Off the Press
November 27, 2012
By Greg Farrar
A competitive friend is taken too soon
Sunday night, as I was meandering about on Facebook, where more than a dozen of my friends are local newspaper and professional photographers, the Internet suddenly lit up from one end to the other like a lightning bolt across the sky with the sad news that one of our brethren had passed away.
The pre-eminent high school sports photographer for our parent company The Seattle Times, and a friend, Jim Bates, had finished his struggle against non-Hodgkin lymphoma. And while I might flatter myself to think a few of my sports photos are clipped out and pasted in your scrapbooks, it’s a sure bet that if you have been a high school athlete or a parent of one at any time during the past decade, and look back in those books, you will find Times photos with Jim’s byline.
There is a contingent of us local photographers who follow our school sports all year, including Don Borin, Jim Simpkins, Jim Nicholson, Chuck Babcock and Gary Babcock. And the truth is, we’re all trying to make sport photos as good as Jim Bates did. In his very unobtrusive and workmanlike way, he always knew exactly where to be for the consummate image.
Whether they are football, basketball or soccer photos, and whether they have been at Issaquah, Liberty or Skyline high schools, Jim Bates was there.
Especially if we are talking about this week’s main event, Skyline High School football championship games, you were going to find Jim at the Tacoma Dome year after year, with me trying to keep elbow-to-elbow with him for the big plays and the trophy-hoisting shots!
During one of Skyline’s early championship years, he covered the team like a blanket all season, putting together an awesome package of photos at the end of the year when the team won the title.
And that was all on top of his other spot news and feature assignments throughout the region.
When The Press adopted digital photography, he had already been shooting digital and was a big help to me, answering questions about memory cards, resolution and settings. Jim was generous with information and friendly to everyone on the sideline with a lens.
He had an awesome laugh with a great sense of humor, but was quiet in wielding it and not distracted by making chatter, as he stuck to the business of watching the flow of action, predicting where he wanted to be for the next play and hitting the shutter.
Seattle Times photographers, many of whom I’ve known for decades, are good friends of mine. They are all saddened this week, and they all have my condolences. Here at The Press, owned by The Times, I am fortunate to feel like a working cousin and share their feelings.
This Saturday at the Tacoma Dome in Skyline’s championship game, I’ll try to get a shot above and beyond in honor of Jim Bates.