Thanks Mark A. Carruthers for inviting me to be part of your “One Frame” blog!
I’ve been fortunate in my career as a photographer to witness a lot of interesting subjects, visit a lot of interesting locales, and most importantly meet a lot of engaging people and fellow photographers. Truly, I feel blessed by all the fortunate things that have happened for me in my photography career.
To give you an idea of how fortunate I’ve been in photography; I met my wife at the Calgary Olympics! Not many people can say that... and keep saying it for 27 years last month.
Sports photography has always been one of my staple subjects and I’ve spent a lot of time over the years at events chasing many large men and women around various courts, fields, and assorted playing venues. I do have to say though that football has always been my favorite sport to cover.
The upcoming football season will be my thirty eighth year of covering the NFL. I can remember covering my first games with no idea as to what was going on and what was going to happen. Thirty-eight years later, I still have no idea what is going on or where it is going to happen.
Really, football photography is pretty crazy. Even after covering hundreds of games (it could be thousands, my math skills aren’t that great), I still struggle with positioning myself in a manner that will allow me to capture the best photos. Chaos reigns on a football sideline. It seems to me like photographers are actually hatching on the sidelines as the game goes on. Every game seems to have more photographers and every single one is younger than me! Throw in officials, cheerleaders, and the various hangers on and the sideline pretty much resembles the subway at 5:00. Securing a position is challenging enough and being in the right position borders on divine intervention.
The challenges are great, but the rewards when it all comes together are greater.
Over the years, I’ve developed a number of positions that make certain pictures in certain situations.
When this photo of Derrick Mason of the Baltimore Ravens happened it was a magical moment. All the photographers were checking the back of their camera and checking it again. It was that unusual and that good. The image was shot with a 50mm f1.8 lens. I’ve always kept a camera with a short lens around my neck pre-focused at a certain distance for something that happens close by. All the planets were aligned and after Mason made the catch, he was upended and landed on his head. The light was pretty flat allowing for detail in his face. It was one of those freak plays where everything worked out.
I don’t go to this position much anymore, as I’m not doing editorial coverage very often at games. I let the guys who really need story telling moments take the risk of being flattened by a player. I’ll work another angle most of the time now like the end zone or up around the bench to shoot the reaction. It’s not that I’m a coward; it’s just that I’m a coward. I’m afraid I don’t have that many hits left in my body. One good slam and I’m probably donating my brain to that CTE study.
If there is a message in any of this pontification, I guess you could say that being prepared has its privileges. Nothing worse than being the photographer fumbling for a lens or camera while a great action photo is happening. Staying focused and being prepared goes a long way toward successful coverage of any event, be it sports or anything else. Of course a little luck never hurts…
Equipment: Canon Mark III with a 50mm f 1.8 lens
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First off, many thanks to Mark for providing this forum. Lots of wonderful work here, and I’m very honored to be included.
I have photographed a lot in Beijing, working a great deal over the last several years for the Beijing Cultural Commission. They are an interesting client, nice people, but their strong suit is perhaps not planning.
So I showed up about three or four years ago, on my yearly sojourn to the Chinese capital, traveling light, prepared to do the usual street style shooting. And they threw me an amazing, full-blown, all out fashion shoot. It was wonderful news, except for the fact that I was massively unprepared.
I took myself off to Wukesong Camera Market, which is a gaggle of maybe a hundred or more camera kiosks, selling mostly knock off stuff. I bought a beauty dish, a couple of stands, an umbrella, and other related knick-knacks. It was going to be seat of the pants, all the way.
Luckily, I had some basics. Cameras, a few lenses, a couple Speedlights. And the client had one big, battery operated flash. Thus equipped, we went after it.
I say “we” because any fashion shoot is a flock of people. Hair stylists, makeup artists, clothes stylists, drivers, assistants, location managers—all fussing about, doing their thing. I had a couple of very fun, hard-working assistants, who came complete with a good attitude, a ready smile, and virtually no English. Seeing as my Chinese is non-existent except for a few pleasantries, we were in for a couple of weeks of smiling and nodding, and laughing.
The Cultural Commission has juice, so they got us into places like The Temple of Heaven early, before the opening bell. Thank goodness for that, as monuments like this are overrun with visitors right away in the early morning.
We had good morning light, and, most importantly, in the city of smog, blue skies, and a more than mild breeze. The model came out in a magnificent gown, intricately patterned in the manner of historically significant Chinese paintings. Seeing the gown, it was a natural move to light simply, and try throwing the garment into the wind. No wind machine, here, just a lucky, fitful breeze.
Every once in a while, things just line up. The beauty dish hit her, the gown hit the wind, a frame materialized up there on the steps of the Temple of Heaven. One of the arrangers gave me his business card that morning. It said, “Manager, Temple of Heaven.” I always thought that would be a really cool business card to have.
The assignment was welcome, but unexpected, and so was this photograph. Sometimes things break in your favor, a split second, a favorable breeze, a good expression, a bit of luck, and you have just one frame.
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On my very first assignment for National Geographic magazine, I was so anxious with worry, I could barely leave my motel room the next morning after arriving. I was in Hibbing, Minnesota, one of the places where Bob Dylan lived - he was here as a kid and teenager. Bob Dylan had just turned 60 years old a couple months earlier, and there was a lot of press.
I had been sent to Hibbing to do a story on Dylan and the area around Hibbing. To me, the importance of photographing Dylan’s actual home was essential. Plus, as always, I was driven by curiosity. Where had he lived as a kid? It wasn’t difficult to find out where the house was - and it turned out to be a very ordinary suburban home. But I felt nervous just knocking on the door. I had been told that the inhabitants had been bothered a lot a few months earlier, around the time of Dylan’s actual 60th birthday. Reporters came from all over the world and hung about for a couple days. If I knocked on the door and they chased me away, it would be hard to return. I needed a strategy.
That very first night in Hibbing, I found myself in the bar in town, chatting with a local. I mentioned my intention to try to get permission to visit the house, he pointed across the room and said, there is the woman who owns the house. My friend introduced me and I took a deep breath, introduced myself - the Nat Geo name does not hurt - and asked if I could come photograph Bob Dylan’s original home. To my surprise she instantly welcomed me. We made a date for the next day.
As we were sitting on the couch chatting, her young son, Taylor, came home from school. He seemed about 12 years old, and was rushing upstairs, with a barely a hello. I asked if I could go with him to peek upstairs. He showed me his room and said that in a few minutes his friends would be coming over to rehearse. To my absolute astonishment it turned out that he was into music and played in a band. I asked him if he listened to Bob Dylan, and how he felt about living in the star’s old home. In fact, he didn’t know Dylan’s music at all, and didn’t really care.
A few minutes later, his buddies arrived and they started playing, sort of. They put on a CD - the Black-Eyed Peas - and since they didn’t all have instruments, they played what they could. Taylor “played” a shelf. When I asked how many of those reporters from a couple months ago had heard his band play, he looked surprised and said, none. In fact, it seems that none had even found out there was a kid exactly the age Dylan had been, living in Dylan’s old room, and playing his own version of a guitar, in a band.
Not that it was world-breaking news, but on my first story for National Geographic magazine, I got a real scoop.
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Back in 2010, I was given an opportunity to document my first big expedition which would lead me to Baffin Island. Along with 23 BASE jumpers from around the world, we descended into Clyde River and then took snowmobiles some 80 miles into Sam Ford Fjord. An adventure haven for climbers, skiers and of course BASE jumpers. I never really knew what it was like to be disconnected from civilization and for one month, we lived in tents exploring as much as we could in the area. I learned so much because like the saying, rather than jumping in the deep end of the pool, I jumped into the ocean.
Once we had established base camp and everyone had arrived, we finally got the opportunity to climb up and for everyone to get their fist base jump in on the trip. I climbed with the first crew of three groups and initially set up so that the jumpers were silhouetted in the image. I stayed there as well for the second group as it was hard to leave a safe place where the images looked great. But as the third group arrived, I decided I had to try something different and hike across to the opposite angle. I waited for what felt like an eternity and felt brutally cold. One by one they kept jumping and finally by the very last jumper, the elements came together and I knew that I had captured the image of the trip already. There's no way I could ever repeat this image as the sun beautifully lit up the clouds rolling into the fjord. I was left to my own means and I climbed back down through the thickening crowd and ultimately an oncoming blizzard. But for me, it was all worth it as this is certainly one of my favourite images.
Canon ID Mark IV, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM, 1/1000 sec @ f/7.1, 57mm, ISO 160
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Of all of the images I have or will take in my life, I suspect "Paris in Snow" will be by far my most iconic. It is the cover of my book From Oz to Kansas, and Epson uses it as the image on their worldwide packaging of Cold Press Natural paper. So the image has received some airplay. Of all the crazy stories about the events that led to the image this is one of, if not the craziest tales.
This image is one of the best examples I have of how to capture "timelessness" in a photograph. There is no way to tell if the image was shot yesterday, one, 10, 50 or 100 years ago. This has to do with an observation I made several years back when photographing New York City: "modern" happens four stories and below, and "timeless" happens four stories and above. The shops at street level come and go, fashions change, cars change, and the banners that get hung for this or that special event all tend to be hung from the floor of the fourth story (or the ceiling of the third if you want to be picky) and below. But, the truth of the city and the age of its creation all live four stories (from the floor up) and above. Case in point: in this image, I am nine stories up, and I am shooting down toward the fourth story of the buildings in the foreground.
Note: This is also an ExDR image (Extended Dynamic Range). Not merely an HDR image (High Dynamic Range). For me, HDR images tend to be ones that scream "I AM AN HDR IMAGE!!!" and are an exercise in how to make a photograph look like a Harry Potter set. Just because something looks weird does not make it art. It just means it looks weird. In this image, the dynamic ranges of focus, time, and gesture have been extended. The goal of any technique is that when the image is completed you cannot see the technique in the image.
Ah but I digress…. Back to the tale of this image.
It was February 1, 2010, two months after the year we all wish we could forget, the economic nightmare known as 2009. To say that the previous year had not been kind to many photographers is an understatement, and truth be told, I had been luckier than most. What I remember about February 1, 2010 is looking at my career and seeing that I had no work lined up so far into the future that I could see the word "bleak" stretching to the infinity perspective point. At the time, I had no idea that 2010 was to be one of the best years I have ever had as an artist; in early 2010 it just looked like I was going to have to learn to start saying, "Would you like fries with that?" as part of my new job description.
So, when I received an email in which I was offered the opportunity to go to Paris to attend a convention, all I had to do was be willing to be asked questions and answer them and the hotel room was free and all I had to do was get there.
Well, I had nothing better to do, and all I had at the time on my dance card was to bemoan my economic demise and fate. I could do that in L.A. all by myself, or I could just as easily do that in Paris where the food is better. The math here was: 1) all it would cost me is to burn off some of my pile of frequent flyer miles, 2) the room was paid for, and 3) if I ate off of the craft service tables I could eat for free. As you might guess, the decision was a tough one, but off to Paris seemed the best call. The trip started with me being placed in the last row, in a middle seat that required a shoehorn to be fit into it, and I spent the next 19 hours sandwiched between two "seatmates" that had yet to discover soap, were so big that they each had their own zip code, and they each occupied in addition to their own seat a third of mine. Well at least the ticket was free. And free has always been my favorite four-letter word. All I can say is that by the end of the flight I knew what a pimento feels like stuffed into an olive.
The cab ride to the hotel started during rush hour, right at sunset, and ended in complete darkness. Paris in February is nothing but gray low-hanging gray clouds, leafless trees that look like props for a bad Halloween movie remake, and nasty biting cold. It almost never snows in Paris, maybe a little flurry here and there but nothing beyond that. Upon arrival at the hotel an old swank place that they just finished remodeling we entered into the lobby where there was this cardboard cutout, grinning like an idiot man/boy dressed in a 1920s bellhop suit, replete with the round cap, with a word bubble saying in several languages, "Kome Join our Koncierge Klub! Enjoy the benefits of Koncierge Klub Klass!! Why? Because you deserve the best we can offer and best of all it's FREE!!" I remember thinking, "What's with changing all of the Cs with Ks? And do I really want be a member of the Parisian version of the KKK?" I am a card-carrying liberal after all so liberal that there are those who think I will not fly on an airplane unless it has two left wings. But to become a member of the Koncierge Klub Klass cost the right amount my favorite four-letter word, "FREE" and that made the decision for me.
Throughout the course of my career I have traveled a bit, and I belong to every frequent flyer, frequent sleeper, and frequent diner program I can sign up for. So sign up I did, and the next thing I know I am now "Koncierge Klub Klass" staying on the "Koncierge Klub Klass Level." I have a "Koncierge Klub Key" that gives me access "24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and Sundays too!!" Who knew that Sunday was a day in addition to the seven days in a week? But I now have, with my free Koncierge Klub Key, access to the "Koncierge Klub Klass Klubroom," whatever the hell that means. All I know is it's free and it has its own level. Membership has its privileges.
Next thing I know I'm all checked in and my bags are on a cart (or would it be Kart?) and the bellman who looks nothing like the grinning idiot on the cardboard sign is asking me for both my room and Koncierge Klub Keys. He then puts the KK Key into a nondescript slot and a set of elevator doors open, and wooosh we go up to the Koncierge Klub Klass Level. As the elevator door opens, directly in front of me is the Koncierge Klub Klass Klubroom. Easily a quarter of the Koncierge Klub Klass Level floor. It had a beautiful Carnelian marble counter with a super swoopy high-tech espresso machine that grinds every cup of espresso, cafe Americano, and cappuccino you might want to order, complete with a self-frothing frother. There is also a Champagne refrigerator filled with multiple bottles of several upper-end Champagnes, a cheese board with a selection of cheeses that looks like all of the cows, sheep and goats in France contributed to it, all sorts of grilled meats and smoked fish, yards of savory tarts, sweet pastries, fresh fruits, macaroons, and bread (fresh made in the hotel daily). Lots of different types of freshly baked bread. Now, I am a to-the-core-San-Franciscan, and there are three things we believe we invented: fog, great bread, and great coffee. After spending time in Paris, only two inventions are true SF invented fog and great coffee. While visions of sugar-plummed tarts, macaroons, cheeses, coffee, champagne, and freshly baked bread danced through my head, I could not wait to be nestled all snug in my Koncierge Klub Klass room's bed. If this was the Kommunal Klubroom, the rooms have to be Krazy Kool!
The revelry of the quality of my French free lunch was broken by the bellman (flesh not cardboard) clearing his throat and saying, "May I take you to your room, monsieur?" Which was an immediate turn to the left down a hallway off of the elevator. I'm thinking "Score! Private hallway! Big-ass room!!" I should have known this was too good to be true when I noticed, as we walked down this separate hallway, that the room number placard was smaller than the slightly discolored larger rectangle that was in the center of door, and that the room was so close to the elevator that if it were any closer it would be in the elevator shaft. Next to my hotel room's door was a grey metal door with an industrial black and white sign with "Salle des machines d'ascenseur" engraved in the plastic. As the bellman opened the door, it hit the bed. The closet was so small that half of all of the clothes hangers were hanging outside of the closet. The shower, toilet, and sink were all in one. Convenient, I guess if you wanted to brush your teeth while sitting on the toilet while taking a shower. Bottom line: this room was so small that you could not change your mind in it. Then there was the view. There was an amazing view of a three-story tall steaming heating/cooling exchange unit that eclipsed the entire window. The window was completely fogged over, but from the outside.
The bellman then asked, "Monsieur, where shall I place your bags?" Well, I thought, at this moment his guess was as good as mine, considering I was standing on the bed so he and I could fit in the room. I said, "I don't know. You tell me?" Whereupon my luggage wound up on top of a desk that the bed was also the chair for, under the bed, and a piece or two in the combination toilet-sink-shower room to be moved to a place to be found later.
After handing him a few Euro, he asked if I would need any ear plugs. I said, "No, I don't see why," to which as he was leaving I thought I heard, "You will," and he left. So after getting to the airport two hours before the flight, 19 hours in the last row, non-reclining middle seat playing the part of pimento, going through French customs with enough camera gear to start my own store, being interrogated as to why I was here with this much gear for an hour and a half, followed by a two-hour cab ride in Parisian rush hour traffic I had not slept for 32 plus hours. I was tired. I fell back onto the bed looking up at the ceiling light, thinking maybe it will turn itself off as I started to finally drift off to sleep. No sooner had he left, and I started to pass out, when I heard the faint ding of the elevator doors opening, and then it felt as if the room was about to shake from the foundations of the hotel and become one with the steaming heating/cooling exchange unit just outside the window. Loud whining sounds were swirling around the room. It was in that moment, I discovered what Salle des machines d'ascenseur means. It is French for “elevator motor room.”
Like I said, I am a San Franciscan, and when a room shakes like that you find a doorway real quick "'cuz it might be the big one." So, as I was shooting upright the room stopped moving and I found myself once again standing on the bed staring at the door. In every room of every hotel on the back of the door, or right next to the door frame, is a framed diagram of the floor you are on. It is usually the same age of the hotel and never gets changed, even after a remodel. This diagram shows where the emergency exits are located, the room numbers (26 on this floor), as well as all of the functions of the non-guest rooms. Why this caught my attention in addition to the room next to mine being titled "Salle des machines d'ascenseur,” the room I was standing on the bed of was the only other room on the Koncierge Klub Level floor that did not have a number. The room I was in was labeled "Stockage Linge.” French for “Linen closet.”
Stockage Linge?!?! I have just had my heart kick-started by the elevator motors moving the earth, and now I find out my room is a linen closet!?!? I squeeze myself against the wall to open the door of my "room," and I walk down the hall to the elevator. I am so tired I actually fall asleep standing up, and a bellman wakes me up as the doors open. I stumble to the front desk to what I hope would be a sympathetic ear. I asked to speak to the hotel night manager about my room. As I discussed my plight about being put in the linen closet next to the elevator machine room, I was greeted with, "No, monsieur, we would never put anyone in a linen closet, and no, monsieur, there are no more rooms." When I asked again to speak to the Hotel General Manager, I was told, "Monsieur, he is gone for the night, you can try to speak to him in the morning. He will be in at 7 a.m. but there are no more rooms. All he will tell you is what I have said. Would you like ear plugs?"
So back it was into the Koncierge Klub-o-vator I went.
On the way back up to my closet of a room all I could think of was the beautiful Carnelian marble counter and all sorts of the wondrous French food treats I was going to eat. I'll just grab a little snack, well, maybe a lot of snack, and that will take the edge off. After all, I am a professional photographer, and my understanding is that "professional photographer" is actually pronounced "eat as much free food as possible." All the letters are actually silent. As the elevator door opens, I am greeted by the same cardboard cutout grinning like an idiot 1920s bellhop suit, replete with the round cap with a word bubble saying in several languages, "The Koncierge Klub Klubroom buffet is now closed for the evening. It will open again at 7:30 a.m. Please feel free to enjoy as many cups of coffee as you like! Till then ENJOY!" It is now 11:30 p.m. Who knows what time it is for my biological clock. What happened to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and Sundays too?
So back in the Klub-o-vator, down to the lobby, back to the front desk, back to the night manager who says, "Food service stops at 11:00 p.m. Coffee service is 24 hours." So back in the Klub-o-vator, back the Koncierge Klub Level, back down the hall and into my closet that also doubles as an Earthquake simulator.
It is now just before 7 a.m. the next morning. I have not yet slept going on 40-plus hours. Time does not fly when you have not slept. The only thing I have accomplished is to change into a pair of sweat pants and a tee shirt. Every time I started to drift off, every time, my room shook me awake. I get up, stand on the bed, open the door, go back down the hallway, back in the Klub-o-vator, down to the lobby, back to the front desk. In front of me is the back of a shaved headed man, and in a voice tempered with the steel of 40 hours of exhaustion I say, "I would like to speak to the Hotel General Manager now." He slowly turns and looks at me and with more attitude than I would get from a room full of ex-girlfriends he says, " I am the Hotel General Manager." At this moment I notice that his tie in the stripes has "Versace. Versace. Versace." as part of the pattern. On each of the arms of his eyeglasses again, "Versace." His belt buckle? Yep, "Versace." In that moment all I could think was, "I own you." Keep in mind that standing in front of this walking billboard for haut couture is a bloodshot, disheveled, barefoot man in sweats and a tee shirt who has not slept going on two days. As we both engage in a death stare, I say to him without breaking eye contact, "I cannot believe that you would put me in a linen closet."
"Monsieur, I can assure you, none of our rooms are now linen closets. Besides I have no more rooms and I am sure you have the class of room you paid for." He said.
"Really" I said.
"Yes, really." He said. "What is your room number?"
So I told him the room number. As he typed it in again, he said "There is nothing I can do. We are completely boo¦." At that moment, before he could say the "ked" part of "booked," my last name came up on the screen. His eyes got the size of saucers. He slowly looks up from the screen. He starts to sputter, "Monsieur Versace I had no Idea thath a…that…." At which point, I figure, in for an ounce, in for a pound, so I decided to just go for it. I put up my hand and say, "I don't want to hear. I am going to breakfast. Fix it." "Monsieur Versace I will take care of this, breakfast of course is on us, I will move all of your belongings, I will have your key to your new room brought to you. I am sooo sorr..." To which I again put my hand up and say, "I expect nothing less." I turn around, take two steps, then turn back to face the now sputtering out-of-control Hotel General Manager and say, "Nice tie," and then walk to the restaurant.
The restaurant was this beautifully elegant room with carpet so luxurious you sink to your ankles in it. I know because I still have no shoes on. The buffet was everything that the Koncierge Klub Klass Klubroom buffet promised to be but by a factor of a bazillion. In the time it took for me to walk from the front desk down the stairs to the breakfast room there was a table for six with one place setting with a placard with my name on it. The table was surrounded by waiters. Fresh breads from the bakery on the table.
Chair pulled out, napkin in my lap, asked what I wanted from the buffet, cafe Americano order taken and brought, glass of Veuve Clicquot’s le’ Grande Dame champagne poured. On about my fourth glass of champagne the hotel concierge (with a "C" not a "K") appears at my table to give me my new room key and tells me all of my things have been moved and the room is ready whenever I am. Every now and again life deals you a momentary lapse of reason that must be savored. Here I am sitting at a table for six by myself, barefoot in sweat pants and a tee shirt, surrounded by a gaggle of waiters with the hotel concierge bringing me my new room key. From nightmare to daydream in as fast as it takes to say, "Nice tie." So I say to the concierge, "I am ready," and he says a wee bit louder than need, "This way Monsieur Versace," the heads turn from all the patrons sitting around my table, a try not to stare look at me and then the “knowing nod’. The concierge snaps his fingers at my dining room team, points to some of the items of my dining carnage, and then gestures to follow him. I have truly gone from penny to a pound to a metric butt ton.
In the elevator we go. He slides my key in a slot with "Niveau Excutif" engraved on a brass placard, and he presses the button for the ninth floor. Whereas on the Koncierge Klub Klass Level there were 26 doors, on this floor there are only 10. Five on each side of the hallway. We walk all the way to the end of the hall and the concierge says to me, "We are so sorry for the grave inconvenience we caused. Please enjoy your stay. Whatever you need please contact me directly." He slides the key into the slot, opens the door, hands me my key and his personal business card, and leaves.
I find myself standing in the foyer of a corner two-bedroom suite with a wraparound balcony with a view of the Eiffel tower. All of my clothes hung up in the master bedroom and my camera bag and tripod in the middle of the living room.
It is at this moment it starts to snow. Not a flurry. But a serious heavy snow.
I quickly move to my camera bag to get my gear out. Before I can get the bag unzipped I am interrupted by a knock on the door. I open it to find one of my waiters from breakfast with a tray. "We saw that you liked cafe Americano and our fresh bread. This just came out of the ovens." He hands me the tray and leaves. No sooner had I closed the door and put down the tray, but I have another knock on the door. "Here is a bottle of the champagne you like at breakfast." I take the bottle, shut the door, and go back to my camera bag. The snow has stepped up from heavy to blizzard. I grab my tripod, set up the camera, connect the cable release, and go to the balcony. I frame the shot and close the sliding door. It was cold outside. As I come back into the warmth again someone is knocking at the door. I open it and there is another of the waiters. "Monsieur Versace, here are some of the macaroons you like so much!" I thank him, take tray, grab a few of them, break off a piece of bread (still warm from the oven), grab my cup of coffee, sit in a chair, grab the cable release, and start to take pictures. At which point there is yet another knock at the door….
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Brown bear and cubs, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska
Understanding wildlife behavior is an important part of wildlife photography. While it helps to do research on your subject, it also helps just to be observant and really watch what the animals are doing. Notice what they pay attention to, how relaxed or nervous they are, and be alert to unique behavior you can capture in an image.
In the spring, brown bear mothers or sows come out with their cubs to feed upon the luxurious succulent grasses along the Alaska coastline at high tide. As the tide recedes, the bears go out onto the mud flats and look for razor clams.
The sow here was in the tide flat munching grass while I photographed her. She was fully aware of my presence and comfortable with it. This area is one where fishermen have gone for years, so bears understand the humans present are not a threat. Still, she was cautious because there could be boar bears, big male bears that could chase her and her cubs. These boars frequently try to kill the cubs so that the female will come into estrus and breed.
Moments before this picture was taken, the babies were about fifteen to twenty feet behind the sow, playing and chasing each other. Suddenly she let out a bark, and instantaneously, the three cubs stopped playing and ran directly to her. It was obvious that they had been trained by the mother to stand there in the position shown and wait for further instructions. I love the shot here because I had never seen this behavior before, never seen three cubs stand with their paws right in alignment. The sow looked intently beyond me out into the grass. I kept looking back to see what she was seeing, and finally a river otter and its pups came rapidly through the grass causing quite a bit of commotion. When the bear processed the non-threat as otters, she relaxed and the cubs started playing again.
Canon EOS-1D X, EF 500mm F4 lens, f/18 for 1/320 sec., ISO 1600
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I am a baseball guy. Always have been. Ever since I was eight-years-old and I thought the rock-hard, faded, lime-green Astroturf covered field at Candlestick Park in San Francisco was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. I haven't been able to shake my love for the greatest game there is - the game they play every day.
In 1987 I photographed my first Major League Baseball games in Oakland and San Francisco with a Nikon F3 and Fujichrome RDP 100 color slide film. I was a photojournalism major at San Jose State University interning at the Contra Costa Times when I quickly realized that knowing the game gave me an advantage over many other photographers who arrived at the ballpark bemoaning the fact that nothing ever happened. That's baseball!
Once I graduated from college and began my newspaper career working at a 15,000 circulation daily covering lots of Little League and high school sports. I knew I had to pay my dues in order to earn a few calls up to the big club (the big newspaper in our chain) to shoot an A's or Giants game. The fun part of the education I got shooting hometown sports was getting the chance to learn from my awesome boss Bob Larson. Bob taught me how important it was to tell a story with my pictures for our local community. These kids playing for their youth or high school teams were giving it their all, and the results of the games were a big deal to our readers.
By 1993, I was photographing the big leagues full-time as a freelancer for Sports Illustrated and Major League Baseball, but I always missed my days on the small fields where I had total access and could do whatever I wanted to make a picture. I would always tell students when I critiqued their portfolios that they could make better pictures of nine-year -olds playing baseball that 29-year-olds. Of course they never wanted to hear that. Luckily I have had the chance to prove my theory right the past few years by shooting one Little League game each season, coached by my good friend and co-author of three books about the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, Brian Murphy.
Murph is in his fifth year coaching his nine-year-old son Declan playing Little League in Mill Valley, California. I first photographed their team in 2013 when Declan was five and they were the Hot Rods (http://manginphotography.net/2013/05/thanks-you-mill-valley-little-leaguers/). I had so much fun I had to come back and do it every year. They are now the KC Monarchs (an ode to the famous Negro League team the Kansas City Monarchs) and I made my annual trip to the fabulous Boyle Park in Mill Valley to shoot their 5:30pm first pitch against the Rockies on Tuesday.
As a favor to Murph, my main job each year is to try and get nice pictures of each player on the team. Of course this usually involves shooting action of the kids at the plate or on the field with my 400mm 2.8 lens. Well that's easy. The challenge of the day, and the fun for me is trying to get real moments of the kids away from the action. Over the years, I have done a pretty good job of working my way into big league dugouts before games to get fun candid images of guys goofing around with my wide angle lens in an effort to show fans something they don't normally get to see - the personalities of these guys playing a child's game for millions of dollars. On a day like Tuesday at Boyle Park in Mill Valley, I can go into the dugout before the game with my wide-angle lens and shoot pictures of REAL children playing a game they love for fun.
It always helps being able to photograph a subject in a wonderful setting. Some dugouts are merely chain link fence that you can see through with cars in the background. Not at Boyle Park! The old school yard boasts wooden, dark-green dugouts that are a photographers dream. Twenty minutes before game time, Murph was in the dugout talking to his squad and I made sure I was right with him to document the young Monarchs getting ready.
The skipper was going through his lineup of 12 players, one-by-one, giving each young ballplayer something positive to think about before they took the field. As each Monarch heard his name called, his face lit up and he was encouraged by his teammates. Nice moments were happening right in front of me and the pictures were happening. Kids this age are such a blast to photograph. Their faces show so much expression - some more than others. As Murph went through his roster, my eye was drawn to a cute young man to my right with long red hair, freckles, twinkling blue eyes, and a blue KC hat on backwards. Suddenly, young Charlie lit up as Murph addressed him.
"Today’s the day Charlie has a new stance. He has some great practices under his belt, and he's hitting it better than he has all year. Today is the day he is going to do it. Starting in left field, Charlie!" said Murph. Young Charlie beamed as he locked eyes with the skipper and soaked in the cheers from his teammates. At the same time his buddy Quinn patted him on the head, and I had the picture I was looking for.
I went on to shoot the ballgame and had a blast getting nice pictures of each and every Monarch, making parents happy all over Mill Valley. However, the best picture I made on Tuesday night was of young Charlie getting some love from his manager and teammates. This is a photograph that I keep looking at. I can't get the look on Charlie's face out of my mind, and also the looks and body language of his teammates in the frame. The picture is full-frame and not cropped at all. It is one of the most perfect pictures I have made in a long time. At least to me! As a photographer, I need to make myself happy to keep the creative juices flowing, and being able to share the dugout before the game with those young Monarchs has really given me a spark.
2017 marks my 30th anniversary of photographing Major League Baseball. Over that time I have shot 20 World Series, published four books, photographed many Sports Illustrated covers, documented dozens of Hall of Famers, and witnessed countless historic milestones. On Tuesday, I shot a Little League game in Mill Valley and made a picture of a nine-year-old that is as important to me, at this point in my life, as any frame I ever made of Barry Bonds.
Canon 16-35mm 2.8
1/400 @ 4.0, 400 ISO
For more information:
Blog: http://www.manginphotography.net <http://www.manginphotography.net>
Portfolio: http://www.manginphotography.com <http://www.manginphotography.com>
Thanks Mark A. Carruthers for inviting me to be part of your “One Frame” blog!
Many people ask me if my life has changed since winning the Pulitzer Prize. Most recently CBS Sunday Morning Correspondent Tony Dokoupil asked me and before I could answer he joked, “You have a permanent name change!”
True, I thought as he went on to say Pulitzer Prize winning Renée C. Byer…. But seriously, I’m grateful for the unparalleled honor and I feel a responsibility to my subjects that always resonates with me every time I’m asked. Most importantly, the award placed me in a forum to motivate change as I traveled the world sharing my subject’s story, “A Mother’s Journey.”
It would be easy to select “One Frame” from the twenty award-winning images for this blog but I’d like to share with you a photo I made on a personal project outside of my daily newspaper job. My frame stems from a photograph I made during a leave of absence while I worked on a book project, “Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor.”
That project has since become a worldwide exhibition that invites the public to act when they are standing in front of the images.
I think of myself as a journalist who chooses the art of photography to bring awareness to issues throughout the world. As a documentary photojournalist, I adhere to a code of ethics and my pictures depict the unvarnished realities of life. Art is a powerful means of expression, but combined with journalism it has the ability to bring awareness to issues that can elevate the public’s understanding and compassion and hopefully affect meaningful social change.
Known for my ability to translate stark statistics into images that connect us to our humanity, I traveled throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America for this project. Time and access are the essence of compelling photojournalism. I spend a lot of time with my subjects understanding their plight so I can document their lives as it unfolds. Sometimes that took hours and often days. In this project on extreme poverty I felt it was important to preserve the dignity of my subjects and I wanted to make images documenting their reality so people could imagine themselves living in their situation. There is a quiet vulnerability of emotion that translates the human condition and my aim is to capture that without my presence being perceived. It’s extremely difficult when you are traveling with translators, and other people and you have to rely on them to communicate your mindset. So getting subjects to forget you are there can be challenging.
My image “Hoping for Miracle,” is a frame I never imagined. From a hallway I was photographing Ana Maria’s family living in a small one-room apartment in an abandoned building in Bucharest, Romania. The room lacked running water and a bathroom. Her father had lost his job after complications from a gall bladder surgery as they were struggling to survive and faced eviction from the only home they knew. Kneeling in the hallway to document their lives in front of me, I saw Ana Maria standing out of the corner of my eye, not in the room with her family. I slowly moved the camera in hopes she would not move. All the weight of her family seemed to be on her shoulders as she faced the light. Above her a religious painting added another element of hope in her despair. Her small hands are slightly blurred in motion as she contemplates her fate. I remember praying that the image was exposed correctly as I framed and clicked. I think she remained in her statuesque position because she was used to my presence after photographing her family for days.
I was working with Samuel Social, a non-profit in Romania, and that family was immediately helped after I shed light on their plight. The little girl is now enrolled in school and I’m relieved that positive change happened as it has for many of the subjects in the book that is now a traveling exhibition.
Growing up in New York when I was a little girl about Ana Maria’s age I would visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and imagine myself in Monet’s garden or one of Renoir’s impressionistic paintings never imagining there was a life that existed where people struggle to survive. In this image you are quietly reminded that place exists.
Nikon 24-70@24 mm f/2.8 1/60 ISO 800
For more information: www.reneecbyer.com
CBS Sunday Morning Interview: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/living-on-one-dollar-a-day/
For me, photography has always been my way of interpreting experience. It is, quite literally, the lens through which I see the world.
As I work and travel - I’ve now been to more than 40 countries - my world shrinks. Spending time away from home and loved ones has taught me to cherish the moments I share with them.
This image is of my grandmother, Dolly Gianoulis. Mommom, as the family calls her. The photo itself isn’t one that I feature on my website. It has never been published outside of my Instagram account. But for me, this image - this moment - is one I will forever live with.
I took it from the back seat of a town car on the way to my grandfather’s burial. It was March 7, 2009.
I was in my last semester at the University of Florida. We had buried my other grandfather (my dad’s dad) the week before. And my brother, John, was a Marine Lieutenant in the middle of his second tour in Iraq.
I remember it all so well. The wake, the service, the burial.
I remember the smell of formaldehyde and cold air at the funeral home. I remember my cousin Jimmy - a virtual twin to my brother - casually wrapping his arm around my mom as she began to cry. I remember my brother calling from a desert far away, his voice distant and hollow.
I remember visiting my great-grandmother after the service. I remember seeing my dad tear up for the first time in my life. I remember feeling numb.
Those first few months of 2009 were an intense period of my life. A period I’m still trying to understand. But this image helps.
This picture is not just of my grandmother, it is of a woman reflecting on her life. The 56 years she was married to my grandfather. The four children they raised. The nine children their children raised. The good along with the bad, because you can’t have one without the other.
When I look at this image today, it is bittersweet.
Mommom is now deep in the throws of dementia. She is still the kind and funny woman I knew. But the disease never gives, it only takes. And each day it takes more of her life - her memories - away.
Sometimes she gets sad when she understands that she doesn’t understand. She apologizes for not being able to find the words she needs to communicate. Then, on other visits, she laughs along with us like she used to, her eyes sparkling with recognition.
If the disease has taught me and my family anything, it is to appreciate it all - the joy and the pain. Life is hard and chaotic, but it’s also quiet and beautiful.
That’s what this image means to me.
For more information:
One of my first assignments for Sports Illustrated was the 1976 US Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Trials. Fast forward 36 years (and 8 Olympics) and I was at the 2012 Trials in San Jose, California in June of 2012.
Prior to the Trials, America was ready to crown Jordyn Wieber the new Golden Girl of gymnastics, but out of nowhere a new star emerged -Gabby Douglas - and I, like much of America was captivated by her energy and grace.
In addition to shooting the usual Men’s and Women’s action from the floor at the Trials, I set up an overhead remote above the balance beam. While I had been setting up overhead cameras at gymnastics meets for years, the results were usually disappointing - this time was different.
Her arms and legs extended, her face looking up to the camera and the footprints and swirls of white chalk on the blue mat beneath her all combined to make this my all-time favorite image from one of my favorite sports.
Canon EOS-1D Mk IV, Canon EF 70-200mm IS lens @ 200mm, f4 @ 1/1250, ISO 2000.
For more information:
Facebook: Peter Read Miller Sports Photography Workshop
In 2004, a rare snowfall in the city of Lyon France, allowed me to make the discovery that French automobile owners prefer to drive white, grey or black cars.
Married at the time, my wife and I had recently purchased a large 4th floor apartment in Lyon France and it was from the Northeast corner of that apartment where I had spent the better part of a morning looking down onto the narrow intersecting streets with my camera and 35mm-70mm lens mounted on the tripod.
Over the course of the next few minutes, I was hopeful of recording a lone red ‘brushstroke’ of a car as it came into this monochromatic and very ‘active’ intersection of diagonal lines. Needless to say, those several minutes turned into almost 90 minutes when FINALLY a red car appeared. In more than 35 years of shooting, it was not until this day, that I was made aware that a red colored car is a rarity, at least in France.
Nikon D2X, Nikkor 35mm-70mm, F/22@1/8 sec, 200 ISO
"You Keep Shooting!"
Bryan F. Peterson/Founder BBSOP
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When former Ambassador Joe Wilson ended up on the White House ‘shitlist’ for having dared speak publicly about his report on the lack of uranium shipments to Iraq, he and his wife became the toughest interview in the country. She - Valerie Plame - was still working in Langley for the CIA as an analyst, and the disclosure that she was working for CIA, by columnist Robert Novak, caused a huge brouhaha as Washington found itself trying to figure out who had blown her cover. (Eventually it became known that former Under Sec. Richard Armitage had been the one who told Novak.) It was October of 2003, about a year after Wilson’s Niger trip, and some days after she had been named in Novak’s column. In theory, divulging the identity of a CIA employee could be a chargeable offense. Everyone knew WHO Valerie Plame was, but since she still worked for CIA, and no pictures had been published, no one knew what she looked like. It was an odd juxtapostion for modern journalism. I had called USNews to see about having them back me to photograph Joe Wilson (and of course having their backing to do so would probably make it easier for me to get to him.) The conversation with Jen Poggi, the editor started with something like (“…you need me to photograph Joe Wilson for you…”) and Jen agreed it was a great idea. Within a couple of days it was arranged: “arrive at the Wilson home the following morning at about 8, and you’ll have about an hour…”
I pulled my car in front of their house the next morning, grabbed my motley crew of gear (Speed Graphic, Holga, and Canons) and was greeted at the door by Mrs. Wilson — Valerie Plame — in a morning robe. She was getting their young twins ready for the day, and invited me in to the house. We passed through the kitchen, and I schlepped my gear into the family room, which faced east, and was happy to see the first hard rays of sunshine coming through the trees, and lighting the room nicely. I’m an available light guy. And when what’s available is good, I’m all for it. I set up the tripod and Speed Graphic, and made sure the Holga had a roll of film, before checking my Canon’s to be sure they were charged and ready.
Joe Wilson came in, we made small talk, and as I often try to do, just began shooting a bit while we were chatting. Anything you can do to take the subject’s attention off “being photographed” helps. Usually. He was pretty easy. We talked, I shot, we talked and I shot some more. This was in that period of the early 2000s when on almost every job I had, I tried to shoot at least one roll of 120 b/w in my Holga. The camera is an odd duck. Imprecise, uneven, full of light leaks, and occasionally a lucky surprise. I use the Stroboframe quick-release plates on all my cameras, and it makes using a tripod pretty easy. You can undo one camera and slam another onto the quick-release in just a few seconds. Normally I would save the Holga for the last bit of the shoot, once I had a feeling that I was covered. The thing about a Holga, as opposed to any digital camera, or even a film camera like a Hassie or Rollei, is that you have to manually wind, and take note of the next frame number. It’s like that first Brownie Holiday camera you had when Ike was still President. You would just wind the film till that next number came into view in the red window on the back then be ready for your next picture. A great, uncomplicated, efficient way of moving to the next shot. So, once I got shooting with Wilson, I may have been talking with him, but my eye was concentrating on the numbers on the back of the camera. The numbers on a roll of Tri-x are pretty visible, but it’s easy to accidently wind past the next number if you aren’t careful. In an era of 15 frames-per-second on the modern digi cams, the Holga is more like — in high speed mode — about one frame every ten seconds.
I shot, and wound, and shot and wound, all the way through a roll of film, hoping that in the roll might be a good portrait the magazine could use. We finished, and I packed up, and headed to the US News lab, where I dropped my film. Later that afternoon I came back to the photo office to see how the pictures looked, and was absolutely jolted to see in the middle of the Holga roll, a frame of Wilson looking into the camera, and behind him, in what was an obviously accidental moment , Valerie Plame in her robe, looking as if she’d started to head upstairs for something, thought better of it, and was about to turn around and head back to the kitchen. To make it more interesting, she seemed to be in a kind of quizzical stance. It was one frame. One Image. All of a sudden I realized I had a picture I hadn’t bargained for. We talked about it at the magazine, and everyone decided that since she was still a CIA employee, and since she hadn’t been ‘outed’ visually, that maybe we shouldn’t run the picture. (This story didn’t rise to the level of the Pentagon Papers, or I’m sure we would have.) The decision bounced around the building, and in the end, they went with a more standard portrait, by standard I mean his wife wasn’t in it. I called Joe Wilson, and told him about the picture. He said it would be trouble for them if the picture ran, and we made a gentleman’s agreement not to use the picture until she was no longer under the CIA umbrella.
Even a few months later, at “contest” time, when I talked to him again, Wilson said it would be problematic if the picture became public. It wasn’t till later that year, once Valerie had left the government, and the Wilsons did the full scale Vanity Fair treatment, did I realize the ‘deal’ was no longer on. By then, USNews wasn’t really interested in doing a story on the Wilsons and the pictures came back to me and my agency, Contact Press Images. TIME, on the other hand, was running a story, and they hopped at the chance to use the “one frame.” It ran nearly two pages, and became one of those pictures which I was happy to have my name on. When news breaks, and hitherto unknowns become the news headliners — think Monica Lewinsky for one — there tend to be a zillion pictures of them, yet seldom anything of real visual or journalistic interest. I was lucky this time around. Sometimes taking your eye off the target — especially when you have to watch those numbers roll across the red Holga window — gets you where you want to be.
Photograph ©2017 David Burnett/Contact Press Images
For more information: http://www.davidburnett.com/
My daughter Havana is always near the center of my thoughts. I love her immensely.
My family has lived in Nebraska for 5 generations. I love the place.
My friends are scattered throughout the world. I love the global connection.
My feelings of what matters most are defined by this image of my friends the Messersmith's on their ranch in Western Nebraska. Family, freedom, security, home and love.
For more information:
In all the years I worked at Sports Illustrated I was very fortunate to have been able to photograph most every sporting event. To this day, it seems I always get asked the same two questions. The first one is always, "How many times did you work on the swim suit issue?" (and before I even got the chance to answer I'd get bonus questions. What were the models like? Which one was your favorite?) The other question I get is: How did you do the Ben Johnson pic at the Seoul Olympics? Well, unfortunately, I never worked the swim suit assignment so no stories to tell there. But I can tell you about the Ben Johnson image.
I wasn't assigned to the 100 meter finals at the Olympics but the morning of the race I got a call to go out to the track with the rest of the SI team. All the positions had already been given out so I'm told "just find a spot." I wander up toward the start and see David Burnett (who is without a doubt one of the great photographers of any generation), Dave was shooting for Time Magazine. I thought, "Hey, if its good enough Dave, it's good enough for me." After settling into the photo mote, an area along the track where we shot from, I began to think about what to do. It was at least 4 or 5 hours before the finals were to go off. I had always thought about doing a pan shot but the 100 meter final at the Olympics might not have been the best time to try a shot I'd never done before.
Now the key part was who to go with at the start. Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson were the two clear favorites with Johnson in the center lane. I went back and forth on who to go with, finally settling on Johnson who I had worked with a few months prior up in Toronto where he was training.
I decided to go with a 300mm lens on a Nikon camera; there was no such thing as auto-focus back in the day. I believe I shot at 5.6 at 125th of a second.
The race is finally ready to go off and I'm thinking this is a pretty stupid idea! But too late now, besides we have 6 others shooting so if I screw up who's to know. The gun fires, and I pan. I can clearly see Ben Johnson is in the lead as they pass me. It all happens in about 2 seconds. I think I made 3 or 4 frames.
We now wait because it's going to be hours before the film will be processed and edited. Late that evening I check in with the SI editors and Phil Jache informs me I nailed it! The cover and opening spread; I feel great about it. If Carl Lewis had been in the lead I would have had nothing and wouldn't be writing about this.
At about 2 am, I get another call that Johnson has been busted on drugs and is leaving Seoul. "Get out to the airport and find him," Phil says. My good friend John Iacono is also to go along. We get to the airport--not very hard to find Johnson as every news organization in the world is following him.We make a few pictures, check back in and find out one of us is to buy a ticket and fly back with him to the States. I'm really glad my passport was in my other pants. That's my story and I'm stick'n to it! Poor Johnny was on the red eye back.
With the news of Johnson's drug bust, I was sure they would go another direction with the cover. But they didn't. Ben Johnson was the lead story. To this day when I speak to Dave he'll say, "That was a great decision."
For more information: www.ronaldcmodra.com
Over the span of my career I’ve been very fortunate and have had the opportunity to create a collection of images that are extraordinary, but one stands above the rest. I’m sure some of it may have to do with location (although I’ve been to many amazing locations throughout the United States) but I believe the majority of it has to do with the connection that I have with the landscape.
Let me back up and paint the backdrop and atmosphere for this image. As a full time professional landscape photographer, there’s something enlightening and personal about being able to spend time with Mother Nature. Now don’t get me wrong, we all love to capture pretty pictures but to truly have a connection with the landscape is when you are able to create remarkable images.
I’ve been visiting and teaching workshops in the Grand Teton National Park since 2005 and I have to admit that it never gets boring or mundane. There’s always something new and exciting to photograph and let’s be honest, who could get tired of looking at that landscape.
As a workshop instructor, you wouldn’t be doing a good job if you didn’t allow your clients to capture a few of the classic iconic images and an image of Oxbow Bend is certainly a classic. During our 2012 autumn workshop, I had taken the group to capture sunrise with amazing results. However, as the day progressed and the storm clouds rolled through the light started to really become wonderful and as we all know, “photography is all about the light” and being able to capture extraordinary light is truly the key to success.
When you have a lot of ground to cover and only so much time to do it we don’t normally visit the same place twice during a workshop but there are always exceptions to the rules. So, we headed back up to Oxbow Bend to see if we could capture a reflection with the storm clouds and I have to admit my hunch certainly paid off allowing me to capture this amazing image of Oxbow bend with the storm light. When you’re teaching a workshop you never seem to have much time to capture your own images because you’re busy helping and instructing others but here the light was so amazing that I couldn’t resist firing off a shot.
A lot of people will say “boy you got lucky with this one” but I believe a well-prepared photographer will make his own luck by knowing how to read the light and being in the right place at the right time with the knowledge to capture what is presented before you.
Best of Light,
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For more information: www.edheaton.com
What an honor to be asked to contribute to the Reflexions on Life Blog by Mark Carruthers and be in the presence of such great talent! Thank you so much!
My one frame was created between the 2012 NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XLVI. New York Giant's star receiver, Victor Cruz, was scheduled to leave for Indianapolis the following day. He and his fiance, Elaina Watley, had just celebrated the birth of their child Kennedy Ryan Cruz. Only two days prior, Elaina had called me to schedule newborn photos. As a new client with a very narrow window of time, I needed to capture something special. Unique. It had to stand out. After all, he was a rising star in the NFL. Something fit for a future Super Bowl champion... because I knew in my heart that's what my New York Giants would be within a weeks time.
With a single light source and one reflector, I created this image of Kennedy with her beloved Daddy. I requested a football to lay his newborn sleeping daughter on. With all of Victor’s humbleness, he retrieved from a closet this football from his 99 yard touchdown against the New York Jets!
This is one frame I will never forget.
It will forever be an iconic image within my portfolio. It celebrates the beginning of my family’s relationship with our precious goddaughter, Kennedy’s new life and her blessing to all who know her. It's also a great reflection on Victor’s fantastic career with the New York Giants & his Super Bowl victory!
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For more information: www.dawnsela.com
I am often asked, “Rick, what is your favorite, most important photograph?" It’s a good question, one every photographer should ask himself or herself - so I am glad Mark asked me that question and to be a guest blogger.
The answer is an image of my dad, Robert M. Sammon. Here’s the story.
Several years ago, late one December afternoon, my dad and I were sitting in his study. We were having a nice talk – and a nice time. I looked at him and thought: He looks so happy. The light is just right. I should take a picture - because it might be the last good picture I ever take of him. He was fading - physically, but still sharp as a tack.
I thought about taking the picture for about 10 minutes, holding back some tears – thinking about what it would be like not to have him around, after having him around for 88 years - as my dad, and later on in life as the first-pass editor for most of my books. (He was a great editor.)
I finally asked him if I could take a shot. He said sure, with a smile and a nod. He knew what I was thinking. I asked him to look out the window, and I took a single shot.
My dad, 91, died suddenly and peacefully and quickly on April 3, 2010. A few hours before, while I was on the other side of the country, I had a dream about him: He had pushed his walker aside and was standing up straight. I had not dreamed about him for at least 20 years. Hummm....
Sure, I am very sad. I get waves of tears. I will miss him more than he probably ever realized. He was my dad, a very big part of my life – in fact, half the reason for my life. :-)
Those of you who know me know I enjoy quotes. Here is my favorite: "We are a part of everyone we meet." Want proof? My dad, Robert M. Sammon, Sr., was a photographer, getting me started, along with my mother, in photography with his cameras and basement darkroom. But more important, he was a good dad - which I try to be. Everyday. I am very glad we met.
You might want to keep that quote in mind when you meet people. I sure do. You may have more of an impact on someone than you realize.
I often show this image in my motivational slide shows. Here are some comments about the image.
- it's full of symbolic, emotional content
- looking into the distance, contemplating the edge (the end) is near, time (watch), space
- life is behind him, yet he is still connected to this world (watch again)
- going through the daily cycle (circular movement in his arms, leading to his aged face)
- growing older by the day
- drawing ever nearer to the edge of darkness
- still grounded to the earth by the cold metal of the walker
- walker keeps him in the photo and connects him to the photographer, his son, his future
- carry on, carry on my son
- but I am not long for this world
- long have I watched and guided you, but now I am content
- my gaze is directed elsewhere.
Sure, I have been to almost 100 countries and locations around the world, most recently Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. I think I have some pretty good photographs, but none are as important as the portrait I took of my dad.
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For more on Rick Sammon, see www.ricksammon.com.