I've always loved to play sports even when important games were on television. On Sept. 29, 1954, I was playing outside my apartment in Pittsburgh, when my mother stepped outside to tell me that Willie Mays had made a remarkable catch in the World Series. There was no instant replay, no Sports Center. So I missed the play.
I've been eager to go to events. On June 29, 1956, a cousin took me to the second day of the U.S. Olympic Trials at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It was the start of a lifelong love of track and field that has seen me attend three Olympic Games. I was at the 2016 Trials in Eugene, Ore, my ninth trials.
On Dec. 2, 1956, my parents gave me and my brother, Tom, tickets to see the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Los Angeles Rams, 30-13, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. It was the first of more than 500 professional football games I've attended, nearly all as a photographer. That career started in 1981 and hasn't stopped.
As a student at UCLA, I spent many hours on the basketball court, dribbling, shooting, playing intramural games. For much of my early adulthood, I ran thousands of miles, training for marathons. I completed seven with a best time of three hours eight minutes 50 seconds.
In 1979, I started taking pictures for newspaper. It quickly became the most important thing in my life. Sports photography enables me to keep alive that childhood love of play as I age. The camera and telephoto lens makes you a participant. Sometimes, you have to accept the bruises of the game. I've been run over by the players five times at an NFL game and once had my foot broken by a TV camera truck.
I'm certain all the hours of play and practice provided the background for my sports photography. perhaps, as much as any photography class. Football i say favorite sport to shoot, especially the NFL, because there so much more action. You get a sense of how fast NBA players are when you have to switch from a camera with a long lens to one with a short lens quickly.
The Oracle Coliseum in Oakland is much criticized for its antiquated facilities but the reflective powers of the windows on the luxury boxes on the east side provide lovely, movie-set like lighting in the second half of games in November and December.
Film photography was very much like participating in the game as you struggled to focus on the action. Your eyesight and reflexes were tested to the limit. Auto-focus digital photography has devalued many action pictures but kept the careers alive of many older photographer including myself.
I've shot Junior All-American Football, high school, junior college and the NFL all in the space of three days. I listened to the painful loss of the Boston Red Sox to the New York Mets on Bill Buckner's error in 1986 while photographic a Riverside Community College football game.
Every game I watch on television, I look at from the perspective of what are the photographers are doing.