Sports

A 50 ‘Cron goes to a Los Angeles Clippers game

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Despite the name of this blog, my favorite camera lens is Leica’s legendary 50mm 2.0 Summicron. I think both the 50 and the 35 Crons are the bomb. The reason I own and shoot the 50’Lux is because of the additional capability of the f1.4 and the beautiful ‘special’ effects of shootings the lens wide-open or even at f1.7.

I highlight the word ‘special’ because the ability to shoot a lens at 1.4 and take for granted great sharpness and color and contrast AND beautiful lush bokeh is to give your photography almost a special effect capability.

But as you can see from the image above, the 50 ‘Cron, despite the gripes sometimes heard about a busy bokeh, is no slouch in producing almost the same special effect of a razor sharp subject and a wonderfully bokeh-licious background. And don’t even ask about color and contrast at f2. My reading of LFI magazine down through the years tells me that Leica considers their Summicron lenses to be without compromise; perfect in every way. I agree.

My 50 ‘Cron is one of the Canadian jobs. Probably 18 or so years old. I picked it up at BelAir camera for the laughable price of $475. Grab one if you can find it.

Oh, yes, this is a reblog of sorts. Done today in recognition of the NBA All Star Game…. which I won’t be watching and wouldn’t watch if you paid me. But still… 😉

WNBA Star, Jamba Juice Tackle Childhood Obesity

Comes the news the last few weeks that Los Angeles is probably going to lose its WNBA franchise, the mighty LA Sparks. This is an emotional time for me and a lot of people I (kind of) know. I covered the Sparks as both a photographer and as a reporter for many years. For four years (at least) the franchise gave me the privilege of being a media voter on the league’s end-of-season awards like Most Value Player, Coach of the Year, etc. I’ve followed the league from day one. Anyway. It’s a big blow. I devoted a ton of my time to WNBA basketball and the Sparks.

The WNBA is active in the community and especially focuses its efforts on the very young and impressionable. One special afternoon that took us to the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica and with no digital camera to use I had to settle for my Leica M7 and M6 TTL, with the 50mm Summilux 1.4 ASPH and the 35mm Summicron 2.0 ASPH. I used Kodak 800 speed color (obviously) film and here were my keepers.

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Attended an event at the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica co-sponsered by the WNBA and Jamba Juice.

Talked to Los Angeles Sparks guard Alana Beard about what they hoped to accomplish in their combined efforts to impact the national epidemic of childhood obesity.

Grabbed a lot of shots with my Leica M7 and M6, the Leica 50mm Summilux 1.4 ASPH and incredibly useful Leica 35mm Summicron 2.0 ASPH. All shot with Kodak 800.

And the kids. I broke a record for sweating I’m sure. There was a guy following me around with a mop. Hope the pictures are okay.

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After the Match I’m Better

DSC_5056-2I very briefly shot women’s soccer a few years back. I wasn’t very good at it. I don’t think anyone noticed. Certainly nobody complained. But after the league’s inaugural match here in Los Angeles there was a short euphoric moment when fans and the press gathered near the tunnel and got to get up close with some of the truly greatest women’s soccer players in the world, including the consensus greatest player of them all, the Brazilian marvel known simply as Marta, pictured above and in the last two shots.

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First Time Out With Leica 50mm Summilux 1.4

Was back in May at the Los Angeles Sparks Media Day. I’ve published these shots and posted them elsewhere, but I came to realize that I’d never posted them here on the blog. Duh. All shot with the aforementioned lens which lends its name to this blog, and a Leica M7, with Kodak 800 Max color film. The last show below of the LA Times reporter holding a video camera is just a gratuitous oh-that’s-my-first-shot-of-the-bokeh-I’ve-always-dreamed-of shot. Please excuse.

WNBA Star, Jamba Juice Tackle Childhood Obesity

Attended an event at the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica co-sponsered by the WNBA and Jamba Juice.

Talked to Los Angeles Sparks guard Alana Beard about what they hoped to accomplish in their combined efforts to impact the national epidemic of childhood obesity.

Grabbed a lot of shots with my Leica M7 and M6, the Leica 50mm Summilux 1.4 ASPH and incredibly useful Leica 35mm Summicron 2.0 ASPH. All shot with Kodak 800.

And the kids. I broke a record for sweating I’m sure. There was a guy following me around with a mop. Hope the pictures are okay.

Cheerleaders: A Love Story

When I first started shooting women’s basketball, the instructions from my boss at the publication were to not just bring back action shots from the floor, but shots of fans, cheerleaders, the band, etc. Everything and anything that would capture the atmosphere in the arena.

But he made it pretty clear that what he really wanted was cheerleader shots. That should be perfectly understandable; it’s an online publication, he needs traffic just as much as any other online publication does. And pretty girls equal heavy traffic.

No better place on Earth than to fulfill our need for click bait than the campus of USC, where the cheerleaders are icons of youth, beauty, energy, and style. I’ve seen a lot of cheerleaders, but USC’s “Song Girls” (that’s right, they don’t even call them cheerleaders) are in a class all their own.

But these fabulous ladies strut their stuff at Rose Bowl games played on New Years Day which decide the national championship of college football. (Or they did back then, anyway.) There can’t be any question that sitting on the baseline during sparsely attended women’s basketball games would be on the other end of the spectrum for the Song Girls in terms of the excitement and exposure they enjoy as USC’s finest.

So, in that first season, when a pasty middle-aged male pointed his long lens in their direction as they dutifully performed their Song Girl responsibilities at women’s basketball games, more than once I came away with looks like this.

Beautiful, yes. But I pride myself on being able to read people’s faces and maybe, hopefully, photograph what they might be feeling or thinking at the instant I trip the shutter. This was not good.

Where’s the famous USC ‘V’ for Victory sign? This seems to be teetering dangerously into ‘Hit the Road Jack’ territory and I’m just glad the razor thin depth of field on this shot only captured the scornful glare of Song Girl number one. I don’t know that my ego could have survived all three of them giving me that look.

Okay, I’ve had my fun with this shot. It was just an instant, it wasn’t planned, I know that. But I don’t think the looks being given to me here are at all misleading. After all, I was there before and after this shot was taken. I kind of know.

But I persevered, as a man with a camera is sometimes known to do. I continued to work the baselines of USC and other schools and accumulated my share of pretty good cheerleader shots to go along with hundreds of, I hope, pretty good basketball shots.

It was probably in the third season when I had prints made of some digital images and, just to see how colors in these lighting environments transferred to print, I threw in to the order a handful of the better cheerleader shots.

Well, I really liked the way the cheerleader shots looked from USC. The lighting in the Galen Center is fantastic. Colors were gorgeous, the subjects were stunning.

And far from the somewhat violated look I got from the ladies in the image above, the Song Girls had gotten used to me and went about their business and I went about mine. The images I took of cheerleaders became very good.

So I decided that I should share the prints of the images I took of them with USC’s Song Girls. I put about a half dozen in an envelope, including the image at the very top and the two below, and, I think, it was at halftime one afternoon that I handed them off to the sports information director for women’s sports at USC, who shall remain nameless because she’s a wonderful lady and we subsequently become pals and I don’t want to drag her into any of this.

At that point, however, she really didn’t know me and when I said I had some cheerleader shots that I really liked she kind of gave me a look and muttered something about not being interested in pictures of cheerleaders. But I handed her the envelope anyway and asked her to pass them along to whomever is in charge of the Song Girls.

Never heard another word about my cheerleading pictures. As I said, the SID and I became pals as I continued to shoot USC basketball for the next couple of years. USC even presented one of my shots, blown up large, to a graduating senior. That was a tremendous honor. The SID told me once to keep doing what I was doing, calling it a ‘fine art’ style of baseline shooting. Oh yes, that SID was a pal o’ mine.

But here’s the punch line. Starting maybe the next season, and for the rest of my two or so years shooting USC, I literally could not point my camera at the USC cheerleaders (or majorettes even) without finding them already looking at me. Smiling broadly. I would notice them looking at me as I sat there doing absolutely nothing. It was all so obvious. I told my significant other about it, she agreed it was happening and we would laugh about it.

The USC Song Girls were now very willing subjects for me. Too willing. It was hard to get the spontaneity, the far off looks in someone’s eyes that you only get in truly candid moments. It was no longer sports journalism; it was something else, and the pictures were never quite the same.

And, of course, I LOVED every minute of it.

Anyway. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, as my mom used to say. And I’m not going to be humble regarding the images. I think these shots are almost iconically wonderful images of the USC Song Girls, caught candidly doing what they so cheerfully do for the University of Southern California.

Hope you like them as much as the subjects seemed to.