A little over a month ago, I had the privilege of being hired to do a behind the scenes photo shoot with the legendary pro bass fisherman, Bill Dance, during the taping of the Bill Dance Outdoors fishing show. Behind the scenes shoots are not normally the kind of photography work I do, but I gotta say, I was pretty excited to do this.
As a kid growing up in central Florida, it would seem like one of the first things you learn to do in life is fish, and that also included watching the Bill Dance Outdoors fishing show. I have so many memories of my friends and I waking up early, just before sunrise, and heading out to see what we could catch. Then, we would scavenge for old soda bottles so we could turn them in for money at the store to get a candy bar and coke. Yes, there was a time you could actually turn bottles in for money. Once we got something to eat, we would rush to get home just in time to watch the show. Afterwards, we would head back out to see if we could do better than Bill Dance himself, usually failing. Nowadays, that would be considered in the Twitter world a “#fail”.
It was Friday afternoon. I drove up to Richmond Hill, Georgia, to meet with my client from WaterWay's Township for the shoot. Originally, I was told I would be shooting a meet and greet with Bill that evening and shooting the behind the scenes stuff for the television taping the following morning. Well, when I arrived, the schedule had changed. I was told that Bill just wanted to go fishing and they were going to start taping for the show that afternoon. Usually, when schedules change, they don’t work in your favor, but in this case, I couldn’t have been more pleased.
I arrived at the location where I was to meet with my client, along with Bill Dance, and his production crew. At this time, I’m expecting to see several people when I show up, like a producer, camera crews, grips, caterers; you know, anyone and everyone that would usually be involved with filming a TV show, but, when I arrived, there were only a couple of guys sitting in a boat along the shore. I thought to myself, “Am I at the right location?” I proceeded over to them and introduced myself. I told them I was there to shoot some behind the scenes photos of the Bill Dance show and they replied, “that’s us!”. It turns out there are only three people that travel from location to location to film the show and that’s two camera men and Bill himself. Once they get their footage, they send it off to the video editing company to put it all together and wallah! You have the Bill Dance Outdoors Show.
As I was preparing and getting my gear together for the shoot, I saw my client pulling up at the location. Along with him, was none other than Bill Dance himself. Now, I wasn’t sure what to expect when meeting Bill. Was he going to be nice and easy going like he appears on television? Well, that question was answered right away. Bill stepped out of the truck, walked right over to me, shook my hand as if we had been friends for years and said, “Are you ready? Let’s go fishing!”.
We were soon out on the water, and let me tell you, this was a fun experience. Bill was in one boat along with his camera man and long time friend Pete McClure, while his other camera man Timmy Gooden, and myself, positioned ourselves in another boat next to Bill as he fished. They work out of two boats in order to get different camera angles for the show. Now you might think photographing someone fishing for several hours over the next two days would be kind of like watching paint dry. It might have been had it not been Bill Dance, Bill is very much a conversationalist. We talked about everything from the people he’s fished with over the years to cameras. We even talked about where I grew up which was Winter Haven, Florida, home to the Chain of Lakes. He said he had just fished Bartow the week prior. Bartow, Florida is just the next town over southeast of Winter Haven. Bill was also a great storyteller as well. He was so good, you almost forgot he was filming a fishing show until, all of a sudden, the story is interrupted and you hear, “There it is!” as he sets into a bass. One might think, after all these years, his passion for fishing might have faded a bit, but I’m here to tell you, not for Bill Dance. That man has just as much passion for fishing now as ever. He also doesn’t hesitate to, occasionally, have a little fun; like throwing a cast at me and laughing as I shot a quick video of him with my iphone.
After the two days of shooting were over, we began wrapping everything up. As I started to pack up my gear, Bill invited me over to get a photo taken with him. He told me it was a pleasure and thanked me for coming. I’ve got to tell you, Bill Dance is probably one of the most genuine people I have ever met. Not only was It a thrill to meet him and his camera crew, but an honor to photograph him as well.
God bless you Bill!