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|| News Item: Posted 2006-11-16

Planes, Rain and Automobiles
By Tim Mantoani

Photo by Luis Garcia

Photo by Luis Garcia

Tim Mantoani photographs Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.
To many of my friends and family, going out of town for a photo shoot with an NFL quarterback is like a rock star going on tour. They conjure up visions of me, a crew of stylists and art directors jet setting off into the sunset, staying at 5 star hotels and hanging out with athletes and their agents. For you sport shooters out there, you know if couldn't be further from the truth. Here is a recent travel story that was too crazy not to share with my fellow Sports Shooters. I knew you would appreciate it most.

I picked up a shoot for DJO, the company that makes the knee brace that Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has been wearing. They inked a deal with him and needed to get some portraits and action shots for an upcoming ad campaign. After several weeks of juggling schedules, they picked a date for the shoot that would take place on a Tuesday in Cincinnati. We were to arrive at the stadium at 11:00 AM for a 12:00 shoot and would have two hours with Carson. "Two hours", I thought to myself, we will be lucky if we get one and I planned my shot list and "game plan" on 30 minutes.

My assistant, Luis Garcia, and myself left San Diego early on Monday mourning. With six cases of lighting, a grip in tow and two bags of cameras as carry on, our check in at the airport was seamless. We were headed to Chicago (I know several of you right now are saying "Chicago, never go through Chicago!") and had a 4:00 PM connection to Cincy. We would get in about 6:00 PM, meet the client at the hotel, go out for a nice dinner and get a full night of sleep.

As we approached O'Hare, the weather took a turn for the worse and we did donuts at 15,000 feet for about an hour. I wasn't too worried since it was early and we had couple of hours to catch the next flight. Finally the lightning backed down and we dropped in. We had about 50 minutes to make the next flight and as fate would have it needed to trek about a mile to another terminal. I broke a good sweat was we picked up the pace to ensure our seats wouldn't be given away and we arrived to an empty desk at our gate. I quickly checked the monitors and our flight had been cancelled. Next, we piled into line at customer service to see how we would be rebooked. Luis stood in the line of angry patrons and I jumped on my cell figuring I could get answers a bit quicker.

It appeared that were in luck and another flight would leave out of our original terminal at 6:30. So we headed back, dropped into Starbucks for an extra boost and I let my client know we would be in late and could meet for breakfast.

Photo by Luis Garcia

Photo by Luis Garcia

Tim Mantoani photographs Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.
So, 6:30 PM turned into 7:30 PM. Once on the plane, we were notified the pilots were coming from another flight and it would be a bit longer. I didn't care that the A/C wasn't on or that the guy next to me was spilling into my center seat or that he might of missed putting on his Right Guard that morning. I was just happy that I was on my way and would make it to the shoot and hoped my gear would as well.

Finally about 8:30 PM a man with a blue cap appeared through the doorway of the plane and a common sight cut through the air. Just then, as if it was the end of the dry season in the Serengeti, the plane began to move as wind and rain struck with a violence that you don't get in SoCal. The pilot announced his arrival and told us that we would wait out the storm and that we would get off the ground but it might take awhile. As 10:15 rolled by the storm had not lifted and the announcement was made that the flight was cancelled and everyone would be rebooked for the morning.

This time the line at customer service, which consisted of eight self serve computers and one employee, was 10 times longer than the men's room during the 4th quarter at Qualcomm. Again, I went to my cell phone and quickly found out the next flight we could get on was at 1:30 PM the next day with an arrival at 3:30 PM. I started asking around if anyone knew the driving distance from O'Hare to Cincy and got answers from three to seven hours. Not convinced I had any real information, we headed down to baggage claim to see if we could even get our lighting gear. Not to our surprise there was yet another line at baggage. We managed to find out quickly that we couldn't claim our bags in Chicago and that they would "most likely" be on the first flight out in the a.m. arriving at 9:30.

Photo by Luis Garcia

Photo by Luis Garcia

Tim Mantoani photographs Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.
With the clock hitting 11:30 PM we started to dial rental car companies to see if we could find a one way ride. A little better than A-Rod in the post season, we struck out the first six calls and drove one out of the park, aka Dollar Rent-A-Car at midnight. So with a long night ahead and what would later be discovered as bad directions, Luis and I headed out into the Chicago night with the wipers blazing in the downpour.

I told Luis I would take the first shift and drive as long as I could. He napped from time to time when the sound of the rain wasn't too deafening. I lasted four hours of white knuckling it down the interstate as lighting bolts danced around me. At times the rain was so bad, I could only drive about 35 mph and had a steady trail of 18-wheelers fly past me in the night. It was just past 4 AM and I stopped for gas, we were somewhere outside of Indy and I had no real idea of how much longer we had to go.

Luis took the wheel about 4:30AM and the next thing I knew the sun was coming up as we crossed into Ohio. It was 7:30 AM and the rain was finally starting to break up. With the time change it was 8:30 AM and then almost 9:00 AM as we rolled through morning traffic to the airport in Kentucky to pick up our luggage. I was greeted by a chipper agent who had clearly had gotten his eight hours of shut eye who informed me that only one of my bags was coming in on the first flight and that the rest would arrive at 1:30 PM.

With little time to spare we started calling around to local camera stores to see who might have any strobes to rent or even purchase. A bit of karma came our way and we found some strobes for rent and it was only about 10 minutes away. After picking up the lights, a seamless background, a monopod and some stands, we headed to the stadium and arrived 15 minutes early. After, greeting my client, who couldn't believe our story, we checked in with security and waited for the Bengal's PR director to show us to our shooting space. The set-up went quick and I breathed a sigh of relief after I plugged in power pack and got a flash as I test fired the camera.

As I predicted, Carson was about an hour late and gave us enough time to get in all our shots. It was good to see him again, the last time I had photographed him was when he was a senior at Rancho Santa Margarita High for the first issue of ESPN The Magazine. I showed him a few of the old images to break the ice and then we got to work. While Carson was very accommodating, it was clear he had another shoot after ours and the sooner we got it done the better.

Photo by Tim Mantoani

Photo by Tim Mantoani

The finished ad for DJO.
It was 2:30 PM by the time we packed up and headed back to return the rental gear and we headed to the airport. Our luggage had just arrived, and we rechecked it back to San Diego. Unfortunately, we were on our way via Chicago. Our flight left on time, but we quickly came to a halt on the runway and were told we were delayed one hour. I was so tired, I really didn't mind, but they put us in the last seats on the plane and they didn't recline. To top it off, in front of us was a screaming two year old that was clearly unhappier than us.

The hour flight had us touch down in time to meet our connection, but then we came to a stop and were told we were waiting for a gate to free up. After 30 minutes we began to move and taxied for what seemed like forever. Next, we were told that there was no one to move the jet way and it would be a few minutes longer. A few minutes turned into a 15 and we got off the plane last since we were seated in the back. Not to our surprise we missed out flight to San Diego by about 15 minutes and knowing about the curfew in San Diego, I knew we were not getting on another flight there that night. Again, I called the airlines and they let me know we were booked on a 1:30 PM flight the next day. Unfortunately, I had a shoot he next morning in the studio at 8:00 AM with a client that had flown in from Detroit and had a stylist and six models booked. The next option was to find a flight to Los Angeles. To make a long story not any longer, our 10:10 PM flight was delayed to 11:10 PM, we got to LA at 1:15 AM, rented a car and I hit the pillow at 3:30 AM in the morning.

When the alarm went off at 6:30 AM, I pried myself from the sheets and psyched myself up for the day. As I drove to the studio in the early morning light to meet Luis at the studio, I laughed a bit to myself thinking, that my friends with 9 to 5 jobs had gotten two full nights of sleep, eaten dinner with their families and were not going to have to wait 30 days to get their paychecks. Yep, this was the life of a sports photographer, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, I love this job.

(Tim Mantoani is a freelance photographer based in San Diego, CA. You can see samples of Tim's work on his website: or on his member page:

Related Links:
Mantoani's member page
Mantoani personal website

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