“You don’t think you’ll take the last photo of mom.”

We’ve photographed every Bassmaster Classic for Yamaha since 2012.  More accurately, we’ve provided a massive, over the top, green screen photo booth for the past 11 years.

In March, 2020 it was the very last event we photographed.  When I deplaned from Birmingham at Baltimore Washington International, my phone blew up – every event was cancelled for the rest of the year because of COVID. 

It was the first major event we photographed in 2021, when COVID paused long enough for Bassmasters to schedule a Classic.

In 2022, it was the first “normal” event we photographed – masks, ubiquitous in 2021, had virtually disappeared from the show floor.

Over the years, I’ve had some families come again and again.  The line never stops – at least until the fish weigh in starts.  These are dedicated, hard-core fishing fans.

We’ve photographed hundreds, thousands, of participants during the three-day event for the past eleven years.

We’ve gotten to know some of them – through the images we take.

These are photos participants line up on their refrigerator.  Photos they use as their phone’s screen saver.  Photos that chronicle the growth of their family.

A participant in 2014 right can barely hold up the fish prop The same boy in 2023 left is now an angler in the competition

Photos that have become part of their legacy, their history – and mine.

You don’t think, when you start a business, that you’ll build a legacy.  You think, if you’re lucky, you’ll make a living.  You think, if you’re lucky, you can afford to do what you love and pay the mortgage.  You’ll think, if you’re lucky, that you’ll provide a marketing service people are enthusiastic about.  What you don’t think is you’ll document legacy.  History.

But, over the years, history has paraded in front of my camera.  Sometimes that history is obvious – hell, I started at Ground Zero, September 13, 2001, photographing the rescue operations.  That was obviously history.  I worked at the US Senate.  That’s where history is made, just ask any Senator (yes, that would be sarcasm!) But (with a few exceptions) not a lot of those moments stand out in my memory.

What does stand out?  The young couple (who I’ve mentioned in this blog before) who tried to “feed” their baby to the giant reproduction of the record-breaking large mouth bass at Bassmasters 2019.  A few days ago, it was the baby who tried to feed her sister to the fish, at Bassmasters 2023.  The family has grown.  What does stand out are the friends we’ve made over the years at the Travel and Adventure Show.  Gail.  Donna.  Julian.  What does stand out are the people we’ve photographed every year for the past ten years at Carpet One, now CCA Global. We outlasted their name.   I remember photographing that event when I was blind in one eye with Lyme disease. The doctor had told me, “go do your job. Then go directly to the emergency room.”

A young family returns to the Knoxville green screen photo booth with a new addition to their family.
A young family returns to the Knoxville green screen photo booth with a new addition to their family

You don’t think, when you become a photographer, that it’s legacy you’re capturing.  You don’t think a family will tell you the green screen photo you took a few years ago is blown up and hangs above their fireplace as a family portrait.  “It was the last photo of mom,” the participant told me.

You don’t think you’ll take the last photo of mom.

You think, if you’re lucky, you will be able to pay the mortgage.

I have been very lucky.