Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The week in review

We will be starting a new weekly feature on our website at the Tracy Press. Every week we will take a look back at the events as we saw them through the lens. The first slideshow is already up. Stop by and take a look.

Monday, July 30, 2007


The funny thing about this picture is that this is the Tracy Press editor Cheri Matthews displaying her brand new iPhone. This is the same person who branded me a “Mac geek” for purchasing a Mac Book Pro and delving into the whole iTunes, iPhoto, and iLife world. Welcome to the geek squad!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A lesson in light and shadow

This weekend’s hike took my hiking partner Alice Delaurier-O’Neil and I to Tilden Regional Park in Berkley. The hike was easy with cool temperatures as we went from botanical garden to eucalyptus groves to lakeshore.

What was different in this hike was the wide variety of ecosystems we encountered and along with them the changes in light. One minute in a desert setting, next in a lush rain forest. The ever-changing settings were a challenge to photograph with their low light and monochrome colors.

I still may be learning to see creatively again but I definitely see light and shadow well. This hike’s photography was more a study of light and the accompanying shadows than any photography I have done in a while.

Vibrant colors, soft shadows and sunlit splendors were all on the pallet. It was a fun shoot as I remembered the lessons of light and shadow.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Wrong turn

Whoa, this isn’t my street……

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Danger zone

What’s more dangerous, going on assignment in a construction zone that requires you wear a hard hat or having a photographer go along with you on assignment in a construction zone that requires you wear a hard hat?

River views

I was on assignment to the San Joaquin River yesterday and headed out to the park at Mossdale for a quick view of the river. I hiked down a short trail and went down to the river’s edge where a rusty car seat was propped up on the bank. I assumed it was a fisherman’s chair but it just seemed so out of place.

Back up and heading out I tried for a view from the railroad bridge that straddles the river. I have passed by this bridge hundreds of times but had never stepped foot on it. Rusty grating and old wood pilings gave me an uneasy feeling as I ventured out on it.

Two views from the river I have not seen before or most likely will again.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Climate of fear

It is tense times around Tracy. A crime spree with armed robbers is sweeping around town. Today’s robbery at a cell phone store is the fourth armed robbery since Thursday. I arrived on scene as officers prepared to enter the store but the robbers had already fled the scene.

We have been lucky so far. No innocent bystanders or shopkeepers have been injured in the robberies. Guns have been brandished and the potential for tragedy is high. We can only wait and see if the surge of crime continues in our city.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Red sky at night, sailor's delight

The view outside the office at sunset

In the mouth of madness

So I go into the editor’s office to drop off some proofs and almost lose an ankle by an ambush from her dog spending the day at work. Not to be intimidated I returned armed with my Canon digital camera. Everything seems calm, serene, sedate then……BAM! A flash of teeth, nostrils flaring I move my hand back just in time. Got a cool frame or two as well.

Football drills

The only thing that would make this photo better is if a kid was wearing the helmet while the guy has the power tool to it.

Friday, July 20, 2007


What do you think might be the hardest part of my job day to day as a news photographer? Could it be rushing to breaking news like a bank robbery? Maybe it is suffering through the sweltering afternoon heat at a Little League game? Or maybe it is just the day-to-day rush of deadlines and their relentless pressure? Not even close. Sometimes the toughest part of the job is the simplest of assignments, the ordinary people picture.

Now I would rather wade through a pool of starving crocodiles than have my picture taken so I can actually feel my subject’s pain. I have heard all the complaints from “it’s a bad hair day” to they don’t want their double chin in the picture. But a large portion of my job is taking people pictures no matter how much they hate it. Sometimes I spend more time trying to ease their fears of the camera than I do taking the pictures. There are two types of people pictures we do for the paper, the candid photo and the environmental portrait.

Candid photos are probably the hardest type of picture to take. This is when I do my best to slowly sneak up on someone and then stuff a 16mm wide angle lens inches from their face and tell them to act natural. Some of my best candid photos are shot with a long telephoto lens where I can keep a discreet distance and not frighten my subject.

Making people self-conscious is one of the hardest things to overcome in people photography. Having a camera-shy subject is a killer on assignment. I can either hold down the motor drive to drown out their cries for mercy or shoot a few quick frames before they cover their face. I get lots of training for this type of shooting around the office by photographing coworkers for my blog. But shooting quick candid shots isn’t enough for some assignments. Candid photos do a great job of showing who people are and where they are at. Sometimes we want to show more of them, give readers an idea of their character and style. Their personality becomes the subject matter itself.

I was assigned recently to photograph 104-year-old Gladys Schmolk. Gladys had lived through numerous earthquakes, many jobs and was still a feisty woman as I met her for the interview. I was trying to figure out the best way to capture the story of her years with a few different poses. One idea had her looking at a collection of pictures from the years. It was OK but didn’t really thrill me. Another thought was a full body view as she sat in her recliner talking. Again it was OK but didn’t show much of her wit and personality. One of the last shots I took at the shoot was a simple portrait of Gladys. I switched to my 70-200mm zoom and framed the pictures as tight as I could of her face. The portrait was harshly lit by a nearby floor lamp and the light glinted off her glasses and cast shadow through the lines of her face, showing the 104 years of her life in a simple and quiet manner. I loved the shot, and that was our choice.

Some personality shots are of a more somber note. Covering the story of U.S. Army Pfc. Bruce C. Salazar Jr., another local soldier killed in Iraq, I went to the home of his cousin, Claudia McIntyre, and photographed her with the a picture of him. It was a simple portrait, framed against the light streaming in from a nearby window it gave the portrait a quiet feel.

Other portraits I have taken can give a glimpse of the subject’s story. A young wrestler holding a practice dummy before an upcoming meet shows his size and determination. Using a wide angle lens and high shooting position made him loom large in the picture.

Don’t get me wrong, candid photos can also give a sense of the subject’s personality just as well as a more formal portrait. Incorporating the background and setting into the scene such as a “mountain man” at a black powder shooting event gives the reader a quick view of his hobby and the depth of his involvement in the shooting society. The grizzled look was a more a statement on him than the event he was at.

It’s more than just taking a person’s photo. We need to say who they are and what they do, what makes them unique. Sometimes it’s a battle with a camera shy subject, sometimes it’s just a quick view into their daily life but I always try to make sure their personality shines through the lens.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Danger zone

I had one of those silly thoughts today. Maybe I would try and get creative on assignment today. I picked a low angle with a wide-angle lens to capture a youngster as he rolled his bowling ball toward the pins during a bowling session at the Tracy Library. I didn’t count on the young bowler heaving the 8-pound bowling ball shot put style toward the waiting pins and me. Note to self: don’t stand above the pins, it’s just not safe!

Scaredy cat

This cat looks like she is ready to jump out of one of her nine lives as she suffered through a photo shoot for pet of the week. The weird thing about this cat is it has 12 toes. All the easier to slash the photographer with if I got too close.

Monday, July 16, 2007

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it

Not wanting to dump mediocre assignments on my coworkers I decided to take the Felicia Crowton assignment today. Crowton will be featured in the Playboy magazine special issue "Hot Housewives" due out in two weeks. Yeah it’s a rough life in the photo department.

Friday, July 13, 2007


It may look like Tracy press editor Cheri Matthews is sporting the latest in eye ware but it is actually the lens board from a process camera now defunct and in the scrap heap. The photo department was given the lens assembly as a souvenir. Maybe we will mount on a plaque like a bass; we could always use some decoration around the office.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Happy birthday!

Meet Gladys Schmolk. This feisty firecracker turns 104 soon. I visited her at her home and grabbed some shots during her interview where she described growing up through the years, various earthquakes she experienced and her various jobs including being a butter wrapper. Her secret to long life? The occasional glasses of wine and on special days maybe twice a year a glass of Chivas Regal scotch. Happy Birthday Gladys!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The war room

I can’t remember a day where we had as much breaking news as today. From the loss of another soldier in Iraq to bio-labs to gas leaks to a dead body at the Tracy Inn the news just didn’t stop piling up. Late in the afternoon editors gather to decide how to present the collection of photos and stories from news events around town and the world.

Monday, July 9, 2007


Ok, so a lizard stopped by to use the men’s room in the newsroom office. Not that means much but I had to motor drive the little guy, you know, just because.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Fogged in

Tracy has been suffering through the recent heat wave to strike the Central Valley. Temperatures have soared over the century mark and we have longed for cool summer breezes to ease our summer time blues.

Heading over the Altamont today to hike Mount Diablo we were greeted with a rolling fog bank. Temps dipped into the mid fifties as we began the drive up to our starting destination at the Juniper Trailhead.

Fog eerily crept down the hills and rolled across the roadway looking like anything but early July. Arriving at the start of the Juniper trail the temperature had already climbed into the seventies. The fog was beginning to dissipate revealing the countryside below.

Heading up the trail for a short hike to the summit we watched the sights as the fog ebbed away. Views with the sea of fog and its retreat were both spectacular.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day

July 4th is winding down as the echoes of bombs bursting in the air ring through the night. Looking back it was a pretty diverse day in around Tracy as we celebrated our nation’s birthday.

My assignments ranged from parades to balloon launches to pancake breakfasts and scattered among the day sights were some unique and memorable views. From children playing in the sunrise to American flags being honorably retired to a samurai marching in the parade it was a day to celebrate and remember.


t has been a couple of weeks since I drew the Pet of the Week assignment at the Tracy Animal Shelter but this week found me once again at the shelter. I really didn’t have to worry too much about this week’s selection being vicious; I don’t think she had the energy.

Meet “May”, a slightly overfed resident who recently arrived at the shelter. Did I say slightly overfed? She could definitely benefit from some walks around a new home.

I was worried about “May” getting after me; even my chunky frame could outrun her waddle. It was kind of funny how during the shoot “May” would waddle about as we tried to stand her up. She much preferred to lie down stretch out for her pictures. I hope she finds a good home with plenty of exercise.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tennessee waltz

After a week of long shifts and chasing spot news around town I was ready for a change of pace. I had been planning another hike with friends and a chance for more relaxed shooting. This week’s hike would be a change of pace with a trip to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s picturesque Marin Headlands for a hike down the Tennessee Valley trail.

Near Sausalito, the collection of trails offers a variety of skill levels and sights for hikers. Our trail for the day was a trip down the Tennessee Valley trail to Tennessee Beach.

The views were spectacular for photos. From gulls cruising the wave tops to feathers in the sand to dancing on the cliffs it was a day made for picture taking.

Our trip was capped with a visit to Point Bonita Lighthouse located at the bottom of the Marin Headlands. A short hike from the parking lot, through a tunnel carved into the cliffs and across a small suspension bridge and more photo opportunities at the lighthouse awaited.

It was a good change of pace behind the camera, sometimes it is more fun to chase ocean waves than scanner calls.