Salt Lake City , Utah

Looking Closely at an Activity in our Public Schools

The past two years, with so many societal changes, have brought to my mind this question: What things are normal and accepted today that won’t be in the future?

We don’t photograph the normal things. But I’m trying to stop putting my camera down when something happens that I’ve seen over and over and at the time seems superficial to what I’m covering.

I’ve been thinking about things like injuries at football games. Over the years I’ve found myself not photographing them, or just taking a photo in case it’s a big blow to the team’s season to lose a star player or something like that.

But has a bigger story been at play the entire time?

Football players get injured. It’s a normal part of life.

But I wonder how normal it will look in the future as we learn more and more about CTE. Reading League of Denial is enough to open anyone’s eyes to the dangers to the head.

But with that said, congrats to the state champs! Right?

Salt Lake City , Utah

Upset :(


There is a blog that just steals and reposts all of my posts.

I was very excited that there was another FLDS blog and was looking forward to conversations – until I saw the content. Post after post after post.

Makes me heartbroken. This takes a lot of my time. 

Sorry to hear that you’ve joined me in the upset club. I know exactly how you feel. I can’t help you much with your frustration, but you can help me with mine. You can make me feel a little better by adding a photo credit to all of the flash flood photos of mine you have been posting without any credit whatsoever. it’s the very least you can do, especially now that you know how it feels.

Not only does it take a lot of MY time to make these photographs of the FLDS community, it costs a lot of money for equipment, travel, food, and lodging.

For future reference – Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune.


Vancouver , British Columbia

1,296+ Hockey Pucks, version 2

Playing around, this arrangement:

Clusterpuck v2

I think I like the orginal better.

Now on to the next project – 4,500 photos of scoreboards… This one’s gonna hurt…

Salt Lake City , Utah

Elephant Rides

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune
Esar met listens during his murder trial in Salt Lake City, Tuesday January 7, 2014. Met is accused of killing 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo in 2008

You know horsey rides, right? Where you get down on all fours and a child climbs on your back and you gallop and buck and horse around? I guess people in other countries do it, too. That’s what the defense attorney said as he asked the members of the jury to keep their minds open about Esar Met’s guilt or innocence.

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune
Defense attorney Michael Peterson brings out a world map during the defense’s opening at the murder trial of Esar Met in Salt Lake City, Tuesday January 7, 2014. Met is accused of killing 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo in 2008.

People from Southeast Asia, like the Burmese refugee kids at the South Park apartment complex, call horsey rides elephant rides. Esar Met would give them elephant rides and the attorney told the jury that that might explain why 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo’s blood was found on Met’s denim jacket when he was arrested for her murder. His DNA was under her fingernails as well.

Then the prosecution started to show the crime scene photos. Nothing really explains how one of Hser Ner Moo’s tiny purple shoes landed in that filthy toilet in the basement, the other shoe falling behind and beneath the porcelain. Or why the little girl ended up murdered, face down in the shower.

I photographed some of the evidence photos shown during the trial. The ones I didn’t photograph, the ones too disturbing to show, will be burned in my mind for a long time. They were pretty horrifying, just as we had been warned.

I photographed Hser Ner Moo’s father, Cartoon Wah, while the search for the missing child was still underway at the South Park apartments. You can read about that here:

Salt Lake City , Utah

My 2013 Memories as a Salt Lake Tribune photographer

I have the best job in the world. Here are some of the people and moments that left their mark on me over the past year…

NOTE: the photos might load a little slow- be patient. heavy traffic coming in just now.

Stephanie Cook’s mother, Bobbi Campbell, went missing 19 years ago. Balloons were released on the anniversary of her disappearance in a quick and quiet ceremony. Attached to the balloons- an ultrasound picture of the child Stephanie was expecting.
balloon release for bobbi campbell, missing for 19 years

The Marriott Center was crazy loud until Matthew Dellavedova hit the game-winning shot to beat BYU at the buzzer. It was one of the greatest endings to a game I’ve ever seen. What a moment. Even Cosmo couldn’t believe it.
matthew dellavedova hits game-winning shot vs. byu

I met Andrew Brown at a night out for children with autism. We made an awesome team, my motor-drive and his endless supply of cool poses. What a fun kid.
andrew brown

To my knowledge, no one had ever photographed a fundamentalist religious service before we were invited into a humble church in Short Creek. To the people who invited us in, thanks for trusting us with your story. We did our best to be respectful and quiet. I hope you feel we treated you fairly.
william e. jessop's fundamentalist church

Being watched and tracked by this security camera in the FLDS-controlled town of Hildale while a swarm of passing cars blared their horns would have freaked me out several years ago. These days? I’m kind of used to it.
flds security camera

I was lucky to photograph the national champion Lone Peak High School basketball team three times this season. Congratulations to the Knights.
lone peak basketball, 2013 national champions

Model Deena Marie Manzanares and I were told that we could use “the green scooter in the parking garage” as a prop for our fashion shoot. Only after we pushed it out of the garage and around the block for an hour or so did we realize we had the wrong one. Grand Theft Scooter. Hopefully the owner never noticed.
Deena Marie Manzanares

Canon was kind enough to loan us some of their latest equipment for a week or so. I shot this comparison of our old gear and the new. See if you can guess which half of the frame is which.

And while we’re talking about old cameras, this frame came out of one just before I was able to retire it for a pair of Nikon D4s. Thing was freaking out! But you know, it’s actually a pretty cool effect.

Siyani Chambers put on a show, leading Harvard to their first NCAA basketball tournament win ever (left frame). The second game, at right, was a little tougher. He chipped a tooth in the loss but stayed in the game, trying to will his team to victory. They lost, but what a show of heart.
Siyani Chambers

I don’t know who you are, but girl, you made my day when you made this hilarious face when I was photographing young Mormon women at the LDS Conference Center. Thanks for that look!
LDS young women

Bryce Longaker, a veteran of two deployments to Iraq and a Unified Fire Authority firefighter and medic, is no longer with us. His brother Erik and mother Paula Garner received a standing ovation as they were presented with a posthumous award their loved one had earned through his heroic actions. This was a tough night for his family members, one of many I’m sure. I want to thank them for allowing me to be there. I was honored.

A lighter moment from a family birthday party, where my young niece encouraged the piñata bashers to strike harder. I laughed out loud when she yelled out, “Hit it like it’s a person!”

I continue to be amazed by the FLDS story and the many moments where we’re able to photograph something that previously seemed impossible. This time we were able to tour a home that had been built for Warren Jeffs. I never thought I’d see inside those 10-12 foot high walls.
home built for warren jeffs

Sometimes you can’t believe your good fortune. Like when there’s a flood on Lazy River Drive.
flood on Lazy River Drive

Nikki Breedlove is one of the toughest people I met this year. Hit by a car and suffering a major head injury, she was facing another surgery when we talked. Only later did I find out she used to do my wife’s hair. I hope you’re doing well, Nikki.
Nikki Breedlove

The family of LDS church leader Thomas Monson was grieving their matriarch, Monson’s wife Frances, who passed away earlier this day. Ann Monson Dibb put on a brave face and spent an afternoon talking to various media outlets about the life of her mother. Sadly, we had the last interview of the day and by the time our turn came she seemed drained. Who wouldn’t be? Thanks for taking the time to talk to us on this tough day.
Ann Monson Dibb

Snow Canyon players honored their fallen teammate Kreg “K.J.” Harrison, who drowned last year, by holding his jersey aloft following their championship win. He must be proud of you guys.
Snow Canyon players honored their fallen teammate Kreg K.J. Harrison

These girls eating candy at the state softball championships made my day. I remember all the time I spent at sporting events as a child. My heart is always with the kids hovering around the snack shack.
girls eating candy

Being honored at Westminster College’s graduation, commencement speaker Robert Redford cracked me up with a quick bit of physical comedy, tugging on his collar.
robert redford, westminster college graduation

The tension between the supporters of Matthew Stewart and the supporters of the Odgen Police Department was the most I’ve felt in a long time. There was so much emotion in the air that I felt frustrated as a photojournalist. There seemed to be no way to possibly capture the intensity of the moment. Not in pictures, words, or video. It was a something you could feel more than you could see.
supporters of Matthew Stewart and the supporters of the Odgen Police Department

We were lucky to get some time to photograph in the LDS Church’s Missionary Training Center (MTC). It was a quick ninety minutes so I shot everything I could. Everyone kept staring at me. I stood out from everyone with my camera and beard. But also, everyone was so friendly. I was trying to make a candid shot in this hallway as missionaries walked past portraits of former church leaders when this fresh faced kid went by smiling at the camera. Normally I’d discard such a photo but in this case his reaction says a lot about the MTC, where everyone I saw was very happy and very friendly.
LDS Church's Missionary Training Center (MTC)

It was really cool covering the stocking of nearly 5,000 golden trout into a remote mountain lake. But sometimes I think I should have been a reporter. While I was running around with a bunch of heavy equipment shooting video and stills, the reporter seemed very relaxed with only a small notebook, a GoPro and a fly rod. Someone has their job figured out better than I do.
golden trout in echo lake

The Stadium of Fire. So over the top, year after year. It’s a photographer’s dream assignment.
Stadium of Fire

The Tour of Utah was my highlight of the year. Riding on the back of a motorcycle from Panguitch to Torrey, going in and out of the peloton, was the most thrilling thing ever. These riders are superhuman. We were so close I could have reached out and touched these guys.
Tour of Utah

And as the motorcycle raced along in the Tour of Utah, there were so many amazing scenes as fans lined the route. This is one of my favorite photographs ever. Just look at these cool kids out to cheer on the cyclists with their pots and spoons. You guys are amazing.
fans at Tour of Utah

Before the government shutdown, Senator Mike Lee held a town hall meeting in Spanish Fork. I couldn’t believe my ears when he opened with a joke from Emo Phillips’ 1985 record E=MO2, one of my favorite comedy recordings. The rest of Lee’s material? Whether it was funny or not is up to you to decide.
senator mike lee, town hall meeting in spanish fork

Joshua Petersen was seated alone in the jury box, waiting to plead guilty to killing his infant son. What a tragedy. I took one shot. He heard the camera go off, looked at me, and tears started to pour out of his eyes. He covered his face and put his head in his hands. So sad, and so alone…
Joshua Petersen pleads guilty

This is the view from my desk on Paul Fraughton’s last day at the Tribune. We lost a lot of good journalists this year. I’ve been horrible about keeping in touch – dreadful really – but I miss all those we lost and wish you the best in the future.

The Milky Way over Torrey, Utah. Thanks to the great friends who gave us a place to relax for one weekend, out in the dark, away from the city. It was a wonderful break, at just the right time. Little did I know the government shutdown would keep me working out of town driving hundreds of miles and staying in multiple hotels, for a full week right after this pleasant break.
The Milky Way over Torrey, Utah

This scene, FLDS boys playing on an old tractor, reminded me of a similar one I photographed on my first real trip to Short Creek in 2005. I have a dozen or so frames in both cases that come close to a masterpiece. But it’s hard to capture the magic of a scene from a block or more away. The excitement and frustration from watching scenes like this bring me back to Short Creek time after time. Imagine the photographs I could make if the people didn’t run away when they spotted me.
FLDS boys playing on an old tractor

Utah Attorney General John Swallow spent much of the year under investigation. I shot this one during his historic resignation speech.
Utah Attorney General John Swallow resigns

I was lucky enough to photograph Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Finals (Portland) and the MLS Cup (Kansas City). I came away with tons of great action and celebration shots. But the this one meant the most: RSL coach Jason Kreis with a tear in his eye after the win in Portland.
RSL coach Jason Kreis with a tear in his eye after the win in Portland

We got new cameras in November. They are amazing. I got out before the sun rose one snowy morning and shot this dark scene hand-held. The shot was very popular online, where some readers claimed it had been photoshopped or shot as an HDR image. Actually, this is pretty much how it looked straight out of the Nikon D4. I made only a few minor adjustments to tone, white balance and saturation in Lightroom. Within hours this photo had nearly 600 likes on Facebook but it was never published in the paper.
snow in sugar house, utah

I drove out to the Christiansen Family Farm in Vernon to photograph kids and turkeys. The bacon they gave me was so good I’ll never be able to eat grocery store bacon ever again. Thank you! What a beautiful place. I could have posted a photo of the family or the turkeys, or even the bacon. It was a great assignment with all the right ingredients: good subject, wonderful people, and also my favorite thing… on the way there, lots of open road. There it is…
desert road

Let’s see what the open road brings to all of us in 2014. Best to you all.

Salt Lake City , Utah

Back to Nikon: Week One

IMG 1666
So long to old gear.

That middle finger? It’s not a Nikon vs. Canon thing. It’s about old gear. Nikon and Canon are comparable systems with some of the best cameras ever made in their current lineups. If you’re a good enough photographer that one would be better for your situation, you already know it. Otherwise buy a camera that feels right, has decent reviews, stop reading and start shooting.

You will judged by your photographs, not what you shot them with.

I put all my old gear into a box and turned it in. The decision was made by my employer: I’m switching from Canon to Nikon. I couldn’t be more excited. Using outdated, inferior equipment for so long has been a wound. (For the record: I started with Canon, switched to Nikon, switched to Canon, now to Nikon again.)

Here’s what I’ve learned in the first week with the Nikon D4.

New gear is no magic wand, turning everything into an amazing photograph. First night I went out on a walk expecting to come back with a ton of amazing photos. Didn’t happen. You need good subjects and good situations to make great photographs, not just great equipment. All I got out of that walk was the proof that my 24-70 is razor sharp…

11 11 2013 79
6400 ISO, handheld at 1/25th of a second

Screen Shot 2013 11 16 at 8 51 41 AM
Here’s a 100% section of the above image

11 11 2013 97
And I learned that I could now shoot handheld even in the dark.

Day two I shot a couple of assignments and played around in the park. Lesson learned – the 70-200 is also razor sharp.

11 12 2013 85
detail below

Screen Shot 2013 11 16 at 8 54 15 AM
And a 100% blowup. The sensor is clearly amazing.

11 12 2013 308
These from a walk after my shift, with a 35/2.0 lens I bought in 1998:
11 12 2013 299

Day three

11 13 2013 162
Self-assigned this shot before another assignment

11 13 2013 538
Cathedral choir rehearsal

11 13 2013 432
Then ran down to catch the Jazz win their first game.

At left is the Nikon D4, at right is the same angle showing what I was getting with the Canon Mark IV and my 2005 era 70-200. Big difference in clarity and color, and focus tracking much improved.

Day four:

11 14 2013 881
This with a 14mm, which is much too wide for just about every situation.

11 14 2013 823
200-400 for football. Figured out that it’s much more effective to put your left hand over the top to zoom with that lens.

Day five:

Self-assigned this one.

Screen Shot 2013 11 16 at 9 03 21 AM
Here’s a 100% detail from it.

Day six:


This was the kind of pouring rain and snow that in the past would have forced me to manual focus. The D4’s autofocus never seemed to miss a beat.


Right now my complaints are either common to the D4 or personal preferences I’ll adjust to.

1. LCD screen is not accurate – and green. A known, unfortunate issue. Good thing I shoot everything RAW.
2. No SD card slot. Ouch – I had a great workflow with SD cards, using my MacBook Air’s internal SD reader so I wouldn’t have a card reader dangling off my laptop. I’ll have to figure a good alternative out.
3. Zoom lenses zoom in the opposite direction of the Canon zooms. Even after nine years zooming the other way, it only took a week to train myself to reverse zoom. Working a basketball game was key. The reverse thing on Nikon gear has always been bizarre to me. In second grade I learned the number line, with negative numbers on the left side of zero. Don’t know why Nikon lenses and cameras often put the smnaller numbers on the right.

I think this is going to work out. It’s still early on. It takes time to learn a new camera’s strengths and weaknesses.

Salt Lake City , Utah

Anything Helps

man asleep on grass

people with signs looking for help from passing cars

people with signs looking for help from passing cars

street people crossing the street

Shooting through the windshield was never an option before. I was a photographer interested in sharpness and clarity. I spent my food money on sharp lenses I couldn’t afford and then put them through meticulous tests. I wouldn’t even wear sunglasses, just so I could see the world as the camera did.

Now I’m embracing the distortions of the cheap glass, performing extreme crops, and dragging Lightroom sliders in attempts to recover contrast and color. Perfect technique is sitting in the backseat this year while content is riding shotgun.

Look clearly at what’s going on around you. And welcome to America.

Utah , United States

Roots of the Rocks

You can get a photo that looks like this…
Luke Benson performs at the Roots of the Rocks music festival at the Eagle Point Ski Resort Saturday, June 15, 2013 east of Beaver.

…from a situation that also looks like this…
The Heavy Guilt performs at the Roots of the Rocks music festival at the Eagle Point Ski Resort Saturday, June 15, 2013 east of Beaver

…and walk around this much…

…hoping to spot something like this…

Utah , United States

Tour of Utah – Stage One

Originally published August 20, 2013.

Francisco Kjolseth and I covered the first two stages of the Tour of Utah through the mountains of southern Utah. For stage one my assignment was to shoot the start and then find a beautiful shot along the route to shoot as the riders passed.

I found a killer spot with lots of angles. I had a long sideways shot of the approach and a few other angles as they passed. Also, there was a dead porcupine to keep me company. I was like, why are all those flies hovering around that plant? Oh, it ain’t a plant.

dead porcupine

Here’s my spot and where my cameras were…

As soon as the race came into view, I’d be at position #1 on the photo above and follow this process:
1. Activate the GoPro, which was set to shoot 2 frames per second.
2. Run to the dead porcupine (#2) and shoot long shots of the race with the 600mm lens.
3. Activate a remote SLR, set to shoot five frames every other second.
4. Throw the 600mm lens on the ground and run with lens-less camera to position #3.
5. Put the 16-35mm lens on camera and power on Fuji X100.
6. Shoot the passing race with two cameras simultaneously.

Here’s how it worked out, photo-wise…

1. The Approach – 600mm lens:
Riders on SR-14 during stage one of the Tour of Utah at Brian Head Tuesday August 6, 2013.

2. Passing – 16-35mm lens @ 32mm:
Riders on SR-14 during stage one of the Tour of Utah at Brian Head Tuesday August 6, 2013.

3. Passing, camera two – Fuji X100 @ 23mm (35mm equiv):
Riders on SR-14 during stage one of the Tour of Utah at Brian Head Tuesday August 6, 2013.

4. Passing – Remote – 70-200mm lens at 70mm
Riders on SR-14 during stage one of the Tour of Utah at Brian Head Tuesday August 6, 2013.

5. Leaving – GoPro @16mm equiv:
Riders on SR-14 during stage one of the Tour of Utah at Brian Head Tuesday August 6, 2013.

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