Thursday Notes – CIA

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Started the day taking photos of a guy I can’t tell you about (until the story runs).

Then my day got shuffled. I was re-routed to an assignment involving 7,436 teddy bears after another photographer was rushed onto a plane to cover breaking news out of state. I don’t know what the story was, and apparently the his wife didn’t either. She twittered: “Husband: I’m going to Seattle & don’t know when I’ll be back. It’s like he works for the CIA.”


My third assignment of the day was a swim team. With no time to work it I expected little from this one but it turned out okay.

My fourth assignment was a basketball game at Judge Memorial High School, where a great travesty was taking place: the snack bar was charging a buck-fifty for a candy bar. Upset by the price gouging I shot unsugared.

I talked briefly with a writer covering the game. Feigning interest I asked, “So is this going to be a close game?”

“As long as the clock keeps running, I’ll be happy,” was his response. Then he asked if he could borrow a pen.

The gym was pretty dark so I set the ISO to the “noise blizzard” setting and let the frames fly.

There were only fifteen minutes left on my shift when I finished sending in photos from the day’s four assignments. I was looking forward to finally getting a break and crawled into bed when a voicemail shattered the peace and delivered my fifth assignment. The voice said, “I’ve just been told that I need to call you about a murder-suicide (on)…Redwood Road. They told me that you should call (the reporter) for further details. You can call me with any questions. Thanks, Bye.”

I loaded up and headed south. The crime scene was an apartment complex and surprisingly the TV news trucks were parked in the complex’s parking lot. As I got out of my car the media was being kicked out (private property). In the dark I was able to get a few photographs before a police investigator alerted a security guard to my presence. I left when he asked, having no choice but to leave.

The media moved across the street, waiting for updates from police. I sent my photo from the car, checked in and drove home. And again crawled into bed, two hours after the first time.

Wednesday – How to Photograph Nothing?

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As I’ve said, I don’t look at my assignments in advance. But I cheated yesterday and peeked at today’s shoots. One looked challenging, a family that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. The hard part would be photographing the negative, something they DIDN’T do. Like a portrait of a guy who DOESN’T ride a bicycle.

My pre-visualizing on that one was all for nothing as the assignment was transfered to someone else. I talked to that photographer and he was a perplexed as I. “It’s not like they’re setting a Christmas tree on fire,” he said.

I walked into a hospital today and was told, “I thought you had some serious boundary issues.”

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Ending the shift was high school basketball in a pleasantly bright gym. I decided to break from tradition and shoot from the stands with a 400mm lens.

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Notes from Friday, Saturday, Sunday – World Cup Speed Skating

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I spent three straight days photographing World Cup Speed Skating at the Kearns Olympic Oval. 6,969 frames later, I still don’t know how to process it all. Will I really go back and edit all of those frames? Of course I will, but right now the thought just gives me a headache. During the events I shot every athlete and then edited the winners and key players for each day’s coverage.

Now that it’s all over I’m stuck with twenty-two gigabytes of photos that need attention. I guess I’ll dig in there and try to tell you something about it…

The first day I entered the venue without a credential, walked past security at two access points and made it all the way to the press room without being stopped. I looked around the press room and instead of setting down my laptop I decided to carry it with me while shooting. I had kind of a weird feeling about that place. The intuition turned out to be real, as the guy two seats over had a camera and lens stolen from the press room.

The news about the theft made its way through the photographers while we were shooting an awards ceremony. One guy started blaming it on the Europeans. He said something like, “This always happens with the European photographers. When I worked in (redacted), they would come over for a big tennis tournament and every time equipment would disappear. It’s always the Europeans!”

Saturday morning we had a send-off brunch for our photo tech Emily. It was good to see my colleagues and catch up on the team building meeting I missed earlier in the week. Emily will definitely be missed.

Saturday at Speed Skating there was another equipment theft reported. I don’t know all the details but you can make up your own scenario picturing these three elements in a bathroom: a camera bag, a photographer, and a thief.

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Three days of shooting the same sport forces you to be creative. Every day I tried to shoot with different lenses from different spots. When I get time I’ll put up some galleries of my favorites.

Notes from last Thursday – Team Building Meeting and Grandpa Camera

A team building meeting of the photo staff was scheduled for 2pm but at 1:50 I was an hour away from the office finishing an assignment. When I finally got back the meeting was over.

The high school basketball game I shot was delayed for an hour due to late refs. Knowing the gym would be dark I had planned on using my 50/1.4 lens. But it was quickly obvious that the 50 was too loose. I switched over to the 70-200 to get closer but lost two stops, dropping my shutter speed below freezing.

Right now we’re stuck with gear that doesn’t provide the low light capability of modern cameras. My camera is now two generations behind the current technology so I’m now calling my camera a grandfather.

My settings for basketball were far from optimal: 1/250th at f2.8 and horrible noise at ISO 3200. I shot as many pictures as I could, hoping that not only would a great play happen but that I’d luck into a frame of it that wasn’t horribly blurry. But luck vanished and hope died. There was nothing worth posting today.

Notes from Wednesday – Freebies

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In the past week I have been offered the following free food: strawberry cheesecake ice cream frozen with liquid nitrogen, oven fresh cookies (twice), and even a tall frosty beer. People are always surprised when you tell them you can’t really take it. I mean, I did eat the ice cream, because who else was going to, you know? The cookie maker offered to let me take whatever I wanted, and I watched her put baseball-sized pieces of dough onto cookie sheets. Instead of taking cookies I bought a couple to share in the office.

Yesterday I went back to the cookie store. The clerk said, “Hey, you’re not working on a story today, so I can give you free cookies.” It was a nice gesture but I insisted on paying.

I spent most of the day in the office working on several projects simultaneously and making little bits of progress on each. But I didn’t finish any of them.

We had a quiet party for Emily, a photo tech who is leaving to become a pastry chef. Our two photo techs have been rock solid, doing a much more important job than is recognized. It’s always a little scary when we lose one but so far the new guy seems capable.

Then off to a local high school for a girls basketball game. The girls on both teams seemed pretty small and young, but it was halfway through the first quarter when I realized I was shooting the JV game. The varsity had played earlier.

And there’s the day for you.

Contest Judging


I’m sure it will come back to haunt me. That is, my affirmative answer the other day to the question, “Would you be willing to help out the (Utah) SPJ Board?”

Already they’ve put me to work. I spent part of today with an editor going through photo contest entries from another state, narrowing down the selections in each category so that tomorrow we can pick the winners.

Here are some thoughts…

In this contest photographers were allowed to enter prints or CD’s. Judging the prints was really easy. You throw them out on a large table and starting yanking the losers. It’s fast. Having to load discs into my laptop to look at a single photograph was obnoxious. The extra time it took to go through all the disc entries was a huge burden. We didn’t hold the inconvenience against the people who sent discs; we judged them fairly. But if you’re entering a contest this year, submit your photos in the most convenient manner accepted. Because some judges will hold it against you.

Now that the main Utah contests have moved to online entry, we’ll probably see other states follow suit. (Contests are one thing we’ve been at the forefront of.) I’m really looking forward to judging contests in the future when I won’t have to sift through dozens of file folders filled with prints, discs, paperclips and gluestick. I’d much rather hit a URL and go from there.

Other things I’m working on right now…

Audio/Still/Video edit for a weekend sports profile.
Utah SPJ contest website

…also, an editor gave me two Notebook Screen Cleaning Wipes. Just so you know.

My Version of Bountiful vs. Bingham Basketball

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The sun went down at around 4:30pm today but it wasn’t really dark until I stepped into Bountiful High School’s gym to shoot a basketball game tonight. The frame above is my first test frame, before I had to adjust my ISO higher than desired and my shutter speed lower than any sports photographer would go if they had a choice.

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I ended up shooting at 320th of a second, which was really unfortunate. The frame above is in focus, but the action is too fast for the slow shutter speed to freeze it. And I was shooting at 3200 ISO, which really fills the frame with noise. Hey, the camera’s five years old, what can I say?

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Here was the other fun thing. I’ll often shoot a frame of the scoreboard after key plays so I know what the score was at that moment. The scoreboard here was one of those kinds that has LED’s (I guess) that flash faster than the eye can see. But the camera easily notices and you end up with a blank scoreboard, even though to your eye everything is visible. To combat this I usually take three frames of the scoreboard in a fast sequence, and only if I’m really unlucky will all three be blank.

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Okay, I think I’m done complaining about stuff. Here are some photographs of varying quality…

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That was the other photographer shooting the game. He does a lot of Bingham games. There was a great moment when Bingham’s Nate Girsberger (4) walked into the team huddle during a timeout. He had just hit a few tough shots and as a joke, chest-bumped the coach, who was caught off guard and flew back about three or four feet. Alas, sometimes great moments like that don’t make great stills, as this sequence demonstrates…

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Trust me, it was a great moment.

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The Bingham starters came out of the game in the fourth quarter, holding a forty point lead over Bountiful.

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Real Salt Lake wins the MLS Cup

It’s been a good year for shooting soccer in Salt Lake. World Cup Qualifier, MLS All-Star game, MLS Playoffs, and now the icing on the cake, Real Salt Lake’s Championship win over Beckham, Donovan, and the LA Galaxy.

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Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley (10) collides with LA goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.

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LA’s Sean Franklin and Real Salt Lake forward Fabian Espindola (16).

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Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley (10, right) and LA defender Gregg Berhalter.

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Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley (10) flies over LA defender Gregg Berhalter.

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LA’s Landon Donovan missed a critical shot in the shootout.

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Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (18) blocks a shot.

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Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (18) celebrates a miss by LA’s Landon Donovan during the shoot out.

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The win.

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David Beckham.

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Kyle Beckerman.

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With the Cup.

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