Anywhere I go with a camera, the first thing I look for is what I can climb onto to make a photograph. I have always loved high angles. When I covered tennis at the old Hughes Courts in Topeka in the early 70’s, my camera angles were always grounded. The only stands available were a few wooden bleachers and lawn chairs set outside the fences in the small grass area between a quiet street and the court’s fencing.
Friends Fred Esch and Ken Boggs met in the finals of one tournament. Knowing that, I decided this was my chance to make photographs from a different angle. All I needed was an extension ladder. Light aluminum or fiberglass ladders were not yet available. My father’s heavy wooden ladder proved to be my only option.
My car was a Volkswagen Beetle. A round roof and a straight wooden ladder. Hardly the best combination for easy travel. Yet with some old blankets on the roof, ropes running through both windows, and the ladder ends tied down to the front and rear bumpers, I creeped my way along city streets to the courts.
Today, I would take photographs of the crazy rigging and post them to Twitter. Back then, it was just part of trying to do my job well. It seemed I spent less time covering the match then I did lashing the ladder to my car, removing it for the match, then lashing it back on the roof before finally returning home after work.
With the ladder extended and resting on the fence behind the baseline, Esch and Boggs seemed to enjoy having me hanging like a vulture from on high to take photographs from what was then a very unique angle. Thankfully, Esch’s quick reaction, snap volley at the net made a photograph for the newspaper worth all the effort.