Friday, September 29, 2006

Bikes, Booze and Blogging News

The annual Bikes, Blues and BBQ rally has invaded Fayetteville. I really could have done without it this year, but nobody really checked with me on this one.

There was something significant about today though. Today is the first day I blogged for my newspaper. The newspaper's blog went live with the start of the rally, and in the middle of my first day of shooting the rally I posted a couple of pics.

Now one of the reason I started 3x5 was to get used to writing and updating a blog. I wish more people on our staff had done that, because it is obvious that some of the people posting don't really know what a blog is.

As of now I'm not a fan, mostly because Blogger is so pretty, and our newspaper's blog is kind of rigid and ugly. But also, we have a set of rules we have to follow, which include such gems as "stay on topic," "don't post personal opinions," and "don't insult anyone." How can they send me to a biker rally and not expect me to make fun of someone?

Now these people I actually liked. Their clothing choices may be kind of crazy, but there was something wonderful about them. I just had to stop them to include them in a slideshow I was making. When I told the woman I thought they looked fantastic, she jokingly replied "Then I have serious questions about your photographic eye." If I had a nickel for every time I heard that...

And I just loved this picture. The lead singer, at right, was walking through the crowd for a little audience participation. Its obvious she is not impressed with the white girl who thinks she can sing.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Home For Now

So last night was kind of bittersweet. These are from a late night return of an Army National Guard unit that had been away for training the last three months. Everyone was so excited they got to see their loved ones again. It was only a four day leave though, and the family members were very aware that after the four days were over, the soldiers would be shipped out again, this time for a year overseas to Iraq.

The family I have been following for the newspaper thankfully told me all about this. The date and time of the soldiers' return changed so many times, but they kept me up to date. Here they are above pointing out dad on the bus.

And here they are reunited.

It all went so fast. I expected them to get into formation when they got off the bus, or that they'd have to report or check out at the armory or something. But as soon as they got off the bus, their families immediately swooped them away. I shot a few frames of the family for the photo story, then went to shoot some other families for the next days' paper. I was gone maybe three minutes, but when I went back to look for the family, they had already packed up and headed home.

I'll be checking in on them over the next four days. The story is really about the family without dad, so I don't think I need a whole lot from their long weekend together. And for the record, I am happy with the way the first part of the series came out now, and I think the black and white really worked.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Patience Pays Off

So today I was dead set on shooting something blog worthy, and with my last assignment I finally did. I was shooting at the local Boys and Girls Club for a story on non-profits that benefit from an annual biker festival each year. I really wanted to shoot something clean and graphic.

With the top photo the hard part was waiting for the gym floor to clear at the same time the boy was lined up with the cutouts on the wall in the back. The photo from the rock wall on the right took a little longer. The light was falling on what apparently was the hardest section of the wall. I was worried the light would shift off the wall before someone actually made it to the top, but finally this girl did. I had a picture of her reaching into the light that I liked too, but I thought this one, where she is descending and silhouetted by the light, was cooler.

In other news...

My brother sent me some MP3's over the weekend, and I have really gone crazy over one song in particular. Every so often there are songs that I just go totally gay for. I listen to them repeatedly over and over- in the car, on my computer, at work, at night before I go to bed, in the morning when I wake up- I just can't stop myself. In the last year there have been two songs that reached that level, "Mushaboom" by Feist, and "Not About Love" by Fiona Apple (the leaked, bootleg version). Now I have a third: "Us," by Regina Spektor.

Like Feist, "Us" has a totally trippy, awesome video. Like Fiona, its heavy on the strings and piano. All three are kind of weird, whimsical and random. It clearly takes very little to amuse me. Listen first, judge me later.

1) Us by Regina Spektor
2) Mushaboom by Feist
3) Not About Love by Fiona Apple

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sportrait Woes

I don't know what it is about sports portraits.

They happen every week and I should really be prepared for them by now, but every week when I shoot one I always feel lost, confused, rushed and very much like I have no idea what I'm doing. This week in particular I have no excuse. One of the portrait's I had to shoot was of a football player who has been trying to put on weight. An illness made him drop 20 pounds during the summer, so he's spent the last few months trying to get back to his football playing weight. It seemed like a perfect time to "borrow" a portrait idea I saw on another photographer's photoblog recently.

Ken Ritchie shot this for a story on an old weight lifter. I didn't want it to be exactly the same, but in the same spirit. Of course mine ended up looking nothing like his. While his was well lit, tight and super clean and engaging, mine was typical me: kinda cluttered and loose with odd lighting and questionable focus.

Foiled again. Don't worry Ken, I will harness the power of your portraits soon enough.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Saturday Night Lights

So I'm back in good ol' Fayetteville, Ark., but not before a stop at my only scheduled destination, Tulsa.

While there I visited my former roommate Jeff, now a law school student, and got to watch the University of Tulsa beat up on my Alma Mater, the University of North Texas. It was good times. I had fun hanging with Jeff and his new law school friends. I thought it was kind of funny that some of his new friends had striking similarities to his old friends in Fayetteville: A fun, witty girl named Sarah, a party girl who likes to drink named Kristen and a Jewish guy that likes to cook named Zac. I don't know if I should be honored or offended that there wasn't a short, quiet guy named Michael in the mix.

I didn't take many picture the last two days. Tulsa was kind of uninspiring for me. I was also dead tired. I turned what should have been a six hour trip from St. Louis to Tulsa into a 14 hour nightmare. I left St. Louis about midnight, got tired after an hour, pulled over and fell asleep in my car behind a gas station for three hours, drove another hour, pulled over and slept in my car in a veterans home parking lot for about 3 more hours, then rushed to make it Tulsa in time. We went out to a bar during and after the game, and I was falling asleep at the table by about 10 p.m.

The only good thing about being in the car for so long was it gave me plenty of time to become familiar with my new CD. I promise this is the last time I will blog about Muse for a while, but the concert was just so good it's all that's been on my mind. During the concert they played a fair amount of songs from their previous CD, Absolution. They were all fantastic, so before I left St. Louis I picked up their previous CD. Here's a couple that were particularly exciting to hear live. Did I mention how much fun I had at the Muse concert?

Apocalypse Please.mp3
Butterflies and Hurricanes.mp3

OK, time to pop open the wine I bought in Altus. Seems like a fitting way to end this random week.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Rockin' The MUSE-um

This trip is wearing me out.

In addition to not going to bed before 3 a.m. the last three nights, I spend a majority of my time getting lost on the unforgiving streets and highways of St. Louis. If you miss an exit or, God forbid, you take the wrong exit just say goodbye to the next half hour.

So today I tried to take it easy with a trip to the St. Louis Museum of Art. It was fantastic. One of my favorite things was watching as they worked on installing an exhibit in one of their large display rooms. I loved watching the curator (in black at right) direct and change her mind and try different things out as the two gloved workers dragged pieces of art from one side of the room to another. I got one shot off before some security guard said stop, because photos of the installation process was a security risk.

They did, however, let me take pictures pretty much every where else in the museum. There were so many interesting things to see. I spent way too long in there. Unfortunately by the time I left, the zoo next door had closed. I really wanted to go to the zoo. It is, according to them, the best zoo in America. Oh well.

I particularly liked this piece, "The Mississippi," painted by artist John Steuart Curry in 1935. It seemed particularly poignant with the recent Katrina anniversary. They should move this painting over to the Oval Office.

So last night I went to the Muse concert. It was so fantastic I can't even describe. They opened with Knights of Cydonia, and they just nailed it. It was big and bold and fantastically over the top. And at the high point of the song the lights blared as they writhed on the floor hammering out the guitar riffs. By the time the first song was over I was blind and deaf and absolutely floored. It was great.

Unfortunately I couldn't take pictures there, so instead I give you a pictorial representation, courtesy of the St. Louis Museum of Art.

Me with a constant grin as I arrive. Before the show started I kept saying over and over to myself (and sometimes to people standing next to me), "I can't believe I'm at the Muse concert!"

Me after the opening act still hadn't come on 20 minutes after the show was suppose to start. "I am not amused," I thought.

"I can't hear you!"
Lead singer of the opening act, The Like, using her sexuality to trick the crowd into liking her music.

Me bored after The Likes' fourth song. They weren't bad, but the whole we're-girls-and-we-rock thing got kind of old pretty quick. And they weren't Muse.

Muse takes the stage and lead singer Matthew Bellamy stands under the bright lights ready to rock.

My reaction when Muse started playing. I was giddy with excitement.

Lead singer Matthew Bellamy wails and shrieks over the power chords in "Knights of Cydonia."

Me and the rest of the crowd start dancing as they play "Supermassive Black Hole."

Clapping along to the drum beat of "Starlight." The audience was surprisingly on beat. Usually when you get a large group of people together trying to clap to a rhythm they fail horribly.

My brain exploding in my head when they start playing "Take A Bow." It's the song I wanted to hear most, but when they had completed their set and were already in their third encore song I was afraid they weren't going to play it. But they saved the best for last.

I would really like to stay in St. Louis a little longer. I feel I haven't even cracked the surface of this city. But I should probably start heading back south if I am going to make it to Tulsa tomorrow afternoon. It's only about 5 or 6 hours I think, so I guess I could do it all tomorrow. I just don't know if I want to be in the car for that long in one day. Again. I guess I'll just play it by ear tonight.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Meet Me in St. Louis

So there's a whole bunch of stuff I could say about St. Louis, but who cares anymore. During my four-hour, middle-of-the-night drive here from Memphis I kind of regretted heading this way, but that is no more. Why?


I went online to see what was going on in St. Louis this morning. That's when I saw that tonight, the band Muse was playing. I was even more excited when I realized it wasn't sold out. I quickly bought my ticket online. It's all I've been able to think about all day.

The reason for this whole random trip is because I asked for time off to go to the Austin City Limits music festival, which starts tomorrow. When the line up came out, there was no one I was really dying to see. I dragged my feet buying tickets, and before I knew it they were sold out. Later I would come to discover Muse, who was added late to the lineup, and for the last few weeks I have regretted not buying a ticket.

You may never hear from me again, because when Muse plays Take A Bow tonight my head will probably explode. That songs blows me away. I can't believe I get to see Muse!

Anyway, more photos from the arch:

A view from the top

The scary pod you have to ride to get there. One of my recurring nightmares is getting trapped in an elevator that starts moving sideways, diagonal and upside down. This was about as close as I want to get to that again.

And some more black and whites. This is a line of people waiting to load their pods and descend back down.

An older couple holds hands while they leave the park.

The Man With The Horsehead Steals Our Hearts

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Walking in Memphis

There are a couple of things I've learned in the last few days:

1) It is harder than I thought to find a reliable wireless connection. Either that or my computer sucks
2) My computer sucks
3) I'm not that big a fan of Elvis, BBQ or even blues music
4) I over tip like crazy
5) $350 is nothing if you plan on staying in a hotel for four nights. For the next week beds, showers and continental breakfasts are so overrated as far as I'm concerned.

I've made my way to Memphis, Tenn. After a quick stop at an art museum (they didn't let me take pictures AND the photography exhibits listed in their brochures were both closed- why do they hate me?), I headed downtown.

That's where I met this man. I forgot what his real name is (Ernest maybe), but he said everybody calls him "Shine." Obviously because he goes around downtown shining the business man's shoes all day. I like the top photo, as Shine is greeting one of his loyal customers. Its got a very haves-and-have-nots kinda feel. Although Shine said he makes over $100 a day shining shoes, so I'm not too worried about him.

In addition to letting me follow him around for a bit, Shine also lead me over to Beale Street. Lots of bars, lots of BBQ, lots of blues music, and lots of gift shops with merchandise stamped with pictures of pigs, guitars and Elvis heads.

But I wanted a photo of something kind of clean from Beale Street, something more artsy and pretentious. There was this pub with great green shutters against an orange wall that I loved. At first I just shot it with no people, but I thought it looked too artsy and pretentious, so I added tourists to it.

But don't worry, there's still artsy and pretentious photos to be had. I give you some dramatic black and whites.

Memphis is alright, but I don't think I'll spend much more time here. I saw a couple of road signs on the interstate for cities I might have a little more fun in. Where I go next just depends on how far I want to drive I guess. Where every I go, I'm definitely not waking up in Memphis tomorrow. And I'm probably not going to wake up in a bed either.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Man With No Plan

I've turned off my cell phone, shoved a whole bunch of clothes into the largest bag I have and picked up a brand new road map at Wal-Mart. Time to get my vacation on.

The fun part is, I don't know where I'm going. Through a series of pointless events, I ended up with a week off from work with no place to go. Rather then save the vacation time or just sit home, I am leaving town and not coming back for a week. There are a few restrictions, but every good game has rules, right?

1. I have to be in Tulsa Saturday afternoon - Well, not have to be, but I agreed to go to the Tulsa/UNT game to watch my Alma Mater, the Mean Green, get killed on the football field. It's the only destination that is planned. The rest is wide open

2. I can only spend $350, roughly the amount of my last mileage check.

3. I have to go somewhere I've never been.

So my first stop was a little place called Altus. It isn't all that unusual for someone from Northwest Arkansas to go down to Arkansas wine country for a visit, but I had never been. I was on my way east with no real destination, saw a sign and figured I might as welll stop.

I had some wine, went up and visited this hill top Catholic Church and then continued on my way. I'm in North Little Rock right now, trying to blog off of someone's open wireless connection in some randon suburb. From here I'll continue east to Memphis, or maybe head south to Louisiana. Decisions, decisions.

Going Postal

So last night I had planned on blogging some images from a Sept. 11 memorial I attended. After I shot it I wasn't as impressed as I had hoped to be with my images, but planned to post something anyway just to keep me honest.

Then the digital Gods intervened. Half way through another assignment my card stopped working. I thought the card was just full (I shot football on it the other night and figured I must have forgot to reformat). I switched cards, shot the last few frames of an assignment and went back to the office.

There I found out the disk wasn't full, but damaged. The computer couldn't read the disk and our substandard image recovery software had found nothing after about an hour. I was angered.

So I called the news desk to let them know. They seemed pretty uninterested. Apparently they thought the event had been cancelled and weren't expecting photos. When they got the story they just layed it out with no photos, so hearing there were no photos for the story was a relief because now they wouldn't have to redesign their pages. Glad I could help I guess.

But you're not going away empty handed. I have some new music for you.

Well, it's not new, but new to me. The Postal Service is a side project for Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard. He and some other even less famous guy put out the CD in 2003. They also do a lot of unimpressive remixes of random songs. Despite that, I had heard one of their songs, Such Great Heights, on some random blog and loved it. There is also a cover version by a group called Iron and Wine, which was featured on the Garden State soundtrack and that trippy M&M commercial with the waves of colorful candy.

While I had fully intended on checking out their complete CD, I hadn't picked it up until last week. It is fantastic. Here's a sampling of some of the highlights. Enjoy.

The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.mp3
We Will Become Silhouettes.mp3
Natural Anthem.mp3

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Back in Black (& White)

For the first time since I was in college, I turned in a photo project in black and white.

Why? Good question.

I shot this story about a family who's dad/husband was deployed to Iraq. I thought I would follow them around and photograph their lives for a while. The mom works a fulltime job, is going back to college and has three school-aged children. It seemed rich with possibilities.

Some where along the way, I apparently lost my focus. I felt like I was hitting all the important events, but when I looked back at what I shot each day, I always felt like I was missing something. There was more there than what my images were showing.

In the end, it all looked like a collection of average images. Very surface level. I felt like I had missed what I was going for. So how do you make an average image more moving and artistic? Make it black and white.

For the record, I had contemplated making it a black and white project after my first day with the family. At the same time I hate when photographers present black and white projects when they could have just as easily done them in color.

I think some of the images may have been helped: No distracting colors to draw you away from the subjects in the image. Overall I'm not sure if it made the project any better.

When is a good time to shoot a black and white project? I'm not sure I see the value in it. I'm calling this an experiment. I tried it, and I'm not sure I'm impressed.

In case anyone is interested, I made a soundslides of the project. Its just audio from an interview with the mom over a lot of photos. Probably too many, but I had a hard time cutting down the audio. Let me know what you think. I would love to get some feedback. Any suggestions on what I could have done to make it better?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Pig Foooie!

Razorback fans scare me.

Anyone that would resort to covering their body in paint and actually scream "Pig Soooie" from the top of their lungs to support (rather than mock) a team clearly has issues. I hate the Hog call. I hate huge crowds of people. I really hate huge crowds of people doing the Hog call. It was so loud on the field I thought my head was going to explode.

That being said, there were a few things I enjoyed about shooting the first University of Arkansas football game. First, they lost. Badly. And I get an odd satisfaction when I see sad Razorback fans moping about after a nice hard defeat. ("Yes! Oh, let me taste your tears, Scott! Your tears are so yummy and sweet! Oh, the tears of unfathomable sadness...")

Second, young football star Mitch Mustain got a rousing ovation when he was finally put in the game, then went on to score a touchdown. While I try not to get attached to photo subjects, people I meet on the job or just people in general, I've grown fond of this Mustain kid after covering him during his high school campaign. I hope he does well.

And third, I finally got a little head-to-head slide show action. I like working at a newspaper in a competitive market. While I get to see what photos our competition comes up with when we shoot the same event, I've never been able to compare audio/photo slide shows. These slide shows are new to both papers, and this is the first time we've made one at the same event. While they had one photographer dedicated solely to making their slide show (my excuse), I gathered sound on the fly while shooting the entire game for the next days paper.

You can compare and contrast by seeing The Morning News slide show here, and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette slide show here.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

DW-I Got Nothing

So last night after I shot my first high school football game of the year (is it basketball season yet?), I had to go out to Middle-Of-No-Where, Arkansas, and take pictures of police pulling over drunk drives at a DWI checkpoint. They didn't actually arrest anyone for drunk driving at the checkpoint, but they did pull several people over for having no insurance/license/common sense.

This photo, for some reason or another, I kinda like. I'm not sure if its really cool and dramatic (with the cool angle, bold crop, blurred hands showing motion and the driver freaking out in the background) or if its just a big mess (with the bad angle, awkward crop, blurry hands showing I can't focus and the not-drunk-but-possibly-misleading-looking-drunk driver in the background).

I had other stuff (safer stuff) from the assignment I turned in as well, but this was the only one that really stood out and seemed interesting and different to me. Maybe I just need to cut back on the diet Mountain Dew.