In France teaching for the National Geographic Expeditions Workshops.
Just came out of Boston, and a terrific week shooting on the streets of that Celtic crazed city. I truly felt for the production coordinators on this shoot. They had to constantly re-up the ante with the city, battling for photo permits until, finally, it came down to this; the last day of our shoot was in the city center, on Thursday, the day of the celebration parade. They offered to hold up the parade a day or so for us, you know, so we could get our work done, but we were gracious, and said no, no, it’s been 22 years, you guys go have fun:-)
During these negotiations we relied on Brad a great deal. It’s a little know fact that he is tight with Celtic coach Doc Rivers, staying in the background, advising him about off season moves, and always pushing to have KG attack the basket more, especially when the Lakers are in the penalty.
Folks in Boston were so happy we worked around their parade they let me spend some private time with the O’Brien Trophy.
The trip to France was tough, though. Flew outta Logan and had less than an hour to connect at Charles de Gaulle airport for my hop to Marseilles. Ran a road race through the massive CDG (my dad played in my head while I was running–from his military days, he used to say “over the wall with Charles de Gaulle” when facing difficult tasks.)
Got to my plane with minutes to spare, completely soaked in sweat. I mean, did you ever see the Albert Brooks anchor bit in Broadcast News? I was dripping. My condition stopped just shy of singing in the rain, but I was still massively embarrassed and tried to slink into my seat, unobserved, as best I could. Whew! Maybe out of sight, but surely not out of mind as people’s olfactory facilities were probably kicking in big time. I was a stinking mess.
But then I relaxed and remembered. This is Air France! I’m probably the best smelling person on the plane! Quelle joyeux!
I jest of course. The French get a bad rap. Google “Frenchman” and the first hit is: “Supercilious sumbitch who suffers the slings and arrows of all things un-Gallic with barely restrained contempt.” Mais, c’est ne pas vrai, mes amis! I have been treated graciously and warmly by my French hosts, colleagues, and have had routinely wonderful encounters here for many years.
I figure the French are a bit like New Yorkers in the image department. Folks from the Big Apple are often thought of as brusque, rude, and impatient, unfairly so. I’m sure you are familiar with the old NY joke/story of the out of towner, most likely from the Midwest, irretrievably lost in the asphalt jungle, knowing he has to ask directions, but terrified of doing same as he has heard about New Yorkers and their attitudes. He swallows hard, sucks it up and approaches someone who looks like the stereotypical denizen of da big city. (Sallow skin, sunken, darting eyes, hunched shoulders, racking cough, eyebrow twitch, and a pre-disposition to take anybody who interrupts them, slows their pace or generally just causes them aggravation and tear ‘em a brand new, strategically located orifice). The visitor clears his throat tremulously and, sounding as deferential and pleasant as possible, asks, “Excuse me sir, could you please tell me how to get to the Empire State Building, or should I go fuck myself?”
Ahh, mais oui! We find ourselves in one of the truly blessed and non-stop pleasant places on earth, Arles, in the south of France. I am teaching with the unique and gifted Elizabeth Opalenik, and the Italian force of nature, Diana Grandi. Both are approachable, resourceful, talented, and fun to be with. Our class has been great, as usual a terrific mix of people, personalities and talents from all walks of life. We have been rolling through villages, olive fields and abbeys, photographing where the Romans built arches and Van Gogh walked and painted so memorably.
Arles is the home of the legendary Lucien Clergue, a definitive and vibrant photographer (and dear friend of Elizabeth’s) who intertwines his art and life in a truly blessed way. At his amazing home, in a class visit arranged by Elizabeth, I had the good fortune for him to stand (momentarily) for my camera. Didn’t get the pic I wanted, but did okay….
When I teach, I try to get even a single frame I like for myself during any given week. Sometimes it happens, many times no. Ze good frames, zee’ are so hard to come by, no? It is a bit easier for me to find a few pix with the Nat Geo classes than my lighting classes, as in these, we are not so driven by the application of artificial photons emanating from large pieces of picture making hardware. Here, we talk about everything from exposure to light, to holding cameras to light, to making folders on the desktop to light, to f-stops to light, to…..well, you get the idea. Then we go someplace spectacular and shoot some stuff. Ca c’est tres amusant, oui?
Came close to a good frame this week with a picture of the hands of a boules player in the park.
Glad I got this cause I frikkin’ stalked the guy. He had great character to his hands and an interesting way of hitching them together on his backside before his next toss, a repeated ritual roughly akin to, say, Derek Jeter re-wrapping his batting gloves every time he steps in. He had the added bonus of basically wearing black no seam paper, as opposed to something stylish and colorful, which the French have a penchant to do.
Also went not to a bull fight, but to a bull ring to watch this crazy competition as these guys try to pluck bits of string off the horns of a pissed off bull who is running them down like a freight train. If any of these bulls ever catch one of these dudes, he’s gonna lift more than some string off of ‘em.
They keep getting in the ring to do it over again and again, which is not a reasonable course of action, if you want my opinion. Talk about thinking with your nuts. They even bring out fresh bulls, all the while these dudes are getting more and more tired. Plus they actively try to agitate and irritate the big fella, perhaps even farting in his general direction. “Ha, ha, come back here and I will taunt you a second time!”
Did okay pictorially, not great. But had nice light for sure. And managed to catch a couple of portraits, one showing the potential for damage. Also resurrected my old 180 f2.8. Not an internal focus lens, thus slow by today’s AF standards, but a great lens nonetheless. Small, light, fast and sharp. Pop it onto the D3 and it rocks.
So, flying home. Air France to JFK. I’m in seat 17, just outta biz class. They have this drape between the two sections that’s kind of gauzy and see through, muting the light and giving those comfortable chairs up there even more romance and appeal. My imagination wanders as my eyes strain to see more clearly. I hear music and laughter. The popping of champagne! The clink of crystal! Shit, I think they got a belly dancer up there! Damn, where’s my ticket? Maybe they need a photographer!
None of that is going on of course. I’m really tired. This trip started on June 2nd, and I haven’t seen home since. Which is why the rate of blogging has been slow of late. Back to normal (what’s that?) next week. Got some things to share, and actually, a couple of major announcements.
Au revoir, France! And fond goodbyes to my class. We had great people I really enjoyed. One of them was Monica, who to me, was the walking definition of a dame. Great lady, of a certain age. Monica’s been there and done that, all with style and flair. She’s a pilot, and a traveler. She carries herself with a certitude and a formidable feminity (think Lauren Bacall), and she deals on her own terms. This is a woman for a confident man.
She turned to me at the end of the week, and arched her brows. “Very nice class, Joe. I really enjoyed it. You have a flair for the ludicrous, and I don’t hang around with anyone who doesn’t.”
How do you say, “more tk” in French?