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|| News Item: Posted 2002-12-10

Workshop or Woodstock?
The 2002 Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau

By Dave Black

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin

Photo by Grover Sanschagrin

OK, what looks strange in this photo? Can you spot it? YES!! ONE guy is wearing a COWBOY HAT! From left, Lucas Gilman, Myung Chun, Ronal Taniwaki, and Dave Black.
As I boarded the jet that would carry me home, take me back to my office and the Rocky Mountains that surround it, back to reality from a workshop experience I was not familiar with, I said to myself " DUDE " … Hold on, is that my voice?

Could that be me talking? Let me explain…

I knew something was different the moment I stepped into the lobby of the Manhattan Beach Marriott on Nov.1. This was not like most workshops. In fact, the word workshop could be misleading. Convention … no, bigger. Happening … no, bigger. WOODSTOCK! … Yes! And I felt a bit like an outsider, but not for long.

This feeling of outsider was of my own doing as I moseyed up to the checki-n counter wearing Wranglers and a black cowboy hat. I was greeted by Jessica, " Hello, and welcome to the beautiful Manhattan Beach Marriott, I see you are not with a group."

" Well " I said, " actually … (gulp) ...I am."

There was a " Mass of Humanity " to quote Howard Cosell, movin' and shakin' around the lobby in Hawaiian shirts , shorts and sandles. I got on the elevator and was immediately squeezed in by ten "shirts". They looked at me, I looked at them and one of them said: "Dude, here for a Rodeo?"

"Something like that " I answered. There was great excitement in their voices as I heard the names of the faculty mentioned: Peter Read, Beck, Hayt, Mangin, Hanashiro, Rickman,Terrill, Mar, Skalij, Seale, Gruber, Black … BLACK!

I felt better.

After taking 3 minutes to settle into my room I headed down to the Main Ballroom to run through my presentation one last time. The elevator was alive with more "shirts" and more conversation… "Are you a real cowboy?" … "Where's the Rodeo? ..."Nice hat! … "What's with the shirts?" They proceeded to tell all what was going to happen over the next 24 hours, how much they would learn, who they would show their work to and how they had been members of Sports Shooter for 100 days, 200days, a year and beyond.

I bid them adios and proceeded to the Main Ballroom, checked out my show, met Jack Gruber my co-presenter and headed to the lobby bar for a sarsaparilla and more questions about cows, horses, my hat and do I chew (I do not).

A couple of young fillies from Brooks Institute of Photography said I should attend the opening meeting and I was instantly swept along with over 250 photographers. The girls swam up stream and I blended in (NOT) with some Canadians. They advised me to take off my hat so as not to be noticed as I entered but I said I'd take the chance.

Too late! Ron Taniwaki, (a close friend from Nikon, the main sponsor) spotted me and questioned me " WHERE'S YOUR SHIRT? WHERE'S YOUR SHIRT? WHERE'S YOUR SHIRT?"

He was referring to a shirt I was awarded some years ago for my high achievement in flyfishing (I had captured an image of myself catching a trout while triggering a remote camera with a Pocket Wizard while standing in the middle of a rushing river in Colorado). I turned to the Canadian group and pleaded for help. They spoke up on my behalf, Ron was laughing and said "OK buddy tomorrow for sure."

Finally inside, no one would sit next to me ... it's a wide brim hat ... but I chatted with my new friends from the North about ... what else … he Calgary Stampede!

Then as the house lights dimmed into darkness and the screen lit up with breathtaking images, U2's "Beautiful Day" filled the room and I was reminded of a concert I attended while in college (Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty, and the original man in black, JOHNNY CASH, all in the same night … boy … those were the days!) We were underway!

Photo by Jay Drowns

Photo by Jay Drowns

Dave Black in action on Friday night at the Luau.
After Bert greeted all of us and gave thanks to everyone involved, Peter Read Miller kicked the evening off with a fantastic show of his advice, humor and images including great football, Olympics and Inga painted gold!

With the conclusion of Peters' show it was now time for Jack Gruber of USA TODAY and myself to keep the ball rolling. I turned to one wildly applauding "shirt" and said " that Peter Read fella had some terrific snapshots." He then educated me on just what I had witnessed but added " wait till you see the next two shows, Gruber is amazing and Dave Black is one awesome DUDE! "

Did I hear that correctly, I'm a "DUDE" even without a Hawaiian shirt!

And in that instance I knew what this weekend was all about, it was more than photography, it was more than a portfolio review, it was more than learning about the business and remotes and lighting.

It was about passion. A passion for our profession and all that is involved with the journey that we call our career. Perhaps Robert Beck said it best as he was carried from the stage the same way Jimi Hendrix was swept away that weekend in upstate New York after his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner: " I can't stop taking pictures, I need to get a life!!!!

I was right … this was not a workshop that I was familiar with, it was much bigger … it was WOODSTOCK! DUDE!!!

(Dave Black is a freelance photographer based in Colorado Springs. Black has been to every Olympics since 1984 and his work has appeared in numerous national publications including Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and Time. He is a popular speaker at the Rich Clarkson Sports Photography Workshop and Photography at the Summit. You can see his personal gallery on at:

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Related Links:
Black's member gallery

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