Often my wife will ask me, “What are you shooting tomorrow?”
Almost always I answer, “I don’t know yet.”
It’s not that the information isn’t available. I just find it easier to not look until the final moment. I’ve never been big on pre-visualizing my shots. I’m more of an improv photographer and like to go in with a clear head. But more than that, if you’ve got a dud assignment on your line you don’t want to toss and turn all night long “looking forward” to it.
Another reason I don’t look is that the schedule is always changing. News happens and assignments get shuffled. You can have an assignment on your line for three days only to have it moved off at the last minute.
Early yesterday the assignment “Magna Alleys” was on my line. Here’s the Description from the assignment:
A network of historic alleys remains in Magna. Salt Lake County wants to make it less expensive and less cumbersome for property owners to eliminate these alleys.
Here are the Instructions from the assignment sheet: (Hey wait a minute, I thought Chris Magerl, our photo editor four editors back, had the line “Instructions” changed to “Notes.” When did we revert to taking instructions? We used to consider ourselves journalists on par with those filling out the assignments. Oi!) :
Instructions: (I provided a couple locations of alleys above, but there are a ton of them in the old neighborhoods of Magna)
I looked at that assignment and thought, okay, here’s a challenge. Magna is very photogenic, but photographing alleys for a story on county zoning law? At least the story wouldn’t make the front page, I thought, meaning that if I failed not as many readers would see it.
I didn’t have to worry too long, because Magna Alleys soon vanished from my line, either moved to another shooter or NO-GO’d.
Fast forward to 4pm. It’s freezing cold out with heavy, dark cloud cover. The sun, if you could see it, is getting low. Phone rings.
Editor: You’re back on Magna Alleys. Head out there.
Me: Okay, I’m heading west, but it’s getting dark out. This would have been a much better shot earlier when we had light.
Editor: It’s going to be the centerpiece photo on the Utah Section.
With that kind of set up, you’re expecting an awful photo of an alley in Magna. Oh, I did get a few of those, but lucky for me long-time Magna resident Norm Fitzgerald was game for a photo in the alley space behind his home:
Also, big thanks to Scott Sommerdorf for finding an old Canon speedlite in his basement and letting me use it. It’s been a big help on at least a dozen assignments now. Who knew?