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.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Cluck Cluck

By now I should realize that the angrier I am at assignments, the better I shoot. I was kind of angry at this assignment, a school-wide chicken dance. Yes, really. It had nothing to do with the people. They were all lovely and fun and welcoming, and I really did appreciate them letting me come by. I don't know, I guess I should just really make peace with having to constantly shoot the cute-kids-doing-cute-things assignments. But then again, I don't want to lose my edge.

As you can see, a good time was had by all. Except by me. And this kid.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


Where were you when Selena died?
Me? Odds are I was doing something band or newspaper related. Yeah, I was kind of a nerd in high school. But who is Selena, you may ask?

A valid question if you aren't from around here, or you were never a fan of Tejano music. But in Corpus Christi, Selena is still the queen. There's a bayfront statue dedicated in her honor. Her clothing boutique was in business for years after her death, and fans still can't seem to get enough of her. She has such a strong following around here that if Selena could some how endorse the destruction of the Memorial Coliseum, that building would be torn down by hand in a matter of days by a mob of cumbia-dancing fans dressed in sparkly hats and bustiers. Biddy Biddy bye bye, Coliseum.

Anyway, fans have been marking the anniversary of her death each year since she was killed by her fan club president 15 years ago. They used to gather each year behind a convenience store with this old, weathered mural of the singer on the wall. As a visual person I loved it. As a person who cared for his safety, it was a bit of a nightmare packing so many people near a wall so close to the street. This year it was held just down the road in the backyard of a restaurant/snack shack (I'm not making fun, it's actually called the Snack Shack). There was much more room, but unfortunately it seemed much more tame than last year.