Monday, January 11, 2016

For a guy who represents The Butler Way

I've been thinking a lot lately about Andrew Smith, the Butler University basketball alum whose two-year battle against cancer has been chronicled at "Kicking Cancer With the Smiths," a blog maintained by Andrew's wife, Samantha Smith.

Samantha's most recent post updating their fight has been the most heartbreaking to date. Doctors have told her that death for Andrew is imminent, and she grappled with the idea of losing the person most dear to her. "He is afraid of death, and I am afraid of life," she wrote. "I'm afraid of life without Andrew Smith by my side as my spouse, my protector, my best friend, my everything."

Despite the doctors difficult prognosis, Samantha continues to pray and hold out hope for a miracle ... and to give her the strength to deal with what lies ahead.

Andrew came to Butler via Covenant Christian High School on the Westside of Indianapolis. In his senior year there, he led the state in rebounding, was named All-City player of the year and was selected as a National Christian Schools Athletic Association All-American. The 6-11 center accepted a scholarship to Butler, beginning with the 2009-10 school year, and in his four years there did his part to represent the "Butler Way."

He was fortunate to have played on both Butler teams (2010, 2011) that played for the NCAA national championship before graduating in 2013. Smith dabbled briefly in pro ball in Lithuania late that year, but that was cut short in January when Smith discovered a bump on his neck, which began the ordeal he and Samantha are on now. Though things have not been going good for a few months now, Andrew and Samantha attended Butler's game this season against Purdue in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Dec. 19.

My primary allegiance to a college basketball team is with the University of Wisconsin; I grew up and went to school in Wisconsin and still hold strong sentiments to the teams I followed from childhood. But I've been a Butler basketball fan since the new millennium or thereabouts, and I've been fortunate to photograph three games at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The second, on Nov. 1, 2009, was an exhibition against DePauw University, and it also was Smith's first game with the Bulldogs.

Because it was an exhibition, then-coach Brad Stevens made a point to play a lot of his squad in that game, so Andrew ended up in a lot of my photos. The same thing happened the following year, on Nov. 4, 2010, when Butler opened the season in an exhibition against another Indiana team, Hanover College, the third Butler game I photographed.

With Andrew on my mind, I decided to devote a post to him with photos of him that I took in those two games. What you see aren't all of them, but they're a lot of them. Probably my favorite with Andrew in them is the one leading off the post, simply because of the symphony of arms, hands -- and one leg -- and the intensity of all of those athletes going after a free ball under the bucket. A few frames after I took that shot, Hanover player Mike Case -- the off-balance guy in the blue uniform in the foreground -- had fallen out of the picture ... except for an arm tugging hard on Andrew's jersey. I've included that image below.

My thoughts and prayers are with Andrew, Samantha and their families.

Above and next two below: Other frames in the sequence depicted in the lead-off photos. In the photo immediately above, you can see Hanover's Mike Case beginning to fall to the ground. Two photos below, that's his hand grabbing Andrew Smith's jersey.

Above: Case and Smith were going one on one again in a tussle for the ball. 

Above: Smith (second from left) with fellow Bulldogs on the bench (from left), Erik Fromm, Shawn Van Zant, Matt Howard, Shelvin Mack, Alex Anglin, Garrett Butcher, Zach Hahn and Ronald Nored. 

Above: Smith on the bench, flanked by Erik Fromm and Shelvin Mack, as coach Brad Stevens directs players on the floor.

Above: Smith watches a ball laid up by Hanover's Ryan Nowicki. 

Above: Smith under the basket late in the game.

Above and below: Two frames from a shot Smith took. Not my best focusing work, but ... it's close up.

Above: Smith, taking the floor as a Butler Bulldog for the first time in the 2009-10 season, is third in line. Behind him is Gordon Hayward, a sophomore who would be playing his final year for the Bulldogs before making himself available for the NBA draft. 

Above and below: DePauw's Joe Bergfeld guarded Smith a lot in this game.

Above: Smith and the Tigers' Tony James in a scrap for the ball.

Above and next two below: Smith in up-close frames taking shots around the basket.

Above: Smith defends Tom Callen in the corner. 

Above: Smith (left) sticks close to Bergfeld on this offensive sequence in the second half.

Above: Another sideline capture of Smith on the bench near coach Stevens. 

Above: A rebound caroms Smith's way. 

Above and next two below: Smith and Bergfeld go at it again. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Return to Metamora, Ind.

Many communities throughout the country use the holidays to dress up their core commercial districts, which instills a sense of local pride and, if done particularly well, draws visitors and business from outside their boundaries.

One such community is Metamora, Ind., which I visited and photographed for the first time six years ago. Metamora uses its Old World charm to attract tourists year-round; it promotes its grist mill, horse-drawn canal boat and carriage rides, and its distinct aqueduct -- which it claims to be the only wooden one in the country.

There are special events such as Strawberry Days, Canal Days and the Labor Day weekend music festival. But the town cranks up the appeal with the annual Christmas Walk, which begins the Saturday before Thanksgiving with the annual tree lighting ceremony. Each weekend thereafter through Christmas, in addition to the holiday lights and decorations, there is live music and caroling, a Currier and Ives scene, and other festive pageantry. Many of the specialty shops dress up their storefronts and windows and display their best holiday goods and crafts.

I revisited Metamora last Saturday, this time spending much more time visiting the shops and observing the outdoor decor and less time photographing. The weather was much more conducive for touring this time; temperatures were in the mid-60s, compared to the low 30s when I visited in 2009.

The town's decorations reflected some change since I was there last. Most notable are the addition of lighted figures near the core intersection -- Main and Columbia streets -- and the absence of a lot of the luminarias I recalled from 2009, as well as the lack of candy canes that had lined a sidewalk leading to the gazebo in a small park alongside the canal and grist mill.

But the essence of the town in the holiday season is the same. I arrived about 2:30 p.m., hoping to catch the town both in daylight and at night. I did not stay nearly as late as I had hoped; I left around 5:45 p.m., not quite late enough to enjoy the after-dark splendor.

The foot traffic seemed strangely light for a prime weekend day when I got there; I had presumed that free parking at the town core would be filled, so I paid $5 to park in a lot near the main highway (U.S. 52). I was surprised that when I got to the core area, there were open parking spots -- not many, but much more than I remember when I came in 2009.

Foot traffic didn't pick up until late in the afternoon -- after 5 p.m. Right around that time, Margie Stoller and Cindy Thompson of Marginal Cinderellas, a duo based in Eaton, Ohio, which is not far from Richmond, Ind., which hugs the Indiana-Ohio state line, were performing on the porch of Luna's Garden on North Main Street. They are pictured in the photo leading off the post.

Very soon I will add these photos to my Metamora gallery on SmugMug.

Photo Geek stuff: I shot the entire Dec. 12 visit using my Canon 6D and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. I hand-held my shots, which I bracketed for exposure (three shots per scene) to process in high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing. I was able to do that with most of my photos.

Above and next two below: Items for sale in Luna's Garden.

Above: A canvas wrap for sale inside one of the shops.

Above: The facade of one of the larger shop buildings along South Main Street.

Above and next four below: Another "change" I noticed Saturday was the new digs of the Smelly Gourmet, which bills itself as a European coffee bar. The bearded gentlemen in top hats were affable sorts and gave the full lowdown on the shop's hulless popcorn, which I sampled -- and enjoyed. I included the last photo in the Smelly Gourmet series -- the one directing shop customers where to go for complaints -- for its levity.

Above and next two below: the dam and waterfall adjacent to the park and grist mill.

Above: The park gazebo and walkway, along which candy canes were lined in my visit in 2009.

Above: A window scene in a shop that appeared to be closed along South Main Street.

Above and next three below: A sampling of the streetside holiday decorations.

Above and next several below: Shots incorporating the canal, which divides North Main Street from South Main Street. At the far end of the canal in the photo above, one can see the wooden aqueduct.

Above: Three closely connected buildings along South Main Street.

Above: Grannie's Cookie Jars and Ice Cream Parlor, where one can find cookie jars in sundry sizes, shapes and styles, as evidenced in the three photos below, which show jars on display in the two storefront display windows and on an interior shelf featuring Coca-Cola bears. Shop Owner Edith Eva Fuchs, aka "Grannie," has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for possessing the largest collection of cookie jars -- more than 2,000 of which are for sale on the shop's main floor. Many more are in storage upstairs.

Above: The Cat and the Fiddle is a popular play for live entertainment in Metamora.

Above and next three below: A selection of photos of the carriage rides, beginning (above) with one carriage in an interesting juxtaposition with a hot-colored classic car as they cross paths on Clayborn Street.

The pastorals above and below, taken adjacent to the shopping areas, are reminders of the town's proximity to rural life in Franklin County. These animals were behind a wire fence along the southern border of the Duck Creek shopping area of town.