Coach Mike Ditka Gets A Boost

©2010 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

Legendary Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka made an appearance in a Boost mobile ad during yesterday’s Super Bowl, in which his (one-time) New Orleans Saints went marching out with a victory. 25 years after he led the Chicago Bears to a raucous Superbowl win, Da Coach still is the man for many Bears fans.  My one portrait of him was not made in a studio with an art director, agents, and assistants scurrying around serving everyone’s needs over a sumptuous buffet, with 3-4 setups ready to go. As with most newspaper portraits, this shoot was no-frills – it lasted about 45 seconds in the corner of his steakhouse right after an interview. I had two direct flashes pointed directly at him from both sides – why would you put a softbox on a gritty character like Ditka?  A few frames, and then he had to go. Of the many quickie portraits I’ve made of famous people, this one worked out better than most.

Olympic Hopefuls

OlympicPortraits©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

On a previous post you saw the scene where I photographed quickie portraits of Olympic hopefuls in Chicago at the Palmer House in a room crowded with athletes and other photographers. These were some of the more interesting photos from the bunch. I shot all of them in a vertical format with a tilt-shift lens while using a ringflash. Just a little cumbersome, especially when you only have a couple minutes of shooting time. I also wanted to create a cyan-bluish tone to the images, to create a sense of winter cold. To do so, I used a cyan colored background. The reason it appears white in the photos is because I overexposed it. The white then dissolved into a cyan as the light fell off the subjects – creating a cold edge.  It’s a slight effect. You can see that more in the images of athletes wearing dark colors, or in the duo at bottom. All in all, I enjoyed the process. I was really struck at how the personas of the athletes tended to come out in their pictures, especially among those who have participated in previous Olympics.  I also could see how those personas might possibly outlive their Olympic experiences and endear them to millions around the world.

Keeping Up with Olympic Athletes


©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

What is it like photographing 75 Olympic athletes in 2 and-a-half days? Something of a cross between speed-dating and a three-ring circus.  I was assigned to a room with six other photographers this past week at the Palmer House for the media preview of the United States Olympic Committee. Representing various wire services and newspapers, we were given a few minutes each to shoot portraits of athletes of the 2010 Winter Olympics.  It was the first time I had ever done something like this.  During the cavalcade I was literally bumping my behind against a UPI photographer’s as we avoided trampling each other’s cords and equipment. Because of the loud din, I found myself shouting directions at the athletes who were remarkably good sports about it – given that I was blasting them with a ringflash and four other lights.  Of course, in the middle of all this, television stations from across the country came through filming us as we photographed the athletes. No, that wasn’t chaotic.  Because athletes were herded into the room in droves, there were some quiet moments in between where the photographers engaged in the topics of conversation you would expect among a group of guys holed up in a room for days – duct tape, hermaphrodites and the Die Hard movie where some guy gets stabbed with an icicle. All told, it was fun and inspiring to be around such athletic overachievers. I know this coming Olympics will have added meaning as I will recognize some names and faces. Here is a photo gallery of some of the Olympic hopefuls.

A Policeman’s Best Friend


©2009 Chicago Tribune

Normally if I were to take a portrait of a person and their dog, I would not sit them down in the middle of the street and ask them to turn away from me. Especially if the person is a police officer. In fact, I’m sure he thought it was a bit strange for me to make that request. But the concept was being together on the road of life. In the course of a pay squabble with his department, Bradford signed away his rights to pursue claims for back pay in order to keep “Doc”, a Belgian Malinois, who he felt was being used as a bargaining chip. Typically, police dogs are given to their owners after the dogs are retired from service because it is too hard to retrain them to work with others. For him, not being allowed to keep Doc was too much to bear.  So there was something of a cinematic end to their story.  A loyalty tested and a bond that was saved through sacrifice. I imagine this picture as the closing scene where Bradford turns towards Doc and says, “it’s just you and me, kid….”

Peter Sagal


both images ©2009 Chicago Tribune

Peter Sagal is back on my radio dial. The game show host of NPR’s “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” radio show lives in my Chicago suburb, and so with my portrait propensities, we often find ourselves in each other’s company. “Hey! You again!” I also noticed that The Buzz coffeehouse has put one of my pictures of him up on the wall (we are both customers) which makes for an interesting local connection to a national celebrity.  The photo at left was my first picture of him, enjoying his vintage bicycle for a story about “favorite things”.  At right was a photo at the actual coffeehouse.  I’ll post the current photo when the “Blue” paper publishes.