Retired AP photographer Lou Krasky, who captured hurricanes, golf stars and presidents, has died

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Lou Krasky, an Associated Press photographer who took photos of presidents and the pope as well as hurricanes, golf tournaments, car racing stars and space shuttle launches throughout his more than 35 years with the wire service, has died.

Krasky, 86, died Thursday, his family said. No cause of death was given.

Krasky was born in New York City and joined the U.S. Navy after finishing high school. The military taught him photography and Krasky started working for the AP in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1968.

Like many photographers of his era, Krasky was part chemist to develop photos and create color prints, part engineer to get the lighting and shutter speed right and transmit the photos, and part magician to make it all come together perfectly.

The uncanny ability to make newspaper photos look like art earned him the nicknames “Maestro” and “The Artiste” from his colleagues.

“Lou was, to me, the epitome of an AP shooter. He always seemed to know exactly where to be to get the shot,” said Jim Clarke, AP’s managing director of local markets and a former reporter in the Columbia bureau early in his career. “But more than that, Lou kept us out of trouble. He’d been doing the job as long as some of us had been alive. A brief word from Lou was enough to prompt a new line of questioning, a new way of seeing the story.”

Krasky worked with the AP until his retirement in 2004. He was at every major event in his adopted home state from civil rights protests to the trial of mother Susan Smith convicted of killing her sons to the first women accepted at The Citadel military college to a large chunk of U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond's political career.

“Krasky was at the forefront of every major and minor happening in the Palmetto State for nearly four decades,” longtime South Carolina AP sports writer Pete Iacobelli said. “He took pictures of sports figures, celebrities and politicians, all with a sharp eye for details that might get past other photographers.”

And, he did all of this with an interesting slight Southern drawl that layered over his New York accent and a pleasant and entertaining nature that left the famous and not-so-famous subjects of his photos seeking him out the next time they saw him.

“Lou was always a gracious man teaching me and others the ins and outs of shooting state government,” said Charles Rex Arbogast, an AP photographer who started his career at a South Carolina newspaper. “He was a fount of historical experience and knowledge.”

Krasky was sought after for national assignments too. He spent three decades taking photos at the Masters golf tournament. He covered presidential inaugurations and visits by the pope.

Krasky became an expert at handling the AP's transmission of color photographs, a tricky, intricate 30-minute process involving creating prints, wrapping them on a drum and scanning them.

Krasky was sharp and listened behind the camera. A smart reporter on assignment with him knew to let Krasky ask some questions because he would have an insight critical to the story.

And his eye for detail wasn't limited to pictures. In the early 1970s, when South Carolina House members voted to raise their daily pay from $25 to $125 for a special session, then claimed they didn't know who voted for the proposal, Krasky had a photograph he took of the House's voting board.

Krasky always took the time to mentor younger photographers. He kept a stable of photo freelancers and fed them steady work. He knew every newspaper photographer in South Carolina and they were quick to help when Krasky couldn't get to the news himself.

He was taught photography on film, editing first with his eyes and often shooting only when he knew the picture was going to be good. If he heard a younger colleague firing off dozens of shots, he would smile and tell them — you know you are going to have to develop all that film.

“He could shoot the event, get the best picture, and transmit it to the AP wire before anyone knew it,” said George Gardner, a retired photographer with The Greenville News who met Krasky in 1971.

When Krasky retired, South Carolina's governor and every living former governor wrote him a note. He was a fixture at the South Carolina Statehouse with politicians asking him where they needed to be before he shot his photo.

He took photos of every governor from Robert McNair to Mark Sanford, including Sanford with a pig under his arm angering lawmakers by bringing the animal to the House chambers to protest what he called pork spending.

The impact of Krasky's work and the memories he left behind are special, said South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who Krasky photographed as U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina as he prosecuted drug dealers in the massive Operation Jackpot or as McMaster unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate against Fritz Hollings.

Krasky “used his talent and passion to bring to life the stories of South Carolina and her people through the power of his camera,” McMaster said in a statement.

In 2004, when Krasky reached the end of his AP career, he told the wire service's corporate magazine it was time to put the cameras down and enjoy life with his wife Annette, whom he married on Christmas Day in 1984, and their family.

“I plan to relax and look at the world with my eyes rather than through a small little hole,” Krasky said.