Nelson McLachlan, Sabu & A Manfrotto Super Clamp

Self portrait — Nelson McLachlan

Yesterday Rebecca, Lauren, Rosemary and I watched Alexander Korda’s wonderful 1942 film The Jungle Book with Sabu. I particularly thought it appropriate for Rebecca as I wanted her to see the Kipling classic in a film with real people and real animals. I didn’t want it to be an animated film. Rebecca liked it (even though Sabu kills Shere Khan and does not run away as in the PC Disney film) and wasn’t too sure if the crocodile was real all the time. “Perhaps it was a trained crocodile,” she said. Later in the evening she was watching a terrible film with Terrence Stamp (the villain) and Eddie Murphy (the hero). It had lots of special effects and swordplay and levitations. The contrast between the films made me think of the concept of special effects. In The Jungle Book the special effects consisted in trying to make a Hollywood lot look like an Indian jungle. The war made it impossible to shoot it on location. In the 90s I was well known for photographic special effects in the magazine business, before Photoshop brought us penguins in the Sahara.

There was one special effects photograph I had taken but I could not remember the name of my subject until I found the old Vancouver Magazine tear sheet from May 1990 yesterday. It had been one of those Sean Rossiter 12th & Cambie columns, this one called The Pedal Pushers. It was a column that was well ahead of its time as it told the story of Nelson McLachlan who, to quote Rossiter:

Nelson McLachlan was sitting in his snazzy new metallic brown 1982 Toyota Cellica fastback, idling in the lat-afternoon traffic jam at 41st and Granville, when he had one of those almost religious experiences that occur to all of us but get forgotten by the time we find a parking spot. Barely 22 years old, still paying inflation-era interest on his car loan although the economy was in a freezer, McLachlan suddenly saw that he was working full time for no other reason than to make the payments of his car.

This is crazy, he thought. He pulled into Granville Toyota (at 41st), quickly agreed to accept $7,500 cash for the Celica — it needed vacuuming — and took the Number 3 Road Richmond Express, home to the 18-speed, custom frame bike that had cost him $1000.

Rossiter wrote on how McLachlan became chair of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and spearheaded making it mandatory for downtown office developers to build bike racks and changing facilities. The article was airing the problem of the fact that cyclists could not ride the SeaBus and buses had no bike racks. In short McLachlan probably helped a lot in making Vancouver an almost bike friendly city. I wonder where he is now and is he still cycling down from Richmond to Vancouver?

For the photograph I wanted to do something sharply different from the usual panned shot of a sharp cyclist with a blurred background. I attached a Nikon FM-2 with a fisheye lens and a motor drive to the front hub of McLachlan’s bike tire by using a then (and now) legendary Manfrotto Super Clamp.

This clamp can bind firmly anything to anything. I had to trust the clamp not to fail as expensive equipment would have literally bitten the dust. I wrapped a remote motor drive button (in the picture here you can see glimpses, on the left side of the picture on the handle bar) and told McLachlan to drive back and forth (but take pictures only on the side that had sun on his face. We shoot three rolls of 36 exposures. Art director Rick Staehling chose this one for the spread and we had a massive argument.

It has always been my belief that whoever presses the shutter of a camera is the person who takes the picture. I told Staehling that the photograph had to be photocredited to McLachlan. We finally compromised on a joint credit.

Link to: Nelson McLachlan, Sabu & A Manfrotto Super Clamp

Originally published at