In a two-part series, Courtney Doucet, a senior professional writing and rhetoric major at Baylor, takes a look at professional photographers Rod Aydelotte and Robbie Rogers. Both men combine full-time photography jobs (Rod with the Waco Tribune-Herald, Robbie with Baylor’s Marketing and Communication Division) with teaching responsibilities as part-time lecturers in Baylor’s Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media. Doucet spent time with both men on the Saturday of Baylor’s 2018 Homecoming Weekend, watching them work at both the Homecoming parade and on the sidelines at the football game in McLane Stadium against Oklahoma State. In this second installment of the series, Doucet looks back on that busy day.
By Courtney Doucet
Homecoming Weekend for photographers is filled with full work days that require maximum energy, having to socialize, attentiveness and comfortable shoes. I was given the chance to tag along with Rod Aydelotte and Robbie Rogers for Baylor Homecoming 2018, and I was thrust right into the action of the early morning parade and the afternoon’s nail-biting football victory.My morning began on Baylor’s campus at 6:40 a.m., 20 minutes before the parade was scheduled to arrive there. Aydelotte walked up Fountain Mall to find the perfect position to capture the moment that the parade rolled in. I knew, from being on assignments with him in the past, that the spot he would ultimately choose would only be temporary. When Aydelotte takes photos of an event, he takes photos from every angle, and is on the move for the entirety of an event.
As he surveyed Fountain Mall, a young woman called out to Aydelotte from the other side of the roped off area in which she and her family were seated in anticipation for the parade. He stopped to speak with her and her mother as if he had known them for years. When he finally broke from the conversation, he mentioned that the young woman was a former student of his at Baylor who now works for a publication as a photographer.
Once in position, Aydelotte was joined by two current students he invited to cover the parade with him. He grilled the two students for a moment to see if they had come prepared.
“Have you got your memory card? Your back-up? What are your settings on your cameras?”, he asked them.
Aydelotte’s teachings go beyond the classroom, and he often encourages his students to join him in taking photos at the events he covers. Baylor Homecoming is an event that he has taken photographs of since his days of being a Bear in school in the late 1970s.
When the parade lands, the shutter of Aydelotte’s camera commences. After the parade, it’s time to head on to the next assignment — Baylor’s Homecoming football game against Oklahoma State.
In the media room of McLane Stadium, Aydelotte and I are joined once again by the two current students and a fellow photographer at the Waco-Tribune Herald who called Aydelotte “a great guy.” We headed to a table designated for the Trib and he pulled out his laptop to upload the photos he had just taken at the parade. The coworker gave Aydelotte a contraption that resembled a telescope that had to have weighed at least 10 pounds. I asked Aydelotte what exactly the thing was, and he responded that it was a lens. “And you’re supposed to put that on a camera?” I asked in bewilderment. He only laughed in response to my question.
We went up to the press box for breakfast, and all of the photographers who were to cover the game were there, gathered at a table. Aydelotte introduced me to two of them, who in turn introduced themselves to me as “Roderick Aydelotte.” Everyone at the table got a kick out of the joke, and the small jab at Aydelotte showed the comradery of the group and that he was respected among his peers. Before I knew it, Aydelotte had hurriedly scarfed down his food and had gotten up to head back to work in the media room. Before he left, he made sure to tell me to grab a bottle of water.
“You’re going to need it,” he warned.
Not long after Aydelotte left, Baylor photographer Robbie Rogers walked in with a beaming smile on his face. A few of the guys asked him what was making him so cheery that morning.
“I had a pack of Skittles for breakfast,” he replied as he headed toward the food tables for an actual meal.
Back in the media room, Aydelotte and Rogers both coached the student photographers who were tagging along with them on the field. After a few minutes, every photographer made any last-minute adjustments to the settings of their cameras and suited up, kneepads included. As the finishing touch, Rogers put on his signature blue hat. It was finally game time!
The adrenaline rushed as I walked down the hall that led to the field. Seeing that it was my first time, I looked up and around me, trying to take in every square inch of the stadium. Rogers walked with the speed of someone who had experienced that feeling a million times over. As we made our first few steps on the field, Rogers ran into a member of the Golden Wave Band whom he said was one of the Baylor students he and his wife had “adopted” that year. Rogers hugged the young man and made him pose for a few quick photographs before they parted ways. Aydelotte had joined us on the field and Rogers made us all pose for a selfie.Rogers then took me for a walk around the field. The lap around is one of his rituals before a game — he says that it helps him “own the place.” And he does. He stopped to talk to everyone he encountered on the sidelines, greeting and joking with familiar and not-so-familiar faces. Once our lap was finished, we met back up with Aydelotte in the end zone. I mentioned to Aydelotte that he was hard to keep up with as it was, and that I could only imagine how fast he moved at a football game. One of his comrades from earlier overheard my remark and told me that Aydelotte is the Energizer Bunny of Waco.
I noticed that Rogers was missing, and then saw him over by the Baylor Line chatting with the students. As fireworks went off, the crowd roared for the release of the golden sea of pumped up freshman. I became worried for Rogers, thinking to myself that surely, he did not intend to be that close when they began to run. I was wrong. Not only did he mean to be that close to the uncontrolled wave, he was planning to get closer. The Line was released, and Rogers dove right in, becoming a part of the line with his camera up and taking photos of the incoming crowd. He skillfully weaved, while one eye was closed and the other looked through his viewfinder, through the chaos of students running at full speed (some of them falling and tumbling) and flying miscellaneous objects. When the Running of the Line was over, Rogers proudly held up a shoe that had been lost in the madness.
At kickoff, all photographers are silent along with the stadium, holding up their cameras in anticipation. The clicks of each shutter going off as the football soared were rapid and lasted until the ball landed.
Every photographer on the field had their different roles. Because they were taking photographs for outlets that varied from Baylor to the local news, each photographer shot different aspects of the game. In Aydelotte’s case, he was only interested in shooting Baylor’s offense, for the most part, as he had other photographers there from the Trib at other positions of the field to capture different angles. Rogers was mostly interested in reaction shots, and he seemed to prioritize shots that were closer to the end zones. Because photographers prioritize some shots over others, they sometimes find themselves with opportunities to drop their cameras and chat with others on the sidelines or even watch the game. Rogers took some of that time to send pictures that he had just taken on his camera to Baylor Photography, via a new feature that enabled Wi-Fi for instant send-off of snaps.
During the game, both Aydelotte and Rogers’ skill levels were apparent. Both wore two cameras and alternated between them with ease. They also could exchange lenses in seconds, applying the telephoto lenses to their cameras with the speed of a seasoned veteran of photography. When the moments present themselves, both men are always ready to send off a flurry of camera clicks in hopes of getting a priceless shot, in which, they usually do.
Their energies on the field differ, however. Aydelotte is more focused, barely looking away from the field, and he lives up to his Energizer bunny persona. I lost him during the second quarter and didn’t see him again until the fourth. Rogers, meanwhile, is livelier. He rooted for the team and made jokes during downtime. Neither photographer tended to stay directly behind the guiding yellow line on the field that it is recommended for those on the sideline to stay behind. They both wanted to be as into the game as possible.
Between alternating between snapping pictures and sending them off to Baylor Photography, Rogers noticed two former students in the crowd of thousands of fans. One he spotted all the way up in the bleachers, and he instructed them how to pose from the field as he took their picture. He was ecstatic to see them, and told both of them over and over how proud he is of them. He ended their conversations by telling both of them that he loves them, and takes even more pictures of them. When I told one of these former students that I was profiling Rogers, the student told me to make sure that I described Rogers as a “legend.”As the last seven seconds of the game counted down and Baylor was behind by three points, Denzel Mims secured a miracle pass by quarterback Charlie Brewer for the victory — just inches away from where Rogers and I stood in the end zone. As I celebrated a home win, Rogers rushed right into the champions huddle of players and coaching staff with his camera up. Aydelotte scanned the huddle from the outside, camera held up above his head for overhead shots. As a result of almost being overcome by the entire football team’s winning celebration, Rogers was able to get another classic shot that was featured on the Baylor Twitter page and elsewhere.
At the end of the anxiety-inducing, roller coaster of emotion that was the Homecoming game, I was exhausted. I asked both Rogers and Aydelotte if they had felt the same.
Aydellote’s response: “Nope.”
Rogers’ response: “I’m still hyped up off of those Skittles.”
All photos courtesy of Rod Aydelotte, Waco Tribune-Herald, and Robbie Rogers, Baylor Marketing & Communications