Gunnison , Utah

“I Can’t See It”

I spent Wednesday down in the small Utah town of Gunnison, where a gas leak has caused Lila Lee Christensen to close down her dress shop. More on that in a minute. This morning I brought in the paper and looked for the photos I made of Lila Lee with all of the colorful dresses. I found it on page A4 and pointed it out to my kids:

“Hey, check out the photo I took the other day,” I said, pointing to the page.

“I can’t see it,” said my nine-year-old son.

He was talking about the small size, but I couldn’t see my photo, either. Guess that’s how the news business goes. Here is the photo as it wants to be seen:

The story is that Lila Lee Christensen has had to close down her dress shop, which catered to prom dates and brides region-wide. Her entire inventory of high-end dresses has been contaminated by the gas leak, and faced with the prospect of starting over, she’s decided to shut down the 57-year-old family business.

We took several photos in the contaminated basement, trying different lighting and positioning. Since there was nothing going on, the situation was relegated to be a portrait.

I also put together a slideshow on the story, which came together quite well. I’m not linking to every slideshow I do. Only the good ones. Here’s where to find it:

South Jordan , Utah


Daybreak, homes and Oquirrh Lake.

Gunnison , Utah

Contaminated Dress Shop

Gunnison- The basement of Lila Lee Christensen’s dress shop has been contaminated by a leaking gas station tank at a nearby gas station. She is closing her family-owned business of 57 years.

Salt Lake City , Utah

Utah Jazz v Golden State Warriors

Salt Lake City – Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer (5) looks for the rebound with Golden State Warriors center Patrick O’Bryant (26) and Golden State Warriors forward Andris Biedrins (15). Utah Jazz vs. Golden State Warriors, NBA basketball Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

Heber City , Utah

Run Forrest Run

Heber City – Wasatch’s Forrest Hill runs onto the field to start the second half, wrapped in the cheerleaders’ banner. Wasatch vs. Emery high school football, Friday afternoon at Wasatch.

Heber City – Wasatch’s Forrest Hill runs onto the field to start the second half, wrapped in the cheerleaders’ banner. Wasatch vs. Emery high school football, Friday afternoon at Wasatch.

What I wrote in November 2007 about this shoot:

Emery High School’s Ryne Jones flies into the end zone for a first quarter touchdown.

That was my first good shot of the game, and the last good moment for Emery, who lost to Wasatch yesterday. I know, none of you really care about the results; you are here for the photos.

Back from vacation to kick off November and it’s so good to be back taking photographs. Powerful still photographs.

Wasatch’s Jacob Salazar (25) carries the ball into the end zone with some blocking assistance from teammate TJ McDonald (44).

During halftime I sat on the grass with The Reporter, trading Titanic-related metaphors. Soon I noticed the Wasatch High School cheerleaders unfurling a banner for the football team to run through. I pondered getting up for a photo or continuing to sit. I got up, ran over, held the wide angle on the grass pointing up, and watched a throughly boring “team run out through paper banner.” Only later when I edited the photos did I realize I had a gem:

Wasatch’s Forrest Hill runs onto the field to start the second half, wrapped in the cheerleaders’ banner.

Heber City , Utah

Wasatch v Emery

Heber City – Emery’s Ryne Jones flies into the end zone for a first quarter touchdown. Wasatch vs. Emery high school football, Friday afternoon at Wasatch.

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.
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