I get to photograph a lot of people – all of whom mean something to some one.
Some are locally famous, some are widely famous and some deserve to be famous
but aren't. It comes with the job, is one of the grand perks and you quickly
learn to deal with being around these kind of folks in a professional way. You
treat them like, well, people but respect their needs like time pressures and
such. You treat it like another assignment but never like they are just
anyone else. It's business.
Then the phone rang. "Are you free next week? We would like you to
photograph this guy Davis Phinney …" and then everything started to
blur. My heart raced and I got weak in the knees. I tried to internally say
"Ommmmmmmmmm … " instead of "Ohmygodohmygodohmygod". I
stammered out in the most casual way possible that I was free and I could take on the
assignment. (Breathe stupid breathe!)
Ok now for the back story. Way back when I was in highschool I was a budding
bicycle road racer. At the time the hottest thing on two wheels was, yes you
got it, Davis Phinney. He has the most wins of any American cyclist and was
not, as many who are successful in the sport, a specialist. He was the first American to win
a stage in the Tour De France, but also won an Olympic bronze in the 100K time
trial. He was my idol and the chance to photograph him couldn't be any greater
of an honor.
The deal is that 9 years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinsons and has
dedicated himself to helping people retain their quality of life while dealing
with the disease. The story is about his work with the Davis Phinney Foundation
that he founded in 2004. The publication wanted a shot of him in cycling
attire, he still rides, and shots of him working at the Foundation.
was the nicest person possible and was able to let me borrow him for the
This is just a grab shot while I was sitting at the kitchen
was working on his
laptop while we were chatting. I didn’t want to miss anything so as usual I kept a camera in my hands
even though the client didn’t want any “home life” photos. I mean if you were
at the home of one of the greatest athletes in American history wouldn’t you
shoot everything you saw? Yeah, I thought so.
Camera: Nikon D700
Lens : AF-D 50mm f/1.4
So we head outside to do the shot of him with one of his
bikes. We were cursed by a thick white sky in a city that gets 300 sunny days a
year I get stuck with this. Gad. Well maybe it will work as negative space
since this is the shot they want for a cover. We headed down the street from
his home to a spot that didn’t have any houses so that I had a cleaner
background. Simple triangle lighting here. He’s hit with a medium Chimera
softbox and AB800 strobe with two other AB800’s with 20deg grids to give a
smidge of edge definition without being “edge lights” so they are only about ½ stop
hotter than main. Since he is wearing a mostly white jersey I don’t want to
loose that. I also under exposed the ambient by 1 ½ stops to separate him from
the background. Not the best shot in the world but as I’ve said it’s all about
making something happen regardless of the conditions.
Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8 @ 24mm
normally work in the office, he works from home or the road but went to the
Foundation office so that I could photograph him with the staff. Here I
switched from Mr. Lit Portrait to Mr. Documenary Dude. I kept the strobes in
the bag and worked ambient.
Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: AF-D 50mm f/1.4
Here he’s signing a book for a doner. The expression is what
makes it work for me. That’s the happy and positive dude he is.
Lens: AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8 @ 20mm
The whole day I was remembering all the time I trained and sacrificed to be like him. I was in no way blessed to have his genes for cycling success but that didn't stop me from trying. My morning with Davis is one that I will never forget.