Behind The Scenes

The Big Unit in focus: Randy Johnson shoots the X Games

Former MLB Pitcher Randy Johnson photographing X Games Los Angeles 2012. (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)
Former MLB Pitcher Randy Johnson photographing X Games Los Angeles 2012. (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

LOS ANGELES — When you think of former pitcher Randy Johnson, “The Big Unit,” you think of a 100 mph fastball, or maybe his five Cy Youngs and his more than 300 career victories.

When I think of Randy, I think about his other passion, photography. Three years into retirement after 22 major league seasons, the ex-flame thrower now channels his energy to improving his skills behind the camera — and he does it with the same dedication and passion that made him so dominant on the diamond.

“I am a year smarter in my photography and wanted to shoot more so I could learn from the ESPN Images photographers,” said Randy, who, for the second year in a row, joined our staff to shoot the X Games and work with our team.

Randy said he enjoys the variety of events at X Games, skateboarding chief among them, and the chance to learn different lighting and techniques at each venue where he shoots.

“What most people don’t realize is shooting is not easy, getting the photo is hard,” he said. “Photographers can make an event or athlete more dynamic and bigger than it or they might actually be.”

Randy’s appreciation for photography started when he was a freshman at USC in 1982. He chose Photo Journalism as a major in his sophomore year and began to shoot concerts and campus happenings for The Daily Trojan.

During that time, he learned how to develop his own film and get creative with his shots. Shortly after that, baseball came calling and photography took a back seat. His passion for photography never waned.

“If I wasn’t pitching, I would sit at the end of the bench with the photographers I knew, like (long-time Sports Illustrated photographer) Walter Iooss and [ESPN Images’] Scott Clarke,” he said. “I would pick their brains and try to implement what I learned in my own photography.”

Now immersed in the world of photography, he’s honing his digital photography skills, including post-production. In his equipment bag, Johnson carries a plethora of lenses and camera bodies.

He acknowledges he is fortunate enough to have the means to try different equipment and have the opportunity to photograph all around the world. Randy just recently returned from Italy, and has been on three USO tours to Afghanistan, on safari in Africa, at NASCAR and NHRA events, among others.

Check out Randy Johnson’s photography at rj51photos.com and above, in the photo gallery.

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