Monday, February 28, 2011

Grassfire Burns Three Counties

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Sunday was supposed to be a leisurely day off. I had just come off of one of the most stress filled and busiest San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo seasons ever. I didn't want to do anything on Sunday. I wanted to sleep in and get a late start on the day (I did), watch the pre-race coverage and most of the laps turned of the NASCAR race at Phoenix (I did), and then go and support our local upstart roller derby league in their first scrimmage against a team from Abilene (I did, and will be working this for a future story. Stay tuned.) I didn't have a care in the world. Brooke was on her way to Rosa's for tacos, I was on my way to the store to pick up an adult beverage and dreaming about the cigar I was going to pull out the humidor for a casual smoke on the back porch as the sun went down.
What I should have noticed was the sun dipping down behind pillars of smoke from a massive grass fire raging through three counties to the west. At around 6:30pm yesterday evening an editor called me saying there was an advancing fire threatening the small town of Barnhart and the local officials were considering evacuating the town. There goes my quiet evening with the wife, whom I haven't really seen over the last two weeks because of my schedule with the rodeo. I ran home, grabbed my gear, headed to the office to pick up our videographer and zipped to Barnhart (about 60 miles east of San Angelo). We made a quick stop in Mertzon to see if the Barnhart people had in fact been evacuated, but found the community center empty. We left and went on to Barnhart. When there, we talked with local sheriff's deputies who directed us to the nearest staging point for fire personnel. We could start to see the eerie glow of the advancing fire as it made it's way across open pasture land and began to notice the ever increasing smell of burning grass and wood. We drove south on State Highway 163 for six miles before meeting up with firefighters from the Texas Forest Service, went over some logistics, and eventually met up with volunteer firefighters from Ozona. These guys were great. I want to give a shout out to Eli De La Cruz, Justin Davis, Michael Little and Kevin Webb of Truck 216. The crew gave me the okay to ride on the back of the truck and photograph as they bulldozed their way through grassland to put out the the advancing fire.
It was either 2006 or 2007 when all of Texas was a massive tender box, with grass fires raging in just about every county of the state. That summer was extremely hot with almost no rainfall. We were covering grass fires every week. I couldn't get the smell of smoke and ash out of my nose, clothes, car and gear for weeks. I'm hoping this is not going to turn into a repeat of that summer, but it's beginning to feel that way. I have posted a gallery of more photos HERE.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hawks Soar in Area Playoff

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Friday night's area playoff game between the Wall Hawks and the Clyde Bulldogs was pretty good. Wall jumped out to a good lead in the first few minutes of the game before Clyde scored their first few points. From the start it looked as though Wall was going to run away with the game, but Clyde managed a few good drives to the basket which drew fouls and some fast break action down the court, they were able to keep the game close. That is until the fourth quarter when Wall turned on the heat and ran up the score to a game ending 83-56. Good for them. Wall needs to have their boys team go deep in the playoffs after their girls team's stunning loss in their first game. No one saw that coming.

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I decided I would get a little creative with a few frames before the game started and this particular one stood out. It's a reflection of the Wall team in the glass that surrounds the court while the National Anthem was being played. I'm not quite sure if it works though, but something just drew me in. I'm sure if I worked the framing a little more it would have come out a little better. I guess I just like seeing the legs and feet of the fans along with the reflection of the team. But I have to say I always feel a little weird while taking photos during the National Anthem. Everyone is standing, reverently facing the flag with hand over heart and here I am facing the wrong direction sticking a 16-35mm lens in their face clicking away.

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And this last photo was just some random act of flash. I love random acts of flash. Most of the time the frame is completely blown out, but in this instance it worked out nice. I liked how everything was blacked out on the edges of the frame, including the player's face. This photo reminded me of those old news photos that were taken outside of some courthouse were the defendant, who has been found innocent of an obvious crime, comes walking out and the media makes a mad dash to get a photo of him/her as they are whisked away to a waiting car. I don't know, maybe it's just me.
I have posted a gallery of other photos HERE if you would like to see more of the Hawks' big win.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bull Riders Know How to Fly

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Wow. It was a rough night for bull riding at the San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo last night. One rider after the other was tossed, thrown, trampled or just didn't have a grip on the bull they were holding on to. Some went for a pretty wild ride. One bull rider, Rocky McDonald from Chihuahua, Mexico, no really, Chihuahua, Mexico, had a great ride and dismount. McDonald scored 82 points for his effort. Most of the riders just had wild rides and nothing to show for it. At least that was the case with the cowboys in the first section of bull riding. I didn't get to see the last section of bull riders because I had to come back early to put photos in the system for deadline. But I got to shoot every event but the final two, so that was nice.

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It still amazes me every time I see a cowboy strap on to the back of a bull not wearing a helmet. Almost all of the riders at the San Angelo rodeo wore them, but every so often you'll see one brave soul that doesn't. Perhaps they just haven't been stepped on or been dealt a blow to the head causing a massive concussion yet. Luckily we haven't had any major accidents this year. A few years ago we had one rider get his face crushed in by the bull he was on. It was nasty and something I never want to see again.
I have just one more rodeo to shoot this year, the finals on Saturday evening. I'm not going out to the Coliseum tonight for the eighth performance. Instead I'm heading out to Coleman for a high school boys area round playoff game. I should have a gallery posted late tonight for those of you interested. But for now, HERE is a gallery of last night's performance.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Get Off Me!

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You know, the announcer always says that these animals are bred to buck, but sometimes you got to wonder whether or not that's actually true. If they're bred to buck then why do the cowboys wear spurs and use a flank strap? Do you ever think that maybe the animals would rather just stay in the pen with the rest of his buddies, munching on grass or oats, chatting it up about their favorite pasture where the grass grows especially sweet?
Then again, maybe the animals are just as excited to get into the arena as the fans are to watch them. Perhaps the pack of bucking horses all stand around in a big circle rattling off names of cowboys they've thrown like a stack of baseball cards. Other horses are thinking in their heads, "need him, need him, got him, need him, need him, got him, need him, got him." Instead, maybe while they're waiting in the pen they're taking bets to see who can throw their rider the fastest.

Says one bull to the other, "Hey Bob, I'll bet you half of tonight's meal and the front stall in the trailer I can throw my rider before you."
"You're on, Carl! I hate riding in the back. Makes me nauseous."

Whatever the circumstances are surrounding the inner circles and dimly-lit back stall dealings are of rodeo stock, one thing can't be denied. Rodeo is pretty cool to watch. Last night I shot the sixth performance of the San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo. I headed up to the Coliseum early to find an internet connection, but had to leave because of some car crash on the loop (No one injured, maybe one citation). So, by the time I got back, it was five minutes before showtime, so I decided to ditch the laptop and shoot as much as I could before I had to leave and drive back to the office. That plan worked out okay. I think tonight I'll try and stay for one more event, calf roping, before I high-tail it back to the office.

I forgot to give the link to the photo gallery before I sent the post up! HERE you go!

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat

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Last night was a late one. There were two high school playoff games going on at the Junell Center here in San Angelo. The first game was the start of the boys playoff season with a bi-district game between Sonora and Junction. Both of the teams are in a our coverage area so I needed to make sure to have photos from both sides. Typically, once we get into playoff games, we're only covering one of the teams playing, but every once in awhile we need to cover both teams. It's easier just covering one team. All the emotions of the game a centrally located on one side of the court.
The first game kicked off at 6:00 pm and was one of the few boys games I've covered this year. With our early deadlines we don't get to shoot the boys games much anymore. The Sonora/Junction game had a really strange feel to it. Sonora always seemed way out of reach for Junction to catch, but that's really not the case. Sure, the Broncos were up by as much as 17 points in the third quarter, but Junction fought back to lose only by 5 points. I don't know, but I think I was hoping for a little more urgency on Sonora's part, more like "Holy crap, they're coming back and we could lose this thing," kind of urgency. But Sonora was calm and collected which probably contributed to their victory. I've posted a gallery of photos HERE if you're interested. Sonora will advance to the area round, but I'm not sure if I'll be covering that game or not.
The second game of the evening was between Bronte High School and Highland girls teams. Bronte had a successful run through district play this year, finishing 13-1 and claiming their first district title in over a decade. They had a bye the week the playoffs began, won the area round game and now faced Highland in the regional quarterfinal for a chance to play in the regional tournament. However, Highland was going to be a formidable foe, with three girls over six-feet-tall. Bronte was only down five points at halftime, so I'm sure they were feeling pretty good heading in to the locker room. Many of Bronte's district games were close so this wasn't new territory for them. But, the blocking, rebounding and scoring onslaught of Highland was to much for the Lady Longhorns. Bronte lost with a final score of 53-32. HERE is a gallery if you want more photos from the game.
I'm off to shoot the rodeo again tonight, so I'll probably have another gallery for you soon. My fingers are crossed for better luck with an internet connection tonight. A fellow photographer gave me a heads-up on a connection that she used last year that might still be effective. More to come.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo: 3rd Performance

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So after a night off from shooting the rodeo on Friday, I was assigned to shoot the matinee performance on Saturday afternoon. If you had a chance to read my previous POST you would know just how my first attempt of shooting the 2011 rodeo went, but on Saturday I wasn't under any deadline pressure and could spend my time shooting in a relaxed state. I love shooting the afternoon performance. Not having to have a photo in the system at a certain time during the actual performance provides for a relaxed state of mind free of all the stress of last Thursday.
The rodeo always starts and finishes with bull riding, easily my favorite event. I guess its the violence of the sport that makes it so exciting. I like the fact that after just eight seconds the bull gets a chance to seek out vengeance on the rider. I'm always pulling for the bull, not the cowboy. After bull riding comes the steer wrestling, and then bareback riding which to me, seems like the least enjoyable event to compete in. Have you ever seen a rider who has just finished his run come away with anything less than a major concussion and cradling their arm as if they've torn every muscle fiber? Nope. After bareback the team ropers take the arena floor. Team roping is hard to photograph because you're having to keep track of two competitors, making sure you're able to keep the both of them in the frame. After seven years of shooting the rodeo I still haven't figured out how to shoot this event.
As it turned out, my day was not to be as stress free as I thought is was going to be. I have another assignment that is due to run next Saturday, a feature assignment shadowing a local cowboy who made it into the rodeo. Unfortunately, the contestant that was picked for the story was competing in the team roping event on Saturday, the event I just finished shooting, and our subject didn't have the best time. At least not a time that would allow him and his roping partner to continue in the rodeo. They were immediately heading out to compete in another rodeo in Tucson. That meant that I had to frantically find our subject and hope that he was still packing up.
So after that brief moment of hysteria, I tried to salvage what time I had left at the rodeo. I was able to catch the last few riders in the barrel racing and the second round of bull riding. I've posted a gallery of other photos HERE if you're interested. The rest of the rodeo performances will be held in the evening so I'm going to have to figure out a way to get photos back to the office quickly and not miss everything but the first three events. It's a mystery.

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Ballinger Drops Area Playoff Game

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On Friday night I was assigned to shoot the area playoff game between Ballinger and Jim Ned at the Junell Center here in San Angelo. What's that you say? The Standard-Times chose to visually cover a high school basketball game over the second performance of the 79th annual San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo!? HOLY REVERSE POLARITY BATMAN! Believe it. Actually I was kind of glad to be shooting some basketball instead of the rodeo. Not that I don't like being at the rodeo, but there are so many performances that they all start to run together.
So there I was on a Friday night covering what the Standard-Times is calling "The Road to the Drum", the local and area high school playoff run to the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. The Ballinger Lady Cats are a local team that consistently makes a good run through the playoffs. You can't count these ladies out when it comes down to the wire. Unfortunately, the team standing in their way in the area round was Jim Ned. I've had the good fortune to photograph Jim Ned over the last couple of years in the regional tournament in Midland. This is a tall, very fast team with an aggressive full-court press. And that press was on full display Friday night.
Ballinger had their hands full, but were able to hang with the Lady Indians for most of the first half. But, they started to turn over the ball and couldn't come down with a rebound. Jim Ned had a 24-point second quarter to head into the locker room with a 12-point lead at the half. When the whistle blew to start the third quarter, Jim Ned jumped into action immediately, leaving Ballinger just trying to keep the game respectable. Jim Ned advanced to the next round with the 84-60 win. I posted a gallery of photos HERE if you want to see more. On Tuesday I'll cover another game, possibly two if I stay here in town. I think there is a double-header at the Junell Center, so next week is going to be action-packed with playoff basketball and the remaining performances of this year's rodeo.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Santa Fe Trail Ride

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In my last post you may recall that I mentioned that I had an early assignment this last Thursday photographing riders in the annual Santa Fe Trail Ride. This was a new assignment for me, so having not covered this before, I was unsure of what to expect. Granted, there would be people sitting on horses and wagons, but I was really faced with the task of making that look not so boring. I mean, how many times can I take a photo of someone sitting on horseback and make that look interesting. It was all going to have to come down to environment and location.
I got out to the San Angelo State Park around 8:00 am and first met up with a gentleman named Charlie Bowers, who lives down the road in Knickerbocker, saddling his mule for the ride. Charlie has no arms, but wears two prosthetic limbs, each fashioned with metal hooks with which he goes about his work. An interesting guy and I'm still kicking myself two days after meeting him for not making a better photo of him.
After a quick safety meeting, with horses saddled and wagons hitched, the group headed off into the park on their way to the O.C. Fisher Dam. I believe this is the first time the trail ride has crossed the 7-mile stretch over the dam. Oh, just in case you were wondering, the trail ride started on Feb. 11 at the historic Ft. Chadbourne near Bronte, a town roughly 35 miles north of San Angelo. As it turned out, the riders crossing the over the dam became some of the more interesting photos of the day. If you would like to see more photos I have posted a gallery on the Standard-Times website HERE.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo: 1st Performance

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I hate to say it, but yesterday was the worst rodeo day I've had in a long time. Let's start from the beginning:
First, I had to work a split-shift yesterday. You know, the kind of shift you have to start in the morning then take a long break in the afternoon and finish it up in the evening? Well the first part of the shift started early in the morning out at the San Angelo State Park with a group of people who were participating in a trail ride from Ft. Chadbourne to the San Angelo Fairgrounds over a period of several days. (Photos to come shortly.) The people were very friendly and a joy to be around, however, I have technically been on the night shift, so having to hit an early assignment with no coffee was difficult.

Headache.

Second, no matter how much time I have off between the morning and evening shifts, I always feel as though I have worked straight through the entire day. After my morning shoot I went home to eat lunch and take a nap but did little in the way of sleep. I took aspirin for the headache, but to no avail. I had to go back into work at 6:00 pm still exhausted, knowing I had a long night ahead of me.

Headache continues.

I arrived at the Coliseum for the rodeo performance and the first thing I do for any late assignment I know I'll have to transmit photos back from is search for a good Internet connection. In the past the wireless connection at the Coliseum has been slow and inconsistent, as is the case again this year. I found a spot under the stands where I had full bars of connection, sent a test photo, and it went through without a hitch. A small victory in a very long day. But, that victory was short lived because the spot where I have set up my computer has a very low, slanted ceiling, and being 6'2" I'm destined to bash my head into any concrete obstacle 5-feet or lower, which I proceed to do repeatedly.

Headache begins to pound.

The first performance of the rodeo each year is an exploratory mission because the opening and closing ceremonies change each year. It really takes until the third performance to get the feel and timing of the show so you can position yourself to make a good photo. The actual events themselves are pretty routine and I move about the Coliseum to get different angles. I started out at ground level, shooting from an opening under the stands for the first round of bull riding. The problem with shooting from ground level is that occasionally you'll catch a bit of dirt as the animals speed by. I didn't catch a little dirt, but did manage to catch one giant dirt/mud/animal crap clod square in the face, which exploded on impact getting into my eyes and mouth.

Headache, with a little humiliation.

After shooting the first rounds of bull riding, steer wrestling and bareback riding I headed down at 8:35 pm to do a quick edit of two or three photos for the 9:15 pm deadline. This is when I need everything to go smoothly, but usually it's when everything goes to crap. My computer decided it wanted to run in slow-mo, and the Internet connection I had before has suddenly dropped off the face of the world. As I'm sitting there I'm listening to more of the events taking place that I should be shooting. First the team roping, then the saddle bronc riding, next the calf roping. I'm cursing this wretched machine in between making frantic phone calls to the office and my editor. It's 9:40 pm and nothing is working. I'm going to have to leave the performance early, hoping I can get back to the office and have a photo in the system by 10:15 pm.

Headache, humiliation and volcanic road rage.

I make it back, put two photos into the system and collapse back into my chair, closing my eyes and trying to ignore the smell of the day around me. I sit for a spell taking deeps breathes, reveling in the silence and coolness of the office. I wash off the film of fine dust that settled on my arms and hands, scrub my face clean, put on a pot of coffee and went about putting up a gallery of the limited photos I was able to make at the rodeo. If you would like to see them, you can find them HERE. After finishing my gallery I just sat quietly. I don't even want to try and process the day. I just want to forget. I straighten up the mess on my desk frantically made an hour before, give a pat down on all my pockets looking for my keys, and turn off the computer. I'm done.

Exhaustion.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

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Practice, practice, practice. Or at least that's how the saying goes. And for local Central High School senior Cal Hengst III it seems to be working out for him. I got to spend an hour or so with Cal last week while at a violin lesson with his teacher Paula Woyton here in San Angelo. Cal was hand picked to participate in the 2011 American High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall in New York City this coming weekend. It is a collection of 100 of the best high school performers from across North America. Cal is a cool kid with an amazing talent and I wish him luck in his future endeavors. If you would like to read the article on Cal that ran in today's paper you can find it HERE.

SIDE NOTE: I've got a few videos for you today that I came across on various sites over the week. In keeping with the music theme of today's post, check out this cool ripple effect of the strings on this standing bass as it's filmed by a Canon 5d MK II. Results from the frequency of the strings and the fast shutter speed of the camera makes for one cool visual. The video was shot by Urbanscreen, a company that does large-scale projections on urban surfaces. Need to spice up that ugly, decaying building facade? Project video on it!


stunning bass-string shot from urbanscreen on Vimeo.

The second video is a short film by Artists Wanted, a collaborative project of New York-based artists, on blind visual artist Pete Eckert. Pete was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic eye condition that leads to permanent blindness. You don't really get to see Pete's photos in the video so HERE is the link to his website. Enjoy!


| Artists Wanted | In Focus : Pete Eckert from Artists Wanted on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Playoff Basketball on the Horizon

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Playoff basketball is just around the corner. In fact, I already know that I will be shooting high school girls playoff games next week. Pretty exciting. Tonight I went down the road south a bit to Christoval for their District 12-1A game against Miles. It was a close, low-scoring game that had a few exciting moments. Especially when one of the Miles players turned to confront one of the Christoval players and bumped a shoved him without the referees taking notice. It was a passionate game to say the least, with Christoval coming out on top 37-31 to win the district championship.
I have always appreciated schools that have a vibrant students section in the stands, and Christoval didn't disappoint. They had a number of cheers shouted at specific moments during the game to psych their team up. There were even a few cheers I'd never heard before, cheers that were unique to Christoval. If you would like to see a few more photos from the game you can go HERE.
I think it is in the student section were most of a school's tradition is conceived and born. When I was growing up in the bustling metropolis of New Deal, Texas, we didn't have much of a student cheering section. At least not at the basketball games. Sure, we had a few good teams that drew good crowds, but nothing the likes of some of the schools we cover. A few of these schools haven't had a winning team in a few seasons but still manage to fill their tiny gymnasiums every Tuesday and Friday night.
It would have to be my sophomore year when a few of us pulled double duty on the junior varsity and varsity teams that I would classify as my favorite season of basketball. The JV team, which most of my teammates in my class played on, went undefeated with a record of 21-0. And a few of us, myself included, were asked by the varsity coach to suit up for the varsity team. We also got to suit up for the playoff run that year, making it all the way to the regional tournament in Abilene, Texas. It was a great year of basketball for the Lions.

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SIDE NOTE: The photojournalism contest season is in full swing with the big 3: The National Press Photographers Association's Best of Photojournalism (BOP) contest, The World Press Photo contest and the Pictures of the Year International (POYi) contest leading the way. I do submit entries to these competitions, though the BOP is the only one I enter every year. It's my favorite because I am a member of the NPPA and I feel the winning images include more everyday journalism. Of course I know I never have a chance at placing, but I like to get my images out there just in case.
The World Press Photo competition is finished and the results posted. You can see the winners HERE. I personally never really cared for the World Press Photo competition. I guess it's because the winning images in this particular contest always seem to be overly conceptual, or to arts and crafts to be journalistic images, or maybe it's because I would really prefer to see more community journalism included in the winners. I think I've seen enough of the disasters and miseries of the world.
The POYi competition is currently being judged and the winners are being posted as they are made available. The homepage with the updated winner of each category can be found HERE. There is a bit of controversy brewing around the blogosphere over New York Times photographer Damon Winter's third place entry "A Grunt's Life" in the feature picture category. Winter, one of my all-time favorite photographers who's listed in my Photography Heroes column on this blog, used his iPhone camera with the Hipstamatic app to document life on the ground with a platoon in Afghanistan. The app renders the image at the time of capture adding color and border, giving a unique look to the final product. You can view the winning images HERE. Almost immediately other photographers began a firestorm of "is using an app with the iPhone really considered photojournalism?"
The golden rule of photojournalism is "don't add anything, don't take anything away." Whatever is in the frame, stays in the frame. If something wasn't there at the time of capture, don't add it in later in post-processing. There are numerous advocates on both sides of the issue of Winter's images. I feel that I am leaning towards Winter's view on this: You have to choose the the right tool for the job. Winter broke his silence on the matter yesterday on the Lens blog website HERE. I guess the only thing that upsets me is that the images made with this point-and-shoot cell phone are infinitely better than any image I've ever made.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy Days Are Here Again

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Last night I was assigned to shoot the Daddy/Daughter Date Night, an event sponsored by the city to get dads and their daughters time to hang out, eat and dance. You know, the bonding thing. I have somehow managed to avoid shooting this for the seven years I have been employed by that Standard-Times so I wasn't sure what to expect. It seems crazy to think that I had no idea what this event was all about, since we cover events like this like clockwork every year. But, never the less, I was walking into the unknown.
As soon as I stepped into the convention center my heart sank. Someone forgot to turn on the lights. The only light sources available were the icicle-like Christmas lights hanging on the walls and the four small ceiling lights pointed at the disco ball hanging in the middle of the room.

I was going to have to use a flash.
I never use flash.
Ever. (commence nail-biting)

I didn't even have a flash with me, I had to go back out to the car, make sure I had batteries and my off-camera cord. How was I going to get this done?
After my initial freak-out and a quick refresher on the subtleties of flash photography, I went to work. The theme for the night was "Happy Days" and it was nice to see some of the dads and daughters really get into it. Greaser hair-dos and poodle skirts, Converse All-Star shoes and pink track jackets dotted the crowd. After about an hour I started getting into the swing of things. I didn't want to rely on the flash as just a source of light, but rather a tool to make the frame more interesting. (That's sounds stupid, of course I want to make the frame more interesting.) Using flash allows you to stop action, but what do you do when you also need to show a little motion as well? Answer: shutter lag. Just slow down the shutter, hit the release and pan the camera in the direction you want the motion to move. I'm still terrible at using flash, but at least I came back to the office with something usable for today's front page.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

National Prayer Breakfast

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Today, members of the community gathered together to hold the annual National Prayer Breakfast of San Angelo. All across the country, groups similar to this one came together for food and prayer. This can sometimes be a difficult assignment to shoot for two reasons:
1) Unless the individuals you are photographing are very expressive while praying, (hands raised, holding hands with another person or standing on their feet) it just looks like an entire room of people have fallen asleep in their seats. At least video has the added benefit of hearing the prayer being said.
2) The assignment starts 6 a.m.
My best sleep happens between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Don't ask me why, it just happens that way, so with having to get out of my warm bed at 5 a.m. on a morning when it's 5-degrees outside, my brain and body takes a little longer to get to full operational capacity. Once at the convention center, I started to feel a little more awake, grabbed some coffee and settled in to find a few frames for the story. I have not been given this assignment for a few years and the last time I was there I remember there being a lot more praying. This time, after the usual music and introductions, there was only one prayer that only seemed to last for a few minutes. It was well written and all-encompassing, but short. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I seem to remember there being more time of the program being set aside for prayer.
The majority of the program was given to the keynote speaker, Paul Young, the author of the bestselling book "The Shack". Since everyone seems to be over the moon about this book, I guess I'll have to see if I can get my wife to find me a copy. (She has a unique ability to find just about everything on sale.) Mr. Young was a great speaker, not because he commanded the attention of the audience with his booming voice, excellent writing and stage presence, but because he seemed to approach the audience as normal human beings with casual conversation, cracking jokes and sharing stories of family and faith. One story about his mother as a young nurse and coming to terms with his book was especially moving. I left the convention center still physically exhausted, but mentally and spiritually rejuvenated.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Um... It was 77-degrees Yesterday

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So yesterday was a pleasant, warm and sunny day. I finished work and went home, poured a refreshing drink, grabbed a cigar and my new magazine and headed out to the back porch to relax. It was 77-degrees. Wonderful. Brooke came home from work and we ordered chicken wings for dinner. (I know, I'm trying to loose a few pounds, but one chicken wing won't hurt... or twenty.) Around 8:00 pm when I went out to pick up dinner, I noticed the smell of rain in the air and when I looked off to the northeast, flashes of lightning flickered across the sky. Hmmm.. weather coming in. And boy did it ever. First came the rain, then the sleet, then a mix of the two, and then finally snow. It was really bazaar. I guess the most fascinating thing about it, something I have never seen, was the lightning and thunder during the winter storm. I'm not talking about a few flashes here and there followed by a far off, barely audible rumble. No, no. I'm talking about the kind of lightning so big and so close that you hear it forming the second it ignites. You know, the kind of lightning you can see and hear from horizon to horizon. Our cat, Rilo, seemed to be shedding a little more than usual.

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So anytime we have anything remotely different from hot and dry weather, it's news. Especially when it's snow. I knew last night I would be searching for features so I had to get myself in the right state of mind for that. I am terrible at finding features. I dislike everything about it. You drive around for hours hoping to find something, talk to people who don't want to want to be photographed and usually the images you come back with are worthless. At least mine are. But, I tried to put my best foot forward this morning, believing that I would find something worth shooting. I pulled on my boots, my fleece, jacket, hat and gloves, slung my cameras over my shoulders and headed out. I walked through my own neighborhood first because the roads were just to icy this morning to drive. You could hear the sound of spinning rubber echoing off houses as commuters tried desperately not to go careening into a neighbors yard. After an hour and a half and eight numb fingers, I strolled back home to warm up. I only live a mile from the office so I decided that I would just walk to work, taking photos as I go. I was going to use a staff car today rather than my own. If I'm going to crash, I'll crash the photo truck rather than my beloved Honda Element. I headed over to Central High School where kids usually hang out on off days. Kids hanging out near school on a snow day? Go figure, but never the less there they were. Actually, the group I found were across the street on the municipal golf course sliding down snow-covered hills on sleds. I hung out for a while, made a few frames and then headed over to the lake for a casual drive. All in all, it was an okay day with a few nice frames to boot.

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