How to photograph a college football game in seventy-six easy steps

September 21, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 21, 2013

Step 1. Have your sibling give you a birthday present of tickets to watch Stanford football play at Army on Sept. 14, 2013. This is a game you’ve been awaiting for years because of the nature of college football intersectional scheduling (and also because you live on the East Coast and your alma mater, Stanford, is in California).

Step 2. Put off asking someone to accompany you to the Stanford-Army game. Repeat for weeks and weeks and weeks.

Step 3. At not quite the last minute (six days before kickoff), ask your pal “Jay” to accompany you to the Stanford-Army game.

Step 4. At not quite the last minute (the night before the game), print out your e-tickets to the game and purchase a parking pass.

Step 5. At not quite the last minute (shortly before leaving the house to pick up Jay and go to the game), ask to borrow your parent’s Samsung compact digital camera with the excellent zoom.

Step 6. Pick up Jay outside his home shortly after 9:30 a.m. on game day.

Step 7. Thoughtlessly proceed to take perhaps the worst possible route between Jay’s home and the highway you plan to take to West Point. Not only is the route circuitous, it passes through a number of Orthodox Jewish and/or Hasidic Jewish communities. And not only does the circuitous route pass through a number of Orthodox Jewish and/or Hasidic Jewish communities, this happens to be Saturday, the sabbath day, when truly observant Jews refuse to use automobiles and instead walk everywhere. And not only does the circuitous route pass through a number of Orthodox and/or Hasidic Jewish communities on Saturday, this particular day happens to be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest of Jewish holidays, which means that there are lots of people walking. And not only are there lots of pedestrians, a noticeable number of them are walking not on the available sidewalks but beside them. And not only are some of these people walking on the street, instead of watching where they’re going, some of them are reading (presumably) prayer books as they go.

Step 8. Because Jay hasn’t had breakfast, search for a bagel place to patronize. Because neither of you are particularly familiar with the area where you are, this involves nearly turning into a strip mall that lacks a bagel place; actually turning into a strip mall that doesn’t have a bagel place but is immediately adjacent to a strip mall with a bagel place; and turning, finally, into a strip mall with a bagel place.

Step 9. Drive toward West Point, N.Y.

Step 10. Bypass the first turnoff for West Point because it’s clogged with traffic.

Step 11. Bypass the second turnoff for West Point because it won’t lead to a lot where you can use your parking pass. Also, it’s clogged with traffic.

Step 12. Take the third and final turnoff for West Point. Patiently wait in traffic on side roads winding around the perimeter of the U.S. Military Academy campus.

Step 13. Arrive on campus. Exchange parking pass for a different parking pass.

Step 14. Slowly proceed through campus until you arrive at a lot where your parking pass is valid. Park car.

Step 15. Ask a parking lot attendant where the visitor center is. He doesn’t know.

Step 16. Wander around the immediate vicinity, which happens to include the Plain, the academy’s parade grounds. Take pictures of the statue of former general and later president Dwight D. Eisenhower. Take pictures of helicopters positioned around the field and of the nearby Constitution Corner.

Step 17. Ask a soldier for directions to Michie Stadium. Follow those directions to the base of a steep staircase.

Step 18. Start going up the steps. Pause for Jay, who is struggling with the stairs.

Step 19. See cadets carrying an oversized picture of someone’s face. Wonder aloud who it is. Hear a passing cadet say, “Sir, it’s our starting quarterback.” Thank the passing cadet.

Step 20. Pause again in your ascent as Jay catches his breath.

Step 21. Arrive within view of Lusk Reservoir and Michie Stadium. Take pictures.

Step 22. Enter stadium. Take picture of two cadets holding a sign that says, “One does not simply resist Bacon,” a twin allusion to a line from “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” and an Army safety Geoffery Bacon.

Step 23. Wander around “Black Knights Alley” on the strip of land between Michie Stadium and the reservoir.

Step 24. Enter stadium. Ask Jay to take a picture of you standing beside a large Army Black Knights logo on the wall.

Step 25. Take seats in Row G, near the field.

Step 26. Invite Jay to climb to the top of the stands to take in the view. He declines.

Step 27. Climb to the top of the stands and discover, to your disappointment, that you can’t see beyond the nearby ridge to the hills on the other side of the Hudson River. (They are visible from the top of the stands on the far side of the field, which rise to a much greater height.)

Step 28. Enjoy the view, which is pretty swell. Take some pictures.

Step 29. Take video of the parachutists who descend to the field from a helicopter flying several thousand feet in the sky.

Step 30. Take video of the Army and Stanford football teams entering the field.

Step 31. During the game, which turns out to be a 14-point Stanford win, take several pictures of formations and game action.

Step 32. After the game, take pictures of three women wearing special “Got juice?” T-shirts honoring Stanford wide receiver Devon Cajuste, a native of Long Island, N.Y.

Step 33. Exit Michie Stadium. Descend halfway down from the ridge to the historic and beautiful Cadet Chapel, which overlooks the Plain.

Step 34. Take several pictures of the Cadet Chapel.

Step 35. Walk the rest of the way down the hill.

Step 36. Proceed to the parking lot atop Thayer Hall, which affords a lovely view of the Hudson River.

Step 37. Admire the view. Take pictures of the scenery.

Step 38. Return to car, taking pictures along the way.

Step 39. After arriving at car, hastily juggle keys and camera as you unlock the driver-side door with the remote fob and the passenger-side door (from inside the car) by hand, because the automatic mechanism in that door is broken.

Step 40. Drive slowly off campus. Although the game has been over for an hour or so, traffic moves slowly.

Step 41. Pass through the downtown of Highland Falls and arrive at Route 9W.

Step 42. Accelerate on Route 9W. Finally, some speed!

Step 43. Have dinner with Jay and his family.

Step 44. Go to a bar to watch some more college football.

Step 45. Return to childhood home.

Step 46. Walk family dog. Just before re-entering the house, root in vain through the car’s back seat in the dark, trying to find the Samsung compact digital camera.

Step 47. When parent asks, “Where’s my camera?,” reply, “It’s in the car.”

Step 48. On Sunday, look for the camera in your car in the daylight. Fail to find it either in or around the back seat or in the glove compartment.

Step 49. Recall that when you got back to the car Saturday afternoon, you may have put the camera down on the roof while trying to pull out your keys and unlock both front doors.

Step 50. Realize that the camera probably fell off the roof sometime during the drive home. Picture some upright young cadet running across the camera and turning it in to the campus lost-and-found office.

Step 51. Over brunch, confess to your parent that you lost the camera. Take some good-natured (yet at the same time bitter) ribbing.

Step 52. Tell your parent that you believe there is a fairly high probability that the camera was found by an upright young cadet and turned into the campus lost-and-found office.

Step 53. On Monday morning, defer plans to call West Point’s lost and found because the Washington Navy Yard mass shooting means that authorities at the school probably have other things on their minds.

Step 54. Get around to calling West Point late in the afternoon, after the Navy Yard killings have come to an end. Leave a voice-mail message.

Step 55. On Tuesday morning, make some more calls seeking the camera. Everything turns up negative.

Step 56. Tell the parent that the camera seems to be gone for good.

Step 57. Within heartbeats of Step 56, flash on a memory of hastily dropping the camera into a pocket in the driver-side door.

Step 58. Walk outside of the house to the car.

Step 59. Open driver-side door and see immediately that it is completely empty.

Step 60. Sit down behind the wheel and check the glove compartment, which (still!) does not contain the camera.

Step 61. Look beneath the seats. Fail to find the camera.

Step 62. Open the storage compartment between the front seats. This happens to be where you left the camera Saturday while you were trying to open the door for Jay.

Step 63. Find camera. Rejoice!

Step 64. Tell your parent that the camera was (as you suggested Saturday night) in your car all along.

Step 65. Listen to parent say, “I guess it was a good thing no one turned in a camera.”

Step 66. Import photos and videos from the camera’s memory card.

Step 67. Spend about an hour labeling and captioning a variety of photos, including about 250 taken on game day.

Step 68. Watch iPhoto crash.

Step 69. Think to yourself, “Oh lord. This has happened to me before, hasn’t it? I bet all those captions weren’t saved. I should have quit iPhoto to make sure that information was saved. I didn’t quit iPhoto to make sure it was saved. I bet all those captions are lost…”

Step 70. Reopen iPhoto.

Step 71. Find that while all of the photo names have been saved, none of the captions were.

Step 72. Notice that some of the photos have been mucked up so that their thumbnails are displayed with the wrong orientation.

Step 73. Attempt to correct the thumbnails’ orientation, only to find that this screws up the photos when they are displayed at full size.

Step 74. Feel like tearing out hair.

Step 75. Sigh disconsolately.

Step 76. Blog about it.


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