Saturday, June 28, 2008

Night moves

I never thought my lack of sleep would come in handy but I was wrong. Just climbing into bed Saturday morning just before 12:30 am I settled in to bed to the usual noise of traffic on the roadway, the slap of the blinds on the windowpane in the light breeze and the neighbors dog barking at the stars. But another sound sprang up this morning, sirens.

It is a bad sign when the sirens sound at 12:30 at night. Usually it is a fire engine responding to a medical call followed by an ambulance. I can tell the difference right away between the two emergency vehicles and the sirens this morning were neither. Police cars, lots of them were rolling Code 3 with their lights and sirens through town. The sirens were steady for about 2 minutes or so. I lied in bed and waited for them to stop. They didn’t. Bad sign number two. I got up out of bed grabbed my scanner and thumbed the power on.

Tracy fire engines had joined the call and the scanner gave the call of a car accident with a fire hydrant sheared off and the vehicle into a building. The directions were to go down Grant Line and follow the emergency lights. I threw on some clothes slapped in fresh batteries for my flash and headed out. Turning onto grant line I could see the armada of emergency vehicles with their lights flashing as they blocked Grant Line Road just past Tracy Boulevard.

I arrived on scene to find a geyser flooding the roadway with the car lodged into a wall of the Driftwood Apartments. As I started to shoot I was cautioned to get back as I was in a crime scene. The accident was the result of a shooting. Crime scene tape was strung across the roadway as officer began to investigate the wreckage.

It is a bad sign when one of your job skills is being able to distinguish emergency vehicle sirens at a distance along with turning on your scanner in the dark. I kept telling the police at the scene that honestly I was in bed when it all started and I really don’t listen to my scanner 24/7. Sad times when I jump into a big news story in the middle of the night while lying in bed.

How do you ward off a paparazzo?

No, garlic doesn’t work either. Maybe decaffeinated coffee would keep them at bay.

Silence of the hams

Friday, June 27, 2008

Squeeze play

You might think that having a press pass gives you an all-access pass to anywhere anytime. Guess again. Today was a good example of how much I can be pushed back at a spot news scene.

Responding to a call of a roofing worker who fell 40 feet from a warehouse I was faced with a spot news scene on private property. The gates were locked for all except emergency crews so I had to resort to a way around the situation.

Shooting from the parking lot of next door company I was able to get a look at the air ambulance crews through a chain link fence between the rows of trailers. The wide view of the middle photo is the full frame view of the top picture. The bottom photo shows how much of a view I had to capture the arrival and departure. It was definitely close quarters shooting.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Faded glory

Some photos to go with a story on an American flag retirement ceremony set for July 4th.

The many moods of a cat






Wishing the photographer was done already


Nothing ruins a good photograph like a bad background. Take for instance this shot of a cheerleader working on her standing tuck jumps. Nice moment, decent focus and a nice reflection of her body in the mirror for some depth. However the reflection of the chubby photographer squatting down to take her photo ruins the image. Bad background management, it will kill a good photo for sure.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

High and dry

Feeling the need for a little outdoor excursion hiking partner Alice and I settled on a hike Monday in the bay area. Unfortunately our first hike choice was one of the many areas ablaze in northern California. We settled on trip instead to Mount Diablo’s Black Point trail.

Starting from the Mitchell Canyon staging area we would work our way up to 1,791 feet along White Canyon. The trail is rugged and narrow and spots but what caught out attention the most was the dryness.

Mitchell Canyon Creek running along Mitchell Canyon Road at the start of our hike was bone dry and the trail wasn’t much better. Poison oak was in abundance but was losing its green and sliding to a red shade. Grasses by the trailside were a parched yellow as the lack of rain was showing the mountain’s thirst.

Heading up higher on the trailer the lack of shade and fading breezes made for a tough time. The wildfires burning had cast a pall of smoke across the park and through the canyon.

We kept heading through the dry branches stretching into the trail and finally reached the black point trail. Every now and then we would spot a wildflower or two defiant against the dust and drought to push up along the trail.

It was a short hike at just over five miles but with the heat and smoke it made for tough times. All and all it was a good hike along some of the rugged terrain Mount Diablo has to offer. Hopefully a return hike to this trail in the future will find cooler times.

So why did the turkey cross the road?

Hiking in the hills of Mount Diablo this week I stumbled across this boisterous bunch of wild turkeys taking an afternoon walk down one of the trails.

They were a fun group and didn’t seem to mind my presence too much. I followed them for a few minutes as they foraged along the trail.

As I headed out for my hike they headed out for a walk down the park entrance road. They were making a break for it and it wasn’t anywhere near Thanksgiving, go figure.

Smokey skies

This was the lovely view down 11th Street at about 6:30 this morning. Wildfires burning throughout Northern California have cast a pall over the valley leading to poor air quality but making for pretty sunrises.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Silence and I

“I can hear the cry
Of a leaf on a tree
As it falls to the ground
I can hear the call
Of an echoing voice
And there's no one around”

From the song "Silence and I" by The Alan Parsons Project

Thursday, June 19, 2008


They say you should always change your perspective when taking pictures for a fresh view and different take on your subject. I perched atop a desk to get a shot of this summer science camp project and didn't relaize I was going to be the subject of someone eles's camera. Worst thing is they caught me chimping on the job.

Never a dull day

Earlier in the day I was talking to the editor saying how I was having a slow day and didn’t feel very productive. Bad move. That statement almost always causes calamity as I would find out about two hours later as I raced to a structure fire on 6th Street.

Walking out of the office I saw a very bad sign, black smoke rising above the trees, something was definitely burning hard and fast. I pulled up to the scene and saw flames rolling out of a detached garage and against a house.

It was one of the most spectacular structures fires I have been to. Fortunately no one was hurt and some of the house was saved by the fire crews. I spent the next few hours writing a small news story and processing fire pictures for the web site as I keep my “Army of One” role going.

The day finally over I caught up on the big news events of the day at home. Just then a neighbor knocked on my door to remind me of the fantastic moon that night and wondered if I was going to shoot it. I opted to enjoy the air conditioning of my home, I had enough excitement for one night.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A world apart

You wouldn’t think I could shoot a Tracy Babe Ruth team and the Chinese National softball team in the same week. But I actually managed that feat with out traveling too far from the office.

Across town and a world apart two vastly different teams took to Tracy ball fields for action. The 11-12 year old Babe Ruth team in their semi final game was one level of action while a visit from the Chinese National Softball team who will compete in the summer Olympics made a visit to the Tracy Sports Complex for a series of exhibition games before returning to China for the Olympics.

Apart from the uniforms the action looked pretty much the same. The speed of the players was much faster with the Chinese team as they are considered one of the top teams in the world.

My greatest problem was a language barrier. I am not fluent in Chinese and the team was not very good in English so there was a large mountain to cross for even the smallest details like getting a roster from the Chinese team. I’ll never make it to the Summer Olympics but at least I got to see some of the action up close.