Few weeks are as busy around here as the week of the Iowa High School state wrestling tournament.
For four days thousands of people from almost every small town across the state make the pilgrimage to Des Moines to watch as hundreds of athletes run the gauntlet in pursuit of a title.
It's madness. From a spectators perspective it's probably pretty intense, from a photographer's perspective it can be chaos. I'll never forget the feeling of covering my first day of the tournament three years ago. I didn't know the difference between the Bedford Bulldogs and the Bettendorf Bulldogs and without the relative luxury of athletes being numbered it seemed nearly impossible to identify kids.
Fast forward to 2015 and covering this tournament has gotten much easier. For how crazy it once seemed, I've acclimated to the pace of it all and find myself far less anxious about the whole deal.
So without further ado, here's a small selection from the thousands of images I made.
Sitting here, with my fingers hovering over the keys, I'm gridlocked. I'm struggling to find the words to accompany the images from what has been the most full year of my life.
While I realize that these retrospective entries are often just a bunch of claptrap set to pictures, it would be slight to simply relegate these images to storage where the context of their origins will gradually fade away.
So here is my best effort to set some meaning to the moments below...
2014 was big.
It was full of ups and downs that when charted out on a line would resemble the EKG of a John Candy after some vigorous exercise (apologies for the misplaced medical reference: far too much "Doc Martin" on the 'tele' lately).
I suppose the frequency and amplitude would seem more dramatic when provided the context of how my year started.
In March my daughter was born. First child. Talk about a tone-setter. Fast-forward ten months and the good times still far outnumber the, um, well, more challenging moments. Life with a young one has hit a more comfortable cruising altitude.
The professional side of life has also been big I guess. My passion for video storytelling has continued to grow under what have been mostly favorable conditions for my creativity. In August I started work on a year-long documentary, which to date has been the single most rewarding, fulfilling and enriching project I've ever been part of.
In September my video about the basketball team from Des Moines North was recognized with an Upper Midwest Emmy... or as my colleague Rodney would call it: "a baby Emmy." Neat honor but a little uncomfortable for me. Shameful admission:
It's still in a box in my closet, much to the chagrin of my father who suggested it take place alongside my 1992 punt, pass and kick trophy. Deservedly so I suppose.
In April I found confidence as a silly project I conceived about the wacky people who hunt Morel mushrooms came to be, and in my eyes, was a success.
As is the case with most years there have been many truly fulfilling moments that have caught me by surprise. There have been day-in-day-out projects that have served up small lessons or offered creative, personal or even spiritual encouragement in times of great need.
Every day I'm offered unique access inside the creases of our social tapestry. It's a tired old refrain for photographers waxing poetic about their plight but it's true.
I've been in it now for nearly a decade. I've fought through and so far have survived what has been the most difficult chapter in the history of our industry and learned some remarkable lessons along the way.
This work still continues to nourish the creative and curious parts of my soul in surprising ways. No one knows what the future holds but looking back at the last year I know that I'm better for having been through it.
Now raise your glasses to whatever the future holds for us all.
The last several months have been a roller coaster. Only now, with my schedule cleared on my final vacation day of the year and my daughter napping in the nursery nearby, have a had a minute to try and process it all.
Even while I sit here starring at a select collection of images I've plucked from the most choice assignments of late, it's hard to put into words the mix of emotions behind them. There have been some crazy challenges, a few tough goodbyes, several disappointing setbacks but through it all the work has remained.
As long as I've been involved, life in the print industry has been full of ups and downs but despite all the tough times it's been my love and appreciation for the work and the people that have kept me in this fight.
While the path forward still seems uncertain the work remains, and I'm grateful for that.
There's something indescribable that happens when you hit 30. I mean, I can't substantiate this claim based off anything other than my own personal experience, but yes, something definitely happens.
Maybe it's in the fourth decade of life where one's ascension into adulthood reaches cruising altitude.
For me, the social anxieties that once dominated my twenties have slowly subsided while the paternal trappings of this so-called "settling down" period have yet to set in. I no longer care so much if my socks match or if I'm seen at that trendy new bar/restaurant down the street but I also don't own a home, much less mow my lawn.
In a sense, I'm somewhere in between grown up and a grown-up.
It's one part personality, one part personal preference that I've found myself comfortably positioned here in this most agreeable season of life where responsibility fits like a loose turtle-neck.
Summer, in a lot of ways, is the perfect metaphor for life in your late twenties and early thirties. These are blessed days where the sun shines, decisions are care-free and made with little consequence. And also, there's always pie.
If you're anything like me you regularly hear yourself saying things like: "man, I can't believe it's (insert day/month/year)" or "can you believe (insert season) is already over?"
But as they say: time flies when you're having fun.
Last week I was fortunate enough to be assigned to cover the IndyCar Series' Iowa Corn 300 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton. As my first time covering racing in any real serious capacity I was equal parts nervous and excited about exploring something new to me.
The night started off fairly auspiciously as earlier concerns about parking, access, etc... vanished when I was ushered into a primo infield parking spot after negotiating very little to almost no traffic.
Despite a little rain I was treated to a spectacular night of entertainment. And as someone who has never quite understood the sport of racing, I found myself smiling from ear to ear as I leaned up against the fence and felt bits of rubber smack my face while brightly colored speed machines raced headlong at almost 200mph. It was a total, unadulterated thrill.
Looking forward to covering something like this again soon!