All the way to State

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The Southeastern United States starts to simmer in July.

As shoulder pads are adjusted and helmet clips snap into place, the furnace of high school football is stoked. Flames flicker in August and September, and October brings a real light show against pink and orange skies. By the time schools reach the end of November, only a fraction of them remain in their regions’ playoff brackets. Those fortunate enough to make it to December can see the sparks of a championship jump in front of their faces.

The 13WMAZ staff gears up for high school football coverage every Friday night in the fall. We see teams get hot and fizzle out during the playoffs. Others dominate week in and week out. The special ones get better every week.

I traveled to Lamar County on Tuesday, to cover a team that not only improves each Friday – the Trojans have gotten better every year. A major reason for their newfound success is the man out in front. Dr. Franklin Stephens began coaching in Barnesville last season.

He is yet to lose a regular season game.

Stephens’ group aims to make history when it takes the Georgia Dome turf on Saturday. Last season’s semifinal finish was a school-best. With a win over Lovett County, Lamar will win the AA state championship.

It’s a real treat to watch a group of young men in our community grow into champions. Titles will be won and lost this weekend. When each class is settled, we’ll all reset and prepare for next season’s blaze.

Blessings

I wonder if thieves realize how much they actually steal.

In October, I was a victim of theft. On the rare occasion that I happened to leave my camera bag in the car, an opportunistic thief (or thieves) broke in and took everything. It isn’t fun to have things taken from you. I fired hundreds of thousands of frames on the cameras and lenses that I owned. Without them, I felt like a blacksmith who had lost his hammer and anvil.

All thieves need is a screwdriver to puncture your car door and unlatch the lock.

All thieves need is a screwdriver to puncture your car door and unlatch the lock.

I used those tools every day as a photojournalist in college. Luckily, as a video journalist and reporter in broadcast news, I no longer need them to make a living. I do need them to keep seeing and capturing the moments that define my life. When that thief (or thieves) took those items, they truly took an extension of how I process the world.

Thank the Lord for renter’s insurance.

My coverage allowed me to replace the cost of everything, but it still took nearly two months to secure paperwork and replace the items. As of a few days ago, I fully restocked my inventory.

Calling the insurance company, proving ownership, and purchasing everything back was trying. Several weeks of waiting made me patient. I leaned on the Truth that my identity is not secured in material items. I have a Father, family, and support system of many that mean much more than my personal passion to take photos and videos. Like 1 John 2:17 says, “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” Those words are encouraging, even when you’re talking about cameras and lenses. We may put stock in any number of things, whether it’s creative expression, athletics, or relationships. All of those things will end. A faithful life of service to God will never end. Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Even when the small (expensive) things that we own are taken from us, there is always room for a blessing. With or without the renter’s insurance, I gained an appreciation for how to see this world without a real camera in my hands. I was reduced to iPhone photography, which allows me to snap nice compositions, but doesn’t come close to the moment-capturing ability of a true SLR system.

I decided to use my coverage to purchase a Nikon d610. It’s a hefty camera for the moderately hefty price tag attached to it (there are more expensive ones out there, after all). You can check out its specs here. For a journalist looking for a quick shift between video documenting and still photojournalism, this body was the perfect replacement.

I’ve shot a high school football game in cloudy conditions, and a basketball game indoors. The d610 handled both environments admirably. Of course, I miss the rapid fire of seven frames per second that I got from my Nikon d300s. That’s just a minor gripe. If I’m missing a moment at 6 fps, I need more practice.

Mercer hoops. NIKON D610 1/640 f/4.0 @ 70mm, ISO 3200

I’m looking forward to pushing myself as a visual storyteller with my new gear. Of course, it’s not the “newness” that has me excited. I’m just glad to have equipment again.

As my friend Woody Marshall told me, in regards to making good photos, “It’s the archer, not the arrow,” that determines how good a shoot can be.

The most important camera care lesson I learned through all of this: Never leave your bow and arrows in the car.

Fire Truck Pull

Yesterday was just one of those days where i woke up and pulled a fire truck with my coworkers.

Wait, what?

The city of Warner Robins hosted a fire truck pull as part of a fund raiser for the Houston County Special Olympics. 13WMAZ was a sponsor of the event, so we were eager to show up and move a multi-ton vehicle.

We're about to pull this thing. #Team13 at the Houston Co. Annual Special Olympics fire truck pull @13wmaznews

A photo posted by wes blankenship (@wes_nship) on

The challenge was to pull the enormous engine 40 feet, and as fast as possible. In an event that took me back to tug-of-war at elementary school field day (thankfully, the truck didn’t pull back), our team was second only to a high school football team.

I’m convinced that if our station installs a weight room, our staff will take those kids next year. We are all at least slightly* past our high school glory days of fitness.

Pull times and pulled muscles aside, this was a great event that I was glad to support. I am especially proud that WMAZ was not only a sponsor, but an active participant as well.

“Straight from the heart” has been our station’s slogan for the past 30 years. It’s a play on words that emphasizes how we work to serve the heart of Georgia with empathy and care.

We serve as journalists every day. Some days, we get to serve by picking up a rope, and pulling a big red truck.

*extremely

Downtime

Every day in a newsroom involves meeting a deadline.

Sometimes I have to shoot, edit, and write multiple assignments by one deadline. If I’m lucky, I’ll have my assignments spread out for the 5 o’clock broadcast and the 6 o’clock broadcast, which eases the burden. Days when I have any semblance of downtime longer than a few minutes are rare.

I had one of these rare days last week, and took photos of things around the station where I work.

Some spare time (far less precious than downtime) gave me a chance to play around with photoshop. Which led to these oddities.

I love my job, but taking time to shoot for myself is a must. Downtime is regenerative. Not only does it help me wind down from the pressure of deadlines, it sharpens my creativity as well.