In the quest for great photographs, no amount of talent or enthusiasm can overcome tough logistics and tight scheduling. So it was Thursday.
Assignments: shoot World Cup Moguls at Deer Valley, then hit an evening shot back in Salt Lake City.
Time was going to be short from the start. My shift started at noon and the event was set to start at 1pm. Factor in the thirty minute drive, parking, credential pick up, and a long hike up to the mogul course and you’ve got some serious timing problems. Add in the fact that the photos are slated for the front page and now there is pressure. Not a good environment for producing great photographs.
Arriving at Deer Valley, I see another photographer’s distinctive blue truck parked in the very first row of the mammoth parking lot. That should have been where the Tribune photographer ended up, on time, prepared and on top of things. The parking spot I found was at the far end of the lot, out in Siberia, making for a long walk in snow clothes and carrying all of my gear.
Some good news does come, however, when I’m told that the event has been pushed back to 2pm. With that announcement I suddenly feel prepared and on schedule. But then I find out that the women and men made their first runs this morning. This means that I’ve lost any option for a second angle.
There are only a few dozen athletes slated to ski in the finals. This will make it tough because you really only get one shot at each athlete as they fly off a jump and sail past. One shot. And you don’t know who’s going to win so when you’re editing all you can do is pray that you got a good shot of the gold medalist.
The best way to photograph winter sports is to shoot action up on the hill for the first run and head down to the bottom to shoot reactions during the finals. In this case, I had to choose one or the other. Since it was going front page I started climbing up the hill, figuring that seeing these athletes flipping through the air on skis would be a better front page shot.
This story is getting long so I’ll let’s hurry it up. My evening assignment back in Salt Lake was going to be a challenge, but then it got even tighter when I was switched onto an even earlier assignment. The decision was made to skip the mens final, so now I just had 16 athletes to get our front page shot. I could see the likelihood of this actually making the front page vanishing before my eyes. There just wasn’t enough time to get a great photograph. I should have been up here all day.
I photographed the women’s final and drove back to Salt Lake. After sending in my best photographs, I sent a text message to the photo desk that my photos were in and that I was going to take a short lunch break before my next assignment. My phone rings a moment later, and my evening assignment has been changed again. I run out to the car and start driving through rush hour traffic to Provo, forty-five minutes away, to photograph a boy and his mother. There will be no lunch break, however short, today.
It’s just how some days are.
Covered last night’s BYU vs. UNLV game and I’ll make a couple posts out of it. First, the good news… BYU had a great first half, going into the locker room with a double-digit lead.
Lee Cummard looks down at UNLV guard Tre’Von Willis.
After this dunk by Lee Cummard, the lead was 19-11.
UNLV head coach Lon Kruger argues with an official.
Brigham Young’s Chris Miles pulls the ball from UNLV’s Darris Santee. Traveling was called on the play. In background, Brigham Young guard Jimmer Fredette.
Next post, when I get a minute, the mirror-image second half…
Just when I thought I was home from Wyoming, the blog pulls me back. It’s like a time machine returning me to places where I have unfinished business.
As we judged the photographs entered in the Wyoming Press Association’s yearly contest, we set aside the winners and any other photographs we wanted to talk about in the critique session. A lot of them were “almosts” as in almost-winners. Here are a few from the news categories:
Saturday morning was the Photo Review and Critique session, where Roberto and I went through the photographs in front of a packed room, praising great work and offering pointers on the photographs that didn’t quite make it onto the winners’ list.
It was our most popular session. Even better, we weren’t speaking to the choir. Our audience was filled with editors, designers and writers, as well as photographers. I love talking about photojournalism with editors. We learn from each other every time.
For nearly two hours we praised photographers for doing good reporting, finding striking angles, getting in close, spending time with their subjects, and taking risks on shots that could have failed (but turned out brilliantly).
We criticized photographers for cluttered and distracting backgrounds, cramming too many photographs onto photo pages, and cropping too loose or too tight.
We talked about how some photographs were published so small that the important details of the shot were lost. (And when judging this was a constant concern, to ensure that small two-column photos didn’t automatically lose out to beautiful full-page spreads.)
Aside from the educational aspect of the session, just being able to showcase the great work to a crowded room was great. There were many photographs that didn’t win but deserved to be seen.
I wrote before about how this contest was previously judged in an open session, but is now judged in a closed session to prevent the audience from influencing the judges. I thought about this a lot after the critique session. Two of the photographs we projected onto the wall elicited such a positive response from the audience that they were clearly crowd favorites. We had only awarded one of those images, which picked up an honorable mention. If I had known the reaction these photos would get, I would have clearly felt pressure to place them on the winners’ list. They were great photos but I think we made the right choices. (One of these images is in the image above, second row, third column— the rancher-guy swatting at a grassfire.)
So that was the beauty of the session. Great work got a little more exposure, something that’s lacking in today’s journalism world.
And thanks to Randy Wagner for making copy shots of the clips, which totaled around 120 images.
Yesterday Roberto Rosales and I judged the photojournalism entries in the Wyoming Press Association’s yearly contest. The work we looked over was excellent, capturing the year in this western state very effectively. We saw celebration and grief, heartache and triumph, and beautiful slices of everyday life. It was a great experience to see the work.
As we approached each table covered with the entries from a specific category, we’d immediately start outing the photos that weren’t going to win. It’s a cruel, quick process. The cream rises to the top quickly and many photos are rapidly stacked in the discard pile. When I judged here before, back in 2004, the judging process was open and a group of at least twenty photographers followed us from table to table, observing the process. As we weeded out the weaker photos you could hear the gasps and moans as people saw their favorite work discarded quickly in a pretty cold fashion. Luckily no one tried to shiv me in the back.
Sometime in the last few years they decided to close the judging. One concern was that the audience might have influenced the judges. From my experience, the audience was pretty quiet and I never felt that, but the closed session was also productive. I think one benefit of the open judging was that the judging influenced the audience. And educated them. But we pulled a bunch of photos from the discard pile to talk about in tomorrow’s roundtable discussion.
One thing we talked about as we eliminated great photographs yesterday was this basic fact about photo contests: You can be a great photographer and not win. The winners in a contest are great photos that also have something special about them, a little bit of magic or a bunch of good luck, or something you never would have expected when you triggered the shutter.
And this is something that we can’t say enough to the photographers who will look in vain for their names on the winners’ list posted in the hallway of the hotel— Many of the photos we eliminated yesterday would have made any editor happy. But when it comes to contest time, we’re looking for the absolute best of the entire year. Look over this year’s winners and see what you can learn from them, then apply it to some hard work in 2009.