Monday, May 23, 2011

Making the best of it

Lately, I’ve taken upon myself the ever-lasting task of scanning my vast library of slides and negatives. Remember negatives? While editing the takes has brought memories of traveling to 38 countries, some of those memories remind me of the Clint Eastwood movie, “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.” In the 4 decades of my photographic journey I have experienced some great assignments and a few not so great assignments. However, one has to make the best of whatever is thrown your way.
I had the chance of covering Pope John Paul II, not once, but twice. The first time, a very good friend of mine, Rick Shaw, POY Picture Editor of the Year a few times and  now University of Missouri’s director of the Pictures of the Year International competition, brought me help in his news paper’s coverage of the Popes Miami visit on September 11, 1987. My assignment was to cover a local Catholic Church’s group bus trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami to see the Pope. Now, that was a dream assignment.  Even though I was far from the official podium, I was able to capture the church members reactions, which told a pretty good story.

Two years later I was again assigned to cover the Pope’s first ever visit to the island of Terceria in the Azores, this time for Gamma Liaison and it started out not so good.

In the 1987 visit, the press photographers were given pretty good access and good vantage points in which to capture images during the visit. However, in his visit to the Azores, we were positioned back behind the crowd about what seemed like 1/4 mile from the grandstand. The crowd had a chance to get better pictures than the assembled world’s press.

I had to resort to setting up a 300mm with a doubler and still the pope’s image was tiny in the photograph. I guess the Pope’s press representative heard our complaining, mostly coming from me, and came over to the still photographers. Since I had his attention, I asked him look through the viewfinder and explained what we needed was to get closer, way closer. He departed and a few minutes later returned with Ecce Homo, the Pope’s official photographer, who looked through my viewfinder.  After a few minutes of haggling with the press representative and the head of security, we were granted 15 minutes of photographic coverage the Papacy’s platform. I was now closer to the leader of the Catholic Church than what I was during Miami’s coverage. Not only that but within a few moments after the relocation, the Pope stepped into a sunbeam, which made the best photograph of my assignment.

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