Sunday, January 30, 2011

Searching for Hailey, My Last Day...

Monday was my last day in Colorado City, and it wasn't a moment too soon. And on this day there wasn't a whole lot going on. I had forgotten it was Martin Luther King Day, so the "official" search had kind of taken the weekend off, publicly at least. Monday had also marked the three week mark since she had last been seen. I drove around the city for a while and talked to the reporter to see if she was working on anything in particular. But, at least I didn't have to write the story. After coming up with nothing in Colorado City I decided to drive up to Dunn, the small town about 15 miles north where much of the searching was going on.
On the bridge in the town there was a huge memorial set up for Hailey. Over 100 stuffed animals lined the bridge along with letters and posters of support. It was both really cool to see the outpouring of support and sad because of the whole situation. It was also the meeting place for the unofficial search parties. So, I hung out there hoping one of the groups would show up. I spent about an hour sitting in my car, listening to the radio. Then a couple ladies showed up with their kids. There were from Colorado City, they all stood around and prayed together, and then the kids spent a few minutes looking at all the letters and stuffed animals. It made for a really nice moment. After another long wait, the Hailey's Angels group, the few ladies that spent pretty much every day out there looking for them showed up. I spoke with them for a while and followed them to the next place they were looking. It worked out really well, because the light was nice. And even though I only had about 40 minutes to spend with them when we finally got to the place I got a couple nice shots. Thank God! A couple hours earlier I was afraid I wouldn't get anything.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Still Searching for Hailey...

Despite spending two days digging up the Abilene landfill, Hailey Dunn was not found in the Abilene landfill. The two hits that had been picked up on by the cadaver dogs were from a couple of casts that were thrown away and the hots the dog made were from dead skin cells in the casts. So the search continued...
The photog we had staying in Colorado City had been there for 12 straight days, only getting home once to get clean clothes. Living out of a hotel and working on the story nearly non-stop. So, anyone who's ever had to work that much especially on the same story, knows that you need to just get some time off to unwind. So, I got to spend two days covering it. On Sunday, members of the Taylor County Sheriff's Posse were going to join the search on horseback.
Since I was the only person covering the story that day, I was both shooting the photos and writing the story. It wasn't nearly as bad as I was thinking it would be, since the Sheriff Posse was there it was a new story we were able to do rather than the same "searching continues and nothing is new" story that was becoming redundant. I spent all morning following the group to a couple different places and taking off on horseback. It's really amazing how much ground can be searched by 30+ people on horseback. I wasn't able to follow to much but, needless to say, I got plenty of exercise from walking around with all my camera gear. And, like the past nearly three weeks, nothing was found. Here is a link to the story I wrote: here.





Thursday, January 27, 2011

Searching for Hailey...

So, I had a rare Friday off, and how did I spend the afternoon? Grocery shopping!! I know, incredibly exciting huh? So, as I'm walking down the canned foods aisle gathering ingredients to make my mom's recipe for homemade spaghetti and meatballs, I get a call from work asking me to come in they were searching the Abilene landfill and cadaver dogs had already gotten two hits in the search. My boss said he was trying to find a plane to hire to shoot aerial photos and that he'd call me back soon. So, I grabbed the couple of cans of tomato sauce I had left on the list and checked out while waiting for the return phone call.
As I was driving home, hoping to get my groceries put away before the return call, my phone rang. I had to rush to the airport (luckily you can get anywhere in Abilene in 10 minutes or less), there was a helicopter waiting for me to take me up shoot aerials of the search. SWEET!! I've always wanted to fly in a helicopter. I've shot plenty from airplanes, but shooting from a helicopter is completely different, and a LOT easier. First, the helicopter is slower and while we never stopped and just hovered we were going slow enough I could get all that I needed. Plus the door had been taken off, normally when I shoot from a plane there may be a tiny window to shoot through. With no door, I could pretty much lean out the door (I was strapped in with a 6-point harness) and shoot easily. It was pretty crazy to see, there were a bunch of people in hazmat suits sorting through trash that had been dug up by a hydraulic excavator. Overall, I was pretty happy with what I came back with, and despite the helicopter making a smart car feel like a Cadillac I'd still rather shoot from it than an airplane!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Praying for Hailey...

A couple of weeks ago, 13-year-old Hailey Dunn went missing in Colorado City, about 70 miles west of here. When it was originally reported we didn't do a whole lot on the story. The local police in Colorado City were treating her case as a runaway. However, after a week, it was looking a little different and started picking up national headlines. We had a reporter and photographer staying in Colorado City the whole week. By Sunday, we had a photog working things in that area, but there was another prayer service in Sweetwater that I had to go shoot. I was told it was going to be a candle light vigil, however, it was happening at 5pm, when there's still light out. It turned out to be a prayer service. That was fine, but I had to figure out how I was going to shoot it. All of the people participating ended up holding hands in a giant circle in the parking lot of the church. It made it kind of nice the sun was going down and I just followed the light around. At the end, they had a balloon release, by that time the sun had almost set, so I figured I'd work out the silhouettes, since that's about all the light I had left. It worked out pretty nicely considering how somber the situation was.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I love shooting boxing. Ever since the first time I shot it in college, there has always been an interest. I know that MMA is a lot more popular right now, but as far as what I'd rather shoot I'll take boxing any day. Maybe it's because this is amateur and not professional, but it's a lot of fun to shoot. I also think it has a lot to do with how little I get to shoot it, maybe once a year.
This time it was a tournament. One of the local boxing gyms was having a state qualifying tournament with about 20 bouts. It was really cool because there was a nice mix of different ages and even a few girls matches. The last few boxing stories I've shot have just been boxers practicing, so it was nice to finally be able to shoot some matches. I ended up getting to shoot about four matches. I was the only photog on that day and had to squeeze a basketball game in the same time boxing was happening. But, overall it turned out pretty nice. I came away with a few shots I was happy with.




Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Restoring and Preserving History...

When I'm out I'm constantly looking for story ideas, especially while working on other assignments. Some of my favorite photo columns have come from finding them while on other assignments. This one was no exception. I met Michael McCormack while I was covering a gun show. I got a photo of him looking at knives, and when I was getting his name he handed me his card, which said he did architectural stained glass. So, we ended up talking about that for about 10 minutes. He told me about how he was currently restoring a stained glass mural for a rural church in Ira.
So, I called him about three weeks later and set up a time to come out to shoot him working. I was thinking it would be just a story about him restoring stained glass. Well, the first hour I was there, I think I may have shot one photo. Most of the time was spent talking, that was ok, I'd cleared my whole schedule for the morning and afternoon to shoot this. Well, after talking I found out he was also a history buff and one of his other hobbies was collecting antique rifles (I guess that would make sense since I met him at a gun show) and taking part in historical reenactments. Then he told me, he takes the discarded lead from the windows he restores and melts them down to make bullets for his guns!
I think the story would have been cool just telling about him restoring and creating stained glass windows. However, after hearing about him making bullets with the discarded lead, that just made for an added twist to the story that you always hope for. It was also kind of funny, he called me a couple days afterward to thank me and told me that his girlfriend always gave him a hard time about always giving out his cards, he laughed and said now he's got proof of why giving it out all the time works. I'm glad he did. The story I wrote for the paper can be read here: Preserving History


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Judging With Their Boots...

I had a couple of assignments that were slated for the local section front that fell through. Then the third assignment I had wasn't happening until the next day. And, while having my assignment load drop from five to two may make the day sound easier, it actually makes it a lot more difficult. I still need to fill a section front with a photo. And, it can't be some crap grip-n-grin stuff, I still have to put my name on it. Luckily, almost the whole month of January, the Abilene Spectacular Cutting Show is going on at the Taylor County Expo Center. So I went out there seeing wha I could find, these usually make for some of the better shots anyway, since I can just hang out and shoot what I want. So, when I got there I saw all the judges just sitting there and their cowboy boots all sticking out of their stalls. Sweet! I knew I had my shot, I spent about 15 minutes just shooting tight on the boots sticking out until I had a shot I was happy with.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

No Shortage of TD's Here...

If you're a fan of football and a lot of offense and you've never seen six-man football you are truly missing out. There are quite a few differences between it's 11-man cousin and I'm not going to claim to know all the differences. Nor, am I going to say I completely understand the game, because I don't. But I do know, it's pretty damn fun to watch. So, when it was announced that the two six-man state championship games were going to be played in Abilene it was kind of cool to hear.
The first game was a pair of out-of-area teams and I had other assignments to shoot, so I got there late and only had to shoot a few crowd shots. The nightcap was the important game for us to shoot. And like most every six-man game I've ever shot there was no shortage of touchdowns. There was even a punt... something I'd never seen covering six-man football. Both teams game in with offenses that were regularly beating their opponents into submission. In fact, most of the games ended early. In six-man football the game ends at halftime if one team is up by 45 points or more, or after one team goes up by 45 or more the game ends. Throckmorton and Garden City were running over their opponents every week like that. Plus it was a rematch of last year's state semi-finals.
Garden City came out pretty quick and Throckmorton had to play catch up in the game. And while they made some nice scores in the second half and made a decent effort to come back. Garden City just wasn't going to let up. In fact, Garden City scored on every possession except for two, and one of those was the final one while they were in the victory formation. All in all it was a fun game to watch and I made a shot I was happy with of Throckmorton's Michael Everett's Superman dive into the end zone for a touchdown, a nice way to end the football season.



Monday, January 3, 2011

This Signals the End of Football Season...

Outside of a few rare exceptions (Including one team coached by one of the few [only?] readers of this blog) the quality of basketball in the are is the exact opposite of the quality of football here. So, it's always fun to get to see a football team make a deep run in the playoffs of better yet make it to the state championship game. That minimizes the bad basketball to only a month.
With that said, the Brownwood Lions were the best chance in the area to make a deep run in the playoffs, which they were doing. Their biggest test of the year was going to be against Carthage, the 2-time defending Class 3A state champs. If there was a team that was tailor made to beat Brownwood it was Carthage. They were big and controlled the lines, plus had plenty of speed and could limit possessions.
Carthage kept Brownwood off balance all night and pushed them around in the trenches. Despite Carthage dominating the game, Brownwood was never out of it and had a chance to tie things up on the final drive. And the final drive was the Jaxon Shipley show.
I've said it more than a few time that Jaxon Shipley is the best high school wide receiver I've ever seen play, I think I may have to amend that to say he's the best high school football player I've ever seen. He pretty much took the game over on the last drive making an amazing catch between three defenders on 4th-and-24 to keep things alive. He was getting the ball and everyone in the stadium knew it yet there was nothing the defense could do about it. Brownwood ended up driving down to the 2 yard line and on the last play of the game Carthage tipped the final pass away intended for Shipley to end it. It was a damn good game and almost had a storybook ending. Oh well time for basketball, and if you have a chance to see Shipley playing for the University of Texas next year, go for it. He's going to be a damn good player!