Keeping it clean in the locker room
When it’s all over, your hair is sticky with champagne and beer and your clothes are wet and smelly. Getting pulled over by the police on the way home might prove problematic. Sometimes, when you pick up your camera or lens a few days later, something doesn’t work. But being in the locker room amidst the celebrations after a sports team wins a championship is a lot of fun, at least I think so (yes, I understand if you’re questioning my sanity at this point).
The San Francisco Giants held a 3 games to 2 lead over the Philadelphia Phillies heading into Game 6 of the NLCS in Philadelphia. My assignment for the post-game, should the Giants win and clinch the series, was to cover the locker room celebrations.
Photographers use a variety of strategies to protect themselves and their cameras from the inevitable sprays of champagne and beer. Rain covers designed for cameras can protect them from more than rain. Clear plastic bags placed over the flash can protect it. And construction safety glasses can protect your eyes (champagne really burns when it gets in your eyes – you’ve probably seen players wearing swimming or ski goggles during the celebrations).
I’ve tried every combination of these tactics. This time, however, I went with a simple strategy. No cover for the camera – it often just gets in the way and means you miss pictures; besides, when I’ve used them in the past, I’ve still found champagne on my camera afterward. No safety glasses – it’s just one more surface to clean off. I went in the locker room just ahead of the Giants players equipped with one camera with a wide angle lens and a flash, and a towel loaned to me by the Phillies’ team photographer.
A towel is essential: once there’s champagne on the front of your lens, you cannot make pictures – and there’s no way there will not be lots of champagne on the front of your lens. (Tip: simply wiping off the champagne with a towel will just smear it around on the front of your lens, making it impossible to take photographs, so spit on the lens or lick it to clean it. Not so pleasant, but effective). It’s a very chaotic scene – celebrations are all around you, the room is small, the athletes are big, you are not the only photographer or videographer inside – so there’s not much time or space to delicately clean off your camera to keep shooting.
When I got back to my hotel room I thoroughly wiped down my equipment with a damp cloth and took a hot shower.
Kudos go to the editors and processors. There’s no time to edit in camera – I shot for awhile, shipped a disk, and shot some more, so there’s a lot of frames to look through. The players are almost always wearing championship t-shirts, so their numbers are not visible, making it very hard to identify them. Everything is happening all at once in there so there’s rarely time to add voice tags even if you know who you just photographed. The editor and processor have to sort out who is who – not an easy task.
I’ve had players single me out to pour champagne over my head, I’ve seen the jokes the players play on each other while they celebrate and I’ve seen the players almost uncontrollably overjoyed with what they had just accomplished. Practical considerations and personal comfort aside, covering the locker room celebrations is great fun.