Sports photographer Jeff Lewis is used to shooting athletes, but this time he was the athlete in the shot. Photo by Jason Lewis
Jeff Lewis has become accustomed to photographing the athletes, but he had the urge to become one once again.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
Sentinel readers have had the pleasure of viewing Jeff Lewis’ images of a number of the greatest athletes in the world. He has shot the Lakers, Dodgers, UCLA and USC for a number of years. He has shot the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, and some of the biggest sporting events in the nation.
But for one day he wanted to have the feeling of being an athlete again.
Lewis grew up playing sports, winning a MVP award while playing baseball at Rancho Cienga Park, playing football at Fairfax High School and West LA College, where he played wide receiver on the opposite side of Keyshawn Johnson. He also ran track at West LA and at UC Irvine.
The itch to complete is inside every former athlete, so Lewis decided to take on the challenge of running the LA Marathon.
This idea first came to Lewis when he was a child and would watch the marathon go by Crenshaw Blvd. In his teenage years, he and his younger brother would ride their bikes along the course before the runners went by.
At age 36, now was the time. As he said, it would be easier to do it at 36 than at 46.
Lewis started training in October, adding a mile to his run each week, until he reached 12 miles.
Heavy rain and muscle aches were not going to stop Lewis from completing his goal. At mile 17 he stopped to get some words of encouragement from his mother, who waited for about 45 minutes in the pouring rain to give him a cup of water. At that point he was really feeling the pain.
“My legs felt like they were going to cramp, but as long as I kept moving forward I was going to make it,” Lewis said. “There was never a doubt in my mind that I wasn’t going to finish the race.”
At that point Lewis did a good job of not letting on that he was in pain, but he did ask for assistance in tying his shoe from his younger brother because he said that if he bent over, he might not be able to get back up.
After a few minutes he was back on the course, ignoring the pain.
“It was more of a mental hurt,” Lewis said. “Physically you’re in pain because the body is not made to go 26 miles. You know, the first person to run the marathon, from Marathon to Athens, died when he hit the finish line. So you want to keep moving forward and never stop.”
Seeing the finish line in the distance raised Lewis’ spirits a lot.
“The mile before the finish line felt horrible, and then all of a sudden, when you get to about a half a mile in front of it, and you see it, you still aren’t feeling good, but your pace starts picking up, you start smiling, and you just want to stop a foot after the finish line,” Lewis said. “You’re happy to cross that line.”
Five hours and 25 minutes after the start, Lewis’ goal was accomplished. He was the athlete once again, and he had a photographer taking his photo.
Lewis will not be quitting his day job, so we will still be able to enjoy his outstanding work. Completing the marathon was a great accomplishment for him, but his passion is in sports and photography, which he has combined.
Lewis has always been interested in photography, and once he saw that he was not going to play in the NFL, he changed his major to photography while at UC Irvine, because he felt that was his best way into the NFL.
After college, Lewis obtained a job shooting action photos for Little League Baseball and Pop Warner Football. One night, while shooting a Dorsey high school football game, Ken Miller, Sentinel Managing Editor at the time, was impressed by the size of the lens that Lewis had on his camera, and gave him a shot to shoot big time sports.
That was a chance that launched Lewis’ career. Not too long after that he was sitting courtside shooting Lakers games.
“Every time somebody gave me a chance I made the best of it,” Lewis said. “I shot every event as if it was the last time I was going to be there. If you keep on doing that you’ll be successful and you’ll achieve your goals.”
Lewis’ photos have appeared in major publications such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. He was named the 2006 Dodgers Photographer of the Year, and while working for the NFL Network, his photographs where shown on television during the game, which had never happened before with any photographer.
Lewis loves every aspect of his profession.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Lewis said. “I get to sit there live and capture that. Being a part of the machine that we call sports is amazing.”
Lewis has been to 27 NFL stadiums and 15 baseball stadiums, and one of his greatest feelings was running onto the field with the Dallas Cowboys.
Recently Lewis started a company, Playmaker Images, where he is hired by professional athletes to shoot them in game and in his Downtown studio. It has allowed him to interact with some of the biggest stars in the nation in a way that most fans could only dream of.
Lewis might not run very many marathons in the future, but look for him courtside at Lakers game. You might see him under the basket.
Jeff Lewis placed his camera inside a helmet to get this interesting shot of Terrell Owens. Photo by Jeff Lewis
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