Meet the sports shooter who leaves heavy gear behind for an iPhone

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Rocco Mediate hangs out in the locker room during the second round of the Constellation Senior Players Championship at the Philadelphia Cricket Club earlier this month.
Rocco Mediate hangs out in the locker room during the second round of the Constellation Senior Players Championship at the Philadelphia Cricket Club earlier this month.
Photo: Brad Mangin/PGA TOUR

Cult of Mac 2.0 bugThe photographers were assembled with all their heavy camera equipment, about to walk 18 holes under the hot Florida sun to cover The Players Championship in Ponte Verde Beach when in strolled their colleague, Brad Mangin.

“Where’s your gear?” Mangin was asked. He pulled out his iPhone 6s to a chorus of groans and curses.

Photographers widely acknowledge that the camera isn’t what makes a photo good, but the person operating it. That being said, the iPhone is not a natural choice for shooting sports, where fast shutter speeds and telephoto lenses are critical tools to bring viewers into the heat of battle.

Yet it’s an iPhone and the sense of fun and wonder Mangin brings to it that has landed him spreads in Sports Illustrated, a book deal and, most recently, assignments for the PGA Tour.

The 12th green is cut at sunrise before the second round of the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.
The 12th green is cut at sunrise before the second round of the Constellation Senior Players Championship.
Photo: Brad Mangin/PGA TOUR

Finding the strength in what it can’t do


The iPhone gives everybody a camera, and its influence on photography has created both democratizing and disruptive effects. Sales of traditional cameras, especially point-and-shoots, have declined but more people churn out millions of pictures every day thanks to the simple yet sophisticated cameras and software in smartphones.

Further surprising is how a growing number of professionals have taken to the iPhone camera to produce everything from editorial assignments to exhibition-quality prints. Creatives find strength in the iPhone camera’s limitations and appreciate its unobtrusive presence around people.

“Working with it sort of reminds me of the class where the teacher gives you a lesson to take one camera and one lens,” Mangin tells Cult of Mac. “You’ve got one set-up and you have to move around and figure out what you can do within those parameters. I love it, it’s been fun.”

Jason Day holds up the winner's trophy after claiming THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., in May.
Jason Day holds up the winner’s trophy after claiming The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., in May.
Photo: Brad Mangin/PGA TOUR

The rest of the story

During two tournaments this season, the PGA Tour asked Mangin to not get in the middle of the action, but to work its edges. Mangin’s results showed a part of the story seldom seen.

He quietly photographed one golfer after a day’s round with his feet up in the player’s lounge, caddies at the ready outside their locker room, the shoes of one golfer being cleaned, and a golfer showing off baby pictures to a tour coach.

Then there are the beautiful scenic shots. Greenskeepers cutting the greens at sunrise, a canopy of clouds over a foursome, and a mother and daughter walking hand in hand down a path leading to a brilliant blue sky.

“I wanted to bring in a top professional photographer for our social media platform to engage our fans,” says Caryn Levy, the manager of photographic services for the PGA Tour. “Being able to show them powerful, creative images and intimate behind-the-scenes moments is fantastic.”

Duffy Walforf's shoes are cleaned in the locker room after the second round of the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.
Duffy Waldorf’s shoes are cleaned in the locker room after the second round of the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.
Photo: Brad Mangin/PGA TOUR

Mangin would make a picture, tweak it a bit and text it to the tour’s social media team who’d then post the pictures to Twitter and Instagram. Many of Mangin’s images capture the romance of the sport, which makes them an asset in constant efforts to advance the PGA Tour brand.

As photographers were still shooting pictures at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship in Pennsylvania of Bernhard Langer hoisting the trophy, Mangin made a quick capture and sent it to the social media team. Mangin converted it to black and white, making the gorgeous evening light silvery, and giving Langer a shadow frame cast by the surrounding crowd.

Bernhard Langer holds up the Sam Snead trophy winning the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.
Bernhard Langer holds up the Sam Snead trophy winning the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.
Photo: Brad Mangin/PGA TOUR

The PGA Tour has booked Mangin and his iPhone for other tour events this season, and it’s the iPhone right now that is keeping him working in an industry that is reducing its freelance fees.

The 15th green during the third round of the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.
The 15th green during the third round of the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.
Photo: Brad Mangin/PGA TOUR

Lose the flip phone!

Mangin, featured in Cult of Mac in the spring of 2015 after a photo of his was chosen by Apple to be in its Shot on iPhone 6 advertising campaign, has been shooting sports for more than 20 years. His work was regularly featured in Sports Illustrated and he has shot every World Series for Major League Baseball since 2000.

In 2011, Mangin was a photographer with a flip phone, constantly teased as being the only person without an iPhone. He finally got an iPhone 4s that December and had it with him at Spring Training in Arizona, when he experienced a playfulness with the camera. He shot details, like bags of baseballs and a rack of wood bats, but also found a unique ease in approaching players and coaches in the dugout and on the field. He worked with little notice.

Later that season, Sports Illustrated ran three double-truck spreads of his iPhone baseball pictures that he posted on Instagram. The work led to a book, Instant Baseball, featuring more than 200 of his iPhone photos, which was published in time for opening day of the 2013 season.

Mangin's baseball Instagram photos from the 2012 season were collected into a book.
Mangin’s baseball Instagram photos from the 2012 season were collected into a book.
Photo: Brad Mangin

Another book of Mangin’s work, Championship Blood, was loaded with great action photos chronicling the San Francisco Giants championship season in 2014. Yet, the book would be boring it if weren’t for 45 iPhone photos of the more offbeat moments among the highlights, Mangin says.

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