This photograph of mine won 3rd place in the Spot News category of the Utah News Photographers Association’s Photojournalism Competition. Here’s the backstory:
When people hear that I’m a news photographer their first impression is that I must spend all of my time chasing sirens and photographing horrific car crashes and fires. I can only guess that they get that idea from watching the TV news, which is awash in these stories of mayhem and danger. We don’t really roll on too many car crashes or fires unless it’s something really big.
When I started at my career at the Daily Herald in Provo, there was no car crash too small for us. We would run out on anything. You name it, I photographed it in Provo. Oh, the stories I could tell. They’re all flooding into my mind right now. My very first assignment ever was a rollover in Provo Canyon (no one was hurt). I’ll tell those stories somewhere else some other time.
I worked in Provo for 2 1/2 years. When I have an assignment in Utah County now, I try to find a little extra time to hit my
favorite photo spots. I’ll try to swing by the rope swing, the falls, the train bridge, the hobo camp, the steel mill, the lake.
Utah Lake State Park is a wonderful place for photography. I drove to the lake in January 2005, where the jetty was being extended. This large truck had tipped over. The driver was fine aside from a maybe a small breakout of embarrassment. It wasn’t the biggest news, but the scene was great for an unusual news photo. I actually sat in my car
staying warm, listening to music and shooting through the passenger window. The whole recovery process took about an hour.
I shoot everything in color. But after looking at it, the photographs from this scene were amazing in black and white. (And that’s how it ran in the paper.) With black and white the viewer is able to concentrate more on the shapes of the image. Also, I was shooting into the sun on a hazy day. Not great conditions for color. The blues just didn’t pop like I would have hoped. Remember, in news photography you can’t go in and over-saturate that hazy blue into a beautiful photo.
Here’s how the scene looked in color on that hazy day:
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.
This photograph of mine won an Honorable Mention in the Sports Action category of the Utah News Photographers Association’s Photojournalism Competition. It shows US goalkeeper Kasey Keller making one of his six saves during a 3-0 victory over Costa Rica. Here’s the backstory:
The assignment was last June, when the U.S. soccer team faced Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifying match. It was a huge game, the biggest soccer game in Utah history and the biggest international sporting event here since the 2002 Winter Olympics. So the pressure was on to produce great photography. In a game like this you can’t afford to miss a moment. Anything can happen and you have to be in place and ready to catch it.
We had two photographers assigned to the game, Danny La and myself. There was no sideline access so once you picked a side, you pretty much had to stay put. Danny worked one end of the field and I worked the other. If something happened on my end, it was my responsibility.
Shooting soccer presents a lot of challenges. The action moves all over a large field. The right lens to bring is a 400mm, which gives you a sweet shot near the goal, but it doesn’t quite reach out to action further away. The problem is, a lot of the action is away from the goal. You need a much longer lens to reach out to that action, but it’s not really practical to have a 600mm in one hand and a 400mm in the other. These are huge, heavy lenses! But as one top European soccer photographer told me during the Olympics when I asked him about soccer: “The goals are all that matter.”
So Danny and I each staked out a goal and waited for the action to come to us. During the game you do track the action that’s too far out, but most of those shots require more cropping that I’d prefer to do.
From what I remember, Costa Rica was sprinting to the goal. At that point I had two choices: stay with the player attacking or put the lens on the goalkeeper. There’s no way I could have photographed both, and if they collided it wouldn’t matter who I started with. So I went to the keeper and let the camera do the rest.
This sequence shows the frames I shot of this particular save. You can see the second of the five frames was the award-winner. It happened so quick, like snapping your fingers. The camera fires 8.5 frames per second, so that ball was moving like a bullet.
You don’t see it much on the screen or in the paper, but the focus is tack sharp on the ball and the keeper’s face is a little behind the focus. It happened so quick I’m surprised the camera kept up with the ball so well and then stayed on the keeper once the ball left the frame.
After the game I was editing in the press box, surrounded by other photographers also pounding away on their laptops. While we’re all competitive, when someone gets a photo like this everyone comes over to look at the screen and offer compliments. The real satisfaction, though, came the next morning when I opened the paper to the sports page and saw the photo very large as the dominant image on the sports page.
Several things that make a great sports action photo are in this photograph: relatively clean background, peak moment, great facial expression. But most importantly the photo tells part of the story of the game. Keller had a great game with six saves.
I’ll write more about Real Madrid and David Beckham’s visit to Salt Lake City last weekend. That was another great game, and it’s worth an entry.
My assignment Thursday was to photograph the Carbon County Sheriff Department’s search effort using a K-9 dog and heavy equipment to look for a child who went missing in a flash flood near Helper on July 30.
But when I got there at 2 p.m., the dog was done. Having sniffed since 6:30 in the morning, its day was over. A few officers were standing around. Their day also over, they talked about the search.
So what I’m trying to say is that there was no shot to be had. A two-hour drive and it’s all over. As a newspaper photographer, I can’t fake a scene. I can’t ask them to pick up their shovels and pretend to dig. My only real option is to shoot pictures of the area they were searching or portraits of the guys standing around. Neither option is pretty, let alone worth the drive out here.
Then a couple of cars pull up. It’s the boy’s parents, Courtney and Josh Seal. As they get out of their car it’s obvious they have been searching as well; there is mud on their pants, they’ve been sweating in the desert sun, Josh’s bare feet are caked with river mud. Both are sunburnt. This has obviously been a long month.
On July 30, the Seal family was on a family drive when the raging water of a flash flood picked up their SUV and carried it away. Josh, Courtney, and their 3-year-old daughter Brooklynn made it to safety. One-year-old Jayden and 5-year-old Levi were swept away. Levi’s remains were found, Jayden is still out there somewhere along the course of the river.
The search area is enormous. Items from the Seals’ vehicle have been found as far away as the Green River State Park, many miles away.
Josh told of the moments immediately after the tragedy, when he held his daughter tight against his body for warmth. Should he put her down, leaving her in this very dangerous spot and try to reach the vehicle to see if he could save the others? Should he risk one of his children’s safety on the chance he could save another one? That’s a question that I’m sure he will never find an answer for, as he ponders it for the rest of his life.
The Seals say they won’t stop searching until they find Jayden. Courtney asks me if I would ever give up the search if one of my children was lost out here. My answer is the same as hers. Absolutely not. I don’t see how you could leave a child out here, buried somewhere in the mud. She says she can’t bear that Levi is buried alone, without his brother.
Courtney has a tattoo of Levi’s name on her ankle and plans to have portraits of both sons inked onto her back sometime later. Right now she’s too busy searching. Back into the mud they go.