Normally, I would shoot from the side and stay as invisible as possible. That day, for some reason, I requested permission to sit in the back of the triple-jump pit and take pictures. Surprisingly, they said yes, and I jumped in there.
One by one, the jumpers raced down the ramp, hit the board and leaped upward and forward. I realized that the higher you went, the farther you went. I'd lift the camera so far for each jumper and snap the shot, and the jumper would land in front of me. When Robinson's turn came, I lifted the camera, then had to lift it some more; Robinson was flying high and had a bead on me. I snapped the shot; he hit the sand and literally felt forward in my lap, sand flying everywhere.
I didn't expect much, though. The old SLR camera I was using didn't have a light meter, and I just set it at 2000 speed at F4 and prayed. I wouldn't have any depth of field, I thought, but I was hoping I'd get SOMETHING.
I did. Dozens of people lined each side of the jumper's ramp, and you could see every face clearly. Robinson was sharp, and the only things about him out-of-focus were his windmilling hands. That picture told a story, and the cutline below it explained that Robinson easily won the triple jump.
It was more than I could have hoped for, much less expect. I never knew if Robinson liked it; to me, it was perfect.
More blog entries by Tom Gillispie
• Advice for be and would-be novelists
Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie
Entries from The Dog Blog
Blog entries from The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)