Archive for the ‘history’ Category
Hi from Joe….please consider today’s blog an invitation to visit Scott Kelby’s blog…..
I did a story once on Korean green grocers in NYC. Running a produce shop in New York is a tough, 24 hour a day job. To make sure the story got off to a good start, I of course needed a picture of a green grocer that, ideally, showed the enterprise, and the all night, 24/7 nature of it, and, very importantly, show the reader we were talking about New York green grocers, not, you know, ones in San Francisco, or Seattle.
After a lot of scouting, and some pretty fast talking, I got these folks to allow me to shoot their shop. Reason being, of course, the Trade Centers give it a sense of place. They of course thought I was just going to take a picture, not load up their fruit bins with flash. Which is what I did. There’s a bunch of strobes in the store, all green gelled, with a magenta on the lens of the camera. Standard operating procedure for Kodachrome.
Like many NY shooters, I go way back with the Trade Centers, now gone. I write a bit of that story today in Scott Kelby’s blog. Scott, as always, was amazingly gracious in offering me a slot for a special blog post during this very significant week.
My thanks go out to him, and all the wonderful folks at NAPP. If you have a couple minutes, head over to Photoshop Insider, Scott’s blog. More tk….
From the Faces of Ground Zero Project
Joe Hodges, Ladder 6, FDNY, 2001
On medical leave, Hodges was undergoing a stress test at a doctor’s office in Staten Island when the attacks occurred. A 20-year veteran of the DNY, he is eligible to retire but has no plans to do so anytime soon.
“I pulled myself off of medical leave and hiteched a ride on a tugboat to Manhattan. Knowing that everyone I worked with was in the buildings, I had to go. There are so many young guys on the job now, older guys like me have to show them the ropes. It’s a tradition in the fire department. Now’s not the time to leave.
Joe stayed on the job for several more years after 911. He was a quintessential go to guy in the house–veteran firefighter, always up for a laugh or a prank. I have to imagine guys like Joe are the glue that hold a whole firehouse together. He’s retired now, and thoroughly enjoying that retirement, living out on Staten Island. We visited him recently, shot a few pictures, and had a beer. I know his wife Eileen, who calls him her hero, is happy to have him home and safe, no longer plunging into burning buidlings.
I caught up with Joe a few years back as well, and made a photo with him from Governor’s Island in the New York harbor on July 4th, 2005. For the technically minded, this is one small flash, off to camera right, TTL, and a six second exposure.
Joe’s images and story will be on the floor of the Time Warner Center in NYC, starting this Wednesday.
Okay, so here’s a picture blast from the past….
Following on from last week, Hank Morgan sent me a snap of the two of us, prepping for launch, with the VAB in the background. We used everything, as you can see. When you put 20 remotes in the swamp, you get skinny on long glass, so we had Nikons, Canons, Hulchers, you name it. A staple for a launch were Nikon F2 hi speed cameras with a fixed pellicle mirror that could fire 10 fps, and rip through 100 foot rolls of chrome before you could say “go for launch.”
Okay, okay, the mustache didn’t work…..more tk….
Funny business, this. My career spun, substantially, on the first launch of the space shuttle, back in ’81. I was a staff shooter at ABC TV in NY, which was definitely an odd duck of a job. As a still shooter bound up in an organization whose reason to be was making moving pictures, I was often the odd man out, or certainly the last consideration. (It was good I got used to that feeling early in my career:-)
I got sent down to the Cape for ABC to photograph the test firing of Columbia’s engines, and to identify lens throws and positions, work out the credentialing path, and all that stuff you do to prep for a major media blowout. As it happened, Discover, the new Time Inc. science magazine, had a crew of three shooters down there, and all was not well with team Discover. Two of the team members came back to NY, and told their editor, “We need a new third. Hire McNally.”
I was already shooting for the magazine as a freelancer, so the photo editor had no qualms. She called me up and offered me the gig shooting launch and landing. It amounted to about two weeks of freelance day rates, which at the time was the princely sum of $250 per day. I walked into my boss’ office at ABC and quit.
In the early days of the launches and landings, I spent a lot of time in Cocoa Beach, Houston, and out in the desert of Edwards AFB, where they landed the first few. Cocoa at that point was a rusty old space town at the end of the Bee Line Expressway. We would ship roughly 40-50 cases of gear down, and pick ‘em up at air freight. Heavy tripods, wiring, rigging, long glass, 20 or so motor driven Nikons, timers, scopes, film, hi-speed Hulcher cameras, you name it. You shot multiple, multiple cameras, ’cause, as they say, once they light those SRBs (solid rocket boosters) that puppy’s goin’ somewhere, and you don’t want to come up empty.
It was exhausting, but fun, and there was a great sense of launch fever in those heady early days. We would stay in a dogshit Days Inn, eat shoe leather steaks at the Mousetrap, and listen to Shirl the Girl on the piano. One of our team, Hank Morgan, remains a friend to this day. He was a pro’s pro, and I learned much from him. Nothing he couldn’t do with a camera. He didn’t get rattled, which was an essential quality, shooting these launches. The rocket fires, the noise rolls along with the smoke plume, and, like a monster Roman candle, the spaceship climbs, achingly slow at first, towards the heavens. You are 2-3 miles away, on a tower, with a three camera platform, most likely with a 1,000mm, a six and a five on what was at that point, F2′s. You had a single handle push on the platform, and all three cameras would be wired into a foot pedal. Your job was to track with the longest lens. If you did that smoothly, the six hundred and the five hundred (effectively, your wide angles) would also stay on track. Hitch or bobble, you would never again find the shuttle in all that sky with 1000mm of glass clapped to your eye.
Seat of the pants ruled the day, for photogs, and, I suspect, NASA. I love odd shit, so one early morning, I was in hog heaven, photographing Challenger as it was towed through the streets of Palmdale, Ca.
You can’t make this stuff up, right? You look out your window, and there goes the space shuttle.
Down at Houston, I got to photograph a silica space shuttle tile. These conduct heat so poorly, they cover part of the shuttle’s exterior, protecting it from the high temps of re-entry. This tile, glowing hot and fresh from the oven, is being held by unprotected fingers, demonstrating its’ lack of heat transfer. Strange and remarkable stuff goes into this flying cargo ship.
The first landing was rough. Nobody knew what this thing would look like coming down out of space. Dropping like a rock, approaching at an angle so steep the pilots were virtually looking straight down, the only thing we knew as shooters was that whatever happened would happen fast. I had knocked around doing conventions and political coverages, so the editor wanted me on the longest glass. It wasn’t the prime spot, but it was the spot from which you could track the whole shebang. I was on the roof of the old fire station at Edwards with an ancient 1200mm lens, which came in two parts that you screwed together. With the shade, it extended maybe 5-6′ from the camera, and it was a bear to focus in the best of conditions, much less through desert heat waves. I had the whole thing wrapped in aluminum foil, for fear the 100 plus degree heat would just melt it right into the roof.
And there it is. Close as I got, through 1200mm of ancient glass. The hard part was picking it out of the sky, ’cause it was, at first, just a glowing speck in a sea of blue. I had one camera on the lens, and another looped around my neck, ready to slam it on. (Remember, only thirty six exposures.) I did better later, when I took a large ABC news sticker I still had in my bag, slapped it onto the hood of my car and drove past Edwards security right onto the runway. Having a TV sticker could get you lots of places back in the day.
Scouting Edwards for approach positions was fun. Miles of open desert, and they pretty much let us have the run of the place. Not that there was anything out there. Hank, driving his own rental car, gave me one of those twisted, “I’m about to do something really fun and stupid” looks and brought the hammer down out there in the big empty. I was in a Buick Regal, and had no choice but to respond. My problem was that I was driving into his dust cloud at about 110 mph and could see absolutely nothing. It occurred to me that this was not advisable when heard an enormous crack from under the car. Desperately looking around, I noticed my gas gauge plummeting. I had driven right over a large, pointed rock embedded in the desert, and it basically plowed a furrow right through the gas tank. I pulled up and started yanking gear out of the trunk like the crazy fool I was and Hank, thankfully, circled back to pick me up. We moved away from the vehicle as it was slowly encircled in a sea of gasoline. I called the rental company and told them their car had malfunctioned and I needed a new one, which they obliged me with. They in turn called me back about two days later to tell me they had yet to find my vehicle. I assured them it was out there, gulping a bit and wondering how I could finesse a Buick Regal on my expense account. I never heard back.
It has been, as they say, quite a ride….more tk….
One of the best things about being a shooter, and, sorry young photogs, you have to wait for this particular delight–is getting older. Reason being is that you accumulate. Throughout all the travails and disappointments, the blown jobs, the missed calls, the times you zigged when you shoulda zagged, the broken pixels, the random attaboys, the monthly stare down with bills that aren’t getting paid, you receive, occasionally, the sheer unadulterated joy of having a camera in your hands at just the right split second when it all works. Not to get too frikkin’ Catholic about it, but those shards of time when gesture, light, and lens all work in concert with your head and your heart and that click becomes a frame that stirs emotion, creates memory, and provokes reaction–well, that’s like confession and communion all at once.
You accumulate pictures, to be sure, by the pound. Also stuff–trust me, you don’t want to go into my garage. (I needed that fiber optic unit precisely why?) But, just like an intricately woven fabric, the threads of a photographic life interweave, repeat, and get denser and richer over time. Those accumulated photos make connections, sometimes powerful ones. Sometimes ones you go back to, time and again.
In my freshman year of college, in gym class no less, I was alphabetically arrayed behind a guy named McDonald. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was already a fine photographer, and had firmly and completely cast his lot in school already. He was a photo major–done deal, no looking back. A photo major then and now, after spending an amazing career 35 year career as a newspaper shooter in Jersey. I of course was still deciding whether I was gonna major in journalism, peyote, hitchhiking around the Northeast, or pissing off my parents. (If they awarded a GPA for that last one, I’da graduated with honors.) Fast forward a bit, and Dennis married a wonderful lady named Maureen, and they had a daughter and a son–Maggie and Brian.
Maggie became over time, one of my all time favorite models. She was always a sprite, so she looked younger than she was, and was way smart, so she could take direction and pull off a shot. Like the one below, where she became a “latchkey kid” for a story about caring for your kids. I needed some pathos, some sense of “It’s getting dark out there!” for the photo to work, and Maggie pulled it off.
I’ve shot her for Nikon, for LIFE, and occasionally, just for fun. Maggie loved the camera, and it loved her back. She would resolutely take the modest modeling fees I would offer and do her own form of accumulation, called “The Europe Fund.” I always knew she’d be a traveler.
She has covered lots of ground in her young life, to be sure. She went to Williams College, which incidentally was rated as the #1 liberal arts college in the country, and amassed a lollapalooza of a GPA. She now holds two separate Masters degrees from University of Pennsylvania, and has worked already in India and Cambodia. Her field is foster care, families at risk, caring for kids. Helping people, in other words.
Her version of runaway bride.
My daughters, Caitlin and Claire, basically grew up with Maggie and Brian, every summer for 13 summers, down at the shore.
She was a beautiful kid, playing dress up all those years ago. Then, just this past spring, I shot her engagement portrait. The real deal, this time. In a few days, she’ll be a beautiful bride. Everybody accumulates memory, but as a shooter, you get to illustrate that memory book.
On Saturday she gets married, down at the shore. I think I’ll probably shoot some pictures.