Sports editor brings love of photojournalism to the Optic

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By Ryan Lowery

Caitie Ihrig developed a love of sports photography while growing up in Rochester, N.Y.

It's a skill she will be able to use daily in her new role as the Optic’s sports editor.

For Ihrig, photography is much more than an interest or fleeting hobby. She was born cross-eyed, a condition that causes her eyes to turn toward each other, something that could deter many from ever picking up a camera.

“When both eyes are open, I only see out of my left eye, but I have almost perfect vision in both eyes,” she said. “My brain just can’t put the two images together.”

Ihrig says the condition affects her depth perception, causing her difficulty judging the distance of objects. While playing catch with her father, they began to realize her perception of where the ball was traveling was about 2 inches off from the actual path of the ball.

“If I close my left eye, I see fine out of my right eye,” she said. “I can do this really cool thing with both my eyes open, I can switch my vision to my right eye and everything shifts up and over by about two inches.”

Ihrig soon put that trick to good use. In high school, while attending one of her brother’s games, her father let her use his camera.

“When I hold the camera up to my face, I can see things coming at me, so sports photography gives me something I could never have without my camera, and I’ve been hooked ever since,” she said.

Ihrig attributes her love of sports to her father and brother as well. Aside from watching her brother’s basketball, baseball and football games, Ihrig also grew up watching football with them every Sunday. The three also played fantasy football together, and sometimes, things got quite competitive.

“My mom hated draft days because we would take players we knew the other two wanted, so we'd all be yelling at each other,” Ihrig said.

Starting school at Ithaca College, Ihrig knew she wanted to pursue photography, but wasn’t sure she wanted to focus on covering sports. She decided to take a job with the school’s newspaper, The Ithacan, to see if she liked sports journalism. She soon fell in love with it, becoming the sports editor just a couple years later.

She went on to shoot photos for a pair of minor league teams — the Rochester Red Wings baseball franchise and the Rochester Americans hockey team — which gave Ihrig experience shooting sports at the pro-level.

Ihrig's time in college further strengthened her skills as a photographer. She credits one professor, Rhonda Vanover, in particular.

“Rhonda pushed me hard. I’d be nowhere without her,” Ihrig said. “She knew I loved sports, and in every class I had with her, she banned me from shooting sports. It was one of the best things she could have done.”

Ihrig says not being able to shoot sports made her a better photographer, and it led her to a photo project that allowed those closest to her to see the world as Ihrig does.

For her senior thesis, Ihrig layered one photo on top of another to help visually demonstrate how her eyes and brain struggle with depth perception.

“I took this really nice picture of these three trees, and then I overlaid it with the same photo, but I moved it up and over 2 inches,” she said.

When her parents saw her photo project for the first time, Ihrig says her mother nearly cried.

“They know my vision problem, but it’s hard to explain it, or to have people understand what it’s like. So for them to kind of see it a little bit was really cool.," she said.

Ihrig replaces Dave Kavanaugh, whose expertise and skills will be missed, as his multiple stints with the Optic add up to over two decades. Kavanaugh has joined the Luna Community College staff in a marketing and social media role.

By many accounts, Ihrig may be the first woman sports editor in the Optic's 139-year history. At the very least, she's the first in several decades.

Ihrig can best be reached by email at cihrig@lasvegasoptic.com.