Archive for May, 2016

A long road trip always guarantees new books, bunches of them.    

A few weeks ago in the Bay Area, I was visiting one of my favorite haunts, Keplers. A most excellent bookstore in Menlo Park.

A new book about James Brown by a man whose work I love caught my eye.

James McBride.

I bought a dozen tomes I'm anxious to dive into, but no question what I was reading first.

jamesmcbride

From his new book, Kill 'em and Leave, talking about the South he writes, "..the land that produced him is a land of masks. The people who walk that land, both black and white, wear masks and more masks, and then masks beneath those masks."

In the Color of Water, he wrote this about his mother:

“Family love: It is firm footing, something to cling to in a frightened world, that seems to be out of control with war, turmoil, terrorism and uncertainty. It is our highest calling and greatest nobility.

So if you see a woman driving in Trenton with her blinkers on. Look out. Back off. Give her some space. She could go left, she could go right.  She could go into Heaven clear out of sight!  But no matter which way she goes, she's not likely going your way.

And if she is, don't bother her with any questions about it, or you'll get an earful of God.”

And in "Family. A Celebration of Humanity", he wrote this about mine:

“Many years ago, a young American mother named Agnes Frakes pointed out images all around her tiny Nebraska town to her four-year-old son Bill: a cat’s shadow, a pool of oil beneath a car, his own name etched in a cookie tray of caramel popcorn. The boy looked at the objects and saw nothing. ‘Look again,’ she said. ‘There is always more there than what your eye sees…’ Years later the boy became one of the most accomplished photographers in the world.”

havana kelton frakes

My mother, Agnes Frakes with my daughter, Havana.

I think of my mother often, and every Mother's Day find time to revisit a short film I created about her and her time teaching in a one-room school house in rural Nebraska. I invite you to view, A Teacher Remembered.

This week I'm at my favorite yearly event, Louisville's own -- the Kentucky Derby. It's my 34th trip to the Run for the Roses. Since my great buddy Dan Dry invited me to join him here in 1981, I've only failed to be at Churchill Downs once on the first Saturday in May. In 1994, my then boss and always mentor Heinz Kluetmeier sent me to Beijing, I think it was because he wanted the finish line to himself, but that's another story for another time. There's nothing quite like the Derby.  It's an event steeped in style and tradition. Rich in nostalgia. Drama. Intrigue. My gear list for this event is sizeable. I'm bringing 40 DSLR cameras, 44 lenses that range from 14mm to 600mm. 60 magic arms, 100 super clamps, radios, hundreds of feet of wire, connectors, tripods, and a bunch of other stuff that makes all of this work. The way I cover the race changes every year.  Which brings new challenges, new demands, lots of worry, and a whole bunch of stress. The first time I showed up to cover the race I had three cameras and three lenses. One of those lenses, a Nikkor manual focus 50mm f1.4 has been with me every single visit I've made to the Derby.

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 05:   at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Bill Frakes for ESPN)

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 05: at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Allison Hess)

I'm not superstitious. This little guy has earned a permanent spot in the rotation. Laura says I'm a softie.  Not everyone would agree with her. But I am sentimental. Most of my gear goes in cases and travels under the plane.  Only a few things get carried into the cabin with me. When I was packing and running low on space it was the one lens I refused to remove from my roller case.  Far from the most expensive, or fragile, but maybe the most precious. No idea how many images I've made with him, several hundred thousand any way, and while not all of them have worked out that's been my fault. overhead_100_W He's hung from the roof, he's been buried in the dirt under the rail, traveled through the crowds affixed to every flagship body Nikon has produced with an F mount -- at least 12 different models -- he's been left out in the rain, and under a blazing sun. Saturday, he'll be doing some heavy lifting again, attached to a D500.  And you'll see the results. Follow me on Instagram (@billfrakes) and Twitter (@billfrakes) for complete ESPN coverage of this year’s Derby.


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