Monday, August 31, 2009

Moon Over Abilene...

As I was coming back from shooting a volleyball game out of town last Tuesday I noticed the moon was real big in the sky and this bright red color. I was just outside of Abilene and about to get off at my exit and figured it could make a really nice picture. As I was driving down the access road I saw one of the buildings at Abilene Christian University between some trees. I pulled off real quick. The building was probably a half mile or more away. Luckily I had my 400mm lens in the trunk. I pulled it out and put the teleconverter on. By this time the moon was dropping down pretty quickly. I was able to bang off about 15-20 frames before it dropped below the horizon. I was pretty happy with the shot, but would have liked to go back the next night to try to reshoot it. Sadly the sky was cloudy the next night and the moon was hidden.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

PeeWee football...

Every year as a tie in to our football preview section we have some type of football story on the front page as a tie. This year it was a about youth football. A second youth league had formed after some financial scandals with the second one. So, the start of football season seemed the perfect time to do this story.
The peewee kids are actually kind of fun shoot shoot. Most of them are playing football either for the first or second year so they are still learning. But it is fun to watch them play because no matter how talented they are they always give every ounce of effort they have. Plus they look just plain out of place wearing those pads which are usually nearly as big as they are and they seem to get swallowed up by them.
The day I went out to shoot the story it was hot, as usual, but a storm was rolling in, so the clouds in the sky made things look pretty ominous. This actually turned out really well. The top photo is the one that ran big on the front page. I liked it because you could see how young these kids were but shooting low and wide still gave them that larger than life look and the clouds just added to it. As for the others I tried to just vary things up enough so you could see what was going on.
I had to shoot a team from both of the leagues. The problem with this was both teams were practicing on Wednesday from 6-8pm. And the practices were on opposite ends of town. So, the plan was to shoot one for about an hour and rush to the other park and shoot the other. The first one went well, but they weren't running any plays until the end of practice. So I had to shoot them running drills and warm-ups. The second team was running plays, but when I got there I only had about 30 minutes left. Luckily the practice ran a little over and I was able to get everything I needed.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cover Story...

The theme of this year's football preview was rivalries. Our sports editor while cleaning out his parents' old house found this electric football game hidden away... and it still worked. Being rather short on time, this thing is a 144-page section had to be shot in little more than a week, we went with the idea of having the coaches of the two rival Abilene city schools playing electric football, since they should be easy to get in the office. Both guys are real easy to work with and the two teams started practice a week later than most of the other area schools since they play Spring football. Well, it turned out that it wasn't so easy to get 2 guys that live only a few miles from the paper to get in. Both had fairly open schedules, but they were both open at opposite times! And, to make it worse I was out running all over west Texas shooting other stuff during the week too.

Well, it finally worked out, we got both of them in on a Saturday. They were great to work with and when they saw the electric football game and were told what we were going to do they both laugh and were really willing to play along. I had spent about 30 minutes setting things up using a couple of our sports guys as stand-ins so I could try a few things out before the coaches came in. It also gave me a photo to show them and tell them exactly how I wanted it to look. The lights showing behind them was something I added in while shooting them. I originally had the idea of the back lighting just to make them pop out a little more from the black background, but after a shot where I didn't have the light in just the right spot I noticed it kind of help make it look like stadium lights as well as making them pop out. So an extra minute and about 5-10 shots later I had the lights in just the right spot and came up with the cover I had. The whole thing with the two of them only took about 20 minutes and that's because they were having a good time and laughing about it. The top photo is the original shot the bottom is how the final cover looked with the words on it, often I shoot these cover photos using a lot of dead space so they can put the words on it, so the originally looks a little more plain. I think It worked out well, I'm happy with the end product.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The beginning of Fall...

Well, at least sort of. Fall is football season, my favorite time of the year. Sadly the start of the cool weather part of Fall is still a few weeks away. But hot weather won't delay the start of football. The first Monday in August is the official start of football season around here. It is when the majority of football teams are allowed to have their first practices of the year. It also means I'm about to be busy as hell for the next two weeks putting together our annual football section.

This year's section is 8 pages smaller than last year's... only 144 pages! Many of the photos are file photos from the previous season which requires me to go through thousands of photos from last year. But the other part of it is mug shots. We shoot mug shots of every 11-man football player we cover. There are a few reasons for this. Often it is the only time we get out to cover a lot of these schools. It also gives us the chance to go to every school and talk to the coaches. We do a video interview of the coach and a player for the web and, if we have time, shoot some practice photos. At the end of the first week I put together a photo page to go with

This year I logged a little over 1,800 miles of driving going to all of these schools over a two-week period. I'm not even going to take a guess at how many gallons of sweat I had pour out of me. By the end of the week a lot of the kids talk about how much they are tired of hitting each other and ready for the real games to start. I know how they feel, after the first week, I'm tired of shooting practices and ready for the actual games. The problem is I usually still have another week of shooting practice then then scrimmages after that... just like them.









Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Horsin Around...

Here's some photos from a few days at the Texas State 4-H horse show. The week was busy and I was pressed for time and was only able to spend about an hour each day out at the horse show. The good part though was at least I was able to make it out there everyday. I was happy with the overall results and the paper ended up selling a bunch of reprints from it.





Monday, August 17, 2009

Tour de Gap...

There aren't many things I don't mind rolling out of bed before 10am for. The Tour de Gap is one of the few. What made it worse this year is I went out the night before and played poker with some friends (I finished fourth, the top 3 were in the money!). So, getting up is hard enough working on only 4 hours of sleep is only worse.
Well after downing some carbonated caffeine during the 20 minute drive to Buffalo Gap I was feeling a little more awake once I got there. I try to get there about 20-30 minutes before the races start in hopes of finding some riders doing some prep work. This year wasn't as fruitful as in years past, but there is always plenty to shoot during the race.
The course changes every year, this year the 70 mile course had a big loop and another smaller loop to make up the course. As usual I rode with the rides on the full course, at least during the first loop. After that I went and hung out at the finish line. I'm glad I did leave early though, that's when I found the shot of the sheriff's deputy directing traffic as the riders came into Buffalo Gap. It added something nice that I hadn't found .

Warm ups...

This is a shot from a story we were doing about one of the local youth track clubs who was trying to raise money to send their kids to the Games of Texas. I went out and shot some photos of practice. This was a shot from them doing their warm-ups. I liked it the best, I liked all the different body languages and how you could see both boys and girls all of different ages.

She Doesn't Hit Like a Girl...

A couple years ago I was at one of the local boxing gyms for a story we were doing on an upcoming story about a local boxing match. While I was there I asked Geno, the guy who ran the gym if he had any female boxers. At the time he didn't. A few years later, in May, I ran into Geno again while I was covering one of the local church's Cinco de Mayo celebrations. He mentioned that he had "plenty" of females boxing now and to come by any Tuesday night and he'd introduce my to some if I was still interested in doing a story about them.
My photo column series was just around the corner and I'm always looking for interesting stories to work on for these. So in June I showed up and was introduced to Karissa. She was not at all what I expected. I was expecting someone who looked more like a boxer rather than a high school girl who's favorite color was pink.
Since there aren't many girls who fight, and none of the others in her gym are at her level, her coaches often have her spar against the boys. And, she certainly holds her own. So much so that the only guy who will regularly fight with her is her boyfriend. She's even beaten a few of them up so good while sparring that they have been afraid to come back!
I will admit, just from looking at her I didn't think she was going to be much of a fighter but after having watched her spar a few time both with her coach and boyfriend, I'm not sure I'd mess with her. When she was hitting the gloves with her coach you could hear how loud her punches were landing. It was obvious this girl was a really hard hitter.
While watching her training I was really impressed by how hard she works out. For a 15-year-old kid she put plenty of time and effort into her workouts. I remember when I was that age, I'm not sure I would have done so much... especially the running in 100 degree weather. But, she did it and never complained about it beyond mentioning how hot it was, but everyone here complains about that though.
One of my favorite things about this though was the gym. The Old School Boxing gym really lives up to its name, old school. Geno, the owner, is proud of its no frills look. There are no expensive treadmills, they run instead. The weights are actual weights with bars and a bench, there are no bowflex machines or any of that other stuff you see at the high end gyms. Geno mentioned how he liked to keep it old school without the air conditioning, and added that often during the winter he'll crank up the heat even higher to keep everyone sweating during their workouts! I think it actually helped out the story more than if it was in some upscale gym that was sparkly clean. Although all three times I walked out of there my shirt was completely soaked from sweating, I think I even may have lost a few pounds just shooting photos.
Normally I don't have a whole lot of time to work on these, they need to be turned around pretty quick, but I made sure to make time to work on this story. It did help that summer nights aren't nearly as busy as the rest of the year. One thing I was hoping for was her to get a fight. But, that has been her problem since she started. There just isn't a lot of girls who box, so finding her an actual fight is tough. She's only had one real fight. I'm hoping she'll get another one in the next few months and doing a follow up story on her. Here is the link to the full story I wrote for the paper.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hot Dog! It's a Weenie race...

So I started writing this a few weeks ago, then I got sidetracked and didn't finish it. I do this a lot and normally finish it the next day. Now I have a ridiculous backlog of photos to post.
There is no question that dog people normally love their animals and some have a rather odd way of showing it. I know because I'm one of them. As the owner of way too many dogs, I probably treat them better than any child I will ever have.
So for the past two years the local animal rescue has held one of their big fund raisers in Buffalo Gap, just outside of Abilene. The main attraction each year has been the Dachshund races. This year there was more than 120 weenie dogs entered in the competition. It was a lot of fun.