Friday, June 23, 2006

Jai-alai Player

Dick Herbst and I had been good friends for a few years, and we'd worked together at a few publications, when he called me up to see if I was game for a new venture. The Miami Jai-alai Fronton was often used off season for rock concerts, and I guess that's how Dick made the contact. He wanted to put together an ad campaign using stroboscopic photos of a player in action at a time when just the stroboscope itself was was state of the art high-tech and Dr. Edgerton's invention had been used for little beyond showing a golfer's swing in action. Nothing on this scale!

We found a place in North Miami that would rent us a unit that had enough output, likely the only one that big south of Atlanta, bought some gaffer tape and a bolt of cheap black cotton fabric, then off to the fronton. The fronton had ladders. It took us a couple of hours to cover the floor and back wall up to about 15 feet with the black cloth. I set up a second ordinary flash on a light stand. I think that was my 100 watt second Minicam EF-100. The rented unit could put out about 30 watt seconds per flash, but only if it wasn't really cranking them out.

The tripod mounted Leica M4 had a 35mm Summicron lens set at about f/8, and it was equipped with a long cable release. It was nearly pitch black in the fronton. The idea was the player would run, leap swinging his cesta, and Dick would turn the stroboscope on and off when the player passed certain marks. I'd open and close the shutter, and manually trip the other flash at the peak of the leap. I don't thnk we made more than ten or twelve exposures in total. Pictures based on that sessions were used in ads and on billboards, and graced the sides of buses for several years. Dick and I always thought that we'd been grossly underpaid, considering all the mileage that they got out of those photos.

This print shows "silvering" along the edges, either from not being archivally processed, mounted on an acidic mounting board, or possibly being stored unprotected in a leather case all these years. Todd Frederick "corrected" the scan in Photoshop to look like a nice new B&W silver gelatin print, but I decided to run it the way it really looks after all these years, just a bit sepia with the bluish silvering.


Anonymous Mukul Dube said...

Complicated procedure, I must say: but the result is worth it. Pity about the print. Came here from Wasn't Edgerton's first name Harold? MD alias

2:07 PM  

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