Photographers Don’t Understand Pressure

I should have know better than to take a tongue-in-cheek swing (pun intended) at golf and golfers yesterday. I described my disdain for the sport and singled out Sam Snead as a photographer-hating prima donna who would try to blame shutter noise (chirping birds, wriggling earthworms, spectator coughing) for missing a shot.

CHS classmate Brad Brune, a self-described “humble golf fan,” took me to the woodshed in a very creative comment. I decided it was worth sharing.

Brad Brune’s comment

Once upon a time….

One of the promising young rising stars in the world of photo journalism, Ken Steinhoff, is on a very important shoot. Many Thousands of Dollars, all your sponsorships, and your national ranking are at stake. Your assignment is to catch a picture of Sam Snead “exactly” as his club strikes the ball on the 18th tee box of the Masters.

You are the only photographer allowed to take this exact photo. Too soon,too late, or off center won’t work, and your successful shoot would be jeopardized. At the very least you would loose several thousands of bucks for missing that essential shot – at that historic time and place.

Hundreds of people surround you and are watching you work. “GO KEN…. YOU THE MAN!!” they shout at you as you steady your camera. Millions are watching on TV and there is a close up of you on every TV screen in America. All is quiet…. just the sound a the breeze in the trees in the distance. Sam starts his 100 mph down swing. You are nervous as hell, sweat is running down you face, and you have your moist finger lightly poised above the shutter button.


I sneak up behind you at the worst possible moment and quietly whisper, “BOO!” You jump out of your skin, snap the shot a fraction of a second early and your hands move slightly so that Sam’s head is half cut out of your shot!

That night you are the “joke” on every talk show on cable and broadcast TV. Slow motion video of the exact millisecond you blew the shot are repeated over and over. Every paper in the country has the head line the next day, “STEINHOFF CHOKES…. BLOWS THE SHOT!” Photographic columnists take cheap shots at you because you won’t accept responsibility for blowing the shot saying, “a sudden noise from a fan caused me to loose concentration.”

Had you been in Bush Stadium taking a picture of Stan the Man in the World Series with 50,000 fans screaming…. my little trick would not have bothered you at all. You would have been a rich hero, and the toast of the town.

There is no comparison Ken.
a humble golf fan.

A photographer’s rejoinder

Photographers are the one group who have to literally keep their focus no matter what kind of chaos is happening around them.

When you’re shooting what should be a routine traffic stop of some armed robbery suspects and suddenly someone shouts, “Get the photographers!” that’s a little more unnerving than someone whispering “BOO!” while Sam Snead is swinging.

Lens hood being ripped off

I’m proud to say that this photo, taken seconds after the one above, is sharp, even as the trooper rips the lenshood and filter off my camera while he’s trying to take it away from me. THAT’S focus. (The hood and filter are the round, dark and light objects in his palm.)

Trooper attack from another angle

Palm Beach Post Staffer C.J. Walker captured this frame of the lens hood flying through the air. One of these days I’ll publish the whole sequence and tell the complete story.

The short version is that by the time the incident investigation was finished, the Florida Highway Patrol adopted a media access policy that has become the model for public safety departments all over the country.

So, while I won’t say that every photo I’ve taken has captured the peak action, been sharp and exposed properly, I’d say my powers of concentration are pretty good under real life pressure. Let’s see how well Sam Snead putts in a burning building, while being attacked, in a hurricane or while being teargassed.

I agree. There IS no comparison.


A humble photographer

[What happened to the trooper, you wonder? My very own newspaper named him Lawman of the Year a couple of years later. I can only assume that what happened here was an aberration or that the editors of the paper thought the trooper had the right idea of how to treat photographers.]


19 Replies to “Photographers Don’t Understand Pressure”

  1. Great piece by my old buddy Brad…of course he is all wet…Golfers are Prima Donna’s of the highest sort. People yell at me all the time and still do what I need to…and what is real sport without yelling…”Kill the umpire” or some other NON-Politically correct phrase, that is part of any real sport.

    Look, if you are wearing PLAID pants, wing tipped shoes, and ride in little electric clown car on the grass, you don’t even walk playing golf, for crying out loud that is not a sport! Then you try to hit a ball when it is flat on the ground, lying still, not moving at all and then you complain that someone whispered and made you miss the whole thing. Gees, Louise! That my friends is not a sport or even sporting. Like shooting ducks on the water, not sporting at all.

    I think Kenny’s Sport of photograhy is a lot better. Hey, when was the last time someone chased you with 12 guage shotgun! Now that is some sport, running, swearing, getting all sweaty and getting thrill out of life and what you are doing. I think I might try this Photography thing in my declining year.

    Golf, I would rather drink a glass of warm milk.

  2. As both a golfer (not a very good one!) AND a photographer, I’m with Brad on this one. Your whole year’s pay isn’t on the line every time you click the shutter. Maybe they’re Prima Donnas. And maybe Snesd was unreasonable (MAYBE?!? OK, some are and he was). But I get it: If I’m lining up a must-make shot or preparing for an exact moment photo capture I don’t want anyone distracting me.

    As to the photo while being run down by the trooper, that’s pretty good! Did he break the lens hood and filter?

  3. Ken….Ken….Ken…..
    I fear you protest too much, AND miss the whole point of my little story. I wasn’t questioning your prowess as a photographer or your ability to concentrate under pressure. I am one of your biggest fans.

    My point is – the difference is the SITUATION and the performers EXPECTATIONS!! If there had been complete quiet and hush in Busch Stadium…. and I goosed you at the worst possible moment…..YOU WOULD HAVE BLOWN THAT SHOT TOO!

    Sam Snead (jerk though he may be) had a great deal of pressure on him at that specific moment, PLUS he had the expectation of quiet – as that is the TRADITION in the great sport of fine gentlemen the world over.

    As for your defense of “the picture was the proof!” Ken…. we’ve all heard those fancy-smancy cameras you big time journalist use. They don’t simply say “click”. They say, “CLICKITY CLICKITY CLICK!!!!” So when did your shutter actually open and close during Sam’s 100+mph swing?

    Respectfully Yours,
    A humble golfer and fan

    PS: As for you Mr. Hopkins…. at least we have the good sense to wear our PLAID pants & wing tipped shoes on the golf course…. you, on the other hand, wear your “wife-beater undershirt, tie-died Bermuda shorts, black socks, and flip flops to Walmart, and strolling your grand-kids in the park. Do you really have any room to talk?

    1. Brad,

      You’re going to make me go out to the air-conditioned shed where I store all my old film and clips to find that envelope of Snead film, aren’t you?

      I wasn’t a clickety-click kind of shooter.

      Guys who pushed the button and let the motor take over (we called that the spray and pray mode) invariably missed the peak shot.

      When you got your start at Central High School where you’d get four sheets of film and five flashbulbs to cover an entire football game, you don’t tend to be a photographer who overshoots. Then, too, I was influenced by One-Shot Frony.

      PS: I really hate to come to the defense of Mr. Hopkins, but I DO have photographic evidence from the last reunion that he cleans up quite nicely.

      Rarely, buy nicely.

  4. David,

    I’d fall on the sword if photographic evidence proved Snead was right, but a review of the film showed that the shutter clicked AFTER his swing. If I hadn’t been a handy target, he’d have yelled at some spectator for making some imaginary noise or movement.

    When I get to the Florida segment sometime around 2086 (based on how long it’s taken to get through the 60s in Missouri), I’ll publish the sequence.

    The trooper stripped the threads on the lenshood and broke the filter. I think he was a closet golfer.

  5. My first reaction today was …. let the games begin! We are in store for some interesting banter as the posts are added. But the bottom line is this; Ken has had an incredibly interesting life. With his mental and pictorial archives, he can respond to or spin a new twist on any subject thrown at him. I can’t wait to see what surfaces tomorrow.

    P.S. My tee time is 5:00pm. It will be quality time with my husband. There will be two hours communing with nature, and, if the laws of physics all align just right, we may hit a couple of good shots during the round.

    1. Nah, I’m willing to let the games end here.

      It’s been fun going back and forth with Brad, who took and responded to my comments in the spirit in which they were intended, but it’s not worth wounding any more electrons to continue the dialog.

      The world is divided into those who “get” golf and those who will never understand its attraction. Even the Rosetta Stone folks have never been able to create a translation disk to bridge that gap.

      Unless, of course, we want to poke more fun at Mr. Hopkins – either Bill OR Terry. That’s why they were put on this earth.

  6. You caused me to go back and look at a discussion we had about this a few years ago. One thing I had not paid so much attention to that time is that the trooper is almost as careful about where he aims his weapon as you are with yours. But look where he has his trigger finger. I imagine that’s how he was taught to hold it, but I would hope he wouldn’t get all jerky when he’s excited.

  7. OK Ken,
    I’m willing let the games end here. And you are right…. those that don’t “Get It” about golf, never will. As Yoda said, “you must have the ears to hear and the eyes to see, Luke Skywalker.”


    PS: Oh Sally… just the thought of you and your hubby communing with nature, and aligning the laws of physics on the golf links… is extremely arousing. Too bad Steinhoff and Hopkins will never understand.

    1. Sounds like Sally’s golf cart has one of those old bumper stickers that say, “If this cart’s rockin’, don’t be knockin’.”

      There are so many other comments that come to mind, but I think they were all used after the Tiger Woods stories broke.

  8. This whole thread is an absolute HOOT to follow!! No doubt that photographers have a finely-tuned sense of humor.
    As for the trooper photo, that scares me me spit-less! I would never have the guts to stand my ground and keep shooting! In fact, I’m such a wimp that I don’t even head out to shoot accidents when I hear them on the scanner! That’s the difference between a pro and a part-timer…

  9. It is interesting that historically private country-club sports like golf or tennis have continued to have decorum rules that never existed in sports for the masses like baseball, etc. I remember the hoopla when some tennis players began wearing colored clothing on the court rather than the traditional whites. Early on, there was some fuss about Tiger Woods’ fist-pumps over good shots. These continue to be very traditional sports.

  10. This is hilarious. I never knew that shanking a golfball would take the place of Viagra. (of course, I realize now it’s only the Brunemaster talking here.)

  11. as to the trooper, he at least has the trigger finger outside the trigger guard (just to ensure Ken wouldn’t be blown away for no good reason)

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