Posts Tagged ‘Soccer’

From the Toot-My-Own-Horn-Dept.: The peak has been scaled: Popular Photography is running a Chinatown Baller along with a little interview in its May issue. The printed version even has the Umlauts over my name (now that’s fancy).

In other news (but still from the Toot-My-Own-Horn-Dept.), Number 3 Magazine just published the Saltfalt portion of my Giddy Up series on it’s website.

A big “thank you” to Miriam, Lindsay, Jae and Lori at Popular Photography and to Mark at Number 3.

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During the planning, shooting and promoting of the Chinatown Ballers, I had, for obvious reasons, the imagery of football on my mind, and since I was gripped by a sense of nostalgia for a time before the internet I explored the internet for images from when I was a little boy (or “wee lad” in proper football nomenclature). My becoming a soccer fan coincided with the time when German Fussball was at it’s very peak. The teams from the early 70’s were filled to the rim with great players, who were in turn filled with the spirit of rock’n’roll, or something. In any case all these guys could be timemachined into nowadays Williamsburg and, while ordering a macchiato, make a barista feel squarish.

So let’s start with the great “Kaiser” Franz Beckenbauer, the innovative play-making defender and early expert on mustache irony.

Here he is showing New Yorkers how to simultaneously impress his mom, his grandma and his girlfriend while sporting a little powder-blue baggy. How did he do it? I wish I knew.

Great minds think alike…

…which leads us to Gerd Müller. Possibly the best German player of them all, definitely the best striker by far, which is why he gets to wear this outfit:



Here he scores the winning goal in the ’74 World Cup final against the Netherlands…

and that’s why he gets to smoke a big cigar with Paul Breitner….

…speaking of Breitner: Here was a man who was not afraid to engage in an Afro-deathmatch to the death with England’s Kevin Keagan…

…tell fratboys all over the world how to turn indigestion into a headache…

…show men what men shorts should look like on men (together with Uli Hoeness)…

…and yet be a sensitive art lover deep down inside…

…just like Guenter Netzer…

…a moody midfield genius…

…who knew his place at a pool…

…or on a very fast, sexy car…

…just like Sepp Maier…

…the backbone of the defense…

…who’d go after any ball…

…in any condition…

…and never lose his head.

Last but definitely not least there was Berti Vogts, one of my favorite players.

Though he was a bit undersized, his ferocious defending earned him the nickname “the terrier”.

And yet, he was man enough to read a book in a romantic setting…

…and keep his forwards (Jupp Heynckes in this case) happy, no matter how.

Let’s finish with Rolf Hayo’s terrific shot of Gerd Mueller pounding a ball through seven window panes, symbolizing a soccer mom’s dream and nightmare simultaneously.

A nice source for more good, clean images of German soccer is http://bundesligaclassic.tumblr.com/.

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Some of the regular highlights of my New York existence are the amateur soccer games I play in Chinatown. Some fellow kickers and I started to get together quite a long time ago for a midweek pick-up game on a 7 a side pitch at the edge of Barrio Chino. The game proved to be very robust and survived the cold winters, hot summers, stretches of low popularity, stretches of too much popularity, and many personnel changes for over a decade now. Even though soccer has its fair share of whiners, complainers, braggers, spoiled brats, bullies, people teetering dangerously close to sanity, as well as people that are all of the above, we managed to keep the game clean, competitive, friendly and fair.

Out of this pick-up game a weekend league named Groupstage evolved thanks to the efforts of Matt

and Tomas.

Matt and I have been bouncing the idea of a photo shoot around for quite a while, partly to promote his league, partly to promote my business, but also to do something creative with people we like to hang around with. As a matter of fact we’ve been talking about it for so long that it got kind of embarrassing. So this November I finally got my derriere in gear and picked a date for the shoot. Production becomes much easier with a deadline.

I started off with a location scout. The shoot had to be on a weekend or an evening when people would have a bit more time, and I don’t really like working in the evening, since then’s when I do my deep thinking. Field time on weekends is at a premium with tons of leagues competing for space. We decided on a field in Brooklyn that had good turf and was big enough to claim a corner for the shoot even while people were playing. Since the budget was midgety and since I’m still a bit confused about the (not so)new NYC permit process I decided to chance it and shoot permission free.

Since I was going to take action shots, flash sync speed became an issue. I normally shoot with a RZ67 with a 1/400 sync speed. I usually like to get a little blur, since I’m kind of bored with all the full freeze shots out there (if you can’t do something, it’s usually best to pretend that you wouldn’t want to do it anyway), but at that speed (1/400th that is) it’s sometimes hard to get just the right amount of movement. My pal and fellow photographer Juergen Frank was nice enough to loan me his Phase One 645 body and I rented a new Schneider lens with a sync speed of 1/1600. Beside the lens I rented a Profoto 7b with 2 heads (in addition to the 2 packs and 4 heads that I have), and a ton of sandbags. The rentals this time came from Nucleus in Red Hook.

The right amount of blur.

I worked with Chris as my one and only assistant and we set up a grey muslin backdrop that I had stuck in the dryer twice and ironed (!) the night before just to decide that we didn’t really like the grey for this set-up. Emotionally it was hard for me to let go, since I really don’t like ironing, but eventually I agreed with Chris and we put up a black cloth.

The next problem was surprisingly sync speed. Even though the lens can handle 1/1600, we could only get it to work properly at 1/800th. I’m still not sure why. One theory is that the radio slaves wouldn’t work that fast, but if anybody can think of another explanation, let me know. Luckily 1/800th gave me just the bit of blur I was looking for, so whew.

Bad backdrop, bad sync, good assistant.

Between these two issues we were still in a bit of a scramble by the time the first player showed up. Fortunately nothing else went wrong and we could start to concentrate on taking pictures. I set up 2 cameras, the 645 with the 110 mm and a Phase One P45+ at a distance for the action shots and full portraits and the RZ with a 90mm and my own P25 for close-ups. The RZ is a beautiful camera for tight portrait work and it cut down on time for lens changes.

Shooting action with an unfamiliar camera proved also to be not so easy. The shutter release point was way further back than in the RZ and the ball was often already in the fence when I took the shot. There was definitely a larger than usual blooper reel:

For lighting we set up 2 7B packs with 4 heads with regular reflectors from the front and the sides. We had another 7B with 2 heads coming from behind the models from each side and there was also a bit of sunshine from high and right.

The postproduction was minimal except for darkening the backdrop, and dealing with a bit of glare we sometimes got from the backlights, because the players didn’t always end up in the same place, and removing the shadow of a light or two on the floor, and cropping, and sexyfying the color, contrast and saturation a bit.

au naturel

a la vogue

If you’re thinking about joining a league in New York and playing against some of these handsome devils here, you might want to check out Groupstage.

If you want to read a roaming, eclectic, soccer-inspired blog, with league news thrown in for good measure, check out the Groupstage Blog.

If you want to read ( and I mean read) a roaming, eclectic, mildly melancholic, soccer-inspired blog, without league news but in German ( I know you Germans are out there), check out Freitagsspiel.

If you want to see the entire Chinatown Ballers series, click here.

Hope you all have a high scoring 2012.

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There’s a new gallery on my website with portraits and action shots of some of my NYC soccer colleagues. A more in depth post will follow shortly. In the meantime a big “thumbs up” to Matt Penrose at Groupstage who helped organize the shoot, posted it on his blog, and runs a terrific league, in case you’re looking for a game.

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From the Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: After a good summer with lots of travel and some interesting projects, it’s almost enough with the fun now and back to work. But let me start the long, dark drudge towards winter by bragging about a few good developments here:
Recent Heavy Light interviewee Stephen Mallon made it to the finals at Critical Mass,

© Stephen Mallon

and so did our pal Manjari Sharma.

© Manjari Sharma

My good friend and office mate Myriam Babin won with her blog New York Kitchen at a contest that will be officially announced in the near future, but can not be named just yet. It will be juicy, though.

© Myriam Babin

Julie Grahame (recent guest contributor for The Heavy Light) got a big shout-out from PDN in their last print issue for my favorite internet photo magazine aCurator.com,

© M. Sharkey

and yours truly placed second at the International Photography Awards (The Lucie Awards) with the Giddy Up series (Advertising/Self Promotion),

got an honorable mention for The Sultans (People/Portrait) again at The Lucies, (unfortunately the IPA galleries look a bit like they were designed by a blind squirrel),

and placed second at the Grand Street Cup Soccer Tournament with the Kaledonian Klowns (yes, be careful, when you let a Scottish bar owner name your team!).

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On June 11th the wait will finally be over. 32 teams from all over the planet will meet in South Africa to figure out which nation will be on top of the soccer heap for the next 4 years. The best players will try everything to become legends. Ordinary people will strut like roosters if their team is winning or lose every last ounce of self esteem if their country can’t make it out of the group phase. Productivity levels all over the world will be way down. Good times.

Much, much further down the skill ladder I have been playing New York City soccer and it has been nothing short of a great experience. For years I’ve been playing every Wednesday at the edge of Chinatown in a game that was started by English, Irish and Scottish bartenders and has since expanded to include a regular cast of footballers from Mexico, Brazil, Australia, China, Sweden, Vietnam, the United States, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Columbia, Turkey, Austria, France, Germany (of course) and maybe even the occasional Welshman.

Beside the obvious benefits of exercise, comradery and acquaintance with bar-tenders, the game has also been a great source of models, for all sorts of shoots, for me. A lot of soccer players know how to move, and quite a few know how to act. Especially the Italians.

In the picture above I photographed Hassan, a very skilled Moroccan striker and Peter, a tough Irish midfielder during a stock shoot for Getty.

We shot at a studio with a cement floor cushioned by an extra thick futon mattress, that’s why we needed a tough guy for the flying header.
We lit the place with a mix of Pro Acutes and Elinchromes. The flash duration was a bit on the slow side, so we got a tiny amount of motion blur which I like better than the completely frozen look. The 2 players were shot separately and combined in Photoshop. The camera was a Rollei 6003 with an 80 mm lens and we shot on Kodak NC 160.

Enjoy the World Cup and let’s all hope the German team wins.

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