Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A swirl of color

Covering the Traina School multicultural day I knew I was going to find some colorful subjects. the best ones of the day turned ot be the Nuesta Herencia Mexicano dancers. Their colorful dresses and flowing movement provided a great photo opportunity.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The recovery

Some assignments I know will end badly even before I take a single picture. Driving to a canal on the southwest edge of town I knew I would find tragedy and controversy. A body was found floating in the Delta Mendota Canal and crews were preparing to recover the body.

You learn right away if you are cut out for this profession. There are things few people ever see and most who do see them wish they hadn’t. While most people are content to live their lives in an idyllic bliss where nothing bad ever happens while dreams of sports parks and aquatic centers dance through their heads there are those of us who know there is a tragic side to life. We get to see it up close and personal.

I’ve been to a drowning before, I knew what to expect. Pulling up to the canal off Hansen Road I could see the row of fire and sheriff vehicles lining the canal bank. The body had floated to the surface at a gate spanning the canal. In the middle of the gate a small object bobbed about in the water. The body had come to rest face down in an almost seated position. All that was visible above water was a section of torso.

Crews were working to devise a plan to safely recover the body from the canal, A rope, poles would be used to guide the body to a stokes basket to lift the body from the water. I shot from a discrete distance with a telephoto lens to stay out of the recovery crew’s way.

At a scene like this you know the body will be visible in the picture. There just aren’t too many ways to photograph a body recovery without showing the body. I knew there would be a point where the pictures would become too graphic for publication. That point would come when the body left the water. I hoped for a yellow tarp to cover the body but the position of the body made it dangerous to put a tarp on until it was on the canal bank. Once the crews got started the recovery took about 20 minutes as they pulled it along the gate. I stopped shooting as soon as the body was brought to the top of the canal bank. There was nothing more there and I headed back to the office.

If I make this sound cold, impersonal or callous that’s just the way it is. It is an assignment; I cannot let emotions get in the way. You take an event such as a drowning with extra precautions. You keep aware of your surrounding for safety, you do not interfere or get in the way of the crews and you show an amount of respect and decorum. But it is a news scene. This is not someone who died in the their bed at home, it is a drowning in a canal outside of town and we are doing a story on it.

The general rules of news photography at a scene such a drowning or fatality is you shoot everything and decide later what to use. It is not a good idea to try and edit in the field, decide what can or cannot be published. That decision is better made back at the office with a discussion among a group of editors. Two editors looked at the photos and a decision was made on which photo to use of the body being lifted from the water. A group made the choice, one that we felt told the story and was the least offensive.

Even before the pictures went on the website I knew we get complaints. There are those people who find any view of death offensive. Maybe I have become to use to such scenes of tragedy. I have lost count of the number of fatal accidents, drowning and random views of grief I have seen and photographed. While most people are shocked and outraged by the pictures I am surprised. These images are mild, an antiseptic view of a horrible scene. I choose photos that didn’t show the face, the arms or the feet. We picked an image that is about as innocuous as you can get in a drowning. No grieving relatives, no bloated hands or feet. And still the complaints come in.

I sort of knew this was going to happen but I hoped people would have more common sense. The comments are pretty much what I expected, railing against us for showing a section of the body. Asking us if we feel no shame or sympathy for the family and demanding a written apology. Do we not have any sympathy for the family? Do we have no shame for showing such an atrocious photo?

My response is simple. I do have sympathy for the family. It is a terrible thing to lose a family member in such a way and I can’t imagine what they are going through. That being said it is a news event and as such the newspaper has a duty to report the news. The canals are a dangerous place and such a drowning is reminder to all of the dangers they present. If the family feels horrified by the picture that was not our intent and we acted as professionals and did our best.

Will I apologize for the photo? Absolutely not. As I said this is about as inoffensive picture as I could produce from the scene. If John Q citizen in Tracy is offended by the pictures during his web surfing, tough. Point your web browser to sponge Bob Square Pants site or some other page where you don’t have to see the tragedies of life.

Feel lucky you were spared the sites I saw along the canal banks. We all have our crosses to bear and mine is a good memory. I get to add this scene to the collection of nightmare scenes I can’t ever forget. Think that photo was bad? You didn’t see the arms dangling out of the stokes basket as they pulled the body up the bank. The gray color of the skin from days under the water. And the thing I can’t shake from my mind right now was the water dripping from his shoes as he was pulled from the water. Those are the images that are too graphic for publication. If I had wanted to shock people or just push a sensational photo down someone’s throat I would have chosen one of those images. But that would have been wrong. That would have crossed the line.

To those commenters with their fake screen names and righteous indignation, grow up. If that is the worst thing you ever see in your life say a quick prayer and tell the Lord thank you for giving you such a sheltered life. Remember as you beat your chest and protest my existence you weren’t there, you didn’t see what I saw. Your calls for written apologies seem more theatrical then actual care. If this photo makes one person just a little bit more careful around the water then one good thing came from today.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Somebody's watching me

This tiki god checking out the couple at the senior center luau party was creeping me out just a little. He just stood there and stared the whole time. Very creepy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The whole kit and caboose

Some people are stamp collectors, some collect porcelain figures. Dianne and Ralph Timan are collectors as well and they added a big ticket item to their collection. A really big one. They bought a caboose.

Tucked away in the hundreds of listing in a PennySaver classifieds was a Kaboose. The incorrect spelling may have caught their eye but it was the item that piqued their interest, a 1960 Southern Pacific rail line caboose that had sat for the last 24 years outside a Brentwood rock company. Up for sale the Timans knew the right spot for the relic, their back yard.

The 40-foot-long 65,000 pound caboose was moved by two flatbed trucks, one for the 33-inch wheels while the body of the caboose was lifted on to the second for the trip. At the Timan home it was lifted onto a section of track roadbed featuring surplus rail bought from the old Holly Sugar plant.

The Timans plan to redo the caboose inside and out to restore it to its 1960 guise. They don't think they will add a locomotive to their new caboose but a passenger car or two is not out of the question.


The Tracy Animal Shelter is feeling the pinch and is still in need of donations of canned cat food and kitten formula. Times are tough for the dogs as well as this hungry 6-month-old Jack Russell mix tries to curb the hunger pangs by snacking on this delicious length of rope.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A look inside

I have been to the Castle Air Museum many times. i watched several of their aircraft arrive for display, sometimes on the end of a aircraft tug, some landing at the nearby air base after their tour of duty was over. But in all my visits I was always viewing the planes from a distance. That was until this past Sunday when the roll out of the museum's F-15 Eagle coincided with one of their twice a year Open Cockpit Days.

The concept is really neat, they let you carefully walk through some of the bigger airplanes on display and using boarding ladders take a look inside the cockpits of some of the smaller planes. No one was allowed to sit in the pilot seats of the airplanes but it was incredible to get a glimpse inside such mysterious planes as the British Avro Vulcan nuclear bomber or view the cockpit of the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane.

The museum hosts the open cockpit days twice a year, once in the fall and then once again near Memorial Day.

It was a great opportunity for some behind the scene views of the aircraft on display along with new display items. A gallery of the aircraft tours can be seen here.


This guy kept dive bombing me as I waited for a golf match to start at the Tracy Golf and Country Club. He finally landed long enough on a leaf for me to snap this shot.

1st responders

Tracy Fire Capt. Scott Arganbright applies the paramedic decal to Engine 94 as it officially became the city’s newest paramedic engine company operating out of Station 94 at Schulte and Hansen Roads. The county emergency medical services reviewed the engines equipment this morning and signed off the engine as a paramedic engine at 9:15 Friday morning. The engine can now provide advanced life support including administering intravenous drugs. The new paramedic engine company will cover the south west side of Tracy which includes the Redbridge subdivision, Kimball High, Santos Rranch, the Schulte Road Business Park and I-580 and I-205 to name some of the sports in the coverage zone. The engine is the 6th paramedic staffed unit in the city with the only station not having a paramedic being the Banta station. Tracy Fire currently has 24 paramedics on staff which are 17 paramedic/firefighters and 7 paramedic/drivers.

Tracy Fire’s firefighter/paramedic Andrew Sansaver checks the paramedic gear on the new paramedic engine company operating out of Station 94 at Schulte and Hansen Roads.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Eagle has landed

Sunday marked the official roll out and dedication of Castle Air Museum's latest aircraft for display an F-15A Eagle fighter.

The twin-engine, single seat fighter all weather jet was the United States Air Force front line air superiority fighter. It was designed in 1972, saw combat in the skies of Iraq and has evolved through the years into different models including the two seat ground attack Strike Eagle version. Combat wings now fly the F-15C model which is scheduled to be replaced by the F-22 Raptor jet.

The F-15 on display at the museum has been in the restoration hanger for about a year as crews refurbished and repainted the aircraft to a represent an Eagle from the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, 27th Tactical Fighter Squadron stationed at Langley, Virginia. The F-15 carries their insignia of 5 German air-to-air victories with the Latin inscription "Aut Vincere Aut Mori"- " Either Victory or Death"

Blast from the past

I was visiting Castle Air Museum on Sunday for the roll out of the newest addition to the collection an F-15 Eagle fighter. While I was there I was making the rounds of the museum and ventured into the KC-135 R tanker on display where I found this black and white photo hanging on display. The pictures shows a color guard alongside the KC-135 at its retirement dedication ceremony where the jet tanker dubbed "The City of Atwater" was officially handed over form the Air Force to the museum. The caption lists the photographer as Glenn Moore/Journal Photographer. I can't remember how long ago I shot that picture, somewhere between 15 to 20 years ago wghen I worked for the Turlock Journal and covered the air base and museum on a regular basis. Kind of nice and little weird to see the picture on display so many years later and for the picture to be considered part of the museum's history.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Jaguars

Friday night was the first home game for the new Kimball High Jaguars football team. Their home field for this season is the West High field until their stadium is completed at their Lammers Road campus.

Friday's game was against the West High Wolfpack who were the visitors for this game. Kimball is only fielding sophomore and freshman teams for this year so we covered the sophomore game as the main event.

The Jaguars put out a good effort in their first home stand and the team looks like it has good roots to build on for next year's varsity campaign.