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AMGEN: from Ground Zero by Lenny La Rue, IPA

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Well, it took a bit of being pushy, being in the right place at the right time, and some assertive bravery (read “bold BS”). But I was handed an official AMGEN race press pass and a ‘press exclusive’ photographer’s vest at the AMGEN Tour Of California Bicycle Race Prologue yesterday in Sacramento, California. Parking was bad so I decided to rough it and walk 9 blocks or so from home. :-D

The deal that got me into the press box was thru an online publisher who runs a 1-man website but knows the ways to get the press access. He’d already had his way into getting the press pass but gave up on the shooting because of a better gig in the mountains with the fresh snowfall. I ran into him – on his bicycle – trying to find the darn press location; not one event official we could find knew. Together we searched the entire course and only found it when we were standing behind it and asked the volunteer where we were. LOL! Then he hunted for his credentials and again got bad information for another hour. When he finally tracked them down and got them to me, he was already late for departing to the other shoot so I asked what he wanted and I was hired.

Nobody ever came to the press tent to organize or give out press packets and even I could figure out nobody was coming and we were on our own. The “we” was one local TV station and I at that point so I started scoping out shooting angles and found that it was virtually impossible from the press tent. Eavesdropping got me the tip on getting over the wall and onto the course while being pushy got me a vest after I was challenged repeatedly by the guy who just didn’t trust me, unfortunately the same ‘stage manager’. He even personally threatened he’d hunt me down if I didn’t give him back the vest.

I bravely joined about 30 other highly privileged people with cameras ranging in value from $1000 (mine) to, including lenses, well over $30,000 (everybody else’s). Where no other local TV channel or radio station was able to go save one, I was allowed to jockey for a cherished position on the race course asphalt! If not for a ‘stage manager’ who knew I was a rookie and a completely silent but hard-nosed guy with A1 quality gear, I would have been the very first photographer of those 30 or so. I had to settle for a very poor second because the guy in front of me was HUGE, his lens was HUGE, and he was sitting away from the wall on a tiny chair and allowed to do it. I was pinned behind him by a cone the manager put almost directly behind Mr. Rude Wide Obstacle but I used a bit of guile to lean around him for a clear shot at the cyclists. Of course, this made it a nightmare for the pros behind me who were allowed to angle only slightly to get any view beyond Mr. RWO or to stand up blocking the view of the Honoured Guests, who had to stay behind the wall we were in front of. But I see it now as a cutthroat situation and I was just a hair too nice this time.

The event was completely disorganized from the press perspective and unless one got there early enough to weed thru all the confusion, bad information, and obvious ‘insider deals’, you were reduced to standing on the wrong side of the track facing the sun, further from the finish line, and unable to even see the cyclists before they were upon you. You were leaning over/around/under other leaning people and trying to get shots where even the best cameras couldn’t focus fast enough. I saw one radio station reporter make a deal with a guy carrying a tiny automatic to get copies of his shots taken blindly from reaching out over the way and guessing the aim. That stung a bit because it could have been me if I’d been in another wrong place at the right time. LOL!

Turns out I was the first to turn a vest in because it started to rain just before the critical time when the best riders were passing and I had absolutely nada for covering the Nikon D80. Arrgh! Fortunately I’d scoped out the fall back position: on the 6th floor of the parking lot overlooking the race. As I was getting there, I was confronted with dozens of cops and none of them looked like AMGEN guards but I finessed my way past them looking like the bumbling old man with an AMGEN badge getting to my car. The elevator let me in and didn’t move. I was about to ring the 911 on the emergency phone when it started moving after about 3 minutes. If I hadn’t been on the flippin’ ground level, I would have been freaked! But it took me to the 6th floor and the overlook of the race. The shots aren’t as good (in fact, they are bad) but I got the top three riders in the world, including Lance Armstrong, crossing the finish line before I was confronted by the police again. They had obviously been watching me scramble for the parking lot but had allowed me to get the last shots before politely asking ‘if I was packing up’. I politely said ‘yes’ and politely got me happy ass down to the ground again.

There, being the ‘early bird’ in the morning really helped because the guards all knew me and trusted me so when I asked to get back into the press booth, they smiled while shaking their heads and said “good luck”. Huh? The crowd in that area had swelled to about 200 skin-tight people and I was about to leave when a TV camera was being brought in and I followed in its wake. LOL! Got me just far enough to see the stage with the winners and “The Governator”, who got a couple rousing boos and then polite applause. I never would have gotten within 100 yards if not for following the camera with my press pass because I walked thru Secret Service, police, CHP, Sheriffs’, FBI, and who knows how many plain-clothed law enforcement. The guard who let me in was sure I wasn’t going to make it. Nevertheless, I was closely watched by at least 5 people who never looked away from me, one of them the bodyguard for the Governor. Hell, I was running around with a BACKPACK they didn’t know was full of photographic stuff and my lunch and not a freakin’ BOMB! LOL!

There it is. The story of my first REALLY, REALLY Big Photography Gig and I’m now waiting for the call from the publisher who hired me but I couldn’t care less about that part. It was a ‘photography credits only’ gig but I learned a mountain of cool stuff about being a pro and running with the professional Big Dogs. If I get published, I’ll send links but for well over 700 shots nobody but I could get, being published: gravy. The experience: priceless.

Vital Statistics


Nikon D80
Nikkor 70 – 200 lens (my newest baby from another failing company in Sacramento)
Focal Length: 200mm
f/stop: 5.6
Exposure: 1/500
ISO: 360
Metering mode: Pattern
Exposure program: action/sports
Exposure offset: none
Editing program: PhotoShopElement 3 for RB enlargement, contrast correction
February 14th, 2009 at 2:29pm, L Street


A big thank you for the featuring in ImageWriting group!

Tags

bikes, racing, bicycles, free, cancer, press, winners, pass, neighbourhood, california, sacramento, lance, vest, armstrong, amgen, governor, tourdefrance

I’m a “scatter-focus” artist. ANYTHING may be here or roundabout my galleries. Expect nothing anywhere and you’ll always be OK. ;-)

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Comments

  • handprintz
    handprintzover 5 years ago

    Great shot and clarity Lenny, l reckon this would compete with all the expensive lenses that were there,congrats on getting the pass,a dream come true to get that close to the action ! l have enjoyed reading all about your day too

  • Thank you very much! The crummy conditions actually put most cameras on the level. We were all reduced to using some sort of automatic setting because the camera could respond to the constantly changing light more accurately than any human could reset it. Even then, hundreds of my best shots didn’t come out because the camera got tricked 1/3 of a second before it shot when a cloud went one way and the rider when the other. This shot was under a mottled sky that you can clearly see in his helmet’s reflection.

    This, like the Governor’s Mansion, was a singular opportunity per rider and I missed so many because of the blinking sunlight and 30 mph speeds I was thrilled when I got home and saw some of them still OK. :-)

    – Lenny La Rue, IPA

  • CraigsMom
    CraigsMomover 5 years ago

    this is a fabulous shot…incredible even. Worthy of a press pass and the police surveilance!!! congrats, Lenny!

  • Thank you very much and I have to agree with the results vs challenge ratio. I’m sure people around me didn’t shoot 5GB and toss out 3GB in the preview computer looks. But I’m VERY happy I bought that $30 8GB SD card. True, it’s very dangerous to have that much data on a single chip – “all your eggs in one basket”. But I would have had to both change batteries and memory cards while in the roadway and that didn’t seem as easy as just using one big card for one big event, copying it straight from the camera into storage, and making a second copy straight from the camera into the editing computer.

    I’m sure the cops are still going over the images of my face they took and I’m also sure they are ready each and every one of these posts about the event as quickly as I can write them. These guys are nothing if not thorough so they probably knew my name, address, spotless criminal history, bank account balance, and camera skill level before I got within two blocks of the Capitol with Arnie in it. By now, they probably know when I buy new pants. LOL!

    – Lenny La Rue, IPA

  • EBmonster
    EBmonsterover 5 years ago

    Great shot.. and love the story!

  • Thank you, my monster! LOL!

    – Lenny La Rue, IPA

  • Cheri Perry
    Cheri Perryover 5 years ago

    WOW Lenny, what a fantastic story. You really did get a chance of a lifetime to learn all you did. No matter that you were able to get some fantastic shots too, but the things you were subjected to and learned doing it…like a journeyman photographer would do…follow the leader and learn. You were a journeyman without a leader and still able to get some fantastic shots. This is one magnificent shot..the clarity and colors and dof are all fantastic.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us all. What a great tale. You might want to copy and paste this story into a word document so you don’t have to write it up again..lol

  • Thank you so very much for ALL those comments, Cheri. :-) And if you only knew how my business partner has been hounding me to save ALL of it, especially Weedy Field’s stories, and write a book. (sigh) Ever know you’re having too much fun to stop? Well, I’m bipolar and the entire concept of “fun” has been alien to me most of my life. Now, I’m having FUN and I don’t wanna stop. I’m freaking ADDICTED to the rush of FUN and I have total control over it. I can take it with me everywhere. I can do things with it after I have other fun with it. And to know that people like the results of an old curmudgeon having FUN, is a joy I never expected to feel.

    I started this little journey in TagWorld and it became a stopping point for everything I did creatively, including the compositions and musical performances, something Red Bubble doesn’t do (yet???? :-) ) And in a matter of weeks, thousands of hours of work were all lost before being sold out to a commercial “human networking” company who announced they would own everything anyone posted!!! I was understandable saddened (read ‘furious beyond my wildest reckonings’) and had to delete every single song, poem, short story, photograph, comment – every single piece of my life in that community. You’d think I’d learn, right? NOT! I’m having too much fun NOW and who knows what tomorrow will bring, if it comes at all in these, the final days. I’m dancing on the point of a needle and if I stop, things might get a bit sticky, ya know?

    The entire planet can copy and paste anything from anyone anywhere if it shows on a computer screen. They can choose ‘the right thing’ and credit an author/composer or they can do ‘the wrong thing’ and say it’s their creation. I’ve come to grips with that after having a piece of music taken all the way to the theme of a major motion picture without my knowledge of it until I saw the movie and yelled, “THAT’S MY ORGAN PRELUDE #1 In C MAJOR!” (I was much younger then so it wasn’t hard to outrun the pissed off patrons. LOL!) Seriously, what comes from me in this lifetime goes out to the planet whether I get paid, credit, honorable mention, or squat. But right now, I’m having FUN and that’s too new and too FUN to handle all the details of the unFUN parts. Oh well! :-D

    – Lenny La Rue, IPA

  • laminarwind
    laminarwindover 5 years ago

    Great shot.

  • Thanks! :-)

    – Lenny La Rue, IPA

  • Lenka
    Lenkaover 5 years ago

    Great shot, great story :)

  • Thank you very much. :-)

    – Lenny La Rue, IPA

  • Wanda Raines
    Wanda Rainesover 5 years ago

    What a wonderful story! Fantastic shot you have captured.

  • Thanks! I hope both brought a smile to your face. :-)

    – Lenny La Rue, IPA

  • Nanmarie
    Nanmarieover 5 years ago

    Your determination paid off West Coast! Awesome image and story.

  • Thank you very, very much, East Coast! And did I see that you didn’t join Image Writing, with all your skills?!?!? Do I need to come over there and….and… and freeze my butt off before turning around and coming back where there no money but no snow either? LOL! And as brave as YOU are with a camera in New York, you should be able to write up stories that will scare the hair off my nipples. :-O

    BTW, this is the bestest of the bestest avatars you’ve ever had! Try not to change it for another month, OK, NYBrat? Hehehe!

    – Lenny La Rue, IPA

  • melant1017
    melant1017over 5 years ago

    Awesome story, congratulations on a wonderful photo :)

    ~A

  • Thank you very, very much. :-) I’m sure you know that there are places you go and you feel right at home? Well bro, this was not one of them but it worked out like a dream come true. Maybe ‘February will never end this year’. I know that would be Martin’s fondest dream. ;-)

    – Lenny La Rue, IPA

  • Philip Golan
    Philip Golanover 5 years ago

    Awesome shot mate. It’s all down to the photographer, and not necessarily to the equipment.
    Your eye and brain reflex, are what created this awesome shot.
    Congratulations and well done.

  • I thank you, sir! As far as I can tell, better gear just shows my limitations with better clarity. LOL!

    – Lenny La Rue, IPA

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