USTA National Championships 2015

From June 13-20, I had quite the road trip around the Midwest. This year marked my 5th year helping out John Konstantaras at USTA Nationals photographing for TNT PIX, and the road trip was based upon this year’s events, held in Rapid City, South Dakota.

To split up my drive a little, and to visit a friend and a new Big Ten school, I visited Pathum Karunaratne at the University of Minnesota. We watched the Blackhawks take Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at the Library. But after that, we took some time to explore, and somewhat more importantly, find a place to take another skyline photo, which I fancy. 20 miles of aimlessly driving around (trying some pre-researched locations), we went to a location where you could literally walk over the Interstate.

Day 2 brought about continuing my trip to South Dakota, and hours later, I found myself in western South Dakota. I knew ahead of time I wanted to take in the Badlands before the work week took place and I would have very limited time after photographing for the days. I drove around a couple times, the first taking in the drive and sights. Utilized my GoPro for a few angles. I also wanted to try to get myself to think and document more video-oriented, thus forcing me to use my GoPro as another tool in the toolbox. This should output a little bit of a video later on. After driving once through, I stopped to take some more images and even hiked a trail! After the sun started to set, I made my way into town to meet the others of our group that made it earlier.

Day 3: Aside from the event, we explored the city and found Independent Ale House the first evening, which had many beers on tap. This was followed by figuring out how to watch the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup Final Game 6, as it was the potential series-clincher (they won!), in a house without cable, but fortunately a satellite if we hooked it up (Mark White to the rescue!).

Day 4: The weather had cleared up for the fourth day, so Josh Coles, Natascha Schenk, and I took a mini-road trip to Mount Rushmore, only to be worried at the sight of low clouds/fog. We stuck around and got glimpses of the wonder. After I got the specific shots I desired, I wanted one shot with them, and then a shot of just the two of them, but it was too cloudy and nearing closing time, so I decided to take the shot I would’ve wanted, and composite Mount Rushmore as it would have looked like.

Day 5: I took out the GoPro to get some footage of what it looked like from my perspective, photographing Trampoline 1, which was my post for the week. I chose Nicholas Baron for the clip, as he was an athlete from my hometown I’ve known since my introduction to the USTA, and I’m well acquainted with him and his family (and he was of course competing on trampoline that day). On my lunch break, I noticed wonderful midday light coming in from the ceiling and made some snaps of Katie Sepe, a 5 Star Elite athlete and daughter of Anthony Sepe, another TNT Pix helper, looking through photos on one of the computers.

Day 6: After photographing for the day, I had to carry forward, missing a couple days of competition, to photograph the wedding of one of my college professors, Brian Wiley, in Charles City, Iowa. I knew driving all-day Friday would be cutting close, as he desired photographs of his rehearsal dinner that night, so I left Thursday evening. On my way out, I knew I’d hit sunset time, so I revisited the Badlands to get some night images, as I knew the area was away from light pollution like how Chicagoland is. Driving through the Badlands alone in the darkness was first really creepy, as there was seldom a light, except for a passing car. But as it went by, and I was standing close to my car photographing the night sky, my feelings changed to awe, being immersed in the night sky. Our view of the Milky Way was faintly visible with the naked eye, and if I wasn’t in and out of my car and its bright lights, I would have definitely seen it better. After leaving the Badlands at approximately 11PM local time (MDT), I was off to Sioux Falls, S.D., where I had pre-decided I would take a few hours to sleep, recharge, and split up my drive from Rapid City, S.D., to Charles City, Iowa. Stopping at 3 rest stops along the way, as tiredness crept, I made it to my hotel in Sioux Falls at 6AM local time (CDT). Fortunately, the front desk attendant was generous enough to extend my check out time to noon, which I utilized fully. After this nap, I was off to Charles City, for Brian Wiley, fiancé Leah Niezwaag, and their families.