I caught up with a bunch of lifeguards this weekend in Huntington Beach, CA for their National Championships.
Fun + sun = SFD™ + SPF30.
When I told friends I was going, they asked me how they recruit drowning victims. As it turns out, one of the team members swims out to a buoy several hundred yards from the shore. Another will swim out (with or without a line) and retrieve the “victim.” Once on land, they’re carried off to the finish line with two more teammates.
The other fun photo op was beach flag, which involves sprinting about 50 yards and fighting competitors for a piece of hose (flag) poking in the sand. There are more athletes than flags, so there’s usually some great action.
I have a confession to make. I do judge other photographers working alongside me. And if they’re not smiling at these wonderful photo ops, I quickly lose respect. That why I knew that Adam Lau, a summer intern for AP LA, was alright. He was grinning at these surreal scenes, realizing how great it was to be here and not at a press conference. I wasn’t surprised that I liked his online portfolio.
Before I introduced myself, Adam asked me if I was working on a project. “Yeah, it’s on weird sports.” He stared at me for a second and said, “You’re Sol?!” Too funny, made me laugh. Guess the blog reaches here in Cali.
Before any trip, I like to get my ducks lined up in a row, calling officials and asking about media credentials. Didn’t think there would be any problems here, but it’s always better to find out before having boots on the ground.
The flak for Huntington Beach was a really nice cat. But he wanted to charge me a $145 vendor fee. What??!! Dude, I’m a photojournalist, not a vendor. He didn’t see it that way, since I wasn’t representing one of the local newspapers or TV stations.
I went through Corbis, was denied. Tried again through an FLA paper, but they never responded re: freelancers. I was about to send off the check for the vendor fee, but then decided, Ef that! I had a feeling that I’d show up and all would be cool. And of course, it was.
Something in the water here in LA, because it’s the only place where folks try to shake me down for taking photos. First, it was Lucha VaVoom, which denied me a pass because I wouldn’t give away copies of my photos to them. Then it was UCLA, which wanted to charge me $2,000 for a location fee, since they were hosting prom dress rugby on campus. After several phone calls, they finally admitted that I could show up and there was nothing they could do about enforcing that fee at a public event.
And now this with the lifeguards. They even tried to shake down Adam at AP. So nuts. No wonder there was limited media there. I’ve learned my lesson, when I come to LA, I’m just showing up and owning the place. Going through the proper channels only creates problems.
I had actually toyed with the idea of paying the vendor fee, if it’d allow me access on one of the lifeguard boats patrolling the events (it didn’t). While events on the beach are usually fun and epic, there are times I wish I could be shooting from the water towards land – or above in a helicopter. Definitely couldn’t have been done here in LA. But I realize that my perspective was a little narrow, and many of my photos feel the same. (**)
It’s alright. I made a couple I dig.
Part of why I love coming to LA is because I get to visit great friends. I briefly saw Kevin Sully after the first day of lifeguarding. David Noles is moving to NYC in October, so my East LA bureau (couch) will be closing shop. I always love grabbing killer food from the local vendors and laughing with The Noles.
Tonight, I’m catching a soccer game with Rob Gauthier and his wife – as fans!
Lakers, I still hate you. But LA, I love it!
(**) I posted a page of outtakes, which you can see here.