AP photography excels 'above the rim' at United Center

May 11, 2011

The Associated Press sends photographers to nearly every major Chicago sports event. Last night's Game 5 at the United Center was no different, with AP photographers Nam Huh and Charles Rex Arbogast shooting for the news service.

They shoot photos and upload them to AP Images, so news organizations with paid subscriptions can use those photos for their newspaper stories and for slideshows on web sites. No photographers were sent to Chicago by the Atlanta Journal Constitution- they're relying on AP to get the shot. We are no different. I use AP Images all the time for not only sports, but local news.

Today, I looked for something to put up with the Bulls story and saw several outstanding, unique photographs. They were captured through the glass of the backboard at rim level. It was like staring at a poster. I know I've seen this photography done before, but I haven't seen it done regularly by AP Images.

I tracked down Charles Rex Arbogast to ask him about these magnificent shots. He is a AP photographer in town that shoots more than just sports, but he seems to be one of the photographers whose byline accompanies big game photography. He told me that during the playoffs, AP has been mounting their cameras behind the backboard and he has been shooting remotely from the opposite end of the floor, by the Bulls bench. "I carry two cameras with me and we operate the backboard camera remotely," said Arbogast. "I can't see the shots until halftime or after the game, so we have no idea what we have until we take the camera down."

Arbogast says this isn't new, but only a few media outlets shoot from this angle. He cited Sports Illustrated, the NBA and Chicago Bulls photographers as the others. "It takes a lot of work to put those cameras up. We usually will get there around 2 or 3 in the afternoon to set up and after shoot around, we get the ladder and have about 40 minutes to tweak the camera angles and focus." Then, it's time to work. Arbogast estimates that between two photographers, they will shoot more than 2,000 photos of a game. This includes sideline, upper level, behind the basket and of course, the backboard. They end up sending about 100 to the AP clients. Most of that ends up in outtakes or extras. The photos sent during the game and after tally around 50. "We're looking for the best action shots, but we also have to tell the story of the game," said Arbogast. "A lot of people think we just shoot and don't pay attention to the action, but we are constantly focused, checking the scoreboard and getting shots that tell the story of the game."

Now, I was thinking that the camera has to be in serious danger of getting damaged or destroyed by monster dunks and errant heads and elbows. But Arbogast says via e-mail that they work hard to make sure that doesn't happen. "Several redundant safety and secure procedures are used, two supports, one for the camera and an identical one for that support. A safety cable is woven through the supports and camera and attached to a secure location on the backboard incase everything breaks away so it wont fall to the floor below."

Their hard work is paying off. These are some of the best sports shots I've seen.