Sunday, January 31, 2010

Crosstown Soccer...

Tuesday was the crosstown soccer games between Abilene High and Cooper. The game has lost a little bot of the luster since they are no longer in the same Classifications, but the rivalry is still alive. The girls game was first, and it was pretty unexciting, the game ended with a scoreless tie. That's when it got good. To break the tie there was a shootout, normally it's five shooters. This time, however, it was tied 3-3 after five shooter so they went to trading shots one each to break the tie. Cooper won it with a goal on the seventh shooter. The was good because this celebration shot was about all I got. For the boys' game I had to make something in the first half since I had another assignment that was starting at 8pm and since the girls game went long I barely had enough time to shoot the whole first half. I also had to get something that would tell the story both ways since I wasn't going to be able to stay until the end. Normally I'll make sure I get one generic shot with players from both teams as a means of covering myself. The top shot was taken about 28 minutes in from a corner kick. Now, my job is to be neutral in my opinions of who wins or loses, however, my job is also to shoot photos that tell a story. So, I'm not going to say I was disappointed in the outcome of the game.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Getting up off the baseline...

It's no real secret I'm not a huge fan of shooting basketball, especially during the regular season. Part of it is because the local Abilene teams tend to be awful. The other part is all basketball photos tend to look the same, especially when I'm shooting as many as eight games a week (a high school boys and girls game on Tuesdays and Fridays and college men's and women's games on Thursdays and Saturdays). By the time the playoffs come around things get better there is at least an emotional factor going on, plus after the first week all the really bad teams are weeded out and I finally get to see some good ball being played.
One of my favorite ways to combat the baseline bore of getting much the same shot every game is to get away from the sitting on the baseline and shooting from in the stands. While the baseline may seem like a cool place to shoot a game from, sitting there for two straight games not only is hell on your back, but you are at pretty much the same angle the whole time too. By getting up into the stands you are helping yourself out a lot by getting a better angle and shooting down on the players and since they are going up at the basket it's easier to get clean shots of their faces rather than armpits. Now, I don't shoot every game from the stands, I try to vary it up between the baseline and the stands and often the crowd sizes dictates where I sit too. Obviously if it's a full house I don't have a choice and have to sit on the baseline. These three photos were taken from a couple of games over the last week and they are better than anything I've gotten from the baseline this year.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Workin out

I shot this for a story we were doing on how full the local gyms are after the new year. Since it seems nearly everyone has a New Year's resolution to lose weight, it seems like gym's business spikes every January between all the people deciding that Jan. 1 is all of the sudden the day they are going to lose weight. Asa well as the people (like me) who like to take a few extra helpings of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner as well as working the leftovers and holiday candy, they may gain a few extra pounds. So I guess joining a gym is the way to go to work off the pounds. So, the place I went is owned by one of the local hospitals and they like to have releases for any identifiable non-employees that I get in the shot. So, I try to just work around the hassle and shot some photos of the bodypump class. I made a few ok shot when they were lifting the weight bars over their heads, but then they started just lifting the weights over their heads, I was able to frame up the instructor along with getting a few others in the photo to show how packed the class was. I stuck around for another 15 minutes shooting some of the other exercises but nothing worked out as well as this one.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hog Heaven...

This week was my sixth and final week of round of photo columns. December was whirling by so fast with football playoffs, I didn't have a whole lot of time to really think of good ideas and with the Christmas season there were plenty of easy quick, albeit mediocre ideas out there to get done quickly.
This was kind of a re-hashing of a photo column I did about 6 or 7 years ago. The good thing about it is it can pretty much be done every year and keep getting a different story every year. The best part is it doesn't take a whole lot of searching on my part beyond calling up the county extension agent and asking for a family they think "may make for a good story." If it's one thing I've learned from 10 years of doing this it's to work smarter, especially in finding your stories, that way I'll have more time to do my actual shooting, especially on the fun stories.
I was given a lady's name and phone number and told she had two kids that showed pigs. That's about all I had to go on until I called her. It turned out things were a lot more interesting. The youngest child had a big brother from Big Brothers/Big Sisters who had showed pigs all through his childhood and was there to help out quite a bit. The story that I thought would be just ok, turned out to be really interesting and one I'm glad I was able to tell.
I hung out with them for about two hours (the whole time they were there). It was really interesting to see how the pigs reacted to the kids and some of the stories they told. I ended up getting a lot more information than I could tell. My favorite photo (top) was when the girl hopped out of her pig's cage, I like the way it showed everything, the pigpens, the kid, the barn and everything. But the part that made the shot for me was her hopping out of the pen and the slight motion blur, all that combined with the leopard print rubber boots she was wearing just made everything right. Here is a link to the story I wrote for the paper: In Hog Heaven.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

State Photographer of Texas...

There is NOTHING I hate more than shooting photos of other photographers, so when I got the assignment to shoot photos of Wyman Meinzer I looked at it as both something cool and miserable at the same time. Wyman is an incredible photographer and a really interesting guy. He lives in Benjamin, about 90 miles north of Abilene, and until a few years ago when he "grew out of it" he lived in the county jail. Well, at least it used to be the jail. Wyman is also the state photographer of Texas. That's what our story was about this time, a profile on him and his work, which is fantastic.

Now, one of my reasons I hate shooting other photogs so much is because we all seem to have fairly large egos. The other reason is you always get the feeling that the photog/subject is going to sit there and question everything you do, if not aloud, but in there mind... at least that's what I'd do. Wyman was actually really cool to work with. It was pretty cool too, the hat he was wearing for the photo was one he bought back in the 60's and I thought it just looked really cool and fit his personality well and suggested he wear it for the photo.

So, my idea was to go up there and shoot a portrait of him in his jail. The way he had it redone looked really cool and there were a lot items he had from his fur trapping days. I went with a pretty simple set up for the lights, I had one light on him with a warming gel and another behind the couch to light the background. I shot from a low angle because I thought him boots looked really cool and fit his personality. I knew the photo would run big, so I wasn't too worried about shooting wide and his face being too small to read. I think it worked out really well. Shooting fun portraits like this doesn't happen as much anymore, so I have to make the best when I get them.

House Fire...

It has been really cold around here and that means people are building fires in fireplaces and using space heaters more. That also means the number of house fire around here skyrockets. Usually this time of year has meant grass fires since it doesn't rain a lot during the winter, however, we've had enough to keep the grass fires down, now it's just bitterly cold. Over the past week, I've been to at least three fires. Most have them have been small, or the fire department got there quick enough to keep it from getting big. This fire, however, got out big quick. It started in a fireplace chimney and got into the house. By the time I got there the family had gotten out, but their animals had not. I saw some flames around the back of the house and decided to try to make some shots of firefighters putting them out, when I got to the back I saw a fireman coming out with a dog in his arms, I shot the photo wide to show the smoke coming out of the house. I hung around for a little while longer. The second photo was kind of humorous. The crew inside the house kept trying to put out the flames outside the windows, while being directed from a crew outside. They would keep missing a little left or a little right, finally the firefighter sticks the hose out the window and sprayed it completely. After he finally got it he let out this huge victory yell. After that, I knew I had the shots I needed. And, by the way, the dogs were all removed safely.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cotton Bowl...

The Cotton Bowl has become an annual pilgrimage to see some good SEC football for me. The last couple of years I've had a good reason to go. This year was Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead. Snead is one of the many area quarterbacks who's played college football in the last few years. Little did I know this was going to be his last college game, he declared he's entering the NFL draft last Friday.
This was also only the second time I had shot in the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlignton. The first time was for a High School game so it wasn't quite as decked out as it was for the Cotton Bowl. I gotta say, as cool as the old Cotton Bowl was from a nostalgic purpose, the new location at Jerry World is so much nicer. The stadium is absolutely amazing, not to mention getting in and out is a helluva lot easier to get through the traffic and the parking is a lot more plentiful.
The first half of the game was really bad, not a whole lot going on and Snead took a huge hit after an interception that left his helmet flying off. It knocked him out of the game game for pretty much the whole second quarter and part of the third. This didn't look good for me shooting the local kid especially since I didn't have much of him except the shot of him from the hit. Luckily he came back during the fourth quarter and I was able to make a few decent frames, including him celebrating a touchdown with the game MVP (below).





Saturday, January 9, 2010

Armed Forces Bowl...

For the second year in a row Houston played Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl on New Year's Eve morning. Houston quarterback Case Keenum graduated from Wylie High School in Abilene. And it's a lot closer to drive to Fort Worth than down to Houston. I shot this game last year and Keenum played a lot better. This year's game was - forgettable for the quarterback. He threw six interceptions, the same number he threw in the first 10 games. Of course I shot a lot more than just one player, that would make shooting the game pretty boring. The top photo pretty much told the story of Case;s day as well as the whole day for Houston. I've been watching the kid play since he was a sophomore in high school, and this may have been the worst. I'm sure he'll be fine playing during his senior year next year, and with some of the numbers he's put up, there's a good chance he could be a Heisman candidate.





Saturday, January 2, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow...

I'm not a big fan of snow, it was cool when I was a little kid and it got me out of school, but now it's more of a nuisance than anything else. I'm not really a fan of cold weather as a whole. Ideally around 60 degrees is about perfect. So, when it's 30, snowing and the wind is blowing at 10-15mph that last thing I wanna do is be outside, I'd rather be huddled up on my couch with the dogs trying to stay warm. But, that just ain't gonna happen working for a newspaper. So, you make the best of the situation.
Christmas Eve morning it snowed, hard. In fact it was the first time the weather service in this area had ever put out a blizzard warning. So, at 9am I got a call to go shoot weather photos, at least I'd be getting off early on Christmas Eve. So, I set out looking for people playing in the snow, as well as people stuck in it. The funny thing is, it was so cold and the wind was blowing so hard there really wasn't a whole lot of people out in it like in the past. However, after looking for a while I did find a few brave souls willing to brave the snow.