Three times a year, at the end of each high school sports season, Dillon Tabish begins sending out emails and making phone calls to students to be featured in our Best of Preps section. It’s a frantic week as athletes file in and out of our Kalispell office over the course of one or two days.
We don’t have a photo studio here; just a small handmade light box we use for food and product shots. No halfway-grown human would fit inside of it. So Greg Lindstrom, our photographer, begins experimenting.
He either plans an outdoor photo shoot, or, more often, moves furniture to clear space in the newsroom. It’s still a grassroots operation, with no backgrounds or built-in lighting. Instead, he uses hooks and gels and borrowed sheets and begins firing his flash and sizing up his viewfinder.
Finally, he asks for a volunteer to step into the frame to test the strobes. Since we’ve been publishing Preps for nine years, this has become an increasingly strange ritual. What began as staff writers simply grinning into the camera has grown into an event in and of itself.
It’s unclear when our former stand-ins began striking poses, but it has been happening for years. They prepare Lindstrom – who often photographs athletes with their tools of the trade, such as javelins and basketballs – by posing with props of their own.
Looking back, there are photos of reporters with a variety items, including a toy stuffed cat. Before the most recent shoot, writer Tristan Scott, perhaps imagining himself as a reporter with record-breaking endurance and affability, wore glasses, held a pencil sharpener, and smiled ear to ear.
To be sure, Scott’s an athlete, although not on the same level of the high schoolers featured in the following pages. These are multiple state titleholders. Many of them juggle athletics and academics and, in just a few months, will head to college on scholarships.
Some Beacon staffers, like Tabish, participated in high school sports. Since he conducts the interviews that accompany the photographs, he often finds himself in front of the lens, striking a pose reminiscent of a former athlete before the real stars arrive.
Best of Preps has endured as long as we’ve existed. During that first photo shoot, a 6-foot-7 junior walked into our office, towering above the rest of the staff. Now Brock Osweiler is an NFL quarterback for the Houston Texans. Then, he patiently posed in our cluttered newsroom. Smiling. Telling jokes. Just a kid.
Lucky for us, Best of Preps has allowed us to feel a little more like kids, too.