I’ve always liked taking photographs, although it wasn’t until I started working for newspapers that I really got into it. Prior to that, I was the Instamatic guy, using whatever relatively cheap camera was available to get the pictures I wanted.
But when I was hired as a part-time sports reporter at The Henry Herald in 1985, the Sports Editor, Brad Ashmore, took me under his wing and showed me how to get the best photos. And we used lots of film to do it. Brad used several self-focus Nikons with motordrives so fast that you could click off a roll of film in a few seconds if you weren’t careful. And he didn’t mind doing it that way.
We’d cover high school football games on Friday night, then head into the darkroom, develop the 10 or 12 rolls of 36-print film we had used, look through all the frames to pick out the best shots, then print them. Many times it would be 4 or 5 a.m. on Saturday morning before we got through. Brad showed me not only how to get the best shot, but then how to frame it and improve it in the darkroom.
I became the fulltime Sports Editor in January 1986 after Brad left, and bought my first workhorse camera, a Nikon FG, to use at work. I couldn’t afford the motordrive, so I quickly went from taking 10-12 rolls of film per game to learning to anticipate the best shots and getting it done with 1 or 2 rolls of film. I still do that today with my digital cameras. If I get a good shot the first time, I don’t worry about taking two or three more. And with digital cameras it is much easier to instantly see what you took, rather than hoping the picture is there when you finally develop the film.
Cameras have come a long way in the relatively short time I’ve been taking photographs. Today digital cameras have all but replaced film cameras. And just like the film cameras before them, you can spend anywhere from $5 for a throwaway digital camera to more than $10,000 for the top-of-the-line digital cameras that do almost everything you need.
And rather than spending hours in the darkroom developing and printing photos, all I have to do is pop the memory card out of the camera, put it in a card reader, insert it into a USB port in the computer, and download the pictures. Then I just do a little photo-editing on the computer, and I have my pictures.
While I still pride myself on being able to set up and anticipate most of my pictures, one of my best shots ever came as basically a surprise. It occurred at my grandson Franklin’s fifth birthday party, about seven years ago. His dad, Frank, had lit the candles on his cake and was standing behind him, ready to assist in blowing them out. I had them framed from the side in the camera and was ready for the “action” shot.
To the side, facing the camera, was Franklin’s then three-year-old brother Nicholas, wanting to “help” blow out the candles. Nicholas had already “helped” one time, blowing out the candles before Franklin had a chance to. This time, after re-lighting the candles, dad was ready, and as I took the shot, Frank made the move that made the photo – he put his hand over Nicholas’ mouth as Franklin blew out the candles. I didn’t realize I had gotten all of this until I went back and looked at the pictures again.
This had quickly become one of my favorite photos, and I laugh everytime I see it. It just goes to show that no matter how much money you spend on cameras, or how expert you are in taking pictures, sometimes the best shots are the ones you don’t expect.