Camera Guy – Full Text

2007 was an interesting year for newspapers. And I mean interesting like this: Imagine you’re parachuting into an orchard of spears. That’s how the future of newspaper journalism sometimes looks to those of us drifting slowly down, trapped in gravity’s pull.

A few months ago, a longtime friend called to say farewell. He said I probably wouldn’t see him again. He had developed a time machine and was going to return himself to 1989, a simpler year when he was much happier. (Fact: there are no time machines.)

This friend is a photographer who worked at a small daily newspaper in a small town. If you’ve ever worked on a small paper, you know how it is: several assignments per day and everyone in town knows you’re the “Camera Guy.”

My friend served as Camera Guy for over a decade. It’s what he always wanted to do. It’s what he loved. But one day the word “multimedia” blew into town and was heralded as the future and savior of his newspaper. After that, going to work became something to be nervous about. With photo-graph-video-tography pushed on him, he was facing the task of mastering a new medium and learning complex software without any training.

He quit.

And you know what? I find it hard to blame him. In fact, I give him a lot of credit for stepping away. If his heart wasn’t in it, better to leave than to slog along half-heartedly at something he didn’t believe in. Newspapers are in desperate need of believers and dreamers right now, people with passion for storytelling and loads of creative energy. Without them newspaper readers will drift away to more interesting sites. (ratemycorpsepaint.com, for example.) If you’re not up for the fight we face, you’ll be happier elsewhere. No shame in that.

I think what my friend saw in the future of his newspaper was a shift from quality to quantity. I think he was concerned about doing quick, shallow multimedia pieces. And that spending his time on labor-intensive multimedia would limit the time he could spend making great in-depth photographs of his community.

It could be said that many newspaper photographers are wanna-be artists. I’ll gladly put myself in that category, even if you won’t. Working at a newspaper provides me with equipment, an audience, and a never-ending stream of assignments to visually riff on. Not every assignment provides the best canvas for my artistic attempts, but there is always another one coming up in a couple hours that might expose me to a beautiful moment or story.

I guess the question my friend had to ask himself was related to that. Is the newspaper of the future a place where he could satisfy his passion for creating something beautiful? Or would it become a lifeless production center, filled with 24-7 deadlines and weekly multimedia quotas?

With everything up in the air, who knows? Every newspaper seems to be scrambling for the answers and reaching wildly differing conclusions. I’ve got no answers for you and your particular situation, other than to say that you need to find your own answer.

Back to the time machine. Why is my friend going back to 1989, you ask? It isn’t for the hair metal. It was a great year for photojournalism. Nikon released their flagship pro SLR, the F4. The Canon F-1 was still seeing action on the frontlines. Kodak’s new T-Max 3200 black and white film let you see in the dark. The first Eddie Adams workshop was held.

It was a different time then. Better and worse than today. In 1989 I attended a photojournalism conference in San Jose where the topic was the future of newspapers— People were saying that people would one day read the newspaper on the TV set. They were showing their prototypes for the newspaper of the future. I remember one front page was simply a list of ten headlines, nothing more.

Nineteen years later, the printed edition of the paper still slams hard into my front door every morning. I’ll leave the predictions on its future to Dr. Robotnik and his ten-headline front page.

BYU vs. SUU

Above: Brigham Young’s Trent Plaisted (top) and Southern Utah’s Tate Sorenson look up for the rebound. BYU vs. Southern Utah Univeristy (SUU), mens college basketball, Friday, December 21, 2007 at BYU’s Marriott Center in Provo.

Just a few photos from the game last night.

Above: BYU’s Trent Plaisted runs into a forest of defense.

Forest of defense? I didn’t send that caption in for publication. Maybe I should have – it might have attracted some coveted young readers.

Just a thought: what if I got paid based on how many clicks my photos got on the Trib site? I could start creatively inserting popular search terms like “thong” into all of my captions to drive up the traffic. You know, if we got paid by hits, it might start a rash of creative captioning. But I guess the reality would be this- whenever I photographed a high school girls basketball game, I would only shoot players named Britney or Paris (or Jamie Lynn) or other names that were popular with search engines. Okay, this idea is so over. There is no one named “Anna Chakvetadze” on any Utah sports team.

In the second half, little worth watching was happening. But a couple of times guys were diving into the photo box, nearly splitting open their heads on 400/2.8’s.

This guy (Sam Burgess) just about took me out chasing down a loose ball. With a couple minutes to go and a comfortable fifteen point lead, Lee Cummard went flying into the fans diving after a loose ball.

Henry Rollins

So the other day I go and download maybe fifty hours of The Sound of Young America, a radio show focusing on comedy and art and stuff. Already on media overload, I’m still not through very much of it, but I came across an interesting quote on the creative process from Henry Rollins:

“Everyone who tries to be creative or whatever, you come up with that thing that works.

“I know some people, songwriters, who treat it like a 9 to 5 job. They walk into the room, sit down and do 8 hours of songwriting and then it’s 5 o’ clock and they put the guitar down or step away from the piano and go home. You know, whatever works.

“For me, I’ve always wanted to live in it, to where I didn’t know that it wasn’t anything but real life. Where you’re so deeply committed to it that you don’t know anything else.”

Run Away!

You know that old rule- always have your camera with you? Big reminder yesterday.

Walking to my car after a routine assignment, I saw a police car race through the parking lot. The officer stopped maybe thirty feet away. He (Riverdale police officer Casey Warren) jumped out, gun drawn, and started yelling at a suspect to freeze and get on the ground.

I couldn’t see the suspect, but looking at the shot above you see he’s got his hands down on the ground. But a second later he got up and started running.

 

 

As he ran across the empty parking lot, he looked my way. Great time for the autofocus to hiccup.

 

As officer Warren took off after him on foot, at least five police cars converged on the scene. They caught the guy at Burger King.

Camera Guy – SportsShooter.Com

Here’s the first paragraph of my latest piece for SportsShooter.Com, about a friend who recently left his job at a small newspaper:

2007 was an interesting year for newspapers. And I mean interesting like this: Imagine you’re parachuting into an orchard of spears. That’s how the future of newspaper journalism sometimes looks to those of us drifting slowly down, trapped in gravity’s pull.

You can read the whole thing here: http://www.sportsshooter.com/news/1887

I’ve been involved with SportsShooter.Com since 2001. I’ve written regular pieces for the monthly newsletter and I’ve taught at three of their workshops. But my real claim to fame is being (I believe) the 12th member to sign up at that popular sports photography and photojournalism community.

Here are the names of the members ahead of me:

Burfield, Gruber, Mangin, Mar, Hanashiro, Niemeir, Snyder, Seale, Rickman, Deutsch, and Peter Read Miller.

Each of these names brings to mind not only amazing photographs but a great person to match.

And don’t forget Grover.

Bobsled World Cup

A few outtakes from the FIBT World Cup 4-man Bobsled Competition at the Utah Olympic Park back on the 8th. Above, the sled from Romania, piloted by Nicolae Istrate.

I covered bobsled during the Olympics. Here are the things to remember when photographing bobsled:

1. Never walk uphill. Get a ride to the top of the track and walk down.
2. It’s always too cold. Count on freezing.
3. The sleds are always faster than you think.
4. Figure out who is going to win so you can get creative with those who have no chance of a medal. If there is a team from a country without snow, that’s the perfect sled to try some crazy angle or risky technique on.
5. There are two runs in a lot of winter sports. Shoot action (on the track) on the first run, then head to the finish line to shoot reaction on the second run, like this one where the teammates of Steven Holcomb (USA) celebrate their gold medal:

Below, the sled from Monaco.

Below, Latvia. It’s a lousy photo, I’m just wondering what that photographer’s picture looked like.

Jazz vs. Sonics

Ronnie Brewer takes the hard foul, and those sure aren’t my strobes.

CJ Miles with his eye on the ball.

Ronnie Brewer, Wally Szczerbiak

The Jazz mascot, Bear, plays around with Melissa Majchrzak’s camera.

Trench Death

Was it Tuesday? I think so. I was sent to the scene of a tragic construction accident. A construction worker was killed when a trench caved in on him, covering him in several feet of dirt.

I stood out in the bitter cold for a few hours as the Heavy Rescue Team worked to free his body. The whole time, I wondered about the ending of my part in this story. Namely, what about photos of the body when they finally free him from the trench?

As a photojournalist, you pretty much always take the photograph. You can make the hard decisions about how to use the photo later. At the Tribune, editors will make that tough decision, and only after a lot of discussion.

But when the rescue team was ready to remove the body, they made the decision for us by stringing up red plastic tarps to block the view the other news cameras:

 

 

 

Community – 2007

2007 has been a hectic year for the Tribune photographers. Trolley Square shooting, Jazz going all the way to the Western Conference Finals, most of the state burning up in summer wildfires, the Crandall Canyon coal mine disaster, the Warren Jeffs trial. I can’t remember a busier year.

We hired two new photo editors. We lost two photographers. Ryan Galbraith left the Tribune after 17 years. And now Danny Chan La has stepped away after a decade with the paper.

For our tight family of photographers, these were tough events. Because it doesn’t happen. Once you’ve earned a spot on our staff, you’ve earned a rare rank and people just don’t leave. In fact, the last photographer to leave before 2007 did so way back in 1995. The staff at the competing Deseret Morning News has a similar stability in their photo staff.

This is what Danny looks like.

At the end of Danny’s last shift, we gathered at the Bayou to honor Mr. Chan La and the service he rendered to you, the readers of the Tribune. It was a small group of close friends. Even Ryan showed up, and it was good to see him. He left the paper so quick that we didn’t have time to give him a proper send off.

This is what Ryan looks like.

In the amber light of the tavern with drinks in hand (ranging from water to a bottle of the “fruity beer” Pete’s Strawberry Blonde), we smiled, laughed, made photographs, and repeatedly broke our own, “no talking about work” rule.

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