Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bah! Humbug!

I don't know when I turned into such a Grinch, but this year I've had very little Christmas spirit. The overdose of Santa appearances, toy giveaways and all the other holiday hoopla I'm been sent out to cover everyday doesn't seem to help.

I was talking with another photographer about Christmas and comparing notes on how many times we've shot Santa this year (I'm in second place with five published Santa pics). After a failed attempt to get out of shooting another holiday event, the other photographer asked me why I was so uninterested in the assignment.

"I guess I just don't like...Christmas," I said, kind of surprised myself at the words coming out of my mouth. He understood though. He said shooting Christmas this and Santa that over and over can make you numb to the whole mood of the season. No kidding. I'm usually in a foul mood at these events, trying to make images that convey the opposite emotion. I'm always nice. I smile. I return the obligatory holiday greetings, but in the end I'm trying to get in and out as soon as possible and escape the gathering of happy children and bad Christmas music.

My lack of holiday spirit really became obvious to me when I was shooting The Nutcracker rehearsals. We actually have two ballet companies in Corpus Christi, and they both put on their own version of the holiday show. By the time I shot my second one, with video and on a tight deadline, I was in no mood for fun. At one point I almost lost it as a little girl struggled to spell her own name to me. I shoved my notepad in front of her and said, "Here. Write it, and FAST!"

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I only have to try and make happy Christmas images for a couple of more days. Hopefully I can keep my inner Scrooge at bay. I'm pretty sure, though, no matter how well I fake it I'm going to get a lump of coal in my stocking this year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Recently, we all huddled into a staff meeting as "Scripps 3.0" was unveiled to the newsroom. Basically its our parent company's new initiatives to improve the quality and profitability of all the newspapers in the E.W. Scripps chain. The good news is the plan is journalism focused. Its about looking at improving our daily product and focusing on community journalism, not slashing and trimming the news to death. More good news it that much of the organizational initiatives were modeled after things we were doing at the Caller-Times, so there will be no massive shake up as far as jobs. Job descriptions, however, have changed. We are no longer "reporters" and "photographers." Now we are all "Multimedia Journalists."

Yeah, I know. Anyone who's worked in a newsroom the last five years has probably heard this before. I myself was a bit skeptical. I've been told several times (at more than one paper) that its time to be web focused. Usually I get all excited and try to immerse myself in multimedia. Unfortunately after a month or so everyone goes back to being reporters and photographers, and no one seems to want to invest the time or resources needed to do good multimedia. This time, it may be different. I'm told everyone in the newsroom is going to be held accountable for doing their share of videos, web updates, blogs, tweets, etc. And with the orders coming straight from corporate, we are suppose to see a real investment in new media. I'm really hoping it will be different.

So in my first week as a "Multimedia journalist," I put together two videos. One in a couple of hours on deadline, and the other in about a day and a half.

They both turned out well, I thought, but the second one I really enjoyed. I saw an ad in our paper about a piano sale at the university, and had visions of a room full of pianos just begging to be played. After a couple phone calls and some vaguely grounded reasoning, I had a willing subject.

With the new initiative, we were told we don't really need permission to do things (at least that what I took from it). If you have an idea, just do it. If a reporter wants to take their own photos, go for it (God help us). If I want to pull a student away from studying the week before finals and force him to play the same song over and over for my amusement, have at it.

He was actually a great sport, super cooperative and a pleasure to work with. I should take a lesson or two from him.

(P.S. Sorry, about the auto play. I manipulated the embed code a bit to get the bigger video size on my blog, but then couldn't stop it from playing as soon as it loaded.)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

November Moments

Where did November go? It didn't exist on my blog, apparently, but I promise I was still shooting. I've struggled a bit staying focused for one reason or another, but I'm trying to get back on track. Today I was going through photos for the NPPA monthly clip contest, and these moments stood out to me. I thought I'd share them with you.

The Special Olympics held a bowling competition last month. I've never been a fan of shooting in bowling alleys, but I really liked how this photo came out. Like all three of these images, its kind of a quiet, subtle photo. I love quiet and subtle. I want to move their and open up my own photo studio.

Above is from an Opera dress rehearsal. I've been lucky to get backstage at a couple of local productions this past month. The back stage scene can make for great photos. I found this one particularly pleasant.

And finally a moment of prayer at a local Veterans Day ceremony. They prayed for the recent victims of the Fort Hood shooting, but its a clean, patriotic image that stands alone no matter what the situation.

In other news, I've been suddenly thrust back into the night shift this week. Hopefully leaving the cushy day shift slot I've had the last 5 months will be just the shakeup I need to refocus on making good photos. We shall see.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Last weekend I got to go out and shoot the Thrill the World event, the world-wide, simultaneous performance of the dance from Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Actually, I really wanted to be in it, but since I couldn't convince anyone to do it with me I thought shooting it would be the next best thing. It happened later than I would have liked (about 7:30 local time), but I thought it was worth it. The dancers had to dance at exactly 7:30 to be in sync with the rest of the world. So it's possibly the first event I've covered in Corpus Christi that actually started on time.

They had a little Zombie parade around the parking lot before the performance when there was still a little bit of fading light outside. By the time 7:30 rolled around it was pitch black. Fortunately they set up some lights for the dance.

Most of the time I was there, though, there wasn't much going on. All the zombies were told to show up already dressed and ready to go, so there was little primping and prepping outfits or makeup. They did a run through inside the dance studio, but mostly it was just waiting.

So they didn't break the record for most zombies in one place (I think Los Angeles won it this year), but it was still good times.

I didn't shoot this, but if you are interested there's video here of the Corpus Christi performance. Maybe next year you'll see my zombied face somewhere in the crowd. I'll totally show those kids how its done.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reader Feedback

It's rare I get feedback from...well, anybody on the day-to-day photos I shoot. Readers, however, are especially slow to tell me what they think of my work, good or bad.

So today I came to the office and was pleased to find an email note saying a reader had called to complement one of my photos. How nice! I immediately thought they must be talking about the pumpkin patch photos I shot yesterday. The ones that graced the front page of the paper. People love photos of children and gourd-like vegetables. But I was wrong. Here's the message:

Compliment michael zamora on his tor minerals photograph on the business section this morning. Keep up the good work he says.

Tor Minerals? That archive business mug I shot more than a year ago? I mean, I'll take a compliment where ever I can get it, but I don't remember that photo being all that engaging. I quickly flipped to the business page to see the photo that had so moved a reader that he had to call. That's where I found the huge four-column vertical. If only my pumpkin photos had run that big.

I think the important lesson is, size matters. That Tor Minerals photos was bigger than all three of my front page photos combined. If the business photo had only run, say, 1 column, would it have still been impressive to the reader?

My second reader interaction came about 10 minutes later when the phone rang. It was the mother of a drive-by shooting victim. Talk about quickly shifting gears. I had taken pictures of her, her family and her neighbors at a candlelight vigil a week or so ago. At the time there were still questions swirling about the shooting, if it was gang related and who was the intended target. It was all very sad, yet very surreal. It was a poor neighborhood where crime seemed to be something you just lived with. It's a whole different lifestyle than what I'm used to. A lifestyle that is probably far more common in this city than I realize.

Anyway, she wasn't calling to compliment me. She was calling to complain that we were selling the photos of her daughter's vigil on our Web site. She said she never gave us her authorization to sell the photos, and she was upset we were trying to profit from her daughter's death. That business photo compliment was looking better already.

I was kind of caught off guard, and started to babble about how we don't need permission to sell the photos we shoot. That didn't really help. I tried to explain how the "Buy this photo" option is a default setting on our site and that we weren't trying to make a profit specifically on this event. I could tell I wasn't coming off very compassionate, but really, I was just kind of frazzled. I told her I was sorry she was upset, took her number down and told her I would forward her complaint to the online editor. That's when her phone started cutting out and the line eventually disconnected. I tried calling her back so I could back up the conversation and tell her how I was sorry for her loss or that I understood why she was upset, but there was no answer. In the end, the online editor quickly turned off the sale option for those photos on the Web site.

But now I felt bad. So I went to our archivist's office and asked if we had actually sold any of those candlelight vigil photos. I was curious, but mostly I wanted to clear my own conscious. She said no, thankfully.

She did say, however, that my swimming with Olympians photos from a couple of weeks ago were doing pretty well. That brought back the smile to my face. The only other way I know readers like what I shoot is through photo sales. Every month we get a rundown of how photo sales on the Web site are doing. I always like seeing that list, especially when a reader buys a photo that I really like.

It was a pretty cool event. Three Olympic gold medalists (Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen and Rowdy Gaines) came to town to give a little clinic on open water swimming. It was a morning assignment, so I knew if I tried to shoot it from the beach I would get nothing but far away, backlit photos. So I brought my swimming trunks to work and carefully waded out into the bay as swimmers splashed around me. It's all fun and games until you get saltwater on your camera. "Is that thing water proof?" Peirsol asked. No, unfortunately...but OMG Aaron Peirsol just talked to me! I get star struck easily sometimes. I wanted to ask him to sign my trunks, but I didn't have a pen. And I was chest deep in water. And it probably wouldn't have been very appropriate.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I don't know why, but sometimes I get in a flash-happy mood. When I'm in that mood, everything I shoot has to be lit somehow, no matter the assignment. Remote flash, hand held, bounce, it doesn't matter. I just need to jolt the hell out of everything.

I was in that mood today, but by the time I got near the end of my third assignment, I (and my batteries) were exhausted. That's when I got this shot, a mix of museum lighting and the glow from the hot light on a TV camera. I like it. It reminded me why I try to avoid firing up the flash in the first place.

Oh, and this is Cheech Marin, in case you didn't know. The actor/comedian was in town to unveil his "Menudo" exhibit, made up of his personal collection of Chicano art. Nice guy, and I was surprised that he looked exactly the same in real life as he does on TV.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bands and Fans

Oh, high school football. How I've missed you.

Since I don't work the night shift anymore, football really won't be my thing this year (tear). But since its the start of the season they wanted all hands on deck. My job was to shoot the "bands and fans," as our chief photographer put it, to run on A1. So I was off to Calallen.

Another reason they sent me to Calallen was to hit the pregame ceremony naming the newly renovated field after their longtime head coach. After a series of speeches spanning the winning coach's career, I finally got this unstaged shot. Problem was, the ceremony took so long I hadn't shot any bands or fans by this point. Can't have that.

By the way, I love my 50mm, 1.8 lens (above and below). I want to marry it and have little baby 1.8s of varying sizes.
Hopefully I can talk my way into shooting some games here and there this season. Sometime before the playoffs would be nice.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cry Baby

I don't know why, but I found this crying baby endlessly entertaining today.

It was hard to keep from laughing while I was shooting an assignment at a day care today. So what was this little girl watching from baby jail that was making her cry?

There were no survivors.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back To School

Everyone loves getting ready to back to school, right?

New Shoes

Immunization Shots

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Over the weekend I got up early (super early) to make it out to a mini triathlon. It was a short triathlon aimed at kids and first timers. There was biking and running involved, but the bulk of my photos (or at least my favorite ones) came from the pool.