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.