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Ozzie and the Mirrors

Feb 26

In Jobs at 8:28am

ozzie_smith_mirrorsa

I shot this years ago, and have written about it, a bit. It was part of a huge Sports Illustrated project about defensive magicians on the baseball diamond. And of course, at that time, if you talked defense, you talked about Ozzie. The Wizard of Oz! The shortstop who looked like he played the position from at least five different starting places at once.

My answer was to use mirrors, and simply reflect him around the infield. Coming up with this notion was certainly easier than shooting it.

So much so, that the estimable Syl Arena, a speed light magician himself, showed the picture to his class (I believe it’s a high school class) and none of them believed it did not involve Photoshop. He reassured them it was a straight up film shot, but alas, he sent me an email saying “they remained skeptics.”

Ozzie_Mirrors_Production_blog

The man in the middle above is Howard Simmons, who after his assisting stint went on to a wonderfully successful career as a staffer at the NY Daily News. Perched atop the Gitzo tripod is a Mamiya RZ Pro II medium format film camera, a great system I let go of a long time ago. The key to the whole deal was that high flying Speedotron head dangling off of a movie style boom arrangement. I had to get that light above the sight line of my frame, hence the thirty or so feet of speed rail angled up into the heavens. It’s a quad head, if you notice the multiple power packs plugged into it. It produced a slow moving wallop of photons. But, it was cool. Flash duration wasn’t the issue here. Ozzie, atypically, was just standing there.

I shot it several ways, with Ozzie physically in the picture, and with just his reflection. I was looking to the east, dealing with darkness in the background, as the sun dropped like a stone behind me. That flying backlight, which defined the whole set and rimmed out Ozzie’s form for his reflection to stand out clearly in the blackness, became crucial. (Remember, the mirrors are angled in such a way as they are facing into complete darkness, so my subject, the gentlemanly Wizard of the Infield, had to literally pop with contrast.)

For the same reason, the Norman 200B units, gelled warm, sitting behind each mirror, needed to pop pretty hard, to separate those glassy slivers of silver from the encroaching darkness.

Ozzie_Smith_hat_tip

All of the above produced, well, a limited return at the magazine.

Ozzie_Tearsheet

The picture’s gotta go somewhere, even it means cropping out the largest of the meticulously crafted Ozzie reflections. It’s cool. Hey, it ain’t my magazine, and my favorite shot was the one up top, that had nothing but reflections, and that’s never been published.

It was a lot of effort. We crisscrossed Florida in a crew van, with an eighteen wheeler of a movie grip truck tailing along. Lit up whole ballparks for simulated action pix. What a privilege to work this way! We had a 650 amp genny onboard the truck, so I didn’t even have to snag electricity from the spring training stadiums.

Eric_Davis_TearsheetAll of this had to be set up. There’s a guy off to camera right, throwing a baseball up near the wall, and Eric Davis gamely leaps for it. When you punch the shutter on this type of pic, and you know you have it, done, etched in film forever, an isolated split second, electrified and petrified by the power of 30-40,000 watts seconds of light, well, dang, you’re at the ballpark, so give yourself an attaboy and have a coke and a dog.

Likewise when I got Keith Hernandez of the Mets to dig one out for me at first base.

Keith_Hernandez_2And Mike LaValliere, nicknamed Spanky, who wore the tools of ignorance, quite ably, for the Pirates.

Mike_Lavalliere

The pix all ran as a feature, and chewed up quite a few pages in the baseball issue. Not something SI will ever do again, as this was quite a high ticket budget item, marshaling all these resources.

But it was a thrill to shoot it. Click of the shutter. Done deal. photo

And there it is, on a light table, a bunch of moments from quite a while ago. More tk….

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