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Take Off, Eh!


Somehow, back in March, I found myself freezing my ass off, eh, in the most random part of the world: Yellowknife, NT, Canada.

And it was all my fault.

I’ve been pitching ideas to editors at ESPN the Mag and SI, I suppose for years. Lately the events have focused on my pursuit of weird, unique sports.

Awhile ago, Andy Bronson told me about the Arctic Winter Games held every two years near the Arctic Circle. I marked it on my calendar and included it among a series of pitches to magazines.

And ESPN bit.

Next thing I knew, I was bouncing along a frozen lake on the back of a Ski-Doo (pronounced /skuh-dew/ by the Canadians, eh). My Eskimo driver was crazy and fun! Though you couldn’t really separate the two of us the way I was dressed up for the ride. (I accidentally pissed off a local by putting on his borrowed hat on backwards. My bad.)

Despite the title of the games — and the fact that it dipped to -30 degrees when the sun set — most of the sports did not involve battling the elements. Rather, they were held in local school gyms and community centers (centres for my confused Canadian readers).

Many of the sports were more traditional: basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc. Some were held outdoors, like dog sledding.

I focused my entire time there on what was unique: the indigenous (i.e. Eskimo) sports.

Below is a photo of Arm Pulling.

I had looked at the AWG web site before going. And I knew that it’d be a tricky week of shooting. The action is subtle, unusual and in poorly-lit venues. The Airplane (above) is a perfect example of that.

Even when I went outdoors – like to shoot a form of javelin called the Snow Snake – I wasn’t sure if I was capturing the setting well.

Part of my building stress level was that I was shooting for a double-truck, 2-page spread. I wanted a SLAM FUCKING DUNK ! ™ type of photo.

Finger Pulling (below) didn’t knock me off my feet.

Other sports include a version of hurdles called sledge jumping (below).

What seemed like the sport with the greatest potential, of course, was one of the very final events from that week: Head Pulling.

Even that seemed pretty tame.

It seemed most of the sports – like the Knuckle Hop (above) and the Dene Hand Games (below), a form of gambling – were really made for TV.

Still images don’t do them justice. And the drum music and singing for the hand games were pretty sweet.

In the world of That’s show biz for ya, none of my images made the magazine.

They loved the photos, but space was limited. As consolation, ESPN ran a few pics online (sounds like the newspapers world, eh?)

But it’s all cool.

I might have blown a fuse when I was younger, but no longer. As long as the client is happy, I’m happy.

The only thing I can control is making the photos – not how they will run. Or if they will ever see the light of day. Got that hammered into me while @ The O.

It’s a good lesson.
One thing I’m realizing while editing for this blog: some of my favorite (favourite) moments were complete outtakes, images I never sent to ESPN.

All the photos are of kids being kids, moments I didn’t think the magazine could use or would even want.

The difference between shooting for myself and for a client. At least I remembered to do both.

  • Holly - May 5, 2008 - 3:51 pm

    nice! this looks like it was a blast to shoot. i added you to my blogroll, fyi. so there! i hope you are well. :)


  • Ron Tremain Images - May 9, 2008 - 9:51 pm

    Did they do the ear pull competition (similar to the band around both heads only the string is around one ear)? Or the suspended ball kick? Both are part of the Alaka Native games, very similar to this competition it appears.



  • Mr.galle - May 10, 2008 - 5:32 am

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