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Gentle Giant

Nov 21

In history at 4:08pm

Pursuant to the earlier post this week, about trying to craft a coherent portfolio out of the flotsam and jetsam of a lengthy career, there is another layer to all of it. Your pictures, portfolio quality or not, become one of the more elaborate scrapbooks anyone could hope to have. That’s what happens when you have a job that requires you to photographically notate the people you’ve met and places you’ve been. Well known folks have a habit of popping up in the news now and then, so downstream of your photographic intersection with them you might notice when they do this or that. I don’t lay claim to really “know” many of the people I’ve photographed over the years. But, they are, in a real, albeit odd way, a bit of an extended family.

Recently, the NYT ran a lengthy piece on the fractured journey of Greg Oden, one of the most highly coveted college basketball players in recent memory. He is potentially reborn in Miami, where they are letting his body make its own timetable for a return to the court. Injuries have dogged him. As has occasionally happened historically with a number of big basketball centers, who look imposing, rugged and fierce, his pins appear to be made of bone china, susceptible to cracks, breaks and chips. The nightly bashing that takes place on the court breaks them down in short order. Chosen for the league in 2007, he has played a total of 82 games.

Even back in college, when I photographed him, he seemed to maintain his own pace. My mandate for the job was to show his size, and one way Sports Illustrated asked me to do that was to compress the frame, squash it, and thus him, making him seem uncomfortably oversized in a small space. Think Gandalf in Bilbo’s house. We added to the illusion (well, actually, the reality) of his size by having him hold a souvenir style, small scale basketball and positioning him on a tiny court. The ball made a handy pillow in between sets.

He was easygoing to a fault, and spent some time with us. He was a college kid who had the appearance and demeanor of a much older soul. I moved fast, as I always do, and gave the magazine a second choice for a look.

When trying an angle such as above for someone who is seven feet tall, it is advisable to bring a ladder.

We used a big light for a big man. The Elinchrom 74″ Octa was the main light, and it was filled with a soft wash of a couple flash heads through a suspended 12′ silk. The background was accented slightly with a pop of a shoot thru umbrella. It was basically a wall of light coming at him from camera left, which gave me 1/250th @f11.

As happens with some athletes, rather blessedly, he was unperturbed, and seemingly a bit nonplussed with all the fuss. He was amiable, and agreeable, all seven feet of him. I hope he’s back on a court soon. More tk….




Life with Kaishon says:

on November 21, 2013 at 9:08 pm

He seems like a really great guy. You did a wonderful job of shooting just what the magazine wanted. : )

Michael Mitchell says:

on November 22, 2013 at 9:12 am

Thanks for the post, I enjoyed the story and love reading and seeing the behind the scenes setups, it helps me get a mental picture of how a shot can be set up and how the finished image will look. Thanks for aiding me in my photography endeavours.

P.S. I enjoyed your “One Flash, Two Flash” October workshop in Chicago, and it was great seeing you there.

Len Kowitz says:

on November 22, 2013 at 9:14 am

Great stuff!
Thanks for sharing.
Len Kowitz

Lech Naumovich says:

on November 22, 2013 at 10:54 am

Great story Joe. I’ve been following Greg for a while since OSU played Wisconsin in alot of competitive games. His tory is such an interesting one with so much to talk about. Love what you did with the minis. Great coverage.

Dave S says:

on November 22, 2013 at 11:16 am

I love it haha you need a latter anyways like me haha. But love your ideas on making the court miniature and small basketball, priceless. The latter comment only goes back to when you jested yourself as a butterball turkey hanging from a helicopter shooting the model around the Hollywood sign, you grabbed me as a fan at that point.

James Thibault says:

on November 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Thanks for sharing, Joe! Very cool!

Timothy Burman says:

on November 23, 2013 at 1:46 am

Thanks for sharing ! Great seminar on one light, two lights in San Francisco.

Conor Ronan says:

on November 27, 2013 at 8:32 am

I have been reading your blog for a few years. Not only are you a great photog but you have a great writing style.

Matthew Jacobs says:

on November 29, 2013 at 4:56 am

The miniature basketball is genius, it really made me look twice!

Mike Warth says:

on December 1, 2013 at 12:55 am

Living just an hour from Columbus, my wife and I managed to snag tickets for the OSU basketball games years ago when Oden was playing there. Our regular seats were a few rows back from the team bench, and let me say he is a big man…the photos you made convey that nicely. I always loved the hunched over, small basketball, shot of him. Thanks for sharing the other shots and the rest of the story.

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