Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tour de Gap

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Even after nine years, there are some assignments I look forward to shooting every year. The Tour de Gap bike race is one of them. While the early morning start isn't something I enjoy, the early morning light makes for some nice shots at the starting line.
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But, just shooting the start just wouldn't be right, the 70-mile race which attracts not only some really top-notch locals and amateur riders from across the state - even the occasional pro riders - lasts about three hours. Fortunately I get to drive the course in a car, bobbing ahead and shooting as the riders pass by, then back in the car and bobbing ahead again, over and over. The only problem is the race is not a closed course. It can make for some interesting moments on those little two-lane back roads. Luckily, they aren't heavily travelled.
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That's plenty of time to get photos of the race and have fun and trying out all the lenses in my bag. Although, I gotta say, laying in tall grass with a wide angle lens in the middle of July during prime rattlesnake season isn't the best idea I've ever had, it made for a nice photo and luckily I didn't hear anything resembling a baby rattle during the couple minutes I was there... so that was a good thing.
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And, when you are shooting the whole 70 miles of the race and get lucky enough to get the eventual race winner munching on a banana... well, that's just a bonus that justifies getting up early and going the extra (70 or so) miles.
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

The face of courage through adversity

I don't deal with death well, I don't like it, I don't like dealing with it in my personal life and I certainly have never liked to cover it. This is Russell McPherson, he was in town for the Texas State 4-H Horse Show. He was competing in probably the marquee event of the week, the drill team competition, with Liberty County the defending champs in the event.

On Sunday, McPherson's parents, who accompanied him here for the event, were killed while riding their motorcycle. I'm pretty sure if something like that happened to me I'd probably shut down and go home and mourn at the very least. But Russell held his head high and competed in the drill team competition "like his mother would have wanted." And, then he went out and executed his routine about as close to perfect as you could have asked! Only two days after losing both parents. I'm not sure I could do something like that now, let alone when I was a senior in high school.

I can't imagine what this kid had to go through, but I know it isn't good. But I have a lot of respect for him considering what he went through and what he did, both in honor of his parents while still keeping his promise to his team, who I'm sure would have been ok with him pulling out of his performance.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The sun is setting on the baseball season...

Well, at least as far as little league goes. This was the last local team left alive. The Abilene South junior league team was going to the state tournament in Waco. This was a photo from their practice. This is one of those shots I almost never shot. I got to practice a few minutes after it started, I was late because I was shooting golf (see below). I didn't want to stay long, I told myself 20-30 minutes tops. I had been in the sun all day, it was hotter then hell, the humidity was awful and all I wanted to do was go sit in the air conditioning for an hour editing golf photos before heading to my 7pm assignment.

When I got there the team was practicing infield practice, I got a few decent frames of infielders taking ground balls, but they were mediocre at best. I had considered leaving, my time was up and I could have used the excuse of need to get pix in before the late assignment. But, then again, why take the easy way out? I mean, I was already soaked in sweat so I might as well stick around. Well, I'm glad I did.

After about another 15 minutes they started setting up the batting cage. After that is was just a matter of finding a good spot to shoot from. Plus with the pretty cloud patterns starting to happen the sun starting to get low enough in the sky to make pretty light. I found a small hole in the bottom of the net to set up and layed there and watched batting practice for about 40 minutes. Which gave me enough time to go to the office dump my cards and run to the next assignment. Thank God I recharged the a/c in my car!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Three days of golf and the Golden Banana...

The last three days have been great I spent them on driving around the golf course in a golf cart covering golf. Now, I know there are plenty of people out there who would think this would be far from a primo assignment, but it was nothing but fun the last three days.
When I'm shooting golf I'm looking for three things: 1) Reaction 2) Pretty backgrounds and 3) Sand.
The first one, reaction, is easy to explain. When shooting sports there are two shot action and reaction. Reaction often is the best way to tell the story. This shot happened about two minutes after I found this kid. The funny thing about it, is the reporter who wrote the story told me the next day one of the other kids in the tournament was penalized a stroke for taking both hands off his club other then to put it in his bag. I had no idea that was a rule! Daniel (the reporter) walked up to me the next day with the sports front (we ran the photo about 2.5 cols wide and about 12 inches deep) and said kind of chuckling "I bet XXXX golfer was thrilled when he saw this of Dickerson flipping his club since XXXX golfer was penalized a stroke for doing something similar."
The second one usually takes some time and a knowledge of the course helps too. Since you never know when or even if you'll get a good reaction keeping an eye out for a visually appealing shot is always a good idea. While I do still shoot the safe shot of the golfer watching their drive, I try as hard as I can NOT to run it as the centerpiece image on the page. Also, we put together online slideshows everyday, so not only did I not want 20 pictures of kids putting or watching their drives, it also gave me reason to justify why I just spent 4-6 hours shooting one assignment.
The third... sand... I guess it reminds me of the beach. When golfers play bad or hit bad shots that usually makes for good photos. I doubt there is one golfer in the world that enjoys hitting the ball in the sand... on the other hand, I don't think there is one photog in the world that is NOT pulling for the golfer to go in the sand everytime! And if the kid sticks his tounge out while he's hitting... well, I guess that's just a bonus!
Shooting on the backswing is almost NEVER a good idea. Tiger Woods' caddy would throw your camera in a lake if he catches you doing it. However, if you're standing 50 yards back and the cart path you are shooting from happens to be next to a street and there happens to be a diesel pickup truck (these are NOT uncommon even in the nicest of Country Club neighborhoods in West Texas) driving by at the exact moment the player is in his backswing I feel its pretty safe to bang off a couple frames during his backswing because chances are and noise being made by my shutter clicks are being totally drowned out by that big Ford's Powerstroke engine!
I guess this may have fallen under the pretty backgrounds, but God light (as my old photo editor at my internship, Woody Marshall, used to call it) is something that deserves a category of its own, and doesn't make it's way to see me all that often. so it's nice when a kid is spotlighted between the trees with nice light.
And, last but not least, the Golden Banana... need I say more?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Red Red Wine...


I actually shot the photos from the Rising Star Vineyards before I left on vacation but it didn't run until I was gone, and my dad may be one of the few people I know who does not have wifi.

When I moved to Texas almost 10 years ago I had no idea they made wine here, let alone close to Abilene. As hot and dry as it is, I never would have expectedthem to be growing grapes for wine, I figured with the heat they be raisins before they were mature enough to come off the vine!

Obviously I was wrong, there are a few wineries in the local area. Mostly to the east and south of Abilene. But, despite my dislike for wine, learning about how it's made and the whole process really interesting. And, Michael Oubre, the owner of Rising Star Vineyards was really cool to talk to and walked me through the whole process, plus he gave me a tour of the vineyards.

It was also, really interesting to learn about the differences between European wines and the way they are made vs. the way wines are made in the U.S. Most of it has to do with aging, and how U.S. wines don't need to be aged nearly as long as the Euro wines to mature in their tastes. I always thought the longer it sat in the bottle before opening made it taste better. Not that it ever really mattered to me. I'll stick with a good bottle of beer or a fine glass of Scotch!

With that said, it is still a process that fascinates me. I'm hoping to go back and shoot the harvest and processing parts at the end of next month.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I went to Maine to visit my folks last week, I spent most of the week eating lobster and other awesome seafood you can't get in Texas (In Texas seafood is catfish). In between lobsters and relaxing I took some pictures.
The first part of the week was kind of rainy, but the weather was at least cool, I'll take rainy with highs in the 70's for a few days over 100 and blistering sun. That and the fog made for some nice stuff when we went to visit Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor. The fog rolling in over the islands was really pretty, and it was crazy to watch it coming in so quick.


The Penobscot Narrows bridge was a pretty cool sight, it was just built a few years ago and has an observatory at the top of one of the bridge pilings, I think it's about 420 feet high, the view from the top was fantasic (see top photo).