By KATE BRUMBACK
ATLANTA (AP) - Known as a master of his craft, longtime Associated Press photographer Dave Martin collapsed on the field of the Georgia Dome after taking one of his signature photos: the coach getting doused by his players.
The 59-year-old Martin suffered an apparent heart attack and died early Wednesday morning after working the sidelines at Texas A&M's 52-48 win over Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Friends and colleagues remembered Martin as a larger-than-life character who was always happy to share advice with fellow photographers who he often outshot.
Martin covered nearly every major news event in the South over the past 30 years - including Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill - and he traveled to sporting events around the world. His award-winning visual storytelling was splashed across countless newspaper front pages and the covers of Sports Illustrated and other magazines.
At sporting events, he was well-known for always managing to get himself in the perfect position to take the shot of winning athletes dousing their coach with water or Gatorade. Done right, such images capture the flourish of airborne water droplets caught in the stadium lights - but they require great timing and positioning.
Tuesday night's game was no exception - Martin perfectly captured Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin's startled but jubilant expression as he's splashed.
"Every photojournalist in the country knows the trademark Dave Martin picture was the coach being dunked," said AP South regional photo editor Mike Stewart.
Some of his most memorable images also helped people around the world understand the toll of disasters, such as a man wading through chest-deep floodwaters after Katrina with a garbage bag of belongings. Or the striking colors of oil droplets suspended in a cresting wave after the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
"Anyone can shoot game action at sporting events or general news. Dave found MOMENTS," said former Mobile Press-Register photographer John David Mercer.
Martin took many young photographers under his wing, and Mercer said he learned a lot from Martin as a mentor - and competitor. As a young newspaper photographer, Mercer learned quickly that if he didn't shoot an event well enough his editors would use Martin's photos instead.
But Martin's help went beyond setting an example or offering advice.
"Dave would give you the shirt off his back, let you borrow a lens or move some photos if your laptop crashed," Mercer said.
Martin's fair hand and eye for storytelling were also appreciated by those he covered.
"Dave Martin was one of the best photojournalists that I have had the privilege of working with over the years," Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement Wednesday. "He traveled with me in the aftermath of the April 2011 tornado outbreak, and told the story of the storm's devastation in some of the best photos I have seen."
While his stunning frames were seen around the world, the man known as "Mullet" - after the fish, not the hairstyle - remained humble and focused on making sure everyone around him was having a good time. Many colleagues recall how his unflappable demeanor and jokes could cut through the tension during assignments.
"He'll forever be known for the legendary parties he hosted known as 'Mulletfests,' which came with custom-made T-shirts (I still have all mine!), plenty of good food and drink, and a midnight tossing of that smelly, slimy fish in the middle of the street," said AP national sports writer Paul Newberry.
Martin is survived by his wife, Jamie Martin, and their two children, Emily and Skip.
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