RIGHT PLACE, FUN TIME
[February 3rd] --Most any person who loves photography, and who loves sports, would like nothing better than to be able to take photographs of sporting events. When you live in the "big city," however, getting noticed is very hard. I mean, how many amateurs with a Nikon digital camera would love nothing better than to be courtside at a Terrapins' basketball game? When I was in high school, a sports editor for the Northern Virginia Sun came to my high school and asked for a photographer to take photographs at that nights football game against the Annandale Atoms. I was literally the only kid in school that day with a camera hanging around their neck. I got the job sight unseen and spent the next few years taking sports pictures for the Sun Newspapers at $15 a pop. Right place. Right time.
It was many years later that I got the opportunity to photograph big time college football (and yes, I realize that some of you might say, "Idaho State University? Big time?"). I met the new head football coach of Idaho State University, Brian McNeely, at my camera store. He needed a photographer and videographer for his team, and he gave me the job because he didn't know another soul in town at that time. I followed the team for five seasons, from 1992-1997. These pictures were hardest to take because of the lighting cconditions and fast movement, yet football was my favorite sport to shoot. I began taking the pictures for the ISU mens basketball team the following year. Right place. Right time.
In 1993, the Salt Lake Trappers were forced out of their decaying stadium and moved north to Pocatello for a year. I stopped by the park to introduce myself to the general manager. I came away as the team's "official photographer." Right place. Right time.
I even got the opportunity to be the public address announcer for the Idaho Falls Braves, Atlanta's rookie league club in 1988 and '89. I stopped by the stadium to try to sell the players boom boxes (I figured 18 year old kids needed boom boxes) and the team's general manager, Rai Haninger, told me his PA guy just quit and moved to Portland, and did I want the job? I was a boom box salesman, not an announcer. "No problem" said Rai, adding "you'll do fine." I got paid $25 a game to sit in the best seat in the house and say, "Leading off, and playing centerfield..." Rai once showed me a box of audio cassette tapes that doctors and lawyers sent to him each summer. They were demo tapes of them in their best "public address" voice. They offered to come out to Idaho Falls from Indiana and New York and Washington and do my job for free. Kind of a "field of dreams" moment for them I guess. I got to work with the San Diego chicken one night, and watched some guy blow himself up at second base (which he did at over 100 minor league games every year). Right place. Right time.
You would think that a guy who can list "professional sports photographer" and "professional baseball announcer" would have had to work his way up from the bottom, spending years honing his skills before getting to work for Division I schools and minor league baseball teams. Nope. Right place. Right time.
And I can sure live with that, too.