Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs arrested in Las Vegas

SL Trib:

Items in the vehicle when Jeffs was captured included: 27 stacks of $100 bills, worth $2,500 each; 14 cellular phones; a radar detector, two Global Positioning System units; two female wigs, one blonde and one brunette; several knives; several CDs; three watches; three Ipods; multiple credit cards; seven sets of keys; a photograph of Jeffs and his father; a Bible and a Book of Mormon.
The items were seen on pool video footage created with official permission.


The Beetdiggers

So I’m photographing the Jordan Beetdiggers vs. the Alta Hawks High School basketball in January 2005. And since I shoot dozens of basketball games every year, I’m looking for a new angle. The game is in the fourth quarter, going down to the wire. I climb up to the top of the bleachers for a good shot from above of players reacting to victory or defeat.

Alta pulls ahead in the final moments and snatches the win on Jordan’s home court. One of the star players for Jordan pulls his jersey over his head in disgust and I photograph his reaction with a long lens.

It’s a nice storytelling image and runs in the paper the next day. Normally, that’s when the story ends.

But a few days later I’m looking at that picture and a memory is triggered. I realize that I took a similar shot in 2004. With a few keystrokes I pull up my shot from the year before.

I can’t believe it. This January 2004 shot was also taken at Jordan High School. It was taken from the same spot, top of the bleachers. It was even the same situation, a close loss for the Jordan Beetdiggers. Even more bizarre- it’s the same kid!

I never heard from Nick Howard, the player behind the jersey. I wonder what he thought, seeing that photo of his frustrated self two years straight. Once was probably enough.

Nick, I hope you have a good sense of humor.

UNPA Photojournalism Awards

Last night was the Utah News Photographers Association’s awards banquet. The results of the 2005 Photojournalism Competition were in and photographers from several newspapers from around the state got together for dinner and to celebrate the work of the winners.

Congratulations to Deseret News photographer Scott Winterton for being named Photographer of the Year. Nobody works harder than Scott.

In second place for Photographer of the Year was my co-worker Leah Hogsten. Leah has been named in the top three for photographer of the year four straight years. You have no idea how impressive that is.

Her contest entries are always well thought out and top-notch. Hands down, she’s the best pure storyteller we have on staff, and a great editor as well.

While Brian Nicholson did the heavy lifting in running the contest, I’ve been involved since its inception in 2001. I’ve seen just about every photograph entered over the years — the good, the bad, the out-of-focus ugly. This year’s entries were the strongest I’ve seen.

The younger photographers in this state are getting better and better. These photographers usually work at smaller newspapers like the Daily Herald in Provo, the Herald-Journal in Logan, the Spectrum in St. George, the Park Record in Park City, the Transcript in Tooele. They are crazy creative, and it’s no longer a given that the Tribune photographers will take home the lion’s share of the awards (though we did this time).

OK, enough bragging about the Tribune photographers. We won a whopping seventeen awards (not counting Rick Egan taking the runner up in the for-fun “Worst Photo” category). But that’s enough bragging. Hey, did I mention we won 17?

Seriously though, the banquet is a great chance for us photographers to get together and have some down time together. We see each other quite often on assignment, but it’s a competitive atmosphere and there is usually no time to ask how families and children are doing, where the vacation was, etc.

I talked with BYU photographer Jaren Wilkey, a talented guy who regularly wins in the sports categories. We both lamented how poorly photographers do at showcasing their work to the public. We tend to show our work to ourselves in these contest-type situations. I don’t know what good that is. Rarely is the work celebrated and hung in the public arena for people to appreciate. We need a photojournalism missionary program.

This is a time in culture when the popularity of photography is at an all-time high. Digital cameras are selling in the millions. Phones have cameras now. Photography is huge. And keep in mind that any one of these photographers (there were about 20 of us who showed up) would knock your socks off with the quality of their work. They are all very talented and creative.

Not every assignment produces unforgettable photos like the ones we saw win in this contest, and sometimes us photographers get discouraged that the assignments we are sent out on aren’t exciting and don’t seem important. Jaren had a great line from BYU photographer Mark Philbrick: “This photograph might not end up in your portfolio, but it will end up in your subject’s portfolio.”

Those are great words that all photojournalists should remember.

You can click here to see the contest winners at the poorly designed but very functional Utah News Photographers website.

Back to Kingman

This entry also appeared on my work blog, on the Tribune website.
We were back in Kingman, Ariz., this week to cover the sentencing of FLDS polygamist Kelly Fischer, who was convicted of having sex with a minor (one of his plural wives, who he allegedly married when she was sixteen). Photo-wise it’s mostly the same thing as before— Fischer being swarmed by cameras as he walks from his car to the courthouse. Then, after, back to his car.

Though you can only do so much photographing someone walking to their car (try it sometime), I really like this frame. It’s one of those shots where everything comes together. It looks like one of those fake celebrity portraits where the photographer tries to recreate a paparazzi scene. You know, with actors portraying frenzied journalists and the celebrity behind his sunglasses, softly lit, looking calm and cool amidst the chaos.

We ran out of space in the printed edition of today’s paper, so the magic of the photo had to be cropped out. Here you can see it in full.

Other scenes from the trip:

Waiting outside before everything started, it’s two TV cameras and a still photographer from the Las Vegas newspaper, and me. We’re sitting around in the sweaty summer heat of Kingman waiting for Kelly to show up.

I was talking to a TV reporter who has covered polygamy for years for a Phoenix station. A citizen walking out of the courthouse walks up and interupts us. He approaches the reporter, “I just want to shake your hand,” he says. “I’m a big fan. I was just down here, hoping my nephew was going to get out of jail.”

Once they figure out why we’re here, the man and his girlfriend/wife decide to stick around. “We’ve got to see what happens to this scumbag,” he says.

Among the local citizens I’ve met in Kingman there is a real sense of animosity toward the polygamists. Several more people notice our cameras and decide to hang around to watch what happens.

Next a reporter standing behind the courthouse comes running to the front. The reporter jumps up with his microphone. “Here he comes, boys!”

Everyone runs toward the street along the back of the courthouse. It’s a mad dash, like they’re escaping a tidal wave. Spectators, gawkers, cameramen, reporters. “It’s the polygamist!” someone yells.

Fischer gets out of his car and walks in as we all run around taking photographs. The TV reporters are asking questions, but he doesn’t answer. The show is over in about 15 seconds when Fischer walks into the courhouse. Cameras aren’t allowed inside.

Two hours later Fischer is sentenced to 45 days in jail and three years supervised probation. Flora Jessop, an anti-polygamy activist quickly leaves the courthouse, visibly angry. “Another child raped by the courts!” she says, walking away from the cameras to compose herself before returning to make further comments.

We’re all outside now waiting for the attorneys to come out and comment. There are still several people just here to watch, gawkers. One lady is wearing a pink tank top that says “It’s not easy being cute.” An old man walks out of the courthouse hooked up to a portable oxygen tank that he’s carrying. He was one of Fischer’s character witnesses, who talked about Fischer’s integrity and honesty in his business dealings.

He walks by the lady in the pink tank top and she freaks out. “Don’t you wink at me!” she yells. “Oh my god!”

“He’s one of them!” another gawker yells.

“My skin is crawling!”

After a bit Fischer walks out of the courthouse with his brother. The cameras swarm around him yet again, the TV reporters asking questions. Everyone is scrambling in crazy fine form. At one point, Fischer accidentally bumps into a cameraman with his shoulder. He stops and apologizes, asking, “Are you OK?” before continuing.

As the TV reporters shout their questions, Fischer answers with talk about the weather, like, “Did it rain?” and “Is it going to rain?”

As the Fischer brothers get in their car and the safety behind its tinted windows, a TV reporter yells out his last unanswered question, “Are you guys finally going to stop marrying underage girls?!”

No answer.

“Okay,” he says to the car. “Bye boys.”

As the car drives off, a private investigator fires off several frames of the car from behind, probably zooming in on the license plate.

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