So Long, Sam

sam The Paris News is losing a good one.

And it would be apt to say that his shoes will be mighty tough to fill.

Sam Craft, the multiple-award-winning photographer for the News, has taken a job offer from another paper down near Bryan, Texas and will be leaving within the week. He will pursue his dream career as a    photojournalist in a new market. Anyone who knows Sam can’t help but be excited for him and this opportunity, but many in this Paris community will sorely miss him. I know I will as well.

I first heard of Sam after he made a visit out to Prairiland high school in 2006 and gave some pointers to the yearbook staff where my youngest daughter was an editor. I remember being somewhat incredulous   when she mentioned that he just handed over this high dollar camera to her and just let her go take a bunch of pictures at school one day. (I tend to be a bit over-protective of my gear)

The first time I met Sam personally, I had been out trying a new lens as I waded back in to photography in 2007. I was shooting a local soccer match and saw a plume of black smoke up in town. So I headed that   way and came upon a large RV fully engulfed in flames. I had been snapping shots of it for about 10 minutes when Sam arrived to cover it as a ‘news’ event and I chided him asking him what took so long to get there. We struck up a conversation and it was then he asked me to consider being a ‘stringer’ for the paper and shooting some local football games for them. I did and it was over the next 7 years we developed a special friendship.

There were many events we covered together, often times shooting side by side and ending up with identical shots. Sam has a tremendous eye for photography and being around him made me a better photographer. We would often share a friendly competitiveness on the sidelines of games seeing who could capture the better action shot.

Our friendship moved to a new level a couple of years ago when his and Aubrey’s lives faced a difficult challenge. I will never forget the phone call I got from my wife who was at work in Dallas (she’s an L&D nurse at Baylor) that Friday night as I was on my way to shoot a local game. She wanted to know what game Sam was shooting and how fast could I get there to cover for him so he could hightail it to the hospital there in Dallas. Aubrey, his wife, was 25 weeks pregnant and was rushed in to Baylor for an emergency C-section. Their first and only son, Parker, entered this world much earlier than planned…and his stay in this world was short lived. I was touched and honored to conduct the memorial service for their beloved child.

Over the years, Sam and I have shared many a laughs…pictures and lunches together. (far more lunches at Chic-fil-a than I would have preferred). On two separate occasions, we received credentials to cover the Independence Bowl in Shreveport. Last year’s game was a special highlight as we ended up shooting the entire game side by side with Ken Griffey Jr. That generated a lot of responses from friends as we caught multiple minutes of airtime on ESPN standing with him as Griffey was there to photograph his son who played for Arizona.

I’m going to miss standing out in lightning storms, firework shows, Friday night football games, and dusty-low-lit rodeos with Sam trying to one up him. While I’m old enough to be his dad, I’ve looked on him with the upmost respect and admiration as a friend and fellow photographer. I’m always proud of him when he receives the numerous awards and accolades that he has in his distinguished career.

Sam…good luck to you and your new gig in College Station. Let me go on record here stating that the only milestones you lack is a Pulitzer prize…and of course, multiple appearances on Pete Delkus’ weather forecast. –wink-