Thursday, March 31, 2011

1st Quarter Clip Favorites

I am going to start posting some of my favorite clips form stories that I have worked on that have published in the Standard-Times at the end of each quarter. One of my favorite things is to look at how other newspapers around the country are designing their pages, specifically how their photos play on the page. An excellent source for viewing well designed pages is the National Press Photographers Association's Best Use of Photography contest. (The fourth quarter gallery of winners for 2010 will be posted soon.)
I have picked four pages from the first quarter that are my favorites and oddly enough, two of the pages are from assignments that I initially thought where not going to be all that exciting. We run a section in the Sunday sports section called Got Game, which is basically a photo page of local club sporting events. This means middle school basketball, little league baseball, and pogo stick racing are viable candidates for publication on this page. I have twice been assigned to fill this page with content from middle school basketball games. I was less than enthused. But after spending a few hours getting to know some of the kids, coaches and fans, I settled in to shooting. I was very pleased with the resulting page designs from these assignments. We realized that if the photos are in early, like a week early, the design of the page is incredibly better than if we drop the photos into the system just a few days before they're due.

Unfortunately, the roller derby Got Game photos didn't get in as soon as they should have, and that was my fault, so the design of the page suffered. But, I have a hard time believing that even after review, this was the final design everyone signed off on. Three of the photos ran the exact same size, limiting flow on the page. There is no real secondary photo and the vertical close-up should have run smaller. Since the Got Game pages are designed in Corpus Christie on a Saturday, there isn't as much staff to review them. I think that if this page had been designed at some point during the week it would have looked considerably different. Finally, the West Texas page is a very simple, two-picture package with clean lines. Nothing special, I just liked it.
Tomorrow I will be shooting my first softball game of the season even though the season has been going strong now for some time. San Angelo is blessed to be home to the Angelo State Rambelles, the top team in the nation in NCAA Division II softball. I always have a good time shooting this team. I'm hoping that they make a deep run in the playoffs this season. I've never had the opportunity to shoot them in post season play. More to come...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Photojournalism 101: Check the Weather


I'm an idiot.

Why on earth would I ever believe that once a specific weather pattern as been in motion for several days that it would stay in place until the next change of season? Why would I ever expect West Texas weather to pick a trend and stick with it? That's ludicrous. Of course the weather is going to go from a blistering 90+ degrees to 40 degrees in one day. And it always seems to happen when I have to spend several hours outside.
I headed up to Abilene this afternoon to shoot the Central girls soccer team play in the bidistrict game against Fort Worth Paschal. I knew it was going to be cooler in Abilene, but I didn't know it was going to be 40 degrees and drizzling with a constant 15-mile per hour wind. I got out of the car at the stadium and was hit with that northerly wind and a shock went down my spine standing every hair on end. And here I was with no long sleeves. This was going to be bad. I gathered my gear as quickly as I could and headed to the stands to find a spot out of the wind until the game started. "How could I be so stupid," I thought to myself. Normally, I keep a light jacket or fleece in my car with the rest of my gear just for situations like this, but because my wife's car bit the dust, she has been driving my car and I just now got my car back from her, and because I have not moved all of my gear back into my car, I was missing necessary equipment. Obviously, this is a lame excuse.
So here I am teeth-chattering, knees-knocking, mentally using every curse word I can think of to belittle myself when I hear the angels begin to sing. It was probably just the wind whistling through the aluminum bleachers, but I turned around anyway, and lo and behold, an elderly gentleman was staring at me through the chain link fence with a quizzical smile on his face. He says, "Son, this is long-sleeve weather and I know you've got to be cold." As he says this he lifts a day-glow orange Central Bobcats sweater over the fence. It has a hood, and a pocket for warming your hands, too! "My savior, my guardian angel," I proclaim. "Thank you, thank you." I drop all of my gear and place the sacred garment over my head, enveloped in all it's fleecy glory.
Texans are great, specifically West Texans. Where else in the world would anyone walk up to a perfect stranger in need and offer the clothes off their back. (I'm sure it happens in other parts of the world, but for the sake of this blog post, let's say it only happens in Texas.) Unfortunately, I didn't get this good Samaritan's name, but I will forever sing his praise for the good deed he showed me.

Oh, there was a soccer game as well. Central lost 2-1. Here is the GALLERY


Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Heart Will Go On

Last year just before Thanksgiving the Standard-Times did a great story on Central High School teacher Sarah Pipkin. Sarah was born with aortic stenosis, a condition in which the aortic valve to the heart is partially blocked. The doctors told her that eventually she would need a heart transplant and that her body would tell her when it was time. Sarah lived a full life, very active and even played soccer in college. But last year her heart decided it had had enough and Sarah was placed on the donor list. On June 30th at 3:15am Sarah got the call she was getting a new heart. She was in Killeen visiting a friend and immediately headed to San Antonio for the operation. The operation was a success and Sarah's condition improved almost overnight.
A week ago, Sarah and her family made the trip back to San Antonio to meet the donor's family for the first time.

Dillon Roberts was an active 14-year-old who loved to play sports and ride his dirt bike with friends. In June of last year, Dillon suffered fatal injuries while riding with his friends and his parents were faced with not only the loss of their son, but also with the decision of whether or not to donate his organs. Thankfully, Mark and Terri Roberts gave the okay for doctors to begin harvesting Dillon's organs so that others might have the chance to live. Sarah was the recipient of Dillon's heart.
When Sarah walked into the room where Dillon's parents and little sister were waiting, it was completely silent except for the sound of my camera shutter. Sarah walked directly up to Mark Roberts and the two embraced for what seemed like an eternity as Terri wept close by. There wasn't a dry eye in the room and that included the media. It's hard to take pictures when the eyecup on your camera is filling up with tears. The two families exchanged hugs and hand-shakes, fielded questions from the various media organizations and proceeded to get to know one another for an hour or so. As the meeting went on, the media began to trickle out of the room to go on to other assignments, eventually leaving myself and Ami Mizell-Flint (S-T freelance reporter) as the only media left. Ami and I were invited to have lunch with the families and the organization that arranged for the meeting, The Texas Organ Sharing Alliance. What a great group of people. It was very nice getting to know the people behind TOSA and it was fascinating to watch the two families get to know each other. Thanks TOSA for inviting us to cover this story and a big thanks to the families for letting us be a part of this extraordinary meeting. If you would like to read Ami's story, you can find it HERE.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Hector Guzman Revisited

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about an evening I spent with Hector Guzman (HERE), maestro of the San Angelo Symphony. While shoot stills for the newspaper I was also trying my hand at shooting video with this new fangled camera the company bought for each of our photographers. I'm using the Canon 1D Mark IV, a DSLR that I can jump back and forth from shooting stills to video with the press of a button. It's a lot of fun, but I'm having to learn a new method of gathering stories. Video is like another language that takes time to learn. Instead of only concentrating on composition and emotion, I'm also having to be concerned about the sound quality and motion within the frame.
The story about Mr. Guzman finally ran today on the front page which was also accompanied by the video I produced for the web publication. I think it came out okay for my first video with this camera, though I need to work on my white balance and generating better b-roll. I was once told that you can never have enough b-roll.
Here's to getting better!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bomb Threat!

... or at least the San Angelo version of one. It was a peaceful Wednesday afternoon, I was about to leave the office for lunch when I hear my name being called from the other office. It was an editor about to tell me that I was to head over to the Tom Green County Courthouse because someone had called in a bomb threat to the probation office.
Crap. I had a sandwich, my leather recliner and the 9th episode of the fifth season of '24' with my name all over it. It just wasn't to be. Local authorities cleared the building, did a brief sweep of each floor before setting up a perimeter around the building. A call was put in to the security forces at Goodfellow Air Force Base to have an explosives sniffing dog come out and check the courthouse room by room.
The three airmen that came out with the dog, Ema, (not two m's) were pretty cool. I'm always so facinated with police dogs. I've never been afraid of dogs, but there is something about a police or military dog that just gives me the creeps.
Most of the time when something like this happens, it's nothing, but I understand why local police take it seriously. Because you just never know. Better to be safe than sorry. The search yeilded nothing, the all-clear was given and we went back to our normal lives. I, on the other hand, missed lunch and had to go straight back to work editing and submitting the photos. Maybe I'll get a two-hour lunch tomorrow.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Looking Good, Feeling Better

Well, after more than a week absent from blogging I finally have something worth while to post. I had to cover for my editor last week in the office as he was taking Spring Break off with his kids. You would think that sitting in an office all day seems like the least stressful thing you can do, but when you have your own assignments piling up with no way to get to them with deadlines quickly approaching, it weighs heavy on the brain. But now I'm comfortably back in the field covering the community and it starts with Liz Zuniga.
One of our hospitals here in San Angelo, Shannon Medical Center, has just finished expanding it's oncology department, adding a Cancer Empowerment and Resource Center that is geared toward informing patients on everything from nutrition to online resources. There is also an in-house beauty salon where patients can get a consultation in make-up and wig care.

Liz was diagnosed with breast cancer after doctors found a mass during a routine mammogram in September 2010. They found the mass early, stage 1, and Liz immediately went in to surgery and had the cancerous tissue removed. If only everyone who is diagnosed with this terrible disease could be so lucky. Liz credits her yearly mammogram and the quick work of the doctors at Shannon with saving her life. Liz was making use of the salon and getting make-up tips from a local beauty shop, Grigsby's Boutique, who sponsors the salon in the center. Liz also has several wigs from the shop.
Cancer sucks and it's time to put an end to this disease. Head over to the American Cancer Society and find out how to stay healthy, find support, research and get involved in your community. Thanks Liz, for letting me spend some time with you.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Creativity, Adventure and the Power of the Web

Back in December 2010 Todd Bieber was cross-country skiing through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and came across a roll of exposed film still in it's plastic canister. Bieber had the roll developed to see what was on the film and decided that he would make a short video and post it on the web to see if he could find the owners of the photos. This is a great story. Here is the first video.

Once Bieber's first video looking for the owners of the film hit YouTube, the response was overwhelming. He was contacted by people all over the globe including local and national news media. How cool is it that over a million people got involved in the search for the mysterious owners of the film? Pretty dang cool. It also is a good reminder just how small the world really is.

Amazingly enough, the owners finally came forward. The last video in the series starts out with Bieber and his girlfriend at the airport. Watch, find out where they're going and who they meet.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bronte loses State Championship 45-30

Sadly, Bronte High School lost the state championship game to Paducah 45-30 Saturday night at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. If there was ever a team that deserved the title, it was Bronte. I'm not ashamed to say it. I know that I'm a professional journalist and all and I'm supposed to remain objective, but this is a personal blog and I'm going to say whatever I want. I was hoping that Bronte would have been the school that took home the trophy. As usual, the team didn't show much emotion on the court after the final buzzer sounded. I'm sure they saved their tears for the locker room.
After the game there is a press conference held in the media room just off the court. Bronte head coach Rocky Rawls and his two sons, Dakota and Kerwin, walked in to take questions from reporters and you could tell how beat up they were over the loss. It's one thing to be a senior and lose the state championship, but to be a senior and have your dad as the head coach and your twin brother as a teammate and lose the title, it's got to be even harder to come home empty handed. I felt for the guys as they tried to field questions from the media and keep their emotions in check.
For the Rawls twins, this ends their high school basketball careers, but for me there's always next year. I had a great time this year and I am very thankful that I was given the opportunity to cover the state tournament here in Austin. You can see more photos HERE on the Standard-Times website.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bronte Wins Class 1A State Semifinal

If you had asked me if I was going to cover the Bronte High School boys basketball team at the state basketball tournament I would have said there was no chance. Not because I didn't think Bronte would make it, but simply because one of our sister papers, the Abilene Reporter-News, was also going to be covering the team, and in an age of newspapers trying to save money and reallocate funds to other areas, I simply didn't think the Standard-Times was going to send someone. Boy was I wrong. Including myself, the paper sent two reporters and a videographer. The game last night between Bronte and Roxton was great.
Over the past few playoff games, teams have been trying to control the the ball, pace and the clock against Bronte so as not to allow them to runaway with the game. Roxton, on the other hand, was a high octane, hard pressing team with a lot of speed who could sink the ball from three-point range with high efficiency. They wanted to run and gun, and Bronte was only happy to oblige. I'm not so sure Roxton had planned on the quick post-to-post passing and the relative ease with which Bronte was able to penetrate their trapping defense. Nor did they plan on Kerwin Rawls having such an explosive game.
Typically, Kerwin plays second fiddle to his twin brother Dakota, a 6'5" senior who scores about 20-25 points per game. Not tonight. Kerwin was in charge popping off 30 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. Everything he threw up went in. Four of the starting five were in double figures by the end of the night with the team shooting a whopping 70 percent from the field. Tonight in the final the Longhorns will play Paducah, who will be a formidable foe with three players at 6'5". It's going to be a great game. I have posted a gallery of photos HERE. More to come.


SIDE NOTE: I came across a few cool videos over the past week and thought I would share them. The first is on British surfing photographer Mickey Smith. The imagery is amazing. I think you'll like it.

DARK SIDE OF THE LENS from Astray Films on Vimeo.

The next video is a short film on the life of the photographers who shoot on Capitol Hill. It's fast paced and becomes a competition to see who can come up with the best and newest angles to shoot from while your subject is standing at a podium or sitting in a chair. I want you to pay close attention to what Melina Mara of the Washington Post says in her interview. She says, "This kind of pack-journalism mentality, digital fast,fast,fast, gotta have it yesterday kind of idea... is ruining us in so many ways. Because we're not thinking about what we're doing, we're just doing it and moving on," she said. "And that's not good." This is a theme that is sweeping across every news department across the country. The only question that seems to be on everyone's mind these days is how do we accumulate as much news as possible in the shortest amount of time and get it out to the public as fast as we can. Ms. Mara was right when she said, "We have to be thoughtful journalists, but we don't have the time to be thoughtful journalists."

The Well: Covering Capitol Hill from Chris Gregory on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Symphony Sounds

I've had to work a later shift than normal over the last few days, what with all the high school playoff basketball, Lake View soccer, roller derby and then again last night to shoot a Studio Sessions cover that will run later in the month. Studio Sessions is a reoccurring series on local artists that runs on the front page on Fridays when we don't have other news to take it's place. We didn't run any of the profiles during February because of the rodeo so we will be starting up the series again this month. The artist I was assigned to cover last night was Hector Guzman, the conductor of the San Angelo Symphony. Maestro Guzman is a great guy to be around, warm and friendly, accommodating and very animated on the podium. After reading some of the other stories in the series, I'm convinced San Angelo has some great talent, and Maestro Guzman and the San Angelo Symphony are no exception. I caught up with the symphony while rehearsing for an upcoming show. Excellent music by the way, even in rehearsal, along with soloist Kyle Orth on the piano.

The symphony is having to rehearse in the McNease Convention Center instead of their usual venue, the City Hall Auditorium, due to renovations. The auditorium is a great space and hosts several of San Angelo's larger productions, but because of the on-going construction, these performances have been cast out to other spaces, orphans in their own city. The convention center is the only space available to the symphony and hardly does the group justice. I was trying to find an angle to photograph the maestro with a clean background, but I found myself getting caught up in the music, taking a seat and enjoying the rest of the evening. From what I heard Friday night, it's going to be a great show.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bronte Wins Regional Quarterfinal... Oddly

Today's game between the Bronte Longhorns and Sterling City Eagles was very strange. High school basketball quarters are eight minutes long, typically taking somewhere around 15 to 20 minutes to finish. The first quarter of this game took only 11 minutes. Eleven minutes! There were no fouls or timeouts called. There wasn't any scoring either, at least not on the part of Sterling City. They would take the ball down to their end of the court and just pass the ball around as if there was no game going on at all. Now, I realize what they weer doing, trying to keep the ball out of Bronte's possession, but at least make the game interesting. I mean, Bronte is the number-one ranked 1A boys basketball team in the state! At the end of the half, the combined score of both teams was 18. Eighteen!
Usually I'll start to edit first half photos at halftime and caption and send photos back to the office at some point in the third quarter, but the game was moving along so fast that I didn't have time to send anything because if I had waited any longer I would have missed the entire second half. I think everyone knew that Bronte was the favorite to win the game, they're the top ranked team, but I'm not sure that anyone expected Sterling City to come out and play such a controlled game. I certainly didn't, Bronte didn't, heck, even the Sterling City fans didn't expect their team to hold on to the ball in such a manner. Once I figured out what was going on I got over being mad and was actually quite impressed with the composure Sterling City was showing. There was absolutely no way they were going to keep pace with Bronte if the game was more run-and-gun, but if they could hold on to the ball and limit the amount of time Bronte had to score, then perhaps Sterling City could keep the game close.
Eventually, the game did end with Bronte winning 35-22. That's a pretty lame score when you consider the number one team in the state was playing, but you have to take your hat off to Sterling City for the way they managed the game. I'm not so sure the Bronte players could even believe what they had just gone through as they didn't really celebrate their victory. No high-fives, chest bumps, not even a smile (as you can see by the photo below) graced the faces of the Bronte players. After receiving their trophy they just kind of wandered off the court. Their coach had to call them back so he could give them his end-of-game speech. Like I said, all very odd. I have posted a gallery of more photos HERE of the game. I think that my high school basketball season is over. Christoval lost to Albany and Wall lost to Eastland, the same team that knocked them out last year, by one point in overtime. Bronte, of course, will be moving on, but they are also in the Abilene Reporter-News coverage area, so they will probably cover them from here on out and just send us photos to run. The Abilene paper is our sister-paper in the Scripps chain. I guess from here on out it will be baseball, softball, soccer, golf, tennis and track. Oh well.

SIDE NOTE: I've got a video for you today that is pretty cool. It deals with long-exposure, night photography. It's a video of a couple of guys who rigged up LED lights to blink as they picked up WiFi signals around buildings. The video gives you a visual sense of the invisible frequencies around us.

Immaterials: Light painting WiFi from Timo on Vimeo.