This post was lost for a week. It went up, then down last week after I, like a lot of people, was intrigured by the totally one-of-a-kind golf photo shot at the Ryder Cup by Daily Mail photographer Mark Pain. It would have been extraordinary enough - a flubbed chip shot by a golfer with the ball heading straight towards Pain's lens - but it wasn't the photo, or even Tiger Woods that made it intriguing.
No, what made the photo an overnight internet phenomenon was the spectator on the right - dubbed "Cigar Guy." Sanding there wide-eyed with his wig, fake mustache and stogie, he caught the eye of everyone around the world wide web.
I was one of them. I liked the photo but was amused by the ensuing buzz over the "Cigar Guy" as he ended up being one of the world's most recognizable anonymous figures as he was photoshopped into the background of other well know photographs - the Simpsons being my favorite - until the Daily Mail identified and tracked him down this week.
In the learn something-new-every-day category, I stumbled upon a whole new world out there - photo-bombing.
Photobomb \ˈfō-(ˌ)tō\ \ˈbäm\ (noun) An otherwise normal photo that has been ruined or spoiled by someone who was not supposed to be in the photograph; any time the background of a picture hijacks the original focus.
I try to watch my backgrounds when taking photos. I am always aware of telephones growing out heads, people on the fringes of my wide-angle views looking curiously into my lens, kids trying to flash hand gestures or making faces. But I never knew it had a name. Or that there were so many people out there doing it.
I remember one of the first, the afro-wigged "Rainbow Man" back in the late 70's who showed up on tons of televised sporting events and was later reborn as the "JOHN 3:16 T-shirt Guy." (To steal a gag from the "Family Guy" TV show, the bible passage doesn't say, "And on the seventh day the Lord said, 'Go PHILLIES!'" ). Rainbow man's life later took a sad turn and he is currently serving a life sentence in prison after taking a Los Angeles hotel maid hostage.
I had no idea there were so many websites devoted not just to photobombs and photobombers. There are how-tos - both for becoming a bomber for real - and through the magic of photoshop (That one a great parody of the Adobe Photoshot CS5 Content-Aware Filter video).
The latter is how the "Cigar Guy" took the web by storm as photoshopers inserted him into historical or other pictures.
I guess I'm just lucky, I haven't ever been really embarrassed (too often) by anything happening in my backgrounds. my most recent occurrence was a local college football player I naively thought was waving to his teammates. Instead, when posted with a story on our website, it was almost immediately recognized by everyone else for what it really was - that most universal of gestures - digitus impudicus (impudent finger). Fortunately it was only online for a few hours, and never made it into the newspaper.