TAKING PICTURES

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When I was a boy, you could find me outside most afternoons, playing baseball, football or basketball. My 16-year-old son Clancy is equally predictable. Only he’s not into sports. He’s into photography. Every day at sunset he grabs his camera and heads outside. It’s a habit he formed back when we lived on our farm in Virginia. Here is one of his sunset pictures.

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He has over 11,000 followers on Instagram and virtually every photo he posts is of nature and the outdoors. Here are some of his pictures, all of which were taken with a cell phone.

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Some guys push their sons to play sports. I don’t push Clancy when it comes to photography. He loves taking pictures and I prefer to keep it that way. The fastest way to screw that up would be for me to start pressuring him.

On the other hand, I look for opportunities for him to learn from great photographers by working alongside them. For instance, he’s been on shoots with Emmy Award winning producer and director Rob Wallace, who has taught him a lot about lighting and scene-setting. This is them working on a short video we shot on wrestlers suffering from chronic pain.

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A few weeks back I saw something that gave me another idea for how to include Clancy. I was at a Monday Night Football game in Seattle when I snapped this picture of Steve Young signing a book for a Seahawks fan.

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It occurred to me that a bunch of fans holding Steve’s book at a Monday Night game would be a powerful image on television. The next Monday Night game was set to take place at MetLife Stadium. The game coincided with the final day of Steve’s book tour. So I asked the publisher to ship me a couple boxes of books to bring to the game.

With permission from his professors to miss Monday classes, Clancy got up at 5AM and accompanied me to Fairfield University, where we met up with Steve for an early morning fundraiser to benefit the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club. Over 300 people came to hear Steve talk and sign copies of his autobiography. Clancy’s job was to take pictures like this one and post them on social media pages.

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Then the three of us piled into an SUV and went to Steve’s alma mater – Greenwich High School, where Steve played quarterback in the late ‘70s. A special school assembly was scheduled.

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Clancy got this image of Steve standing alone on the stage, waiting to address the student body.

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And I photographed Clancy photographing Steve.

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From there we went to the Cos Cob branch of the Greenwich Library for a book signing put on by Diane’s Books. Lines weaved through the stacks and out the door when we arrived. A lot of parents had taken their children out of school so they could meet a hometown hero.

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After selling out of books at the library signing, we headed to New York City. During the commute, Clancy posted images on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; charged devices; and helped Steve signed boxes of books. While Steve attended a business meeting in the city, Clancy and I went to a deli to buy lunch for Steve and our driver. The driver was pleasantly surprised when we took his order – a cup of chicken noodle soup, a turkey sandwich on a roll (light on the mayo), potato chips, and a dill pickle. He said passengers never buy him food. (I told Clancy – “Always remember to take care of the people who enable you to do your job better. It’s the little things that matter most.”)

When we reached MetLife Stadium at 3PM, the driver snaked his way to a security checkpoint, where we climbed out and grabbed the books. A security guard stopped us when we reached the metal detector: “What’s in the box?” he said.

“Just books,” Clancy told him.

Skeptical, the guard cut the box open. This is what he saw.

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“It’s a pretty good book,” I told him.

He looked at Steve, who smiled.

The guard grinned, closed the box, and let us enter.

With two hours to go before the pregame show, Clancy and I went to a luxury box that Steve had reserved for friends and business associates. Overlooking an empty, quiet stadium, Clancy did his homework while I worked on fundraising for the Institute for Writing and Mass Media, the new non-profit organization I’m running at Southern Virginia University.

Eventually, the stadium started to fill up and Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” blasted through the sound system. That was our cue to lug the books down to the field. Fans packed the section of seats closest to the ESPN broadcast stage. From the field I tossed books to them, practically touching off a stampede. I felt like Santa Claus. “Are we going to be on national TV?” one guy asked. “You will if everyone in this section holds up the book,” I told him.

When ESPN went to commercial, the camera panned the crowd and everyone held up their books. They ended up on TV. It was a great moment – New York Giants fans holding up an autobiography by a San Francisco 49er on Monday Night Football. They were all yelling: “Steve! Steve! Steve!”

Steve came off the set and went to the stands, where he signed every book that I had given away. Clancy captured this great image of a child getting his book signed.

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I told Clancy to spend the rest of the pregame shooting. He got this wonderful reflective shot of Steve sitting alone on the ESPN stage.

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At one point, Odell Beckham ran over to us and started dancing. Clancy doesn’t follow football and had never heard of Beckham. I leaned over and whispered: “You might want to film this moment. This guy is kind of famous.”

For Clancy, the highlight of the night was when Steve handed him a $100 bill and thanked him for all of his hard work. “Whoa!” Clancy said. “Thanks.”

That $100 my as well have been $1 million in terms of how it felt to be appreciated by someone he admires so much.

During the first half, Clancy continued to take pictures. This panoramic view was shot from a luxury box in the upper deck.

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We said goodbye to Steve at halftime and headed for the parking lot to find our driver. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour commute from MetLife to our house. But I told our driver we had to make a detour to New Canaan, Connecticut. It was 11PM when I entered the home of a friend. He wasn’t there, but he had left a check for me. It was a very generous donation to the new Institute for Writing and Mass Media.

It was 1:30 AM by the time we got home. We’d been up for 21 hours. But I hated to see the day come to an end.

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