Through the Eye of a Tiger

Photo by Abby Elliott
Photo by Abby Elliott

Through the Eye of a Tiger

Friday night lights. Fans scream. The band plays. The student section goes wild. Texas High just scored another touchdown, and it was all captured through the lens of a Tiger photographer and the words of a Tiger writer.

The Texas High publications program begins its work on Friday nights long before kickoff. During the summer, preparation and planning commence for fall sports coverage.

“Each summer, the staff plans out coverage for all fall sports,” adviser Clint Smith said. “We design score graphics for our social media and train students to be photographers, videographers, and editors.”

Before the start of school, writers, editors, and photographers go through a boot camp, along with multiple workshops, to ensure their skills are polished and ready to go for the upcoming school year. The boot camp is an opportunity for incoming “newbie” photographers to grasp the basics.

“As soon as boot camp starts, we hit the ground running,” senior assignments editor Braylen Garren said. “We teach them ISO, aperture, shutter speed, camera mechanics, composition, and editing so that they can take usable photos by the end of July.”

The camp is not all business, though. The newspaper and yearbook staff give the incoming photographers a chance to test their newfound skills at the end of the week.

“Newspaper and yearbook students have a paint war,” Garren said. “The photographers treat this like an assignment, so they get real-time experience, and after that, they’re expected to know what to do and be trusted.”

Shooting at fast-paced events, like a paint war, prepares the photographers and videographers for the upcoming sports season: football. Like most schools in the south, Texas High lives for its football program.

“The culture for football is unmatched at Texas High. The student sections are always crazy, and the entrances are unreal,” senior videographer Jackson Haltom said. “You do not get a better experience; for me to get up close and personal with every aspect of the game is so awesome. I want to be able to show every person possible how great this game really is.”

The importance of football across the student body makes the photographer’s job even more impactful.

“Capturing moments on Friday nights are so important,” Garren said. “We capture the highs and the lows, the reactions, and the intensity of the game. We get to tell the game’s story from something as simple as a photo.”

With a camera covering every inch of the field, the photography staff is always prepared to capture a moment and tell a story.

“We, as photographers, deliver the experience of [Friday Night Lights] to the fans,” senior editor-in-chief Macy Maynard said. “Every picture we take captures a story, and whether it be a win, loss, celebration, or injury, we tell that story.”

The staff also gets a chance to interact with the coaches and players while being on the field and snapping photos.

“Interacting with the coaches and players is really fun for me,” senior podcast producer Braden McKinnon said. “I get to hear their side of everything going on, every play and moment, so I think that is cool.”

Capturing emotions is as important as capturing action shots. Since football is high energy and filled with emotion, much detail goes into taking photos.

“Photographers must have their heads on a swivel. Most of our awards come from telling the story of what happens off the field,” Smith said. “The best image that everyone is missing is hiding in plain sight because everyone is looking at the same thing.”

Apart from the action on the field, the Friday Night Lights production continues up to the Grim Stadium press box.

“Games from the press box are some of my favorite memories,” McKinnon said. “Usually, I can talk to some of the coaches, principals, or announcers about the game, and there is always tons of good food!”

In addition to coaching and faculty access, there are other benefits to watching the game from so high up.

“Writing up there is awesome because I can see everything going on, and it makes everything a lot easier to get the information,” McKinnon said. “Usually, with a roster provided, I learn a lot about players, and it makes writing the stories much easier.”

For the publications staff, Friday Night Lights does not end after Grim Stadium locks up. After games, the media staff return to the school to finish production.

“Finishing production is usually really hectic. Everyone is scouring through all the pictures and videos trying to find the best ones to put up with the story that night.” McKinnon said. “Usually, everyone gets to leave around 1 a.m., but it is really fun and good bonding from all of the staff.”

Finishing the overall production of that week’s game takes effort from every section of the staff.

“Photographers build galleries from their photos, writers and stat keepers build their story, videographers make highlight reels or archive footage for the next week’s advance stories,” Smith said. “[At the end of the night,] our section editors publish the finished product to tigertimesonline.com.”

The photos and videos produced also mean a lot to the football players.

“The players get to interact with the camera and photographer while having fun, but also playing the game they love,” senior varsity football player Cody Reese said. “It gives the players a sense of fame and gives them memories they will never forget.”

The Texas High publications staff has earned multiple awards across the state and the nation.

The photography staff won first place in the Sports Photography and Photojournalism categories in the Association of Texas Photography Instructors Top Program awards. Individuals won national awards, as well.

“Our students won twelve individual achievement awards, more than any other school in the nation, in the 2022 Josten Photo Contest,” Smith said, “including awards in sports action, sidelines, and school spirit categories.”

Braylen Garren, Macy Maynard, Allyson Arnold, Lizzie Debenport, and Sydney Rowe made up the Texas ImageMaker team, a team of the top ten photographers in the state of Texas.

Despite the endless hours of work, the media staff focuses on producing for their school.

“It all is worth it to me to know that I am telling a story for our school, students, and school district,” Maynard said. “And all the hard work is shown in [what] we produce as a program.”

Adviser Clint Smith focuses on two primary goals for his staff while they are a part of his program: teaching them to be good journalists and skills to use throughout their lives in aspects aside from journalism.

“I would love for my students to become great journalists or media content creators of some sort,” Smith said. “However, I am happy if they learn teamwork, leadership, and build communications skills while in our program.”


 

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