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Videographer risks life and limb to capture Friday night football action

By BY FRANK TILLEY - FTILLEY@VICAD.COM
Sept. 15, 2011 at 4:15 a.m.

Before the hit: Kyla Appelt, left, a student photographer from Hallettsville High School, steps back to avoid being hit during a game in Hallettsville.  Todd Krainin, photo/video editor for the Victoria Advocate, in the green T-shirt, stands his ground, while shooting video, right before being knocked down by a Yoakum defensive player.

In Texas, there are seemingly only two seasons, hot and not as hot.

But there actually is a third - football season. There is a certain electricity in the air, which I'm sure is the collective sighs of fans who can finally begin to think that perhaps cooler weather is returning soon.

Week after week, activity along the sidelines and the field is captured by photographers and videographers from area newspapers, TV stations, freelance shooters and high school students learning journalism.

And sometimes they capture each other working and getting creamed by the players, as shown in this photo above.

Week one and Facebook was already buzzing with stories of young inexperienced shooters stepping in front of the pack, effectively blocking their view and any opportunity at getting any shot much less, the shot.

I can tell you first hand, there is a lot of bad karma whenever a fine member of our profession steps out five yards onto the field right in front of you as your lens blurs out of focus, just as the receiver catches the ball near the sidelines.

Forget you, I take up a defensible position near the end zone where I only have to deal with one game official or zebra as we lovingly refer to them.

Last week, Yoakum and Hallettsville took to the field, and we were there.

During the second half, the line of scrimmage was near mid-field, and about seven yards was needed for a first down, so the offense ran a pass play. The ball was snapped, and the quarterback rolled to his right, looking for an open receiver. Both players, receiver and linebacker, fought for the ball hurled near the sideline.

As I directed my lens to the forward movement, I prayed that I just get the shot in focus. Like a blur, the players charged the sideline, and this was where things got interesting because it was head-for-the-hills time.

Hours later when I scanned my images, I spotted one frame that really told a story.

The most experienced photographer in the group - Dean Keebler - was already moving several feet out of harm's way, while youngest shooter Kyla Appelt, a junior at Hallettsville High School, was posturing like a deer in the headlights, frozen and waiting for the smack down.

"I was scared and didn't have time to think or move away," she said.

The luckiest shooter in the group was Advocate Photo/Video Editor Todd Krainin, who was using an iPhone to shoot "Almost Live" video.

"Almost Live" video is shot by our videographers at football games and uploaded to our website seconds after the play. This enables our website viewers to see the action in as close to real time as we can deliver it.

Todd was either the most dedicated photographer sacrificing life and limb for the shot, or just plain oblivious to the stampede headed his way.

As it turned out, no one was injured in the making of this photo. Because of the long focal length of my 300 mm lens, the player appears on top of the group, but actually passed just in front of the crowd. This time, everyone was safe, but the potential for injury is always present.

Friday night's game was Kyla's first football assignment.

I asked her what was running through her mind as she followed the players across the field with her telephoto lens and the players got closer and closer.

"I'm gonna die," she quickly responded.

I've been knocked down just three times in 36 years. Twice, I never saw it coming, which by the way is the best way to get hit. Only once did I actually watch and try to shoot the approaching train and believe me, once is all it takes.

Like Pavlov's dog, whenever I hear the sound of that train whistle, my learned behavior kicks in and I back up and forget all about getting the shot.

There will be other opportunities and more games, but God only gives you one body, so be alert, expect to get taken out at least once or twice and hope for the best.

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