September 11, 2012
Life these days one big ‘snap’ for Barnes
In a different way than expected, guiding the SUNY Cortland men’s lacrosse team to the 2006 NCAA Division III national championship as an interim head coach certainly changed Rich Barnes’ life.
After that storybook season, he used a chunk of his coaching salary to purchase a Canon Digital Rebel camera and began tinkering with sports photography. Six years later, Barnes has found this simple hobby has developed into something much, much more.
This past weekend Barnes was at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., to snap the images of the Syracuse University football game against Southern Cal as a photographer for US Presswire. This coming Saturday he will be on the sidelines at the Carrier Dome when SU hosts Stony Brook, and will be assigned his first NFL contest the following day as the No. 2 shooter for The Associated Press when the Kansas City Chiefs visit Buffalo to take on the Bills.
Those flipping through a recent edition of Sports Illustrated may have noticed the large and infamous image of a shirtless Tim Tebow running through the rain at the New York Jets’ camp held at SUNY Cortland. That image came from Barnes’ camera — having since upgraded from his Canon Digital Rebel to a Nikon — and marked the third time the prestigious magazine has used his work.
His first contribution was a simple head shot of television basketball announcer Clark Kellogg, but it was still a thrill. “That was nice. That was a good feeling,” recalls Barnes.
He also had a shot from the Major Soccer League All-Star game on the pages of SI, had a picture of Colgate lacrosse standout Peter Baum appear in Sports Illustrated for Kids and had an image of Syracuse University basketball guard Scoop Jardine appear on the cover of The Sporting News as part of its NCAA March Madness edition.
Barnes pictures are littered throughout the Internet, ranging from anything and everything from being a regular at SU basketball games to attending NASCAR auto races.
In other words, the former standout Cortland High (Class of 1985), Herkimer Community College and SUNY Cortland lacrosse goalie — who will be inducted into the Upstate New York Lacrosse Hall of Fame in October and who is in his 21st year teaching physical education in the Homer Central School District — has come a long ways since scratching this creative itch.
“I think they thought it was always a nice story, here’s the lacrosse coach and now he’s taking pictures,” said Barnes on how his lacrosse peers view this career change. “I just tell them, most lacrosse coaches stop coaching and then go into the TV booth. I don’t want to be on TV. I wanted to be involved. I want to take the media route the other way.”
BARNES ALWAYS HAD an interest in photography.
“I remember having a 35-millimeter camera that my dad bought me many, many years ago,” he says. “We traveled a lot, so there were a lot of landscape-type things. I enjoyed taking pictures, but with my love of sports I thought if I’m going to take pictures I want it to be action and from the sidelines.”
So back in 2006, a new lens and camera purchased, he started appearing on the sidelines for Homer football games. “Then I started getting interested, I mean really interested,” he says as he branched out to other sports while honing his craft along the way.
“I really started getting comfortable, and feeling like the work I could produce is quality enough, within the past couple of years. Learning what is a good photo and what isn’t a good photo is important, too,” said Barnes.
“The biggest thing is just being critical of your work,” he added. “When I first started out it was hard to look at a photo and think it’s good action, which makes a good photo, and that’s not necessarily the case. A good action shot of someone’s back doesn’t make for a good picture.”
By the spring of 2010, Barnes began shooting pictures for lacrosse web-sites and eventually moved on to Inside Lacrosse and Lacrosse Magazine, where fellow photographers Greg Wall and John Mecionos were among provided instructive guidance.
“Learning the game, knowing the game, helps. For me, obviously, lacrosse comes pretty easy,” says Barnes. “Basketball is probably No. 2 for me. Football I really, really enjoy, but football is a different thing. There are so many spots where you can’t shoot because of where the benches are. In football, you really have to have a game plan. I try to take care of the quarterbacks first, try to get your star players in action and so forth.”
Still teaching and still coaching on a part-time bases — “As I tell people, my day job lets me get my photography equipment,” he says — this father of two is kept more than busy these days looking at sporting events through camera lens.
“THE DAYS ARE LONG. You go shoot NASCAR at Watkins Glen and I’m on the track at 7 a.m. and not home until 9 or 10 p.m. It’s certainly a labor of love,” says Barnes.
“I have a game every single weekend in the fall, between Syracuse and Penn State,” he said of his current US Presswire obligations. “I’m shooting for Monmouth College in New Jersey, and they play Albany (in football) so I’m driving to Albany to shoot for them. I get to Cortland State if I can, so I’m always somewhere.”
And when basketball season comes around, Barnes leaves right from Homer Intermediate School to head to the Carrier Dome for long days. “I like to work on and edit and submit all my pictures before I leave, so I’ll be at the Dome until 10 or 11 o’clock,” he says.
Coaching lacrosse is still a big part of Barnes’ life, too.
He had decided to step down from his one-year stint as head coach at SUNY Cortland, pressed into duty when Lelan Rogers left to go to Division I Syracuse, even before the Red Dragons upset defending champion Salisbury in overtime to win the national title. Barnes was named the Division III Coach of the Year that remarkable 2006 season.
From Cortland, he went on to work as an assistant at Le Moyne College where the Dolphins captured NCAA Division II national crowns. This year he plans to continue helping out at Ithaca College and with the Homer Central junior high squad, with a reduced schedule that provides more time for his ever-growing photography duties.
“It’s been great for me to go back and coach at that level,” says Barnes of working with junior high kids. “The Cortland experience, the Le Moyne experience, you kind of get out there in fantasy land. Lacrosse and coaching is more than playing in championship games, as great as that was, don’t get me wrong. Teaching the kids at that level how to play, practice hard and the right way to practice, hopefully we have other coaches in that same situation.”
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