Archive for September, 2012

I was getting ready to cover # 10 Clemson at # 4 Florida State this weekend. There was a lot of noise. About 85,000 fans screaming, two marching bands playing, and Gary Bogdon, the other SI photographer, talking nonstop… That kind of thing. They announced FSU's starters over Doak Campbell Stadiums’ loudspeakers.   One name was really familiar. Longer snapper Dax Dellenbach. I just started to grin.  I know that kid.  Not well, but for a very long time.  That's part of the problem of covering sports on an international level, I never seem to have enough time to get to really know some of the people I would like to know as well as I would like to know them. Dax's dad, Jeff Dellenbach is one of my favorite football players of all time.  Jeff had a long NFL career.  He was a center for the Dolphins, Packers, Patriots and Eagles. I photographed Dax and his brothers, his mother and of course his dad a bunch of times.  Mary Dellenbach would bring the kids to the Dolphin's practices when the kids were tiny. The first time I remember photographing Jeff while he wasn’t playing was on the practice field after Coach Shula had called an end to the day’s work.  I photographed a tiny Dellenbach using his giant fathers’ helmet as a cradle.

And in 1995, George Washington, one of my editors at SI, called with a great assignment.  A photo act on really big guys.  GW and I brainstormed how to really show just how large and graceful these guys are. One of the lead images in that essay was of the Dellenbach family.  The 6'7", 300 plus pound Jeff wearing a pair of his boxers.  Mary and the three youngsters wearing another, identical pair.

At the end of the game, I went to talk to Dax.  As soon as I started to explain why I was stopping him, a big smile spread across his face and he extended a giant paw. He remembered and just laughed. I asked him to please give my best to his parents.  He told me that they were there in the stands, and would be meeting him outside the stadium later and said I should stop by. But of course, I had to go transmit the images of Dax and his FSU teammates to New York. Never enough time.

Joe McNally never fails to make me appreciate his wit, generosity, talent, and most of all his work ethic.

Early in my career, I did a particularly grueling portrait shoot with a recalcitrant long jumper who was willing to give us two jumps and 10 minutes of his time. My assistant and I had trucked in about a ton of sand, built a scaffold platform for a high angle, erected a 16' x 16' scrim*, set up two 10K lights balanced for tungsten so we could make the sky deep blue in the middle of the day, positioned eight remote cameras and spent two hours doing lighting tests. All told we spent a combined 30 hours in preparation for 3 seconds of actual shooting time.
SI's Director of Photography Heinz Kluetmeier looked at the take, and said "It's very good. If I had hired Joe McNally for this he would have really worked it -- for sure he would have buried a camera in the sand too."
Lesson learned.
* Erecting a 16' x 16' scrim is no easy feat in and of itself. Columbus came across the ocean with less sail power.

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