Month: October 2007

Ups and Downs

I really do have the best job in the world. But that doesn’t mean every day is worth writing about. My two assignments for today are a portrait and a restaurant. So unless something blows up, not much to write about.

The photo above is from a fizzled assignment last week. The press release said something about a big protest in front of Utah Congressman Chris Cannon’s office. As you can see, the turnout was less than stellar.

It’s what you call an insurance shot. You take a photo like this in case anyone back at the office needs proof that something didn’t happen (not that they ever have). You can pull this shot out of the bag and prove how the reality differed from the expectation.

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:

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.

Utah vs. San Diego State – Crops

Utah quarterback Brian Johnson scrambles. Utah vs San Diego State (SDSU) college football at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Back to football. For the above image, I’m flat on my stomach, lucking out with that guy’s legs. That’s the full frame. I’m still trying to compute the best crop out of it.

Above is the full frame, below the crop. Notice the difference in impact.

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.

Again, above the full frame and below the crop.

Utah defenders Koa Misi (left) and Alex Puccinelli sack San Diego State quarterback Kevin O’Connell. Utah vs San Diego State (SDSU) college football at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

This one really ticked me off. I was in the right spot to catch a wide shot of the touchdown dive, but there was a penalty called and the play didn’t count. Full frame above, crop below. I kept this one pretty loose.

Utah’s Derrek Richards dives into the end zone for what would have been a score, but a penalty nullified the play. Utah vs San Diego State (SDSU) college football at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

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.

BYU Basketball – The Team Photo

I know I’m behind in writing when my sister texts me: “No blog in 7 days, what’s up with that?????” Sorry. Been busy.

Yesterday was media day for BYU basketball. A lot of work for BYU photographer Jaren Wilkey and his crew of assistants. I did a slideshow of Jaren arranging the womens’ team photo. You can watch it at this link:

Waiting for it all to start, I heard one reporter complaining about another. There’s a reporter for a competing outlet who has apparently been stealing story ideas by asking the players what kinds of things the other reporters have been asking them about. Talk about no class.

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. 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.