Discover more from Keeping up With Rampant Reeg
Ball gown sprinting in Austria and mud slogging in Czechia
My time in the Czech Republic and in Vienna, covering the opera ball, and more
Back in February, I found myself sprinting through a room of wealthy Austrians and other members of the global elite (including, but not limited to, Jane Fonda, I’d argue she’s global elite) with a ball gown, high heels, and a backpack full of lenses, with ballroom staff yelling after me to check my camera bag. But here’s the whole story.
I came early to the prestigious Opera ball to stake out my spot to photograph. I’m small, so I always have to stake my claim on a spot very early to make sure I can see over the cameras or to be in front of everyone. I made friends with the nice door lads (always step number two.) They respected my goal to get the above dancing shot. But when the time came and the ball started, the debutantes started pouring in. That’s when my new doormen friends told me I had to beat it - I was in the “fire safety” lane. I was so screwed. How was I going to photograph any of the opening act?
Keeping up With Rampant Reeg is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I sprinted down the stairs and got lost trying to get to the ball floor. I asked a security man where the main area was. He replied with “Vat main area?” I said “You know, where everyone is dancing!” He replied with so much snark I almost couldn’t contain myself, “Well it’s obviously not here now is it!?” I tried to get through the crowd to the center. That wasn’t going to work. I decided to try my luck at the upstairs again. I sprinted in my borrowed ball grown and my heeled boots back up the 6 floors, sweating profusely. The doormen were yelling after me saying that I needed to check my camera bag. “You’re not allowed to run around here with a backpack on,” they said. But it had all my lenses and the wifi transceiver so I could file straight from the camera… I followed their instruction and checked my bag with coat check.
I stood in the nosebleeds behind everyone, attempting to photograph this event differently than had been done before (yikes!) I kept running to coat check to change lenses, while the ladies in their furs stared at me dripping sweat. The opening acts finished and now, I was able to hunt for fun and flirty imagery. I found myself somehow in the same room as the Austrian Chancellor and the Prime Minister of Belgium. I snapped some photos and left the room. All said and done, I had everything filed at 1 am. I was happy with my images and it was certainly an experience to be remembered. One of my Opera ball pics was placed in the Atlantic’s best photos of the week.
The very next day, I found myself three sketchy wooden ladder floors up an old church tower coated in pigeon poop with sports writer David Waldstein for the New York Times yelling that he was glad I was a climber and glad he wasn’t up there with me. We were following two different stories across most of Czechia. One was about the Czech National baseball team, their road to the World Baseball Classic, and all the ‘day jobs’ they still had even though they are professional players. Examples: Teacher, firefighter, neurosurgeon, social media manager etc.
The other story was about a man named Jaromir Jagr, a professional ice hockey player in his fifties who has been playing professionally for 35 seasons with over 2,000 games under his belt. He is the owner and played for the Rytíři Kladno team in his home town outside Prague.
We started with the baseball story. Beginning with an interview with the coach of the team Pavel Chadim. He is a neurologist and has his own practice in downtown Brno. Each of his patient rooms and offices are painted different vibrant colors, and depending on his mood, he’ll take patients in either the bright orange, blue, or green rooms. I loved the creamsicle room.
We were then taken to pitcher Martin Schneider, who is what’s called a “liquid firefighter.” He is specifically trained to handle chemical spills across all of Czechia but he is also one of the star players on the Czech National team. I had a lot of fun with the boys. They were so happy, always laughing, and joking around with each other. You can read the story here!
Our last two days in Czechia we spent trying to make ourselves available for Jagr. Our last night, we attended a game and had plans to interview him after the game. If Jagr won, he would be in a really good mood for the interview. If he didn’t… we didn’t even know if he would allow me to take his portrait. Luckily, even though they lost, Waldstein is a funny and smooth talker and Jagr allowed me to take a portrait after his interview. I was given about two minutes. If you have some time you can read the story here!
On my last day in Czechia there was a gorgeous sunset to be remembered. I felt like I haven’t seen the sun, let alone a sunset, in months, so it felt extra special. Thanks for following along! The behind the scenes stories of how photographers get their shots and what went down before and after is important and sometimes even hilarious.
You can find the hilarious, behind the scenes story that David Waldstein wrote about our time together here!