Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Football really is over now...

This past weekend was when we published our annual football Super Team. Normally, I get more than a whole week before the publication date to work on the portraits, of the four players and coach who are the superlatives. This year we were running a little behind, and the voting process was taking longer than normal, mainly because everyone was stretched pretty thin. However, just the fact that the whole sports staff was voting and not one or two people making the decisions like a few years ago made it better. Somehow, I got involved in the voting this year too, I guess having shot 30 high school games during the season somehow means I have an idea who is a good player. For the most part, the photos went off without a hitch, we pushed a little later than I'd have liked, but luckily two of the five lived in town and were fairly easy to get a hold of. The overall MVP and coach were both from the same team, and Cisco coach Brent West was on the team for the third time (he'd also been on the team as a player, but that was before my time), so they were east to get as well. The only tough one to get was Casey Pachall from Brownwood (second from bottom photo). The coach had resigned a month ago, and when we finally found a phone number for him, we found out he had already enrolled at TCU, where he will eventually be the quarterback, luckily his mom was really helpful and he was coming home for the weekend. So, although I was really pushing it, that's about the best that could be done.
This is an award that has evolved quite a bit in the time that I've been here. When I first started at the paper the photo was a group shot and it was just an offensive MVP, defensive MVP and coach of the year. However, the year that we decided to give away SEVEN MVP's (based a lot on political reasons) because of a sports editor that wasn't willing to make the hard decision of deciding on one person per position, some changes had to be made. So we went to the current format we have now with an overall MVP, offensive, defensive, newcomer and coach of the year. I think this is the best format to recognize the best players in the area.
Something else that was changed a few years ago that I was directly responsible for was going from the group shot to individual photos. My personal feeling was the group shots always looked like complete shit. The individual photos allowed more of the players' personalities to show as well as give them a photo they can look back on as a real award. That's one reason I like shooting these so much. I try to always do something that these kids will be proud to show off.
I've always enjoyed taking a high school kid and lighting him in the right way to make him look really cool. And, one of the best things to help out with that has been the digital camera. Having the little LCD screen on the back of the camera has helped out a lot in getting kids who don't really care about this to help you out a little. The perfect example, is the photo below of Herschel Sims, our newcomer of the year. He was a good kid and very polite, but it became pretty obvious that after about 5 or 6 shots he was getting a little bored, and I was working to get my side lights balanced just right. Well, after a few shots I showed him the screen on the camera and told him, "this is what it looks like so far, I just need to fix a couple things. The look on his face changed, he got this big approving grin on his face, and was a lot easier to work with after that. This is not uncommon. After the kid sees how cool he looks and sees the work you are doing he's usually willing do do what he can to help out, after all it's his photo that's in there, and if he looks cool he has it to show off to all his friends.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Up Early With the Bread Man...

Last week I spent the morning, very early in the morning, with the bread man. Gordon Hayes just opened a bakery making fresh hand-made artisan breads. So for my photo column I went to hang out with him Thursday morning. Now, anyone who knows me, knows I'm NOT a morning person. In fact, I think I've gone to bed at 5am more times in my life than I've woke up that early, so this was not something I was excited about. However, I was excited about the story.
So, when my alarm went off bright and early at 4:45 I popped out of bed (ok that's a lie, I hit the snooze button, then slowly rolled out) and headed to the bakery. Now, being a fan of eating, especially fresh bread, as well as a cooking show junkie, I really was excited about shooting this once the cold air of the morning hit me in the face. Stories like this are one of the many reasons I love my job so much! I get to learn about all kinds of interesting jobs.
After about and hour of watching Hayes kneading dough and loading it on to bread pans and into the proof box for further rising it went in the oven. About 15 minutes after that, the smell of fresh-baked bread was wafting through the air. I love the smell of fresh bread and for the next couple hours as the different types of breads baked in the oven the place smelled incredible!
Well, over the course of a few hours I learned a lot about baking bread, including how difficult of a process it is. I think instead of baking my own, I will just head to see Gordon and buy his bread. It tasted delicious and a couple of friends and co-workers who have been there have said the same.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yet another construction story...

One of the most ironic things about working for a newspaper is even when the story is about something NOT happening, you still have to find a photo of that going on. This photo was for a story about how new home building permits were at the lowest point since 1991, and locally, the news wasn't any better. So, what is my assignment? Go find someone building a new home, of course!
Well, luckily one of the editors told me where this house was being built, since when I was looking to do a story strikingly similar to this one last month I drove around for over an hours before I found a home being built, that someone was actually doing some work on. So, I show up to the house walk up and start talking to some of these guys. Now, the best part of going up to these guys and telling them who I am and what I'm doing, I ask "Hey guys, mind if I just get a few pictures of you guys working?" and this guy in the photo at the top responds with, "Sure I don't give a shit." Nice! thanks buddy.
Now, I'm happy with this photo, it turned out well for me, But, hopefully these construction photos will slow down for a while, I'm running out of different ways to shoot this!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A man and his horse...

This is an outtake from a story we were doing on what people do to relax and unwind away from work. I'm pretty sure what the story was about. Honestly, it didn't make a whole lot of sense even now after I had read the story. The one thing I did know is after reading the story Buddy Anderson, the guy in the photo, was the only one in the story who did anything visually appealing to unwind. So, I had called him and left a message. Two days later after not hearing from him and my deadline pushing I called back. I talked to his wife who said, "He should have called you by now, he said he was going to. Here, call him on his cell phone." Well it turns out Buddy is a lot like me and means well, but is just a little slow getting around to things that aren't #1 on his list.

When I spoke to him, he said he was headed out right then to feed his horses and would meet me if I wanted. That was perfect. When I got there a cold front had moved in that morning. So he didn't spend a whole lot of time with his horses. I think I only made about 15-20 frames. This was the last one, and my favorite. I'm kind of a sucker for silhouettes and nice cloud patterns in the sky. This one worked out nice as a picture, but just didn't tell the story, so it will only be seen here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Mysterious ManBearPig meets the GoatLamb

I am from the city and have never been afraid to admit it. So every time I go out to cover a stock show I usually tend to make a fool of myself with my knowledge (or lack thereof) of farm animals. Last year it was not knowing the difference between a steer and a heifer, to me they are both cows (my good friend favorite former copy editor in this world, Sarah Carlson, has a nice profanity laden quote on her quoteables board about steer and heifers)! But this year it was goats and lambs. When I went to the stock show early in the day there wasn't a whole lot going on so I ended up getting only about six frames of a couple kids taking a pair of lambs to their pens. So when I go to get their names I say "Hey I got a photo of you unloading your goats." The girl got a pretty good laugh out of it and corrected me on it, to which my standard response of apologizing and saying "I grew up in the city."

So then I go back later in the day. I had the time and wasn't thrilled with the shots I got earlier, they were useable, but I was sure I could find something better. I found a girl and her family sheering her goat (I called it a lamb at first, which got another laugh). After getting her sheering her two GOATS, I was pretty happy with what I had, a lot more than with what I had gotten earlier. Then as I was leaving I this kid was blowing off his animal, and it was making the sounds it makes and sticking its tongue out every time it did. It was pretty funny and stopped and made a few frames for a couple minutes. I got some tight shots of just the animal then a few with the kid in it too. After I got my shots I go to get the kids name and find out what class the "goat" at least that's what I thought it was. Heck, I figured the third time's a charm right? So I go up, get the kid's name and say what kind of goat do you have? The kid's response... it's a fine wool lamb. THE DAMN THING HAD HORNS!!!!! I figured this time I'm gonna get it right... it's got horns, it a damn goat!! Oh well, that's why I always ask and check the spelling of every person's name when I get them.

Well, I've taken plenty of crap from this from friends and co-workers, but at least I got a photo I was happy with. Although next year when I shoot the stock show I think I'll stick to the rabbits, I'm 90% sure I know what a rabbit looks like!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

MMMMM Cookies...

So, this weekend was the start of Girl Scout cookie sales. Saturday morning was the day that all the local girls were picking up their cookies. The cookie sales are always pretty amazing to me. There was a full tractor trailer of cookies, and by the time I got there an hour after the distribution started the trailer was almost empty. After getting a couple of shots of girls and their parents loading their cookies into the family cars and trucks I went and shot the guys putting together the cookie orders. The light coming in from the two doors of the truck was really nice and when one of them was setting down a couple boxes of cookies with the light coming in nicely on his face I knew what shot I was going to use. And lucky for me, they were just picking up the cookies and not selling them. Because a box of thin mints would have been devoured quickly.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Construction, more construction

Despite the what is being billed as a sagging economy, I was assigned to shoot my third construction photo in the last month. This week it was about a new spec building being built in the business park on the west side of Abilene. The first thing I noticed when I was driving up to the place was how big it was. So, I tried to shoot a photo that conveyed that message. So, I parked a little ways back and shot it with a long lens. I think it worked out well, the lines of the building and the light coming through couples with crane showing the height of the building made it work out well and tell the story I was trying to tell.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Starting the New Year off in a good light...

Saturday was a busy day, and this assignment almost never happened. I had two other assignments and this was basically "find a feature at the cutting show." Now, if you've never been to a horse cutting event, even the participants will tell you this, it's pretty damn boring to watch if you don't do it, or know what you're looking for. I have absolutely no idea what I'm looking for. So, when I have to go shoot these events, I don't even bother entering the arena, I just look for something going on outside.

Here's where the "this almost didn't happen part comes in. In between an assignment out of town and two basketball games and working desk I had to do this. Basically I had about 15 minutes to find something. So, I get to the Taylor County Expo Center, park and walk into the horse barns. That's when I saw this great light , there were a few people around with their horses, so I just stood around waiting for someone to walk through this great light. Well after about 10 minutes I had nothing and was getting nervous. When a young kid asked me what I was doing, after I told him I was taking photos for the newspaper he asked what I wanted him to do to get in the paper. After explaining that I don't set up photos, he told me he was taking his horse to the wash bay. I figured I'd follow him there, and get some shots of him washing his horse, since no one was taking advantage of this great light.

After spending my last few minutes of my time getting some decent shot of the kid washing his horse I was walking out of the barn, when I saw this great site. Don Long was "tuning up" his horse. And the best part is, the cutting that the horse was doing was kicking up dust to make the rays of light even nicer! I spent about 5-10 minutes shooting, waiting for him to be in the light just right. After he got done I got his name talked to him for a couple minutes and then took off (late) for my basketball game, but happy I stuck around. The basketball game was nothing special, but I knew as I was leaving I had something nice from this, it was worth be late to basketball.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Bowling for Cotton...

My first assignment of the new year was just like the last of the year, more football, the last game of the season. The Cotton Bowl played it final game of its 73 years of existence at the actual Cotton Bowl stadium. Next year it is moving to Jerry Jones' $1 billion monstrosity that he is building in Arlington. And honestly, it's probably a good move. The Cotton Bowl is a great old stadium with a lot of character.
Translation: the place is a dump. I know, the city of Dallas just spent a fortune upgrading the stadium and making it look a lot nicer and putting in some bench seating, replacing the old stadium seats that were made for people a lot skinnier than those that are around today. But the place is still in pretty bad shape. First, the grass. This is the first year I've seen the grass still somewhat alive. Although they did still paint the grass green. Which I think is a new shade of green, because the stains on my knees (I almost always kneel when I'm shooting football) were a lot darker this year then in years past.
Now, despite all my bitching about the stadium, this is one of my favorite bowl games of the year and it is always a joy to shoot. The CBAA folks always do a nice job of putting the game on. Not to mention the game is usually a pretty good game, this year's contest was no different.
This year's game Texas Tech played Ole Miss in a game that almost no one game Ole Miss a chance in, myself included. As I've mentioned before, there are a number of local kids playing for Texas Tech and a few get some playing time too. Ole Miss, however, also had a kid with local ties playing as well. Starting quarterback Jevan Snead is from Stephenville. Snead originally went to Texas but was beat out his freshman year by Colt McCoy and ended up transferring to Mississippi.
So, not only was I there to cover the game, since Abilene has a pretty large Texas Tech contingent even without all the kids with local ties, but I also needed to get photos of the local players as well as Snead (above, handing off), since the chances of covering him again are really thin.
Tech struck first with a long touchdown drive, then on Ole Miss's next drive Snead threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. It was starting to looking like the blowout that everyone was expecting. But Mississippi kept playing its game and made a touchdown long drive, by halftime Ole Miss was up 24-21.
The second half opened up like the way the first half ended. Mississippi was just dominating the game. Tech could get nothing going in the third quarter and ended up being down a couple scores going into the fourth quarter. Now, with their high octane offense, I figured if anyone could comeback it was the Red Raiders.
The fourth quarter started out with Tech mounting a nice touchdown drive, but it wasn't enough. The Rebels went down the field and scored again. The Texas Tech offense couldn't get it going in the second half consistently. There were a few really questionable play calls by Tech and basically they just fell apart.
Well I guess no one bothered to tell Ole Miss they weren't supposed to win the game because they won 47-34. And, quarterback Jevan Snead, who was playing his first game back in his home state since transferring from UT, made the best of it passing for a career high 292 yards. So naturally after the game was over I was seeking him out to hopefully get some post-game celebration shots. Well, I found him as he was running toward the end zone stands to celebrate with fans. And, I guess I wasn't the only one following him as he slapped hands with fans and friends because during this whole time I somehow ended up getting about 4 or 5 seconds of face time on national television and had no idea it had happened until a few minutes later when the text messages started rolling in, and then the next day when a number of friends told me they saw me after the game. I guess the good thing is I didn't do anything embarrassing like picking my nose or anything, so it ended up well.