Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mosaic Muertos

Yesterday was a normal day at the office, an assignment in the morning and another in the afternoon. It was also a day that I was reminded that I will always be an amateur photographer and that I probably shouldn't be paid for what I do. (Forgive that self-pity moment, I'm just feeling like crap today.) The first assignment was one that we shoot every year, the Great American Cleanup at Foster Field. Its where everyone brings their junk to be hauled off to the dump. It was super windy yesterday, typical for a day that your shooting something that's dirty and potentially a health risk.
The second assignment is one that I started working on five years ago with a local artist group called Art in Uncommon Places. The group has been collaborating with several local artists to design mosaics on old junker cars that will be placed along the Concho River. The designs they have come up with are pretty cool. Yesterday the Junior League of San Angelo got together to help with one of the cars. It was a Dia de los Muertos theme. The group hopes to have all the cars done by this summer and in place for the public.
SIDE NOTE: There was a post on the other day by Thomas Boyd, a Portland shooter, that linked to a series of videos of other Portland photographers that talked about some of the gear they use and what they have in their packs. It can start to seem like an advertisement for Canon and ThinkTank, but the videos are kind of cool. You can see them HERE

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Longest Day at the Track (meet)

The San Angelo Relays is a huge track meet here in San Angelo that attracted 30 schools this year. I was talking with our senior sports writer Charles about the relay's past and he said that at one time it brought in anywhere from 70 to 80 teams. It used to be one of the premier meets in the state of Texas. I guess there are a number of reasons as to why the participation has fallen, the economy probably being one of them. This is bigger than the Concho Belle Relays, which is a girls-only meet. I was out there for about six hours and decided that I had had enough.
SIDE NOTE: The National Press Photographers Association has concluded the judging for the still photos competition in their annual Best of Photojournalism contest. Its one of the biggest contests for journalists all year. I think this is the best one, but that's just my opinion. The TV Video and Website competitions have been finished as well with just the Editing contest left to be judged. I enter every year and just like before my puny photos of cows, lame sports action photos and desperate attempts at spot news frames fall far short of the real news that happens everywhere else but San Angelo. It's still cool to see all the photos and the work that everyone is producing though. You can see the TV News Video competition HERE, the Websites results HERE, and the Still Photography winners HERE. The Photo Editing judging will start on March 31 and run through April 3.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Whirlwind Two Days

On Monday night of this week I drove to Lubbock because on Tuesday afternoon I was to shoot the Lake View soccer team in their first playoff game against Amarillo Caprock at Lowery Field. The game was supposed to start a 4:00 pm, but the officials showed up to the first game late which put everything behind. The game finally started around 5:00 pm, and because the game was in Lubbock, the evening winds began to gust up into the high 20s. Lake View didn't take advantage of the wind at their backs in the first half and when they went down 1-0 in the second it was all over. They lost 3-0.
I spent the night again in Lubbock with my parents and got up a 5:00 am to get ready for the drive to Abilene to shoot the District 3-5A gymnastics meet at Cooper High School. The meet started at 10:00 am. The Central High School girls team was the clear favorite for the meet. They have won the district championship for the last eight years. The boys team has come in second place behind Odessa Permian for the last five or six years and were looking to dethrone the reigning champs.
I have only been in one situation were shooting gymnastics was easy. That was at the state meet last year in Garland. The facility was awesome. Big and spacious, it was a dream. Most of the meets we cover are in a cramped shed or a its the high school gym that has been converted to house the meet elements. Cooper's set-up is far better than Central's but you still have to fight close quarters and bad backgrounds. After the meet (the girls won their ninth championship and boys took second again) I made the drive back to San Angelo capping off 21 hours of work and 403.7 miles of driving. I was glad to be home.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Good and Bad Weather Shooting

The last two days here in the Concho Valley have been absolutely perfect. Perfect temperatures, low wind, and most importantly, low allergens. Then about 1:00 or 2:00 am this morning we had a big cold front move through bringing high winds, lightning and dropping about a half-inch of rain. I was assigned to shoot this golf tournament at the last minute and when I got to the course this morning the temperature outside with the wind was (drum roll, please)... 21.
I've never understood how you can go from not wanting to wear any cloths one day to not being able to wear enough cloths the next. It was brutal! I stayed for 30 minutes and left.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Great Day at the Track (meet)

I'm always so amazed at the ability of high jumpers that can fold their bodies in half the wrong way to as they clear the bar. There was an unattached athlete (an athlete that is not competing for a particular school) at today's ASU Spring Break Multi Events meet that was actually a coach for Central Missouri who was training for some national meet later this year. Here was this 30-something keeping up with teenage and twenty-year-old kids. Now that I am a thirty-something it made me proud and a little ashamed all at the same time. Angelo State also had two athletes that were attempting to qualify for the national meet.
There was a change-up to my schedule for the weekend so instead of shooting baseball Saturday and Sunday, the series was moved to Friday and Saturday. So I'll shoot a few event at the track meet and then jet over the baseball field at 4:00. And on Saturday I have to shoot this huge golf tournament. I don't think I'll post anything from the golf tournament, mostly because I suck at shooting golf.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Pledge Allegiance...

Today was my only non-sports day for the week as far as assignments go. A naturalization ceremony was held for citizenship candidates at Angelo State University this morning. I enjoy covering this event, not only because of the proud feeling I get to see that other people of other nations want to be a part of this country, but because you see the that wave of relief come over the candidates' faces as they recite the the oath of allegiance.
However, the federal judge that presides over these events here in San Angelo is so freaking boring. He's basically reading from a script (badly) and puts no life into what is a happy occasion. You almost wish someone would take over and have a good time (in a respectful manner) with the moment.

SIDE NOTE: A great little video was put together by Francis Gardler on photojournalist and teacher David LaBelle. The video is part of Gardler's masters project at Ohio University.
Dave LaBelle began his photojournalism career at the Ventura County Star-Free Press as a weekend sports shooter and lab man while still in high school. During his 35-year career, LaBelle has worked for 20 newspapers and magazines in nine states. Labelle has been honored with numerous state, regional, national and international awards and is the author of three photography books "The Great Picture Hunt", "The Great Picture Hunt 2" and "Lessons in Life and Death". LaBelle joined the staff of Western Kentucky University in 1986 and taught photojournalism for more than a decade. Labelle is an inspiration for anyone who strives to be a better journalist. Just to let you know, the video will buffer for about a minute or so before it starts to play. Be patient, it's worth the wait.

Dave LaBelle | The Lesson from Francis Gardler on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lady Cats Soccer

As I posted yesterday, today I was supposed to shoot both the Central boys and girls soccer games at San Angelo Stadium. But, the coaches decided to move up the game times five hours from 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to noon and 2 p.m. Day games! Yeah! The crap part of the whole thing is that when the Sports department found out about the time change, they neglected to tell anyone else about it.
I just happened upon the writer that usually covers Central High School around 1:30 p.m. asking if he was going to cover both games tonight, but he said that another writer was covering the games right now. So, I hustled out to San Angelo Stadium only to see the final 13.2 seconds run off the clock of the boys game. Dang. Missed it. It's pretty sad when you work in the communication business and we can't seem to find a way to communicate with one another a few cubicles across the room.
I did get to shoot the girls game though. They got man-handled 3-0. I don't think they have a chance to make the post season this year.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Busy Sports Month, Not Done Yet

This has been a really busy sports month and I have been on the day shift for the last three weeks until now. I make the switch back to nights and starting Tuesday, I have a sports assignment every day through Sunday except for Wednesday night. I have two soccer games on Tuesday, track on Thursday and Friday, and baseball on Saturday and Sunday. I don't know if I have ever said this or not, but I'm getting tired of shooting sports. Don't get me wrong I love shooting sports, but I find myself longing for a good fire or car crash. That's terrible of me to say, I know, but I need something to break up the monotony.
I have posted another photo from Friday's Concho Belle Relays. It's the same athlete from Central, Jasmine White. I liked it because of the intense look on her face. I'm always amazed and pleastly surprised when I get a photo in focus during the high jump. Most of the time there are so many things going on around the event that when I try and follow the athlete while they make their entire run, the auto focus on the camera will get confused and focus on something else just at the precise moment I need it as the jumper approaches the bar. I decided that I would focus on the bar, set the camera at f/4 or f/5.6 and lay on the shutter as the jumper passes through the field of focus. I'm sure this is not a new trick, and any intelligent photographer would already know to do this. I'm a little slow.
I'll try and post a photo from each game I shoot this week. My goal is to get something portfolio-worthy this week.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Long Day at the Track (meet)

Today I was assigned the Concho Belle Relays track meet at the San Angelo Stadium. In years past I remember this being a bigger meet with more of our area high school's competing. This year, only Grape Creek and Sonora high schools came that were in our coverage area (other than Central and Lake View).
This was a girls only track meet and I found myself shooting the same athletes over and over again. I guess when you have just a few schools to cover, and two of those schools are pretty small, the same athletes compete in the a majority of the events.
I don't mind shooting track meets really. The field events are fun but the track events can get a little boring at times. Not unless you have someone take a dive in the hurdles.
I'm hoping I get the opportunity to go back to Austin for State Week. The UIL holds the state meets for tennis, golf and track all in the same week. It's great. All you have to do is shoot sports and spend the company's dime. Here's hoping.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

All The Rage

Is this some new dance craze that I don't know about? I hate to laugh at the expense of Central's Steven Baker, but when I came across this frame during the edit of my Central Slam tennis tournament photos, I had to stop and look.
I spent the first part of the morning shooting an assignment for our education page and then headed out to shoot the tournament for the rest of the day. The weather here in San Angelo was not the best for the tournament. Sure, we had sunny, blue skies, the temperature was a perfect 70 degrees, but we had sustaining 20 mph winds with gusts of up t0 35 mph.
I'll be spending Friday out at the Concho Belle Relays track meet at San Angelo Stadium. If the wind keeps up there should be some really fast times in the sprint events.

Monday, March 8, 2010

March Photo Column

JD Sparks
So the new photo department column kicked off today with my little feature on a saddle maker in Mertzon. It's call "I Am... West Texas". I know. Kinda dumb, but we all know when we have good ideas the editors take over and don't let you have a say in anything. This is what happened here. They didn't even let us name our own project.
To accompany the the centerpiece photo and article there is an audio slideshow on the Standard-Times website. Each month I will feature another community member of the Concho Valley. I already have few in mind and hope to have the second column done soon. The photo above ran with the below column:

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Tucked quietly in the corner of a 100-year-old building on the main drag in Mertzon, a small piece of western Americana still thrives. It’s a place where your word is your bond, a handshake seals a deal and where Willie can be heard singing softly in the background.
Since 1972, J.R. Sparks has handcrafted fine leather saddles for the residents of the Concho Valley. “I guess all of this got started because of my wife, Lynda,” Sparks said, adding, “I wanted and really needed a new saddle, so she bought me a book on how to make one, and I have been doing it ever since.”
His aren’t the type of saddles built out of plastic, haphazardly glued together on a conveyor belt and shipped over from China. They’re built by hand using traditional quality materials.
“I don’t skimp when it comes to the materials I use when putting a saddle together,” Sparks said. “If you’re a working cowboy or spend any time on top of a horse, then you know the importance of a quality saddle,” Sparks added. “I’d rather lose business than make a saddle that doesn’t meet my own standards.”
But losing business is rare compared with the repeat business Sparks has enjoyed. “It’s a good feeling when someone comes back after a few months and requests another saddle, or when a potential customer walks through the door after hearing word-of-mouth about my work,” he said.
And Sparks, a humble man of average height dressed in jeans, a pearl snap shirt and black cowboy hat, rarely comments on the quality of the finished product. The quality speaks for itself.

You can see the slideshow HERE.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lady Hawks Lose State Championship

It was a tough fight for the Lady Hawks, they battled to within two points with about a minute and a half left in the game, but came up short in the end. If you've ever gone to a Wall basketball game you know that head coach Jeremy Williams' wife Vicki is a huge supporter of the team. And you know exactly where in the arena she's sitting because she has a very distinctive cheering voice. It doesn't matter if you're sitting in the small Wall High School gym or the Frank Erwin Center on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin, you know where she is every minute of the game.
As the game minutes ticked off the clock and as the Lady Hawks fate seemed to be sealed, Vicki's voice was noticeably becoming less prominent. I looked over to where she was sitting to see what as going on and saw her standing, starring up at the ceiling as if saying a prayer for the team and her husband. She knew it was going to be a very emotional day for the girls, especially for the next few hours. To come so far this season and to lose the state title by a mere five points is heartbreaking.
I have a feeling that Vicki views these girls as a part of her extended family, adopted daughters even. She revels in their victories, and suffers the heartache of their losses. The seniors of this year's team have been a part of the family for the last four years, and I'm sure it's a family that all the young girls coming up through the ranks of the Wall basketball program are looking forward to being a part of.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lady Hawks Win State Semifinal

The Lady Hawks at Wall High School won their Class 2A state semifinal game 56-32 over Poth this morning. Way to go girls. Tomorrow they will play the defending state champions, Brock, for the state title. This will be the second time in four years the Lady Hawks have have made it to the big show.
After the game, head coach Jeremy Williams and three seniors (Hillari Adam, Karli Kellermeier and Sally Higgins) were brought in for an impromptu press conference. This is the only tournament all season that this happens so it always makes me laugh a little at the "deer-in-the-headlights" look the girls get when they are placed in front of the cameras and the members of the media. The three girls and their coach are very well composed and did fine.
Tomorrow could be a different story, though. Brock High School is the defending champion and returned several members from last year's team. We'll see how things go.