Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fighting Fire from the Skies...

So, winter in West Texas should be renamed fire season. Every year for the past couple seasons we've been getting really bad brush fires. This year hasn't been too different. The biggest problem is there hasn't been any significant rainfall since October, I think. So the ground is a giant tinderbox. Tuesday's fire was pretty big, about 600 acres burned and threatened a bunch of rural homes. While I was on my way to shoot a basketball game, my boss called me and told me to head to the airport there was an airplane waiting to take me and our videographer, Sarah up to shoot some aerial photos of the fire.
Originally we were supposed to fly at 1,000 feet to shoot the fire that way we could see what was going on on the ground pretty clear. The problem was there were so many Texas Forest Service helicopters and planes in the area we could only get clearance to go over the fire at 4,500 feet. Luckily I had grabbed a 300mm lens to take with me just in case. As we circled over the fire it was amazing to see how much land had been charred by the fire and the huge plumes of smoke. We didn't have a whole lot of time to shoot since the sun was going down fast and had to wait about another 10 minutes after we got in the air just to get clearance to go over the fire. On our last pass I got my best shot of a helicopter dropping water on the fire. I'm glad I brought the 300 with since I got something similar the first time and the helicopter didn't really show up. This was the shot I wanted. While I was flying over I could hear all the chatter of the Forest Service pilots on the radio. It turned out the was the helicopter's last drop too, they left because it was getting too dark too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I froze for almost 2 hours for 10 minutes of work...

Last week I shot a soccer game that I spent most of the time standing around freezing waiting for a decent shot to happen. Soccer has never been one of those sports I've jumped to go cover. I know it's the most popular sport in the world, but in Texas it's playing in the winter, and the crowds are, well, pathetic. This game, however, may have been an exception. Wylie was playing Cooper, and Wylie's fans always come out in decent numbers. So, when I got to the game Wylie was dominating the field position, but wasn't able to score. I spent most of the half on Wylie's side of the field waiting for a goal. One finally came, Wylie scored and was still keeping the ball on their side of the field. It was really cold there and I had thought about leaving but I needed to get a Wylie roster, so I stayed and am glad that I did.
With 17 seconds, Cooper scored a goal to tie the game. My only thought was "damn they're going to play an overtime period." Luckily they had a shootout instead. I knew I had a few decent shots if I wanted to leave, but that's just not how I work. I think this is all my dad's fault. He instilled this work effort in me that just won't let me cut corners or do things half-assed. So stuck around for the 15 minutes that the shoot out was going to take. All three of these photos were from the shootout, which makes me glad that I stayed. As I was leaving I was thinking to myself I just spent 2 hours shooting a game and all my best shots were from the last 10 minutes. I wasn't sure whether to be mad or not... I'm just glad I stayed the extra few minutes instead of leaving early when I just had "something." Thanks Dad!

33 Degrees is Too Damn Cold For Baseball!!

Well, it's been way too long since I posted anything. I've got plenty of excuses, I was out of town for a while and when I got back I was busy, plus my DSL modem crapped out, and on top of that I just haven't gotten around to it. So, hopefully I can get back to writing here more often. So, now that I got that done. My first weekend back from vacation (I actually went to the Southern Short Course, but getting to hang out with friends I only get to see once a year is a vacation in my book) it was cold, really cold. So, what was I shooting? Why baseball of course. For some reason someone thought that starting the college baseball season at the start of February was a good idea! Whoever came up with this idea should be beaten, tarred and feathered! These are the "Boys of Summer" NOT winter!! Well, normally I will go and shoot most of a game if time permits, luckily on this day I got a couple decent shots I liked quickly and I had other assignments I needed to shoot and was only there for a couple innings before going to thaw out.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Home for the Unwanted...

I have a love/hate relationship with my photo column. I hate it because, like most newspapers, we are understaffed and expected to do a lot more than we were doing four years ago. Back then we had a staff large enough to go spend a whole day on an assignment shooting it and doing interviews. Plus we had time to just go out and find something. Although, I admit I've never been too great at going out and finding a good story out of thin air, like some former co-workers I've had. On the other hand, I love the photo column when it is over. Mostly because we still get a full Life page front on Saturdays. And, normally it looks pretty good especially when you run into a good story like this one.
I found out about Sharon Hess, when I was shooting photos of Buddy Anderson a couple weeks ago. He told me how he got his horse, Mona, from Habitat for Horses, an organization that takes in abused and neglected horses seized by law enforcement. Even before I got a job in journalism, I think I've always been a journalist, which is a kind way of saying I ask a lot of questions. Even if I'm not writing a story, I'm just a naturally curious person, plus people seem to open up to me, often even times when I don't really care to know that much. However, when I'm working I'm always willing to listen. I can often pick up story ideas that way. And, it's always best when I can get photo columns out of them, since they are often a royal pain in the ass to find really good ones.
When I first talk to Sharon she was excited to get more publication about what she does. She's a pretty great person, and she and her husband and son are extremely selfless people. Often taking in abused horses who, the only thing they've done wrong are been given to the wrong owners, who don't feed them and often beat them. Some of the horses, are in such bad shape, it's amazing that of the 171 horses Hess has taken in over the last four years, she has only lost 13 of them.
Something else I find amazing is that the Hesses pay for all the feed, hay and vet bills out of their own pockets. The 25 horses and three donkeys they have right now cost them about $800 a month, and that's when they are all healthy. And Sharon told me they rarely can go on vacation or out of town because someone has to go feed the horses every day.
In talking to her I could really tell the compassion she had for these animals, and the unconditional love she showed for each one. It's really nice to see things like this at a time where economy is in the tank, there are still people that dig into their own pockets to help the helpless. Here is a link to the story which also has an audio slideshow with it, that has an interview with Sharon about what she does.