Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fall Foliage on the Fly

It is very much fall here in Northwest Arkansas. I've shot photos of fall color several times in the last few days. I've probably overshot it at this point, but it's not going to be around for much longer so I might as well take advantage of it.

With this photo I wanted something where color was the main attraction and the person was secondary. At first I wished the woman in the photo had been bigger in the frame, but I kind of like how quiet the photo becomes with the woman so small compared to the trees.

I framed this a couple of different ways before I decided on this angle. I've been trying to think differently when I shoot, which is why I shot the next picture.

This photo is my attempt to channel Richard Sintchak. I'm not sure how successful I was, but you know what they say about imitation. If you haven't visited his site, Shooting on the Fly, I highly recommend that you do. It is such a great concept for a blog. His photography is very different than what I shoot, but it's so good. I really like seeing what he comes up with everyday.

So once your finished visiting Richard's blog, I have more music for you. A few weeks ago I wrote a little something about The Postal Service. I didn't know much about them other than half of the duo is the lead singer from Death Cab For Cutie, Ben Gibbard. Well, the other day a co-worker who read my blog loaned me a CD of the guy that makes up the other half of The Postal Service.

So I took a break (just a little one) from the continuous "Continuum" loop I've been on, and I gave Dntel (aka Jimmy Tamborello) a listen. It was interesting. Some of it was good, and some of it was just odd. It's kind of atmospheric, electronic music, which can sometimes take time to build. You can really hear how much influence Dntel had on The Postal Service. Overall I liked it, but its definitely something you put on the background while reading or something. Here are a couple of notable tracks:

Fear of Corners.mp3 by Dntel
Fireworks.mp3 by Dntel

And Ben Gibbard makes an appearance on (This Is) The Dream Of Evan And Chan.mp3

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween Happenings

Over the weekend I covered three different fall festivals. When did people stop saying Halloween party? Anyway, the first one I went to at was a non-profit preschool's party, and I really wanted to shoot something good.

I thought this ended up being kind of nice. I think there was a better photo to be had if I worked the situation a little differently, but I still like it.

No costumes in this one. This was at my second fall festival, and the juggler was part of the entertainment. There is a juggler at pretty much every event at the center this was held at, the Jones Center for Families, but I thought the vibrant colors and the framing made this work.

And with this photo, I just thought it was kind of funny that kids were dressing up like Mitch Mustain, the University of Arkansas quarterback. Imagine being 18 years old and having little children dress up as you for Halloween. In fact, when he was a senior at Springdale High School, I think I remember kids already dressing up as Mitch. Crazy.

And a little update: I ditched EZArchive and uploaded the music to my web site. I'm not sure why I just didn't do that in the first place, but all the mp3 links on this page should work now. I'll still keep removing the music links once the post falls off the front page, but now that I have more space I can upload more music at once. We'll see if this works any better.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Roller Girls

I shot a Rollergirls roller derby practice recently, and the story and photos come out in the newspaper I work for tomorrow.

With all the action going on, this photo of one of the girls stretching her legs before practice was my favorite. I'm not sure what that says about everything else I shot. I spent most of my time battling the light. The roller rink was so dark. I used an off-camera flash to light her legs, and a remote flash sitting on the rink floor aimed at the back wall to make this shot. It was all down hill from there.


By the way, EZArchive, the site I use to share my mp3s, is going through a system upgrade, so most likely all the music on this page doesn't work. I've looked at their new interface and tried to upload a few songs to share today, but it wasn't working right. Its needlessly complicated and annoying, so I may switch service in the next few days. Sorry.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Kids are the Devil

I'm so over kids-- their sticky, tiny hands grabbing everything; their nonsensical, unending banter; their crying; their screaming-- I don't see why people are still having these.

So when I went to get a fall photo of people picking out pumpkins, I was dead set on not shooting a child. I stuck with a pair of grown-ups looking for their first pumpkin together. But the entire time there was this kid behind them, circling the pumpkin patch like a shark, waiting to make his kill. "I know you want to shoot me," he seemed to say with each carefree laugh and playful kick of the tiny pumpkins. Ugh, I couldn't resist. I swear that kid was the devil.

I shot the couple for like five minutes. I shot maybe four frames of the kid. Guess which photo got into today's newspaper.

Photographer Tip #17: Shooting kids is like shooting fish in a barrel. You'll never miss, but you'll also die a little inside each time you shoot one.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Something Beautiful

So on Saturday I had to go to a lake clean up. It was early, the leaves were changing color and the sun was shining brightly off the water. Even though it was pictures of people picking up trash, I really wanted to shoot something pretty and scenic.

This is the best I could come up with. The color is nice, and the people picking up the trash are framed well between the trees, but I'm not sure if I succeeded. It's OK I guess.

But don't worry, you won't go away without something beautiful. I finally got my hands on the new John Mayer CD, Continuum. I was so unsure if I would like it before, but now I can't believe I ever doubted the genius that is John Mayer. This kind of music is so what I need right now. I've only heard the entire CD a couple of times, but the early stand out is "Stop This Train." It's inspiringly beautiful. Definitely check this one out.

Stop This Train.mp3 by John Mayer

Friday, October 20, 2006

What? Me? Oh My Gawd!

So today I was assigned to shoot the crowning of a local high school's homecoming queen. Oddly, even though a police officer was shot in our area today, the news desk editor assured me they wanted this photo to be the dominant element in tomorrow's paper.

I wasn't super excited about it, but as it turned out there was some nice evening light and I think I got a decent photo. As far as crownings go, I mean.

"What? Me? Oh My Gawd!"

What was funny about this was the identity of the queen was a secret, not to be announced until all the girls were lined up on the field (for optimal embarrassment for the losers). I had wanted to get something candid of the queen before hand, so while I hung out with the candidates in the staging area I managed to get one of the teachers to tell me the winner's name. I didn't want to give away who the winner was, so I ended up shooting a bunch of random, often out of focus shots of the "losers" getting ready as well, just to keep up the charade.

At one point I caught one of the girls off guard. She said something about if she wins I couldn't use that photo. Don't worry, I thought, you won't win.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Small Town Fare

Just a couple of scenes from the small-town circuit I was covering this weekend.

Yes, that's a mule jumping over a hurdle. It's the annual Mule Jump, held in the Mule Jumping Capital of the World, Pea Ridge, Ark. I was surprised how many people showed up. I was also surprised their were amateur and professional categories to compete in. I wonder if the pro mules are all juiced up and branded with endorsements?

From a Build-A-Scarecrow event in Rogers, Ark. Rogers isn't as small as Pea Ridge, but the event had a very small-town feel. I thought this picture was kind of funny. I'm also easily amused.

And kitty says, NO PHOTOS! Damn paparazzi trying to put my business in the news...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Shopping For CDs (or why I don't buy CDs)

So the other day I went CD shopping. I (finally) got some birthday money in the form of a Target gift card, and I was dead set on picking up some new music. I've had my eye on a few CDs I've kind of wanted for a while. I didn't want them enough to buy them on my own, but enough to buy them with free CD money.

Armed with my Target gift card, I headed straight to Barnes and Noble. That's where I go to listen to and preview all my music, but I never buy. Why pay an extra $5 at Barnes and Noble when Target and Wal-Mart have the same CD at an everyday low price?

Anyway, here are some of the highlights (and lowlights) that I found while I was out:

"The Dutchess" by Fergie

Don't laugh. I didn't buy this. Don't judge me.

That said, I've had a morbid curiosity about this CD since that damn London Bridge song came out. When I first heard it I thought the song was an annoying mess, but sadly the continuous radio play and trampy video wore away at my musical taste. It's the same thing that happened with that damn Nelly Furtado song over the summer. It's like musical candy...sweet, sticky, slutty candy that will only make you sick if you consume too much. While I made the mistake of buying Ms. Furtado's CD, I saved myself from the same fate here. Besides, there's only one song worth anything on this CD. I swear, sometimes my musical tastes too closely resemble that of a 13-year-old girl.

London Bridge.mp3

"A Beautiful Lie" by 30 Seconds to Mars

Speaking of underage teens, this CD was recommended to me by an actual 13-year-old girl. I scored coolness points with her because I had heard of the band before, but I'm sure I quickly lost them all when she found out how old I was.

The CD isn't that bad. Their single is pretty radio friendly, but the CD has too much of an angsty, "I'm only listening to this because I'm mad at my parents" kind of vibe. Plus I'm not sure how I feel about a band fronted by pretty-boy actor and wanna-be rocker Jared Leto. It does, however, have a really cool Bjork cover as one of the hidden tracks. I'm not a huge Bjork fan, but the song is worth a listen.


"The Eraser" by Thom Yorke

I never really got into Radiohead (that's blasphemy in some musical circles). But when their lead singer ventured out on his own for this solo CD, I thought it might be worth a listen. It's actually kind of cool, very moody, electronic and minimalistic. The track below, The Clocks, really drew me in.

I think I might like this CD. If that's true, maybe I'd like Radiohead if I gave them a fair chance. A lot of bands I already listen to are often compared to Radiohead. Part of the reason I never got into them is because I kind of disowned popular music during the time they started making a name for themselves. I was too busy listen to Yanni CDs in the back of a school bus on the way to marching band competitions to be concerned with Radio Head.

The Clocks.mp3

"Live: The Concert Event" by Yanni

Speaking of Yanni, can you believe this guy is still making CDs? Who is buying these? More importantly, who is going to these live Yanni concerts, making it possible for him to make another live CD?

I'll admit, 1994's "Live at the Acropolis" was a defining musical experience for me. And as I learned from attending the Immigration rallies earlier this year, Hispanics love Yanni, so I'm not alone. But I'm kind of over all that.

I didn't really consider buying this, but I was kind of tickled that it was there. And it was kind of nice to reminisce when I saw that some of my former favorite songs made it on his latest live set. Yes, I just blogged about Yanni. The nerdy 9th-grade trombone player in me sends his regards.


"Break Out The Battle Tapes" by Wired All Wrong

What-the-what, by the who? That's what I thought. I had never heard of them before I saw their CD out for preview. It was a random selection, but it sounded really different and cool. I didn't buy it (they didn't have it at Target), but I seriously may go back and pick it up. Maybe there is a reason to shop at Barnes and Noble.

You're Freaking Me Out Girl.mp3

15 Minutes.mp3

"The Last Kiss: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" by Various Artists

The movie "Garden State" was a great film and had a superior soundtrack. With a collection of songs put together by Zach Braff, the soundtrack introduced me to some great artists I had never heard of, such as Frou Frou (Imogen Heap), Nick Drake and The Shins.

Now that Zach is out with another movie and another hand-picked soundtrack, I was excited to see what new artists I would meet. Unfortunately it's a lot of the same. The "Garden State" soundtrack so directed my musical tastes that much of what is on this new soundtrack I am already know about or own. Here are a couple of my favorites from the new soundtrack. I really like the Snow Patrol. The more of their music I hear, the more I like them. Maybe I should pick up their CD.

Chocolate.mp3 by Snow Patrol

Paper Bag.mp3 by Fiona Apple

"Continuum" by John Mayer

Being that my blog is named after a John Mayer song (Room For Square's 3x5), I of course was very interested in checking out his new CD.

He's always had a bluesy-groove kind of feel to some of his music, but he really revels in that sound with his latest release. All of his songs were good, but overall there wasn't a track that made me excited about the CD as a whole. I still might go back and pick this up because I'm sure I'd enjoy it. For now I'll just let these two roll around in my head.

Waiting on the World to Change.mp3


So in the end, what I really should have asked for was an itunes gift card. I'll know better next time. But for now I've got a great mix CD that should hold me over until the new Damien Rice CD comes out next month. I can't wait.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gellin' Like A Felon

Why did I ever stop using gels in the first place?

I remember there was a period last year where I was the Magellan of the photo staff, using colored gels on every sports portrait I shot each week. It was admittedly a bit overkill, which may have been why I stopped, but I thought the result was always nice.

Now this isn't the greatest sports portrait in the world, but it's world's better than the ones I have been shooting lately. The difference? Gels of course. Not only does it force you to use a second light (always a plus), but it totally turns a boring background into something cool and interesting.

It also didn't hurt that I actually thought about and planned out my lighting scheme before I went to shoot the portrait. Imagine that. Not that I don't think about portraits before I shoot them. I always try and plan ahead, but I rarely have a chance to test them out or get feedback before the fact. Photographer extraordinaire Zac Lehr, seen here, graciously posed for me in the photo room and gave me a little input.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Wal-Mart Is So Gay

I was between assignments the other day and I found these people outside a local Wal-Mart, protesting what they see as Wal-Mart's pro-gay policies. (As a side note, I really love when Wal-Mart protestors use a sad smiley face with their signs. It makes me smile.)

A little background: The newspaper I work for did a story about Wal-Mart joining some Gay/Lesbian Chamber of Commerce a few weeks ago, and people just went crazy. The story has had over 1,100 comments on the paper's web site to date.

My brother works for Wal-Mart and tells me things about how they operate, so I have my own opinion about the company. It seems to me Wal-Mart is doing this just so they can market to the gays and take more of their money, not so they can actually help or support their lifestyle. But who knows. If they come out with a smiley face that looks like this:

then we'll know their real agenda.

Hmm, I think I now have a front runner for my Halloween costume: the gay smiley. It would kill! Now if I can get someone to dress up as Lee Scott and make out with me all night...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Me and My Shadow

So this morning I had to get up at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. to shoot a charity bike race for the newspaper. I was not happy, but I figured it would give me a chance to play a little with the morning light.

I didn't necessarily intend to shoot a silhouette this morning, but I was desperately trying to avoid my shadow. Yesterday and all day today, it has been trying to worm its way into my images.

Photographer Tip #64: Always know where you are in relation to your remote flash.

Is my posture really that bad? Good lord, it looks like I need to be locked up in a bell tower or something.

In bad segue news, I finally pushed past the Regina Spektor portion of the CD my brother burned for me a few weeks ago, and I am exploring some new music. I'm really digging on the Koufax he included. They are a little indie band from the Midwest, and their stuff is pretty cool. Poppy, catchy and fun, it's worth checking out. These are from their CD Social Life, which came out a few years ago.

Let Us Know.mp3
Bright Side.mp3
Younger Body, Older Soul.mp3

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Saying Goodbye (or Songs for Saddoes)

I was very fortunate last night to spend some time with the family that is the subject of an ongoing story for the newspaper. Dad's in the Army National Guard and he left for his Iraq deployment today, and last night they let me spend some time with them at home and sit in on their last meal as a family.

For the record. I didn't eat with them. There's something just a little too intimate about sharing a meal with someone, and as much as I like the family (I do really like the family, the kids are so great) I try to keep those work boundaries in place. I wouldn't want to alter the expectations of the family every time I visit.

So today they deployed and it was sad and all, but for the most part the immediate family (mom and kids) held it together pretty well. Which means I held it together pretty well (emotionally, photographically I was just all over the place). It wasn't until the first bus left and my subjects went home that I began to lose it. For whatever reason, the second bus of soldiers left about half an hour later, giving me some time to shoot different people for the news section, while saving the photos I took of my family for the project I'm working on.

That's where this woman and her three kids came in. I had a really hard time taking her photo, because she was just so devastated. While most family member tried to hold back tears, she went to a full on sob during one of her hugs goodbye. When her kids started crying I had to take a few steps back or I would have lost it.

Yeah I'm kind of a weenie. I get emotional and kind of enjoy the good cry now and then. So on my way home I played DJ in my car and played a line up of songs to kind of revel in the sadness during the half-hour drive back to the office. These aren't the greatest sad songs or anything, but they were the best sad songs I had in my car. Clearly the Brits are the go-to guys if you're looking for a little gloom.

1) Trouble by Coldplay - This was my actually my favorite sad song in college. When things got tough, I'd lock myself in my editor's office at the campus paper and listen to it on a continuous loop. Pathetic, I know.
2) Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap - I was a little put off by the minimalisticness of this song at first, but now it's what I love about it. I think it was used in some cheesy Fox teen drama when someone died, but I won't hold that against Heap.
3) Lately by David Gray - I was actually looking for his earlier CD, "White Ladder," which is chock full of depressing songs, but all I could find in my car was his most recent CD, "Life in Slow Motion." The man knows sad, so any CD of his will do.
4) You Turn Me Round by Aqualung - I probably had more time in the car to add one or two more songs to the list, but I got stuck on this one. It's so fantastically beautiful, and of course gloomy and sad.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Such Great Heights

So I've been to the Life Adventure Center in Springdale several times, but I've never been motivated enough to climb to the top of the tower. Today, however, I had exhausted every shot I could get from the ground and finally made my way to the top.

Though I cheated and used the ladder built into the back to get up, it was still kind of scary. The rungs of the ladder were pretty spread out, and the combination of pants and short legs didn't help. Plus the tower would shake a little when a strong gust of wind blew. But this shot was much better then what I shot on the ground.

Oh, and on an unrelated note, this is for you Denise:

Be Be Your Love by Rachael Yamagata

You know, because you like the song, not because I want to be be your anything. Now I'm gonna have it stuck stuck in my head all night.