I first met Dave in 1996 when I was a college student in Tuscaloosa and a photo stringer for the Tuscaloosa News. Later, I became a staff photographer there and I suppose Dave considered me good enough to join his photo crew that he assembled to cover the spring and fall races at the Talladega Super Speedway. Dave rounded up a crew of his photography friends from different parts of the country and posted them at various positions around the track. I helped Dave cover quite a few of these races over the years and I consider myself fortunate to have been there to receive his wit, wisdom and insight into photography. I was always excited to show up at the races- excited to shoot for Dave Martin, because it was an opportunity for me to learn from the one person that I considered a living legend.
I was always a strong features shooter and Dave knew this so he would have me shoot pre-race features and I was eager to do it. I would always meet Dave in the AP photo building before the race. It was not so much a building as it was a little shack in the infield. It was a small brick structure that consisted of maybe two rooms that Dave used to edit and send photos to the AP wire. Dave, like an army general, conducted the coverage of the race from that small room. In there he listened to the race on the radio and received card runners bringing memory cards from distant parts of the track for Dave to edit while he shouted instructions to photographers drifting in and out.
During our pre-race meetings, Dave had this way of making me want to run to my assignment and bring back the best picture I possibly could. He would always send me out with a few words of instruction and with a twinkle in his eye he would look straight into mine and say "go man, be a hero!" And when I returned with my memory cards and handed them over to Dave, well, that was always the worst because at that point you start thinking "did I shoot anything that would be considered good enough for Dave Martin?"
The edit was always a teaching moment for Dave. If your pictures were no good, he told you that. And he would always impart some wisdom on how to make them better. I always think that I may have received a photography degree from the University of Alabama, but in a little brick shack in the middle of the Talladega Super Speedway I received an education in photography from Dave Martin.
For more about Dave click here and here. And this TV report (added January 3).