By Amy Danielson
The September 27 cover of Sports Illustrated magazine featured a photo of Minnesota Twins’ slugger Jim Thome and a fantastic view of the beautiful new Target Field with the Minneapolis skyline in the background.
Thome was hitting a home run during the third inning of the Twins versus Rangers game on September 4 when this image was shot. It was the result of a collaboration between Marilyn Indahl and Sports Illustrated photographer Tom Dahlin. Tom positioned Marilyn in just the right spot and instructed her when to fire the camera. She carried out her assignment to perfection and the result has been lauded as one of the best covers of the year for the magazine.
Marilyn received her A.A.S. degree in Photography and Digital Imaging from MCTC and has been a lab assistant and studio manager of the program for the past 10 years. She was hired as an assistant to sports photographer Tom Dahlin, who was hired for the Sports Illustrated feature article on Jim Thome, titled “Prairie Homer Companion.” At Tom’s request, Sports Illustrated credited both Tom and Marilyn for the cover.
The plan was for Tom to shoot an image to lead the article, so he didn’t think one of his shots would make the cover—a rare and highly coveted accomplishment. He researched some famous Sports Illustrated covers throughout history and saw one taken of Babe Ruth in Yankee Stadium that caught his eye. He thought he would try to mimic that shot of Babe pointing his bat as he did every time he entered the batter’s box. So Tom set up the shot to the left of home plate with the angles of the stadium perfectly balanced with the downtown skyline.
He then asked Marilyn to help him get the perfect shot of Thome. “We’ve worked enough together I knew I could trust her to get what we needed,” Tom said. “I was so nervous…” Marilyn said. “Timing is critical. I always want to come through when I’m working for Tom.”
Anxiously timing the shot based on watching the pitcher throw the ball toward Thome, Marilyn hit the shutter button at just the right moment, capturing the shot of Thome as the ball was bouncing off of his bat. Just milliseconds earlier, Tom was taking a tight shot of Thome from a position near third base while a third camera that Tom set up captured a wide angle shot of the entire stadium via remote control.
But the work was not done yet. The image straight from the camera had the subject in dark shadow and the skyline in bright sunlight. If printed as is, it would have either washed out the skyline, or made the subject too dark to recognize. Anticipating this problem, Dahlin utilized a post process technique called HDR (high dynamic range) imaging to extract image detail in both the highlights and shadows. This technique is relatively new to traditional sports publications and may be a first for a Sports Illustrated cover.
Tom met Marilyn at a Gopher basketball game in 2003 while she was a student covering a story for MCTC’s student newspaper, City College News. She was struck by the fact that Tom was willing to show her what he knew about sports photography. “Sports photographers tend to be protective of their turf,” Tom notes.
Tom is an electrical engineer at 3M and serves on the advisory board for MCTC’s Photography and Digital Imaging department. In his free time, he is a sports photographer almost exclusively—except for an occasional portrait. He is often hired by Sports Illustrated to shoot local sports—he’s done a dozen Twins games for Sports Illustrated already this year. Since high school, it has been his goal to get a Sports Illustrated cover.
Marilyn credits much of her success to Tom. “After my schooling here at MCTC, I had many questions about sports photography, a rather specialized field,” she says. “In Tom, I found not only someone willing to answer those questions, but a mentor and a friend. For him to share this credit speaks of the gracious person he is. It is the top highlight of my photographic career.”
She and Tom have worked together frequently throughout the years, often for The Minnesota Score—a local sports magazine, shooting the Vikings, Wild, Twins and Timberwolves. But getting this cover together has been the highest point for them both. The moment Marilyn got that shot of Thome, she knew she had something special and ran to tell Tom. Together, they helped document Minnesota Twins history.