Throwback Thursday

Editor’s note: this isn’t a baseball post, but given that I have a blog in the digital world, I thought it was somewhat relevant.

I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” – Mark Twain

My apologies in advance. This is neither a baseball post, nor will it be concise. Well, it might be, but just some rambling flashbacks and how it pertains to blogging today.

I read a post today from one of my favorite bloggers, Glenn Miller, on changes in the newspaper industry over the years. Mr. Miller wrote for the St. Petersburg (now Tampa Bay) Times, then later for the Fort Myers News-Press. He spoke on the changes in the printed medium and how things were different from when he started. A great piece!

I got to thinking about my own blog. Those of you that have read and followed my blog know I am a big fan of incorporating photos to help tell my stories. Thanks to my Canon digital Rebel T5i (and a Rebel before that), and my iPhone, I will take upwards of 300+ photos per game, then try to whittle it down to a dozen or so good shots for my blog. A professional photographer I am not, but I do try to think about every shot I take and how I might be able to use it when I do my write up. Having digital “film”, though, affords me the opportunity to  take photo after photo of any particular pitcher or batter regardless of the outcome. As most of us know, though, this wasn’t always the case. Back in the day (am I carbon dating myself??), even professional photographers were limited to a handful of rolls of 24 or 36 exposure film and had to be very judicious in the photos they took.

My older brother is a semi professional photographer, in addition to his day job as an engineer for a major car company. He is the one who got me interested in sports photography in high school. In the late 70s he bought his first SLR, a Canon FTB. To get the metering correct, you had to adjust the shutter speed and aperture by lining up a needle inside a circle that was viewed through the viewfinder, then hope you snapped the picture at just the right moment! No auto focus. No image stabilization. No 5 frames per second burst shooting. It was quite the purchase for him, and SOMEHOW I talked him into letting his 9th grade younger brother into taking the camera to our conference track championships that year. I shot an entire roll of film, and came out with maybe 2 or 3 good photos. Mostly because I had limited experience with his camera, but mostly because getting action photos is a very tricky job!

As background, we had one of the nation’s best long jumpers on our team, Andre “Pip” Kirnes, who ended up ranked fourth in the nation in the long jump with a leap of 25’2.5″ that year. That same year, the list was led by one of the greatest track athletes of all time, Carl Lewis. Thirty seven years later, Pip’s mark would still rank him in the top 5 in the nation. He was that good! I wanted to get a good photo of him in the long jump. Not an easy task for a rookie photographer. Fortunately, since it was on our home track, I got in good position, focused on the take off board, and was lucky to snap this:

Don’t ask me what he jumped that day. All I know is I got (for me) a photo of a lifetime that I still think is THE best photo I have ever taken.

At that same meet, I did get a little silly, since I had a few shots, so I snapped this one. Still my favorite pair of racing shoes:

For my high school graduation, I asked for my own camera, and got a Canon AE1. This was a bit of an upgrade from the FTB as it did have auto exposure. But it was still a manually intensive camera. No auto focus, or all the bells and whistles of today’s cameras. The first time I used it was at the 1982 USA Track & Field Championships in Knoxville, TN. I think I shot two rolls of film that day, and came away with a couple of keepers. Again, making sure that I was in the right position but without all the automatic features, I had to be careful. Here are a few shots of that meet:

Carl Lewis winning a qualifying heat in the 100 meters

Dan Ripley clearing the qualifying height in the pole vault

James Robinson with his patented come from behind sprint in the 800 meters

Stephanie Hightower clearing a hurdle

One last good photo I took in the early 80s was of great Australian marathoner, Rob DeCastella. This was at the 1983 Gasparilla 15k road race in Tampa, FL

Some days, I am not sure why I hang on to these. Just like I wonder why I hang on to all the baseball cards I collected in the 70s! Maybe I am a hoarder? Even now, I am a digital hoarder. As I mentioned before, I can take 300+ photos per game, and I save them all, not just the ones I use in my blogs.

Photography and writing have come a long way in the last 30+ years. I am not saying photography is that much easier now than it was. Even with auto everything, you still try to keep to the basics of good lighting, good positioning, and anticipating the action. And while we aren’t banging out blogs on Smith Corona typewriters, writing still takes a certain skill. One that I still struggle with.

But some guys, like Glenn Miller, have bridged that gap, and made the electronic leap, while keeping an eye to the past that keeps things honest. Something all of us can aspire to!

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