Friday, May 28, 2010

One of the weirdest things I've ever seen

One of the weirdest scenes I've ever photographed was while living on the island of Terceira in the Azores. Everyday, I would shoot a different part of the island. One one particular day while out photographing "a day in the life" of dairy farmers, I rounded a corner and came to a standstill in a traffic jam of sorts.

There was this farmer who was having trouble moving a dairy cow to another field. Normally a farmer would open a pasture gate and the cows would follow one another from one field to the next. But since he only had one cow to be used as a lawnmower to munch the front lawn, he was having serious problems.  I guess to him the most logical way to move one cow was by motor transport, but as you can see she didn't want to have any part of his plan. So after trying to coax her into the back of a truck, which was blocking the road and with the traffic backing up, he finally gave up and decided to put his back into the job.

I don't know just how long it took him to get that cow into the truck and since I already had a humorous photo, I decided to turn around and head back in the same direction. I guess that this proves that when you're out and about you'll never know what interesting or funny situation might lie in wait around the next corner.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It pays to pay attention

While growing up in Japan and taking pictures at a high school football game, a Pacific Stars and Stripes staff photographer, pulled me aside and told me, “Jim, not all the important action happens between the 40-yard lines.” From that period on, I was always on the lookout for game telling photos, whether they were on the field or sidelines.

Covering a state high school West Central District playoff game between Sumner and Central Kitsap, I noticed, most of the first base calls went in favor of Sumner. One a few occasions the Central Kitsap coach called time come over and to argue his point, but to no avail.

Next time Central Kitsap came up to bat, the head coach moved from his normal third base position to first base and I knew it would be a matter of time before heated words would be exchange between him and the umpire.

A few innings later, one of the Central Kitsap players, who had taken a large lead-off from first base, was picked off on a throw from the Sumner catcher to his first baseman. Watching from my photographic vantage point near the first base line, I thought that the runner was clearly safe in returning to the bag, and so did the coach, but the umpire thought otherwise. And that’s when the fireworks started.

When the argument started, I trained my lens on both men, as they got closer and closer together, the words became more heated and the pictures keep getting better and better. Pretty soon, the CK coached moved in so close that the bill of his hat was touching underneath the umpires’ hat. As the discussion centered on the multitude of questionable calls made by this umpire.

As the veins on the coach’s neck popped out and I knew it was just a matter of seconds before the coach was ejected from the game. I got my picture; he did in fact get booted and spent the remainder of the game, watching his team come from behind to win, sitting in a lawn chair outside the center field fence.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Adding rain to capture moody photographs

While sitting around yesterday, looking out the sliding glass doors, watching the rainfall and wishing it would just go away, I realized two things: I’m a photographer and living here in the Pacific Northwest with it’s never ending rainfall, the bad weather, like it or not would give me a opportunity to go outside in our backyard garden and a chance make some good pictures. I thought of images that would evoke some type of mood and atmosphere, and would give me a chance to break away from that wishful “sunny-day” look and provided a few reasons to capture something different.

First, consider the possibilities that rain can add. We get plenty of those wet days here and it provides a silvery shimmer to city streets and foliage that can turn even a mundane scene into one of magic. The diffused light from an overcast sky mutes bright colors and emphasizes soft monochromes and enhances the subtle compositional effects.

One method I like using, is to use my 28-70mm f2.8 lens which has a minimum focusing distance is about 12 inches, while it’s not stellar for a macro, when I attached the Canon Extension Tube EF25 I was able to move in close to capture details and rich colors of the various plants, grasses and trees branches with water drops shinning like a jewels.

When shooting in the foul weather one thing you have to watch for is that water can damage your photographic equipment. When the weather turns while out photographing in bad weather, protect it under a raincoat or umbrella when not shooting. Make use of doorways, storefront arcades, overhangs, or awnings.

For prolonged exposure to the rain, weatherproof your camera with a gallon plastic zip lock bag that is flexible enough to operate the shutter release. Cut a hole for the lens and then seal the lens shade to the bag with the use duct tape or a strong rubber band. To protect the lens, use a lens shade and skylight filer and wipe off moisture that collect on your camera with a dry, clean cloth. My all time favorite is using one of those chamois car wipes you can purchase at any auto parts store.

Be alert to such stormy scenes as you photograph, if not, you’ll never know what visual opportunities photographing in bad weather might bring.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It’s not always the action that’s important

Former Port Orchard Independent reporter, Mark Walker, once told me after looking at a few of my sports action features, “Get the ball in the frame and in focus!”  Well, that’s silly coming from a wordsmith and not a photographer. I tried explaining to him that I was trying to capture the after action reaction of a game saving play, which to me is as important as actual action shot. However, it did piss me off so much that from then on I made it a point to capture both, action and reaction of every play.

But To me, sometimes, the after reaction of a significant play is almost just as important or sometimes more important than the play itself.  However, in this digital age, it’s good to capture both. It’s all about seeing pictures possibilities and capturing those moments that lead to great photographic moments.

Here's a picture I captured the other night of Ken Griffey, Jr., being congratulated after hitting the game winning single against the Toronto Bluejays. I managed to capture a story telling photo of Bluejays' first baseman Lyle Overbay (R) walking off the field as Seattle Mariners' Ken Griffey Jr. (L) is surrounded by teammates after he hit a single to right field that scored the game winning run in the ninth inning. Griffey pinch-hitting for Josh Wilson hit a game winning single to right field that scored Milton Bradley to beat the Bluejays 4-3.  I like the fact that I was able to capture the both the happiness and dejection in the same frame. The happiness of the Mariners players and the dejection displayed by Overbay as he walked off the field with his head down definitely told the story better than Griffey swatting the ball.

Other pictures that display reactions are:  Manchester United's Roy Keane, middle, congratulates Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, left, after he scored the third goal of the first half against the Celtic goalie Magnus Hedman.

Alabama's Blair Potter, left, and Jessica Smith watch the Washington team celebrate their 7-5 win in the NCAA Softball Super Regional game Saturday May 26, 2007 in Seattle.  Washington beat Alabama 7-5 to advance to the College World Series.

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney celebrates his sack of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia in the second quarter of their season opener at Qwest Field in Seattle.

And lastly, the look on the base runner’s face as he’s called out during a Babe Ruth baseball game. If he had scored, the game would have gone into extra innings.

As you can see in the posted photos……..sometimes that reaction tells the story better than the action.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Using angles and lenses in visual story-telling

At a recent photo lecture I gave on travel photography, an attendee asked, “I’ve been to some of the same places as you, own similar equipment too, but my photos aren’t as good as yours . Why?”

The only difference I’ve come across elevating the professionals from amateurs is that the professionals think before and while they photograph. I’m always on the lookout, taking mental notes of a scene, taking time to find high or low angles in which to shoot from and always looking for that perfect “magic” light to shoot in, even if I have to return later to capture it.

Sooner or later you’ll be asked to share your pictures, in either a to your friends or associates in the form of a slide show, power point presentation of a display prints.

While you can build these projects around a central theme or subject, try to show an overall feeling of the “spirit” of the place you photographed, rather than just a single theme, for a more visual story.

There is a logic structure in visual storytelling, and you see those technique used everyday on television and in the movies. They are both visual storytelling mediums, and directors use the same techniques to pull you into the story. The same is used in telling stories with photos.

As a still photographer, we can learn a lot from these visual story-telling techniques. The cameraman and director of photography use different types of shots and angles ranging from overalls to close-ups, to establish a story line. The next time you watch a movie, turn off the sound and study the mixture of shots that are used. These same types of shots are useful to keep in mind when you go cover a place with your camera.

Establishing shot – Wide-angle overview that sets up the scene. This is often a high angle shot that will give the viewer a really good idea of the setting.

Medium shot - Usually a closer up view than the establishing shot. Street scenes can be taken with any lens ranging from a wide angle, standard to slight telephoto lenses. I like using my 16-35mm and 70-200mm to capture these types of images.

Close-up shot – Are often pictures that show storytelling details, such as faces, hands, signage, architectural details, food, drink, and artwork.

Point of view shot – Are shots taken from the angle of a participant in an event or action, such as soldier’s view of the battlefield. The POV shots are more of a moving-picture technique than a still-photo, but you can make exciting POV shots by using unusual viewpoints like very high or low angles.

Look for different angles to photograph from. There’s no rule that says everything must be shot from the eye level, so shoot the same subject from low to high angles, even at ground level sitting on your butt, kneeling or laying on your stomach. Each angle will give you a different prospective of the scene.

Every time you set out to photograph a situation, be it a street fair, a market or a walk about through the countryside, keep in mind this mix of shots. Each is important, if you take all establishing shots or all close-ups, you’ll loose the attention of your viewers. In everything you cover, get the establishing shots, the medium shots, detail and close-ups, and if possible the POV shot.

One thing I’ve learned from years of picture taking is “Dare to be different!” All rules of photographic composition can be broken. Break all the rules, be creative, shoot your pictures from the heart and you’ll stand out from the rest.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Seeing in details

Over the years, photojournalists reach a point where they refine their personal approach to shooting skills. Each approach is different, but most of whom I have talked too all agrees that the basis of such a visual approach is the trained ability to see everything in great detail.

The late Frank Hoy, who I had as an instructor at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and who later taught at Arizona State University, taught his students an exercise in detailed seeing called the EDFAT – Entire, Details, Frame, Angles, and Time, a method that allows you to fine-tune your photographic seeing.

This approach works as well with things as well as people. EDFAT will help you explore the familiar as if it was a brand new subject.

For a start, organize your seeing in terms of using three categories: the establishing shot, the medium shot, and the close up. Apply this approach to everything you see.

The old saying, “what you see you can photograph” only applies to someone who sees in detail. So take the time to make a short field trip as a practical test method. Sling your camera on your shoulder and carry it with you while you learn to see deeply and in detail during a short walking tour in an area where there are a lot of people.

As a photojournalist you will constantly deal with strangers, so your subject should be someone unknown. Approach the subject and introduce yourself. Explain what you want: A complete portrait of them based on shooting many photographs. You’ll be surprised on just how cooperative most people are when you explain your needs. When the subject agrees to be photograph, move back to about 15 feet and start shooting.

ENTIRE: From 15 feet away, focus on the entire person as part of the environment and shoot one or two horizontal shots. Turn the camera to a vertical position and shoot two more. Move around the person and compose each shot differently in some strong composition. Don’t place the person in the center of the frame. While shooting, explore the person through your lens. Move in and from about 10 feet away, repeat the procedure. Then move in to about 7 feet and repeat your shooting process.

DETAILS: Now from 5 feet away search for details of the person now you are long longer photographing a person in relation to a large background, but you are making a portrait. So concentrate from the waist up. Shoot two horizontal frames and then to vertical frames. In doing this, you are framing the person in relation to the edge of your photograph and are now exploring the composition possibilities that come to mind. Use feet, books, boots, a hat, hair, eyes, and even the background elements to compose a variety of photographs: no two shots should be the same. Talk with the person as you shoot. Get to know the person’s background and personality. Soon they won’t be a subject anymore, but an interesting individual.

ANGLES: What would this person look like from a different angle? If you had taken all your shots so far from eye level and straight ahead, now take shots from the left and then right, from both high and low angles. Look for something to stand on, or even sit on your butt to get an especially low angle.

Now move in really close, to the shortest focal distance your lens with focus. Study the details on the subjects face. Concentrate on photographing a shot with just the eyes, nose, lips and hair and features of the face. At this close distance they are your material for a close-up. Remember to shoot both horizontal and vertical shots. Try to get your subjects hands in the photo, perhaps close to the face to frame it. By now you are working with you’re subject to get a character study, or what is called a personality portrait.

TIME: During this shooting exercise, you have been using the fifth element of EDFAT – time – in two ways: first as a series of shutter speeds to capture the action and second, as a span of time that allows you to explore in full details many visual possibilities of a single subject.

More importantly, you have introduced yourself to a way to be photographically perceptive.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gotta have that gift of the gab

I love taking personality portraits that go beyond photographing a face that shows some interesting aspect of the subject’s character or personality.

My wife, Amy, has mentioned throughout the years that I can be embarrassing when out in public taking pictures. “How can you walk up to a perfect stranger, talk to them like you’ve known them for years and then get a picture?”

I don’t know, maybe I’m one of those photographers who have a special knack for setting my subjects at ease and a gift of the gab. But, mostly, it takes, experience, being very perceptive and extremely stubborn. When I want to make a picture of an interesting person, I don’t care how long it might take. Once, while trying to take a portrait of a carnival worker, he asked why I wanted to take a picture of him? “You have an interesting face”, I replied. Still, he refused, so I hung around talking, asking him about the life of a carnie, some of the towns he’s visited and how long he’s been a ride operator. Soon, kids started lining up to ride, as he started taking tickets, he asked, “You’re not gonna leave here until you take my picture are you? I smiled, and said, “I’ve got all day” and like I said, “you have an interesting face.”

“What the hell, take my picture!”, he snapped back, stuck the cigar in his mouth and glared at me.

My favorite technique is moving in with my 70-200mm lens for a close-up to ensure a strong center of interest and simple composition. One of the things I try to do is capture the subject’s character and emotional appeal.

In order to produce a good personality portrait, especially when dealing with those subjects who don’t want their pictures taken, a photographer must be part psychologist and part interviewer. To me, this shows the subject that you are interested in them, not as just a subject, but a human. Sooner or later, if they are busy, they’ll give in and allow a photo to be made. Besides, having that gift of the gab, doesn’t hurt at all either. Being a photojournalist, it’s our job to return with a
grabber shot…the one that tells the story or captures the character of someone.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Go out and shoot pretty pictures

While working at the Florida Times-Union, a former picture editor, Charles Kogod, offered me a bit of advice one slow news day. “Jim, just go out and shoot some pretty pictures!” Being a news photographer, I didn’t think that pretty pictorial or scenic could also go into the paper as a weather feature. Kogod knew what he was doing nurturing and developing photographers as he ended up working for National Geographic’s Special as the Director of Illustrations in the publications division for many years. Now, he photographs, teaches and edits.

Sitting on the back deck, reading a book, I noticed a huge, white billowing cloud formation rising up from the easterly direction. Gabbing my cameras, our dog, Toshio, started to jump and dance around me as he’s always up for a good walk, We jumped in to the car and headed off to Manchester Dock to take pictures of the magnificent cloud over Seattle.

To this very day, almost 30 years later, I still take Charles’ advice to heart and go out to shoot pretty pictures. One this day, my instincts paid off and I was rewarded with an unusual weather feature.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My camera goes with me everywhere

I once had a friend, who commented to me about always carrying my camera around everywhere I went like Charlie Brown's blanket-toting best friend Linus van Pelt.  It’s true I don’t want to put myself in the situation of missing a picture. It’s a way of life for most photojournalists, besides most people around town wouldn’t recognize me without a camera hanging from my neck. And I certainly don’t want to miss capturing an image such as the one posted above.

Even after a hard days work, whether I’ve been cruising for a feature picture or after covering two to four assignments, my cameras are always by my side.

Feature photos are a favorite of photojournalist because they are human interest in a creative way that shows readers a “slice of life” and a view of daily life.

Most days after dinner, I would pile those that wanted to go, into the car and we’d head off to discover South Kitsap County to play at one of it lakes or parks.  Since Long Lake Park was nearby and always offered some good feature photography that was our favorite location.

On this particular evening, while the kids were playing in the water and I was on the lookout for an interesting situation to photograph, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a blur of activity.  Here was this young man, headed to the water with his Golden Retriever, Diesel, in hot pursuit. As he and his dog created water splashes, I raised my camera, focused and shot a series of images of them running through the water. Afterwards, I talked to Jon and found out that he and the dog were out running.

Jon was getting in shape for the upcoming football season and Diesel just liked to go on runs as well.
The next day, while editing the frames, I noticed on this one particular image that had Diesel nipping at Jon’s pants as they romped through the water. And it was as if the dog was telling his master to slow down.

Had I not been armed with cameras, I would have been kicking myself in the butt for not capturing this moment. Which proves the point, carry your cameras everywhere, otherwise, you might miss a truly great photograph.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"You should have been here 45 minutes ago!"

While attending Syracuse University a professor opened my eyes to one of the most important aspects when covering news events.

Being in a classroom full of photographers the discussion most of the talk was of cameras, lenses, and angles, but it came down to one word, “curiosity.”

You should look beyond the actual event and look for a photo that’s more compelling with emotion.

Upon reading an article about an upcoming public funeral services for the first solder from our area to be killed in Iraq, I called the church, spoke to the event coordinator asking what ground rules were set up for press coverage during the mass.

She mention that a Rosary would be held about a hour before the mass and it might make for a more interesting photos because the casket would be draped with the United State Flag instead of a white cloth.

I like to get to events early so that I can scout out the area and find places that afford a nice clean background or where better pictures would be made from other than an area reserved for photographers.

Also, I wanted to be unobtrusive and show compassion for the mourning family, friends and particularly for the wife he left behind. By staying back far enough away, using a long lens, I was able to capture a photo that still had emotional impact and told the story.

Having arrived for the Rosary, before the other local papers
and the TV crews, I was able to capture a picture of

Michele Bunda as she touched the flag-draped coffin of her late husband Staff Sgt. Christopher Bunda during the Rosary before Mass at the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Bremerton.

After the Rosary, the flag was ceremoniously removed and folded by the Army’s honor guard and was replaced with plain white cloth. As I was standing there previewing the images in my camera, the local newspaper photographer, who had just showed up, approached and while showing him the scene that was just captured 10 minutes earlier. He said, “That’s the picture”,, looking at the photos on my camera, the one scene pictured of the widow touching the flag draped casket and asked when was this taken?

I told him all about my curiosity, the phone call and of being told to come earlier than the Mass.

Sure, equipment, knowledge, experience, sensitivity, thought, persistence and instinct all played part key parts in helping me to capture an image no other photographer did. But I like to think that “curiosity” of never having covered a Mass, led me to place a photo call that yielded one important piece of information about the Rosary, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been about to get a picture no body else recorded.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Let there be light

One of the most important ingredients in making a photo is the light. As a photographer, I’m always on the lookout as to how important the intensity, color and direction of light plays on a scene.

To me the direction of light is more than another tool is help enhance a scene as it can be added as one of the most important story telling elements. The way the light affects the photo is almost as important the scene itself.

Some of my favorite times of the day to photogaph are the early morning and early evenings when the sidelight creates long, casting shadows. I like shooting in the evenings, when the golden tone of the setting sun creates scenes with that “special magic” light. This is because the lighting created from the setting sun is not only more colorful, but the effects vary widely; peak effects may last a few seconds or half an hour or longer depending on the intensity of the setting sun.

I found out one day that the mural on the downtown library, where the paint was peeling and falling off, was going to be repainted by the original artists. Arriving early, taking pictures and talking to the artists, the scene looked somewhat two dimensional and lacking depth. I asked how long he was be painting and he mentioned that he’ll be at it until it gets dark.

Wanting to use the sidelight from the evening sun, I knew this would be the best lighting for capturing the mood, color and texture of the painted wall and creating a three dimensional view with the use of a dramatic shadow.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Putting your subject in their environment

I like to add visual story telling details when taking environmental personality portraits.  By including tools of the trade in the foreground and background says a lot about a person and what they might do for a living.  The reporter wanted to go to the city hall and produce a personality story on the new major.  Since I already did some prior research, I found out the mayor was a pilot and suggested that a good time for the assignment, would not during the week for a boring at the office photo, but go photograph him during an upcoming weekend fly-in at a nearby rural airport.

 You can imagine the reporter’s delight, when the editor agreed that the shooting the mayor on the tarmac with lined up new and vintage aircraft wing tip to wing tip would be an interesting twist to the story. So happened the mayor also pilots a 1941 Stearman Biplane.  Reporters, some reporters think their job is an 8-5 job, five days a week. Unfortunately for photographers, it's 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 While the reporter interviewed the mayor, I took various pictures, ranging from a medium telephoto to a wide angle of him walking around the plane. Now, if any of you know what it’s like working with a reporter, it’s rather a pain in the butt, trying to keep them from getting into every photograph.  But, to the reporter, most of which are visual impaired, to them the written word is all they care about and the photos are something to go along with their story.

 Afterwards, the reporter, said, “Well I got want I needed, you ready to go?” No, I was just getting started taking pictures and mentioned. “You know, it’s not the headline or first sentence to your story that grabs the readers attention, it’s the photograph.”

 The mayor mentioned that he was due to give a public performance in about half an hour and asked if I wanted to take some pictures of him as he flew touch and go landings above the airfield in the background, would most certainly give me the environmental details needed that would show our readership something about the mayor’s life.  When you go out and pictures of people doing interesting things, it’s a plus for the readership we serve.

 I like to get my subjects involved in making the picture better.  Try to get them involved in such a way that they are assisting you instead of you forcing a set up on the subject.

 My style is to surround the subject in their environment with things that might make them different from other people.  To me, the mayor’s vintage aircraft was a symbol that made him something special and then having him also fly it, put him in a setting that provided a greater identification for the readers.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I can't believe she did that

Being a photojournalist, our job is to capture life's moments. Those might be the good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes, the bizarre. While assigned to document Port Orchard's annual Fathom O' Fun's Frog jumping contest, one of the best shots of the day I took was the Queen planting a kiss on the winning frog. As she gently, but firmly held it in her hands, puckered up and planted one on tip of the frog's nose, I pressed the shutter button, that captured in one instant, a photo that she'll be remembered by for the rest of her life.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sometimes, you just have to stop

While on my way home from shooting the West District 2 Big League (16-19 year olds) Championship baseball game in Silverdale I happened to crest a hill and lo and behold I saw the crescent moonset over the Olympic Mountains. Didn't take too much effort for me to think twice about stopping in a nearby parking lot. Pulling out the tripod, attach a shutter release to one of my MK II's with a 300mm f2.8 lens attached. I set the camera on manual, f-stop at f4.0, and used a variety of shutter speeds, ranging from 30th of second to one second exposures and capture this beautiful moment. Granted, it was a long week covering 20 baseball games in six days and I was wanting to get home. Even through I was hot, tired and hungry, I'm glad that I stopped, and took the time to capture this unique photo. I believe the end result was worthwhile. So enjoy the photo.

Friday, May 7, 2010

“Help me Mr. Wizard!”

Have you ever been stuck in an embarrassing situation where you just wish that Scotty could beam you up out of there or get a little help from Mr. Wizard?

While driving around looking for a feature picture on a slow news day a police call came across the scanner concerning a man perched up in a tree with a rifle near an elementary school. There’s nothing like the possibility of getting a spot news photograph that get’s one adrenalin flowing. Arriving near the address, I was stopped a deputy, whose car was blocking access to the scene. After a few minutes, he told me it was not a guy armed with a rifle, but someone up in a tree with a rope around his neck threatening to jump. Still, because of the nature of the situation, the officer explained that I was not allowed near the scene, but if I wanted to back up and drive down his neighbor’s driveway, I could possibility get some good shots from that location.

Sounding like a plan, I backed up, pulled over at the entrance, grabbed a camera with a 300mm lens attached and quietly positioned myself behind some bushes that offered a protective view from the police and a front row seat to the developing situation.

About thirty or so feet off the ground, standing on a tree branch, was this guy with a yellow rope around his neck and drinking coffee from one of those “Big Gulp” containers. Apparently he was pretty despondent over the fact his wife had recently left him and he was in the process of being talked out of ending his life by a suicide prevention officer.

A few minutes later, he happened to look over at my direction, and from his birds’ eye view spotted me. Yelling at the top of his lungs, “Hey photographer, do you really want a good picture, get ready!” Knowing my cover was blown and peering through the bush I could see deputies looking my way. Having already gotten a few good pictures, should I stay or leave? Just to make matters worse, I next heard from a half dressed woman leaning out of the upstairs bedroom window asking me what I was doing in her yard? When her husband appeared and asked, “what in the hell are doing with a camera outside our bedroom, as the situation was starting to get way out of hand only thing I thought of saying was, “I’m from the newspaper and your neighbor, Raymond, is up in a tree with a rope around his neck. “

Now taking the attention away from me they both left the driveway widow and as I quickly retreated to my car, I heard the balcony door open with the husband yelling at his neighbor, “Raymond, what in the hell are you doing up in that tree?”

Remembering a childhood cartoon, I thought, "There's no place like home"and wanted to desperately call on Tooter the Turtle’s friend, Mr. Wizard and request a transfer to anywhere and quickly. As I got into the car I’d cry out for Mr. Wizard to rescue me; and with the words "Drizzle, Drazzle, Drozzle, Drome, Time for this one to come home" I safely departed the area and safely arrived back at the newspaper a few minutes later without any police cruisers in hot pursuit.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Things children do at events

One thing I’ve found out during my many years of covering events that involve children is that their attention spans are not always the longest. While assigned to cover the opening ceremonies of little league, I focused on this group of bored T-ball players waiting the festivities to get underway.

Everything, that could go wrong, did, which was fortunate for me as the series of photos I captured just got better and better as time passed. The coaches ushered the ball players onto the field and while they stood at attention waiting for the National Anthem, the PA system wouldn’t work. As the minutes slowly elapsed, each of the young players, who, reached the limitation of their individual levels of “paying attention”, gave up and just decided to occupy their time as they saw fit. The pictures, I came away with certainly did have that Norman Rockwell Americana feel to them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

“Don’t shoot, I’m only the photographer!”

On a slow news day, while post processing images and listening to the police scanner, a report came across that a Silverdale Bank was just robbed. Unfortunately for the bandits, a car buyer who was looking over cars next door, noticed a man running from bank, jump into a waiting vehicle that sped off. He was able to provide the Sheriffs Office with the cars’ description and license plate number, which turned out to be a Tacoma address. Now, if you’re going to rob a bank, don’t do it on the Kitsap Peninsula as there are only about three major roads leading off. Highway 16 and Highway’s 3 North and South. Figuring since they were Tacoma residents, I’d start my search oh Highway 16. Sure enough as soon as I reached the highway entrance traffic was starting to back up and I knew they must have been pulled over a mile or so up the road.

It’s helps to know you’re the area you cover and the many roads leading throughout the county. More than once, instead to taking the most direct direction to and from an assignment, I’d take a different route. This was three-fold purpose, gave me more mileage to claim on the expense form, a chance to maybe find a feature or two along the way and this besides, this method helped me learn my way around South Kitsap area. I knew that if I drove down a road-paralleling highway 16, eventually, I would run into the police action. Looking for the flash of the blue blinking lights, I stopped on a county road just below where the cars were pulled over, grabbed my cameras and headed up the embankment.

Upon reaching a barbed wire fence I realized that I needed to go back down to car, open the trunk, grab a pair of pairs so that I could uncouple the metal bands holding the wires in place onto the fence post. Once done, I placed a branch between the wires, climbed through and proceeded my way to the top.

By the time I reached the highway and from the sound of branches cracking underneath my feet, the officers, thinking I might have been one of the robbers’ companion, who was giving themselves up, had their hands on the gun handles ready to draw. All I could say way, “Don’t shoot, I’m only the photographer!” The robber, who was being cuffed, glared and barked, “Don’t take my picture!” One of the deputies, whom I knew well, said, “Son, you got more things than worry about Jim taking your picture.”

Sometimes, in cases such as this, it helps to have a sense of humor to ease a tense situation. Besides, I bet it gave the deputies a funny story to spread throughout the sheriffs department.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thoughts are miles away

While living on the island of Terceira for two years was truly an immersion into the old rural world lifestyle. Day after day, I had a photographic game plan of sorts and would assign myself a different assignment ranging from industry, farming, fishing, arts & crafts, religious ceremonies, landscapes, generally I wanted to cover the island much like a National Geographic photographer would. As I wandered through the village’s narrow cobblestone streets, photographing people at work,
I noticed a religious parade of young girls, who will take their First Communion, carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary during a religious celebration honoring the festival Divino Espirito Santo..
After photographing the parade I was invited by the family to take pictures of their First Communion at the local village church, Which made for some interesting pictures. As four participants took their First Communion seriously, a little one's thoughts were miles away.

Monday, May 3, 2010

This is gotta be a first

In all my years of taking baseball pictures, ranging from high school, college to the pro ranks, this picture is gotta be a first for me. While covering today's Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers baseball game in the 10th inning I finally made a picture of the ball breaking a bat. What's so amazing is that Sport Illustrated photographer Rod Mar, and I took the same photo. But, in his, the bat is a bit more broken. I have never been able to get a picture of the ball breaking the skinny part of the bat, however I have taken plenty of pictures of the bat flying apart, but without the ball in the frame. Now, what are the chances of capturing this type of shot? What’s even more amazing is that two photographers three feet apart nailed it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Beer can be medicinal too

Working as an on call, part-time staff photographer at the Seattle Post Intelligencer from 2003-2009, offered me a wide variety of assignments. There, I was known as the ” Mickey of photography”. You know, the kid on the Life cereal commercial, where his two older brothers pushed a bowl full towards him and said, “Let’s see if Mickey eats it?” It seems that from time to time, I received the not so glamorous day to day grunt assignments, so that a few of the staffers could devote their time on projects, high profile news or driving around looking for daily wild art.

One of these assignments was of Norms Destiny, a 6-year-old racehorse at Emerald Downs. After developing hind end leg problems, the horse, co-owned by his wife Leona Orr and Vince Hemninson was going to be put down in December 2001. On Christmas Eve James, went to go spend time with the horse and brought along some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a half rack of Coors light and drank it with the horse. The next morning when he awoke the horse was standing and walking around the stall. So in a few days Norms Destiny seemed to be getting better and was taken to Vince's farm for a yearlong workout. In 2002 the racehorse took a fifth, fourth and four second places. This year the won a $12,500 claiming race on July 6th, his second of the year and two third-place finishes. The owners feel it's time for him to retire.

Upon arriving at the track and meeting his trainer James Orr, he asked, what kind of pictures do you want of Norm? When he opened the frig and showed me beer and sandwiches he brought along and could feed them to the horse, I thought, that’ll work. I was able to capture some pictures of the horse guzzling down it second Coors Light beer after eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich fed to him by Orr.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

They got character

Throughout my years of photographing around the world, the one thing I’ve noticed is that I truly enjoy taking pictures of the elderly much more so than the young. Why, because they’ve experienced life much more fully than a youngster and it shows on their faces. To me, more the wrinkles the better photograph it’ll make. Experiencing life and its trials and tribulations is like reading a facial road map; it shows their true character. Most of the time they are just honored to have their picture taken.

Out in the middle of the vast Atlantic Ocean, on a wind swept island, where most of the islands’ residents live in one-horse villages on a two-lane cobble roads, the Azoreans are different from their more modern counterparts of Portugal. By today's standards, the 300,000 inhabitants are mostly poor and ill educated. While most residents, have full time jobs they are also part-time fishermen and farmers, to help make ends meet, and these hardship are lines etched on their faces of life.

On another island nation, Japan, can also afford the photographer a chance to capture some great character study photographs in a land where the elderly is highly revered. I’ve never had a problem in getting my elderly subjects to let me capture the pictures I wanted. Photographing people in foreign countries required a different mindset. What I’ve done in the past to calm distrust was to introduce myself and try to communicate that I was interested in them and what they were doing. Also, learning a couple of words in the language showed them that I was interested in them and that opened the doors to make good photographs.