Friday, April 30, 2010

Limping along

I must be getting old. About two weeks ago at the start of a hike I managed somehow to mess up my knee. I am not sure what I did my best guess is I put a severe sprain on it. I have been reluctant to go to the doctor for a $7,000 MRI to tell me there there is nothing they can do so I have been limping around the newsroom taking the occasional "gimp" and "cripple" comments from coworkers.

Most of the assignments have been painful but not to hard to cover with the bum knee as mostly it is just walking. My easy days ended when we got a call from a roofing company about the work they were doing on church. At the scene I was invited to come up to the roof and see how the progress was going. Normally I would have jumped at the offer but on a sore knee and unsure footing I thought about declining. But just like they say in Zombieland it was time to "nut up". Up the ladder I went.

You take your knees for granted a lot but they really do come in handy on assignment. The little things like kneeling down for a low angle shot or standing on my tippy-toes to get the highest view I can seem damn near impossible. I was already asked at the office if I wanted a ride on "Wah-mbulance" (get it?) so I knew I needed to head up stairs. The worst part is balancing the knee leg on the ladder rung as I swung over to the roof. Poetry in motion it was not but I was up top and had a great perspective on the work.

I thought about following the crews onto the tile portion of the roof but the slope and treacherous footing would have sent me tumbling down. It's not the fall it's the sudden stop they told me was the bad part of dropping off the roof so I stayed with the flat roof areas and tried for some artistic shots.

I'm not sure when my knee will heal (if it ever will I wonder) but I do my best to limp along on assignment. I know it must be bad when yesterday a timer at the finish line of the track meet I was covering asked how bad the leg was. I honestly thought he was talking to a runner who had just crossed the line but he was asking me. Yes it is fun to be the walking wounded in the newsroom but I guess it beats being in a leg cast at home.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Try and try again

Shooting this picture of Tracy High's Kevin Speer throwing the shot put seems like no big deal but it took a little time and effort to get the look I wanted. I was trying to get the shot put ball just off the athlete's fingers so I had to shoot a few frames to get the moment I wanted. 90 frames to be exact. 15 throws by different competitors and the last sequence I shot had just the right combination of ball, body and facial expression. Earlier frames either still had the shot put in his hand or two far away or out of the frame completely so I had to work on my timing of when to pull the trigger. I was standing at the very end of the shot put sand shooting with my 300 mm lens and an exposure of 1/4000th of a second at f.6.5 with and ISO sensitivity setting of 800. Looking back at the earlier throws in the shoot I am glad I hung in there and kept working to get the right moment, I think it makes for a nice photo.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Batter up

After my near disastrous encounter with a foul ball I have been back at the diamond covering more games. You just have to get right back on the horse after it bucks you or in my case clocks you in the head.

I find myself trying to get a little more distance down the line from the batter and I tend to watch the left-handed batters more closely but it is pretty much business as usual. I've had three games to cover in the last two days and the results weren't bad. Here are some of the game highlights.

A hair raising experince

This is just another collision during a very physical Tracy High girls soccer game against Lincoln of Stockton. What I liked about the sequence was at the moment of impact the player's hair went flying. I am not sure why I like it, I think it just looked cool as a sequence.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I don't think anything could be worse than taking pictures with a purple camera. If God had wanted us to use an orange camera he wouldn't have taken away our Kodachrome. It's just not natural to have a lime green camera, it goes against nature. Somewhere Ansel Adams is rolling over in his grave while Andy Warhol is thinking we have gone too far. But if you want to be labeled a nonconformist or better yet a weirdo you can order your technicolor yawn Pentax camera here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bring on the lightning

This cat really didn't like the electronic flash I was using to get his picture for pet of the week. I would get one or two shot away before he would try to leap out of the cage to get away from the flash. I was trying to work fast hoping the flash would temporarily blind them with a mild second degree cornea burn but he still kept jumping out of the cage.

Queen of the roost

This unhappy fellow is awaiting her fate at the Tracy Animal Shelter. I am not sure if they adopt out hens or just get them ready for the chicken nugget factory but she flapped away as my camera fired. Weird thing is they feed the hen cat food made with chicken. That's just plain creepy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Watered down

I'm always looking for new angles to shoot from but some sports you are kind of limited. The action in a swim meet occurs in specified amount of lane space and short of donning scuba gear for underwater view the only variety I can think of is just peak action, tight framing with a long telephoto lens and high shutterspeeds to capture the splashes. I like this trio of pictures from today's swim meet, I think they show a different perspective on the action.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Award winners

The results of the California Newspaper Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest were recently announced and the press won three awards. Taking a first place in Breaking News coverage for weekly newspapers 11,001 to 25,000 circulation was the Tracy Press for the coverage of the Sandra Cantu murder case.

I managed to pull down a pair of winners taking first place in general news photos for a million-bird-swarm of swallows coming to roost and a second place general news photo for a shot of a protester scuffling with security at John McCain rally in Stockton.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


It is has been awhile since I had gone up in an airplane for pictures budgets are tight these days but looking to illustrate a a story about Mountain House for the cover I knew we need a trip up.

Luckily a private pilot volunteered to take me for a hop around the area in his home built Sonex airplane. Doug Smith would fly me from Tracy Airport in the 22-foot-wingspan airplane for a several circles around the Mountain House area and a quick flight over Tracy on the way back to the airport. This was the smallest airplane I have ever been in, it seemed there was just barely room in the cockpit for one but I climbed on, strapped in and up we went.

The small size of the airplane meant I felt the bumpy air as we cruised around 3,00 feet toward Mountain House. The bubble canopy meant I had a great view of the ground but I had to contend with the occasional craze in the Plexiglas which left a spot or two in some photos distorted. I was worried about weight in the airplane so I brought my Canon Eos 40D and 70-200 f.4 zoom lens which was the lightest setup I could bring.

I have to admit I was a little nervous for about the first five or ten minutes of the flight, the airplane is so small it feels more like you have it strapped on your back rather than you are riding in it. But once I got down to work calling for circles and banks I forgot all about the cramped quarters. It was a good little plane and Doug was a great pilot guiding me around the city in tight banked turns.

It is a unique perspective from above and one that shows size and space best. I shot just about 600 photos as we cruised about and then headed to Tracy for a landing. If I ever go up again I will remember to take some photos of the cockpit to show the view from the bubble canopy it is a great perspective on the world form above.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Foul play

Twenty five years into shooting sports as a newspaper photographer and I finally take my first foul ball in the face during a game. Covering a Tracy High baseball game a left-handed batter rips a nasty foul ball down the third base line which hits the ground and ricochets into my head. Call it an occupational hazard.
Going up in a private airplane just barely big enough for one person, covering a blaze in a pallet company it figures the only assignment to draw blood would be at a baseball game. This is one of those things I have always dreaded, the impact from a foul ball off one of those aluminum bats nailing me somewhere.
It's my own fault, I always shoot from the playing field sign of the fence. I hate trying to shoot through chain link fences, I have done it but the results are never good. I'd rather take my chances on the field. What are the odds I will get clocked by a foul ball, they must be pretty slim? There have been near misses, I have been able to side step a few through the years but shooting Friday's game I saw it coming. I was photographing the Tracy High game from along the third base line near the dugout standing against the fence line. I had the batter in the viewfinder when he made contact sending the ball skidding into foul territory I squeezed off a few frames and then pulled the camera down as I was losing sight of the ball that I saw heading my direction. I gave it a half hearted turn away and then bam! It hit just above my right eyebrow knocking my glasses off.
Lucky for me it hit in an unimportant spot, my head. First thought was is the camera gear OK? Next thought was did I somehow interfere with the play, as that would be bad. Next thought was why is my head feel wet? Blood. A stitch in the baseball cover must have cut me a little and I tried my best to look cool, wipe blood away and continue shooting the game.
The third base coach gave me a quick look and confirmed no major damage, just a small cut and small knot. Back to business of shooting the game and not flinching anytime a bat made contact with the ball. I stayed for a few innings more and prayed I had photos in focus. The good thing was I could blame a poor shooting performance on getting hit by the ball.
As it turns out it was actually one of my better jobs shooting the game. Back at the office as coworkers laughed at the bruise on my head as I said I should get hit in the head more often at a game, I seem to do my best work then.

What a fun way way to end the week. Processing my photos with headache, getting asked why I just didn't move out of the way and taking requests to sock me in the head for the next game I was actually relieved to get out of the office to cover a pallet fire burning to the south west of town. Never a dull day in my job, I can hardly wait for the next game.