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Smithville’s Jordan Wardlaw and Tucker Hood combine to bring down a Simmons runner during the North half finals in November. This photo won best sports action photograph at the Mississippi Press Association awards.

One of the first questions I am always asked (especially by the kids) when one sees me out at a game is, “Are you a photographer?”

The answer is: “Well, yes and no.”

If you ask me about my job, the first answer I am probably going to give is that I am a writer. I have always been a writer, since I was old enough to start carrying around a spiral notebook and putting down my thoughts and writing short stories. I’m sure my parents can still hunt up a childhood story I wrote at age 8 or 9.

But in this job, I wear many hats, including writing, editing, coming up with story ideas and last but not least, because it seems to be everyone’s favorite, photography.

When I first started in this job, I knew shooting good photos would be my toughest challenge. I had never really done it before (with a good, professional camera), and my one experience with it during photography class in college made me know it wasn’t going to be a strength.

My philosophy has always been shoot, shoot and shoot, and eventually I will get something good.

That something good apparently came this past football season.

I don’t think it’s the first good photo I have taken before – I have had plenty during the past seven-plus years that I was pleased with and got compliments on. But it was the first one that the judges of our annual Mississippi Press Association Better Newspaper Contest liked enough to give me a first-place award on.

That photo didn’t come easy either. Anyone who remembers attending the North-half game between Smithville and Hollandale Simmons last November will know that nothing came easy that night – not getting to the game, standing around without getting knee deep in mud or anything that the players did on the field.

Shooting photos was no different. As the rain lightly fell when the game began, I remember working to keep the camera dry. (Contrary to what many assume, it’s not waterproof.) Then it was simply trying to keep up with the game and shoot pictures, all the while staying upright and not slipping down in the mud or running into muddy, wet players on the sideline.

As I was looking back through those photos a couple of days later, I struggled to find ones I liked – the players were so muddy, sometimes you couldn’t identify them unless you were like me and knew exactly who was supposed to be where and how a player ran, threw, tackled, etc.

There was one photo that stood out though that accurately represented the game – a photo of linebackers Tucker Hood and Jordan Wardlaw down in the mud working to bring down a Simmons runner. Their jerseys were so caked in mud that if you hadn’t watched them in so many games like I did, you might not know who they were. The water and the mud on the field were flying up too, which showed exactly the conditions they had been fighting in the entire night.

They always say a picture is worth a thousand words. That night it was, but it was also worth a thousand inches of muddy, rainy mess on a football field.

Like I said when I posted the photo on Facebook, who knew that was what it took to finally win an award for a photograph?

Melissa Meador is the Sports Editor of the Monroe Journal. Contact her at melissa.meador@journalinc.com or follow her on Twitter: @MelissaMeador14.

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