A few days ago, I was having a conversation with Christina about how a lot of people think of photojournalism as a cool and glamorous profession, but seldom think beyond the exotic locations or the final photo. They rarely imagine how much work it takes to get to the finish line. Most of the time, the journeys are not that exciting, and the technical difficulties, including how to procure the right equipment, is less than thrilling.
The reason I’m bringing that up is because just this past weekend, I had a sort of adventure that reminded me of that conversation.
I got last minute approval to photograph LL Cool J at the State Fair, and by the time I saw the email, I was out of the office, and the guys from the photo desk who know me and kindly let me borrow lenses (yes, Manny, I’m bringing in cookies) were off for the weekend or just not available. It was just a few hours before I was suppose to meet the media rep at the Fair, and I had nothing but my crappy lens.
I had to think fast, and decide if a) I was going to just deal with it, and do the best with my lens, and pray to the gods for great lighting, or b) try to find a better lens. With the clock ticking, I thought of the wonderful Tempe Camera, where I’ve borrowed lenses before. But this was so last minute, I wasn’t expecting they’d have any f2.8 telephoto lenses. By this time it was 4:15 p.m., and the store closes at 5 p.m. on Saturdays. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give them a call. And such was my luck, they had a cancellation, and a lovely 70-200mm f2.8 was waiting for me IF I could get myself there from downtown Phoenix before they closed. Through the years I’ve discovered that photography is often as much about luck, as it is skill and planning.
Ran out of the building just to realize my car was, as usual, ON EMPTY and I had to stop to get gas because they light had been on for a while now, and I knew I would not make it to Tempe. So it was a mad dash to get gas and drive to Tempe before the store closed. I think I put a total of $6.39 worth of gas, just so could make it there. A stuck gas pump, speeding and a few traffic violations later, I made it. And after all this work, I got to shoot LL for the three shortest songs in the history of concerts.
What I’m trying to say is that there’s a lot of work in photojournalism that’s not really apparent when people see pretty pictures. Most of it is not glamorous at all. There’s the time that it takes someone to set up your access, whether it’s to a concert or a tribe in the middle of Africa (what? you think the photographers just stumble upon these remote places and people? A lot of research goes into that, often done by the photographers themselves). Then there’s the decision of what equipment to use? If you don’t own the equipment, then where are you getting it from? How much is it to borrow it? Once you decide that, then how are you getting there? Even if it’s just a concert, you have to think, where am I going to park? How far is parking from the venue (remember you’re carrying heavy equipment in the thousands of dollars)? This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as logistical problems behind getting the shot.
It’s just not for everyone, and that includes me. Doing it here and there is one thing, but to be a photojournalist for a living, 40+ hours a week, is a different story.
Heading to Cali this weekend.
UPDATE: I decided to add one more, and since this one was used for the promo on the main page of azcentral, I figured enough people liked it… I thought it was a bit too dark. But apparently, I think everything is underexposed.