My experience as a photographer at the Mountain West Conference tournament

A majority of my week was spent in Las Vegas and mostly inside the Thomas and Mack Center. I was there to document the Mountain West Conference tournament for the conference itself. It was the first time I’ve ever been given all-access to an event and I cannot explain how incredible that was. When talking with Justin Tafoya, the other photographer I was working with, we were so grateful for how the conference treated us. They trusted us as professionals and gave us all the resources we needed to create the best photographs – a big and warm thank you to the Mountain West Conference.

Video: My 115 selects in 15 seconds, more text below.

When I arrived in Vegas on Monday afternoon I remembered thinking that after the 19th game I’d be sick and tired of shooting basketball but come Saturday evening and 19 games later I only wanted more. This tournament was special. The Mountain West Conference doesn’t have teams like Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, or Kentucky, instead it has teams like Wyoming and Boise State, teams that have to win their tournament and win five consecutive games in order to make it to the NCAA tournament. With that much on the line, every game was an elimination game and for the seniors in the tournament it meant it could be the last game of their career. When Fresno State guard Cezar Guerrero fouled out against Colorado State I couldn’t keep the tears from forming in my own eyes. Every player in the tournament busted their ass and as a very competitive person myself, I felt for those whose seasons were over.

As one team’s season ended, another team’s season continued, making for beautiful images of beautiful moments, moments that gave me chills and moments that Boise State guard Yaiza Rodriquez described as “some of the greatest (moments) of my life.”

The tournament wasn’t solely focused on basketball, the Mountain West partnered with Goodie Two Shoes, a non-profit that gifts brand new shoes to children in need, and held events before games to fit and gift shoes. Cheerleaders, mascots and pep bands joined in on the fun and made the childrens’ days extra special.

Over the course of the week, I tried to create a diverse body of work. By diverse, I mean a collection of photographs that look cool and still can be used effectively by the conference. To create useful photographs I used light, ultra wide lenses and remotes to capture images that would be impossible with traditional sports photography equipment. Here are several images that used these techniques. As always, planning and patience is critical when using light.

For a portrait of Wyoming’s #1 fan I used a speed light above camera left to get an image that makes him pop instead of blend into the background.

An ultra wide lens capture a SDSU huddle.

An ultra wide lens capture a Wyoming huddle.

A floor remote paired with an ultra wide lens captures a dunk.

In this image I used a speed light with a blue gel on it to balance out the image.

Two lights work in tandem to create an image of player introductions.

As all things have to come to an end (including this blog post), the tournament ended with Wyoming (who won) and San Diego State playing in the Mountain West Conference championship. To begin with, Wyoming is a very talented team and I expect them to make a nice run into the NCAA tournament. They are not the deepest teams but with TV timeouts in tournaments depth isn’t a big problem for many teams. Josh Adams (no. 14), their star guard, is a freak athlete and was very easy to make interesting images of. Like I said earlier, Wyoming had to win five consecutive games to advance to the NCAA tournament so emotions were high, creating some special images. This next series contains images of Wyoming’s games throughout the tournament and finally their victory over San Diego State in the championship.

Josh Adams

Using Format