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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2005-07-05

Gone to the Dogs!!!
By Mark Stallings

Photo by Mark Stallings

Photo by Mark Stallings

As his handler fires this dog has locked onto the decoy and is ready to go get it. The handler and his dog won the trial in El Campo, TX.
Any self respecting sports photographer aspires to photograph a National Championship. It's the pinnacle of any particular sporting event. Who in their right mind would ever turn down an opportunity to be assigned to cover such an event?

As long as I have been a photographer, I've dreamed of covering a national championship. Of course, only the best photographers are chosen to cover these events. So, I figure if you get assigned to cover a national championship you've got to be the cream of the crop, right?

I could just see myself standing or kneeling there right beside the likes of Robert (Bert) Hanashiro, Rick Rickman, Peter Read Miller or maybe even a Dave Black (need I go on?).

The call finally came and my dream of covering a national championship finally came true. I couldn't wait. Which Sport Shooter hat should I wear? The bucket style or maybe the baseball style? What color? How should I carry my equipment? A camera casually hanging off my shoulder and one around my neck exuding a kind of sexy photojournalistic type look? Maybe dangle a 400 2.8 nonchalantly off my shoulder in a cocky confident manor? How about carrying a 600 F4 attached to a monopod over my shoulder while flexing my bicep? That would certainly convey a masculine brawny approach. How early should I arrive? One hour or two hours before the event began? No doubt I would need time to rub elbows and swap war stories with all those "big time photographers" who would be covering the championship. I had a difficult time sleeping with all these decisions swirling around in my head.

When the day finally arrived, I was pumped and ready. I drove the 2 hours to the event in deep concentration getting my mind right for the assignment at hand. I would need to be focused and vigilant since I would be working a national championship.

After arriving at the venue, I quickly set up a remote for the crowd's favorite event all the while looking intently for all those "big time photographers" that would surely be there. But, I couldn't seem to locate them. No doubt they would show up soon. After all, this was a national championship.

As the things finally begin, I focused on the job I had been assigned, but I couldn't help wonder where all those "big time photographers" were. Oh well, I had a job to do and I would surely meet up with them during the course of the day. Maybe some of these elite shooters would invite me out to some cool eatery after everything was over. But, for now, I concentrated on photographing the prominent stars as well as the most celebrated personalities of the sport.

I put my heart and soul into capturing these athletes in the most dramatic and unique way I knew how. The biggest and greatest names in the sport were present and I knew they would perform at the top of their physical ability. No doubt you will recognize and be green with envy that I was chosen to photograph this national championship.

Photo by Mark Stallings

Photo by Mark Stallings
Being so close to the fame and the celebrities of the sport it would have been easy to be distracted. With renowned names like Raider, Capp, Koko, Jesse and Achilles. The drama was all-present. All I had to do was capture their pure athleticism in critical and suspenseful moments. I have to admit, even though I was nervous, I felt confident as the field events drew to a close.

As I quickly moved to the next event, I made a hasty search around the pool to locate any of those "big time photographers". I caught a glimpse of a subject holding a camera. Surely this was Bert, Rick, Peter or Dave. But, I couldn't slow down now. I had the most challenging part of the championship yet to photograph and it was the crowd favorite. I would have to have quick reflexes and dead-on focusing to capture these dramatic athletic moments. My heart pounded as the current world champion climbed those steps to prepare to jump. I raised my camera with a 70-200 and prepared as Little Morgan (that is right, the one and only Little Morgan the current World Record holder) raced down the dock and jumped long into the pool.

The rest of the afternoon was just a blur. I did catch site one more time of a photographer whom I'm sure was Bert, Rick, Peter or Dave. But, I was never able to get close enough to find out who it was. I looked around after the event expecting to be invited to dinner and to share highlights of the day with one of those "big time photographers". But, they were nowhere to be found. I guess they had to catch a quick flight to cover another national championship.

I can't wait until next year's Super Retriever Series Crown Championship. The retrievers and the Big Air Dogs are an awesome subject to photograph. It's a great assignment and a fun one. I'll be looking for you Bert, Rick, Peter and Dave at next year's venue. I'm sure you or some other famous sports photographer will be there. But, don't cut out so quick this time. Maybe we can have dinner and swap a few war stories.


(Mark Stallings is a Greenwood, AR-based freelancer who regularly covers the Super Retriever Series and Big Air Dog Events for the Super Retriever Series.)

Related Links:
Mark's member page

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Rick says: "Stop Complaining!" ::..