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.
Boston is very different from New York. There are the Yankees and Red Sox, and the Jets and the Patriots (sports team adversaries). And then Boston, the start of the Revolutionary War, has its tradition of Patriot’s Day. Maine, almost an annex of Massachusetts, has a day off for Patriot’s Day. No such thing happens in New York. Nope! The significance is that this is a photo op. The day is devoted to re-enacting the early skirmishes of the Revolutionary War. I attended twice. Two acts of random kindness were bestowed upon me. I held a musket while the owner shot me (photograph, of course). And in the second, I got an up close and personal look at what it must have felt like to be the target of a British dragoon. One needs to remember that everyone here is American, just dressed in period costume.
The accuracy of the long musket was surprising…bad. I thought the long barrel made it a deadly accurate weapon. In fact firing the weapon was a challenge. There was smoke and fire. And, you were blinded for a few moments after the weapon discharged. Note here that everyone had their eyes closed upon firing. No one wanted to be injured in the making of this image. I discovered the key to the image was the smoke and fire.
While I’m on the subject of the ocean, I thought I’d mention the annual Lobster Dip in Maine. New Year’s Day at around noon a hardy group of folks gather and make a run into the ocean. This particular day was cloudy gray and colddddd! You can see snow in the background. For all its hype and build-up, it happens rather quickly. Everyone runs into the surf and right out again. No frolicking! There are divers on standby waiting to rescue anyone who flounders. No one does much more than get their ankles wet. Me, I was dressed in layers and in full winter gear except for my camera. Yeah it was as cool as it looked. This was the only time I was in the right place to attend, once and done.
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.
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.)
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!
What do grown-ups do at night after the kids are sent to bed? It’s a family resort, the Tyler Place in Vermont. Lisa and Kevin (Susan’s husband) are playing a game called ‘spit.’ I’ve never played it. We also played spoons, a game that Kathy taught us. It was competitive, very, and there were a lot of laughs because in the end everyone is a winner. We had to play in a room far away from the kids. It’s kind of like the secret life of grown-ups acting like kids. And now all of our kids are grown-ups with kids of their own, which makes this a young picture of a bunch of old grandparents.
The photo was taken in Ashburnham, Massachusetts on a lake in the fall. It was an early morning with a still wind. The reflection is self-explanatory except that it’s turned on its side. No, no Photoshop. It actually was the real deal. You don’t get this too often. But the story is of four couples, friends for many years (too many to say here) who would gather periodically to hangout and do whatever. In this case it was getting on a pontoon boat for a little early morning cruise. Sorry, if you don’t look your best early in the morning before coffee and tea. The guys were cooking breakfast.
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.
Here’s a party view I don’t often get to see. I was descending on the escalator overlooking Starbucks. A birthday party? Yes, I think so. Cellphone’s the recording device. I was to far away to hear any singing. Happy…happy.
Shortly after I arrived in Jeddah I was faced with an extremely difficult medical case. By difficult I do not refer to the technical part of surgery. Right now great technology is a given in neurosurgery. But it is the ethical decision making that is involved in whether or not to recommend surgical care. A young 29 year old ICU nurse suffered a major stroke of the left brain hemisphere which is ordinarily a devastating brain injury. Recovery is poor and usually associated with major neurological impairment (speech and paralysis) and a good possibility to remain in a vegetative (unaware) state permanently. There was no family available for consent and her nursing colleagues became her health care proxies. In the glare of this discerning audience I would have to make some tough decisions and the outcome would affect my very reputation within the hospital medical community.
Many of my colleagues here in Jeddah have counseled me to be very conservative and not to take any medical risks. This has been a mantra for care since I have been here. It puzzles me because there are inherent risks in any neurosurgery decisions and the results are never guaranteed to go exactly as you plan. Balancing failure and success has never been more difficult than in the past two years. One thing that I have noted is that there is a definite tendency toward unrealistic expectation by patients/families that everything done must be successful.
Our young nurse had deteriorated neurologically and brain death seemed imminent. So a split second decision was made based on my gut feeling and medical experience; the plunge was made. We took her to surgery and in a series of operations proceeded to remove her skull bone, evacuate the blood clot, remove dead brain in order to preserve the brain that would survive, reconstruct her skull, and finally insert a ventricular shunt. I summarized about six months of hard care in that previous sentence. There were many times that I questioned myself as to whether it was the right decision that I made to try to save her life. My questions came because for many months she was completely neurologically severely impaired, unable to speak or care for herself. Mom arrived more than two months later. She had been unable to obtain a travel visa from the Saudi government.
The hospital and the nursing staff were wonderful in supporting a nursing colleague. And day by day my patient became more and more responsive to her environment.
I received this thank you text from her mom at the airport just before they departed for home in the Philippines. My patient, her daughter, was now communicating, not yet speaking, feeding herself, and walking with assistance. She needed help to take care of herself. Her mother was happy for her recovery. And knowing what I knew as she left for home I have no regret in pouring out a maximum effort to save her life despite the tremendous odds against even a fraction of the recovery she made so far. Some days it’s worth being able to think back that we did something that no one thought we could do.
No one likes an unhappy ending. Some years ago it was noted that movies with unhappy endings are not popular. Really, think about it. At the time, it was said to me, Robert Redford in “The Natural” hit a home run to win the game to end the movie. But in the book David Mamet wrote, the character strikes out to end the story.
I have experienced my share of unhappy endings. It can’t be helped. But there are those times when a decision and good skill will touch a life in ways that everything was worth all the hours and work you put into your profession.
I had a patient come to the office this past January 11. She had had emergency surgery exactly one year before. That day she had been found at home collapsed and unconscious. A large intracranial hemorrhage was discovered and I soon had her in the operating room for emergency lifesaving surgery. As is usually the case we took her to the operating room in a rush as soon as I arrived in the ER. It really does work that way sometimes. The patient had a stormy post op course. She was paralyzed on one side and couldn’t speak or write for many months. Money was no object as she bounced around rehab programs even taking treatment in Paris. But as with most brain injuries, it is time that heals and I had repeatedly told the patient and her family that it would be a year until the outcome and recovery would become more clear to all. And so on what she refers to as her new “birthday” my patient arrived in the office with the deepest thanks. She brought me a letter of thanks, which she signed in front of me. Just writing was a big achievement. Her speech and strength had returned. She still had deficits but overall she was living life and appreciating her family. As I have often said, “It’s the smile of your thanks that makes all the work we do so rewarding.”
I’m not famous. I’m not a celebrity. Really! But it always seems that I run into people who know me in the places that I visit. Jeddah has 3 million people give or take. And when the kids were here, we were cooling our heels waiting for a table at the Palm Garden. Just as a table opened up, I had my camera up and taking a picture. As you can see, a fellow diver greeted me with open arms as he recognized me behind the camera. Coincidence, yes, but not isolated because in this same 10 day period David saw me greeted by a patient I had operated upon in another restaurant far away from this site. This woman graciously invited him to her daughter’s engagement party so he could taste a different aspect of Jeddah. It certainly remains interesting who you meet and who knows you while you try to remain anonymous.
I have a bunch of non sequiturs. Actually I uploaded some shots from the Balud and they appear to be orphans at the moment. There always seem to be a few men bundling sticks cut precisely the same length. The bundles sell and I must remember to ask why they sell?Digital is a lot smarter than me. I shoot and the camera makes me look good. Mixed lighting and high contrast scene… no problem. It’s dates.This is as close as we came to actually buying anything. It was an old jewelry store, which is to say that the jewelry looked old. Nope, made in Pakistan, recently. Neither J nor David bought. Dave could have used something for his girlfriend….Shadows are a great subject. We’ve done some strange shapes. But the kids would have none of it as we walked at night. Patterns, I like patterns and especially when you have willing/unwilling subjects at hand.
I was wandering behind my kids as we walked through the Balad. It doesn’t embarrass them so much when I take photos from the hip. The kid with the hat carrying dried flowers was a natural subject. Before I could position myself for a shot, he stopped, posed, and nodded for me to take his picture. His companion stood shyly to the right. I beckoned him to join and took this image. Ordinarily I am aware of the background distractions. The guy standing behind was actually trying to position himself into the picture as well. The moment passed and the background fellow introduced himself and told me he was from Yemen. I smiled and hurried to catch my kids.
My daughter is self conscious when I do ‘street photography.’ I just shoot from the hip and get the street scene without posing any subjects. Here, the kids feel that if I should encounter any objections, it could go badly for me. Perhaps?
But on the same walk through Al Balad, I had three different sets of experiences to the opposite. People saw that I had a camera and just posed for me. The kids still think I shouldn’t invite trouble.
Parenthetically and off topic, I misspelled … as Balud. Because of this the Google search engine lists my misspelled posts in the top few finds on the first page. Wow! Who’d have thunk that a mistake would get yo to the toop of a search page?
It constantly amazes me how well the camera processor/sensor can analyze a scene and get a decent exposure. Basically I’m lazy. I don’t want to be twirling a lot of dials and adjusting shutter, ISO, and aperture. So the camera does the work and I compose and try to crop in camera as the image is taken. You could never do this with film. And you never had a chance to make instant corrections. Immediate feedback has made things so much easier. I will also admit that I am not shooting raw.
I’m saddled with slow shutter speed, image stabilization, high ISO, and a cropped image. You can see the movement blur. All in all I consider this a satisfactory grab shot. The beauty of auto focus is that you really do just point and shoot. In truth this is what I have come to know as street photography. I’d rather not tangle with folks who don’t want their picture taken. So I just shoot from the hip. This opens up a whole discussion on whether it is proper to just shoot like this. It is in fact permissible in a public space. My kids would rather that I didn’t do this and risk harm to myself. I’m just discrete and haven’t run into any problems so far. Hey, he was a cute kid.
There is a uniform dress code. Women must always wear an abaya in public. And that abaya shall be black. For the most part men wear white. For kids anything goes. All I keep thinking about is how Julia melted when she wore her abaya while visiting me in March. She literally melted inside the black (and she’s no witch). The weather is a lot better now. It’s almost pleasant in the evening. The downside is that the sunset is early and soon it will be dark at 5PM just like home.
I have to get a new wallet. Mine smells from all the perfume and cologne. It gets on the money and my wallet and even my scrubs have a scent. You pretty much have to wear something to cover the scent of wearing a black abaya or long sleeve thobe in 100 degree weather and no where to hide. I’d just like to have my wallet not be scented when I get back to NY. Most natives consider me barbaric for declining any supplemental scent.
It’s called technical diving. It’s what you do when you have been using a tank on your back for long and you want a different experience. Also it’s useful to swim in tight spots like a cave, which is the true purpose. For a few days I dove with a sidemount diver. And after all that time, I finally managed to get a good shot of Armand and his tank setup. We were headed into shore and I was trailing him. As I looked up the waves breaking above made the perfect frame and I got this image. At the time I realized how well matched we were. He had much more experience. But we were both photo enthusiasts and we could stay down more than an hour on a tank. He didn’t mind lingering over a subject to get more than one image. Yeah it was a lot of fun for those few days. I wouldn’t mind myself to dive alone and photograph at leisure. But it’s against the rules to dive without a buddy. So I don’t. And this makes everyone else, who knows how I feel about rules, happier.
I do admit to getting lost the other day. The water was murky. I estimate that visibility was 15 feet. It only took a few seconds of separation to make it hard to see my two buddies. We were at the midpoint turnaround time in the dive. I shot an image, looked up, and realized that my two buddies were not to be seen. No panic. I started back along the path we had come from. I figured it was time to turn around. I admit I was not panicked. I shot my images, watched my air, and arrived at the 3 minute decompression rope right as my buddies appeared from the murk. I promised not to get separated again. On the very next dive the inexperienced member of our group ran out of air and I was right there to share air and get him home to safety. Yes, yes… it’s important ‘never to leave your wingman.’ It also helps not to panic in the face of danger. This time my other buddy was lost in the murk and I waited till he surfaced and was safe.
I liked this image. As I shot it I knew it would be good. Sometimes (and I usually don’t) it’s good to look up. I’m usually getting an overexposed image. But here the silhouette is rather interesting.
There is a branch of diving called free diving. It means you use a mask and long stiff fins. You dive without a tank and go to some fairly deep depths. It’s sure different and not yet on my radar. Groups of free divers come to this resort and I am always fascinated watching them. Well, actually I see them walking around but have not seen them in the water until now. They always have a float and there is a rope with a weight hanging beneath so the divers can follow a line down. Otherwise I don’t know too much of the sport except what they describe on the ‘net. And no, it’s not that it costs nothing and is really free.
Right there! It says ‘Happy Thanksgiving – photobackstory.’ I am absent from Thanksgiving holiday in NY once again. Farid’s kids are off today. They go to the American International School. So naturally they have off for the holiday. He graciously suggested we have dinner. He was reminded of that quintessential menu item – “Gravy.” Well, that’s true but it does need a turkey to go with it. Where to eat? I started a web search for a restaurant in Jeddah where we could go. I’d also pay for dinner if I could get the bill first. Nonetheless, there are no viable suggestions. I tried the American junk food places – McD, Burger King, of course not; Fuddruckers, no way; Friday’s, Tuesday’s, not a thing on their website or anywhere else about Jeddah. No American chain hotels. To be honest until Farid suggested, I was just going to have a very quiet dinner out. I was going to drag my iPad along and read a digital book and look at the many photographs of the fishies I have shot. We’ll dive in the Red Sea tomorrow, of course.
There! Right there on my search page screen capture. It’s even on the first page! There’s a reference to my blog post last Thanksgiving. It’s irrelevant to my search. But the tags and key words put me on the first page of the search engine. That is too cool! It also means there is no where you can hide. (Note to myself: “self, don’t put anything into your blog that you would be embarrassed if your mother should read it.”) … which means that no one will be seeing anything about the inside workings of the world of neurosurgery anytime soon. It would prove way too politically incorrect. I have no particular desire to be the nail that gets hammered. Happy Thanksgiving again to one and all for whom this is a significant day (which excludes most of the rest of the world). …For the historical record, I had dinner with Farid and Silva, and the kids. They both (the kids) passed out by the end of dinner. We ate after 9PM in an Italian restaurant. It was quite a find. I have been up and down this boulevard countless times and never looked up to see a restaurant on the 4th floor with an outdoor balcony (smoking). The menu had hamburger, and spring rolls. I had veal scaloppine – after all it’s Italian. It was breaded, deep fried, and very tender. It wasn’t Turkey (Friday’s or Chinese), but it was very flavorful and enjoyable. I fought once again but lost out in paying. It wasn’t family; it was close friends and that’s a wonderful thing too.
This restaurant would otherwise be the equivalent of a Brazilian churrascaria. Basically it’s the same setup – salad followed by grilled meat carved from the skewer at the table. You eat till you drop. Our nurses eat like birds so that the consumption of large quantities of meat is lost on them. I had a great time. It was a meal sponsored by one of the drug companies – a touchy subject these days. And the representative was stuck in traffic so she arrived for dessert. Me, I was just along for the ride. I was told to show up and I did. One thing that our nurses enjoy is taking group pictures. So we did.