Usually, the sight of two Highway Patrol cars with red and blue lights flashing, along with my Honda pulled over on the Kansas Turnpike, would be a clear sign I was in trouble with the law. Except last Saturday. This time those KHP cars were actually helping me make a series of wonderful photographs. Here is the story.
KU rowing coach Rob Catloth comes from an arts background and has a real appreciation for a beautiful photograph. Over the years, Catloth has helped me make some memorable photographs of his rowers. We toss ideas back and forth. Then he helps me with the logistics while I do whatever it takes to get the images.
I have mounted cameras all over the boats and sat or stood in various boat seats, including the coxswain’s, to get the right angle. I have photographed KU shells from a variety of follow boats, sank up to my waist in the Kansas River with camera in hand, and stood on top of intakes in the river, all to make the wide variety of artistic images now framed and hanging throughout the KU boathouse.
We have been out at dawn in fog, rain and even snow for dramatic effect. Through it all, there has been one set of images that I failed to capture. I never photographed the KU boats from a bridge as the rowers stroked below me and under the bridge. Those images might be cliché in rowing circles, but Catloth and I agreed the time had come to see what I could do.
However, I could not just park my car on the bridge or walk onto the Kansas Turnpike and start shooting without getting into trouble or putting myself into some foolish danger. That is where the Highway Patrol came to the rescue. A series of phone calls resulted in a trooper escorting Laura and me Saturday to the bridge. Staying back some distance with lights flashing, another Patrol car eventually joined him to provide us with more than enough security. Since that eastbound bridge section of the Turnpike spans three lanes with a wide shoulder, we never slowed the early morning traffic.
Catloth, stressing unity to his team, wanted all his varsity rowers in boats, but did not want their faces to be seen in the poster. The idea was that success comes from the willingness to set aside personal desires for the good of the team effort. That does not mean that other photographs will not get used in their media guide or on display in the boathouse. As we looked over the images on Monday, Catloth was already planning where the large prints would soon be displayed.
Of course, all this would be impossible without the rowers. Saturday morning as the five boats launched on the river just past 7:30, the temperatures were slowly creeping to the upper 30’s with a crisp north breeze. Only so many layers of warm gear fit under a KU rowing uniform. The six passes the rowers made towards the bridge and all their turnarounds had to be painful. Holding the metal cameras, my hands were frozen to the point I was not sure I was even firing the cameras on the final passes.
With all the passes time would allow completed, I said my final goodbyes to the troopers on the Turnpike and waved and shouted my thanks to the rowers on the river. How can I explain how privileged I am to be able to do such wonderful things? Just saying thanks is never enough. My efforts are to make the best photographs my God-given skills allow and through those efforts truly display my thanks to all. With these photographs, I pray the rowers, their coach and the Highway Patrol troopers all can recognize that.