This post ties in with other discussions on this blog. J recently ran the LA Marathon. I met Charlie and we flew in his Bell 47 helicopter. I shot with Manny, from Sport’s Illustrated. Manny told me of the quintessential shot of the NY Marathon in which the image is made of the runners cresting the Verrazano Bridge. Well, I was in the position to try for this image. The shot had been described but I had never seen it. It was crystal clear blue sky day as Charlie and I hovered in his ship over the bridge. It also helped that he had been a former NYC Police helicopter pilot. We were not chased away from the venue. All that remained was to get that “shot.” You can go wide or tele. I know I didn’t quite get it right. I got a lot of images but the “one” got away. I still count myself lucky to have been there. A lot of stars came together for me to have the chance.
It was pretty cool! Justin Henin, Belgium, Svetlana Kuznetsova, US Open Tennis 2007 finals… Manny Milan, a well-known Sports Illustrated photographer, invited me as his assistant. I got to access the venue from as close as you can get. It was exciting! And it was an education in shooting sports. Manny told me the shots that the photographers were trying to capture. Then I had the opportunity to get them myself. Lighting is artificial because the finals are in the evening. Most photographers prefer daylight. Everyone tries to capture the moment when the champion collapses in joy on the court.
The preferred action shot always has the tennis ball and a look of total concentration. Where you’re stationed in the stadium determines whether you are trying wide angle or telephoto images. The cameras are fast and the lenses fast and heavy. The preference is overwhelmingly Canon. The “glass” ranges to the biggest fastest lenses, which are more than a handful. You don’t carry them as much as you “lug” them. Thanks Manny.
In thousands of images there is only a small fraction, which get the player, the expression, and the ball in the same frame. And after all of that, the editors take only a few to illustrate the story of the event.
Even the award ceremony is scripted. Photographers are assigned positions from which to shoot the champions. It helps if you have connections.
Nothing is done to intentionally hurt the bucking stock.
This includes binding of testicles (a popular lie spread by certain groups against rodeo), drugging, beating, burning, etc.
It’s written in “bold” on the website. Where did I see this? In Maine in the autumn of 2007 at a county fair… It was a serious competition for points. It was not a mega event. It occurred on a very chilly evening in the dark, a highlight of the evening’s activity.
I arrived early to ‘scope out the venue and pick the best place from which to get photographs. I brought a flash expecting to need the extra light. I was really to far away to be in an ideal position. At the earlier hour of sunset the bulls were peacefully standing in the coral, perfectly docile and crowded together. To look at the bulls you would never consider them to be a ton of angry bucking muscle.
If you look closely there are two ropes. The first is for the rider to hold dearly hoping to make 8 seconds and get a score for a ride. The rope wrapped around the bull behind the rider is (not?) attached to the testicles (remember it’s bulls not cows). Whatever the rope does it certainly gets the bull’s attention. Riders are thrown and they are injured. This means an ambulance is on standby. Some of the riders now wear flak vests and crash helmets. It’s not too western looking but it’s a bit more protective. Stomping usually doesn’t involve head injury, mostly broken bones. I make this assumption because, by my estimation, access to a competent neurosurgeon is not high on the priority list. But please keep in mind no animals were hurt in the making of these images.
It took a little longer to find this shot. But my database came through again. I have thousands upon thousands of subject labeled Bill. And unless I used turkey or Thanksgiving as a key word… or Bill’s house or Lila’s house, this was going to be a long search. I got it from Thanksgiving and J’s approximate age. The visual joke here is that the turkey and J are about the same size and the turkey weighs more. Some jokes whether good or bad linger longer than others.
This is one I will not forget… ever. It was the sunrise of July 31. We’d (Lisa) been up all night long. Remember the photos at labor and delivery. This was the view overlooking the East River at dawn from NYU, University Hospital. I’ve been up early plenty of times. And I’ve been bleary and weary because of a bad night on call. But this dawn was pretty special. Of course I didn’t know labor would go from the night before, all day, and into the early morning of August 1. And of course this was the worst time to be delivering at a teaching hospital, even if it was my hospital. All the new students, interns, and residents just came on board on July 1. So it’s kind of like clowns on parade. No offense, I was once one of them. It just that it’s different when it’s your wife and first child. When David was born the obstetrician who showed up was named Ida. Ah, I exclaimed at 4AM, “I always wanted to name my kid Ida.” This got me a withering look from this bleary eyed doctor. Who names their kid Ida? “You know Ida as in Ida Ho.” Old joke. Bad joke. Bad timing.
As long as we’re talking names, David would have been Ivan… not a chance. But I almost named him Otto. I just liked the sound and nearly pulled it off until Lisa ripped the name paper from my hand as I bent to fill in his name. Four years later David and I had a conversation in which I told him my wish to name him Otto. “Just between us… when we’re alone… you mind if I call you Otto?” Four year old David sat for a moment, pondered seriously, and said, “But Dad, my name’s David.” That was the end of that.
I found it. I just didn’t know if I had scanned this slide. You would think that I would have kept this somewhere prominently. Nope! J is now teaching in LA and the other day ‘Grandmother’ came to pick up one of the kids. Goldie Hawn! J was tongue tied.
As I said they were making “9 and ½ Weeks” when J was born. Shortly afterward we got a photo op with Kim Bassinger. I had an even closer experience the night after J was born. I had just gotten off the elevator when someone popped out and dragged me into the neighboring apartment. “Here, check her knee!” Kim was on the sofa clad in a white slip and fishnet stockings. She had feigned injury to stop filming during a scene. And here I was practicing outside my specialty examining a very shapely leg… oops knee. Déjà vu… “Seven Year Itch?” “Nothing wrong… get an orthopedic surgeon here first thing in the morning!” And I was ushered out. Ah, the things that happen when you’re in a certain place at a certain time. Well, my daughter had her star moment very early on. (Kim and I don’t stay in touch.)
This is a Manhattan backyard of my kids experience. It was weird because we had the roof rights and took advantage. We finally got the deck built a few years after Kim Bassinger made “9 and ½ Weeks,” the movie in our building. The crew was supposed to build a deck for us. Then it came to giving us the money to build a deck. But it was a few years later before the tar roof was covered.
It’s a big event in NYC. Everyone is Irish for a day, especially the politicians. I was at a Columbus Day parade a few years back and Hilary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo were marching with their own placard and flag-waving crowd in the background so the publicity shots would seem to show an enthusiastic and supportive crowd. It’s something the media ignores and makes me think that news is made up for TV. This year Mayor de Blasio will skip the parade because it discriminates against gays. I went for the color and the bagpipes. Politics and religion is for another discussion. No matter where you look, green is the color. I wasn’t wearing green and wasn’t marching for any cause except to see the spectacle.
To this I say to my kids, “Thank goodness you mother never had you in ballet class.” I was, and also in tap dancing. It didn’t last long. And the tennis lessons lasted for a few weeks one summer. But for Manny my Sports Illustrated mentor, here’s where I got my start. The key in tennis photography as Manny taught me is to get the ball, the racquet, and the players expression in the same frame especially as the ball is on the racquet. It was a few lessons later (about 20 years) that I got my call to the US Open Tennis Championship. Ready? You bet!
Like Walter Mitty, I had two magical experiences as a Sports Illustrated photographer (credentialed!) shooting the semis and the finals. Wow! And thanks Manny!
We didn’t go to the Bronx Zoo too often. But once upon a time we went and the kids took a camel ride. If you think about it (as I am right now), it’s kind of silly. Collectively, J, David and myself don’t remember this at all (I bet – see above). Otherwise somebody should have spoken up when they were here in December. I got the picture; they don’t remember. Who’s old now?
I like the costumes and color. It’s a side of the culture you don’t see everyday. Most days everyone looks like part of the world. Same, western style clothes in drab color, but once a year it’s all about tradition and celebration. I missed this for so many years… missed it in that I ignored the opportunity to see the spectacle. It’s fun. The parade in Chinatown Manhattan is along narrow streets which makes for pretty intimate viewing. In Flushing Queens, there’s a lot more room to maneuver and you can get some behind the scenes shots. Either way, there’s a lot of color. The dragons are good luck.
Do they even say that anymore? But do you want to know what my fantasy has been? Yup, helicopter. Well, at least one… others – scuba, but you knew that. And the best would be to fly over your house and get an aerial. Silly, but fun. I had the good fortune to have made friends with Charlie. He had a Bell 47 (MASH, TV/Movie) helicopter. I had taken care of his mother while she was hospitalized. He invited me for a ride and the rest is history. Carol and Ginny were deadest against my adventure. Lisa didn’t want to know. (She knew I was going no matter what.) They were worried because helicopters crash. In fact I one day saw a helicopter crash. I was driving up the Westside highway and a helicopter dropped down over the Intrepid Space Museum (aircraft carrier). I didn’t know you could land on the ship. They didn’t. The pilot and air traffic reporter were both killed by a catastrophic engine failure. I’m still here after many many hours in Charlie’s ‘ship.’
I lived in Manhattan. It’s special enough for many people. I lived in midtown, that would be near enough to Times Square to see the glow of the lights at night. Occasionally, just occasionally, there would be a spectacular sunrise or sunset. It didn’t happen often. And rainbows are not seen to often either. I was glad to have a camera on hand.
That’s what Eric called it. He had a boat. We used ski-bob on the Hudson River up by Bear Mountain. We did it twice only. Here’s the memory. It was a nice day on the water. The kids had a ball. Great days come and go so quickly in a twinkle of the eye.
We were on a five borough bike tour of New York City. There were thousands of riders strung out all over. As we rode along a road near La Guardia airport… I snapped this shot from the rear while riding… and was immediately admonished by my spouse (it’s not her!!). Well, if you wear worn out clothes in public, it’s fair game. No names, just places. It’s not a nice thing. It is in the category of street photography. There was no intent to offend. But a word to the wise, watch what you wear and where you wear it.
This was my first experience with photographing hot air balloons up close. The memory it invokes has nothing to do with the picture. The backstory is that it was Long Island. Lisa had seen a notice for the show at Bookhaven Airport. She also happened to have the worst case of poison ivy, ever! She’d gotten it a few days before. The blisters and the itch were fierce. If you’ve ever had poison ivy, you’re probably cringing right now. We went to the show and the kids and I had our experience. I got my photos. We stayed till the evening to see the balloons launch. They don’t launch during daylight because of the winds. The picture that got away (missed) was the one at the end where Lisa frantically was dipping her blistered arms into the ice barrels (soda) to ease the discomfort. Yeah, I was not high on the empathy scale. Some things you learn much later in life. Sorry, honey.
For a long time the screensaver on my phone was my dog Nellie. I would tell everyone I loved that dog more than any of the family. She would always come, lick my hand when I got home, and never had an attitude. More recently this is the shot on my iTouch. No, I have no iPhone. It’s cropped vertically. It’s an image on the day of Lisa’s surprise party and David’s return from Argentina. Yes this was a very good memory.
My last roll of film was shot in 2004. I always thought I’d shoot some more film. There is still some slide film in the freezer. Nope. The price of digital SLR hit $1000 and I got my first Nikon D70. I had a neighbor downstairs who always complained when the water in my darkroom was running at three in the morning. From here on it was Photoshop. And my first event was David’s graduation. It was a leap of faith to give up film on such an important occasion. I had only just purchased the camera and was just getting used to its exposure capability. Things worked out well. We don’t have too many family (four of us) shots. This one didn’t go so well. Focus and the distracting background were a problem. I learned one other lesson. I’ve heard the story of the wedding photos in which one party or the other wants the spouse removed later. It’s also very true of girlfriends. They come and go. Luckily I had lots of shots with and without her. David and his sister have had their moments as well. But they will always be related. Thank goodness they get along well enough now that Julia is in California and David is in NY. They don’t pose together too often for me anymore.
Of all the places I least expected to be it would be on the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island on New Year’s Day in 2000. I had not been there before nor since. It was Lisa’s idea. Sometimes I just don’t know what she’s thinking. Correction… most times. She had contributed money so that my parents and her grandparents names were on the wall of immigrants. We searched out their names. I took pictures, of course. The wonder of it was why we were there on this day of all days? The bonus? What a spectacular sunset! You just don’t order up one of these everyday. Yeah! It was pretty memorable. (Note: This was film. No manipulation. Priceless.)
It was the millennium. I figured it was the millennium, century, decade, and year in 2000. This won’t happen for a very long time. We were out on Long Island. Lisa wanted to be in the city early. She was worried about the crowds and traffic. We listened to NPR on the way in and I recall it was Car Talk. Arriving home in the early afternoon I decided to bring the kids a couple blocks over to Times Square. They were celebrating each and every hour as New Year’s occurred in another time zone around the world. So there we were the three of us. Toward midnight it would become wall to wall mass humanity hysterically awaiting the magical ball to drop. Here we were at ground zero earlier in the day. Yup, Times Square on New Year’s eve!! … and at the millenium!
I suppose I have to revisit my trips to the US Tennis Open. I store my slide collection in a set of custom-made drawers. I have more than 100k. That would be a lot of drawers. Anyway we had a party and Manny Milan, a senior Sports Illustrated photographer, was there with his wife. Our wives worked together. Mine mentioned that I had a lot of slides and Manny was pretty impressed by my storage solution. This led to an invitation from Manny for me to attend the US Open. I had a Sports Illustrated ID and wandered the grounds shooting the ‘semis’ and ‘finals.’ I learned a lot. First of all most all of the serious sports guys are shooting Canon. Nikon is in the minority. Forget equipment. It ‘s about getting the shot. That is generally defined as getting that image where the ball, racquet, and player are in the same frame. And it’s even better if it’s just the players face, racquet, and ball. Try this a few times. You think motor drive will do it. No! You will miss just about every time. Things are just moving too fast. And try to focus. So I learned to pre-focus and to time when to press the shutter. (Go ahead, get the ball just coming off the racquet!) And for all that you only got the image a small percentage of the time. And then there are the classic positions. Shooting from the baseline you want a face on view with the ball in the frame. From the sideline there is another goal. And the same can be said for being high in the stands with a full view of both players and the entire court. Time of day…. And so it goes. With digital cameras the images are taken off the memory cards and uploaded online even as the match is being played. Then there are the images that will not show up anywhere in the media. I will be discrete and not name names. At the baseline there is the ‘dugout.’ It is an area at the level of the players’ feet where photographers sit and shoot. The assigned seating is like a pecking order of importance. I got a back row view. I’m nobody. The male photographer in front of me nudged his female colleague as he showed her his LCD. She gave him a disgusted look. I couldn’t see the near court player nor could I see his image. I just stuck my camera up and out, fired off a couple images, and took a look at what there was to see. I have to laugh. It’s almost pornographic. A thong, and the pants are pretty much transparent (presumably sweat). But what puzzled me were the suspenders holding up the thong. Anyway this image would never get published. It no doubt falls in the outtake bin. By the way she’s still playing.
The tale of Xmas stockings goes this way. We had no chimney. But Santa arrived and brought the kids something for their stocking. He didn’t wrap them. And we left cookies – another story – on a plate for Santa. On Xmas morning, the kids would rush upstairs and examine their stockings first. I’d get photos and video. It was a close quarters narrow space because we hung the stockings on the stairway bannister. We never spoke of when the kids stopped believing in Santa. Really! They were in their twenties. Finally I asked when the moment came to them that there was no Santa… probably around the age of six? Well, they laughed sheepishly and told us they didn’t want to disappoint us. Too bad the spell was broken because that was the last year we did stockings. Oh the cookies… every year I had to eat the cookies and leave some crumbs so the kids would think Santa ate them. By the time Xmas eve comes you are pretty stuffed and even eating one more cookie is a chore.