Tough To Bring Down

August 23rd, 2010
It's college football preview week on the JLP blog featuring 2 stories in the new issue of ESPN the Magazine... what can I say, they rawk and I loves me some college football so here we go. First up is a profile of returning Alabama running back, National Champ and Heisman winner Mark Ingram. Mark is rock fucking solid, truly a powerhouse who seems to be instinctually competitive in absolutely any sport, whether he's ever played it before or not. My buddy, ESPN rockstar writer Alyssa Roenigk saw this in person as Ingram, wearing flip flops and using borrowed clubs, innocently rocketed 300+ yard drives while giving an interview (he was a high school phenom in golf as well). Mark also struck me as a nice, outgoing and thoughtful guy who happens to be right in the middle of one of the greatest moments in his life as The Biggest Thing in a state that cares an awful lot about its football. Not uncommon for a ESPN shoot there was going to be a video crew there for the network, which though its usually not ideal it's also not a big deal to me (if I'm doing my job right it doesn't matter what else is happening). What my editor didn't mention was that the video crew wasn't just shooting along side of us doing their own piece on Mark... they were actually doing a behind the scenes on our shoot itself and I would be miced up and talking about my plan for the shoot, etc.. And that's all good, but give me a head's up!! As it is I'm totally unshaved, sweating my balls off in 100+ degree Tuscaloosa summer heat (plus insane humidity and a massive thunderstorm threatening of course) and carrying around a 30 lb. backpack (filled with one of my Hensel packs) that made me look like a Ghostbuster. But that's life and here's the BTS video featuring me and my assistant Brian: Because Mark is truly the big man on campus at Alabama our plan for the shoot was to simply follow him around and let his celebrity draw a crowd of fans (hence my mobile Ghostbusters set-up, and Brian manning the mini-boom with a Softlighter II). The only small problem is of course we shot this in June, when Tuscaloosa is basically empty (it was actually finals week of summer session) so there were absolutely zero people on campus (plus its super gross weather). My idea, which was turned down flat by the university, was to send a tweet an hour before our shoot announcing that Mark would be around. We told Mark that idea and he got big eyes saying that would have been a total riot... so maybe it's better that we didn't. Instead we had Mark all alone at iconic Denny Chimes, all the while searching the horizon for any people who might wander past (eventually one family did and we quickly recruited them just as our time was ending and the thunder began). As you can hear in the video I pushed a little on the Heisman thing (that's my job) and got at least a dozen out of Mark (though I think the magazine wisely didn't use them). We also talked about lone fumble during last season (vs. Tennessee) and it was pretty cool to see him totally switch gears and talk so earnestly about that mistake and sense his commitment to himself and his team it wouldn't happen again. All in all it was a fun, sweaty shoot that didn't at all go how it was planned, which is basically the name of the game in editorial photography.

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