. For some reason when I saw this photo I loved it. I think that the Iowa player looks so graceful as she sends a ball downfield. You also have the scoreboard and field in the background.
This photo was from the same game as the photo above. I made many photos of headers during the week, but this was the one that I liked the most. You see the fight that goes on during every header, and I had some good timing here as well. This was also in some great light so I had to include it on this list.
The second game on Friday was between eventual tournament winner Wisconsin and Minnesota. During that game I made many images that I liked in the first half. That allowed me to risk a little more during the second half. I just had to have around twenty images from each match so knowing that I just needed a couple in the second half made me a little braver. I went to midfield, and I shot with the 300mm on the 7D Mark II. That gives me the equivalent of a 480mm lens on the end of my camera. I went there with the idea of getting a great header shot that was very tight. What I got was this shot that might just be my favorite action shot of the tournament.
The final two images were taken during the Wisconsin celebration. As a photographer I live to capture moments. You spend the whole match waiting for moments, and then when it was over I was flooded with those moments. Actually it was worse than that. There was constantly something going on that would make an awesome photo. This was one that I saw and made it just before it was gone. I won’t lie. I missed many moments after the game. I got this one though, and it was great to me. The sheer joy of the players as they went through the championship process was amazing. I wanted to capture as much of that as I could. This championship selfie was one of those moments. I could have had the whole group in the shot, but on the spot I made the decision to get in tight to see the faces of those in the shot. I think that I made the right decision.
The final photo of the countdown was made a few moments later. Wisconsin player Rose Lavelle called her dog onto the field. From what I gathered her dog had never seen her lose. She sat down to pose with the dog when of course the dog stole the show. Yet again this was a fleeting moment that I was very happy to capture.
I hope that you have enjoyed this look at my favorite photos of the tournament. It really is an impossible task to pick ten photos from the seven games. I made an Exposure page for the tournament for just this reason. It allows me to show many more photos from each game in one large photo story. You can find that page here. The tournament is moving away from this format so I will not be able to have this much fun again.