Apologies to all the Knick fans for the banner picture of Reggie Miller, the Knick Killer. When he went pro, and became a Pacer, and a 6′ 7″ nightmare for my beloved Knicks, I really started hating the guy. But, I did make a helluva picture of him when he was in college.
This blog is inspired by my blood brother, Mike Corrado, of Nikon. Known him for over thirty years. He’s gone through many iterations as a sublimely talented photog, from a rock and roll guy and baseball shooter to now, as he wonderfully, passionately pursues winged creatures. He’s got an Instagram called mikethebirdnerd, and he recently posted the below, mentioning that the pic resulted from two NEF files, edited in camera, using image overlay. Just beautiful.
I looked at this and was like, holy bird shit, have we got game! Z 9, matched up with long glass. Great talent matched with great camera tech.
I harked back to a story I did for LIFE called “Spaceman of the Year,” about the legendary exploits of astronaut Mike Foale. He had survived what many regard as the most dangerous duration in space, being onboard MIR, the Russian space station, when it was struck by a resupply vessel. Using science smarts and grit, Foale made a six hour EVA walk to repair the damage.
The portrait was made just by Galveston Bay, Tx. The moon was shot in a parking lot in Syracuse, NY. I knew I had the Foale assignment coming, and I was chewing on it. On a frigid cold night in upstate NY, I saw a crystal clear moon, and shot it on Kodachrome. I measured the film lead as it spooled into the camera, and marked it with a piece of gaffer tape. When I finished the roll, I rewound….carefully. And carried the roll to Houston, l led it into the camera again…carefully. I knew ballpark where the moon should be in my frame, positioned Mike, and a light, waited for dusk, and shot the above on one piece of film.
So, what’s a bird, the moon in Syracuse, and a spaceman on a dock got to do with Reggie Miller?
The year college hoops instituted the three point rule, I offered the notion to Sports Illustrated that these fabled basketball marksmen “shot from deep space.” I volunteered I could use a front projection technique and bounce these guys off a trampoline into the cosmos. It was back in the day when SI had more money than sense, and they sort of said, okay.
Front projection relies on a highly reflective screen, populated with millions of glass beads. If you are perfectly on axis to the screen, the reflective aspects of it are phenomenal. If you are even slightly off axis, ya got nothin’. I rented a front projection unit, powered by a 3,000 ws strobe, and the biggest front projection screen in Hollywood, borrowed some space imagery from NASA, and we were off to the celestial spaces. The screen, as I recall, was so large and unwieldy we had to hire Flying Tigers air cargo specialists to zoom it around the country.
And I had to light Reggie….carefully. Lots of gobos, scrims, cutters, flags–call them what you will. But my strobe light could not touch the screen. Any scattered light on that screen, and bye-bye reflected image. Same deal below, with Roger McClendon.
The mechanics of front projection are legendary, and I don’t claim to be any measure of an expert. I used it once. It was interesting to me how the process seemed to infuse the athletes with a bit of an extraterrestrial glow, perhaps stemming from the half silvered mirror I recall the unit being fitted with. The technique allows the projected image to radiate brightly, while the subject is not influenced by that image. You are free to then light the subject as you might want to….carefully.
Lots of stuff on this shoot! Huge screen, huge trampoline, huge sound stage. Reggie is, after, quite tall, and bouncing him off that trampoline had its moments. Lots of space required. And some guts. When I proposed this to Sports Illustrated, I didn’t have a clue, really that I could pull it off. All the pix on the blog are shot on location, one piece of film. Sigh of relief when the job was done.
So, a bit of a ramble, inspired by Mike Corrado, who used today’s tech, in marvelous fashion. Prompting me to journey to a galaxy that’s now far, far away.
And a tip of the hat to Reggie, who was an amazing player, along with McClendon. Reggie was fun and personable on the shoot. I liked him. Until he started killing the Knicks. Then I didn’t.