Month: October 2006

1988: Family Vacation

It was the last vacation we took, the five of us, before spouses and grandchildren came along. Disneyland. My sisters are fighting and my parents are arguing. And I’m just outside, the island.

We dropped off Grandmother on our way south. I remember how we all tried desperately to avoid having to sit through her missionary scrapbook presentation in the back of the van. Bless her heart, it was just boring as hell. None of us were able to escape. She picked us off one by one.

Sorry the posts were few this past week. I’ve been keywording my archive and it’s taking all my energy. At this moment, about half of my archive is now online, with another ten years of work to come. I’m still figuring out why it is there, so things will change as it evolves.

As always, clicking on the photograph will take you to the original in the archive.


Assignment: Evanescence

The typical “shooting a concert” routine is that you get to shoot the first three songs, no flash, from inside the barricade. Works pretty well, except for the fact that the more controlled these situations are, the less authenticity you find in the photographs. If you look back to all the iconic photographs throughout the history of rock n’ roll, I’d bet most of them were taken during the last song, at the climax of the show. Certainly not the first song. Pete Townsend/Paul Simonon never smashed his guitar/bass during the first song.

The routine seems to be to get the photographers out of the way before the performers break into a sweat. This is no knock on Amy Lee and Evanescence, who put on a good show. I mean, put on a good first three songs. (I didn’t see the rest.)

Waiting for the band to take the stage, I met a photographer who shoots a lot of concerts for local promoters. He told me a great story. He was shooting a concert and a guy starts talking to him, saying, “You photographers must get all the girls!”

The guy then says he has a plan. He walks over to a couple of girls and unleashes this pickup line, “That guy over there is a photographer for the Tribune. And I’m his agent.” Don’t know how that worked out. But I can guess.

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

Utah Jazz – Behind the Scenes

Shooting a Jazz game always reminds me how great my job is. I’m not really a sports fan, but there’s nothing like sitting on the floor at the Delta Center and photographing an NBA game.

First stop, a dining room in the bowels of the Delta Center for a quick pre-game meal. The decor is concrete and the lighting is industrial. I’m not really going to do a food review here, but the chocolate cake was so good that another photographer and I snuck seconds into the photo workroom.

Next stop, out to the floor. The photo positions are along both baselines, and are assigned to various newspapers and photo agencies, marked with labels. The Tribune has two spots, one on each end of the court. The team rotates the spots, but the best ones are out past the three-point line. For me, the further toward the corner, the better. Typically, I’ll shoot the close basket with a 70-200mm lens and the far basket with a 400/2.8 lens. I also have a third camera with a wide angle lens, which I’ll either use as a remote or for that rare moment when there’s action right in my face.

This is the view from my spot on the baseline.

At halftime and after the game, we edit and send our photographs from the Delta Center’s photo workroom. Don’t ask me why the room’s dominant feature is a non-functioning urinal. I just work here.This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

Back in the Film Days

The photo above shows Jeff Allred, a former Tribune photographer*, at last Friday’s Skyline vs. Alta high school football game. Jeff is editing his photos on his laptop from Alta’s bench during the fourth quarter. “Back in the film days” is a common phrase we newspaper photographers use when we get nostalgic or when we bitch and moan about our jobs. You know, how great things used to be. Covering a high school fooball game back in the film days, I would have shot three rolls of film, max, and then driven quickly back to the newspaper. I would have had to start developing my film by around 8:45 at the very latest so I could scan in one or two images for the paper’s 10 p.m. color deadline. Covering a high school football game now with digital, I shot 490 photographs of the Skyline-Alta game. At halftime I sent five photos back to the paper from my car over a cell phone at 8:21 p.m. while I relaxed with a box of EL Fudge cookies and the new Hatebreed CD. When the game ended, I photographed Alta players celebrating their victory on Skyline’s field and sent five more photos from the parking lot at 9:36 p.m. Back in the film days, indeed. *Jeff currently works for the Deseret Morning News.This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

The Bus

Assignment: Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis Bettis was in Salt Lake City today to promote a new website for asthma sufferers, like himself ( When you’re photographing someone as high profile as Bettis, you can usually count on two things: 1. They will be late. 2. They will be in a hurry. Bettis surprised me on No. 1. I was eating my lunch a block away when our photo editor called to tell me Bettis had arrived. An hour early. I left my lunch and ran back to the photo studio, where I frantically started setting up the lights. Not enough time to get too creative, but it would work. I took a bunch of quick test shots so I could chart exposures and fine tune the effects I wanted for Bettis. Everything looked good, the lights were working. It wasn’t perfect, but we could make a photo.

Bettis walked into the studio. I shook his hand and said hello, then moved him in place for the photo. I fine-tuned the lights, lined up the shot and clicked the shutter. This is the frame I got:

No flash. The lights didn’t fire. I click a few more off. Still no lights. I check the basics — the cord is plugged in, the power pack is on. I hit the test button. No flash. How could this happen? And why did they work when I’m pointing the camera at myself, but not when I’m focusing on an NFL Pro Bowl running back. Remember point No. 2 up above. It was time to move, and quick. The lights weren’t flashing but the modeling lights were on, so to get this done in the time frame provided I would have to shoot with available light.

I pulled the softbox in close and changed the settings on the camera to compensate for the gentle tungsten light. Mr. Bettis put his Super Bowl ring up by his chin, and we had the shot.This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

BYU vs. UNLV Football

Assignment: BYU vs. UNLV football Saturday was a perfect day for football at BYU’s LaVell Edwards Stadium. Beautiful weather, beautiful light, that 4,000 calorie pre-game meal with a caffeine-free Coke. Too bad the game itself was such a clunker. A handful of photographers before the game told me it would be a blowout. And it came to pass, BYU won 52-7. (Sorry for the joke.) The problem with blowouts is that there’s very little challenge and very little emotion. Even though BYU scored a billion touchdowns, there wasn’t really a good celebration shot. There was one great diving touchdown pass, but I’d made the bad choice and had the wrong lens up when it happened. To make things worse, the guy next to me got it. And later I noticed that the guy sitting next to me in the press box got it as well. I think I’m through writing about this game. Here are the highlights:

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

Volleyball Practice

Assignment: University of Utah volleyball player Sydney Anderson, in practice Coach said they would be doing setting drills. The repetition of the drill made it perfect to line up for the perfect shot. Here’s the play-by-play commentary in my head as the shoot progressed:

Okay, this shot is horrible. You need to eliminate the distracting foreground elements. Come on, you can’t shoot her with that big stripe down the frame. Open your eyes, man!

Hey, where is the ball?! Get the ball in the shot. For heaven’s sake!

Okay, now you’ve got the ball, but that background is too busy. Get a better angle to clean it up!

Good. I think that’s it. Good choice to climb up on something. You lined up the school’s logo in the background and waited for a good moment, good expression, peak action. Now crop it and tone it and send it in.

This is the final file? Cool. This should work well.

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

Jazz vs. Trailblazers – NBA Action

I’m working on a series of posts about shooting NBA basketball. And instead of a big, long post covering everything, I’m going to start breaking things down into smaller bites. I’ll be writing a lot more about shooting Jazz basketball, including some behind-the-scenes stuff. For now, shooting action. Below I’ve posted my three favorite action shots from last night’s game. You’ll notice the original full frame and the cropped, toned version of each.

Andrei Kirilenko had six blocks, so I was glad to catch a good shot of one. This image was captured with a 400mm lens and available light.

The crop (above) brings us right into the action and cuts out distracting elements. I’ve done some light burning on the lower half of the frame.

Utah Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer (left) picks up the loose ball ahead of Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy.

Again, I’ve cropped to the important elements and did a slight dodge to lighten the players’ faces. I’ve also burned down the background just a little to keep your eye on the players’ faces. When I do a burn like this, it’s the same as I would have done in the darkroom 10 years ago. A one-stop burn. I have the adjustment programmed in as a macro in PhotoShop so it only does a one-stop adjustment. Any more and I wouldn’t be comfortable ethically.

This shot is just your basic Carlos Boozer dunk. This was a fast break, so I barely got the camera up in time. That’s why the original frame is very loose. (I’m using two cameras- one for each end of the court.) It’s also tinted green, thanks to the fancy new light strip in the Delta Center that flashes blue, green, or red depending on the advert they’re displaying.

The finished version is cropped in really tight and the color is corrected. Since we’re starting with an eight-megapixel image, even this tight crop works very well in newsprint and on the Web.

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

Congressional Debate

Assignment: the first debate between Rep. Jim Matheson and challenger LaVar Christensen, who are running for Utah’s 2nd Congressional seat. Numerous challenges to this assignment, including the fact that this was a televised debate and I would not be allowed to photograph the actual event; too much noise and distraction to have a still photographer in there, I guess. I would be allowed to photograph for a few moments just before the debate started, and then I would be whisked out of the studio so they could start the debate. Knowing I would have very little shooting time, I showed up early to take advantage of every possible moment. But most of that time was spent waiting. The biggest challenge in photographing a debate is fairness. The photos of each candidate have to match up in a variety of ways. For example, you can’t show one candidate looking all haggard and the other one shiny happy (though they know enough not to look haggard when I’m around). You can’t have emphasize one in the frame over the other. The debate was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. but the candidates didn’t get into the studio until ten minutes after. I knew this would severely cut into my time. I starting shooting immediately once they came in. The production crew started fitting the two men with microphones and I was trying to shoot around them. It seemed like every time I clicked off a frame, one or the other of the candidates was scratching his face or leaning over to the side or something. We had pre-arranged the layout for the paper, so it would be one, horizontal image. So I needed both to look good in one frame. I hoped to get both at the same height (sitting or standing) in one frame. I kept clicking and kept hoping, knowing that my time was very short. Both men were finally seated and mic’d. The production staff moved away. I waited, hoping something natural would happen. Then Christensen reached out his hand and Matheson reached over for the handshake. I had several images of the handshake sequence. Interestingly, there is not one single frame where both men are looking at each other at the same time. In the published frame, both men appear to be looking past the other. Equal treatment, indeed. The entire shoot was 71 frames in just three minutes.

For fun, here is a collection of the moments I discarded. Hope these guys have a sense of humor!

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.


Went out and photographed Joanne Benfatti this week. She is a resident of the Meadows Mobile Home Park in Cottonwood Heights. The Meadows is in a wonderful location. Lots of trees, a beautiful mountain view, and the neighborhoods surrounding it are very high-end. There is the problem. The land the Meadows occupies is worth big money, even more when you sell it to developers looking to rezone, demolish the mobile home park, and build 30 new luxurious homes in its place. That’s what has happened to Benfatti and the other 274 people who lived in mobile homes at the Meadows– many of whom are poor and live on their Social Security, she told me. Benfatti has found a place to go, and some of her neighbors are moving there as well. For someone being displaced, she’s lucky. Still, she has had to pack up all her belongings and now she’ll literally cut her house in half to move it.

I drove through the Meadows and saw “For Sale” signs on dozens of mobile homes. I wonder where all these people will go, and who would buy these homes? A lot of them were old and worn, and mobile home “parks” seem to be disappearing in favor of modern condos and apartment blocks. With all the construction and development sprawl taking place all over urban Utah, it’s easy to tune out the impact on those in the way of society’s progress. “It’s like a bad dream that you can’t wake up from,” Benfatti told me. Here’s the view looking north, to the future:

Here’s the view looking south, to the past:

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.