Several weeks ago I mentioned I don’t tend to be as risky taking pictures as I did before I got married and started raising children.
Since no one asked, here are the three stupidest things I’ve done with a camera in my hand:
• Remember when the water tower was painted about a dozen years ago?
Rather than stand on the ground and look up at the painters doing their job, I decided I’d rather be on top of the tower looking down toward them.
I got permission from the city to climb the ladder in the stem to the top.Then the painters put me in a safety harness and lowered me onto one of their scaffolds.
I got the photos, then had to jump back onto the tower and grab a rope to pull my way up to the top of the dome.
That required me to unhook the safety harness, straddle an 18 inch gap to the dome — just narrow enough for me to slip through if I missed — and make a lunge for the end of the rope just out of reach.
I’m writing this now, so obviously I made it. But for a second or two there I was scrambling for the rope on the side of the dome with no foothold, and a 150-foot drop if I missed.
• A few years after that, Jackpot Junction held snowmobile races in their outdoor amphitheater.
I got admitted to the pit area in the center of the track, and decided to get a shot of a snowmobile jumping off a small hill and flying by at about 70 miles per hour.
I noticed a steel pole sticking out of the ground by the small hill.
“Well, if I stand behind that steel pole I should be okay,” I said to myself.
Huddled behind a steel pole, I held my camera out to get some nice, wide-angled shots of snowmobiles literally flying by.
Did you know snowmobiles aren’t the most controllable objects on Earth? Especially when they’re blasting off small hills at 70 miles per hour?
After one particular snowmobile flew by at chest height like a missile, close enough I could have reached out and touched it, I said to myself, “You know, steel pole or not, maybe I’ll take a few steps back now.”
I did, right across the parking lot, into my car, and another six miles to home.
• In 1999 I got a chance to see President Bill Clinton give a speech about agriculture at a farm near the Twin Cities.
Page 2 of 2 - The reporters were kept at least 100 feet back on a flatbed truck while the speech was going on. When it was over, the audience surged forward to meet-and-greet the president, while the reporters sat on their flatbed truck and were bored.
“Well, the heck with this,” I said to myself. “I’m going to see how close I can get to the president before the Secret Service guys throw me out.”
I got closer and closer, taking pictures all the while. When I was about 20 feet away, a photographer from the Star-Tribune stepped in front of me, saw me aiming my camera, and said, “Oops! I’m in your way.”
That led me to say the single stupidest sentence I’ve ever said in my life.
With the President of the United States 20 feet in front of me, in a crowd surrounded by armed Secret Service agents, I announced, “Oh, that’s okay. I’m just here to get a head shot of the president.”
(“Head shot” is photographer talk for “portrait.”)
Then I realized what I had just proclaimed. Boing!
I gritted my teeth and waited for the bullets to start slamming into me, but nothing happened. I guess I must not have fit someone’s profile, because they let me keep getting closer to Clinton. I eventually did get the frame-filling head shot I wanted.
But even so, sheesh.