Clarkson continuously honored on Final Four lead-up

April 2, 2015

(Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

(Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

If you haven’t heard the story yet, you may be living underneath a rock. The buildup of March Madness will reach its apex this weekend as the Final Four teams compete for the NCAA Championship title that will be played on Monday. And the man who will be sitting on the floorboards, just as he has for 59 other Final Fours, will be photographing the game for his final team.

You heard it right! Rich Clarkson has photographed more NCAA Final Fours than anyone in history as he will leave his mark at an impressive 60 years. Over the years, he has grown the coverage that formed from Sports Illustrated into his own company, Clarkson Creative. Clarkson Creative does business as NCAA Photos and has been covering all of the collegiate championships since Fall of 1994.

To give you more insight into his story, I will leave that to the professionals. The stories below are written by those that are inspired by his story of photojournalism and the legacy he has left for the entire industry that we have today. Once you meet the legendary Rich Clarkson, he can’t help but share with you some amazing stories from all his years in the biz — these following stories captured just a few…

His work will continue outside of the NCAA Final Four with his founding company, Clarkson Creative, that run and manage clients with a variety of inventive work.

100 Best Super Bowl Photos

January 24, 2014

Congratulations to Rich Clarkson who made the list of Sports Illustrated’s 100 Best Super Bowl Photos.  This photograph from Super Bowl X captures an animated Tom Landry as his Cowboys lost to the Steelers 21-17.  See the full list here.

Super Bowl X


New Nikon Gear

September 27, 2012

Today was Christmas in our office. No there wasn’t an early Colorado snowfall – but the Nikon gear we bought finally came in.

At Rich Clarkson, we have always relied on Nikon gear as we find the capabilities, features, and quality to be top-notch and always pushing technology forward.

Nikon gear has helped us take the best editorial and sports (and anything really) photography over the 25 years of our company.

The new features of the D800 and the D4 now push the digital photography field even further with higher quality photography, more features, and video capabilities.

The D800 specifically has helped us move further into DSLR filmmaking that has made an epic mark into multimedia and video production.

To find out more information on the great cameras, check out the D4 and the D800.

Nat Geo photogs give insight from Rich Clarkson

April 9, 2012


Gerd Ludwig continues his series on speaking to former Directors of Photography including Rich Clarkson. Clarkson was Director of Photography for the National Geographic Magazine from 1985 to 1988.

Like Kent Kobersteen, I have spent much of my professional life moving on from an early role as staff photographer to a director of photography. My time spanned two successful newspapers and eventually, the National Geographic Society.

It included working as a contract photographer for a news weekly and the nation’s premier sports magazine, as well as the editor of a number of books and photographic projects. So from both sides of the fence, my career has been about the business of getting good pictures and then using them well.

So what did I learn in these various stages? And what should all photographers know?

This is about what directors of photography do, and how to use them well.

First, a director of photography is your friend — and your spokesman, your salesman and often, your mentor. But he is a middleman. His job lies between you, and the users of your work, along with a picture editor and various other layers of editors whose job it is to combine the visuals with words. It is a very competitive environment.

Some managing editors are brilliant manipulators of all the elements to tell a story most effectively, but often they can use help. Dealing with various magazine editors over the years, often a scene of negotiations and compromises.

To read the rest of the article, go to The Photo Society.

The Photo Society is a collaboration blog of National Geographic photographers, their work, and their opinions.

CBS News ‘This Morning’ profiled Rich Clarkson for 57th Final Four

April 4, 2012

Since 1952, Rich Clarkson has been a staple of the NCAA Final Four Tournament documenting history. From the emergence of the black athlete to the different style of the game, Rich has been travelled the road to the Final Four 57 times.

With that, Charlie Rose and CBS News This Morning gave him some airtime this year on the Monday morning of the Championship game.

Take a look below on the insider’s look into the mind of the ‘Legendary Final Four photog’ Rich Clarkson.

The Kansas City star newspaper also profiled Rich in their story on Kansas’ Final Four win. Take a look here.

History on the Low Angle

May 3, 2010

The low angle basketball picture — the camera right on the floor — has become the popular “in angle” these days and it is interesting to watch, for this was something I began doing back in the 1950s — and have ever since.

For me, it began with one of my first cameras while as a student, I photographed Kansas University basketball games, selling pictures to newspapers in Kansas City and Topeka along with the AP and the old Acme Telephoto networks.  It was a 4 x 5 Speed Graphic which had a rising front.  With the camera sitting right on the floor, you could raise the lens — and the perspective.  One of the first really successful pictures I made that way was of the legendary Oklahoma A & M basketball coach, Hank Iba, coming off the bench yelling to make sure the officials called the foul on KU player Harold Patterson.  The picture won several contests.

I began using that technique fairly regularly, swinging the camera on the floor from side to side following the action without ever looking through it.  This particular technique was working to make dramatic pictures at the same time I read how the famous Texas sports photographer, Jimmy Laughead, told of the same technique in all the posed action pictures he made for teams across the country for many years.  Jimmy said the low camera angle made the players seem bigger and more heroic.

In the 1970s when I was doing the Final Four for Sports Illustrated every year, I placed one motorized Hasselblad on the floor right against the padded basket standard, also alerting the game officials running the baseline that I had a camera there — not to kick it.  That was how informal things were in those years.  I tripped it with a wire to where I sat with another eye-level camera just a few feet away — but the low angle made almost all the good pictures.  From the UCLA years, there was a memorable picture of Bill Walton in the Los Angeles Sports Arena that has been republished many times.

It was in the 90s when one of the NCAA tournament directors asked me what I thought of painting the apron black or deep blue.  Right off, I said it was a good idea for I envisioned from the low camera angle providing a mirror image — which was exactly what it did.  Only then, I moved to the far outside position on the baselilne to get more of the floor in the foreground — and the mirror image.  Over those more recent years, I got three different double truck openers in SI from that position which every now and then, provided something more than just the reflected image.  In 2001, Duke’s Mike Dunleavy hit two threes from my outside corner to wrap up the game for the Blue Devils.  That low corner position was perfect for his shots right from my corner.  A little luck never hurts.

But it did hurt — a little — in 1998 when two Kentucky players chasing a loose ball going out of bounds right in front of me dived right into the camera and me.  It didn’t hurt that much because I knew it was going to be a really good picture.

Most of those pictures were made with the Hasselblad which I have always considered the best basketball camera.  It’s 2 1/4 format lets you choose either a vertical or horizontal final version, depending on the action.  And it also enabled me to get that floor reflection, if it worked out.  However, the Hasselblad had no rising front like the Speed Graphic and somehow, you had to point the camera slightly up and I wanted it as close to the floor as possible.  So from 1969 until 2004 —  my Hasselblad years — I always raised the camera just the right amount.  By putting a boxed roll of 120 film under the front of the camera.

I really miss the film years.

-Rich Clarkson