Oct 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Hey everybody, happy Halloween. This is defintely one of my favorite holidays, if for no other reason than it gives people the right to look and act as crazy as they want.
The pic above I took a couple weeks ago for an advance of the Haunted Bunker. For those of you not from around here, it's like a haunted house, set up inside an old army bunker at Fort Canby (Cape D) in Ilwaco. It's put on by the local Coast Guard base and is a fundraiser for local charity. These guys always have a blast trying to make it scarier each year. I brought lights with me to do portrait style shots of the actors doing whatever it is they do. When it came to this room, the set-up was already perfect, as they had a work lamp set up to back light the guy with the chainsaw. I pretty much just set up a ladder to stand on and told them to throw lots of blood on the curtain. Perfect!
Here's something a little more tame, this was at the Ocean Park Elementary's Halloween parade this morning. I was amazed at how many kindergarteners knew who Elvis was, as they were calling out to this boy. Hilarious.
Here's a family shot from the other night before our Halloween/Hurray our adoption was finalized! Party at our house. McKenzie is a fairy princess this year. Meanwhile, here we have Wyse in one of his three Halloween outfits this year. I'll be sure to post one later of his Charlie Brown attire...

Oct 24, 2007

No 4-peat for Comets

Ever since I started working here in late 2002 the Naselle High volleyball team has been at or near the top of the Pacific League standings every year, usually fighting it out with their north county rival South Bend for the league title each year. So when I got the schedule in late August and saw this match-up I circled it on the calendar.
Now, things have not gone as planned for the Comets this year. Going into the game they were 4-4 in the league and 6-5 overall. Their string of three straight league titles had come to an end. Despite the less dramatic implications of the game, I still wanted to go, as South Bend has the only gym in the county, that I know of, that has a balcony that overlooks the court, which can make for some interesting pictures. Each year I try to make it up there for at least one game to take advantage of this ... um .... vantage.
It didn't take long for South Bend to sweep the Comets 3-0 in the match. Sylvia Herrold, above, must have known as the game ended and South Bend celebrated that her teams' playoff future is now possibly in jeopardy. This was a picture I saw coming as the third game wound down. Normally when they score a point, Herrold turns around in glee, her hand in the air. But as the points were slipping away from the Comets I saw the potential scene developing with the other team getting more excited. She was pretty bummed out after the loss, which was to be expected. I tell you what though, I'm sure not used to shooting these guys not celebrating a league title this time of year.

So, back to the game. When Naselle was on the side of the court facing the balcony I tried to get up as high as I could to get a nice shot at the net. I haven't really gotten any this year as Naselle's fieldhouse-style gym doesn't have bleachers that go up very high. What I found last night was that Herrold, the tallest girl on the team, ended up with the top white line of the net going across her face in each shot at the net. So I started watching sophomore Emily Green as she went up to block. A little shorter than Herrold, her face could be easily seen on each attempt and I just had to wait for the right moments.

I started noticing this year that I was getting a lot of pix of Herrold at most games, so much so that I had to start consciously looking for other players making plays. It's probably just me not looking at the bigger picture of the game perhaps, but she just always seems to find herself around the ball, so it's pretty easy to track the action to her. Here she makes a save at teh back of the court.
This one is probably my favorite from the night, as it gives you a good feel of the game due to the high vantage. Here she's calling out a ball that she thought was out. Typical of how things went for them last night, the ball was fair.As it has yet to be announced who is and who isn't making the playoffs this year this may have been my last Comets vball match of the year. I hope not, as they are always one of the more intersting teams to cover, as they have no problem showing emotion while playing, which is cool to see.


Oct 19, 2007

Race against the weather

With a hard wind gusting across the Columbia while I crossed and a sky that threatened, if not promised to dump loads of rain, I headed to Castle Rock yesterday afternoon to shoot Ilwaco HIgh at the league cross country meet.

People were driving pretty slow due to the weather and it took a little longer to get there than I had planned. Thankfully this was the same site as the league meet last year and it was using the same course, so I already knew where the runners were going to be. I had staked out this little hill (above) last year but didn't get anything good, so I thought i'd try it again. This year the light and the sky worked out perfectly for this pic of Stephen Berglund, the Ilwaco boys top finisher.

Another shot I had tried last year is the one below. The elements didn't work out last time as I couldn't get one of our runners in frame with more than one other runner. This year, during the girls race, it did. It worked out especially well as Kelly Freese, who is at the top of the frame, had the best finish of the Ilwaco girls. I've never had great luck when it comes to cross country, for whatever reason. If I'm lucky I might get one good XC frame a year. Yesterday was defintely the exception. There can be a lot of down time before, after and between races, so I had my eye out for interesting or unusual moments, and there were some to be found.Prior to the start of the girls varsity race, Annika Wolters was taking turns giving flying high fives to a few of her teammates. In this one she meets up with Cameo Ulbricht.Speaking of unusual, as the girls were getting ready for their race and disrobing their huge warm-up parkas, this runner tried to see how many he could get on at once.Despite forboding clouds and a steady wind, we got lucky and the rain never really arrived. In the end though I knew I had to wait to get something that spoke to the emotion of the runners, as cross country can be a very draining and grouling sport. When I saw Cameo flop her head on Kelly's shoulder after finishing the girls race I knew I had what I needed.Next week the teams are in Lacey for the District meet at St. Martin's College, and then the state meet in Pasco. Unfortunately, due to the distance I won't be able to make those. But yesterday was easily the most fun i've had shooting an XC meet.


Oct 17, 2007

Somebody having a bad day

Yesterday afternoon, right as we were coming up on deadline for this week's paper, we heard over the scanner the report of a man down near the port of Ilwaco with a knife. As these initial reports can turn out to be wrong sometimes we usually hang tight for a little bit and see how it plays out. A few minutes later we heard the call for all available units to respond and I grabbed my gear and hit the road.

I had a bit of an internal conflict as I was driving, as I usually keep my long lens in my trunk, but had not returned it there after bringing it inside after Friday night's football game. As I live only a few blocks from the port I was debating whether or not to stop off there along the way and get it or just head straight down. I knew they'd be closing off streets as the threat was apparently real, and I wasn't sure how close I'd be able to get and thought having a longer lens may help.

I decided it was better to just get there and see what I could do about getting close. I also knew I had a 2X tele-converter in one of my bags that I could fall back on if I had to.Upon arriving in Ilwaco I decided to park in one of the big parking areas and then walk down to where I thought the incident was taking place. I took a back road and ended up behind a police car that was parking in the middle of the road. A state trooper pulled up right behind me a second later. I was surprised when the officer in front waved me through. As I entered the parking area I started couting the cop cars, about eight in all, surrounding an old teal truck in the area just to my left. I basically just drove right into the middle of what was happening.I parked and got out, grabbed my 80-200 f 2.8 lens and threw on the 2X converter and started figuring out what I wanted to do. The man at large was in his truck and yelling at Flint Wright, the chief of police. I was about 60-yards or so away as I worked my way over to a place where I could get a cleaner view of what was happening. A Sheriff's deputy said later that once the man saw me with my camera he decided to get out of the vehicle and approach chief Wright. I kind of knew this at the time, as a couple times he would yell at Flint and then turn around and look at me. I couldn't make out what he was saying from that distance, but I found out later that his plan was to try and force the cops to shoot him, a suicide-by-cop as it were.
Flint tried several different ways of communicating with him, but as it wore on you could tell that he was getting nervous and just wanted him to get down. When the man turned to look my way again Flint took his chance and tackled the man, easily taking him down. The other officer's swooped in and handcuffed him and put him in a squad car.I shot about 9-10 frames of the take down, but only one was in focus enough to use, thankfully it was at one of the key moments of the take down. I was happy with the shot, but did wish I'd had the longer lens, as the teleconverter made the image not as clear as I'd have liked, especially after cropping down the unneccessary background of the picture. All-in-all, I think it works pretty well, especially in telling the story.The only downside to it all ( for me) is that I got back too late to make this week's paper. Looks like my editor wants to give it good play next week though, as this kind of thing hardly ever happens here. Kinda cool to see the local police in action like this from time to time, especially when it goes as well as this did (nobody hurt, a potential crisis overted).

A tell you one thing, I made sure to put my long lens back in the car this morning before heading off to work...


Oct 16, 2007

I need to harvest some better pix

So it's harvest time here on the Peninsula, cranberry harvest that is. Every year we usually do some kind of piece about the harvest, and this year was no different.
My favorite harvest piece we did was a few years ago when we followed the berries from the bogs to the Ocean Spray factory in Grayland and all the stops in between. That was pretty fun and kind of out of the box. Last year I shot the final harvest of one of the last old-time cranberry farmers, which was an interesting milestone.

This year we had planned on covering the harvest from a less business point of view, this time seeing the camraderie between some farmers and friends who help each other out at harvest time and work on each others farms. But alas, this fell through.

So instead we went with a second grade class to a bog where they observed harvest for about a half hour.
I've got nothing against kid pictures — I have two of my own and a million pictures to show for it — however, I'm not the biggest fan of covering "kids doing stuff/looking at stuff." For me at least it doesn't make for real great pictures usually, more like cliche' images we've seen many, many times before. Above is an outtake that probably my favorite from the take, but thats not saying much. I think I've fallen back into a rut.

In recent weeks I've been looking a lot at older photos of mine, mostly in the production of my presentation I gave at the WNPA convention. And what I've found is that I really wish I could get back to how I was shooting about 6 years ago. I think I'm a much more technically sound shooter today, but I've lost some of the surprise.

Maybe that comes from doing this for about 12 years and seeing a lot of the same things over and over again (that's part of the job at a newspaper, and I know that). However, I'm just not approaching things with the freshest of eyes these days I feel.
2001 was probably the best full year I've had as far as my work is concerned in my career. It seemed like every week I was making portfolio-quality work. It had emotion, feel, a sense of fun and exploration. I was nailing key moments left and right. I was working at the News-Register in McMinnville, Ore., which at the time was a haven for making great images and having them look great in the paper. That was also the year my daughter was born (and the Mariners won an MLB best 116 games!). I'm sure all these things helped in what I was doing and how I was seeing things.

This last year I'd say was probably my second-best year career-wise, as I started making what I felt were really good images again (I kinda fell off the wagon for a couple years unfortunately). This year my son was born, I turned 30, we bought our first house ( and the M's almost made the playoffs for the first time since that magic of '01). This year we also got heavy into multimedia and I started shooting some video stuff for the first time. And while I really like a lot of stuff I've done in the last year, it still doesn't quite measure up the way I'd like it to. It's missing something in many cases. I don't know what it is, but I NEED TO FIND IT.

I don't know if I have a real style anymore. Six years ago I did. You could defintely look at a pic of mine and know it was mine. Today, while it's better composed, shot with a better sense of lighting, it's just different. I don't know if it's bad or not, I just know I don't have the same feelings about my work of today.

So what is the answer? God I wish I knew. I kinda feel like Peter Pan, searching for his shadow. I know it's there, and it's attatched to me, I just got to find it and stitch it back on nice and tight.

If anyone out there has any clues, or insights, please feel free to let me know (my email is located to the right of this column).
Thanks for tuning in to this career-questioning rant, will try and be a little more optimistic next time.


Oct 12, 2007

NHS Homecoming game

Tonight was the homecoming game for Naselle High School, which always brings with it the pageantry and hope, regardless of how your season is going. However, this year Naselle has having one, if not the best season they've had in decades and with their win tonight over league foe Tacoma Baptist, assured themsleves of no less than their first winning season in many, many years.

You can see more from the game the Friday Night Sights blog. The players will likely have their stuff up sometime tommorrow morning, as I'm sure they're pretty tired after a strong performance tonight.
After the game was well in hand and the night was wearing on, I tried some stuff with a slow shutter just for kicks. Not sure how well it came out, but it was fun to experiment a little. I think I'll keep trying it late in games if they're blowouts, to see if I can get something good.


Oct 10, 2007

True Powder Puff

Here's the link to the Soundslides show from a new installment of my sports photo column, True to the Game. This week's is on the Powderpuff game at Ilwaco High last week. The pic above is probably my favorite from my take. It's the QB and WR from the freshman team meeting mid-air for a high five after a long touchdown strike. This was a very fun event to shoot and it's really cool to be shooting football from right in the middle of the action. I've only been doing an update to the column like once a month lately. I really hope that more opportunities present themselves, as I really enjoy producing it.


Oct 9, 2007

... And modesty, humbleness ensued

The Yakima Valley from my car window

So this last Friday was quite a day. After making the 5-plus hour trip across to Yakima for the Washington Newspaper Publisher's annual convention Thursday night, Friday came like a hammer to the head.
As some of you may know, I was asked to be a guest speaker at the convention. I really wanted to talk about two very important things — making sure photos are held to a high standard at small papers and the emergence of multimedia production to our workload and how to do it well. Needless to say I was totally FREAKING OUT prior to my presentation. They had moved my session from a smaller room to the ballroom, as there was around 40 people signed up for it. I skipped out on the early afternoon workshop they were doing so I could put a little more polish on my presentation. The hour and a half flew by and I made it down just in time to set up.
Of course, technical difficulties had to pop up, having trouble with the projector and the speakers, taking up the first 15 mins or so of my time ( I only had 90 mins to start with). I tried to plow through it as I had a ton of knowledge to drop on these folks, but only was able to get through a little over half before our clock was up and it was time for the awards banquet. I didn't think I had done a very good job, but thankfully a lot of folks came up to me throughout the rest of the night and continued asking questions or talking about what I was doing, so that was cool. Before I left town we actually talked about maybe doing an intensive one-day workshop for producing MM stuff, which I was totally up for, so we'll see how that goes.
I got to meet a lot of really cool people there, including Jay Cline and his son, who are IT guys at the Sequim Gazette, and were nice enough to let me sit at their table. Sue Ellen Riesau and Mae Waldron were also a huge help in making sure things went well for me, so i totally appreciate that.

The awards banquet was VERY long, but really, in all honesty, VERY cool for me. I took home 13 total awards, including the two biggies, the Photographer's Portfolio Award, for best body of work for the year, and the Miles Turnbull Photography Award for best single picture. I was amazed, humbled, a little embarrassed, but very honored.
In the paper we just listed what things we won, so I thought it would be cool to show you what won, so that's what you'll find below. I can't say that I'm totally in love with all of them, and I was surprised that some won and some didn't, but all-in-all, what an amazing adventure!

This one didn't win an individual award, but was part of my portfolio entry, and is still one of my favorite pix from the last couple years. It is the Valley girls hoops team doing their pre-game ritual of singing the Three Dog NIght song "Never been to Spain," prior to the final game ever played at Tenoski Gym.

This one, from the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby this year, won first in color feature photo and the Miles Turnbull award.

From the first place entry in color photo essay, a story about the Burkhalter brothers.

First place color portrait. This is one of maybe only two or three I shot with flash all year. I had it on a synch cord that I held between my knees, angled up toward her face.

From the first place entry in B&W photo essay, a piece on Ilwaco High's Knowledge Bowl team. I just love the varied looks of thought and frustration on their faces.

First place B&W portrait, from the True to the Game photo column.

2nd place B&W feature photo, this was from the Inside Looking Out photo essay, about an inmate at the Naselle Youth Camp youth detention center.

First place color scenic/pictorial. This was at the first Rat Rod show they had in town.

Second place color portrait. This went with a story about local musician Larkin Stentz' new album, Stairway to Emptiness.

Second place color scenic. This one is far from perfect, but was a nice find one night when desperately searching out a feature pic for the next day.

After a late night on Friday, I was actually able to sleep in a little on Saturday morning (something that has been pretty far between since the new baby). A couple weeks before I was able to secure a field pass for the Central Washington University-S. Dakota football game for that Saturday in Ellensburg, so I was out of the hotel by noon and made the short drive north for the game. The two teams, both ranked in the Div. 1-AA poll, played a heck of a game, with CWU winning 45-40. You can see my pix from the game at my Sportsshooter page.

Wow, that was quite possibly the LONGEST blog entry ever.... C-ya,


Oct 4, 2007

Hit the road

Hey there,
as promised, here's the link to the Roller Derby Soundlides show. I'm really looking forward to shooting them some more as I didn't really get the pix I wanted. Unfortunately I had to get it for this week. Oh well, better luck next time.

Anyways, I'm leaving here in a few hours to Washington Newspaper Publisher Associations' annual convention in Yakima where I'm a guest speaker this year. So with traveling on my mind I thought I'd pass on a little list of some of my favorite music I like to take on the road with me.

I usually like to keep it kind of mellow when driving long distances (this one's a five hour trek), I also usually flip through the local public channels and NPR when driving. Of course now that I have satellite radio in the car (and playoff baseball on the air tonight) I may not get to these, but they'll likely end up in the car just the same.

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals — Cold Roses
This is easily one of my favorite albums of the last few years. It's a double disc and both are different, yet cohesive as a whole — Disc one is a little more laid back while Disc two rocks a bit more. This is some great road music as the feel just has you cruising. It's called alt-country, but it's just cool. If you dig kinda earthy sounding bands this is a must. I really like Adams a lot, and this is probably his best album (and he has a lot for a guy whose only been putting stuff out for 8 years).

Howlin Wolf — The Definitive Collection
I'm not a huge fan of best-of collections, but with a lot of these old blues guys their catalog is so scattered it's really good way to get a good taste of what they do. And this really is a defintive collection of his career. Not your average blues man. He was a Chicago blues, electric blues guy but was a lot more groovy than someone like Muddy Waters.

Miles Davis — In a Silent Way
You say Miles and you just think cool and this one is very cool, in a funky blue hue. This was one of his first experiments in jazz fusion, creating a psychadelic laid back jazz sound with spaced out eleectric pianos and guitars and squeeks and squawks from the master.

The Beatles — white album
As anyone who knows me knows, I love the Beatles. I dremed as a kid of owning a radio station called KBTL, all Beatles, all the time. That never happened obviously. This was the last Beatles album I bought as I was in the process of buying them all when I was in high school. What a great finale for me! It is such a dense and exhilarating experience to jump from songs about animals and deserts to tunes like Helter Skelter and Revolution. Great, great (double) album. Easily in my all-time top 10.

Hayden — Elk Lake Serenade
This was a great find. My wife heard this playing at Easy Street Records in Seattle a few years back and picked up the CD, which had just come out that week. Thus began out love affair with the very reclusive (and very Canadian) Hayden. This is the last record he put out, though we've been hearing for the last two years that another is on the way. This is a very different kind of record with him playing a lot of different instruments. Very mellow. It bounces right along. Light-hearted stuff is fun and the poigniant stuff can bring a tear if you're listening. Along with Cold Roses, this one is one of my recent favorites of the last few years.

Oct 1, 2007

Miss Mel Mangles

Last night I did something that was LONG overdue, I went and checked out a Rainy City Roller Dolls practice, a new roller derby league my friend Melisa Mitchell — her derby name is Miss Mel Mangles — is helping to start.
She's been after me to check out her roller derby team for a long time, but I'd yet to have the opportunity to make it to one of their events. Seemed like everytime they'd have a bout it was on a day or a place I couldn't get to. She skated for the Oly Rollers in Olympia and I almost made it to their final bout last summer but, as you know, we adopted a baby around the same time, so that didn't happen.
Well, now she's no longer on that team and is helping found a new league in Centralia, which is slightly closer. But no mind, I really wanted to check it out and it just so happened we had an open slot for the Life section this week, so I made the trek over last night.
It was cool to see how they prep and practice, as when they're having a bout it's a lot more intense and there's a lot more visual stuff going on. On this night it was a practice featuring "fresh meat" — what they call the new girls. Their practice really resembled any other sport with regimented drills and scrimmages.
I was able to make a few pix that worked for the piece (I'm doing a Soundslides for it too, which I'll a post a link for probably tommorrow sometime) but I didn't get what I wanted really. She said they will likely have their first bout in a few months, and I'll defintely plan to make that cuz I'd like to see how far they've gotten.
The pic above I kinda like the most I think, partly because of the feel it gives for the sport, and the fact that she's up skating while a new recruit is hitting the floor. That was pretty common last night, as of the 25 or so girls that were there, only seven of them had any real experience.

I also liked this one a lot. The ref's that came down for the practice wanted a snapshot to take with them. After one "normal" pic they decided to take another with the game face on. That's Mel on the right.