Authors: Michelle Pennington
True Images Series
By Michelle Pennington
Who knew a gate could cause so many problems?
Finding it wasn’t hard since dozens of people went through it every football game - coaches, cheerleaders, drum majors, referees.
never gone through it before, so I didn’t have a clue how to open the latch.
As if I didn’t feel awkward enough with being nervous and carrying all my equipment, I had to fight with the stupid thing for like five minutes before I figured it out. It was like fate was trying to keep me from getting out onto the football field. Well, fate or my own incompetence.
With the gate finally open, I took a deep breath and prayed no one was watching. Then I took the next step that would begin this new adventure. But the gate wasn’t done with me yet.
A metallic whine was my only warning before the gate struck, knocking me forward. But did I go sprawling into the turf? Oh no. My camera strap had gotten caught in the latch, so I was yanked backwards with a sharp jerk on my shoulder. I lost my dignity then, kicking at the gate as I tried to remember how to open the dumb latch. It was then I saw the enormous spring on the gate that pulled it shut. No wonder it had hit me so hard.
When I was finally free, I readjusted my grip on my equipment, and turned to find a good place to set up. As I walked, Mr. Greeley’s lecture played in my head. He had warned me about everything else when I’d agreed to take pictures at the game tonight.
“Don’t get in the way of the players, the coaches, or the cheerleaders. Don’t leave your stuff lying around to get broken or stolen. Most importantly, don’t lose track of where the play is headed because when you’re looking through your lens, your depth perception is off and that’s a good way to get run over.”
But he hadn’t said anything to warn me about the gate.
I still couldn’t believe he trusted me to do this for him. I mean, it was pretty crazy that he was letting one of his students cover football. True, I was a senior and knew my way around a camera, but this was a big job.
Of course, he didn’t really have much choice in the matter since he’d broken his leg in an ATV accident last weekend. When he’d asked me to do this, I’d jumped at the chance. Now that I had made such a fool of myself though, I wasn’t so sure I could handle this.
As I walked, I reassured myself that no one was paying attention to me. There was a huge crowd filling the bleachers, but I knew I would probably be invisible to most of them. After all, they came to watch the game, not me.
I skirted around the mass of football players who were all watching the coin toss out on the 50 yard line, and set my stuff down against the fence. It only took me a minute to get my camera out and attach the lens I wanted. There was still good light, so I didn’t attach the flash yet, but I kept it handy because the sun was going down. I put my camera on the monopod Mr. Greeley had loaned me and was ready to go.
The announcer called out that Haskins High School would be receiving, so I moved towards our end of the field. As I did so, my eyes were caught by the beauty of the scene in front of me. The sun was setting behind the opposite bleachers. Beneath it, the painted white lines stood out in sharp contrast to the green grass of the field, made vibrant by the orange glow of the dying sun.
Moving quickly, I set my shutter speed and exposure to take advantage of the golden light. Capturing the beauty in front of me was an instinct, but as I snapped a few shots, I wondered how many of the fans in the crowded bleachers behind me even noticed how beautiful the evening was.
I sighed and readjusted the settings on my camera for the quick action of football and forced myself to focus. I walked to the edge of the sideline and got ready to follow the game.
As the kicker settled the ball into the kicking tee, the hum of anticipation was as thick in the air as the humidity. Football may be considered a fall sport, but in these parts, the beginning of September still sweltered with summer heat.
Even with the sun going down and the air growing cooler, I knew better than to expect any relief. It hadn’t affected the turnout though. This was the first game of the season and the whole town had come out to see the expected victory.
Coach Hatfield claimed this was the best group of athletes our school had ever seen. They were all big, strong, and insanely fast. They had already gotten a lot of media coverage around the state, so the pressure was on tonight. One thing that Coach Hatfield did well, though, was handle pressure.
There was a reason he had won the state championship two years in a row. With this year’s team, he shouldn’t have any problems winning another state title and ensuring his status as the town hero. In Haskins, Oklahoma, nothing was more important than football.
I was standing close enough to the players to smell the sweat that was already making dark patches on their new uniforms. I’d never been this close to a football team in full pads before. I felt like some kind of a midget standing next to them. It was more than a little intimidating to imagine what it would feel like to be run over by one of them.
As the two teams were lining up and waiting for the ref’s whistle, I glanced over at the quarterback. He was standing in a beam of light from the setting sun with his helmet off. His blond hair was plastered to the back of his neck, and he was repeatedly clenching the fingers on his right hand as he prepared to take the field after kickoff. His jaw was tense and he leaned forward as if anxious to get out there.
Before I’d made a conscious decision to do so, my camera was focused on him. My finger snapped a series of photos, capturing his intense expressions. His eyes followed the football as it was kicked, spinning high in the air, but his mind had already moved on to the next play.
This was why I loved candid photography. For me, it was a rush to capture the fleeting but revealing emotions of the people around me.
“Hey, Sienna!” someone called out, interrupting the happy buzz that always came when I knew I’d gotten a good shot.
I almost groaned, but somehow I managed to keep my expression neutral as I turned towards the cheerleaders. Jordan Rubio was beckoning to me with her gold pompoms. “Come take our picture,” she called. She smiled, but her friendly expression was as
as her tan.
Everything about Jordan rubbed me the wrong way - from the blond curls of her perfect ponytail to the white tips of her French manicure. Most people thought she was all sweet smiles and honey words, but I knew better.
I approached her hesitantly. “Don’t you need to be cheering or something?”
“We have time.
Katie shrugged, not really interested. Jordan was the captain, but it didn’t surprise me that she turned to Katie for approval. Katie was probably the only one paying attention to the game.
Jordan grabbed the cheerleader standing closest to her, which happened to be Brittany Steele, and put an arm around her waist. Seeing that the easiest course out of this situation would be to just get it over with, I took the picture.
I turned away, but Jordan called me back. “Take one more. I think my eyes were shut.”
“Look, I’m supposed to be covering the game.”
Jordan’s eyes glinted. “I saw the way you were covering it. Do you have the hots for Tyson or something?”
Refusing to get into it with her, I merely said, “Not at all. He’s not my type.”
“Whatever! I can tell. Hey, Brittany, did you know Sienna is crushing on Tyson?”
A few of the other cheerleaders were giggling, but Brittany laughed like it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. “Why don’t you try liking someone you might actually have a chance with?” she asked.
I wanted to slap both of their mocking faces, but I couldn’t. I bit my tongue and refused to say anything because it would just cause problems. Why did everyone think these girls were so perfect?
I felt someone watching me and turned to see an expression of pity and apology on Katie’s face before she turned back to the game. Feeling as if I had an ally, even a silent one, I looked Jordan straight in the eye and asked, “Why do you even care? Are you interested in him yourself?”
Jordan’s expression was the image of contempt.
When I can have any guy in this school?
I just felt bad for you when I saw you making a fool of yourself over him. A word of advice – don’t be so obvious. I know you don’t usually get to be this close to him, but you should at least wait till he’s passing the ball before you take his picture.”
“Look. I know how to do my job. Do you want another picture or not?” Playing it cool was always the best option with Jordan. She could ruin your social life faster than anyone at Haskins High.
Not that I
a social life to ruin.
Pleased with her victory, Jordan put her head close to Brittany’s and smiled. With their glossy lips, white teeth and gold pompoms, it was definitely a striking picture. Behind the camera, I rolled my eyes at them though. To most bystanders they would look like best friends, but I knew they weren’t. Brittany had stolen Jordan’s boyfriend over the summer.
I tried to escape from their fake, flashing smiles, but they both wanted me to play the picture back for them first. Showing people their pictures got really annoying and wasted a lot of time, so Mr. Greeley had a firm rule that we weren’t allowed to do it when we were shooting for the school. As usual, I was glad I could blame him for it.
“Sorry,” I told her. “I’m not allowed to.” As I turned away, however, Jordan called to me to make sure it made the school paper. I pretended not to hear as I went back to shooting the game.
When the second quarter was over, I took pictures of the halftime performances for a while, but since my stomach was as hollow as one of the bass drums being marched around out on the field, my heart wasn’t in it. I wished I’d grabbed something to eat at home because I hated waiting in line at concession stands. Maybe if I waited a while, the lines would die down.
I packed up my camera and laid my monopod safely next to the fence before texting my friend Marisol to see where she was. I’d ridden with her to the game so I knew she was here, but she only came for the social scene and rarely stayed in the bleachers. Sure enough, she responded that she was hanging out by the restrooms.
I went to find her and smiled when I saw her standing around with some of her teammates from the girls’ basketball team. She stuck out in the group in a flirty skirt and wedge sandals that almost made her as tall as the other girls. She was short for a basketball player, but what she lacked in size, she more than made up for in skill.
Marisol’s musical voice carried over the noise of the crowd, and it struck me how little we had in common. Marisol was like a brilliant color photograph, full of life and vibrancy. I was more of an underexposed picture, like someone forgot to turn on the flash. Most people didn’t even notice I was around unless I had a camera with me.
When she saw me coming, she ran to meet me. She moved so quickly, I didn’t see how she could possibly stop in time. I turned sharply to get my camera bag out of the way before she plowed into me, but she came to a graceful stop a few inches away. Her dark, glossy curls bounced forward with the momentum and she impatiently tossed them back over her shoulder.
“Do you have to drag that thing around with you everywhere?” she asked, momentarily distracted by my camera bag.
“No, but I’m not leaving it out on the field to be stolen or stomped on. What are you so excited about?”