Have always loved covering the NY Marathon, having done it for the first time in 1978, just a few short years after its inaugural run, in 1970. This year, covered the whole race, every borough, from the air, for ESPN. It was a trip. First time I covered it, for UPI, myself and a Domke bag got on the subway, and went out to Brooklyn, and walked up on the bridge, and shot the gaggle of runners at the start. I then walked off the bridge, got back on the subway, and took that to the southern end of Central Park, in Manhattan, getting to a finish line position just ahead of Bill Rogers winning the race. Then I took a subway to the UPI office at 42nd and 2nd Ave., processed my black and white, got a couple snaps on the wire, and that was that. Subway journalism. Below is one of the few color frames I shot that day.
This year, went in style. We choppered over the bridge, headed to Brooklyn, clipped Queens along the way, ducked up First Ave. in Manhattan, skirted the Bronx, and then followed 5th Ave. down to Central Park South and the finish line at Tavern on the Green. We picked up the chopper at Westchester County Airport, refueled at Laguardia, and landed back at Westchester around 2pm. Charged back to the studio, raced through an edit, made minor tweaks in camera raw, and shipped everything to ESPN. It’s up now, on their site, here. It also became the lead item on their endurance sports page.
My job was to parse the race out graphically, and work with GPS units plugged into my cameras, so ESPN could tag the writing and descriptions to the locations I was hovering over. The notion of the story was put forth and nurtured by Tim Rasmussen, the Director of Photography Digital at ESPN. Tim is a good guy, a great editor, and a friend to photographers. He is also the only man I have ever danced a polka with, courtesy of the beer drenched closing parties of the Eddie Adams Workshop. I was a team leader there for 14 years, and as a tradition, on the final night of the workshop, Tim and I would throw back a shot and dance a polka in front of the whole workshop, who were so inebriated as to most likely not have a shred of memory of these goings on.
It was a fun day in the air, albeit a bit on the windy side. We had an A350 chopper rented, which is a turbo helicopter in the family of choppers that has touched down atop Mt. Everest, and has a horsepower rating of somewhere in the 650-700hp range. It’s a substantial machine. Unfortunately, it threw a mechanical the night before the race and we got in the air on the only substitute available, a Robinson 44. We had a fine pilot, and did ok, but the Robinson, comparatively, is the Tonka toy of the skies, with a horsepower rating in the neighborhood of 200. It makes a difference, as the Robbie, as these dependable machines are affectionately called, can’t fight the wind with nearly the balls of a bigger chopper. We went for some inadvertent spins, with our pilot calmly calling out on the intercom at various points, “Tailrotor ineffective!” or, “We’re goin’ for a ride, boys!” Makes hand holding a D5 with a 600mm f4 at the open door a teeth grinding adventure. But I have to hand it to that little Robbie, “the little engine that (thankfully) could.” It carried the pilot, Cali, me and the below gear aloft, and kept us there.
Shot the above, though, with a 16mm fisheye, on a D810 running on intervalometer, hand holding a Gitzo monopod to drop the 180 degree angle of coverage of this lens below the skids of the bird. Safety wired to the chopper, Cali carried this rig in his lap, and then would pass it to me from his open door to my open door, which was a bit of a first. Below is a screen grab from a little KeyMission 360 cam we had stashed on the interior bubble of the bird.
After all these years, still love flying over NYC.
For the technically minded, in no particular order, here is a list of the gear for the day.