Archive for the ‘Rambling’ Category
Drew with his Iphone. Me, on the appropriately described baggage rack. Denver stop, Kelby Lighting Seminar. More tk….
Photographers. We’re strange, right? We can’t stop. We run when others walk. We work when others relax. We have no sense of weekends, holidays, time off, time on, or time in general, except as it relates to sunrise or set. When there’s a football game on TV, we aren’t looking always at the action on the field. We’re looking at the sidelines to see if any our buds are covering the game and how much of the long glass out there is black or white. We walk around like addled sumbitches, staring at strange stuff, hovering at the edge of human activity, aching to be accepted, dying for a moment, breathless in anticipation for that which mostly never happens. Curious behavior, at best. That’s putting it nicely. Most folks would just chalk it up to damn strange and tell their youngsters to stay away from us.
Maybe the word is hinky. We shake our heads, punch buttons on expensive cameras, eyeball perfect strangers, ask odd questions, and wait for light. What an odd thing to wait for. We also have restive, restless, roaming eyes. Eyes that don’t shut down. Eyes that often feel hemmed in or framed by a 35mm lens border, eyes that correspond to a 24-70, or a 200-400, depending on what they encounter. Eyes that curse the dumb conglomeration of plastic, brass and glass we place in front of them, asking that mix of pixels and wiring to be surrogate vision, supple as the real thing. Hah! We might as well ask a fucking toaster oven.
I walked out of a Starbucks the other day, in not a particularly good mood, but anticipating that the mix of 3 espressos with milk would marginally improve it. There were two men conversing at an outside table. One of them, just sitting there, was majestic, regal, even. His hands cupped a cigarette, joined loosely at his lap. I passed them. It took all of a half second.
But, when I got to the truck, I started feverishly ripping open my camera bags. Like a man in burning building fumbling for an oxygen mask, I tore open zippers, velcro, caps and covers, desperate to find a lens that might give me half a prayer of representing what I just saw. The hands. Those hands did something important. I knew it in a heartbeat. It was a pair of hands that I needed to photograph, and if I shut off the adrenaline pump, got lazy and slid into the comfort of the rental car and closed my eyes and surrendered to the latte, I would curse myself over and over again for being a feckless, useless photographer. (If you had encountered any of my early career wire service editors, you would be inclined to think it redundant to describe a photographer as useless. It was a descriptor often thrown my way, in between exasperated sighs and abundant profanity.)
So I grabbed a camera with a 70-200, and resolutely walked back to the men. They knew before I got within 10 feet of them I was going to ask. There was no tension, no fear, no clammy feeling in the gut that precedes so many photographic encounters. (Will they say no? Will they ridicule me? Beat me up? Demand money, my social security number and a financial statement?)
No. They accepted me before I opened my mouth. Those powerful hands caught footballs for a living. Still fit, the gentleman towered over me when he stood. He had a stint with the Cowboys, hence the pinkie ring. He knew Bob Hayes, the man who changed football forever. I photographed Hayes for Sports Illustrated, when they were doing a wrap up of legendary sprinters. He is the only man in history to win an Olympic gold medal, and a Super Bowl ring.
This remains one of my favorite portraits. Hayes had a tough go after football, and had legal and health problems. He died not too long after I shot this down at his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. At the Starbucks that day, the gentleman and I chatted about Bullet Bob. We laughed a bit. The connection was immediate, and sincere. We shook hands. My hand literally disappeared into his.
How wonderful is that? What a gift this camera I curse is! A flying carpet into people’s lives. A certitude that this time, I will be richer for putting my camera to my eye. There’s no money on the line here. Just human encounter. Here, now, the camera becomes an instant learning machine.
The camera’s not a camera, really. It’s an open door we need to walk through. It’s up to us to keep moving our feet. More tk…
Have to admit I got caught up in it. Home run race, Big Mac, the whole nine yards, to mix sporting metaphors. I never said a word to him, because at the height of the whole shebang, he wouldn’t say zip to the media. Shut it down. No interviews or photo sessions. I was following him down the visiting dugout tunnel when he passed Walter Iooss, who is about the most connected sports shooter I know. Walter called out, camera in hand, “Mark, two minutes.” McGwire moved past without a word, like an ocean going freighter in a small canal, people, cameras, pens and notebooks spilling off to the sides, left bobbing in his wake.
If Walter wasn’t gonna get time, damn straight I wasn’t. So I shot the whole cover without ever saying a word to my subject.
I kept watching him make every move, and noticed, as with many ballplayers, he had an on deck ritual. Like clockwork, the bat went across his back during his stretches, right across his name and number, and the motion tensed up his massive arms. Went off the field and into the stands to shoot it, ’cause I couldn’t get an angle from the photog pit.
I suggested to the magazine that I shoot most of it in B&W, just to keep a continuum of sorts with the historical pix that had been shot of previous home run kings. They liked that notion, and turned me loose to intersect with, as he is billed for the story, the perfect home run hitting machine. Back then, giddy with baseball, and summer, nobody wanted to really know what was fueling the machine.
I concentrated on his power, a pretty obvious thing to do. Made this with a six as he waited on the ball. It was pretty cool, watching him wait on a pitch. Big cat, ready to pounce. Made me nervous, on assignment, ’cause any pitch he was thrown he could make disappear into the night sky. A picture like the above is risky. If he goes yard on this swing, I miss it, basically. Makes for a tough conversation if your editor asks, “Did you get him hitting that home run?” “Uh, well, I got a piece of him, ya see.”
But you gotta take risks during a coverage like this. For a mag like the Times, you are not there just covering. The wires do that, and do it well. You’re supposed to come up with something nobody else is looking at, which is hard to do when every swing is being seen by several million people.
Shot some color, too. Hard not to when the sun is strong and the uniforms are red.
Again, long lens, through the batting cage mesh. Takes the edge off the sharpness, and pushes the picture away from a simple snap of a swing towards something, anything, that might be more about mythology than batting practice.
It was cool, even though pretty much everybody knew that even out there in the bright sun, there were shadows. More tk….
At the risk of repeating myself….
On New Year’s Eve day, late in the afternoon, quite a number of years ago, I stopped for gas. An elderly gentleman was tending the pumps, and we struck up a conversation. Innocuously, I alluded to the fact that I had “made it through another year.” He snorted and looked at his watch. “Few hours left. Don’t get cocky!”
To all, many thanks for reading the blog, and stop by on Monday. I’ll be confessing my photographic sins from 2009. More tk….
For me, it was a shoot fest. I was part of a three shooter team that went in on an event this weekend and just didn’t stop. Collectively, shot roughly 265 gigs. I’m knackered, so not much of a blog for Monday, but will catch up a bit by mid week.
Just got word, actually via Scott Kelby’s blog, that The Moment It Clicks was cited by Professional Photographer as a “Hot One” for 2009. I did not know this was happening. But then again all of 2009 happened while I was finishing my rough draft of the early 90′s, so CNN needn’t be threatened by my news gathering capabilities.
It’s cool, though I don’t ever remember me or anything I ever did being referred to as “a hot one.” I mean, Sister Mary Regina in 6th grade used to call me “a dumb one” on a fairly regular basis, which is maybe close. She was a member of the Sisters of the Precious Blood, and she went about her day making sure it was your blood, not her’s or Jesus’ or anybody else’s that was gonna be the blood in question. About four feet tall, she would be on you so quick you thought you were dealing with a black and white ninja, and not a member of a religious order. Her version of the samurai sword was a wooden ruler she had snaked up her sleeve, and she could whip that thing so fast you woulda thought you were dealing with Travis Bickle in a habit. “You talkin’ to me?” She really took that whole “vengeance is mine” thing straight to heart.
But never a hot one. A sorry one, occasionally, and to be sure, an odd one. But hot? Cool. I’m gonna go tell Annie:-)
Couple folks asked about the screen shots in last week’s blog, and why in the published photo it looks like one big screen in the middle row, while in the others all the screens are the same size rectangle. The screens are a grid, all the same size. The published shot shown on the blog is made from a physical tearsheet from the mag. The black edges of those center screens got swallowed up in the gutter, so you don’t see it in the tear. But all the screens are the same size.