The Blue Devil Experience. My time as a photo intern with Duke Athletics.

A Dream Achieved

It really did all start with a dream, a dream that an average photography student at a small D3 private school could land his dream internship with Duke Athletics. It started with that dream and a blog just like this one, so it’s fitting that its coming to an end with one as well. My time at Duke is now over, and just a few weeks out I’m already missing it way more than I expected.

It seems like just yesterday I was stepping onto Duke’s campus, walking by the Duke chapel and even playing basketball on the court of the famous Cameron Indoor Stadium. And now a semester later I'm home and reminiscing about my experiences at Duke.

I can’t lie there were times where I was counting down the days until I would be home again. Now, this wasn’t because of my internship in any way but one thing they don’t tell you about following your dreams far from home is it can be extremely lonely at times especially when you are naturally a shy person and have many social anxieties and are in a totally new environment with no friends or family around. I don’t think a night went by where I didn’t FaceTime, call or text one of my friends back home. But now that I am home I’m realizing just how lucky I was to have the internship experience I had and the opportunity to work with the people at Duke. I guess you really don't know what you have until its gone.

Home away from Home

I think Creed from the office said it best in the series finale "No matter how you get there or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home.” And that’s what I did while I was down here. I made the Airbnb I rented and more importantly Duke’s campus, feel like home.

Thankfully, the adjustment period was made a lot easier by the people I worked with on a day to day basis and especially my boss Reagan. From day one they all made me feel extremely welcomed and I was even invited to my boss’ house to watch the Super Bowl. This may have been a small act but it meant so much to me since I was watching the Patriots win their 6th super bowl and for the first time in my life I was not there to celebrate with my friends and family.

The Internship:

This internship is truly everything I could have ever hoped for in an internship. I honestly could not overstate how amazing this internship has been for me. Here are just some of the highlights from what turned out to be a dream come true.

Working with the best in the business:

The opportunity to work at one of if not the top athletic department in the country working under one of the best photographers in the business Reagan Lunn was nothing short of incredible. It seemed like every day I was learning something new working under Reagan. From editing workflows to lighting setups to navigating a D1 athletics department environment and even a few life lessons in between. It's ironic because he always said that he wasn’t good at teaching things but at the same time I learned more than I could have ever imagined from him. The lessons I’ve learned here are things that I’m going to hold with me for the rest of my career and even life and I could not be more grateful for that.

In addition to working with Reagan I also got to work with Nat LeDonne Duke's other extremely talented photographer and all of the amazing people in Duke's External Affairs department and Blue Devil Network. Every interaction I had with my co-workers was always positive and there was never a day that went by that I didn’t want to go into work. Not to mention working at a place with history of excellence like Duke has. Which I was reminded of everyday walking into work past a wall of all the national championships Duke has won in its history.

Shooting my first Duke Men's Basketball game:

This was an experience I’ll never forget. I was given the opportunity to shoot the Duke vs. Boston college game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. This was something that I honestly never thought I would ever achieve in my life. But sitting there on the floor photographing the top team in country was a memory that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I thought it was fitting that they were playing Boston College, me growing up and living only 20 minutes north of Boston.

The craziest thing about that game for me was how once I was sitting on that court it felt like just another basketball game to me and I was shooting it just like any other game. But none the less, getting texts from friends and family saying they saw me on TV was an amazing experience. They particularly enjoyed the part of the game where Tre Jones was going for a loose ball and landed on me, so much so that they decided to make this:

What a way to be welcomed to the big leagues LOL.

Attending my first Duke vs. UNC game:

All I can say is the hype around this game is REAL. Students at Duke camp out for weeks just to go to this game and now I can see why. Even though Duke lost this year, the day before leading up to the game and the day of and all of the prep work that goes into that game from a behind the scenes stand point is incredible. This was also when I got to achieve one of my biggest goals of being posted on Duke Men's Basketball social accounts.

Not even going to lie, this screen shot is now hanging in my room.

On game day the crowd the campus is buzzing with excitement, not to mention this year’s hype video created by the extremely talented and overall great guy, Stephen Broome, would make any basketball fan want to run through a brick wall. Don’t believe me? Check it out... I promise it will give you chills.

I know…Chills. The atmosphere in Cameron on that day is unlike any sporting event I've ever been to and that’s saying something considering I grew up with Boston sports. The Cameron Crazies come out by the hundreds, with their whole bodies painted and so loud you can barely hear. It is incredible. nothing I could ever write would do this game justice. Attending a Duke vs UNC game is something that not many people get to experience in their life time, so I was beyond grateful for being in the Cameron and watching the game. I also got to be around people like Todd Gurley, Mike Posner and even Obama showed up to the game. AND on top of that I got one of my bucket list photos so overall 11/10 experience, would recommend to anyone.

The infamous "shoe game"

Spending hours (sometimes too many) at the DBAP

This may have been one of the best sunsets I've ever seen.

The Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home of the Durham Bulls, a minor league baseball team and Duke Baseball. A place that I spent at least 35% of my internship hours. From long nights to rain delays to enjoying the sunset at the DBAP, I truly enjoyed every minute there. To be honest, I've never really been a huge baseball guy but after shooting Duke Baseball and working with the people in the photo below made every hour enjoyable at the ball park. So thank you to this amazing baseball crew, it was an honor to work with all of you.

Since I shot the most of baseball some of my best photos from Duke came at the DBAP so here are some of my favorties from the 15+ games I shot over this semester:

Teamwork makes the dream work

Now obviously, all my time wasn't spent accomplishing bucket list goals or at the DBAP. I also got to work with so many teams from both men's and women's lacrosse to tennis, some spring football and even had the opportunity to shoot sports I had never shot before like golf, fencing and swimming. Like I said earlier there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t enjoy shooting Duke's teams. The great thing about Duke is almost all of the teams are always in the running for conference championships and all of their games are very competitive which always works out amazing for photographs. You get to capture the emotion and intensity that D1 sports have to offer, so every shoot I did I never took it for granted. Beyond that, I got to work with all of Duke's amazing sports info people and they were always so grateful and appreciative of my work so it always made me feel like my work mattered and I was helping the team. Not to mention I also got some portfolio worthy photos in the process, so overall a win-win-win. Here are some of my favorites from my semester at Duke.

These were just some of my favorites, there were so many shots that could have made it into this blog but looking back I'm really proud of myself for the work I did here. With the help of Reagan and Nat I think I've really improved as a photographer and for that I'm grateful.

92 Days Later

92 days later, after thousands of photos had been taken and so many memories and connections created, I walked out of the Scott building for the last time. I couldn't help but get emotional as I got in my car and drove off Duke's campus for the last time. During these 92 days I recorded one second of (almost) every day that I was at Duke. This video is a compilation of those 92 unforgettable days.

Thank You Duke.

To all of my co-workers at Duke: Thank you. I don’t think words could ever truly describe how grateful I was for everyday at Duke and to work with you all. I really could not have asked for a better internship experience. From day one I always felt welcomed and appreciated and it really meant the world to me. This really was a dream of mine and you all helped me make it a reality. From Cameron to the DBAP to Koskinen and more, every moment at Duke was special for me. I honestly never thought I would ever get the chance to be at Duke so from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU and I will miss you all!

To Reagan: Wow, what can I even say. Thank you would never be enough. You took a chance on some random kid from 700 miles away that you had never met in person and allowed me to live out my dream. Like I said earlier in the blog, I learned SO much from you. Because of you I now have the confidence in my work to pursue any job/internship without hesitation. You have impacted my life more than you know and I will truly miss working with/for you. From our usual lunch routine to helping out in the studio to you critiquing my work. I am truly grateful for every moment. I hope one day to be half the photographer you are.

The New Dream

"People will always tell you that you can't, that a dream is too large, that the odds are not in your favor. But why rationalize? If you want to be the best of all time, if you want to emulate those who you look up to, you can not approach objectives with a rational mindset. You must believe in yourself and your team no matter what anyone has to say." - Brennan Besser (Duke MBB Senior)

That was a quote that I heard during the Men's Basketball banquet in one of my final weeks at Duke. Working for Duke was something that even I thought was irrational at times, but I did it and I could not be prouder to say that. During some of my final days at duke I often got the question "what's next?". It was more of a daunting question than I could of ever realized because now I really don’t know what's next for me. I know that in the next year i will return to Endicott and complete my senior year, but as far as what my next dream is, I’m not quite sure yet. I am already on the search for my next dream and creating new goals to accomplish but for now it's all still up in the air. But, one thing I do know is that I will always be a Blue Devil and I will always be a Gull and for that, I’m thankful.

Till next time,

- Nick Grace


Nick Grace

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