Kilgore Rangers Combine

On February 4th, 2017, over 100 hopefuls came to the Kilgore College field house looking to become a Kilgore Ranger. These young men were from several different states and many different backgrounds, but they all had at least one thing in common, football.

Signup for the even began at 10am on a brisk 40 degree morning. After signup there was a lot of time spent warming up the mussels before any time was spent checking times. Of course, even during the warm-up time, they were already being evaluated on things such as following instructions and motivation.

After warming up, the men were timed on their sprinting ability. I was never that fast, even when I was young, but they guys were amazing.

Of course, in football, it’s not just about running in a straight line, but you have to have the moves as well. Making those cuts when the other team zigs and zags is the difference between winning and losing.

A test of leg strength with the standing broad jump tested everyone’s ability to fly, at least for short distances.

Passing and catching, of course, are integral to the sport, and they were tested out as well.

And what football tryout would be complete without having to run flat-out while not stepping on players on the ground.

For those wishing to be receivers and running backs, it only makes sense that you have to do the same thing, but while holding onto the ball.

There was plenty of passing and catching going on, and even the opportunity to run a few plays as the day began to wind down.

And there were also those trying out for special teams. These guys, while not always getting the glory of a quarterback, are often times the difference between winning and losing. When the chips are down, these guys have to pull it off under pressure.

If these young men are any indication, I think Kilgore College has a good year ahead of them. And not that I’ve been tapped by the Kilgore News Herald to photograph their games, you can bet that I’ll be following their progress pretty close this year!

By the way, I don’t think it ever got out of the 40s this day. I had to change coats twice, going heavier each time. These guys have much tougher skin that I do. Oh to be young again.

Get ‘Em Rangers!

Kilgore Football: Part 2

Welcome to Kilgore College vs Tyler Junior College, part 2. Thanks to the KC win over TJC of 50-29 the previous week, these two teams, with a long history, had the opportunity to meet up once again the very next Saturday in the first round of the SWJCFC playoffs. So sit back and enjoy along with me as I had the opportunity to shoot this game from the field level rather than from the stands! So, while this post may seem one-sided, remember I was there at the courtesy of Kilgore College, so they were my focus.



The Kilgore band was in place and ready to go as the teams came onto the field.


KC Special Teams coach Gary Wade stands with his players as the game gets underway.


#6 Joe Lewis, was seen making quite a few big plays during the game. Once he got the ball he was off!


As the teams line up, eye-to-eye and nose-to-nose, you can almost feel the tension from the years of rivalry between these two schools.


#32 Alvin Kenworthy and #41 Dillon Hall stand on the sidelines, ready to jump in at a moments notice.


Another play maker for KC, #15 Kyle McBride, runs for another first down.


The Kilgore crown was certainly appreciative of their Rangers as they continued to score over TJC.


Hard working guys resting before being put back into play.


Celebration after another first down.


Being an old band member myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance from the TJC Band. If I understood the announcement correctly, this is the professor of woodwinds at the school, jazzing-out with his students during halftime.


The TJC band leader caught my eye as she directed from atop a ladder.


Go brass section!


TJC’s percussion section was equally impressive.


Kilgore’s band is smaller, but performed quite well. Marching up and down the field sure brought back memories of friday nights from my youth.


And of course, you can’t have Kilgore football without the world famous Rangerettes!


Back to the game.  #2 Chandler Eiland looks to pass the ball before the approaching Apaches make contact.


Playmaker #7 Tyreik Gray, light on his feet making yardage before being brought down.


#3 Hasan Deense takes control of the ball for yet more yardage.


Sometimes there is just no stopping #7 Tyreik Gray as he hurdles over an attempted tackle and continues on for yet another touchdown!


Coach Wade had a discussion with one of the Refs


But once the game is complete, all harsh moments are put aside and congratulations all around are shared from both sides.


As the Rangers celebrate their 58-51 win over TJC with singing their school song


And closing for a word or prayer, thanking God for the victory and safety of both teams. The next week KC lost to Trinity Valley Community College in overtime, but they have been invited to play at the Mississippi Bowl in Perkinston MS on Dec 4th. We with them good luck in their game against East Mississippi Community College.

So, that’s it. My first chance shooing a game from the sidelines. It was a great opportunity and one I’m hoping to continue into the future. Defiantly as unpredictable as wildlife but certainly more action packed into a shorter amount of time.

Hope you enjoyed. Looking for my next adventure!



All photos copyright of Michael Hampton 2016 and taken with the Canon 5DS-R or Canon 7D Mark II

Great Texas Balloon Race

On Saturday, July 25th, Karen and I got up before daylight to be present for the morning flights of the Great Texas Balloon Race 2015. Considering the hot Texas summer days we have been having, the nice cool morning was a pleasant change and well worth the extra effort.

We started the day at the East Texas Regional Airport for the morning competition. This was to be a test of accuracy for the pilots with three targets. There were two streamers that had to be dropped/thrown from the balloon into two separate targets. And then each balloon had a small hoop that the pilot attempted to get around a tall pole in the middle of the field. There was a $5000 prize which was to be split between the pilots who were able to accomplish this feat. The fewer pilots that could get the ring on the pole, the larger each individual prize.

As the first balloons started to arrive, we were welcomed with a parade of color as they soon filled the sky. I have never seen so many balloons at one time in my life.

We had picked out great seats. Thanks to the direction of the wind, the balloons traveled a path that brought them directly over our heads. Further, thanks to the rather slow speed of the wind, it made for some great shots. The 100-400mm lens came in handy for some personal shots of the pilots, showing their faces as they tried for each target.

There were so many colors and designs that one could almost become dizzy looking at all of them. Stars, wavy patterns, lines, circles, diamonds, plaid. The plethora of geometric patterns gave each balloon its own unique style.


Here is a shot where you can see the determination on the face of the pilot as he wound up for his toss towards the target. Being my first balloon race, I was unfamiliar with the pilots and rules, but it was fun watching and learning as we went. As an aside note, this particular balloon was sponsored by my wife’s employer, Martin LP Gas out of Kilgore, TX.

As the morning continued, it seemed that the steady flow of balloons would never stop. They just kept appearing over the horizon. Each one showing different colors and designs. While some were plain, others were completely unique, yet none were boring.

This one had a design of a great dragon. No doubt this was intended to cast fear into the hearts of all competitors. I don’t know if it worked, but it was a truly impressive design. In fact, as the balloon got close, the pilot was good enough to spin the balloon so we were able to see the entire beast.

Dragon Balloon

A couple of times, the balloons got pretty close to each other. No doubt the slowness of the wind helped alleviate danger of any collisions as the balloons seems to just push each other out of the way when they did get into close proximity of each other.

Some pilots appeared to have a very laid back style throwing towards the targets. This guy seemed very relaxed and confident as he aimed and let his device fly.

Going for the Target

Others seemed unaffected by the height as they leaned out of their basket to engage the target. I guess it takes a certain amount of the “no fear” attitude to pilot an air ship which has such a small amount of directional control.

Careful Aim

Having just recently moved to the country, I really enjoyed the farm theme of this balloon. Complete with a barn, pond, and a person reading a book under a tree, this serene scene was one of my favorites.

Farm Balloon

Another amazing thing was the use of open flames, even when in such close proximity of another balloon. I’m sure the cooler morning air made for a more comfortable experience for the pilots than would have been found later in the day as the temperature reached the high 90s.

Close Quarters

Remember the ring and pole challenge? This pilot did and he was the only one who hit the target on this day!  You can see the excitement in his face after realizing that he had hit the target!



As the morning event came to a close and we headed back to our car, you could still see the balloons fill the sky as they continued on to the opposite horizon. Where they landed I have no idea, but they were back for the evening festivities later in the day.

Sky Full of Balloons

When we came back for the evening activities, the sun began to make its way lower in the sky. Karen was able to capture this shot of one of the balloons being back-lit by the diving sun.

Into the Sunset

Meanwhile, the special shape balloons were beginning to take shape for display. The evening events were much like a fair, with some rides for the kids and of course all sorts of food and other booths. This evening was also attended by a performance of the Oak Ridge Boys.

Sheriff Willy

I noticed the Wells Fargo Wagon balloon team as they were unloading their balloon and decided to spend some time with them to find out more about what they do. It was quite interesting and I learned a few things. For instance, the green sleeves they are wearing in this picture is to protect their arms from the flames. Even with those on however, I’m still sure I could smell melting hair as they were adding the hot air to the balloon!

Fire it Up

While I was with that team, Karen was getting some other shots, such as this shot of the astronaut balloon with the moon in the background. Very cool!

Spaceman and Moon

The highlight of the night was the balloon glow. That’s when the balloons are all anchored to the ground and at the countdown, they all fire their thrusters (is that even the right term?) and illuminate their balloon. It made quite a site with this field full of these giant light bulbs! Once again you can see all the different patterns and graphic designs of the balloons. I can only imagine that the uniqueness of each balloon is mirrored by the uniqueness of the pilots.Night Glow

So, that was my first balloon festival. What can I say other than I look forward to my next.

See you at the Great Texas Balloon Race in 2016!

Later Y’all!