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High Order Eye Candy

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Hare and Hound

Gary Cosby Jr./The Decatur Daily. Balloonists inflate in Point Mallard Park as they prepare to lift off for the Hare and Hound Race during the annual Alabama Jubilee festival in Decatur.

We have two really big festivals annually in Decatur.  The first, The Alabama Jubilee, is far and away the most visual of the two; although, the Spirit of America Festival is the largest.  Decatur is probably more well known for the Spirit of America Festival but  Alabama Jubilee is eye candy, pure and simple.  If you can’t make a picture photographing hot air balloons then you need to hang up the camera and just watch.  Seriously.

The only problem is balloonists fly very early in the morning.  I am an early riser but these guys make me seem lazy.  I had to be to Point Mallard at 6 a.m. Saturday and again at 6:30 on Sunday so they got me up early for my doses of visual sugar.  But the icing on the cake was getting to fly Saturday morning.  Pilot Kenny Jay from Missouri took me up in his balloon, Mai’Ken Dreams, to fly in the Hare and Hound race.

There is nothing quite like riding in a hot air balloon.  If you could walk on a cloud it couldn’t feel any better than riding in a hot air balloon.  There are challenges; however, to shooting hot air balloons.  Number one: don’t drop that lens.  It is a long way to the ground and you might put it in someone’s bed, or swimming pool, as you fly over.  Go explain how that happened to your boss!  The other problem is technical.  You are frequently shooting into the sun.  Hot air balloons are large and you can use them to block the sun but it seems an awful lot of images are shot looking directly into the big, yellow disc in the sky.

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Jubilee is the balloon glow Saturday night.  About sunset, all the balloonists inflate and give tethered rides.  Just after it gets dark, they have a glow.  Basically, the balloonists fire their burners and it illuminates the balloon envelopes and the colors are stunning.  It is a very beautiful sight.  You don’t really need a tripod to shoot; although, a bunch of people bring them and use them.  I dial up about ISO 1600 or 3200 and just let it rip.  You can meter pretty well off a lit balloon and figure it out.  After that it is all about finding a good shooting position.  Fun times!

There is not much I can tell you about how to shoot the event.  Just lock and load is, I guess, the best advice.  Don’t hesitate to burn away.  If it is a sunny morning when they launch you will see some of the most beautiful and intense colors filling a high blue sky.  You will drool, visually speaking, of course.  Hang around all day and shoot the glow and you will have such a complete color experience you will be satiated.

Below are some of my favorite images from the day.  Hope y’all enjoy looking.

Written by Gary Cosby Jr.

May 27th, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Cowboys Classic Kicks Off College Football

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Freshman running back TJ Yeldon slices through the Michigan defense during the Alabama and Michigan game in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas Saturday, September 1, 2012.  For complete photo galleries visit or click on the photo and you will be taken there via internet magic!

“Are You Ready For Some Football?”  That’s the question we get every Monday night through the pro season and I guarantee you that in Alabama the question is always answered with a resounding ‘yes’ no matter whether you are an Auburn fan or a Bama fan.  If you are any other kind of fan living in this football crazy state all I can ask is, really?

Had you polled Michigan and Alabama fans before the Cowboys Classic Saturday both sides would have said yes.  If you asked after, Michigan fans might have asked for one more week.  Alabama just pounced all over Michigan in a very one-sided 41-14 drubbing in the palace that Jerry built.  Really now, how many bars and restaurants does one need inside a football stadium?  But hey, if you spend a billion dollars…  I digress.  I was talking about football but, dang it, that is one amazing stadium, if it can be called a stadium.  It is more like a five star resort hotel with a football field in the middle of it and the world’s most amazing TV hanging from the ceiling.  Well, dude did spend a billion dollars.  But I was talking about football.

Alabama struck quickly, efficiently and often.  I left the field about four minutes before the half to edit my early take and Bama was up 31-0.  Was Michigan really supposed to be in the top 10?  The Wolverines did score a touchdown right before half but it was so far gone by then we all were simply waiting for it to end.  By the time the final points were tallied I think the nation knew that Denard Robinson is not going to win a Heisman but Alabama might just win another BCS Championship.  I mean, it looked real easy and Bama had it in cruise control for the entire second half.  Of course, the SEC schedule is yet to be played and that is where championships are won or lost anyway so the Crimson clad should not get too cocky.

By the way, did you know they have luxury suites built dugout style all around the stadium.  I mean, you can’t see a thing on the field but you have a great view of the big TV in the ceiling and you have your own bar and food service and a server wearing a white jacket in there with you.  But, I forgot, I was talking about football.

I had a great luxury shooting this game.  No, I didn’t cheat and shoot stuff on the big screen TV during replays!  I had two quality cameras and that is the first time in years that has been the case.  I had both a D3 and a D4.  I didn’t know how to act!  I shot the D3 with a short lens, usually at ISO 3200 at 1/640 @ f5.6.  The D4 I generally used with the long lens (300 f2.8 with a 1.4 converter) at ISO 5000 at 1/1250-1/1600 at f4.  You know, the lighting was the only thing that surprised me in the negative about that stadium.  It was about one full stop less than I would have expected.  But hey, I guess a billion dollars only goes so far.  But, I forgot, I was talking about football.

The game went like most Alabama games have gone in the Saban era.  The Crimson Tide pounds you to death with a smothering defense on one side of the ball and they wear you out with outstanding running backs on the other side of the ball.  Just to keep things interesting, they have a quarterback who can get the ball into the hands of some very quick, and in this game, wide open receivers for touchdowns.  I usually stay in front of the Alabama offense and behind the other team’s offense.  That keeps the Bama players facing the camera as much as possible.  (Same goes for covering Auburn.)  I got most of my best images in the first quarter and certainly the majority of all my best images came in the first half while Alabama was still trying to score points.  The second half was mainly drumming my fingers on the turf wanting the clock to run faster to get the game over so I could make deadline.

There are no great secrets to reveal.  I kept the camera focused on Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson at the start of each offensive play because he was the focus of Alabama’s defense.  When Alabama had the ball I focused on a lineman when the play was likely a running play.  When I thought there might be a pass, I generally looked over the top of the camera to see where Mr. McCarron was looking then focused down field on whomever I thought he may throw to.  Like I said, no big revelations; just predict, react and shoot.

As a final note to this story, and something that 99 percent of you won’t understand, it has been a pleasure, Mr. Almond, kneeling beside you on sidelines across the south.  You have challenged me and I have enjoyed your friendship.  It is a sad day and I will miss shooting with you.  Many blessings to you my friend.  May we again meet on a sideline somewhere in this great land in the not too distant future.

Written by Gary Cosby Jr.

September 4th, 2012 at 8:21 am

Three In A Row

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Daily Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. Marquis Maze celebrates after Alabama defeated LSU 21-0 to claim their 14th National Championship.

Alabama is the undisputed king of college football right now.  Teams from this great state have won the last three BCS National Championships and yes, we are justifiably proud of the boys in crimson and white and burnt orange and blue.  Roll Tide!  War Eagle!  Talk about a wild ride and who knows if it is over yet or not.  I made myself a book last year with pictures and words from Alabama and Auburn’s back to back championships.  I gave it the title, One State, Two Champions.  I guess I will have to update it now.

They also updated the dictionary after this BCS title game.  If you go to the dictionary now and look up butt whipping you will see a video of this game.  Wow!  Alabama absolutely dominated LSU.  It was the most one-sided game I have ever photographed between two teams as talented as these two are.  From opening kick off to final second, Alabama dominated LSU in every offensive and defensive category.  It was the kind of game that could easily have been 35-0.  The only thing LSU managed to do was keep Alabama out of the end zone forcing them to kick seven field goals, five of them were good.  Trent Richardson put the nail in the coffin, which was already pretty tightly shut, when he rolled off the left end for a long touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Daily Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. Quarterback AJ McCarron prays in the tunnel with another Bama staffer as he gets ready to come on the field before the start of the BCS Championship Game in the Superdome in New Orleans Monday night.

That was the actual game.  The game within the game is really played inside my head as I try to shoot the game, figure out what the teams are doing and where to get to make the best photos.  It is always difficult to evaluate your own work but, that being said, I felt like I had a good game.  I don’t have nearly as many photos from this game as from the Auburn game last year or the Bama win over Texas two years ago.  My shooting time was much more limited because of an insanely early deadline.  (We didn’t even use a photo from the trophy presentation on the front page.  Frustrating but nothing I can do about that.)  I spent all of half time and part of the third quarter editing and transmitting and then shot the rest of the third quarter and returned to the workroom to edit that and transmit more.  I got back out to the field with about seven minutes left in the game.

You will see below a selection of my favorites from the game.  BE WARNED:  There is one photo there which is difficult to look at.  CJ Mosley suffered a separated hip when he was tackled by Jordan Jefferson after he intercepted Jefferson’s pass.  It is not grotesque like a broken bone but the human body is not meant to bend some ways.  I have two favorites from the game.  Wait, a word about including this photo.  Some might think this is glamorizing an injury and that is not the intent.  This is a very violent game and the young men who play it subject their bodies to one of the most extremes of physical endurance on the planet.  It is an absolute tribute to their toughness that they are willing to play this game the way they do.  I include a sequence here showing not only the injury, but also his pain, the reaction of teammates and him leaving the field on the cart waving to the crowd.  This was only one play in a big game so don’t take it out of the context of the entire game or the whole photo take from the game.

Back to the point, my favorite photo, well my two favorite photos are made large in the post.  Neither is an action pic.  I love the shot of Marquis Maze with the confetti falling all around him.  I love it because I think that is the way I would feel if I were standing where he was standing.  It is a moment of pure joy.  The other is a shot before the game in the tunnel of AJ McCarron praying with one of the assistants.  It is a quiet moment that only a very few people saw.  My coworker Deangelo McDaniel was standing with me and we both shot it and there was one other photographer standing there looking up the tunnel who got the shot.  It may be my favorite.  The photo shows a side of these big time athletes that we seldom get to see.

On the technical side, I shot the game using the D3s, a 300mm f2.8 and a 1.4 extender, an 80-200 f2.8, a 17-35 and a 14mm.  Obviously, the wides got their work before and after the game while the long lenses were used for most of the action.  The Superdome has great lighting.  I shot mostly at ISO 2000 and my action was shot at 1/1250 at f4.  Just in case you are wondering, there was a crowd of photographers on the sidelines.  They told us there were over 200 credentials issued for still photographers.  Video was on the sidelines too so we had a crowd.  Still, the sidelines were well-managed and I never had problems finding a shooting position. Hope y’all enjoy the photos.

Written by Gary Cosby Jr.

January 11th, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Another Year Another National Championship

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Daily Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. Alabama football players meet the media inside the Superdome in New Orleans for media day Friday, January 6. Danyelle Sargent from Yahoo Sports asks Alabama defensive lineman Jesse Williams a question that seems to hurt a bit as he squints hard while answering.

This is  the third year in a row I have been able to start my year with a BCS Championship Game.  This year it is in New Orleans.  Okay, not my favorite city but at least the food is good.  This has been a very, very busy week and tonight it wraps up with the actual football game.  Can’t wait.  The press conferences have ended and now it is time to do what we came for.

The week began with coverage of Bama’s arrival in New Orleans.  We were carted out to a truly remote corner of the New Orleans International Airport where, even if fans were in the city, they would not have found this spot.  A brass band is there and it is cool.  I mean, really, really cool.  The sun was going down and it was getting cold and I had not coat.  The wind was blowing enough to make things uncomfortable.  Finally, just before the light is gone, the Alabama charter lands and we get nice photos in the best possible light.  Then they had a press conference, the first of many.

Of course, we wandered around the French Quarter seeing the wonder that is Bourbon Street.  No nastier street in the country.  I am pretty sure the gate of hell is down there somewhere.  I got a ton of nice images, some quiet, some loud and some distinct.  Y’all know I am a Christian so the one I like the best is a quiet image, hard to find on Bourbon Street, of a couple of guys with the cross witnessing to a man.  No place is without a witness.  It recalled to my mind a man I heard about as a little kid named Bob Harrington who was known as the Chaplain of Bourbon Street.

Then there were press conferences and practices and more press conferences and practices, media day for both teams and about a dozen trips in the Quarter for feature stories and fan stories and pep rallies.  By the way Bammers, y’all should all be ashamed of yourself for that lame, and I do mean lame, effort at your pep rally.  Last year in Scottsdale, the Barners shook the earth with the noise they made.  I wanted to grab the mike and yell at all you Bammers to wake you up.  Come on now!

My biggest adventure has been my 80-200 going belly up yesterday, Sunday, and trying to get a replacement.  I snapped it on the camera and it looked like I was looking through a kaleidoscope.  No idea a lens could get drunk but it sure looks like my did.  My boss, John Godbey, using Facebook, located someone who was willing to bring me down a substitute from Decatur.  John is a great boss and what he did was really going the extra mile.

Tonight we come to it.  Now that I have figured out a way to work around my WordPress upgrade that leaves me without an ability to post, I will give everyone an update.  Grab you a big bowl of red beans and rice and enjoy the game tonight.  By the way, I will be the guy with a strip of zebra tape around the end of my long lens!  In the gallery below are some of my favorites from the week leading up to the game.  Enjoy and give a little love to us poor working stiffs down here in Nawlins!

Written by Gary Cosby Jr.

January 9th, 2012 at 9:41 am

Tragic Time In The South

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Daily Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. A massive tornado swept across Limestone County Wednesday afternoon following the same track as a killer tornado in the 1974 outbreak.

April 27, 2011 will go down as one of the worst days in the history of the state.  To date, almost 200 deaths have been reported from the wave of killer tornadoes that swept through the state.  I was very nearly one of those deaths.  I am going to share this experience with you, not to bring any notice to me but to help me get it out of my head and on paper so I can sleep again.  Sometimes you live through something, maybe you shouldn’t have, and all you can do is play the scenario over and over again in your head.  I got to get it out of my head and maybe in the process someone can learn something that may help them down the road.

Arriving at work Wednesday, we were hearing about severe weather already.  I left the office and headed to Limestone County.  Tornado warnings were already being issued and I had a great shot of what appeared to be a funnel of rain in the midst of a swirling cloud base.  I got back to the office and got the photo online.  It was not a tornado but it was a beautiful photo.  I thought that must be it.  As soon as I finished getting that photo posted, the second wave of storms blew through.

I had returned to Limestone County and was parked on Ingram Rd.  just off of Highway 31 south of Tanner.  I was watching the most frightening cloud formation I had seen in years rolling toward me.  It was an awesome spectacle.  I later heard the surface wind speed was peaking at 80 mph.  When I could barely stand up anymore I got out of there thinking I had seen the worst of it.  These straight line winds caused damage all across the county and I spent the next couple hours chasing down damage.  I returned to the office to get these photos out for the afternoon news budget meeting.  By this time it was just about 4 pm and we began hearing about the third wave.

I heard on the scanner that a confirmed tornado had already ripped up two communities west of us and was still on the ground heading toward Trinity.  I knew this storm track was leading right back into Limestone County and I raced across the river watching a cloud with an ominous drab olive green color swinging across the river parallel to me.  I found a position near Pryor Field in southern Limestone County and got on the phone with my brother Rob.  He was watching the weather on TV and feeding me storm movement projections.  I was not in a good place.  I asked him to give me exactly where the weathermen were saying it would cross Highway 31.  It was Tanner crossroads, a few miles north of my position.  I began moving north.

I crested a small hill on Highway 31 passing just under the electric transmission lines running out from Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant.  Looking down the lines I could see blue flashes as the lines were snapping and transformers blowing.  I knew what this meant.  There was a for real tornado on the ground and it was close.  The sound was like a huge vacuum cleaner but with a much deeper bass note.  It was thrumming.  At the crest of the hill, I saw a Limestone County deputy sheriff who had been storm spotting blowing south on Highway 31 as fast as he could.  I looked left and saw the monster tornado as it approached a tree line west of the highway.  I shot the first frame at 4:20:54 pm.  I shot a burst of 14 frames with my last frame being fired at 4:21:13 pm on April 27.  Within the next 45 seconds three people lost their lives inside of a half mile from my position.

The inflow of air rushing toward the tornado appeared to be moving at a minimum of 45 mph.  I learned later the tornado was moving at a ground speed of approximately 60 mph.  Two days later I took a rough measurement of the distance and when I shot the last frame the funnel was about 7 tenths of a mile away from me.  It was coming directly at me.  The tornado got to the spot where I was shooting from within about 45 seconds from the time I shot my last frame.  The alarm clock in my head was ringing loudly.  A wall of clouds was advancing toward me faster than anything I had ever seen.  I sprinted my car back south on US 31 as fast as it would go and still stay on the road.  I was driving over 85 last time I looked and the wind speed was approaching a velocity that would roll my small car.  My ears were popping from the rapid pressure change.  It was very close.  I figured later that, had I waited ten seconds longer, I would not be here to worry about it.  I cleared the worst zone and pulled into a crossover lane and shot a few frames as the storm rolled over what would be Swan Creek Trailer Court.  The time on that first frame was 4:23:37 pm.  Three people were now dead or dying in the area I had just been photographing.  Three more were being injured in the trailer court.

Three cars made it down Highway 31 after me.  One motorist did not.  Her car was thrown from the highway into a field.  Ten seconds.  That’s it.  Ten lousy seconds.  I have to ask why the alarm sounded in my head and not hers.  You wonder if maybe her vision was shielded, maybe she didn’t know what she was driving into while I did.  Lots of questions.  No answers.  No reason I am alive and they are dead.  Just doesn’t make any sense at all.  Good people died, many, many good people.  It breaks my heart.  I sat in my car shaking, trying to decide what to do.  I have always been good under stress.  This time I was just shaking.  But I was not done working.  I should have turned around right then and gone north on 31 to the trailer court but instead I called my brother to get a track on the storm.  I wanted to parallel it.  That was dumb.  The storm was moving at 60 mph.  I couldn’t go nearly that fast and I would have to use winding roads.  Not thinking, just shaking.

That decision cost me a lot of time.  I didn’t shoot another significant frame until I arrived on McCulley Mill Rd. east of Athens at 5:43:57.  I was boxed in every way I turned by blinding rain and hail, high winds and roads blocked by fallen trees and power lines.  There were times when you couldn’t see a hundred feet and all you could see was a wall of white water blowing hard.  Another tornado warning sent me scrambling north to get away.  North sides of storms are where you get killed.  You can’t see the tornado.  I had one close call.  That was enough.  Whatever road I was on led me to Highway 72 just east of where the tornado crossed.

I walked into the McCulley Mill Rd. subdivision which had been leveled.  I shot two rescues and several other people who were storm victims displaced when their solidly built brick homes were completely leveled.  A couple of these pictures have received wide play all over the world.  It doesn’t matter.  When stuff like this happens you shoot frames that get a lot of play but they get a lot of play because there was a disaster.  People lost their lives, their property, everything.  I was still shaking but at least now I could do something.  I helped a deputy get an elderly man out of his home.  He was wounded on his arm but otherwise ok.  The tornado had blasted his walker somewhere.  No one knew where, may never know.  We helped him out until a paramedic could check him.

Now a different clock went off in my head.  The deadline clock was ringing now.  I had walked over a mile into the McCulley Mill Rd. area and now another hard rain was falling.  I called my editors to let them know what I had and found out we had to drive to Florence.  All power was out in Decatur.  I didn’t get to Florence until after 9 pm.  After working images up for the paper and getting help from Times Daily photographer Daniel Giles who uploaded a number of images to AP it was finally time to go home.  I got home sometime after midnight.  Couldn’t sleep.  Haven’t slept much yet.  Maybe tonight now that I have dumped all this on you guys.

Photos copyright Gary Cosby Jr., The Decatur Daily.  The opinions expressed  in this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

Written by Gary Cosby Jr.

April 29th, 2011 at 8:15 pm

A Classic Iron Bowl

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Click this image to view the slideshow from the game on

The 2010 version of the Iron Bowl will go down as an all-time classic in the series.  In the history of Auburn University football, the Tigers had never rallied to win from a bigger deficit.  They trailed Alabama 24-0 in the first half in a game that had all the appearances of a rout.  Unless you had seen Auburn play this year.  A dropped pass that would have been a sure touchdown and two Alabama turnovers in or near the red zone left the door open, even if it were only just a crack.  Auburn exploited the crack.

Auburn scored late to go up 28-27 then held on with some gutsy defense and by taking some chances on offense.  In some ways, the game mirrored last season’s game in Auburn where it was Alabama coming in highly ranked, trailing early and having to make the heroic comeback with a late touchdown to win.  Alabama parlayed their victory into a National Championship.  One wonders now if Auburn can do the same thing.  The next step will be this weekend in Atlanta for a rematch with South Carolina.

Auburn’s last, and only National Championship, came in 1957 and with this one so tantalizingly close Auburn fans are shoving any concerns about Cam Newton’s eligibility to the background and focusing on the final push.  Here is hoping that what happens on the field determines the National Champion and not what happened, or didn’t happen, in some under the table, back room deal Cam’s father made.

Shooting this edition was a little different for me than last season.  Last year I went solo on the game which is a big challenge.  This year I shot with colleague Brennen Smith.  Being able to divide the responsibility with another shooter literally halves the load.  I worked the Auburn side and he worked the Alabama side so I didn’t have to worry about anything on that side of the field, but especially not the Bama bench are and post-game react shots.  I could focus on Auburn’s side and Auburn’s post-game react.

During the first half of the game I usually work really hard on action then switch modes to focus more on reaction during the second half.  This didn’t work out too well for this game because the game was in the balance right up until the end.  I only switched to a wide zoom in the last minute of the game when it was pretty well done.  Shooting jubilation and dejection are my greatest challenges in sports photography.  I have never felt it was my strength.  With Auburn winning though, I didn’t have too much to worry about because they are very emotional.  Bama on the other hand is as staid as their head coach and don’t show much emotion one way or another.

I shot the game mostly from the end zone, especially in the first half.  I brought along a 2x converter and used it quite a bit early in the game.  I had to shoot manual focus and the 2x shot wide open has a tendency to render soft images.  I didn’t want to stop it down at all because the ISO would have to be pushed really high.  Not a big deal with the D3s but still a factor to consider.  I did this up until half-time and then transitioned to just the 300 for the second half.  I had mixed results manual focusing with the 2x.  I have never been as good as the AF system, particularly since Nikon actually made a camera with decent AF performance.

The primary advantage to using the 2x converter was it allowed me to be stationary for a longer period of time.  I felt physically pretty awful Friday and running sprints up and down the sidelines was not appealing.  Using the 2x kept that to a minimum.  I did make some mistakes.  I failed to shoot very much at all of Coach Chizik and never found him post-game.  Dave Martin, from the AP, got a beautiful react shot from him and I really kicked myself.  I didn’t feel up to chasing Cam Newton around the stadium either.  I got some shots of him but I just couldn’t keep up.  That man is fast!  In the end though, I got a nice jube shot of the guy who caught the game winning touchdown and I got Cam and I got Nick Fairley.  My game action was solid if not stellar and I left with a decent Iron Bowl under my belt.

I never actually so Brennen during the game so he was doing his job, or else, he was out having a coffee to get warm!  When shooting with a partner, the worst thing to do is shoot on top of each other.  That is unproductive and causes at least one of you to miss shots or be out of position when something big happens.  Our main challenge was weather.  It was damp and cold Friday and the threat of rain was there during the entire first half.  I hate being wet and cold so I was praying for a break.  We got decent weather with only one brief shower during the game.  My greatest problem was not being able to find my rain coat.  I had the pants and used them but never did find the coat.  Otherwise, I managed to stay warm enough and dry enough for it to be nothing more than inconvenient.

And then we got to fight the traffic, the monstrous, unyielding traffic.  I don’t know if I have mentioned how bad I hate the traffic but that is the ultimate downer after a game.  We pulled out of the driveway at 6:30 am and got back in the driveway after 11pm.  Nasty long day but when you are done you at least feel a sense of accomplishment.  That and the nagging doubt that you didn’t do as good as you could have or as good as you wish you could have anyway.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

Written by Gary Cosby Jr.

November 29th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Prayer And Alabama Football

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Julio Jones makes a one hand, diving catch for a touchdown against San Jose State in Bryant Denny Stadium Saturday during Alabama's 48-3 win. Photo by Gary Cosby jr.

Alabama kicked off their college football schedule with a cake walk game against Western Athletic Conference opponent San Jose State.  It wasn’t much of a contest.  Bama won 48-3 in a game that was never closer than 7-3.  It went downhill for San Jose State after that.  I was right there with San Jose.  My first quarter was awful.  I was kneeling in the back of the end zone thinking it was the worst quarter of football I had ever shot.  As the first quarter ended I mumbled a prayer which went something like this.

“What have I done?  What do I need to repent of?”  Immediately I knew the answer.  A little later another thing came up.  So what kind of began as a whine, God actually answered.  After that I just asked for help because I was really not doing well.  I walked to the other end of the field with the quarter change and knelt down at the back of that end zone.  (You have to kneel in the South end zone because you block the view of fans.  I like shooting from my knees anyway.)  Before you know it, Julio Jones is laying out for a long pass right in front of me and even before he hit the ground I was praying again.  It went something like this.

“Oh please God, please God, please God!”  I chimped it and then I had another prayer.  It went something like this.  “Oh thank you God, thank you God, thank you God!”  It may sound like I am joking but I promise you that is exactly how it happened.

Now for the rest of the story.  When you are shooting a football team on offense it can be really tough knowing where to look for pictures.  I learned a long time ago there is a trick defensive backs use that I could use too.  As a defensive back back pedals in coverage he is reading the receiver and the quarterback.  He watches the quarterback’s eyes and tries to decide where the ball is going.  This works really well in high school and in college, especially with an inexperienced quarterback.  A wiley old veteran knows that DBs are reading his eyes and will try and throw them off but a young QB doesn’t do this well.

Alabama’s back up quarterback, A.J. McCarron, was in the game because Alabama was already leading 21-3.  I noticed him and was watching him to see if a photo might develop we could use for file art later on.  When he dropped back I saw him looking to the offensive left side.  About the time he let go of the ball I picked up a Bama receiver streaking to the post right up the middle of the field.  I whipped my camera around to that blob of red and squeezed the shutter just as the ball touched Jones’ hand.  At this point I had no idea what just happened.  It was literally a blur.  I didn’t even know if I had Julio in the frame or not.  It happened really quick.  That is when I chimped and had my little fit of thanksgiving down in the back of the end zone.

I knew the play would be reviewed to see if he maintained possession of the ball and this triggered another prayer.  “Oh please let it stand, please let it stand!”  If the play was ruled an incomplete pass the picture would be irrelevant.  Finally the officials declared it a touchdown and I almost did my own end zone dance.  Prayer really is a part of what makes me an effective photographer and, more importantly, an effective human.  I don’t pray all the time on every assignment but now and again I pray specifically about a job.  Not all prayers are answered like this but they are all answered.

Below are a few more images from the pre-game and game action.  Hope y’all enjoy and remember to pray.


Photos copyright Gary Cosby Jr., The Decatur Daily.  The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.  All images are copyright Gary Cosby Jr., The Decatur Daily and may not be reused in any way without the permission of The Decatur Daily, Gary Cosby Jr., and in some cases, the NCAA and its member institution.

Written by Gary Cosby Jr.

September 5th, 2010 at 11:48 am

How To Shoot A Hole In The Ground

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A sink hole has formed beneath the north bound lanes of Interstate 65 between Hartselle and Priceville. The north bound lane is closed pending repairs. The hole is currently approximately four feet in circumference by about eight feet deep. Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. 3/12/10

Last Friday, late in the afternoon, our managing editor came back asking for a photograph of a newly discovered sink hole that was forming under Interstate 65 between Hartselle and Priceville.  I was the only soul with a camera at the photo desk and I just couldn’t pawn it off on one of the young guys.  This was a job for Superman.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t be found either so I was left with no choice but to go and shoot it myself.

Holes in the ground at dusk mean one thing, it is going to be really hard to shoot.  I didn’t know how big a hole we were talking about.  A sink hole can be very small or it can swallow a house.  This one was still a small one but it is situated on the slope of a hill and it might get really nasty before all is said and done.  One that formed on Interstate 565 in Huntsville a few years ago had to be excavated to a depth of at least 20 feet, probably more, and it was so huge a work that trucks and dozers were down in the hole.

For those of you wondering what exactly a sink hole might be, allow me to give you a bit of a geology lesson.  All of North Alabama sits on top of a gigantic slab of limestone rock.  Limestone rock is very porous and can be easily eroded over time by flowing, or even by dripping, water.  This creates caves and it also creates sink holes.  When the limestone rock beneath a piece of ground becomes sufficiently weakened by the erosion the rock collapses into the the eroded rock beneath leaving a sink hole.  The ground above it follows suit and you have a hole.  As a kid growing up in Colbert County we used to play around sink holes and even a few times in sink holes.  This can be a dangerous activity so I hope my mom and dad are not reading this one!  In fact, there was a sink hole at one of my friend’s house and we used to swing on vines across it.  Legend has it that a guy crawled into a sink hole many years ago and days later emerged in a cave on a bluff above the Tennessee River.  Who knows, but my friend swears it was true.

Back on topic now, this hole was dark and there was not much light left anywhere so this meant I needed to do some flash work.  My initial attempt ended in my flash falling into the hole and me climbing down into the pit to retrieve it.  Yes, I was laughing out loud at my self.  Note to self, when laying a flash on a slope it might be a good idea to secure it to something because gravity still works!  Eventually I got my flash to be still and I used it to illuminate the hole.  A second flash gave some fill to the high barriers and all that was left to do was get some cars in the picture.  Viola!  A photo of a hole in the ground.  May you do as well when a hole you have to shoot, to paraphrase Yoda.




A sink hole has formed beneath the north bound lanes of Interstate 65 between Hartselle and Priceville. The north bound lane is closed pending repairs. The hole is currently approximately four feet in circumference by about eight feet deep. Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. 3/12/10


Photos copyright Gary Cosby Jr., The Decatur Daily.  The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Written by Gary Cosby Jr.

March 16th, 2010 at 9:48 am

Behind The Pictures

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This Soundslides show is designed to give you a glimpse behind the pictures and let you know what I was thinking, when there was thinking (grin), on my BCS National Championship coverage.  I hope you guys enjoy this and I hope you can pick up some tips.  You can usually apply lessons you learn in one area of photojournalism across the board and use them on other assignments.  So kick back and enjoy.  Leave a comment and let me know if this is helpful.

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Photos copyright Gary Cosby Jr., The Decatur Daily. As always, the photos are of student athletes. No unauthorized reproduction or reuse of these photos is permitted to protect the eligibility of the student athletes. The photos are for editorial/educational use by readers of this site. Do not download these photos in any form. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Written by Gary Cosby Jr.

January 12th, 2010 at 4:45 pm

BCS National Championship

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PLEASE READ THIS NOTE:  These photographs are for the viewing of this audience only.  They are not for sale or republication in any way, shape or form.  DO NOT DOWNLOAD THESE PHOTOS OR TAKE SCREEN SHOTS.  Play nice or you will get me in trouble and you won’t be able to see football pictures in the future.  The purpose of this site is editorial and teaching and in no way represents a commercial venture in any form.

Mark Ingram dives acros the goal line to seal Alabama's victory ensuring a 13th National Championship. Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. 1/7/10

You guys might have heard there was a little football game out in Pasadena yesterday evening.  I was there.  No big deal.  Just a National Championship on the line.  Fun times.  Actually, it was a great honor to be here shooting the game and surrounding festivities.  This has been a career goal and now I can cross that one off the list.  Of course, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at shooting another one someday.

The good thing is that the game is just a football game.  Big crowd, lots of excitement, fireworks, F18 flyover, parachute drops into the stadium but still just a football game.  That is what the coaches try to get the players to see.  You still just go out there and play football.  I just focused my mind on that.  It is a big stage.  There is a lot of hype.  The whole country is watching.  But it is still a football game and you have ride the horse that brought you.  In other words, shoot the game the same way you would shoot any game.  Work your angles.  Move as much as necessary.  Play the percentages.  It is just football and the teams are going to do basically what got them here.  Same for me.

Of course, I had an ace in the hole that I don’t know if anyone else shooting the game had.  I had two churches back home praying for me.  It is pretty hard to fail when you have that much support.  So I take off my crowns and lay them at the feet of the one who gets the glory.  We sing a song sometimes that says “not unto us, oh Lord, not unto us, but to Thy name be glory.”  I like that.  When I do well it is nothing more than God’s gift working.  I had a nice game and probably did about as good as I could considering I was shooting alone.  The bigger newspapers and agencies sent multiple photographers.  But I guess when I have a little divine help that kind of evens out the field.  And really, a lot of big plays happened right in front of me.  You can’t ask for more than that.

I know some of you are probably thinking God doesn’t care about football or pictures and I agree with that.  What God cares about is people so I have no problem thanking Him publicly for helping me perform well.

With the proper accolades in place let me tell you, this was a great experience.  The Rose Bowl in an awesome place to work.  It would have been more awesome in daylight.  The light out here is wonderful and shooting that game in daylight would have been a treat.  The stadium is a bit lower than most of the ones I typically shoot in which means the light stands were lower and that creates a few problems with light quality.  Other than that small complaint I was great working here.  The Rose Bowl is the most beautiful place I have ever shot a football game.  Truly a special stadium.

Shooting this game was no different from doing any college game.  The sidelines were crowded but I had no trouble moving around or working with the other shooters.  To their credit, the BCS did a wonderful job of managing this entire week and the folks who run the Rose Bowl did an excellent job managing the media and meeting our needs.  I shot the game with a D3 and a D2H, same as always.  I used the 300 f2.8 and sometimes had a 1.4 extender on it.  I also used the 80-200 and the 17-35.  In other words, I used the same stuff I always use.  It is probably not a good idea to bring unfamiliar equipment into the biggest game of the year.

I am going to post some photos here with this post and when I get back home I am going to do a narrated slide show for this site to kind of take you behind the pictures and give you an idea of what I did, what I was thinking and why.  Just some stuff you don’t usually think about.  In the mean time, enjoy a few shots from the game.

The Rose Bowl Stadium during pre-game warm up. Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. 1/7/10

Colin Peek rushes to celebrate with Bama running back Mark Ingram after scoring the touchdown to nail down Alabama's 13th National Championship. Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. 1/7/10

Trent Richardson scores a touchdown on a long run in front of Texas defenders Aaron Williams and Earl Thomas during the first half in the Rose Bowl. Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. 01/07/10

Texas star receiver Jordan Shipley splits Alabama defenders Robby Green and Javier Arenas on his way to a touchdown during the second half of the BCS National Championship game in the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA. Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. 01/07/10

Mark Ingram dives down near the Texas goal line with Blake Gideon making the tackle during the first half in the Rose Bowl. Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. 01/07/10

Rolando McClain holds up the crystal football that sits on the National Championship Coache's Trophy to fans as he leaves the field. Photo by Gary Cosby Jr. 1/7/10

Photos copyright Gary Cosby Jr., The Decatur Daily.  The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

Written by Gary Cosby Jr.

January 8th, 2010 at 9:17 pm