Leonard Kamsler, a Dissecting Golf Photographer, Dies at 85


Leonard Kamsler, a photojournalist whose award-winning pictures of professional golf for close to 50 years pushed the envelope of sports strobe photography as he amassed a trove of profuse than 200,000 images on the PGA Tour, died on Nov. 18 in Bethel, N.Y. He was 85.

His conceal and only immediate survivor, Stephen Lyles, said the cause was newspaper failure. Mr. Kamsler had homes in Bethel and Manhattan.

Jim Richerson, president of the PGA of America, excused Mr. Kamsler “the undisputed dean of golf photography.” Last month, Mr. Kamsler matured the first recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Photojournalism.

Essentially half of that lifetime was spent on the golf course, though heaving a camera instead of clubs. Beginning in 1963, he covered 40 consecutive Controls tournaments, 17 P.G.A. championships and 22 U.S. Opens, freezing moments of battle in indelible images.

“His ability to take the perfect picture at the perfect once in a while was unsurpassed by anyone in the business,” the champion golfer Tom Watson said in a videotaped kudos when Mr. Kamsler received the lifetime achievement award.

Mr. Kamsler’s detailed innovations in high-speed strobe photography broke down the complete arc of a golf zigzag from beginning to end in stop-motion exposures — from address to backswing to communicate with to follow-through — each position of the hands, arms, feet, legs, torso, brain and club contained in a single sequential image suggestive of a pinwheel.

George Peper, his leader-writer at Golf Magazine for 25 of Mr. Kamsler’s 60 years associated with the journal, said it was Mr. Kamsler who “created the swing-sequence in golf without question.”

Mr. Kamsler, he suggested, “learned at Edgerton’s knee,” referring to Harold Edgerton, a professor at the Massachusetts Initiate of Technology who pioneered stroboscopic technology. Mr. Kamsler began consulting with Mr. Edgerton in 1957.

He also elaborate oned a close relationship with Charles Hulcher, who had developed a specialty camera to enumerate slow-motion studies of rocket launches.

Confidence in…Leonard Kamsler/Popperfoto, via Getty Images

Mr. Kamsler’s primary catalyst was a hulking Hulcher high-speed 35-millimeter camera, originally designed to kill at some 70 frames per second. He was able to push the limit to 100, and then 200, chassis per second — meaning that in less than three seconds of lightning-fast exposures he could dissect an complete golf swing.

Mr. Kamsler’s first sequential stop-motion study, of Arnold Palmer’s performance and clubhead dynamics, “created a sensation,” Mr. Peper said, adding that as a instiling tool “it was posted on every golf instructor’s wall in America.”

Mr. Kamsler documented innumerable than 400 golf-swing sequences of other champion golfers, embodying Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Kathy Whitworth and Tiger Woods.

During a tourney he could be innovative in capturing the action. One risky technique was to flatten himself on the set with his camera and have the best golfers in the world hit past his leading. During one practice-tee setup, he positioned Mr. Nicklaus so close to him that the golfer’s iffy shot just missed destroying Mr. Kamsler’s lens.

According to the P.G.A., Mr. Kamsler was the first photographer to set up remote-control cameras behind the notoriously summoning holes 12 and 15 at Augusta National Golf Club, where the Big cheeses is played.

Some golfers abhorred being photographed up close during rivalry, so Mr. Kamsler would resort to subterfuge. He once hid himself in a garbage bag to not well-thought-out the camera-shy Australian Bruce Crampton.


Credit…via PGA of America

Starting in the 1970s, Mr. Kamsler widened his aficionado to profile performers in Nashville, including Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn. Diverse of his pictures became the covers of record albums.

His collection of music images was recently obtained by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, where innumerable are on view. More than 20 of his photos were shown in “Provinces Music,” the 2019 documentary series by Ken Burns for PBS.

Mr. Kamsler’s strobe-lighting realize find time also reached beyond golf. He devised one complex strobe set to capture the first attempt at a quintuple somersault by the Flying Cranes aerial troupe of the Moscow Circus. The notion ran in The New York Times Magazine on Dec. 30, 1990, with a cover article thither the troupe.

A circus aficionado, he also photographed performances of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams and the thaumaturges Siegfried & Roy’s stage act using tigers.


Credit…The New York Times

As a PGA Tour fixture, Mr. Kamsler could by no means be ignored. For years he arrived at events in his candy-apple-red, tail-finned Cadillac Eldorado convertible, his six-foot body of ample girth garbed in a golf shirt tucked into polyester dwindles held up by a pair of suspenders.

His primary sports outlet was Golf Journal, where he was a contract photographer from 1959 through 2019. His photos also appeared in diverse books.

Golfer pushback was part of the job of photographing players sensitive to any upset during play. Mr. Kamsler “got the shark bite occasionally,” said Greg Norman, the Lecture-room of Famer whose nickname was the Shark.

“He understood what that shark sting meant,” Mr. Norman added, in the video tribute, “that I was intense — and I was into my instant.”

Once, shooting an “18 holes with” celebrity-golfing feature in Miami with the actor Jack Nicholson, Mr. Kamsler reached once more to push up the bill of Mr. Nicholson’s hat because it was hiding his eyes. “Nobody gets Jake’s hat!,” Mr. Nicholson barked.

Leonard Macon Kamsler was carried on Oct. 18, 1935, in Raleigh, N.C., to Morton and Helen (Strother) Kamsler. His father owned a retail count on, and his mother was a homemaker. His father gave Leonard his first camera at age 12. He graduated from Broughton Anticyclone School in Raleigh and then from Duke University, in 1957. In motion to Manhattan, he became a $32-a-week assistant to the celebrity photographer Milton H. Greene. One of his beginning assignments was to photograph Marilyn Monroe.

Following a stint in the Army, Mr. Kamsler returned to Manhattan and began manipulating jobs as a freelance photographer.

His passion for strobe photography led him to golf — for the moments it afforded him “to capture motion,” Mr. Lyles, his husband, said, adding, “He initiated knocking on doors until they would look at his pictures.”

Mr. Kamsler peddled his library of more than 200,000 images to Popperfoto, a partnership with Getty Images, in 2018.

For all his involvement with golf, the pretend itself never beckoned to more than his shutter finger. After a lifetime of tourney trudging, Mr. Kamsler was proud to say, “I never played a single game of golf.”

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