A Brief History of my Short Photography Career
and the Equipment I've Used
by Larry Berman
|Shooting Rock Concerts
I purchased a Honeywell Pentax SP500 with a 50mm lens in 1971. Growing
up in New York City, I learned photography shooting tri-x, processing my
own film and making prints in a makeshift kitchen darkroom in my
apartment. The first accessory lens purchased was the 135mm f 2.5 Super
Takumar. I started shooting rock concerts. I remember attending a Grateful Dead concert in early 1972 with
the camera. Our seats were supposed to be in the balcony, which ended up
being the location of the soundboard. So, as luck would have it, we were
reseated front row center. Front row center and a new telephoto lens. From
that point on, I never attended a concert with a camera where I couldnít
sell the pictures. I started by selling to a small local magazine in
Queens called Hi Times Magazine and then Circus Magazine, and was able to
use them for press credentials to get into more concerts. I also had a
friend, Rodley Moser, who worked for
Warner Brothers Music Publishing who got me back stage passes for
Shooting Sporting Events
The second event that molded my career was attending a basketball game
at Nassau Coliseum to see the New York (ABA) Nets play. I had my new
camera and decided to see what it was like shooting from the floor. So I
went and sat down next to another photographer and blended in with the
ďpressĒ. That other photographer was Bruce Curtis, a freelance
photographer who did assignments for Sport Magazine. He was very helpful
with tips about shooting sports and really gave my early career a boost.
He taught me the value of shooting sporting events just for practice.
Using the black and white prints from that game, I was able to get into
future games and rock concerts at Nassau Coliseum by giving the security guards
One evening Barney Kremenko, public relations director for the Nets,
came over and asked me to shoot some pictures for the team. He had seen me
shooting there on the floor and assumed I was a professional photographer.
Isnít that how it begins?
This was around the time I switched to Nikon. The main reason was that
you could be shooting a sporting event and borrow a lens from the
photographer sitting next to you. Everyone used Nikon. I remember shooting
Jimmy Connors at Forest Hills. The longest lens I had was a 200 F4 but was
able to shoot a few frames with a 400 F5.6 borrowed from my neighbor. One
of those frames came in second place for a Jimmy Connors cover at Sport
Magazine where Kevin Fitzgerald was pictures editor. I had been introduced
to him through Bruce Curtis and ended up doing a few assignments for
Sport, including pictures for the Dr J. book that Dick Shaap wrote.
While shooting at Nassau Coliseum I became friends with Associated
Press photographer Dick Drew, who was also influential on my career. We
spent many games sitting together and shooting. Then I would hang out
after the game in the AP darkroom while he processed his film and sent the
pictures out over the wire. One time there was a fight on the court. I
happened to be shooting with the Pentax (converted to Nikon) fisheye. I
waded into the middle of the scuffle and shot some pictures, one of which
appeared in Newsday through the Associated Press. I also got to shoot the
Islanders but was never as interested in hockey as I was in basketball.
|The star player in the ABA was Dr. J (Julius Erving). Over a short
period of time, I accumulated an outstanding portfolio of Dr. J photos. I
was approached by a number of companies, including Spalding and Converse,
either for assignments or to sell from my existing stock of images of him.
As with shooting rock concerts, I learned where to market my pictures.
If the magazines didnít need them, the NBA might. Using my contacts from
the ABA Nets,
|I was also shooting basketball games at
Madison Square Garden. If I didnít have a market for the pictures I
approached Pro Sports Publications in New York, the company that published
the NBA programs. Pam Blawie was the photo editor and over the next few years I was able to get
an NBA pass from them to shoot anywhere in the country. I also became a
contributing photographer for Black Sports Magazine.
Someone sent me a video of the 1976 game 6
ABA playoffs. What a treat. The TV camera spent the entire time between
the first and second period on me changing the film on a backboard mounted
camera which I had set up at the request of Newsday. I
had created a custom
chain vice grip bracket with a Leitz ball head to mount the camera behind the glass with a wide-angle lens. Midway through the second quarter, David
Thompson went up for a dunk shot about 8 feet from the basket in a very
distinctive move and was called for an offensive foul. It can be clearly
seen in my
David Thompson #3 photo. My
wife saw the tape of me climbing on the backboard and said that I could
never do that any more, and I'd have to agree.... Between being able to climb
up to the backboard support and my sense of photographic timing, I'd give
anything to go back 30 years and be young again.
|I photographed Jim
Dent at the US Open Golf Tournament at Wingfoot Country Club (Mamaroneck,
NY) for Black Sports and became involved in a controversial racial
situation when the Amsterdam News photographer complained to the board
that he wasn't allowed with the other press photographers, because he was
black, but I was. When the US Open contacted me for a statement, I
explained that I had been shooting professionally for years and knew how
to remain low key to fit in where I might not have had credentials to be.
That and the fact that I was walking around with a 600mm F4 on a monopod
made me look professional and the security never even noticed I wasn't
wearing a press armband.
Always looking for extreme angles and perspectives,
|Shooting and Selling Art Photography
In the mid 1970ís I would travel to Monhegan Island, Maine for
vacation. One year I decided to bring some prints to sell to help pay for
my trip. I had been shooting Kodachrome for a few years for my personal
work and finally had a way to sell those color images. I set up my milk
carton on the porch of the Trailing Yew and met artist Barbara Garrison
selling her etchings. She told me about a few art shows she was doing in
New York, Gracie Square and Central Park South. That got me started on a
28 year career of selling my photography at art shows.
At various times Iíve owned and used the following Nikon lenses: 15mm
F5.6, 16mm F3.5, 20mm F4, 20mm F 3.5, 20mm F2.8 AF, 24mm F2, 24mm F2.8,
28mm F2, 35mm F2, 50mm F2, 50mm F1.4, 55mm F2.8 macro, 85mm F1.8, 105mm
F2.5, 105mm F2.8 macro, 135mm F2, 180mm F2.8, 200mm F4, 200mm F4 macro,
300mm F4.5, 300mm F2.8 AF, 500mm F4 P. Iíve also used a few customized
lenses. Marty Forscher of Professional Camera Repair did the conversions
for me. A Pentax 17mm lens to Nikon, fully automatic. A Canon 400mm F4.5
lens to Nikon fully automatic but not metered coupled.
|Nikon Film Cameras
Iíve used motorized F2ís, F3ís, F4's, 8008s' and
FM2N bodies. I own two SB-24 Flashes and have used them more with a
CoolPix 990 and CoolPix 5000 than I ever did with the film cameras. Iíve always found that
the limitation of my picture taking capabilities was the equipment I had
access to. Iíve been an NPS (Nikon Professional Services) member since my
sports days in the 1970ís and from time to time (before my purchase of the
500mm F4 P) would borrow a 600mm F4 to experiment with.
I've always used Gitzo tripods and monopods, and Domke camera bags. I
still have the original Domke bag (I've read that it's a collectable)
having purchased it from Marty Forscherís in the mid 1970ís. My Dynalite
strobes stay in the closet now that I use my Nikon SB-24's for most studio
shooting with a CoolPix 990. Especially for all the web site work and
magazine article illustrations. Besides the Nikons I use a Hasselblad and
120mm macro lens for the studio still life photos my wife and I create for
the art show market.
|Jump ahead to 2011
I use Dynalite packs and strobes to
photograph artwork for artists using a Nikon D700 full frame