I Take Bad Photographs

Yes. I do take bad photographs.

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The reason some of you won’t believe it is that I usually only post the good ones.

But I’ve got to tell you, I have taken some really bad photographs. Especially lately. My name has appeared underneath some true garbage. People smiling at the camera, distracted compositions, rushed portraits, I’ve done it all.

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And I’m not going to blame it on poor assignments, or the lack of time I had to work a situation, or the way my equipment seems to be wigging out, or any of the other complaints about things that my great-at-complaining photographer brain is loaded with.

I’m going to blame myself. I’m the one taking bad photos.

Now to fix it. My plan to combat this recent rash of mediocrity is to use public shame.

For as long as it takes for me to get my head on straight about photography, I’m going to post my best photo (or two) from every single assignment. That way, if I slack off an assignment there will be no hiding the fact. You can judge for yourself whether I failed.

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So here we come, warts and all.

I’ve got to clear my head. I’m spread way too thin right now. It’s time to go on diet and stop bingeing on Netflix, RSS feeds, podcasts, gloomy news about the journalism industry, etc.

It’s time to step up and be a photographer, first and foremost.

Join me.

The Moguls

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It’s just how some days are.

Jazz vs. Cavs – LeBron James

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Photographed the first quarter of the Utah Jazz vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, focusing on LeBron James. Above is a sequence during player introductions. So much energy. Then he goes over to the scorer’s table and does this whole chalk ritual. Look at all the fan cameras that got the shot, while I got this…

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There’s a big chalk cloud above that frame, too. Would be a great moment, but not for me this year.

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It wouldn’t take long for LeBron to explode.

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Then three photos of the play where Kyrylo Fesenko fouled James pretty hard, knocking him to the floor.

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I had moved to the outside for a clearer view, but the ref is always unpredictable.

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Obama and Bush

It’s been a week since the inauguration of President Obama and after pouring over hundreds of links to photographs and multimedia coverage, these are three of my favorites. You can click on the photographs to open each link in a new window. Each is well worth your time.

Photograph by Mustafah Abdulaziz
Photograph by Mustafah Abdulaziz

Burn Magazine, a creation of Magnum’s David Alan Harvey, had a great black and white portfolio of the events by photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz. I love the tonality and vision. Abdulaziz was clearly shooting from the heart.

Photograph by Scott Strazzante
Photograph by Scott Strazzante

Chicago Tribune photographer Scott Strazzante wrote a short piece for SportsShooter.Com about two of his favorite photographs from D.C. Strazzante always has a different, original look.

Photograph by Doug Mills
Photograph by Doug Mills

And finally, documentary filmmaker Errol Morris interviewed three top photo editors about the iconic images they picked to tell the story of the Bush Presidency. Every post on Morris’ blog is a must-read (even the ones that are so deep they make my head swim), but this one points out an important fact: Much of our perception of history comes from still photographs. These photographs are how we will remember history. Not from video, not from TV, not from words (okay, maybe words a little bit). Read it and weep.

BYU vs. UNLV College Basketball – Second Half

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This was about the moment when UNLV took over the game. Jackson Emery did a Pete Rose dive, sliding across the court trying to save the ball. It wouldn’t be long before UNLV tied the game and then went ahead to win, as BYU put up brick after brick.

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Once a team unravels like this, it’s pretty easy to find photos to show it.

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Jonathan Tavernari loses his handle on the ball.

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UNLV’s Brice Massamba and UNLV guard Rene Rougeau celebrate after Rougeau was fouled during a UNLV streak that gave them a 55-48 lead in the second half.

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Finally, Lee Cummard walks off the court after the loss.

BYU vs. UNLV College Basketball – First Half

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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.

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Lee Cummard looks down at UNLV guard Tre’Von Willis.

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After this dunk by Lee Cummard, the lead was 19-11.

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UNLV head coach Lon Kruger argues with an official.

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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…

Gamer Couple

Provo – Heidi and Alex Jensen compete in a game of Mario Kart in their apartment Wednesday January 21, 2009. Alex and his wife Heidi, BYU family science majors, are moderate video gamers. Alex led a published research project examining the effects of video gaming on college students’ behavior choices and interpersonal relationships. He found that video gaming correlates with weak relationships, much to his chagrin.

Wyoming Press – Review and Critique

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:

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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.

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