Saturday, February 26, 2011

Getting a Kick Outta Soccer...

After having followed Hardin-Simmons team through the NCAA tournament to the school's first-ever team national championship, I was kind of looking forward to shooting a little more soccer this year. But, other than a scrimmage game and another half-game I shot in January I hadn't gotten too much until now. But, with the crosstown game coming up I had two games back-to-back. Well, I quickly realized what I didn't like about high school soccer, especially when the two local teams are having a down year!
The game was really slow, and all through regulation there was no scoring. Ugh, I hate games like this. However, the good thing about no score, or just any tie in general, is that the games go to a shootout, and since this was the crosstown game, it would mean there would be no shortage of emotion after one of the teams pulled out the win.
For the boys game, I had other assignments that needed to be done, so I wasn't going to be able to stay the whole game. Luckily, less than a minute into the game Abilene High made a quick score and there was a lot more action in the game, or at least a lot more contact on the side of the field that I was. So, missing the end of the game wasn't as bad as it would have been to miss the girls game, plus the boys didn't go to a shootout either.




Sunday, February 20, 2011

Snow Day(s)...

It's kind of ironic I'm sitting on my couch in shorts and a t-shirt with the windows open and a fan on writing this. I guess that just shows how far behind I am on posting to my blog. I've said it plenty of times, I HATE snow. Luckily, usually when it snows in Abilene it's an inch, maybe two, and it's gone the next day. Well, this recent snowstorm we got it seemed like it would never go away. And, unlike when it snows up north and a couple hours later the plows get out and by the afternoon it's gone. Here, it cripples the city and Outside of the one or two plows operated by the Texas DOT, the only thing to get rid of the ice on the roads is the sun. So, when the sun stays away for three days and the temperatures don't go above the low 20's I get to spend the majority of my time shooting weather photos.
On Monday night it started out raining... by about 2am it was snowing, hard. By the time I woke up the next morning there was 5-6 inches of snow on the ground and all the rain from the night before was a solid sheet of ice on all the roads. For a three day period I was not able to even get my car out of the driveway. Luckily my lovely wife allowed me to chauffeur her around in her 4-wheel drive Jeep.
So, my days pretty much every one of those days consisted of diving around chasing snow plows, creeping around the city behind people that shouldn't be driving car that they didn't know how to drive on ice and were ill equipped for driving, and looking for people having fun and generally acting foolish. Luckily by Friday, the sun came out and the sun began thawing out the roads, and by Saturday there were no problems. Overall, I was happy with what I got, but I'm glad it's gone and I've got shorts on now!





Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Grande Dame of the Ball...

This was one of those last-minute assignments... one of my former photo editors, Robyn Larsen, I think said it best calling it a "breaking" features assignment, basically a term used when an editor forgets or just plain doesn't put in the assignment until the last minute when the page is ready to be designed. This was certainly one of them. While I was setting up the studio to shoot employee mugs and the football players of the year, the Life editor asked, "Hey since you've got the studio set up already do you think you could shoot Roy Helen (Ackers) for the Sunday Life cover?" Of course, it wasn't really a question, more a statement, "hey she's coming in, we need this." So, after finishing the employee mugs, and asking myself "How the hell and I going to shoot this in a plain studio?" It's one thing shooting athletes in the studio, it's all about the lighting and making them look like a badass. However, that's not really the goal when I'm shooting photos of an 89-year-old woman for a story about her being the Grande Dame of the Philharmonic Ball!

A little background on Roy Helen Ackers, she's pretty well-known around town. Mostly for the hats she wears, I think she's got 100's of them, and they are all quite eccentric. They always match her outfits, and often, so do her nails and eyeliner etc. So, here I was in the studio trying to figure out how the heck I'm going to shoot this, and the answer was, it's just not going to happen. So, I went back and set it up to shoot it at her home. About four years ago I shot a photo of her in her home for one of the local non-profits (below) and it turned out really nice. I figured the only way this was going to turn out well is to shoot the photo at her house. So, I packed up my lights and headed out. Now, I gotta say, Roy Helen was awesome to work with, she basically told me to do whatever I needed and we could shoot the photo wherever I wanted. Most of the time the society types want to control everything, so this was a welcome change. Since this was a "breaking" feature photo and the page was being put together as I was shooting it, I had to shoot horizontal, so I changed things up from the previous photo. I also used two lights, a soft box to the left and a grid off to her right, to make her pop out even more I shot a full one second exposure so the little bit of camera shake would mute out the background while keeping her sharp with the strobes and making her pop out even more. I gotta say, as far as "breaking" features go, this worked out better than others... If only it had reproduced better, UGH!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pinstriping Perfection...

I've done stories on Steve Cox before and he's an amazingly talented guy. He hand pinstripes cars and the work he does is nothing short of amazing. So, when I heard we were doing a story featuring him for our coverage of the World of Wheels it was both good and bad. It was cool, because I knew the work that he'd be doing would look really cool, but I also needed to get something different than what I have done in the past. Then I found out they needed me to shoot his pix and get them and then go shoot a basketball game 40 miles out of town. Luckily, he had one car to work on, a junior dragster. After he got set up, I only had about 15 minutes to shoot, but it turned out well, he got quite a bit of the design done.
One of the (very few) good things about being crunched for time is, I usually end up leaving without a lot of shots, which means less photos to edit and less time to get done to move on to the next assignment. Sadly, this is quickly becoming more the norm than the exception across the newspaper/photojournalism industry with the cutting staffs. I guess the only thing left to do is make due with what you get.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Play Time...

It's not often that really "easy" yet visually interesting stories come around. And, while the local high school musicals happen every year and we end up giving them a lot of coverage anyway, it still often makes for some interesting photos and gives a nice look at the kids that don't often stand out. Now, with as much sports as I shoot I'll be the first to admit high school sports probably gets an unfair amount of coverage as opposed to what else happens at the local schools. So, shooting something like this gives a fresh look at things and a spotlight on the other talents the schools have to offer.
It's also one of those things that welcome the coverage. When I shot it I planned on doing just one photo column combining the the two musicals in one story and on the same page. However, after finishing shooting the two I had plenty of photos, so I decided split it in two and give both groups their own page. That way no one would feel slighted if one group of photos played larger than another.






Friday, February 4, 2011

Players of the Year...

It's that time of year again. Our annual football players of the year. I feel a lot better about shooting these now than when I first came here. It helps that I know how to light now, but that's not the reason why. Up until about five years ago, we used to shoot all of the players of the year as a group. And to be frank, the photo always looked like shit! When you put too many people in one photo it just looks like a jumbled mess. And that's exactly what we were doing, making a jumbled mess, when what we should have been doing is making nice images that these kids and their families would remember.
One thing I have found is the kids will give you a lot more of their time if they understand how good they can look. That's the great thing about shooting digital is being able to show them their photo on the LCD and if there's a problem (like a goofy look on their face etc.), it can be fixed. I'll usually start out shooting a few frames and getting my lights set right and show it too them. For the most part, after they see the photo and how they look, they are fine with working with me more.
One thing that has stayed relatively the same had been the style of the photos. They are pretty much all shot on a dark background. I'm ok with that. For the most part many of these kids are only on the team once. On a rare occasion we'll have somebody on the team twice, but I'll usually do a different pose. So, while I've seen them plenty, it doesn't necessarily mean that they have and ultimately that's what matters most.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stock Show...

Last weekend was the Taylor County Stock Show, which always finishes up with the Premium Auction for the winners. The difference between this auction and the ones you see at the big stock shows, is the animals are not actually sold. I know, weird. However, after hearing the explanation it does make sense. Since the Taylor County stock show is more of a stepping stone event rather than one of the "biggies," (I'm told Ft. Worth, San Antonio and Houston are the big ones) there wouldn't be much reason to enter. So, the "auction" is more of a fund raiser with the money donated by local businesses and people given to the kids to pay for travel/feed /etc. The other thing about this that's a little unusual is the time it takes. It really usually goes pretty quick. So, I didn't have a whole lot of time to find a nice shot. Luckily, some of the animals were feeling kinda ornery. Then you couple an eight year old girl who looks like she ways less than 100lbs with a steer weighing around 1,000, and it's not terribly hard to find a nice shot.