Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shots for shots

It was flu shot day at the Tracy Press today. Brave employees one by one took their turn with the needle. In case you wondering this is what it looked like when the needle was heading toward my arm.

15 minutes of fame

Young "Brocoli" makes it on to the Associated Press wire.


Nothing like finding yourself the center of attention on assignment. While reporting on a school that produces their own television programs I found the cameras turned on us. No pressure, I just switched to autofocus and motored on the camera man. She had enough and then started to film the reporter interviewing classmates. So I photographed the photographer filming a story on a reporter writing a story. That’s pretty simple isn’t it?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Oink, oink

I knew this assignment was going bad fast about a minute or so into the shoot. I was assigned to photograph a pot-bellied pig that had been rescued from a near drowning in a pool by firefighters. So as I arrive the owner tells me if the pig charges me just stand still. Charges me? How much damage can a cute, cuddly armful of pot-bellied pig do?

Holy cow, meet “Brocoli”, 254 pounds of prized pork. “Brocoli” had been sleeping and a five minute screaming fest welcomed me as we roused him from his shed and lured him out for his photo with a handful of grapes. And I thought it was only dogs that hated me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Diamond in the wild

Cool weather was just the ticket for a hike to burn off some of the Thanksgiving feast calories. Looking for an easy hike with lots of photo opportunities close by we settled on a trip to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch.

Once the site of five towns serving coal and sandstone mining operations the buildings and homes have vanished into the history books leaving a network of tunnels their only legacy along with a cemetery to mark the miners and their families.
A unique feature of the site if the visitor center is in a section of sandstone mine as visitors walk the dark tunnel to a center chamber. The roof is covered with the soot from bonfires lit during parties in the 1950’s.

Our hike took us to the top of a hill to view the Rose Hill Cemetery. Crumbling headstones and dozens of unmarked graves told the tale of immigrant workers who died from the hard life in the coal tunnels. Graves of families buried together showed the ravages of epidemics that swept through the mining towns before the turn of the century.

On the trail the Black Diamond Mines preserve is a beautiful sight. Soil pigmented from the ore in the ground gave us a carpet of orange as we admired the rock formations in the hills around us. Berries glistened on the trees just off the trail as fall color still paint the trees and grasslands.

I couldn’t think of a nicer way to start the final push to the New Year than with a nice quiet hike. We will be heading back to the preserve to explore more of the tunnels and sights with hikes next year for sure.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


It is funny how you can hate a piece of metal. Scarred and unbent it stood as a silent reminder to a tragic night. A traffic pole, just a piece of metal with no emotions or feelings except those it wore in the messages of grief and remembrance of a friend and schoolmate taken too young.

I have passed that traffic light many times on assignment to West High since that night and saw the black marks it bore from the impact that night, like a scab over an old wound. I often wondered about how terribly hard it must be for students, faculty and family to pass by that reminder every day.

But then I think on how that pole became a rallying point for their grief, how they prayed around it and how they mourned around it. I think it became more than just a piece of steel on the side of the road.

Through the following days it would become a memorial of sorts as students and friends would leave messages to their friend and the story of their friendship everlasting was engraved upon it.

Today on assignment I saw the city had removed the original pole, a new shiny piece of steel stood in its place free of blemishes and reminders of the accident. Already it bears writings to their missing friend. I know there has been talk of what to do with the original pole, to create a memorial or some other remembrance with it.

I am torn. I can feel the need to remember Mike in some way but his life was more than a piece of steel, more than one metal pole. But I also remember all the grief and suffering from that night and sometimes wish that pole was removed from the face of the Earth. That light pole isn’t the only thing to bear wounds from that night. I don’t know what will happen but whether the pole is made into a memorial or turned to scrap I know we always have our memories and that is stronger than any piece of steel.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Nothing says the holiday season is upon us like a robotic snowman watching over your notebook computer. He is kind of creepy with that one red eye watching you to see if you are naughty or nice.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Still in a Disney daze

So there I am assigned to photograph a group of 4th graders putting on a play and I know something is wrong. There was that strange smell in the air. Faint but sickening sweet, and unmistakable. Disney. Dang, another Disney assignment.

I was covering the play Peter Pan and amid the colorful costumes and catchy dialogue the Disney was seeping into the room. How do I know? Because I had no idea of what was going on.

A quick check on the Wikipedia site had the following info:
Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up is a play written by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie (1860–1937), and first presented on the stage at the Duke of York's Theatre on 27 December 1904. In 1911, Barrie adapted the play into a book, Peter Pan and Wendy.

It had a listing of characters and some of the copyright issues but nothing on the details that mystified me. What is up with this crocodile, what is this tick tock deal, what airline did they fly to Neverland.

So what about the Disney connection? A quick Google search found the official site of the Disney film that was made in 1954, 11 years before I was born. I have never seen the movie and only know the main character names, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Tinkerbell and Wendy. Anything beyond that I am lost. Nothing like feeling clueless surround by 4th graders.

I am still waiting for the assignment to cover “Reservoir Dogs, the Musical” but I just don’t think it is coming soon.

Horse sense

While photographing a Spotlight assignment for Our Town I had the chance to photograph this portrait of a rancher with one of his horses. I asked him the horse’s name he told me “Figaro.” When I asked for the spelling he said “Spell it anyway you want, he doesn’t read the paper.”

He doesn’t read the paper? No wonder the long face.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Photo op

There is nothing like a good photo opportunity. Photo ops come in all shapes and flavors. One of the more popular ones is the college signing. These are cookie cutter moments, family and coaches surrounding a player as they sign their letter of intent. I happened to snap a few frames of another photographer looking for that just right moment of pen on paper. We shot so many frames at the same time it looked like a lightning storm inside the gym.

Don’t drink the water

This is just another sign, literally, that the assignment you’re on is heading south. On assignment to the Banta Inn I noticed a posting for a beer called “Moose Drool”. I was told that it was popular along with their “Arrogant Bastard” label and the ladies favorite “Red Pecker” wine. And people wonder why I just drink coffee.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007

A walk on the wild side

I spotted this four-legged resident of Mountain House as he took an afternoon stroll down Legacy Drive. We debated for some time whether it was a coyote or a fox. We had to consult the Web to figure out what it was but I think my shot matches this other coyote pretty close.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Top of the mountain

Months ago I set a personal goal, a lofty one I thought that I would climb the rugged trails of Mount Diablo from bottom to top. It seemed like a distant thought that I might try such a hike but Monday afternoon standing on the summit building's observation deck after hours of hiking 3,400 feet to the top it sunk in. I made it.

The summers’ hikes had all led to this. This trek would be a grueling 15-mile round trip to the top of Mount Diablo that would take us just about 9 hours on the winding dusty trails to complete. With my digital camera and hopefully enough water to last the day I headed form the Mitchell Canyon staging area with hiking partner and fellow photographer Alice DeLaurier-O'Neil on our last hike of the year and what was going to be the hardest one yet.

Late fall colors were all around us on the trail from a pine cone buried in a sea of leaves to the pine trees seeming to glow in the light of the canyon. We wound our way up the canyon road through a series of switchbacks to Deer Flat. This would be the start of the hardest climb with little shade to guard us on the sun-baked dirt trail.

The afternoon found us nearing the summit as we reached the Juniper campground. This would the final push to the summit through the thick brambles and steep rocky trail to the lower summit and then eventually the top. I tried to document the climb as best as I could but I found myself short of air and shaky from the pace of the climb. I wasn’t even sure if any of the pictures would in focus.

I would make the final 300 feet or so to the summit by myself and as I cleared the last bit of brush on he trail I was greeted by the summit building. So many steps so many miles in the making and I was there.

I snapped some pictures of the views from the observation deck and then went into the visitors building where the official summit is located. Standing on the rock that marks the top of the mountain I took a picture of my feet on the rock to mark my climb.

It has been quite an adventure leading up to the climb. Now tired and sore from my biggest hike I am starting to think about which photo adventure will be next.