Jun 282017
 

Editorial Corporate Magazine Photography - George Fischer - Paintball

Action - Editorial Corporate Magazine Photography - Paintball

Portrait - Editorial Corporate Magazine Photography - Paintball

I didn’t need a reminder that I made the right choice early on not to pursue a career in combat photography, but after feeling the sting of a paintball against my skin for the third time in only a couple minutes, despite several layers of protective clothing,  I remembered that it was indeed the right call.

Earlier this year I found myself out in the middle of a field seventy miles east of Los Angeles following around paintball enthusiast Justin Sorenson for Georg Fischer’s Globe magazine. Justin is a field service engineer by weekday, avid competitive paintball player by weekend and a really nice guy to work with. They were featuring him as part of a regular series they publish highlighting employees’ passions and pastimes outside the workplace. I had only played paintball once in my life, with some friends as a teenager. Being the new guy, they put me out front. I was quickly shot and went back to the house to hang out until they were through. So given my limited experience it probably goes without saying that I was unprepared when I suddenly found myself on the edge a battlefield where ten guys were raining hellfire upon one another with paint-filled balls of gelatin.

Justin and I had shot some portraits before things started and, when it was his team’s turn to play, made our way onto the field. He told me more or less where to shoot from to avoid being shot, but once play begins it all happens very fast. Starting at their home base on opposite ends of the field, upon the referee’s signal each of the five members of each team sprint in different directions, simultaneously scrambling for cover behind large bunkers while also shooting rapidly at anything they see moving on the other side of the field. The goal is to eliminate everyone on the opposing team by “marking” them with a splat of colored paint. You’re hit, you’re out. Last team standing wins.

Standing in the mud along the sidelines with nothing but a camera it feels a bit chaotic at first. The bunkers, inflated vinyl balloons, make loud thwaps each time they’re hit. I see Justin take off and immediately move so I can get a clear view of him in action. What I don’t see is one of his teammates crossing in front of me, which immediately draws fire from their opponents. Any shots that miss him, which was more than a few, have a good chance of hitting me.

The first one hits me right in the keister and stings like hell. I try to move along the edge toward the middle of the field where another team is watching. His teammate heads in the same direction and leaps behind a bunker. Paintballs whoosh by my ear. As I turn sideways one hits the side of my camera, ripping through the bag I’ve secured around it for protection as if it was Kleenex. Fortunately it hits a solid part of the camera body causing no harm. But I realize I should have brought a water housing. A moment later the referee yells to stop play and I let down my guard. Another paintball smacks me in the foot, stinging my toe even through the leather cleats I’m wearing for traction. What the &#*@!? The teams exit the field so the next teams can take a turn and, a little frustrated, I assess what I’ve shot. Not much. Besides spending most of the round trying not to get myself shot, Justin had taken a route up the middle of the field keeping him out of view, so I’d essentially taken all that fire for nothing.

Fortunately round two is better. I quickly learn to watch not only my subject but also to look out for anyone else running anywhere near my direction and to not get behind them. This time Justin runs an outside route toward my corner and I’m able to get a clear shot of him while also staying out of the line of fire. I’m shot only once more over the course of the afternoon and am able to get numerous images of him running, firing and diving for cover. Knowing I have what I need I decide to get myself, and more importantly my gear, out of harms way and call it a day. As for Justin, he intends to play for several more hours. Having watched them play I could see why. It’s a strategic, fast-paced and adrenaline pumping game that I’m sure is addictive once you get started.

As crazy as I may have made it sound, it was actually a great time and a really fun assignment. There are a lot worse ways to spend a Saturday. Even if most of them are less painful.

Here’s a video showing my POV from an iPhone I mounted to my camera. See below for more photos from the shoot!

Paintball Photography POV from David Zentz on Vimeo.

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Mar 122015
 

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Late last year I spent a roller coaster of a day with two groups comprised of some very passionate soccer fans. The groups – the Union Ultras and Black Army 1850 – were two cheering sections for the now defunct Chivas USA soccer team and the event we were all there for was the final game of the team’s existence following the announcement that the owner would be selling the franchise back to MLS, who in turn would be shutting it down for good. Chivas USA soccer had occupied much of these fans’ lives for the past 10 years and was moments away from vanishing into thin air. But the fans were not about to go quietly into the night.

The assignment was for Howler magazine, a beautifully produced quarterly publication focused on all-things pro soccer, who just published a great article by Mark Edward Hornish that tells the back story of the franchise and the two fan groups. Therefore I won’t go into too much of the history of the club or why there are two fan clubs instead of one. But I will say that being there was quite an experience.

The day started out generally calm as the two groups gathered in their respective areas on the northern exterior of the Stub Hub Center in Carson, Calif., to tailgate before the game got underway. There was plentiful beer and homemade food, including a pot of homemade birria, or goat stew, that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. They were so hospitable, I of course had to try some. Everyone was in fairly good spirits considering the knowledge that this would be the last time they all gathered for this tradition. But as the game got underway things quickly intensified. For the next 90 minutes there was a constant clamor as the groups banged drums, waved flags, tossed streamers, cheered and chanted through the entirety of the match. The fervor spiked when the Chivas scored a goal against their opponents, the San Jose Earthquakes, late in the first half, giving them the chance to go out with a win. With my eyes on the fans, I had no idea what was happening in the game, but could get a sense of the action by watching their faces. As the second half progressed, the energy and the cheering continued to swell, coming to a crescendo in the final minutes and punctuated with the release of two smoke bombs that engulfed the Union Ultras in a pink cloud of sulfuric smoke. Between the breathless singing and the cloud of fumes it’s a wonder no one passed out. Finally, the final whistle blew and the bubble burst, sending many of them into uncontrollable, cathartic sobs that continued until the teams had left the field. The Chivas had won, ensuring them a tiny victory in that they would not finish the season in last place. Many of the players stopped by the fans’ sections to thank them and sign autographs on their way out. A weird combination of sporting event and funeral, it was a unique experience, both exciting and heartbreaking to witness.

Following the match the fans seemed resilient as they gathered to eat at a post-game barbecue the club hosted for the fans. Those I saw afterward seemed to have left it all on the field and were now calm and resigned to the fact that it was all over. Smiles returned to their faces as they joked and enjoyed their food and friends in the afternoon sun. There was already talk that the MLS might be creating a new team in LA, but no one knew for sure at that moment. The next day the MLS did in fact issue a statement that the team was officially shut down. In the following weeks there was also an announcement that a new team would likely be coming to LA in the future. The article goes further into this, but at least there’s hope that they may soon be able to cheer for a new team. Most of them despise the Galaxy, so that’s out of the question. Whatever happens, the next object of their enthusiasm will be very fortunate. Here’s hoping it’s not long before they find it.

 

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

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Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

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Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Chives USA final game_Howler Magazine

Tearsheet - Howler Magazine - Los Angeles Editorial Photographer

Tearsheet - Howler Magazine - Los Angeles Editorial Photographer

Tearsheet - Howler Magazine - Los Angeles Editorial Photographer

 

Jun 162014
 

Jürgen Klinsmann US National Soccer head coach

Jürgen Klinsmann US National Soccer team head coach   As today marks team USA’s first game in the 2014 World Cup, I thought it was appropriate to post a couple of recent portraits I shot of the U.S. National Team head coach, and German soccer legend, Jürgen Klinsmann for German football magazine 11Freunde. For the shoot Klinsmann met us and the writer in Newport Beach, not far from his home, and we drove down to the Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach for a joint interview and photo session. Unfortunately for me, the interview was conducted entirely in German, so I didn’t understand a word of it! As for the game today, it looks to be a high stakes match for both Ghana and the U.S. as both need a solid win to earn their 3 points and have any chance of advancing. Bad news is that the U.S. has lost in the previous two encounters between the two teams and Ghana are the slight favorites this time around as well. Good news is that we have a new coach and I’ve read that one of Ghana’s star players isn’t at his best. I’ll definitely be tuning in to see what happens.

For bookings visit www.davidzentz.com or contact us at dz@davidzentz.com or 310.745.9854

Jul 012011
 


Sumo Champions – Images by David Zentz

It’s a little known fact that both Erinn and I are accomplished sumo wrestlers. Believe it. In fact, both of us hold silver medals from an officially sanctioned California Sumo Association tournament. While this is old news to us, I figured it’s about time I shared this tidbit with the rest of you, before it’s ancient history.

During the fall of ’09, Erinn and I set out to attend the Shuubun (fall equinox) sumo tournament at the “Dohyo of Dreams” in Garden Grove. We’d been invited by U.S. Heavyweight Sumo Champion Dan “Sumo Dan” Kalbfleisch after I’d asked him to sit for a portrait shortly after meeting him at a sumo demonstration at Venice Beach. He happened to be participating in this tournament the following week and thought it would be a great place to shoot, as well as to get some photos of the wrestlers in action. (You can see the portrait here.) Of course, I thought this was a brilliant idea, but at the time had no idea what I was getting us into. My first goal was to get a portrait that I liked, plus Erinn and I also thought we could collaborate on a story on the sport. When we got there, I set about lighting the portrait against the backdrop of a garage, which was decorated with Japanese script that I’m told translates to “Dohyo of Dreams.” The dohyo is located in Jim Lowerre’s backyard, behind his suburban Garden Grove home and, I believe, owes much of its name to the Kevin Costner classic, “Field of Dreams.” “Build it and they will come,” was the famous line, and it appears they have. Not in droves, but enough that the venue hosts annual spring and fall equinox tournaments as well as practice sessions. At least it did. An old link I had showing the dohyo is no longer active.

After the shoot they realized that there was only one female participant present – a 10-year-old girl – and turned to Erinn to see if she would be willing to participate in the tournament in order to give the girl a competitor. Caught a little off guard, she agreed. Saying no would of course send the little girl packing, so what choice did she have? Besides, how hard could it be for an adult woman to wrestle a 10-year-old girl? They went about signing her up, weighing her in and fitting her with a mawashi, the standard loin cloth worn by wrestlers.

This was pretty funny, I thought, watching her get ready. I didn’t expect that a minute later they would be convincing me to do the same. Uh oh. With my background in photojournalism, I usually try not to get involved in what I’m shooting. Often times that’s for ethical reasons, but it can also be for the simple fact that it can prevent me from doing my job. But, despite a moment’s hesitation, I couldn’t pass this up. We weren’t there working for anyone and when would I ever have this chance again. Suit me up.

Seeing as I didn’t bring my own, they were kind enough to lend me a pair of shorts to wear under the mawashi they lent me. How do you make a man in a mawashi look more ridiculous? Make him wear pink shorts underneath. After we were both fitted we went through a training session, first outside the ring with the referee, and then in the ring with Sumo Dan himself. You don’t realize what you’re really up against until you find yourself face to face with a 300+ professional, who, by effortlessly leaning into you causes you to buckle as you simply try to hold your ground.

Fortunately, neither of us had to actually wrestle Dan. After our training, which included a routine of tossing salt into the ring to purify it, squatting, stomping, clapping your hands and then raising them to show you are unarmed, we stepped out of the ring and waited to compete. While not competing, I was of course shooting while Erinn took notes and interviewed wrestlers. Then it was time to wrestle.

Erinn was up first. Her competitor nearly equaled her in size. The daughter of one of the male competitors, this was not her first time in the ring, and she quickly took Erinn in the first bout. Erinn stepped up and was able to push her out of the ring on the second bout, but lost again in the third. A valiant effort and enough to earn her second place.

Then it was my turn. Erinn grabbed my camera and I stepped into the dohyo. There were just enough men that we could have two weight divisions. Myself, another man in his 50s and a third approaching 80 comprised the lightweight division. My first competitor was the younger of the two, who effortlessly knocked me off balance by grabbing my belt and lifting as he pushed me backwards out of the ring. One of the keys to sumo, I learned, was keeping a low center of gravity. This I do not have, and lifting on my belt was enough to completely take away any chance that I could push back. But I had my revenge. Not on him, but on the 80-year-old. I shouldn’t be proud of that, but I am. You gotta take the victories where you can. We squared off and, using my reach and the fact that I was more than a foot taller than him, I overpowered him forced him out of the ring. Despite his overwhelming defeat, he was all smiles.

Following the sanctioned competition, I wrestled one more guy just for fun. Despite looking like a sumo wrestler, he was actually rather new to the sport and had traveled with his sister from New Mexico to compete. Someone volunteered me as someone with whom he could get another round of practice. I was given some tips on how to use his inexperience to his disadvantage, but my own lack of experience combined with his mass were enough to assure him of the win.

As this was an official event, a ceremony was held at the end of competition, and medals were awarded. Both of us proudly took our silvers and posed for a photo with our weight divisions and again with the whole group.

I did get some photos from the event that I liked, but it’s fair to say that my work did suffer from participating. But screw it. We medaled in a sumo tournament! I’ve had conflicts that have prevented me from going to some recent sumo events, but I’m hoping we can pick this up again and publish a piece at some point. I’ll be sure to share when we do.

Jun 142009
 

2009-06-13-sumo-342

2009-06-13-sumo-225

I had a fun time checking out the U.S. Sumo National Championships at Venice Beach yesterday. The competition was held on the basketball courts near Muscle Beach and drew a decent crowd. There were competitors from all weight classes, with the largest wrestler, Kelly Gneiting, top photo on the right, weighing it at about 440 lbs., if I recall correctly. The current champion, Dan Kalbfleisch, is pictured top center and above dropping Gneiting to the mat. He keeps a blog about sumo called Sumo Dan, if you’re interested in learning more. More photos after the jump!

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