Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Getting over the hill with Lance

I've been completely sucked into watching the Tour De France this year, and have especially enjoyed watching Mr. Armstrong take a shot at an 8th Tour win. Not that I am a rabid Lance fan, but we are the same age (37) and it's interesting to see how he fares in a field of riders 10 years younger. Most of these guys were pimply-faced high school kids watching the Tour on TV when Lance was dominating it. Now they (Contador, Schleck) are pushing Lance harder than he's ever been pushed, and Lance is learning the hard way that he doesn't have what he used to have.

In a way, Lance is riding not just for himself, his team, and for all the cancer patients in the world, but for all of us older folks that get out of bed in the morning with a few more aches and pains than we had in our 20's.

He is the first one to admit this, which makes me sad. It has to be very painful for him to realize that he's lost his edge, and is coming to terms with the end of his career. It's got to be difficult when the abilities that took you to the top begin to fade, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Here is a post race interview with Lance. You can tell how hard it is for him to talk about it.

It's interesting to think about how age affects careers. When you are a professional athlete, there's not much you can do about age and its effect. If you're not as fast, you have to play a little smarter. Eventually you'll be too slow, and will have to give it up.

How does aging translate into photography? I've been at this since I was 16, and I'm still learning. Some things get easier, like lighting, understanding gear, previsualizing images, working on set with crews, and coordinating productions. But one thing that never gets easier is the need to reinvent myself, and to continue moving into and exploring new territory. It's always hard to keep pushing forward, leaving the old images behind, and pushing forward towards new ones.

As I get older and the up + comers get younger, I see the images they create and am inspired to continue this journey, knowing that the years I've spent shooting are something that I will always have. Photography needs youth, it is the fuel that stokes many spontaneous creative fires.

But as photographers we can thank our lucky stars that success isn't dependent upon the size of our quads, or our lung capacities. As long as we keep our minds sharp, and keep moving forward, we can keep climbing the mountain with the young guns. Once we get lazy and stop pedaling, we get dropped off the back.

There is still hope for Lance in the next few stages, and it may be a bit too early to discount the reservoir of "pissed off old man strength" that he is probably waiting to channel at just the right time. I'll be watching for it....

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