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Published: Tuesday, 5/26/2009

Toledo firm gives sports fans a place in the action

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A 102-year-old woman in a wheelchair rolls up to home plate at Detroit's Comerica Park and knocks a ball into Neverland.

A few weeks later, a newborn baby repeats the feat.

Both events, while they didn't actually occur, appear on photographs taken by Toledo's Dale Perne and his P&A Photography and Awards.

The use of specialized computer software that allows ordinary portraits to be transformed into action shots starring the subject is just one way Mr. Perne is putting fans in the spotlight at the home of the Detroit Tigers baseball team.

"Fans are just loving this," said Mr. Perne, 54, of Tremainsville Road.

His and wife Gayle's team of 10 to 15 photographers take thousands of souvenir shots of fans as they roam the park or kibitz in luxury suites. Photo subjects later can go to a special Web site and download prints, with the team logo, for as little as $10.

The Toledo firm reproduces some shots almost instantly on mugs, computer mouse pads, and other souvenir keepsakes.

The twist introduced this year is so-called "green screen" photography. To anyone walking by the concourse area where the photos are taken, subjects appear to be posing in front of an ordinary green screen. But through the magic of computer software, Mr. Perne's company produces photos showing them connecting at home plate, sliding home, shaking hands with manager Jim Leyland, or in several other action settings. Prices begin at $12.

Photographs are taken in front of a green screen. Subjects later can visit a company Web site where they can download images for a fee. P&A estimates it sells between 50 and 100 photos from each game. Photographs are taken in front of a green screen. Subjects later can visit a company Web site where they can download images for a fee. P&A estimates it sells between 50 and 100 photos from each game.
NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

"It started out slow, maybe two or three a game," said Mr. Perne, who claimed that Comerica Park is among the first major-league baseball parks to offer such photos. "Now, we're doing 50 to 100 per game."

The concession not only attracts young fans, but the middle-aged as well. Customers have included the 102-year-old woman celebrating her birthday and the newborn.

"It seems to be popular," said Ron Colangelo, a spokesman for the Tigers. "It's a nice added feature for fans."

He described Mr. Perne as "fan-friendly. He turns out some great product that fans really enjoy," the Tigers' spokesman said. He declined to discuss how revenues are divided.

The Pernes, who are in their third year at Comerica, initially collaborated with another firm on the photo concession there.

A former country-club golf pro, Mr. Perne and his wife founded P&A in 1998 with his father, Don, who was the pro at Inverness Country Club in the 1980s and early 1990s. The elder Mr. Perne is no longer active in the business.

Before starting P&A, Dale Perne worked with another firm taking similar photos at professional golfing events.

Mr. Perne had no experience in photography. "I never took pictures in my life," he admitted.

Besides Comerica Park, he takes photos for corporate events at several other major-league ball fields.

He also has the contract to take fan photos during Detroit Lions football games at Ford Field and is on the verge of landing the Detroit Red Wings hockey team.

Despite the volume of work, Mr. and Mrs. Perne are the only full-time employees. Photographers work on a freelance basis.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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