This spring, FTR is taking a look behind the lens of the industry’s best photographers. From saltwater to fresh, corporate hustlers to freelance, we’re bringing you the stories of the shots that mean the most to them. This week, we catch up with Advanced Angler owner and Managing Editor Dan O’ Sullivan, who’s spent two decades covering the world of professional bass fishing.
The gear: Canon EOS 40D; EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM lens
The year: 2009
My most memorable photo experience actually occurred nearly 20 years ago when I was covering a western pro-am for The Fish Sniffer magazine; the first publication I regularly worked for. I was there as Skeet Reese caught nearly 60 pounds in two days of competition and snapped some pictures of him on the water and onstage for the publication.
Two days later, I bumped into him and his wife Kim, who was in the third trimester of pregnancy with their oldest daughter Lea at a home improvement store in Roseville, Calif. Skeet told me that he had a sponsor who was working on a new product, and said they needed some pictures of him with big fish. Seeing as some of his fish in that tournament came on those lures, he gave me the contact information to Alan McGuckin, then of Terminator Lures.
McGuckin asked if I could get him some of the photos, so I promptly ran to the store and had 1 hour reprints made at the photo counter (this was before digital photography hit the mainstream). I sent them second day so they could have them, and to my surprise, a couple weeks later, I received a check for $100.
I later saw the photo of Skeet with two big Clear Lake bass in an ad in Bassmaster Magazine for Terminator’s Snap Back Plastics. That was the first photo I ever “sold” to anyone, and it was when I really learned the value of photos in marketing. I was unable to locate a copy of that image as it is likely still in storage boxes following our move to Alabama from California a year and a half ago.
When I think of that image, I think of the fact that it built the foundations for two of my favorite and most important relationships in my life. That photograph led me to a friendship, and business relationship with Skeet that has lasted well into the present, and it led me to a friendship with Guck, who remains one of my favorite people in the industry today.
The photo I am submitting for this topic is of Skeet as he held his 2009 Bassmaster Classic trophy overhead as the sparks and confetti had just begun to erupt.
To me, this photo serves as not only an exclamation point to Skeet’s career, but also as the launching point for my career in this industry on the sport of bass fishing’s biggest stages. My first Bassmaster Classic was in 2008 at Lake Hartwell when I went to work with Mark Jeffreys as a part of his BASSZONE.com team. I shot photos on the water with Dru Smith and did interviews backstage in the Media Center.
2009 was the first year that I got to shoot from the floor of the livewell, and that was largely because Skeet was in the Super Six and I was writing the text for his website. I was still covering the event for BASSZONE.com, but Mark let me come onto the floor when the Super Six came to the stage.
I snapped photos as all of the Super Six weighed in, and of course as Skeet was crowned champion and received his trophy on stage.
“That was the first opportunity I had to shoot the weigh-in of a Bassmaster Classic, and have shot all of them since for the variety of publications I have worked for over the years.”
While this photo of Skeet has never been published anywhere, I loved the way the backlight silhouetted him slightly and the sparks from the celebratory fireworks showered and illuminated him, and the highlights of the trophy as the image captured the contrails of the sparks as they cascaded around him. To this date, I’ve only used this photo to give Skeet and Kim a print for their office and I’ve kept it out of publications. For whatever reason, this seemed like the perfect time to share it.
If I thought of it for a while, I could likely come up with photographs that were more significant professional accomplishments for me; however, while some have ended up on the covers of magazines and catalogs, none represent more to me personally than the two I have discussed in this story.
The first photo not only taught me that photographs were more than just filler to articles, but were actually a part of my business, and it also introduced me to someone who has become a longtime friend in Alan, and it started a professional relationship with someone I knew in Skeet, who has become one of my dearest friends and supporters in the world.
I really couldn’t think of any more significant photos than these in my life and my career. Many of them have had significance, but this interconnected trail of stories have been the most personal.
-as told to Joe Sills by Dan O’ Sullivan
Dan O’Sullivan is the owner and Managing Editor of AdvancedAngler.com, a fishing how-to website in its sixth year. He is the staff writer and photographer for the Alabama Bass Trail and freelances for several industry publications as well. Catch up with him on Instagram at @theadvancedangler and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AdvancedAngler.