Sizing Up the Competition
Back in the day I was a pretty big follower of NASCAR. I remember in the ’80’s there was a legendary crew chief named Harry Hyde. The character Harry Hogge from the Tom Cruise movie “Days of Thunder” was based on the career of Hyde. For those of you who may not know, in auto racing the crew chief is pretty much the last word for the entire team. There is the car owner who, of course is ultimately in charge. A good one will usually defer to the chief. There is the driver who often will think he or she is in charge but truth is they would never be able to turn a single lap were it not for the chief and the crew. Anyhow, the crew chief is indispensable and Harry was one of the colorful and successful ones. I recall at one point a camera crew for one of the networks showed up at Harry’s residence to do an interview. The place was a single wide mobile home that looked like it was parked in the back lot of an abandoned wrecking yard. Suffice to say it was a complete pig pen. Clearly there had been some miscommunication along the line, perhaps the days were mixed up, maybe someone was pulling a prank, or some third person set up the interview unaware of the conditions ahead. After a few moments of pounding on the door Harry emerged from the trailer with a look of complete horror. He sent the crew away with orders to never return. I never saw or heard of that video again. My recollection may be a little fuzzy on the details but I remember the basics vividly because I was so surprised.
I couldn’t help but think to myself, how could such a successful crew chief (and part owner) live in such dire conditions. In all fairness though, these guys do spend a big chunk of their time on the road, but really! I realized things are often not the way they appear and I though about some of the miscues I have seen and made in the photography game.
Wildlife photography lends its self to be a rather solo sport but there are times that we all get to socialize. There are workshops, the internet, clubs, and most common, along the trail. When I meet other people I often wonder just how talented the other one is. I think most of us are curious about the skill level of our colleagues and have a competitive spirit with the work of others. while devices like the iPad make it so much easier to view other photographers work I do find that often people are reluctant to show their best images. It is usually pretty easy to make an assumption, newbies stick out like a sore thumb fumbling with gear, talkers do just that, and the quite busy ones are the people to watch out for. Right?
Experiences like the Harry Hyde deal tell me otherwise. My advise. Always act as if you were in the presence of greatness until you know otherwise even then it is good practice. The other person deserves it. It is the proper attitude to treat everyone as a successful, competent photographer, that is what they are trying to be. If you are the selfish type you can look at it this way, you won’t look so bad when that guy you though was a fool shows his portfolio and it blows the doors off yours.
Harry left us in 1996 but his legend lives on teaching the lessons of life.
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