Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Night Out

Whenever I see a ballet folklorico group around here, I usually avoid them like the plague. Mostly because they're pretty ubiquitous in South Texas, but they also rarely have any sort of news connection with the event I'm covering. That was the case at this year's National Night Out. The event wasn't about them, but that doesn't mean I can't turn it into a photo about me.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


An image I shot earlier this month, from a fire on a golf course. I was headed to another assignment and noticed smoke from the country club area. I turned off the freeway hoping for a shot like this. No flames, but I'll take it. The beer can on the ground and the cigarette in the guy's mouth really amuses me.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Fourth of July

We decided to show our patriotism at the paper with a collage of U.S. flags splashed across the front page. When I hear the word collage, I always think of a bad high school yearbook spread with the awkwardly shaped photos and weird cutouts blobbed together across a page. I'm happy to say it didn't turn out like that at all. The only thing that would have made it better, said my ego, was if they used more of my photos.

Only one of these photos (below) ended up in the paper. I was a bit miffed at first, but when you think about it, I got to spend hours driving around taking pretty pictures of flags. And someone paid me for it. Is this a great country or what?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

State Baseball

The last month or so has been a blur. Six day work weeks, 100+ hour time sheets, a set of new tires and thousands and thousands of frames of high school baseball.

And it was fantastic.

Baseball is huge in this part of the state. I don't think we've had a local football team make it to state in decades, but just about every year the Coastal Bend has a team in the state baseball tournament. This year we had three, one in 5A, one in 4A and one in 3A. We also had a private school repeat as state champs in their league.

Leading up to state, we had tons of teams in the hunt during playoffs. With a staff of only three full-time photographers and only a handful of stringers, our resources were stretched thin. What made it all the more challenging was I didn't shoot baseball at all during the regular season. Maybe one game. Suddenly I'm thrown into game after game of high-stakes action. I had to shake off the rust pretty quick.

A highlight was definitely the state baseball tournament. Our chief photographer traveled to Austin to shoot some of the opening games, and I came into town to help shoot the final title games. I shot some assignments on a Thursday in Corpus Christi, then drove to Austin that night so I could be ready to go first thing Friday morning.

When I got into town it was almost 10 p.m. I was checking into my hotel when I got a call from our chief photographer. The Thursday night game was going into extra innings and deadline was quickly approaching. He needed some back up or he'd either miss the end or miss deadline. So I jumped back into my car and made it to the stadium just in time for the 10th and final inning. I didn't even have my media credentials yet, but never underestimate the access you get when you carry a really big lens and walk in like you own the place.

As soon as I got onto the field, I started second guessing myself. Is this the best spot? Should I move? Am I gonna miss the moment? How do I shoot baseball again? By the end of the inning my nerves were shot, but it all worked out when I got the celebratory shot as one of our local teams advanced to the state finals.

I still didn't have press credentials though. I wasn't going to bother fighting to get in the press box when I was on such a tight deadline. So I ran back to my car, fired up the laptop, and sent in my photos from the tailgate of my Honda Element in the parking lot. Good times.

But the joy didn't last long. All three of our local teams fell short of the state title. The reality is that most teams will go home disappointed. That means I got a lot of sad player photos this season.

So baseball season is over, and I've got my weekends and a little bit of stability back. But I know I can't get too comfortable. Football season will be here before I know it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Military Funeral

I shot my third funeral in as many months last weekend. First was a police officer's funeral, then a Marine funeral and now Army Spc. Ryan Gartner's funeral. At all three of these funerals, the family members agreed to let media come inside for the church service and attend the burial. It's a tough situation to be in, and really a huge responsibility. You feel almost an obligation to the family that let's you in. They are sharing what could be one of the lowest points of their lives, making it my job to tell their story with dignity and respect.

Both the father's (above) and mother's emotions were pretty raw. Their son was scheduled to come home in two weeks, and they were still waiting for answers about the specifics of their sons death. It was an unthinkable situation for both parents.
I had shot several strong images of the mother, all of which just broke my heart. The last image (lower right) was during the gun salute. Her mother was trying to comfort her and she pulled away, almost in anger.

And then she looked right at me.

It was hard to tell what she was thinking as she looked down the barrel of my zoom lens. Who knows if she was even looking at me. It was a brief glare, then "Taps" began to play. It was one of those moments where I felt terrible for being there, like I was somewhere I didn't belong. I paused for a few minutes, found a new spot, and then continued shooting.

I hung around until it was over. All the condolences had been given and only a few family members remained. That's when I saw the mother going back to the coffin to sprinkle a bit of dirt on her son's casket and say goodbye one last time. It would have made another emotional photo. I was getting ready to lift my camera before I stopped myself. Maybe I still felt guilty. Maybe I was just being weak, but I felt like this wasn't a moment for me to capture. I'd captured plenty of photos already that told the story. No, I thought, this moment belonged to her.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Turtle Power

We had a bit of a cold snap recently. Like, below freezing. And while our temperatures were probably still the envy of most of the country, it was big problem for the sea turtles.

Hundred's of turtles, stunned by the drop in water temperatures, started floating in the bays and washing up near a local fishing pier. Most of them weren't dead, they were just stunned by the cold and unable to move or swim. They just needed a place to warm up before they drowned. That's where the turtle experts from the Padre Island National Seashore came in. They collected hundred of turtles from the area and further south. I met them at one of the hatcheries to see what they had collected. It was quite a catch.

It was really cool to see all the turtles, even though they mostly just laid there. It was one of those things the average person doesn't get to see. This job is full of surprises sometimes. They couldn't warm up the turtles too quickly. After about a week or so, the turtles were let go back into the gulf.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Slice of Life

I was shooting a high school JROTC inspection recently, and shot this image of a couple of the JROTC members practicing before the inspection started. I loved the photo, but I quickly started to get the same question: What's up with the guys head sliced off?

I got the question from one of my editors, who thought the photo may be a bit confusing to the average reader. I started to wonder if she was right. Did it tell the story, or did I shoot this just for me? Well, I kind of thought it was both. After talking it out with her and a designer, it ended up the lead photo on the front page. I was excited.

But guess who wasn't excited: Mom. The next day a coworker said she got a call from the photo subject's mother. She said the mom wanted to know if I had a copy of the photo where her son's head wasn't cut off. Unfortunately the answer was no. I shot about four or five frames of the kid, and in all the shots I had cropped out the guys face in camera. The photo wasn't about him, I tried to justify. It was about the action and the drawing of the sword and the pagentry of the event and so on and so forth. In other words, the photo was really about me.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. I think I should shoot more for me when I go out on assignments. It's my job to make photos with impact, though I definitely see the mother's point. It's a tricky balance sometimes.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Taking Stock

One of my resolutions this year was to blog more frequently. Not because I feel I have all this wisdom to share, but because I know the more I blog, the more motivated I get to push myself creatively. Plus it's easier then giving up soda or going to the gym.

The livestock show is one of those annual events where I need a little extra creativity. There are two week-long county livestock shows we cover in January. Since January is typically a slow news month, it's not unusual to spend back-to-back days mining the fairgrounds for photos. It wasn't until the second livestock show, though, where I finally felt like I was getting something a little different.

I noticed a pair of kids washing down their lambs with Woolite, which I found so entertaining. I took dozens of photos of then washing their animals down, trying to get the bottle and the people and the animal all in the same shot. It all kind of came together, I think, in the frame above.

I also was a bit obsessed with all the cowboy boots, which came in all kinds of colors and styles. I think what my photography has been lacking recently is attention to those details.
Livestock season is over for another year. Hopefully that will give me enough time to get the lingering smell of barnyard animals out of my car.