Into the sun.

I

was rooting around in my archives when I stumbled upon this picture. I made it very early when we returned to New Orleans.

We used to live in Jefferson Parish, near to where The Saints football team practices. I used to walk on a track. Depending on direction you could walk about 1.5 miles or 3 miles.

Getting there was easy. Parking was ample. People were friendly. I wish that we had something closer to home now. I could go to one of the big parks, but that takes effort.

So, I wander around the streets. Sometimes that’s more interesting. But, I’d like not to have to think about traffic.

Anyway.

No dreams, or at least that I remember. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I think when I see things like I did yesterday, it helps my creative juices to flow. After all, I made a pink picture. ūüôā

And, now a word from our sponsor. Or, something like that.

David Crosby — yes, that David Crosby, founder of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash and sometimes Young — released a new album called “For Free” after a Joni Mitchell song.

At 79 years old he is dealing with his own mortality. He understands it and is ready, even though he doesn’t want to go.

Unlike most of us, he has a transplanted kidney. He was a serious drug abuser who has been clean for years. And, he’s had at least three heart attacks. So, at 79 he’s been living on borrowed time.

Y’all need to listen to it. The entire record album (I’m old, so sue me) is great from end to end. Amazingly, he’s managed to keep his voice. That sweet caramel and chocolate voice.

For me, the song is called, “I think I.” The next line is “found my way.”

It only took him 79 years.

Maybe it’s time for the boys in the band to forgive him and hit the road one more time, before they can’t.

A

well known photographer once said that if you want better pictures stand in front of better stuff.

He’s right.

I always say that if you’ve got a block of some kind, just go outside and take a walk.

Creative blocks are really just a twisty or a yip. That’s what got Simone Biles at the Olympics. The minute she explained it and said the word twisty, I thought a yip.

They are worse than you know. When you practice long enough certain things become instinctual.

I could go on about what happened to her, but enough has been written about that.

What she forced me to understand is something that has been going on for a long time for me.

I have the yips.

For some reason my energy, my routine, my focus has been broken.

And, that’s frustrating.

Photography has always been my way of grounding myself. And, now it doesn’t work.

I’m not sure of the steps needed to work my way back. Ms. Biles is going to work the balance beam for her last Olympic event. I think I know why she’s doing it.

I’ll watch her very closely. Maybe there’s a clue for me. Or, maybe I already know it.


Father and son.

It’s a weekend sort of thing. It’s an especially Memorial weekend sort of thing. With baseball. Beer. Hot dogs. Peanuts. And, Cracker Jacks. Families come out. Dads bond with sons. Sons dream of playing the game.

Me?

I was born a New York Yankee fan. Supposedly I saw the great Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio, play during his last season. That’s family lore. You know how family lore goes. It’s mostly myth and legend. DiMaggio¬†¬†retired after the 1952 season. I came along in November of 1953. I wasn’t even a gleam in my parents’ eyes. Oh well. I did get to see Mickey Mantle play. I saw him hit one of the longest balls ever hit in the old, yet to be remodeled Yankee Stadium. In 1963. I was nine years old.

Anyway.

As much as I like major league baseball, I like the minors almost as well. The ballparks are smaller. The crowds are much less. And, you get to see the stars of the future as they hone their craft. You can also move around. The stands aren’t patrolled by ticket takers. You can see a game from a couple of different locations. And, you can make pictures.

Surprisingly, making pictures is not my first priority when I go to a game. The game is. I can be an awful baseball nerd. But, every now and then…

I don’t photograph the game itself. I’m way too under lensed for that. Instead I do the same thing that I do on the streets. I look for moments. Light. Contrast. Life.

These two pictures were made in Albuquerque. At an Isotopes game. They were the real thing, not just a cartoon fantasy on The Simpsons. They were a Los Angeles Dodgers farm team. The Dodgers farm team has moved to Oklahoma City. I forget who replaced them.

For those of you in other countries, where baseball isn’t your thing. Sorry. I hope that you enjoy the moments. For those of you who live in The United Kingdom, I just read that my team, the Yankees are coming to London next year to play a league game, not an exhibition.

Beer me.


American Summer
American Summer

Housekeeping first. I had a big plan for today. On Storyteller. In order to make it work, I needed to illustrate it last week. However, like so many things, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. ” So, I’ll hold that for one more week until next Sunday, when I can do it justice. It’s really a Sunday kind of story.

Instead.

I thought that I would post a summer picture. A real summer picture. A baseball picture. Not an action picture. I haven’t taken one of those in years. But, something that symbolizes a hot summer night. Something sweaty. With passing storm clouds in the background. A Southern night.

Happy Sunday. Or, Monday. Depending on where you are.


Ralph Sampson, Virginia Tech.
Blocked, Virginia Tech.

Virginia. Sweet Virginia.

As I worked through the negatives and scans from the past, I’ve come to realize that I was very, very productive during what really was a very short time in Virginia.¬†I wish I had that energy now. Isn’t that always the way? Now that I know I’m doing, I¬†take longer to do it. And, recovering from doing it takes much longer. Much, much longer.

I’ll try to keep this a little shorter than yesterday’s post. It’s time-consuming for me to write. And, hard for you to read.

So.

All of these pictures were made in Virginia. I’m ¬†pretty sure that you know the rest. Nikon camera bodies and lenses. Kodak black and white Tri-X film. Most were made with a Nikon 180mm f 2.8 lens, except for the baseball picture which was made with an 85mm lens and the football locker room picture which was made with a 24mm lens.

About these pictures.

“Blocked”¬†was taken in 1980 when Virginia Tech had a very good team. Good enough that they made it to the second round of the NCAA playoffs. Back when a billion teams weren’t selected. For the life of me, I cannot remember or find information about the player blocking the shot. In fact, when I search the Virginia Tech website, it seems that there were no standout players that year. They played a team sport as a team.

“Pregame Focus”¬†was taken towards the end of the football season when the Pulaski County Cougars were headed to the playoffs. They were the high school team to beat in Southwest Virginia during the 1980 season. I asked for permission from the head coach to spend some time with his team. He agreed because he thought it might be one more thing that could help the players win scholarships to college. This was taken during the very quiet pregame moment.

“Refreshing.”¬†My timing was pretty good. The man’s timing — a track coach — wasn’t so good. I took this picture in Wytheville.¬†I didn’t realize it at the time. But, this place must have been pretty cool. Check out the coach’s hat. A hipster hat. In 1980.

“Have I Got a Deal For You.” I have no idea what she was saying as this one baseball player was walking off the field, but his teammates were sure interested. Once again, in Radford, Virginia.

“See the Ball.” Often times old school editors will say that the picture isn’t a sports picture unless it has a ball in it. I don’t know if I agree with that. But, do you see the ball? Do you see it? That’s why the runner was safe. More Bobcat baseball in Radford, Virginia.

Timing. Often that’s what life is about. With exception of the locker room picture, that’s what these images are about.

My publishing schedule is like this. I’ll probably close the week with the rest of my black and white work. At least, the pictures that I want to share. Then it’s back to color work. New color work. And, a surprise.


Defense, Virginia Tech.
Defense, Virginia Tech.

Nope. It ain’t the gear.

It also ain’t the training. When I went to college, most of us already knew how to take pictures. We needed to learn how to think about photography. How to think about photojournalism. How to tell visual¬†stories.¬†We had to learn about ethics. But, all of us understood the mechanics of taking a picture. Exposure. Light. Framing. We knew that stuff. We were expected to know it before we ever started making the kinds of pictures you’ve seen on Storyteller.

Sports.

I’ve never considered myself to be a great sports photographer. That’s a whole genre in itself. Sure. I have pretty good hand – eye coordination. I’m pretty good at capturing peak action. But, the real trick is to be able to do those two things and tell the story of the game, or¬†set or match.

Too bad for you. ¬†I’m going to publish two days of sports pictures. My versions.

That said, I’ve been pretty lucky. I was able to photograph some big events. And, a lot of little events. Little events are far more fun. You can pretty much work from wherever you want. You can pretty much not have to battle other photographers for position. And, as participants get to know you, you can cheat a little and work from places that you normally wouldn’t be allowed to ¬†work.

The pictures. First, the gear. Nikons. Either F2s. FMs. Or, F3s. The football picture was shot with a 300mm f 5.6. The baseball picture was shot with an 500 mm mirror reflex lens. It only had one f-stop. F8. Lee Trevino was taken with the magic 400mm F3.5 and the bodybuilder was made with  a 135 mm F 2.8. The film was, as usual, Kodak Tri-X rated all over the place depending on the situation.

A few back stories.

Football. I must have been in the groove that game. When I look at the film, I see¬†several series of peak action where I just leaned on the button and let the motor drive do its thing. I don’t normally do that. I pick my shots.

Baseball. I was testing a Nikon F8 reflex  lens. They were manufactured from 1968 to 1983. They idea was for the light to bounce around in a system of mirrors which kept the lens small, compact and lightweight. In theory it was a brilliant idea. It also needed brilliant light to be even marginally useful. Or, you needed a tripod which defeated the original purpose of small and light weight. Because of the way the light bounced around inside the lens it also created those round circles which we nicknamed donut holes.

Lee Trevino. Sometimes, in Winston-Salem, we were able to shoot big time events. I forget what it has been renamed, but in 1981 the golf tournament was called The Greater Greensboro Open. There¬†are¬†a lot of things to know about photographing golf. With the pros. Or, at any level. One is that your camera makes a lot of noise unless it is baffled. You cannot take pictures when a golfer is ¬†actually concentrating, especially when he is on the putting green. But, not to worry. Big¬†time pros like Lee Trevino knew how to work with us. We needed a picture. He wanted publicity. He would look up and make a face. First, to the right. Then, he’d do it again to the left.

Body building. This is where that learning to think about pictures thing came in. The traditional pictures of these contests are actually pretty boring. They all pretty much look the same. What to do? What to do?  I looked up and saw a balcony. I went upstairs and shot down. Once I did that I found all sorts of interesting angles and pictures. This one picture opened my eyes.

There was some weirdness about this assignment. It started a huge argument in the newsroom. I shot this on a Sunday night. My boss, the chief photographer, called me on Monday to ask if I could stop by. My day off. Uh oh. Trouble. For me. He was very disappointed in what he thought was my coverage.

Huh?

The sports night editor picked the weakest picture of the winner holding a trophy. You have to take that picture. But, for me it was an identifying picture. Not something to be published. I asked my boss¬†to come with me to the sports desk. I handed him the stack of pictures that they didn’t use. He apologized to me, raised the roof with the sports editor and magically I was given a page to design using¬†my pictures. The so-called sports out takes. The sports editor wrote what I call some “spin copy” that said something like “due to the lateness of the event we could only run one picture, but here’s what the contest really looked like.”

Sometimes, you get lucky. When you do your job.