Halloween 2011, Columbia University, Baker Field, Yale vs Columbia. At least I didn’t travel far. It was snowing hard before kick-off and it never let up the whole game. Yale won. Yay! Snow is wet. I had an umbrella and my trusty long lens 80-400mm. I shot. I tried to keep my gear dry. I shot anyway. Alex remembers this game fondly. I remember being wet and cold. I’m used to cold when I ski. But when you are sitting and just moving your finger on the shutter, fun has an entirely different context. His Elis won and I got some shots. Everyone was happy.
I admit to being a photo opportunist. Alex wanted to follow his beloved Yalies to the ECAC Hockey Championships. It was held in AC, Atlantic City. It’s hilarious because Alex and I don’t gamble. The venue was where they used to hold the Miss America pageant. And no camera; I was stopped as soon as they saw my serious camera gear. I think it was the 80-400mm lens that really scared them. Other people got in with medium teles. So I fell back on my Canon G11 point and shoot. Now that’s a real challenge. There’s a shutter lag, you shoot, and a few milliseconds go by before the image is captured. At that lag, how in the whole wide world do you capture the action. Lighting is horrible and everything is moving to say nothing of the glass that surrounds the rink. You might as well not turn on the camera. So I just sat there and experimented. As with anything, I figured you have to follow the action. That means the puck is where the action is. Yup! I got a few with the puck headed past the goalie. Not great but not bad. You have to look close but that puck is in the frame.
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.
The county fairs in Maine had woodsman day. Excuse me, ‘women’ day also. The best group was ‘Chicks with Axes’ well at least the name. In one place they put a Coke can (full) in the bullseye for the axe to hit. Sawing, chopping and other assorted timber skills were contested. The loudest were the chainsaw events. Cut down a tree, yes, there was a contest for that as well. For the participants this was really serious stuff. The trees were erected like telephone poles. It’s the last event. The trunks are trimmed to the same diameter. Bring a sharp axe and wear a shin guard. No bleeding this time.
But it’s the chainsaw that has made all the difference. They even compete in souped up chainsaws to cut the block in the fewest seconds. It’s way too loud. They actually hand out ear plugs among the audience.
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.
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!
Well, the unofficial official time is in… J did very well in her age group, among females, and overall (better than 75%) among all racers. The top woman in her age group was one of the top finishers in 2hrs 25min. The next woman after that was 2hr 43 and then 3 hrs. Except for the first two women everyone was in the range of 3 hrs and up. Competitive? Well J finished better than 80% of the other women in her age group. Lisa sent video. She needs work as a videographer. J was on screen about a second and a half.
The finish line video is out also. Amazing!! In this day and age everything is recorded and you can get access on the internet. They had a two camera angle setup and you can look up your video based on finish time. It’s Los Angeles – Hollywood – but this ain’t a Hollywood work of art. I know my daughter and couldn’t pick her out till I looked at the video about 4 times. But since I’m accessing this information from halfway across the world, hey, not too shabby!
The next thing are the race pictures but no doubt screen saving an image or two will trigger all sorts of copyright problems.
Am I still competitive? Well the other day in the pool, the training coach goaded us into a short sprint. I got touched out by a colleague 20 years younger and was pissed.
When I was a senior resident, my chief, Dr Ransohoff, arrived at the hospital late one weekend night. He had traveled back from the Hamptons having injured his quad muscle in a footrace in a parking lot outside a restaurant. I didn’t know from quad injuries and it was a strange feeling to be examining my boss’s quad as he dropped his pants in front of me so I could check him. All the while his disapproving wife was in the background making the sounds of, “I told you so.” Come to think of it, I’m about that age now. But don’t worry, I’ll not be dropping my pants for an exam anytime soon.
Me running? I never did like distance running though the coaches all told me that my build was not for sprinting (which I preferred).
J, it seems has found her niche. She did middle distance in high school but was not a fan of distance running either.
David was not a competitive athlete but has completed the NYC triathlon which is no minor feat. I was surprised at his skills in swim, bike, and run.
No couch potatoes, these kids of mine. Did I mention I’m proud of them both?
Marathon Sunday Los Angeles, TODAY. J did it! The internet is great and wonderful. They gave me updates every 10K. And I could watch the feed on Los Angeles TV. Of course, they concentrated on the winners. And I was in contact with the family halfway across the world. I did remind them that the daylight savings time kicked in overnight. Fortunately J made it to the start on time. Right now as of this post, the news is fresh within the hour I was notified that she finished. I still have to wait to speak with her.
But it’s still quite an accomplishment. And I can honestly say that J has done something that I would never try myself. It’s nice when your kids surpass you. Need I say more?
PS – Spoke with her. She’s injury free but tired. There are hills you can’t see on TV (everything looks flat). At mile 21 everyone bonks and she did as well, almost walked. But then at the finish she said it would be embarrassing to be walking so she was running. Her time is average at 4 and 1/2 hours among all marathon (average human, male or female) runners in general (very nice!). But keep in mind that the winners were done in a little over 2 hours which is faster than I can ride my bike (just about). So that is a bit humbling to me.
I have told you J learned to ride on LI. David learned on the same street a little while later. At that point, we were a family who could ride. So… we rode together. The kids just never liked it that much. Still in later years David did a triathlon and J took off with Lisa’s old heavy bike to LA – retro is in. But for a while we would ride as a family.
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.
While it’s still winter where I came from, I’d like to post some ski pictures. Old ones… The kids liked it. At least they went along without any grumbling. After a while Lisa kind of dropped out. She was too timid to really enjoy the hair-raising wind in your face skiing that the kids and I did. Ok, she was a lot happier and it was a break for her if we went off for a while.
Jumping is something that is a challenge. You catch air and it’s a different skill. Just don’t panic and it’s easy. I realize this isn’t much of a jump and not much air. The kids didn’t know it and they didn’t care. Fun is fun.
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.
I came to the sport late in life. I had skied once in college. I nearly froze some precious anatomy that day. I tried again when I was a grown-up and about froze that same anatomy. But this time it stuck. It then became my mission to teach the family. There was the time Lisa threw her skis in my direction. She swore I was trying to kill her as she stalked across the mountain to safety. Nothing is more frustrating than to carry your gear and struggle with your kids’ gear. It doesn’t matter that kids gear is small. It’s still awkward and cumbersome. You always think you need a couple more arms. And just when you get to where you’re about to put their skis on, someone says, “Dad. I gotta go.”
This brings me to another point. If you teach you kids when they’re young, they know no fear. They are too low to the ground to really get hurt if they fall. The next thing was to ski out west. So we soon were in Deer Valley, Utah. After a week of doing A’s on the baby hill, the kids objected to more lessons. I readily agreed but told them they would have to ski with me. I wasn’t great but I was on the blue trails. Out west the blues are equal to eastern blacks. They are equally steep just wider out west. I know I was nuts because people kept taking pictures of the kids, especially David, because they were so small. Really, when I think of it David was just barely walking.
One last anecdote – Lisa decided on one President’s day that we should go skiing. We went to Shawnee a small hill in Pennsylvania. How small? …Small enough that the parking lot was at the top of the hill. We got the last pairs of kids rentals. They were so beat up the plastic was all peeling. And on the mountain other kids were whizzing out of control and grabbing the nearest adult in order to stop. It was chaos. The finale was that David took a tumble down the metal staircase of the lodge. It was about 8 steps and a fair sized fall. I watched him tumble head over heel. He landed at the bottom and didn’t move. No harm, he had been dressed in so many layers the padding had completely protected him. I was horrified. We’ve never talked about it. I just picked him up relieved that he was not damaged and not even crying.
I skied with the kids a year ago. They are both better than me now. It does make me proud. I had better sense than to challenge K27 at Hunter when it was just a series of icy moguls. They both (survived) did it. No one told mom.
I was corresponding about skateboard photos recently. My own experience as usual was opportunistic. David went through a phase where he tried to master the board. Naturally I took the pictures. No broken bones… either of us. He’s actually pretty good in this picture. I was really not much of a stop action sports photographer yet. That would come when I had a chance to shoot the US Tennis Open a few years later. Meanwhile I had the awareness to try to catch the critical moment. I’d probably try for a different shot now. Still, this wasn’t too bad. David gave up the sport shortly afterward.
The other event I shot recently was the karate class demonstration. It’s in a fluorescent lit space. There’s no room to maneuver. Getting an angle of view and shooting the action is a challenge. I suppose video would demonstrate the skills better. But as time has gone by, I find that I look at my still images. I have many hours of video of the kids but hardly ever pull it out. Action… you have to anticipate. I’m using direct flash so there are shadows. I don’t know the routine so to catch a kick in midair is tough. And how do you catch the grace of the kata and the tension of the exercise routine?
All of the sudden I have become an unofficial photographer for local events. There aren’t too many and I’ll return to fish soon…. David, one of the managers of the Purchasing Dept organized a Fitness Competition. For the first time I got to see how the other half lives. We have a couple of fitness groups that run at different times and I guess they have become competitive. My group is very strenuous but does not emphasize weight lifting. However, there are some hard core ‘lifters around. Three teams gathered poolside and competed in several two-man team events. I’m working with a DSLR and in-camera flash. The flash recycles slowly so motor drive is not in play. You simply have to get the ‘moment.’ And then there’s the angle. Shirt off… because there was a swimming portion of the meet and everything was timed. So I got low… angled and I popped the flash. It’s not flattering but it captured the essence of competitive testosterone.
The secret to this image is that David is left-handed. Looking at it in that context; the image and position of the hands makes sense. Otherwise it looks like he’s backwards and dropped the ball rather than bowled it. That right hand, I swear, is in a primed position but out of position. David swore he was doing it right. What can you say? There are bumpers in the gutters. I don’t know how many years ago it was and I don’t know if he’s a better bowler today. This was our once and only trip to the Port Authority bowling alley… so far.
Prince and Sensei Tony are two of the instructors. During the exhibition part of student graduation, Prince demonstrated what a master can do. It’s not an easy thing to capture the critical moment. First I was using the on-camera flash on my Nikon D200. You don’t motor drive as Manny taught me. Besides there is a lag after the flash fires before it’s ready to shoot again – similar to shutter lag on a point and shoot. So you get one shot, and you’d better be on time for the image capture. Wow! Even I have to admit I got the shot. Not having seen the move before, it was hard to know where to be standing. Prince only did it once. I’d have changed spots but that was it – one shot – only – the peak moment. Hurray!
Wow, look at the water, freeze framed! I was asked to shoot a child’s swim meet. It was the culmination of a year’s worth of lessons and an incentive to continue. Everyone had a great time and all the kids got a medal. Kelley, four years old, was a winner. I just let the camera go on auto and shot for composition and cropping. At 1/320 sec, I got this great water freezing shot. Periodically, I question my own skill and wonder if I’m just lucky or I’m really good. Maybe there’s a little of both in play. Anyway I’m flattered that the family group in my compound think highly enough that they called me especially for this photo op. One father commented on my D200 and asked, “Is that a canon?” He had noticed the 18-200mm lens zoomed all the way out and asked if it was a weapon not the brand (Canon). I only got the joke later.
There is something fascinating about playing ball with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. I say again that shutter lag is a pain with a point and shoot. It means you need some patience to get the ball in your frame. It’s still a heck of view out to center field.
I never played basketball with Julia. I wasn’t even aware she had game. Here she is, abaya and all, dribbling and putting in a lay-up. It was pretty hot and she did this just once just to show me a thing about her skill. Neat!
I attended a judo match. The kid to the right is Nicholas, Farid’s son. Farid had arranged for the school to hold an exhibition/competition in the hospital. Our CEO had just arrived about midway through the program. So they asked the kids to put on an exhibition. The kids went at it enthusiastically. Both kids were throwing back kicks and then, in the blink of an eye, Nicholas was in full layout position headed for the floor. He landed on his chest followed by his chin. From five feet away I could hear the sickening thud. Little kids are pretty tough. Nicholas bounced up and got into a fighting stance, sobbing, and trying to catch his breath. It seems that this happened so quickly that even Farid missed the fall. The poor kid needed a timeout and a hug from his mom. This is the shot. A moment, really a millisecond later and I’d have had his chin bouncing off the floor. It’s a mixed emotion. His dad missed seeing the fall. I saw it but missed the critical moment.
As I said, I am a photo opportunist. My friend Alex suggested that we go to the ECAC Hockey Championship in Atlantic City a few years back. He’s a fan. I’m casual, as in I would not go unless otherwise asked to attend to support a friend’s interest. I tried to bring in my big old 80-400mm camera lens and was turned away at the entry. So I shot three days with a point and shoot. There are issues. First you can’t zoom nearly close enough. And then there is the issue of shutter lag. You press the button and a moment later the image is captured. Hockey is otherwise pretty straightforward. They move up and down the ice. You can’t get anything decent when the action is at the other end. And then the object of the game is have the puck in photograph at a critical moment, such as when you are about to score. Lighting is poor and shutter speed is usually going to be too slow. With all of that you still get a few shots. In this case it wasn’t Alex’s team (Yale). But hey, he liked to watch the whole series and I was challenged to get that puck in the shot.
Boogie boards and big smiles go together. David and his buddy Josh remain close friends to this day. It’s nice to look back and see the origins of this fast friendship. All in all I have to say that they had a great childhood. It’s everything that you want for your kids as a Dad.