54 out of 56 weeks, or is it 4 out of 4?
One of the things I've learned about standing around the ocean
with a camera hanging off my neck is, you become a magnet for
all sorts of people, with all sorts of inquiries. For as many
years as I've been doing this (since 1971), it never ceases to
amaze me. The kinds of questions some people come up with are
priceless. Believe me, I've been asked them all. And it's usually
right when I'm about to pull the trigger. It apparently never
dawns on the person asking the question, as to whether or not,
what I'm doing with my cameras, might actually constitute some
kind of real work, and perhaps, they should at the very least,
wait until I'm done taking the photo and I acknowledge them. But
that is rare.
I can't tell you, just how many good shots I've missed, answering
some question by some non-surfer.
Trust me, it's been too many. Just ask any surfer who's working
closely with a photographer. Don't get me wrong here, I've met
some interesting characters out there. Including last week. When
I met a 90 year old WWII Veteran named Lionel. He
walked right up to me, and spoke in my ear, as I was focussing
in on some local action. "Bet you wish you were young enough
to do that." He said in a soft barely audible voice. I turned
and looked at him and said. "Actually, I was out surfing
earlier." He seemed unfazed by my answer. "I bet you
wish, you were young enough to try surfing." I said to
him. "I'm 90 years old. I've seen it all. Why would
I want to do that?" He says. "Why not?" I replied.
"You said you've seen it all...but you haven't tried surfing
yet." He shook his head no.
"I'm all done" he said. "I don't want to live anymore."
I put my camera down and faced him. "Look you're 90 years
old. You need to live to 100. If you can make it this far,
you can make it to 100." It was then, that I noticed
another person with him. His son George. "I don't
want to live anymore." He said again. I looked at his son,
who shook his head as if to say 'I'm sorry', and then I faced
the old man again. "I'll see you here in 10 years.
Right here at this very spot. And we will talk about how you tried
surfing." "I can't swim." He said. "You can
learn how to swim. Lots of people do." I quickly answered.
"I'm all done." He said again. "My wife is gone
3 years now. All I have is my son and my daughter."
Now I'm determined to crack this hard shell. "What do you
mean That's All you have? They are not enough to keep you around?
Don't you have grandchildren?" I asked. He looked at his
son and said "Grandchildren? I have Great Grandchildren.
How many do I have?" he asked his son. "Lots dad. You
have a lot of Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren." I looked
at the two of them and said. "Well there you go. You need
to stick around, so your grandchildren and your great grandchildren
can hear your story. You need to share your life's experience
with all of your family." I said smiling. He smiled back.
"Maybe I'll live another few years, but that's it."
He said smiling.
looked at them both and said "I'll see you both here in 10
years and that's an order." They both laughed. Then I took
their photo. Turns out, the old man was an ARMY Veteran
who served in the South Pacific during WWII. He
was so typical of that era. Still, it would be nice to know, that
he left the beach that afternoon feeling a little better about
his life, and the remaining years he had left.
I really hoped so. He reminded me of my late father, and late
That same afternoon I was shooting at another location, when a
woman stood next to me, and talked about the weather. It was that
real mild Saturday we had last weekend. 'Boy
this is almost Spring like weather." She said. I looked over
at her and realized, I did not know her, and that she was just
striking up a conversation. "Yes it's a beautiful day."
I answered. "Not like that storm last week." She said.
"We had a storm in Exeter last Thursday that
was really bad."
I looked at her and wanted to say "Are you kidding me lady?
I mean hello? You don't think we had the same storm here? "
But I didn't. It was too easy to do. So I played into the conversation.
"Yes, we had the same storm in Hampton." "Did
you?" she asked. "Yes...that same storm passed through
Hampton on the way to Exeter." I said looking
to see if she was busting my balls or not. "Well, we lost
power in Exeter." She says. "So did we."
I said looking at her intently.
"We also had a little fire on the beach. Perhaps you heard
about it?" I said.
"You know what? I did hear about that fire." She replied
Of course, now I'm looking for the Candid Camera crew,
or the PUNKD gang to step out of the bushes. So I looked
over my shoulder, to see if this was a set-up by some of my friends.
It was not. This was real. I found myself making more insignificant
small talk with this total stranger. Then the ultimate comment.
"I bet that water is cold." She says. "Oh yea...it's
cold." I answer. Then the typical "How do you know?"
question comes into play. I told her that I also surf. Finally
after a few more numbing inquiries, she left. And so did I. And
I could not get out of there fast enough.
Managed to slip back to a spot that only had surfers. There was
no easy access for the non surfers. Thank God. So any questions
I would be asked at this spot, would at least be asked by those
of us, who get the whole winter surfing gig. And that was fine
with me. Sort of. Because of course, there's always the friend
who drives by, and honks at me while I'm shooting. I often wonder,
if they realize the reason I don't stop, and look back at them,
and return the wave is, because I am working, and don't want to
miss the shot. And if I'm videotaping, it's worse. Because sometimes,
I'm going for that ambient mood, of natural sounds of the ocean
and birds. And it's ruined with someone leaning on their horn
trying to get my attention.
I know my fellow surf photographers will nod in agreement.
One of the other aspects of shooting surf photography is, you
do get to see more that most other folks do when heading down
to the beach in the Spring-Summer-Fall. And one glaring
observation is this. The wetsuit is not kind to those of us
with any kind of a weight problem. Oh baby. And it makes no
difference if you're male or female. The wetsuit does not hide
our imperfections. Hardly. If anything, it's like walking around
with a flashing neon sign pointing at us. And I say this, knowing
damn well, that I am one of the ones, who suffer from this. Look,
we all want to stay in shape. Unless you are so content with what
you look like (and most surfers I know are pretty freaking vain),
that you don't care. But I do know for a fact, that we all want
to look good, and surf good. Am I right people?
I once knew a surfer, who could hold his breath forever, just
to hide his slightly paunchy midsection. That in of itself, is
an art form. I also knew a surfer, who no longer surfs with us,
who looked like a damn slab of beef, trapped in some cruel oversized
sausage casing. I feared he might suffocate one day. But seriously?
Standing around this last weekend, shooting surfers of all sizes
and shapes, and then heading out for a surf both days, I became
increasingly aware of the wetsuit, and how it does nothing to
hide what we can typically hide in our daily clothes. There
are no baggy wetsuits. So while most surfers do not have
this problem, there are some who do. So what's the solution?
Lose the weight, or pay me extra, to Photoshop your butt
when I take your photo.
for some of my weekly Global observances:
Tonight on HBO there is a new series out called PACIFIC.
It is about the the US MARINES in the South Pacific
in WWII. The series is done by Stephen Spielberg and
Tom Hanks. Those of you who are aware of these two working
partners will know, that they previously worked together on the
other successful WWII series about the US ARMY in
Europe during WWII called BAND OF BROTHERS.
We all knew someone who served in WWII. Be it your father,
uncle, aunt or grandparents. PACIFIC is a true story of
three Marines. This is their story.
So did you hear about the latest crackpot out there who has joined
forces with the scumbag Terrorists? JIHAD JANE. I swear
you can't make this crap up. Some wacky house wife had her own
website and had bought into the whole JIHAD movement. The
Feds caught her. JIHAD JANE? This sounded more like
a SNL skit then a reality news item. She had a website?
This would be comical if it were not so stupid and real. Have
fun in Jail Jihad Jane. Dumb ass.
Speaking of dumb asses how about the Congressman Massa
from last week's latest political fallout? And speaking of real
big dumb asses, how about Dan Rather's comment about our
President? How come no one is calling Dan a racist?
The HURT LOCKER won Best Picture last week at the Oscars.
Funny, it was the only movie I saw out of the BEST PICTURE
category. I guess we need to get out more. I do want to see Avatar
before it's gone from the movie theaters. I also missed the 3D
Slater and Raimana movie at the Aquarium.
CONGRATS to Dr Mark Henschke a local Surf Doctor who has received
the National Patients Choice Award two years running.
Rest In Peace BRICKHOUSE Surf Shops. Jamie and Mark are first
class surfers and human beings, and they will be missed by all
who frequented the Brickhouse Shops. And I'm sure whatever they
end up doing, they will be both be successful, and well liked.
CONGRATS to the WHS GIRLS Basketball team winning their 4th consecutive
State Title last night. Good luck to the Boys B-Ball team with
local Surfer Jesse Gould a senior and outstanding player!
KEEP Getting Stronger Kim Grondin! We ALL Love you!
Happy Birthday Gale.
Don't Forget to TURN YOUR CLOCKS Ahead this weekend.
HAPPY SAINT PATRICKS DAY 3-17-10
to all my Irish Friends and Relatives!
GO BRUINS! GO
March 21st 4:00PM The RINKS at EXETER!
give to the RED CROSS or some other trusted organization
to help the people in Haiti and Chile. Like the
RED CROSS. www.redcross.org
Help these people. Please.
*Check out the NEW updated
IN ON RALPH blog Section. All
of March 2010 is now posted. *This is the blog section of this
website where you can write in and comment. The only downside
of this blog is you actually have to use your REAL Name. No hiding
behind some fake handle and name. If you want to comment, you
have to man up and be yourself. And I will post all comments both
good and bad. You just have to be yourself.
*Molly Paddle Video by Joe Carter has been
moved to the Community
Support ALL The photographers who contribute to Ralph's Pic
Of The Week
every week for the last 6 years. **Think about BUYING a Photo
from any of the weeks
on RPOTW as a GREAT Gift Idea. A nice framed photo of your favorite
my friends...Surfing Heals All Wounds....
Pray for Surf. Pray for Peace. Surf For Fun.