Draper , Utah

First Video – Utah Soccer Championships

My first shot at video. First touched the camera Friday night. The next day I shot and edited these two pieces, on the Utah high school girls state championship soccer matches.

Big learning experience.

Funny stuff, being a video guy. Whenever I’m at an assignment I try to acknowledge the still photographers I haven’t yet met. But as I walked up and down the sidelines with a video camera, none of them even looked at me. They had me completely tuned out like I wasn’t worth their time. Of course, the ones I did know were avoiding me as if I had some sort of contagious camcorder disease.

Then at the end of a game, I had still photographers continually getting in the way of my shot. The shoe was finally on the other foot.

I also learned that the quality on YouTube is atrocious. I always knew that, but when it’s your own work it really becomes apparent. Maybe I’ll post quicktimes of these later.

Alta vs. Lone Peak, 5A State Championship:

Orem vs. Highland, 4A State Championship:

Salt Lake City , Utah

Less is More

I’m a big fan of letting photographs tell the story. Fewer words allow the viewer to fall into the moment and interpret the scene the way they want to.

Ten years ago I had a photo column in the Tribune. Every sunday we ran a photograph of some slice of life I had wandered into somewhere in Utah. The captions were very short, allowing the viewer to take it any direction they wanted.

For the photo at right, the caption was simply, “Salt Lake City – Model and photographer.”

I knew what I liked about the moment, but I wanted people to look and figure it out for themselves. Explaining it in a caption would end the game too quickly.

One editor disagreed. He suggested that I do some reporting. He said I should have put in a paragraph about modeling in Utah with statistics of how many people model and how much they earn, etc. To me, that would have ruined the whole idea, so I ignored his advice.

The other day I linked to the photo essay Burma: Aftermath, by legendary photographer James Nachtwey. Something I noticed in that essay was the utter simplicity of the captions. Some were so obvious and lacking in content that I wondered, why caption at all?

Here are a few:

A shopkeeper gives change to a customer at the open air market in Rangoon.

Porters take a break from work.

Workers unload produce at the commercial jetty.

Men unload a truck in Rangoon.

A monk begs near the river.

(This isn’t about taking a shot at Nachtwey, so don’t even start. Any number of people could have been responsible for these captions.)

My point is that your caption information is part of your presentation. And whether your caption is long or short, make sure it’s right for the photograph and how you want it to be consumed.

Draper , Utah

The PR War

Election time nears.

What does that mean? That thousands of public relations experts across the country are doing their best to filter the news you get regarding the issues they are paid to control. Money spent hand over fist on image. And important to this blog, they are doing their best to control which photographs are taken and which are published.

At the Tribune, we do our best to give you an unfiltered view at the issues. We try to get around the handlers. We don’t photograph contrived situations or set-up shots. If we can’t photograph a real situation, we usually end up with a portrait of a candidate. I wrote about this last time, when a candidate thought he could set up a fake and friendly door-to-door situation.

I had a recent freelance job. A publication wanted photographs to go with a story on an sharply-divided issue that Utahns will be voting on this November. The editor hinted that access could be very limited due to a very protective flack.

I arrived at the office and the flack was summoned. She explained to me that there was a meeting going on, and as soon as it broke up I could photograph volunteers carrying campaign signs to their cars. And that is all I would be photographing.

Not great, I thought, but at least it’s something happening that’s real.

Then she says, “You know you’re not interviewing anyone, right?”

Let the controlling begin!

She has me wait in a hallway just down from the conference room while she checks to make sure the group was ready for me. From outside the room I can hear everything she says:

“We’ve got a photographer here and so I’m going to let him come in and take some photographs. So, LIKE YOU DO EVERYDAY, I hope you’ll all be wearing your blue vests and campaign buttons, JUST LIKE YOU DO EVERYDAY.” She’s saying it like it’s a big trick they’re playing on me (and you, the consumers of information).

Then I hear the people in the meeting talking about me, saying, “How long has he been out there? Has he heard everything we’ve been saying in our meeting?!”

Yeah, right. I’m out here spying on your meeting about where to post campaign signs, taking it all down so I can relay it to your opponents.

Finally the flack comes back and takes me into the room. As soon as I enter, they all start to stand up and disperse like I’m coated in skunk spray. A few go over to pick up signs and I photograph a couple of guys carrying signs out to their cars. Neither of them are wearing blue vests.

I’ve covered a lot of secretive groups in my time, but this experience just took the cake. At least now I know how I’m voting. No need to know the merits of the issue; I know the people behind it.

Salt Lake City , Utah

Utah v San Diego State

Salt Lake City – A group of Utah defenders including Greg Newman (left), Stevenson Sylvester (bottom) and Joe Jiannoni (right) bring down San Diego State running back Atiyyah Henderson. Utah vs San Diego State (SDSU) college football at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

West Valley City , Utah

PBR Bull Riders, the process

It took at least 45 minutes to track down my photo pass for the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) event at the E Center Saturday night (October 6). When I finally got into the arena, the show had already begun. So it was scramble time.

I started shooting from the low angle, which is usually cool for events like this because it’s an angle that most people don’t see from their seats high up in the arena. But as you can see in the above photo, too many problems with the low angle:

distracting signs.
flashing lights flaring into the lens (see how red that shot above is?).
people in the background.
bad light, and little of it.

I weighed my options. There was this little pillbox in the middle of the arena, where two photographers at a time could shoot from. Problem with that, it looked like the same bad angle, just closer.

I left my exclusive ringside spot and climbed up into the cheap seats, which gave me a nice clean angle.

From above, the 300mm lens was a little tight, but I kept at it. Bull riding is so random that you can’t second guess your lens decision. You’ll miss a few shots, but stick with it.

That’s Cole Taylor (above) getting out of the way of the bull Bo Hot Coffee.

Utah rider Tony Mendes scored an 87.25 and the place went nuts.

This was a scary moment. Colby Yates flew off the bull High Waters, landing hard on his arm. Medical staff quickly converged on him and helped him out of the ring. He walked out in obvious pain. According to the PBR, Yates suffered a concussion and a lacerated chin when he was hit by the bull’s horn.

Anyway, the advantages of the view from above:

clean background.
better light, and more of it.

That’s Beau Hill riding Hocus Pocus.

Hildale , Utah

The Short Creek Playlist

Collecting runs in the family. I’ve long collected music and sound. So to contrast with the high-test football playlist I put up yesterday, here is a playlist of relaxing FLDS music to listen to while you’re in the shadow of the Vermillion Cliffs in Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona:

DMB Family – “Good Deed Doer”
Guy Musser – “Home Grown Tomatoes” from the release Keep on the Sunny Side
Aunt Luella – “There is an Unknown Grave”
Aunt Maryett and Grandma Verna – “Short Creek High School March”
Dowayne Barlow – “Nephite Lamentation” from Songs My Mother Taught Me
Misty – “A Few Good Men” from Songs for Men
Richelle Barlow – “A Priesthood Boy” from Songs of Zion for Children
Rulon T. Jeffs Family – “She’s My Queen”
Rulon T. Jeffs Family – “Keep Sweet”
Ruton T. Jeffs Family – “Deer Uncle Fred, We Love You”
Warren S. Jeffs Family – “Bless My Dear Sister-Wives”
Warren S. Jeffs Family – “A True Sarah”
Uncle Roy – “Indian Maid”
Allen Steed Family – “Stand By Our Prophet”
Dennis Darger Family – “A Little Seed”
Harker Men – “He Is Risen”
Isaac Jeffs – “Oh Dear Lord Hear Our Prayer”
LeRoy Jeffs Family – “Everything Is Beautiful”
Lyle and Ephraim Jeffs – “Only Now”
Merrill Jessop Family – “Come Follow the Prophet”
Richard Barlow – “Mormon’s Lamentations”
Ron Rohbock Family – “Never Far From You”
Sons of Alvin – “To You, Dear Ladies”
Vermillion Cliffs Quartet – “Put Your Shoulder To The Wheel”

Salt Lake City , Utah

Football Playlist

I’m easily distracted.

So for the past eighteen years I’ve photographed sports with a walkman, minidisc, or iPod. I keep the volume low enough so I don’t miss hearing anything, but the sound of familiar tunes playing helps my mind stay focused and on track.

An every sport requires a different set of songs. Here’s the playlist I’ve made for this year’s football season.

Against Me!  – Up The Cuts
Against Me! – White People For Peace
Against Me! – American Abroad
Alkaline Trio – Warbrain
Alkaline Trio – Dead and Broken
Anti-Flag – The Press Corpse
Bad Religion – Heroes & Martyrs
Bad Religion – Requiem For Dissent
Bad Religion – Grains Of Wrath
Bad Religion – Scrutiny
Bigwig – A War Inside
Bouncing Souls – We’re Coming Back
The Briefs – Poor & Weird
The Briefs – Move Too Slow
Capdown – Terms And Conditions Apply
Capdown – Keeping Up Appearances
The Casualties – Under Attack
The Casualties – System Failed Us…Again
The Clash – London Calling
Clown Alley – Unplugged
Devo – Through Being Cool
Dragonforce – Through The Fire And Flames
Dropkick Murphys – Your Spirit’s Alive
Hatebreed – Defeatist
Ill Repute – Book And Its Cover
JFA – Skateboard
The Loved Ones – Breathe In
Luckie Strike – I’m Sick
Minor Threat – Little Friend
Montrose – Bad Motor Scooter
NOFX – take two placebos and call me lame
NOFX – linoleum
NOFX – USA-holes
NOFX – The Man I Killed
NOFX – San Francisco Fat
Operation Ivy – yellin’ in my ear
The Peacocks – Too Good
Pennywise – You’ll Never Make It
Pulley – Noddin’ Off
Queens Of The Stone Age – Go With The Flow
Rise Against – Chamber the Cartridge
Rise Against – Bricks
Sinéad O’Connor – Marcus Garvey
Social Distortion – Reach for the Sky
Social Unrest – general enemy
Suicide Machines – S.O.S.
Turbonegro – We’re Gonna Drop the Atom Bomb
Turbonegro – Welcome to the Garbage Dump
Verbal Abuse – Power Play
Verbal Abuse – Unity
Zero Boys – Down the Drain
Zero Boys – Hightime

Colorado City , Arizona

Short Creek, Runners

For the past several years, the people who live in the polygamous community of Short Creek (Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona) have been inundated with cameras. Photographers and videographers from around the world come here to photograph women in pioneer dresses and children playing in the dusty streets. You can’t blame the people of Short Creek for hating the constant intrusion.

For me, a perfect journey into Short Creek follows the backpacker motto: leave no trace. There have been many times I’ve passed up photographs, leaving the camera in my lap, because I didn’t want to ruin someone’s day. I’m especially concerned when taking photos of the children. Regardless of your feelings on polygamy, they are innocent, and I don’t like to send them running in fear from the camera they’ve been taught to avoid.

Those thoughts were in my head when taking these photographs of children playing behind the walls of their home. I wouldn’t say it’s a polygamy compound, just a home with a privacy wall around it. I found a spot where I could photograph from a distance with a long lens, looking down into the yard. Neither of these are that great. I moved on before it all clicked.

I spotted this boy looking out of a second story window. I took the photo above from down the block with a 300 and a 1.4 teleconverter (basically a 560mm film equivalent), then continued to drive down the street closer. There was a shipping container in the yard, and as soon as I popped out from behind it, I fired off a quick frame (below).

He withdrew immediately, disappearing into the shadows.

Looking at the photo now, I wonder what it tells me. I’m not sure. I balance it with one I didn’t take…one I couldn’t take. Driving slowly through town, I saw two young women standing in the shady side yard of a home about a block ahead. They wore pastel colored pioneer dresses (purple and green) and long braided hair, standing among some trees. I can still see their moon-shaped faces as they looked toward my car in panic. I was at least 300 yards away, cameras put away, when they began running away. They quickly disappeared behind and into the house.

It was so sad that I thought, “Don’t run. I’ll leave you alone.”

A grew of women returned from a lunch break and were working in the field. I shot from far away, and only later realized that the teleconverter (which had dropped last week) was making my photos look all crazy blurry. I started to leave town when I saw this:

The woman and (I assume) her daughter standing on the rock made my day. Maybe it’s a common site in Short Creek, but I found it fascinating. As I pointed out in the multimedia piece I did from this trip, when she saw me way off in the distance, she didn’t run away. She waved to me with a smile. I waved back. Whoever you are, thanks for sharing that moment.

Colorado City , Arizona

Short Creek, Architecture

A couple posts about my trip to Short Creek a couple weeks back. (Short Creek is Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona, two joined towns where many members of the polygamous FLDS church live.) I’m always fascinated by the architecture of polygamy. As many people seem to have left Short Creek, so many homes remain in an unfinished state.

This is one of my favorite homes to photograph. Such a beautiful home contrasting with that ugly wall.

But now that this wall is up (above), this one’s probably my new favorite.

I photographed a lot of windows, all covered and closed.

I’d be just as fascinated to photograph the insides of the homes, with or without people, as to preserve a visual history. Any takers?

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