Sports

Portland Timbers by Londen Wheeler

I totally got to photograph my first professional sports game ever, y’all!!!! I couldn’t wait to finally cross that off of the list of things for me to accomplish as a photographer!  It was such a good time and with Portland being a city where they love their soccer, it made the experience that much better!  The crowd was rowdy, the teams played hard and I met a bunch of really cool people too. 

What really put the cherry on top was that the game was against FC Dallas!  It was like watching old home versus new home so that felt pretty good.  A couple months ago, I reached out to FC Dallas and asked if I could shoot a game or two but they denied my request because I don’t shoot for any publications.  After two months of being in Portland, I emailed the Timbers and asked if I could photograph their game against FC Dallas.  They happily accepted and allowed me to come and shoot. 

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When I got there, I do what I also do!  Get there early, walk around and network.  I ended up meeting Craig, the Timbers’ team photographer.  He was a pleasure to talk to and it was a true honor to meet him as I’ve been keeping my eye on his photos for years!  It was nice to finally put a face to the photos. 

A challenge that I faced was not having a 300mm lens to shoot the game (if anybody has $6k to spot me, that would be great!).  It was rough trying to shoot a soccer game with just a 70-200 because you miss a lot of the action because everything is just so far away.  Another challenge was missing a lot of the action because the ball would be played on the other side of the field and moving back and forth would’ve been way too much work.  It was almost like I was fishing.  Just waiting for the right moment to get a shot.  Occasionally I would move around but would still feel restricted by a 70-200 lens. 

The next professional game I want to photograph is a Portland Timbers game so maybe I’ll test the waters when basketball season rolls back around! 

SMU Men's Basketball vs Wichita State by Londen Wheeler

What a wild ride 2019 has been so far in terms of the opportunities that I’ve had with my photography.  I’m still trying to figure out what’s next on my journey as a photographer!  I don’t know what the rest of the journey will look like but it’s been pretty sweet thus far.  You won’t find a blog post from the second basketball game that I shot at SMU, mainly because I got caught up with doing some other stuff and didn’t have time to make a post.  So, you’ll get this one instead!

The game against Wichita State was one of the best games I’ve seen in a while.  The intensity that each team played with was beyond amazing. These guys were going at it in the first half and at one point, I was hoping that we could take the game into a double overtime, jump start my excitement for March Madness! Unfortunately, the double overtime didn’t happen but it was still a great game nonetheless.

One other cool fact about this game was that it was their senior night and the last home game of the season.  President Bush didn’t show up to the past two games so I’m really lucky that I got a few photographs of him while he was there… Well, he could’ve been there but just not courtside like he was when I saw him.  Who knows.  Anyway, the senior night was pretty cool.  It was a packed stadium, intensity was there, the crowd was excited and all four seniors got to start together.  Being an athlete my entire life, I know exactly what it feels like to be playing your last home game and feeling how you’ll never go back to play there again as an athlete.  Wild, right?

Well, that’s all for now! Stay tuned for more to come this month! Lots of things moving and manifesting right now and I’m super excited to see where things will go.  Also, if you don’t already, give me a follow on Instagram to stay in the loop with what’s going on when I’m not posting blogs!

SMU vs Cincinnati by Londen Wheeler

What’s up, guys! Can you believe that it’s almost November?!  I swear it feels like we started October yesterday.  It’s all good though because we’re getting closer to my favorite holiday… THANKSGIVING!!!! Anybody else a big fan of doing nothing but eating and sleeping your life away?

So about two weeks ago, I applied for a photo credential on Southern Methodist University’s website. They messaged me and asked who I was shooting for and I told them that I was just shooting for my blog.  Per their policy, they only grant passes to people who are shooting for a media outlet.  Well, they messaged me back earlier this week and told me that they made an exception and that they will let me photograph their game against Cincinnati!  Super stoked?  Heck yeah!

I do remember when JMU came down back in 2015 to play SMU during their homecoming.  It was the first time I had ever heard of SMU but JMU came and managed to beat them in an upset!  Ever since JMU came to play them, I’ve been wanting to go to SMU for a game and check them out.  I must say that the school has amazing facilities!  I always drive past the football stadium but I never stopped to check it out.  Now that I’ve seen the stadium, I want to go walking around campus and see what else it has to offer.  Seems like a pretty cool school to be.

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The best part about this entire experience was meeting one of the photographers who has been a Staff Photographer at the Dallas Morning News since 1989.  Steve is one of the photographers whose photos are always running through the DMN and I have always wanted to meet him and some of the other photographers.  Steve was so cool and talked to me for a few minutes about his career with DMN.  Right before the game started, I asked if he would take a selfie with me because he was one of the photographers who I look up to! So, we took our selfie, got ready for the game, and he told me that I have a great career ahead of me.  Talk about filled with joy.  It meant a lot to hear that from someone who has been in the field longer than I’ve been alive.

Moving to Dallas and making the connections that I’ve made so far is truly amazing.  I am forever grateful for the connections that I make and people that I meet.  One of these days, I’ll get my breakthrough and when I do, y’all will be the first to know! 

New Year, Same Start by Londen Wheeler

Happy New Year, everyone!  Man, I tell ya.  What a start to the New Year!  This year started off exactly like it did last year.  James Madison University (JMU) came down to compete in this year's NCAA DI FCS Football Championship game against North Dakota State University (NDSU).  But before I talk about this crazy game, let's talk about an event that transpired the day before the game!

My good friend, Scott came down to photograph the game so you know we had to get together and hit the road.  Thursday night, Scott asked me if I wanted to go to Waco and visit Magnolia.  You know Magnolia!  The Magnolia from HGTV?  Yes, Magnolia!  I had no idea what Magnolia was and HGTV wasn't my first choice when it comes to watching tv.  I happily agreed to take the trip down since I have never been to this Magnolia.  Come to find out, last year when I photographed JMU softball at Baylor, I stayed in a hotel right down the street from Magnolia and still had no idea where or what it was.  Seeing this place was pretty neat.  I posted to my Snapchat and within 2 minutes of posting, I had several friends send me a message saying how jealous they were of me being there. 

Scott and I walked around the store so that he could pick up something for his wife and while we did that, I was taking in the ambience of this place.  It was certainly a place I would want to visit the next time I go to Baylor.  Maybe even take a friend or two and do a photoshoot there?

So Saturday was the big day and probably one of the most exciting events to add to my list of crazy things to happen in 2018.  JMU, looking for a back-to-back win, while NDSU was fighting to reclaim their title.  A nail-biting game to say the least.  I was shooting and trying to keep my emotion out of the game but could find myself actually getting stressed at almost every point in the game.  I didn't go to JMU, never taken a class there, but I am a self-proclaimed, die-hard JMU Dukes fan!  Don't @ me.

Ok, so not only was the game super exciting to shoot, I also got to photograph Terrell Owens!  Like, the Terrell Owens.  You know, T.O.  It was a pretty good day, other than the loss.  Lots of excitement, lots of photos, and even getting to spend some time with the FCS's best photo team!  Big thanks to Cathy for getting the squad back together for another year of photos, laughs, and love.

NCAA DI Softball Regionals at Baylor University by Londen Wheeler

People still can't spell my name right, guys! 

People still can't spell my name right, guys! 

It's funny how I ended up in Waco for four days, especially because I never really expected to be shooting any sports any time soon.  This past Monday, I got into work pretty early, like 5:30 am early, and my coworker who sits behind me asked if I had any photography gigs this weekend.  There weren't any Instameets going on and I didn't have any portrait sessions so it was an unusual, "no."  Literally an hour later, I get a text from my former internship supervisor asking if I had any plans this weekend.  I told her no and that I was just going to chill and probably hang with some friends.  Which then sprung up her next question...  "How far do you live from Waco?"  My response was roughly two hours depending on traffic because anyone who lives in Texas knows that if you take I35, be prepared to plan your day accordingly.  She then asked if I was interested in shooting the NCAA Division I Softball Regionals at Baylor University.  Being that I was upset that I would miss another Regional with JMU, and after finding out that they weren't hosting this year, I sprung up and said, "when, where, and how long do I need to be there?!"  She told me the weekend game plan and I told her that I was in after talking with my manager and getting approval to go.  Before you know it, I was heading down to Waco with a car full of camera gear, bumping my Spanish worship playlist on Spotify and catching minor cases of road rage.

Caught texting on ESPN in between innings! - Photo courtesy of Scott Eyre

Caught texting on ESPN in between innings! - Photo courtesy of Scott Eyre

Once I got there, I was feeling pretty nostalgic to be traveling with a JMU sports team again and seeing all of the familiar and friendly faces from Harrisonburg, Va.  I also got to meet the extremely talented Director of Video, Clayton.  It was awesome to watch him work and create the videos that he does for the athletics department.  I also got to see my friend, Curt Dudley, the voice of JMU athletics and I met Ty, one of the team administrators.  We had some great conversations and got to know each other in the little bit of time that we had in Waco.

So, I'm just going to share some of my photos from the games, which is the whole reason behind this post.  Also, check out this photo that my friend, Scott took of me on ESPN!

Thursday - Practice at Baylor University

The ambitious Dukes take the field at Getterman Stadium to get some practice in.  The weather from Dallas to Waco is very different.  The humidity in Waco was enough to take your breath away and before I knew it, I was sweating profusely and feeling dehydrated.  Other than that, it was nice to get back on the field to get some shots after not shooting any real sports since January when JMU's football team won the national championship in Frisco.

Friday - JMU vs. Oregon State University

Ok, so nobody ask me how I was able to get Coach Dean to give me a thumbs up but I sat there for a good five minutes waiting for him to do something.  As a result, this is what he did.  Can't complain because the shot was totally worth it and if you know Coach Dean, I'm sure it is meme worthy because someone like him has to have a ton of funny phrases that would be perfect for memes.  The Dukes had a great first game against OSU and it was tough at first to get my eyes back into seeing action again.  Everything was moving way faster than what I had practiced for earlier last week (See my Neighborhood Basketball post).

Saturday - jMU vs. Baylor University - Game 1

The Dukes went into this game ready to go and I was confident that we were going to get this dub and go home for the night.  We were up 2-1 going into the sixth inning, but Baylor had a heckuva hit and ended up with a three-run home run.  That homer gave Baylor a 4-2 lead over JMU.  Upset?  Yes, but the ladies responded in the next game against Kent State.  The rest of the tournament was on the line going into that game and in order to move on, we would have to beat Kent State.

Saturday - jmu vs. Kent State - Game 2

This was it.  The moment we were all waiting for.  If we won this game, we would move on and play Baylor again on Sunday.  This one wasn't a nail biter thankfully.  The ladies marched right by Kent State to go home for the night with a 4-0 win.  The media guys didn't leave the field until a little after 10 pm so we were pretty tired.  We went back to the hotel room, I plugged up my camera batteries to charge, took a shower, and knocked out before I could count 3 sheep.  It was a long day, especially in that Waco humidity having your energy and every ounce of water drained from your body.

Sunday - jmu vs. Baylor University (Again)

So, here we are.  The game that would decide if we go home or play Baylor for a third time to take him the Regional Championship two years in a row and advance to Super Regionals.  The day started off pretty chilly and I think that I was more nervous than the ladies were.  I was pacing and walking all over the stadium because I just wanted the game to start so we could get to this second game and decide the winner of the regional.  After the game started, things were going as they should.  Both teams were giving it their all and only time would tell when the winner would be decided.  While trying to intentionally walk the batter who hit the three-run homer on Saturday, JMU's pitcher threw a pitch that went left and Baylor's runner on third bass took the opportunity to slide into home plate and score a run.

Outside of that one point that was scored, neither team was able to get points from hits.  There were a lot of great plays being made in the outfield by both teams.  But just when we thought there was light at the end of the tunnel, a senior batter from JMU smacked a ball to center field!  I mean, it looked sooooo nice.  I thought to myself that this was going to be it, the home run that could get us out of the hole.  The ball fell just a few feet short of going over the back wall and was caught by Baylor's center fielder who wasn't letting a single ball touch the green the entire game.  Defeated?  For now, yes.  But there's no doubt in my mind that these ladies will be just as great next year.  I see them being twice as successful as they have been the past few years.  I'm ready to see this team make it to the Women's College World Series!  It's only a matter of time now, ladies.  Let's do this!

I want to send a super huge shoutout to JMU athletics for allowing me to photograph this tournament.  It is always an honor to be apart of this amazing program, surrounded by amazing players, coaches, and staff.  You all made the experience a million times better and I am truly grateful for all that you have done for me.  Can't wait to see you all again!

To see more content from this weekend and to follow JMU athletics, visit their web site.  Click the link under the photo.