The Memphis Grizzlies are out of the NBA playoffs. I’m sure to many fans, that’s not completely startling news, as their first round opponent was the formidable San Antonio Spurs. But I did check in on the Griz’ season occasionally just to monitor the remarkably durable Vince Carter, still in the league, still productive, at the positively geriatric age of 39. Lots of pro basketball players are relaxing on the links by that time, or manning a mike and doing commentary, not banging and slashing to the hoop.
I shot Carter for SI for Kids, back in the day. Shooting for the magazine, which went by the nickname SKids in the hallways of Time Inc., was, at the time, a license to pull out the gels, and be a little less than serious behind the camera. Shoot and have fun. It is, after all, a magazine for kids.
Lighting for athletes in action is very much a tried and true formula. Rim light! Electrify the presence of the player! You can do this with strip lights, or other shapers, but for real hard contrast-y rims, you can also simply use a hard light, sans shaper. As you can see below, my old style Speedotron flashes have just simple relfector pans, each sporting a honeycomb grid. The light up front can also be simple, a bit hard, with an edge. No real protocols to observe here, just make it look cool.
A completely illustrative cover like this calls for lots of room, to let the art director do his or her thing. The original frame is above, with ample space all over the place, for type and title, and for the explosive Mr. Carter to do his Air Canada thing. I gave him his mark, and he did the rest. Remember this is shot on a 6×7, manual focus camera, so stepping back from the usual tighter framing was a prudent thing to do for reasons of depth and sharpness.
Skids went to town with it on the cover, running with the red glow of the rim light treatment.
He looks pretty fearsome, to be sure, which of course is one of his court trademarks. A gold medalist member of USA basketball in 2000, the 6’6″ Carter memorably dunked over the the 7’2″ French center, Frederick Weiss at the games in Sydney. The French press took to calling it “le dunk de la mort.” (“The dunk of death.”)
But on this day, he showed up pretty languid, and tired, as many pro athletes are on their days off. They rest. They save the heat and the juice for the field or the court, when it matters, which is what they are paid to do. A cover for a kids magazine? You want me to do what?
But he did, graciously. I got pretty antsy, actually, as in the first few of a very few total frames, he was just half jumping, mailing it in. I looked at him. I said, “Is there anything I can say to you to get you riled up?” He looked at me quizzically. I said, “How about this? I actually like Patrick Ewing!” (Then the center for the New York Knicks.) “See that camera on the tripod? That camera is Patrick Ewing.”
I got a good couple of jumps, and we were done. More tk……