Monday, January 28, 2008

Storm front

I have always loved clouds. The way the light and shadow play off their white canvas has amazed me ever since I first picked up a camera.

I found this storm front while hunting for low snow in the hills. I decided to look around Patterson Pass Road when I spotted this wave of clouds as they raced along the ridgeline driven by the morning winds. A set of windmills in the foreground framed by the ominous clouds made for a nice weather photo.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008


One of the most common assignments I have at work is to take portraits of ordinary citizens and them look extraordinary. When we take the portrait we try to show who or what they do and why they are part of the story. We call pictures like this an environmental portrait or “EP” for short.

The Our Town section of the paper generates the most environmental portraits to go along with the spotlight stories. The last few days has found me running around town taking pictures to go along with a story on the camber of commerce awards.

All the pictures should tell a story and ideally you shouldn’t need to read the cutline to tell what the story behind the picture is. I think these three photos tell the reader their story in a snapshot.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Nothing gets an airplane geek excited like a Mustang. Created in World War II by North American the airplane set the standard for fighter airplanes.

Some 60 years later the airplane can still be seen at airshows and other aviation events. Saturday’s fly in at Tracy Airport found the P-51 D Mustang “Ridge Runner” Based out of Hollister California making a visit to the Tracy tarmac.

As soon as you hear the growl of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine everyone just stops and stares. Like a moth to the flame we all gravitate toward the plane.

It’s always great to see one of these legends flying and up close. Nothing makes an assignment better than to see a Mustang out in the wild.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tunnel vision

While some people may want to toss a journalist down a deep, dark hole sometimes we jump at the chance. This morning I had the opportunity to do a little exploring down a hole as I went on assignment to an abandoned sand mine in the ghost town of Tesla five miles south west of Tracy.

Coal and sand mines once populated the foothills and in recent years the abandoned mine shafts have become targets of vandals as well as safety hazards. The California Department of Conservation, the State park system and the Office of Mine Reclamation have gathered together to seal off the mine entrances. Members of the media were invited to attend the first sealing of a mine.

Our convoy of journalists, park rangers and state workers arrived at the base of the hill where the mine was located. We ferried up the hillside in four-wheel drive vehicles where we hiked up to the mine.

It doesn’t seem like much a small wooden doorway into the hillside but we offered the opportunity to look inside. Most of the steel tube gate being placed in the opening had been installed but there was still a gap just large enough to squeeze through. So one by one we squirmed through the opening and with a single flashlight began to explore the mineshaft.

I had been in a mineshaft at the Black Diamond Mine Park in Antioch but this was different. Through the dim beam of the flashlight I could see the rough features of the shaft. The ceiling hung low so walking was best tried with a slight stoop. The rocky walls funneled us down the tunnel and we walked with no clue where we were headed.

Graffiti covered portions of the wall and timbers supporting the ceiling. Occasionally I would step on a can or crumbled plastic bottle left by a trespasser to the property. I was far enough into the tunnel that available light photography was not possible. I slipped on the flash and using the autofocus setting did the best I could to record the scene around me.

Three of us went as far as we thought prudent and finally headed back using the light at the end of the tunnel to guide us out. Outside the tunnel we gathered on the precariously narrow trail ledge where we watched a ceremonial welding of the last bars for the gate that will permanently block human access to the mineshaft but still allow bats and birds in and out of the structure.

All in all it was one of the more interesting assignments I have been on recently. How often can I explore go spelunking just outside of town and get paid for it?

Friday, January 11, 2008


I spotted this sign while on assignment at West High. You should have seen the "No Lap Dancing" sign, it was even better.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Close up

The last time I took a close up picture of Tracy Animal Shelter's house cat "Mikey" he had a mouse dangling from his mouth as he enjoyed an afternoon snack. This is what he looks like sans rodent.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Raising the walls

More than a year after being torn down and reduced to rubble, the West Building rose out of the fog early Wednesday morning. Crews used a crane to lift the 25 tilt-up concrete wall panels that will form the new classroom building at Tracy High.

The massive crane that lifted the wall sections prompted a 100-foot safety exclusion zone around the construction site that gave me a challenge in my early morning shoot. Along with shooting through the fog’s mist I had to figure out a way to shoot through a security fence that surrounded the construction site.

I have always wished I was taller and today a few more inches would have come in handy. Since I was not allowed on the site I had the choice of shooting over or through the fence. The morning fog obscured much of my distance shooting. Shooting with a telephoto lens was dicey at best as the telephoto lens compression effect only intensified the haze and reduced the clarity of my shots. My best bet was to shoot using a wide-angle lens.

Using the wide-angle lens was limiting. The angle of view of the lens meant I could not shoot the chain link fence, as it would show up in the corner of the frames. My best bet was to hold the camera above my head, above the top of the fence line. It gave me an unobstructed view but I had no way to look through the viewfinder so any shot would be a guess at best on framing. I could prefocus the camera and then between exposures look at the pictures on the digital camera LCD screen to see if I was close to capturing the walls. It was hit and miss but the “spray and pray’ technique got me a good enough look.

Later in the morning the fog lifted enough to let me shoot with the telephoto lens. I managed to snap a few shots using the narrow angle of view to shoot between links in the fence to get some detail shots of the crews as they worked on the wall and their temporary supports. Later I climbed the football field bleachers to get a higher view of the wall panels as they were lifted into place.

Two hours later and nearly frozen in the chilly air I had enough of a variety of walls going up that I called it a day on the assignment. Hours later I got a call that the building was almost done so I returned for a couple of shots of all 25 walls standing. Hard to believe that a little over a year ago it was rubble and debris in that very spot.

I will be making more trips to the West Building site as work progresses and it will be interesting to see how it will change from a single wall slipping up on a foggy morning to the new flagship at Tracy High.

Friday, January 4, 2008

A little rain must fall

Real reporters stand out in the rain in 50 mph winds and get sopping wet to get the story of the big storm slamming through town. Real reporters also remember not to wear furry slipper-shoes to work when they are covering the big storm story.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Get a life

Someone said this cartoon reminded them of me. It's not fair, take only one day off in a year and you are branded for life.

Say "cheese!"

Remember, always keep a good rapport with your subject however inanimate they may be.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A new year

With the new year come new assignments, new challenges, and new adventures. This assignment is for all those people who say all I take pictures of are flames, accidents and the general mayhem and carnage about me. The first day of work for 2008 found me at Sutter Tracy to photograph a tender moment between mother and child of the first baby born in the new year.