Thursday, November 25, 2010


You know what I'm thankful for? Crying volleyball players.

Crying volleyball girls above the fold on A1, however, makes me giddy. Let me explain.

I don't mean to be heartless. I truly wish things had turned out better for them. This was the King volleyball team's first time to make it to the state tournament, and they did it with a first-year head coach. It was a big deal for the team and the school. The two days leading up to the tournament the girls were front-page news. Many expected them to take the whole thing home, including some of our editors, who planned the front-page package around the girls celebrating in the opening round of the state tournament. But we all know what happens when you make plans.

The team was playing the late game of the day, so the editors decided that win or lose, volleyball would be the dominate package on the front page. The pressure was on. I was shooting a sport I rarely cover, plus live tweeting scores during each time out. Mix that with the regular deadline pressure and the expectations for some good A1 photos. The whole game was a blur. A chaotic, pressure-filled, fantastic blur.

When I shot the top image of the girls crying, arms linked with the scoreboard behind them, I felt like I nailed it. It's a feeling that I don't get very often. My worry, though, was that the photo wouldn't see the light of day. I knew it would run online, but there is some hesitancy at the paper to run pictures of high school athletes crying, especially on the front page. The night editor confirmed my fears when we talked on the phone. She liked the photo, but she just didn't think it would fly. I offered up some alternative photos and hung up the phone, thinking the picture of the girls crying under the scoreboard was done for.

So once I got back into town and finally saw the front page the next afternoon, I was very surprised. Surprised it ran dominant on the front page, yes, but I was more surprised how excited I got. After working in newspapers for nearly a decade, it makes me feel good that I can still get excited about seeing my work in print. I was excited to find out that the night editor fought for my photo. She stood up for good photography, and I am so very thankful I work at a paper that is still willing to do that. Most of all, I was thankful that there are still dedicated and talented people, from editors to designers to photographers, who still have a passion for putting out a good product.

I'll be honest, some days at work are not so good. Some days I wonder what I'm still doing in this field plagued with uncertainty. Some days I wonder if my work means anything. Not so on this day. So thank you, King volleyball girls, for giving me this great photo. On this day, I was know I was right where I should be.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Are you ready for some football?

The answer is no, I'm not ready. Almost passing out from my climb up the bleachers to the press box made it clear I did not have a very productive off season. That's why I was super surprised I nailed this image early in my first high school football assignment of the year.

Bam! I'm ashamed to admit I was doing some hard core chimping in the end zone when I saw this in the back of my camera. Unfortunately that was the highlight of the evening. The first night of football you're really just trying to get something in focus and shake off the sports-shooting rust. Hopefully I will only get better as the season moves on.

A part of me, though, is really excited about the start of the season. One of my favorite things to do at football games is to find side features. There's something so iconic about high school football games. It's such a ritual and an event almost everyone can relate to. Friday I didn't have a whole lot of time to search for those quiet moments I love. Hopefully I can snag some sweet Friday night photos in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Movie Magic

It's been a long, hot and mostly uninspired summer. But there were a couple of creative bright spot over the last few months. One of those was the annual Corpus Christi 7-Day Film Project.

The project is pretty straight forward: write, shoot and edit a short film (8 minutes or less, minus credits) in only seven days. There are also three required elements each film has to include. This year the required elements were a prop (a black ribbon), a line of dialogue ("The problem with _______ is that he/she thinks too much") and a character (Sam, a male who recently found something).

This is the third year my friends and I have participated. The three of us wrote the script, I shot the movie while they "acted," and then I pieced the whole thing together in a semi-coherent order. This year was my first year as the team leader, which really just meant I payed the entry fee (still waiting on your share, Phil and Israel). I did get a pretty sweet swag bag, though. It almost made winning absolutely no awards over the weekend bearable. Almost.

We shot the film back in July, but we weren't allowed to post it anywhere until after the screening and awards ceremony this past weekend. Since that's all over, I'm now free to plaster our film everywhere. There's definitely bits of each of us in our main character, Kevin. The three of us each wrote different portions of the story, and it became clear we were all in very similar places in our lives: Slightly unsure, questioning our life decisions and wondering if the things that are so important to other people our age (marriage, family, careers) will ever be important to us.

Anyway, enough words. I hope you enjoy our film.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ra Ra Ah Ah Ahhh!

OK, so I knew this was coming a few days ahead of time. I played it cool. I didn't make a fuss. And when I saw the photo request on the photo budget, I casually volunteered to shoot it...but inside I was bursting with anticipation!

Lady Gaga is not coming to town, but a local radio station was having a contest to send the best Gaga look alike performer to her show in Dallas. Two concert tickets, airfare and a hotel stay were up for grabs, attracting a gaggle of Gagas and hundreds of onlookers to the local mall. And I couldn't have been more excited to be there!

Now, I wouldn't say I'm a big Lady Gaga fan (especially compared to these people). I only recently bought the album after kind of ignoring her music for a while. Some of it is just so damn catchy. After seeing a couple of her interviews I realized she actually has some talent and wasn't there to bring the world of pop music to new lows. No, that's Justin Bieber's job (Oh! Bieber burn!).

Anyway, the Gaga look alikes had a minute and half to either dance to a Lady Gaga song or sing. Most chose to dance, and "Bad Romance" was the song of choice. What, no love for "Paparazzi"? Not that I didn't get to hear the song. I had at least three different Gagas sing parts of it to me as I was shooting. I wasn't sure what to think about that.

This Gaga was probably my favorite. Not only was the look straight out of the "Telephone" video, but the passionate impersonator was a 13-year-old boy! Most of the Gagas were dressed and ready when they arrived, but this kid had some changing to do. I saw the boy and his mother walking by with a soda-can wig in one hand and a black leather jacket in the other. I chased them down into a clothing store next to the stage and followed them into a dressing room. I'm not even sure they knew who I was at first, but they were so nice and welcoming. There was also something kind of loving and sweet about the mom helping her son get ready for the contest. "I don't know how I feel about helping my son get dressed in drag," she joked at one point, but then quickly worked her magic to pin the hair in place, finish up the makeup and comment about how cute the shoe were. They are both my new heroes!

The winner was quite impressive on stage. He (yes, he) had the moves from the video down, and he finished off his performance with an homage to Miss Gaga's blood spattered performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. And the crowd went wild.

I had hoped for a little more Gaga/mall shopper interaction. It would have been so wonderfully awkward. For the most part, the Gagas were kept together and away from the crowds. Although I did enjoy watching people ride up the escalators and get an eye full of Gaga when they got to the top. Fantastic.

You can see more photos from the event over at, plus a little video put together by Caller-Times videographer Michelle Christensen.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The baseball action is heating up in the area. The state championships are scheduled for next weekend, and we still have about 5 baseball teams and 2 softball teams in our coverage area vying for a trip to Austin. How good is baseball in Corpus Christi? Well, we will likely have two local teams face off for the class 4A state title next weekend, and another school has a good chance at making it to the 5A title game. Needless to say, it's been a busy couple of weeks for me.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

3-Point-Oh No!

Oh, Las Donas, I had such plans for you. It was going to be bold. It was going to be beautiful. Mostly, though, it was going to be so Scripps 3.0. But, alas, I was denied.

The Las Donas de la Corte held their annual Buc Days Coronation last week. It's an event where young girls dress up in jewel encrusted gowns and crowns before one is named queen of the court. It was actually an event I was looking forward to covering. I had a great time last year and was given some great behind-the-scenes access. So this year I had big plans. I brought a video camera, a backdrop, portable studio lights and a sort-of-fleshed-out idea about taking off-beat portraits and photo-booth style pictures. It was an awkward mash up of ideas that stemmed from something I'd done before and something I saw on glee. Hey, I'm trying here.

Of course, you know what happens when you make plans. After hauling over all the equipment things started to unravel. I had issues with the backdrop, and had to slice my backdrop paper almost in half to fix it. Suddenly it was way too narrow. Soon I realized I was missing equipment, I had a busted tripod and I had brought the worst roll of tape from the newsroom with me. But I wasn't going to let that stop me.

So what did stop me? Well, a mix of things. Two girls in, I did have a couple of decent portraits, but I wasn't getting the audio/video I needed. Plus I was running out of time. Mostly, though, it was some miscommunication (mostly on my part), and I didn't get quite the same access to the girls as I thought I would. But there was still a paper to put out. So when it became clear this was all falling apart, I buckled down and focused on the still photo. Oh well. I'll save my half-baked ideas for another time.

Despite my multimedia meltdown at the coronation, I was still set on milking Buc Days of its 3.0 potential. I figured the annual Illuminated Night Parade would be perfect. More than 150,000 people line the streets to watch this night parade, so it seemed like a no brainer to do something with it.

I didn't want to do a slideshow or edited video or anything. My bright idea was to livestream the parade on our newspaper's website. I figured it would be super easy. As an added bonus, I volunteered to cover the whole event myself. Each year we usually have two photographers cover the event: one focuses on the street parade and pre-parade set up stuff, and the other hangs out in the stadium where the parade starts to catch the pre-show and crowning of Miss Buc Days. It's more a matter of deadline timing (and sanity saving) then it being too much for one photographer. Or so I thought.

Well, I won't do that again. Not only was I exhausted by the end, but setting up a live cam is harder than I thought. It was such a pain, mostly because I didn't know what I was doing. The camera kept cutting out at important times like, oh, when the parade would start or when I was frantically trying to turn in photos on deadline. Of course it streamed crystal clear when I had it set up wrong and all you could hear was the judges banter and not the actual parade. Oops.

Anyway, it was a rough ride on the 3.0 bandwagon last week. The hardest part about having to do multimedia with the daily stuff is that the daily stuff is always going to be the priority. The print product is still our bread and butter, and any multimedia I try has to get crammed into the spare time I have between shooting stills. But I'm not going to let this discourage me. I'm going to write this one off as a Buc Days curse and try to recollect my motivation. At least I don't have to worry about Buc Days for another year. I wonder if it's too early to schedule a vacation for next year?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Buc Days Blues

I'm not sure how to describe it, but the last couple of days I've been trying to shoot things very "flat." Not necessarily physically or tonally flat, just sort of emotionally flat, I guess. Muted, maybe. It's just the general mood I've been in lately.

Yesterday evening I went to the Buc Days carnival armed with a 70-200mm and a 50mm 2.5. No wide glass. They only wanted one photo for the paper, so I let myself be extremely selective about what I shot, trying to avoid the same old happy-kids-at-the-carnival scene I always seem to get. I took a lot of pictures of carnival workers, for some reason, and used my 50mm almost exclusively. The above photo stood out to me. It was something about that longing look on his face coupled with the blurry joy of the corn dog eating cops going by. At first I liked the photo, then I really started to hate it. Then I convinced myself it was brilliant. Now I'm not sure how I feel about it.

I continued my quest today when I went to the Buc Days Junior Parade, which is the annual children's parade through Corpus Christi. I'm not really a fan of children, and I really hate parades, so it was sort of my perfect storm of assignment frustration. OK, it wasn't that bad. I won't say I enjoyed it, but I didn't hate it either. I had to abandon my trusty 50mm, but I still found a couple of "flat" images I liked.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

(Not My First) Rodeo

It's been a while since I've shot a rodeo, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Past experiences have taught me that rodeos are tough gigs. At my first job in Wyoming, the rodeo was serious business. Cheyenne Frontier Days was televised (somewhere), so the organizers were very particular about their image. They wanted the look of their rodeo so authentic that I wasn't allowed to just stroll in and shoot in normal clothes. No, any media in the arena had to wear a western shirt, boots and a cowboy hat (bolo optional). Then we all got thrown in this half underground pit with poor air circulation, just waiting for a wild animal to come running by and spray dirt and dust into our prison-like pen. Yikes!

At my last job in Arkansas, they were pretty into their rodeo too. While I didn't have to dress like a cowboy, there always seemed to be this obsession with lighting the event. Unlike Wyoming, which was during the day, Rodeo of the Ozarks was in the evening. So most years I'd help haul a car load of lighting equipment, grips, cables, extension cords and locks to Parsons Stadium to set up lights. The lights never seemed to work so well for me, so I'm not sure I really got much out of it. On years I managed to avoid the set up, I'd seem to luck into shooting the last day of the rodeo and have to take all the equipment apart and haul it all back to the office. Exhausting!

Well, here in Corpus Christi, people couldn't care less about the rodeo (or much else, really). And I like it. Everything was much more laid back. No press pass, no cowboy hat, no lighting equipment. No worries. The light inside the arena wasn't great, but it was predictable. I just strolled in, shot for an hour and then split. Easy!

But I got to be honest. Even though I got some photos I liked (steer wrestling is my new favorite sport), there's is something a little more fulfilling about working a little harder to get a good shot. The years of rodeo nightmares were actually memorable (and dare I say fun) times. I won't be telling stories about shooting the Buc Days Pro Rodeo, but, hey, after all these years I think I was due an easy rodeo shoot.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pie Guy

I was taking pictures at a private school's annual festival today. That's where I noticed an awful lot of overly eager kids lining up to throw pies at one of their teachers. During a pause in the action I got the teacher's name. I understood why his booth was such a draw once he told me his title: Dean of Discipline. What an intimidating title. If I were a student, I'm not sure I'd have the courage to through a pie at this guy. Actually, I'm not a student and I still don't want to cross this guy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Over the weekend I went to a little event called Texas SandFest. And by little, I mean more than 100,000 people crowded the beach to look at sandcastles.

To be fair, they are more than sandcastles. Master sculptors spend hours crafting elaborate structures and whimsical scenes out of packed grains of sand. It really is unbelievable what they can do. Worth the two hours it took me to find parking? Well...

The good news is you don't have to fight the crowds or get sand all over the interior of your car to enjoy the festival. While I was there I shot a little video. Before you check it out, though, let me tell you a little bit about my inspiration for this video.

The day before I hit the beach, an editor was talking to me about shooting video at a different assignment. He suggested I don't get bogged down and keep it simple. Sunday-Morning style, he said. That really inspired me. I don't know if you watch, but CBS Sunday Morning is probably some of the best, most enjoyable TV journalism you can watch. And at the end of every episode, they show beautiful and peaceful nature footage from some scenic corner of the country. That was the kind of video my editor was referring to. Just clean, simple shots. No voice over, no story. Just set the scene and let people take it in.

Now, he proposed I do this at a track meet, which I wasn't really sure I could make work. But I thought SandFest would be a good time to try out my Sunday-Morning style video. Going in I thought this would be easier. In reality I came close to ruining the video several times. About half the things I shot had no audio because my external mic kept getting switched off (I blame the wind). Natural audio really is key. Mostly, though, having to actually think about progression and natural transitions was harder than it should have been. Knowing I couldn't just slap a voice over or insert some random talking head to break up the video was a new challenge. I should really be shooting in this mind frame already, not just getting some interview and slapping it over some random B-roll and calling it a day.

This is by no means a masterpiece, and I'm confident Charles Osgood won't be calling me anytime soon to shoot the next nature segment. Still, I think it turned out well. So with that in mind: We leave you this Sunday morning on the breezy coast of Port Aransas, Texas, where sand is king...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Rocket Man

Elton John came to town Tuesday, rocking the American Bank Center in a three-hour show packed with all the hits. At least that's what I hear. After two songs into the show, the media was politely ushered out the door.

For the first song we were all at the front of the stage, which was great until the fans with floor seats figured out no one would stop them from shooting right beside us. I got a picture of someone taking a picture that I liked, but for the most part it was elbow city up there.

I got to the arena pretty early before the show. I was on the hunt for glittery, boa-wearing fans. I guess I over estimated the flamboyance of the typical Elton John fan, because most people just showed up looking normal. That's no fun.

I'd never shot Elton John before, so it was a bit of a thrill. I did have a good time, but honestly I really don't remember how the actual performance was. When you are only given two songs to shoot, you tend to be less focused on the music and more on making decent pictures. And as much as I wanted him to play that song from the Lion King during those two songs, I came away disappointed. That's OK, I'm sure I'll get to hear it tomorrow when I shoot Disney on Ice tomorrow night. Hey, not every assignment can be golden.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


I love shooting football. Fútbol, however, is a completely different beast. Perhaps I would love it more if I got to shoot it more often, although something tells me that wouldn't be true.

It's playoff soccer time in Texas, so it was time for me to dust off the 400mm and head to the pitch for some soccer action. Counting the last two days of games (where these photos came from), my grand total for soccer assignments this year moves to four.

That means I have to climb up that steep re-learning curve of mine and quickly get familiar with shooting soccer again. I thought I did pretty well the last two days and was feeling ready for some state soccer action. Unfortunately our last local team was defeated today, and I will have to put away my soccer-shooting skills for another year.