Who is that woman!

Legends in Bronze concert Surprise! Garth Brooks stunned the crowd of 7,000 at the Crystal Palace by hitting his knees and proposing to Trisha Yearwood Wednesday nightPhotojournalists have it pretty good. We get to go places others can’t. What we see – how we process, interpret and record an event or occurrence – can become the visual that thousands or even millions will associate with that moment for all time. I can’t tell you how many people want my job, and how many have told me over the years that they would do it for free. To that I say, let’s not get carried away now. Sure it’s a great career, but you know, we have bills to pay. We have mortgages, we have to eat, many have families, educational expenses, you know. We spend thousands on equipment, and thousands more learning and working to perfect our craft. I won’t get started on people who expect photographers to work for free or provide their images for free. You’ve all heard my rants about that, no need to repeat them here. In addition to my salary, we were permitted to sell photos we shot for The Californian, and split the fees with the company. I made more money with this photo than any other in my career. On May 25, 2005, Buck Owens unveiled the series of giant bronze statues of country music legends he had commissioned for his Crystal Palace. Buck decided to do it in grand fashion, with a ceremony and concert in the back lot of the Palace. I arrived early to scout a shooting location. It looked like there were two good spots: an area designated for photographers in front of the stage, and a raised TV stand platform to the right of the stage, about halfway back and at a 45 degree angle. Sometimes guess work plays a part in deciding how to shoot an assignment, especially if it is something you are not familiar with. Because the statues were huge, life size or even larger, I envisioned a shot of one of the singers with his statue behind him. I thought a compressed angle would be better than a wide angle, so I chose the TV stand and waited. It didn’t really matter which star I photographed. They were so huge, any one would suffice. Merle Haggard, George Jones, Garth Brooks, George Strait, any would do, and I wouldn’t be able to get them all because it was late and deadline loomed.
By showtime, the lot was packed. The TV stand had filled with media, and 7,000 people were jammed into the lot, eliminating the possibility of moving to a new shooting location once the show began. Garth Brooks was first up. “That will work,” I thought. “He’s pretty huge.” And then, the unexpected happened. Brooks motioned to a woman to join him on stage. The crowd roared when she came out. I had no idea who she was. I’m not much interested in celebrity news or gossip. Seven thousand people knew what was going on, the photographer on the TV stand had no idea. Brooks got to his knees. The crowd went insane. He was proposing to the woman, and I was f—ed! A TV cameraman on the stage had stepped into my frame and was completely blocking my view! I couldn’t see any of it. Move, I thought, but there was nowhere to go. The stand was packed, shoulder to shoulder. The scene dragged on for I’d guess 45 seconds or a minute. “Move, move,” I was screaming, as if that would do any good. Then, the TV cameraman stepped aside. I got off two frames. And it was over. Two frames of what I instantly knew was “the moment” of the event and likely the biggest entertainment story in the world, at least on this day. The first frame was out of focus. Unusable. The second frame was sharp. One image. No options. No choices to make, no angles to consider, no discussion to have with an editor or a page designer. Now I had another problem. I had no idea who the woman was, and I needed her name. It was late, and I was running out of time. I thought about trying to get backstage, where someone from Brooks’ camp could give me the name. But wading through the crowd would take up too much time. I decided to head back to the newsroom; we would have to find out who she was from there. I was excited when I arrived in the newsroom and breathlessly announced, “You won’t believe what just happened! Garth Brooks proposed to some woman on stage, but I don’t know who she is! We have to find out who she is!” Stefani Dias is one of my best friends at The Californian. She’s pretty used to me, and she seemed pretty amused. She’s a features editor, and entertainment news is a component of her job. She’s paid to know these things. She was editing copy, glanced up and said, “Trisha Yearwood.” That was easy. I showed her the picture to confirm. Yep, that’s her. I had heard of Trisha Yearwood, but had no idea what she looked like. Didn’t matter, we were good to go.
The picture ran on the front page, and it was a huge hit. Demand for it was instantaneous and high. The picture would run all over the world. My boss, photo editor Alexander Horvath, decided to move it to our agency, ZUMA Press, and let them handle the sales. Agencies are expensive, they typically take 50 percent, but they do all the work. And it’s a lot of work. I made about $2,000 off the photo, and received checks occasionally for about five years as it was republished. Taking the agency’s fees and The Californian’s share, that means the photo generated about $8,000 in revenue. And an interesting side note: Yearwood’s web site posted the picture without obtaining permission and paying for it. We told them to take it down or pay a fee. They told us to pound sand. So we notified the agency, and let them handle that. I never found out how that was resolved. That’s why it makes sense to let the pros handle things when you get a big picture.

Who is that woman! Photojournalists have it pretty good. We get to go places others can't. What we see - how we process, interpret and record an event or occurrence - can become the visual that thousands or even millions will associate with that moment for all time. I can't tell you how many people want my job, and how many have told me over the years that they would do it for free. To that I say, let's not get carried away now. Sure it's a great career, but you know, we have bills to pay. We have mortgages, we have to eat, many have families, educational expenses, you know. We spend thousands on equipment, and thousands more learning and working to perfect our craft. I won't get started on people who expect photographers to work for free or provide their images for free. You've all heard my rants about that, no need to repeat them here. In addition to my salary, we were permitted to sell photos we shot for The Californian, and split the fees with the company. I made more money with this photo than any other in my career. On May 25, 2005, Buck Owens unveiled the series of giant bronze statues of country music legends he had commissioned for his Crystal Palace. Buck decided to do it in grand fashion, with a ceremony and concert in the back lot of the Palace. I arrived early to scout a shooting location. It looked like there were two good spots: an area designated for photographers in front of the stage, and a raised TV stand platform to the right of the stage, about halfway back and at a 45 degree angle. Sometimes guess work plays a part in deciding how to shoot an assignment, especially if it is something you are not familiar with. Because the statues were huge, life size or even larger, I envisioned a shot of one of the singers with his statue behind him. I thought a compressed angle would be better than a wide angle, so I chose the TV stand and waited. It didn't really matter which star I photographed. They were so huge, any one would suffice. Merle Haggard, George Jones, Garth Brooks, George Strait, any would do, and I wouldn't be able to get them all because it was late and deadline loomed. By showtime, the lot was packed. The TV stand had filled with media, and 7,000 people were jammed into the lot, eliminating the possibility of moving to a new shooting location once the show began. Garth Brooks was first up.
Buck Owens moves in to congratulate Brooks and Yearwood after the surprise wedding proposal.
Earlier in the evening, I shot this photo. George Jones, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and the statude designer, Bill Raines, pose for photos inside the Crystal Palace before the statue unveilings.
Earlier in the evening, I shot this photo. George Jones, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and the statue designer, Bill Raines, pose for photos inside the Crystal Palace before the statue unveilings.
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