Talk to any Camas High School athlete and they’ll tell you they go straight to Twitter after big events to check out the new pictures posted by Kris Cavin, a Camas insurance agent who volunteers his time to capture remarkable memories and share them for free online.
“It’s all joy,” Cavin recently told the Post-Record from his Country Financial office on 4th Avenue. “I can’t say enough about it. For me, the smiles and ‘thank-yous’ are more important than money.”
The journey started when Cavin’s now-23-year-old son Jakob was an 8-year-old soccer player in Camas. Cavin remembers sitting in the stands during a game and hearing some of the other parents expressing negative comments about the coaches.
“I thought, ‘You know, if I could just grab a camera, I’ll bet I could go over there on the sidelines and just take in these special moments and be by myself,'” Cavin said.
He brought a camera to the next game, and afterwards parents started asking him to share his photos. It wasn’t long before Camas football players were requesting pictures from Cavin, but there was a problem — Greater St. Helens League officials don’t allow parents with cameras on the sidelines during games, and kept asking Cavin to leave, which created a firestorm of controversy among students anxious to see his outstanding action shots.
“I still remember standing in line to buy my ticket to a Camas football game when (Camas athletic director) Rory Oster approached me in the ticket line and said, ‘We are giving you a sideline pass,'” said Cavin, who hasn’t missed many home Camas games in any sport since that day.
He has also earned a sideline pass from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association which allows him to travel to playoff games throughout Washington.
He’s on his eighth camera since that first soccer game.
Local families cherish photos
Dozens of Cavin’s photos line the television room in John and Kris Blair’s Prune Hill home. Most are them are of of their son Jake, a Camas junior who plays quarterback for the 4A state championship-winning football team and pitches for the Papermakers’ baseball team.
“It’s great for us because we couldn’t have these types of quality pictures up in our home if it wasn’t for Kris,” Kris Blair said.
John recalled his wife attempting to take action shots of Jake with her iPhone before learning about Cavin and his free pictures.
“She would be standing up the entire game just trying to capture anything,” John.
The Blairs recently drove Cavin to and from the 4A state championship football game, held in Tacoma in December, so he could ride in the back seat and put the cherished game photos online as soon as possible.
One of the Blair family’s favorite photographs is not actually of Jake, however; it’s of his grandfather saluting the flag before a game. Cavin never just take pictures of top athletes. He also includes players who spend a lot of time supporting their teammates from the bench and family members in the stands.
“You don’t have to be a star player to be on @itisphototime,” Cavin said. “I never just photograph the sport. It’s always about the event.”
‘I never delete a photo’
More than 250,000 photos are currently in multiple hard drives that Cavin uses to organize all of his snapshots. He saves them all because he never knows when they might be needed.
Each picture is tagged with names and dates, allowing Cavin to go back in time and gather photos for thumb drives (branded with his business name and phone number) that he shares with families.
Last September, cancer took the young life of Alicea De Vera, a Camas cheerleader who used to put a smile on Cavin’s face with fresh rice crispy treats when he was shooting photos on the sidelines.
“When Alicea passed away I was able to go to the funeral and give the family one of my thumb drives with about 50 different photos of her cheering,” Cavin said. “(She was) just an awesome kid.”
Recently, a Camas student’s car was broken into, and his smartphone, which had all of his prized photos, was stolen. Cavin heard about the situation and dug up dozens of pictures for the student to replenish his sports photo library.
Amy Wing is a parent and Camas teacher whose daughter Lizzy is a member of Camas High School’s gymnastics team and son Danny played soccer at Camas for four years. During the past eight years, Cavin has provided the Wing family with hundreds of photos.
“I had the honor of teaching both of his children in elementary school, and his dedication to his own family and families in the Camas community has been priceless,” Amy Wing said. “It’s an incredible example of how you can bless others with your talents and touch hearts forever.”
Overcoming tragedy with photography
When Cavin takes pictures from the sidelines, his focus and passion is intense. Athletes are conditioned to immediately find Cavin after games for emotional group photos.
That love for photography helped Cavin through a tough time in 2016, when he went to visit his father and discovered him dead.
“My wife said, ‘Are you going to be able to drive home?'” Cavin said. “I said, ‘I’m not coming home. I’ve got to photograph senior soccer night.'” Cavin drove straight from that terrifying moment to Doc Harris Stadium.
“That was two-and-a-half hours to take my mind off what I had just witnessed, and to me it was beautiful and amazing just to be able to do that,” Cavin said.
Cavin said that everything goes out of his mind when he creates quality photos because he knows they will make people happy. His own children now attend Eastern Washington University, but his photography schedule is busier than ever. He even sometimes takes pictures for other schools, including Washougal and Evergreen.
“I don’t golf, I don’t fish, I don’t hunt,” he said. “People have their hobbies that they just have to do. For me, it’s all about photo time.”