Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Boxing Projects


When I was 19 years old, I started the sport of Boxing. There was no real reason for it, I had been in a few fistfights growing up but nothing that lived inside me that had a penchant for blood and fists. I simply thought the sport was cool. Keep in mind, this was the time of Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard…..it was popular and I just wanted to do it.
I fought for almost 5 years before “retiring”.  It hurt.

Ronald Gavril fights at Turning Stone on the Mayweather Promotions card.

Fast forward twenty some odd years and here I am again in the sport, only this time I am outside of the ropes. I’ve become a sports photographer and I have had the opportunity to shoot quite a few fights in the past year. I’ve flown numerous times to The Turning Stone Resort in Upstate New York and shot televised events under the ShowTime, HBO and ESPN broadcast banners. I’ve also filmed in Kissimmee, Florida, Orlando and Las Vegas, and I’m hopefully just getting started.



Orlando Cruz (right) told folks he was gay, a first for the sport of Pro Boxing, and then whipped his opponent during an AllStar Promoted card in Kissimee, Florida.

The interest started back when there was commotion of the first pro fighter coming out, as they say. Puerto Rican superstar Orlando Cruz had just announced that he was gay, a first in the sport, and the media buzz was incredible! I shot his fight in the packed stadium and listened as the catcalls and boo’s quickly turned into chants of joy, and encouragement and National Pride. Cruz had turned a majority of the crowd into passionate fans who got to see his pugilistic prowess first hand. He easily won the fight, and that feeling I had upon seeing my images on the back of my camera that night were set in stone, boxing and the surrounding atmosphere would become my new passion.


Brandon Adams (left) fights during the ESPN Boxcino Tournament at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY.

It was shortly after that when I began work on a documentary film centered around Canastota, New York, the home of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and the town I grew up in. Interviews with Tony Graziano, Ray Rinaldi, Billy Backus and Ed Brophy give this project in depth insight into the history of the sport and how it should be covered and hopefully remembered. This project has continued for almost 3 years, and I am getting closer to finishing up the project with the help of a talented producer and writer, Linnea Edmeier and the locals who have extensive knowledge of boxing and its roots. The folks I have met, and my surrounding team are the best at what they do, and this keeps drawing me back, month after month. I am off once again for my fourth consecutive Hall of Fame inductions in a few weeks, to not only cover the event for the Associated Press wire, but to reach out to make more industry connections. I truly want to be a “go to shooter” in the minds of the promotion companies and their fighters.

Miguel Cotto knocks out Delvin Rodriguez in the 3rd round at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. The crowd was over 16,000 and this image made the ESPN Photo of the Week.

Near the end of 2013, another Puerto Rican superstar, Miguel Cotto was bringing his contest to the Amway Arena, with his trainer Freddie Roach. These two have hooked up and are both at the top of their games. The sellout crowd was just under 17,000 and was byfar the biggest fight ever in the Orlando market. Cotto won by beating Delvin Rodriguez by knockout in the 3rd round. My images were distributed all over the Associated Press wire service, and I ended up having a “Photo of the week” image run on the ESPN photo gallery page. Big time fights make for damn good images!

Floyd Mayweather Jr., now 46-0, weighs in prior to his fight against Marcos Maidana.

A few more trips back to Turning Stone saw some amazing fights on the ESPN Boxcino tournament. I was able to capture some more thrilling images including a TKO from Floridian Nate Heaven, in the heavyweight division. Power punches galore.

The highlight of my boxing photography happened a few short weeks ago at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Floyd Mayweather and crew had promoted a show at the Turning Stone Events Center, and it was here I met with the media and promotions manager Nicole Craig. She is an extremely busy person, but actually took the time to speak briefly with me. It was her help that enabled me to shoot a few days in Las Vegas.

Floyd Mayweather Jr punches Marcos Maidana on his way to a 12 round win.

There is way too much to talk about on this trip, the fans, the promoters, the weigh in, the fight and just that Fight Freak atmosphere….but all in all the experience was incredible. Though I was not really set up to the media access I was normally accustomed to, I was able to pull off a few cool images from my seat up high. I truly hope to one day be a main apron shooter at fights of this magnitude! I am working on my boxing styles every chance I get, and will part of the young guard coming up the ranks…. I want to acknowledge the promoters and media contacts that have helped to get me this far. You will be seeing a lot of my images in publications in the coming years……this I guarantee!














Friday, December 13, 2013

My Viral Image!




Every photographer that has ever uploaded their image to the internet to share it with friends, family or clients, has at one time or another had their images stolen (whether they know it or not). Its not a very good feeling when you realize that after you took the time to prepare, arrive, properly capture the shot, edit it, watermark it and then upload it, that an unknown thief grabs it and claims it as their own.  Trying to pursue them can be very challenging and makes most individuals gnash their teeth and curse the invention of the web for image sharing in the first place!  Some victims have been known to morph themselves into the NSA, looking for and tracking any leads on Bing or Google that pop up….. it quickly turns into a lesson in futility. Trust me I know , but I digress…………….moving on to my story.

Over the past few years, every time the U.S. National soccer team comes to Florida, I am always the first to sign up to shoot them, no matter if it’s the Men’s or the Women’s team….they both ROCK and the games are always action packed with tons of screaming fans in attendance and top quality play!  It truly is one of the highlights of my photo career to capture these athletes on the field and to experience the actions of the game on the pitch. I’ve had a few images featured on both the ESPN and the Sports Illustrated websites after International friendlies and the CONCACAF qualifying games……and its just awesome to be able to share these scenes with the world, when its on my terms!



The first weekend this past November, the U.S. Women arrived in Orlando to take on their futbol nemesis, the Brazil National team.  Just to be clear, there is no love lost between these teams and the players know each other as well as one can know a rival. Though it was an international “friendly”, no one on earth expected the game to be played with kid gloves, this was serious business with bragging rights and National pride on the line.

(Side note)- Local media picked up on a story a few days prior to the match where the U.S. team bus broke down after a scheduled practice session and the players actually caught rides back to their hotel with their fans. The Twitter and Facebook worlds were all abuzz and other social media platforms stressing just how relaxed the U.S. girls seemed to be.  Smiles and happy spirits seemed to be everywhere if you could believe what you read…but that changed come game time.



The Florida Citrus Bowl was packed with about 30,000 spectators and the decibel level of the screaming fans was actually quite high. Though fireworks and flares were not allowed, the U.S. faithful seemed to have a pretty good time as they were videotaped live for the NBC television network, performing the wave, chanting and beating on small drums and tossing rolls of colored toilet paper onto the grass.

As for the media, all of the wire services and broadcast teams were in attendance and the assigned photo areas were pretty packed at the beginning of the game. It was about 10 minutes into the match that I decided to pack up my gear and change my camera angle….I caught a quick golf cart ride to the other side of the playing field and set up shop behind the endzone boards.  Within minutes of arriving, I was connected wirelessly to the internet with my MacAir.  It was Game on!!!!
It couldn’t have been 3 minutes later that Sydney Leroux scored her first of two goals on the day, and the crowd went absolutely nuts! All time leading scorer and recently married team Captain Abby Wambach raced over and jumped onto Leroux’s back as she stretched her arms out in celebration, facing the crowd and the national TV audience. The moment was fleeting and I happened to be in precisely the exact spot to see it, 8 shutter clicks later I had captured what I had come for, the perfect emotional frame.  I quickly pulled the card from my camera, inserted it into the card reader and grabbed the one frame that I wanted to transmit. I really didn’t do much in the way of image manipulation, just a simple tone, crop and added the caption/metadeta. Less that 2 minutes after the goal was scored, the image was already visible on the AP Images website.  Just as quickly as I had settled in, Abby was tripped in the goaltenders box and a penalty kick was assessed, she scored easily on the shot and the score was now 2-0, in a matter of minutes. Brazil kicked it into overdrive and the elbows started to fly.  By halftime I was walking back to the media room, having already uploaded 10 images….

The game ended 4-1 with the U.S. winning and everyone was happy. Days later I was thrilled to see that my first image had been selected as one of the ESPN “Images of the week”!

It was on a different job a few days later that my world came tumbling down. I searched “Alex Menendez” and “U.S. soccer” on the search engine and low and behold, my image was EVERYWHERE!  Literally.  There it was, on hundreds of tumblr sites, with full credit given  “COPYRIGHT AP IMAGES ALEX MENENDEZ”, but interestingly enough, more than half of the shots still had the AP watermark placed right across the shot that was there to prevent illegal use.  They were stolen…..plain and simple.



If you want to do a frame grab or a screen grab its quite simple, you just find the shot you want online and grab it. Once its on your computer screen, you can pretty much manipulate it any way that you want to, and this is just one of the things I saw being done to my soccer photo.  This image had been cropped, toned, over saturated, brightened, sharpened or simply turned to black and white. Somebody else had actually grabbed the un-watermarked version (most likely the large file from ESPN’s site) and created an Iphone screen saver and was passing it out like candy at Halloween to any of his followers that wanted it. I was less than thrilled at this discovery and the feeling one gets once they’ve realized that they’ve been violated sunk in….I was way more than mad.
Immediately I sent a quick list of sites to my editor who didn’t know what to say…..what could he say?
One by one I started following the long rabbit hole, down this way, right, left and back right again, only to discover 50 more violations. The few main sites I had discovered were being followed by hundreds of people, who in turn were being followed by hundreds more, and then more behind them…..all of them sharing or linking my photo, I was at a loss.  Due to the fact that I was on assignment in California, and using the incredibly slow hotel internet connection, I felt handcuffed as to how much trolling I could actually get done before my daily shoot was scheduled. I managed to contact the first 30 sites and sent a take down notice, but only 4 of them agreed to take the shots down with a written apology.  My next move was to contact Tumblr directly…..but that proved to be a joke.



Here is the response I received:

“If you are the copyright holder for the content that you are reporting, 
or their authorized representative, please complete the following 
DMCA notification form.
(form here) Once we receive your completed request we can proceed
with removing  the material you’ve reported.”
abuse@tumblr

The problem with doing as they command in their
policy, is that you need to fill out the entire form 
for EACH OCCURRENCE with the listed
website users web address. In essence, I would 
have to fill out over 1000 DMCA forms and 
include  every single link, and a copy of the 
pilfered image with the link.  It would take weeks 
to complete this  method.  They seem to trust their 
own users more  than they would trust me, the 
original owner of  the shot, whose name by the 
way appeared under most of the images stolen.

Most of you who are professionals know about
copyright registration, but to those that may not, 
let  me kinda, sorta fill you in.
Once you snap the shutter button and the image is
captured, you own that image, you are the 
copyright  holder. It belongs to you and you can 
call it yours.
There are certain restrictions on what you may or 
not use the image for, whether you can sell it 
or not, based on its contents and the location of 
the shot, and who the people are that appear in 
the shot. I won’t  get into this as this is a whole 
other can of worms and  we could talk for weeks 
about responsibility and usage.
What I want to talk about is the fact that the  
Associated Press watermarked this image with 
an AP Images logo so that people who wanted 
to use it in their  editorial content could license 
or “rent” the image for presentation or publication
without the logo covering the scene. I captured 
the image, and then via my contract, provided the 
shot to the AP site for licensing, for a set fee.
ESPN, among other publications, paid for this
image on a rental basis and then uploaded it to 
their websites for worldwide use.  They did 
nothing wrong in this instance, in fact, it was 
done by the book.
The theft began when a fan, (I can assume)
grabbed the image from both the ESPN site and 
the AP Images viewer site, and downloaded a 
lower resolution image to embed on their personal 
pages.
They attempted to give me credit under the image.
I am not sure if they thought that this would 
free them from paying for it or what, but it means 
nothing in a court of law if you’ve stolen the 
image in the first place.
Keep in mind that once I register this set of
images via  http://www.copyright.gov/and I 
receive my registration 
receipt number in the mail, I am bonafide. 
I can prove that my image is registered and then 
if I send an invoice to the guilty party for stealing 
my image, and they refuse to pay, I can then take 
them to court for copyright violation. This is the 
norm and I am having to do this for a lot of images 
that I have recently discovered. 
Its not fun, nor is it how I would like to be 
compensated for my hard work, but realize this, 
every assignment that I go on, I have to travel there.
My costs include gas, perhaps airfare and hotel,
and food.
My gear is worth tens of thousands of dollars and it too 
needs repair at times. I could go on, but won’t…….




Every image that I upload, there is a chance that it could get
stolen, I know this and it seems to be the norm these days. 
Once upon a time, a sportsshooter would  walk into a flea market 
or a shopping mall and see illegal prints of theirs for sale 
to general public, nowadays, when a stolen image goes viral, 
there is no way to  stop it.  This once profitable industry has 
changed, there are still ways to make  money at it, but you 
have to outsmart the trolls…..
Let me know your ideas or thoughts on this if you have any,
but when you contact me, don’t try to do it through Tumblr, 
I wont be there.

Alex@InstinctFilms.com

Follow me on Twitter:   @InstinctFilms

Blog Copyright Alex Menendez















Sunday, November 24, 2013

Scouting at the Zoo

Last evening both boys had the opportunity to attend the “Wild Night” boy scouts campout event at the Sanford Zoo. Both dens attended and the turnout was pretty good considering this would be a fairly short event.

Scouts and their families were to arrive at 4:00 on Saturday night, setup tents and the campground, then be prepared to meet our Zoo tour-guides at 7pm. Since the daylight savings time clock change happened a few weeks ago, it was fairly dark by 6:00, but that did not deter the 7 footballs that were flying between the trees and bouncing off the tents. These boys were non-stop and all roaring to go, especially since none of them has to return to school for at least another week……at this point, I was beginning to prepare for a long night!


Our guides arrived at 6:45 and gave instructions on what to do, and what NOT to do. We would be split up into 5 individual groups, and would be getting a 90-minute tour of the actual zoo. Everyone that carried a flashlight had to have a red colored gel affixed to their lights, as to not disturb or blind the wildlife. These gels were doled out and tested by our guides….then we were off in search of wild beasts and hissing insects.


Each group stopped at predetermined check points and saw such critters as scorpions, owls, Madagascar hissing roaches, alligators, porcupines, cougars and a fully loaded bat house. The time passed fairly quickly, and then it was back to camp.



We met up under the fan covered meeting spot which featured at least a dozen picnic tables, a few of which were strewn with old and tattered US flags.  Tonights lesson/activity would be to teach the boys (and a few visiting girls), how to properly retire a worn or tattered US flag.  The process begins with cutting out the blue patch with the stars, and then meticulously cutting the red and white stripes into individual ribbons or strips.


Fireside, a few small words were spoken by the parents and scouts, and the flag segments were placed into the fire, in order.  At this point, the flames grew taller than most of the kids that were surrounding it, and the heat radiated at least 30 feet from its popping and cracking center.  In a matter of minutes, the fire was back down to its normal size with no trace of the flags, and the group was off for banana pudding.




The clouds slowly moved in and at 11pm and there were still youngsters running through camp, screaming and giggling as little boys do…..!





Blaze, my 10 year old, decided that we should shoot some long exposure images before the clouds totally blocked out the stars that we could still see. We filmed for about 30 minutes and he lightpainted the bottom of both palm and oak trees…..nothing too spectacular came to us, but just being out there with him made the entire trip worthwhile!

View more of my work at www.AlexMenendez.com
Twitter: @instinctfilms