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I Hate Camera Phones

I hate camera phones. I hate everything about them.  I don’t like the image quality, I don’t like the user interfaces, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to put 8 megapixels in the hands of rank amateurs. I don’t like that camera phones have turned us into a society that cares more about documenting life than experiencing it.  But mainly I don’t like the person sitting in front of me jumping up with their camera phone, as the game-winning rip rings the pipes, to take a picture that always end up looking like this:

A mess of grainy players doing something that you can tell is lacrosse but not much else.

I have to temper this loathing with my joy that parents and grandparents care enough to want to preserve the memory of little Danforth Sterling Prescott’s first shot on goal. I just wish they knew a better way to accomplish it.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a better way. We have Sound Lacrosse.

Sound Lacrosse is a collection of volunteer photographers dedicated to covering boys and girls high school lacrosse in the region. Founded by Michael Jardine and David West, SL photographers travel to and shoot a majority of high school games and almost all of the big ones each year. They’ve got great skills, great equipment, and a wonderful website that provides access to pictures for all parents and fans of the game. And the amazing thing is they do this completely out of love for the game, and their desire to help it grow.

There’s so much good about these folks it’s hard to know where to start. They are tireless in their dedication, withstanding the NW’s rainy hell to shoot, edit, catalog and post over 10,000 images from over 100 games. And that was just 2010.

Jardine, co-founder and a principal photographer for Sound Lacrosse, sat down with me over the summer and shared some insight about their organization. “We’ve become very good at shooting a typical lacrosse game. We’ve learned that there’s just a few places on the field you need to be to capture great lacrosse photos.  It’s all about the angles, and getting yourself in position to get the shot.” SL photographers are often seen sprinting up and down the sidelines. Jardine explains,  “So often, the best shots are made when you follow the action up and down the sidelines, shooting perpendicular to the field of play. You can’t do that with a camera phone, and you also can’t do it with a giant 300mm one-eyed monster.”

Today, SL has four principal photographers, founders Jardine and West, Sue Larkin and Henry Valentine.  They offer a variety of talents, geographies and interests which lets SL offer a wide range of photos to the rest of us.

Jardine, who lives on Bainbridge Island, a beautiful enclave that’s also a NW lacrosse hotbed, typically shoots over 500 photos during a high school lacrosse game.  Many nights, he uploads them to his laptop on the ferry ride home, and gives them a rough edit, culling them down to about 150 images. “The first round of edits, I’m just looking for good photography” Jardine explained, “I’m looking at the action, the framing, the colors, and only keeping the ones that stand out.”  Often by the time he makes it home, Jardine has a collection ready to upload.  Once up on the Sound Lacrosse site, though, they actually take the time to tag each photograph with team and player names.  This is an incredible benefit to those looking for shots of a specific player. It often means that within a couple of hours of the end of a  game,  parents can quickly locate every picture taken that night in which little Danforth Sterling Prescott’s image was captured.

Sound Lacrosse lets you download low-res images for free; no royalty charges. They’re perfect for the players’ Facebook pages. They charge modestly for prints and higher-resolution downloads, providing a great way to get high quality prints with no effort and little expense.  And the best part is, Sound Lacrosse gives away all the money they make.

“Last year, we set a goal of donating $1,000 to at-risk kids in Seattle” Jardine explained. “We were proud to hit that goal at the end of the season, and to present Youthcare of Seattle with all our proceeds.” Next year, SL hopes to increase its charitable giving, as well as add Facebook pages in which players can help with the tagging of photos.

Jardine and the rest of SL’s photographers take great pride in both their work and their service to the community.  Jardine, a former player himself, points out “This game is so great for everyone who’s involved with it.  We at Sound Lacrosse will never keep any of the money we ever receive for our work. It’s just too important to me.”

Personally, there’s not a better feeling in the world than looking down on a field before the game and seeing a Sound Lacrosse photographer roaming the sidelines.  It means that I can turn off my camera phone and slip it back into my pocket. I know that I can watch and experience the whole game because the documenting of it is in the hands of professionals.  And that, my friends, is a huge gift.