Were you watching the 2012 Olympics too? After Michael Phelps won a record number of gold medals, a promo came on TV about him appearing on the next Hank Haney project on Golf Channel. A light bulb immediately went off. I wanted to photograph Michael Phelps’ golf efforts.
I could only assume that the footage had not been created yet, given Michael’s Olympic schedule. I texted my Golf Channel contact and offered my photography services for the show. They would need behind the scenes pictures, portraits, show openers, end pages, etc. My text was acknowledged.
I got a text a few weeks later while I was on the 17th green at Sawgrass in Jacksonville. “What are you doing the month of October, and do you have your passport?” I responded that “this sounds interesting, I have my passport, and what’s up?” She responded, “Phelps is going to Scotland, China and Vegas, more soon.”
I got pretty excited. When you’re a photographer, plans are created all the time. Throughout the years, I’ve learned not to share much information about exciting jobs because they change so much. Maybe they’re delayed or canceled entirely. Some of the common reasons are that the subject has changed plans, the client went with a different story or the budget. A good time to share info is after it actually happens!
I made it to one of those locations to photograph Michael, but didn’t need a passport. The video and stills for his show opener were done at TPC Las Vegas in late October. The golf course was in great shape, and the views were fantastic. Michael hit a bunch of golf balls on the range, chatted with the crew, hit some putts and delivered some lines for the show open. We spent 2 hours with the greatest Olympian of all time.
I lit Michael for this portrait above with a Profoto 7B and medium soft box. Michael was standing under a 10′ scrim to keep the sun off of him. I had the lighting crew spin a HMI 5K around to give him the rim light.
Since I keep a portfolio on my phone, I was able to show Michael a picture from the first time I photographed him. Athletes always seem to remember where and when a picture of themselves was taken. He immediately zoomed into the goggles he posed with in the photo. He got the year correct, and I helped him with the location of the blue wall I used as a background at the Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
I also photographed Michael’s appearance in the Sarasota, Florida area. Michael played Laurel Oak Country Club on February 20, 2013, then went to the Orioles spring training camp on the following day. Michael played 18 holes with Haney and a film crew. The beautiful golf course was chosen because of its proximity to the Orioles camp, and its private facilities.
The Orioles welcomed Phelps and Haney with open arms the following day. They took batting practice, got a tour of the facility, met with head coach Buck Showalter and signed autographs. It’s always interesting to see a pro athlete signing an autograph for another pro athlete. Late in the day at the Orioles camp, a clubhouse employee went up to see Phelps in a blue Speedo, and asked him to race in the pool. It got quite a few laughs!
Here’s a gallery of my Michael Phelps images on GolfChannel.com.
Be sure to watch the Hank Haney Project with Michael Phelps on Golf Channel!