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Posts Tagged ‘NFL football’

Back in 1985, I was a year out of film school and had worked my way up from a freelance photographer to being the Director of Photography for Yary Photo. It was a still photography gig mostly centered around taking team photos of sports teams throughout Southern California. My last post was on taking the 1985 Los Angeles Rams team photo, but there was another pro team we shot that year—the L.A. Raiders. I didn’t take the photo below, but was part of the Yary photo team that helped setup the shot.

There were many challenges to shooting this kind of photo. You don’t get to pick the ideal time to shoot the photo. You have limited options to work with lighting and backgrounds—because you are on their practice field in El Segundo. You’re working with both white and black jerseys and shirts, and light and dark skin tones of players and coaches which are exposure and dynamic range challenges. And you have a limited time to setup and shoot the photo, because this was taken right before practice. And Photoshop wouldn’t be developed for another two years.

So all in all I think this photo holds up pretty well over the years. Perhaps the thing that bothers me most is he heavy fill flash shadows falling in some of the coaches. But this was shot in the days before digital cameras (with an Mamyia RZ 67) and Norman strobes. I guess taking Polaroids could have heaped tweak things, but there wasn’t time to take Polaroids and make little tweaks. (I once watched an advertising photographer spend over four hours lighting a marine depth finder for a brochure cover. This was not that kind of shoot.)

But forget the nitpicking that photographers love to do. This was a great life experience. I was 24-year-old and hanging out with some legendary pro football players. Many of these players were on the Raiders team that won Super Bowl XVIII in January 1984. Some of these players were even on the Oakland Raiders that won Super Bowls in 1977 and 1981. Players I remembered watching play on TV when I was in high school. Some of legendary players in that photo are Marcus Allen (32), Lyle Alzado (77), Jim Plunkett (16), Howie Long (75), Mike Haynes (22), Cliff Branch (21), Lester Hayes (37), and Ray Guy (8).

There are interesting stories buried in that photo. One of them is the head coach of the ’85 Raiders was Tom Flores (in the center in the third row from the bottom). He was not only the first person to win Super Bowls as a player and as a head coach, but he was the first Latino head coach to win a Super Bowl. When the 84-year-old Flores was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year, the son of migrant workers in Central California referenced that he said to assistant coach Sam Boghosian after his first Super Bowl win, “Sam, not bad at all for a couple of grape pickers.”

Art Shell (who is also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame) was an assistant coach on the ’85 Raiders after his playing days were on and before be would become a head coach.

One of the non-player/non-coach related stories is one of the Yary photographers on that shoot was Robert Galbraith. (Pictured below l in shorts talking to QB Rusty Hilger #12 in an old photo I found during the COVID pandemic.) Galbraith had been a photojournalist in West Virginia and I was blown away by his portfolio. And I learned a lot from him. He had headed west to see where his skills would take him in Los Angeles. The next year he did some freelance work with AP before becoming an AP staff photographer. He later became a staff photographer with Reuters in San Francisco. Over his career he covered Barry Bonds and Tiger Woods in their prime, the America’s Cup, and several Super Bowls. Back in 2016, Insider named one of his photos taken on assignment after Hurricane Katrina on their list of “62 of the most powerful Reuters photographs ever taken.”

Galbraith spent a over a month in Florida this past December and January working on a book project of photographs in the style of the classic Robert Frank book The Americans. I was able to meet him for a couple of hours in Mt. Dora, Florida and hear about some of his adventures in the last 30 years. He’s been posting his travel photos on Facebook and Instagram (@rindeaux) and it really is remarkable work. He’s still in the game—and performing at a high level. Here are a handful of my recent favorites he’s allowed me to publish here. (All taken with his Leica camera and a 50mm lens.)

At the end of meeting Galbraith last month, I pulled out my Nikon and tried to capture a photo of a man whose eyes have seen a few things, and packed in a few miles, since leaving Wheeling, West Virginia many images ago.

Photographer Robert Galbraith in Mt. Dora, Florida

P.S. Sometime around when I was in film school, I made the the trek from Burbank to Hollywood via Barham Rd. one day and saw what is still my all time favorite billboard. A graphic image of L.A. Raider Lester Hayes in his crouched position as defensive back. Just one striking image. I had no clue what the billboard was even advertising when I first drove by it. Later, I saw the Nike swoosh in the corner. It was boldness and subtlety at the same time.

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