Coverage Stories, Photo Edition (Part 2)

by Tobi Henke on 07 September 2018, Friday

Tobi Henke

Coverage Stories, Photo Edition (Part 2)

When people ask me what I do for a living, I sometimes tell them I'm a writer. When they enquire about a sample of my work, I direct them to the previous installment of Coverage Stories, Photo Edition, because that one requires next to no knowledge of Magic. 

In it, I detailed some of the hardships of taking pictures. Turns out when you force someone to smile, what you get is a forced smile. The trick is to go one step further and to force the person to show their teeth as well. This results in a smile which isn't any more natural but looks very much like the genuine article in a photo.


Now it's time to reveal the second ingredient that's necessary for a beautiful smile. Of course, they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One can argue about that. What's most definitely true, however, is that there's beauty in the eyes of the subject matter!

The Eyes Have It

I don't recall the context of why the following was done. I don't know if I even was privy to the conversation that led up to it. But the image itself still haunts my dreams…

Foglio art!

Many consider Rich Hagon a born performer, but few are aware Rich is a trained performer. As such, he was probably sharing an acting exercise when he taught an assembly of the European coverage team how to contort one's face into the very best impression of a gleefully psychopathic axe murderer, think Jack Nicholson, think The Shining:

Start with your eyes. Do the most vicious, furious stare you can muster. If any look could kill, this would be the one. Lock this in. Now gradually move your mouth, and your mouth only, into the shape of a smile. Be careful to leave all other facial muscles in place while doing so. Eyes in particular remain unchanged. And that's it. Voilà, you're evil. Find a mirror and try it for yourself!

You will see this is harder to do than one would imagine, because any real smile automatically involves the eyes, which is indeed the lesson here. For a positive example of such a real smile, I submit to the court of public opinion exhibit A:

A nice picture of Eduardo

Why, hello handsome! Charmed, I'm sure. The beard and the unkempt hair speak of a certain debonair quality, its salt-and-pepper lending an aura of respectable savoir-vivre. A dashing pirate with a treasure chest full of gold and a heart of gold too, finding himself right at home in the Top 8 of an Ixalan Block Limited GP, one might think, and one would be correct at least about where the photo was taken. But what really sells this picture, much more than the row of perfect teeth, is the twinkle in the eyes and the wrinkles around them.

However, that killer smile can quickly turn into the smile of a true killer. Whereas the previous photo looks like Mister Right, the following would send people frantically swiping left:

A scary picture of Eduardo

My apologies to Eduardo Sajgalik, whose personality, I assure you, the first picture captures much more accurately. In fact, anyone who was present during the little photo shoot would be surprised that the second picture even came out of it. It couldn't have been more than a split second during which Eduardo relaxed the muscles around his eyes, a snapshot caught on camera to help me make a point.

Or to reiterate a point, rather. The takeaway here is, again, that one should never take too few photos lest one gets stuck with a photo like the above. Conversely, when one is in front of the camera, one shouldn't complain about how long it takes. Just hold still a little while longer, why don't you, and smile.

To Your Knees!

If you read a lot of Magic coverage, it's inevitable that you come across, rather sooner than later, some variation of: "Player A is the big shot in this pairing, but Player B is no slouch either."

Nobody ever is a slouch. You can depend on it. The word doesn't exist to describe what someone is, it appears, but what they specifically aren't. To say that the cliché is tired is no disparagement, it simply is acknowledging that of course the poor thing must be tired after all the hard work it puts in all the time. Whatever would we do without it, really?

But I digress. What I'm getting at is that, paradoxically, Magic players excel when it comes to literal slouching. The act of playing a card game kind of requires it. Everyone spends an inordinate percentage of their time hunched over a table, hung head, gaze fixed steadily down on the battlefield.

You know the old folk saying: If you want to take a photo of someone slouching, it's time to do some crouching. You don't? Well, you do now.

Assorted coverage images

When people ask me what I do for a living, I rarely tell them I spend a lot of time on my knees. I've heard Magic folks extol the moral virtue of squatting, but personally I prefer to go down on one knee when the situation calls for a low-angle shot.

Many of the people I work with have at various times taken game-play photos standing up, affording everybody a good view of players' foreheads:

Magical foreheads

Admittedly, they all have a good excuse not to follow my lead. Craig Jones is much older than he looks, so he might not be able to get up again. Frank Karsten gets lost in thought calculating the optimal angle. And Olle Råde doesn't see the need to stoop any lower because he's tiny already. This is no slight but a fact. No other member of the coverage team ever made the trip from venue to hotel travelling in the trunk of a vehicle.

That, however, is a story for another time.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, I hope you had a little fun seeing things through my, ahem, lense.

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