Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A step back

There is some saying about taking the time to smell the roses.  Not that I am any kind of gardener But I think I know what it means.  I have been trying to take time to look around when I am out and about on assignment.  Today's golf match was a good example.

I was assigned to shoot a high school golf match at Old River Golf Course at the end of south MacArthur Drive.  At first look it seems pretty unattractive, lots of opens space, few trees and lots of sun.  Time to take a step back and look around.
Waiting for the players to hit I started to take a good look at my surroundings and to my surprise it has a lot of photo opportunities.  Young pine cones, reeds in the water hazard and some weeds blowing in the light breeze were just a few of the sights that caught my eye.  A jet passing through the scattered clouds and virga was also an interesting view.
Sometimes it is just about taking the time to see what is out there around you, you would be surprised at wonderful sights that surround us everyday.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Who was that masked man?

So this has to take the cake for the strangest police log call in a while.  On Friday several people called the police to report two animals locked in a car as temperatures soared in the early afternoon.  One was a min-pin dog and the other was not your average pet, it was a raccoon.

The animals were baking in a car as the temperature reached nearly 140 degrees in the locked car.  Authorities were able to locate the owner and get the animals out, taking the dog to a veterinarian and the raccoon was sent to Animal Control to await its fate in the quarantine cage.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Test run

Alice and I are getting ready for trip up the mountain to celebrate her birthday.  We decided to tackle the summit using a new route from the Regency gate and heading up in pretty much a straight shot from the north side of the mountain.  Just to be on the safe side we did a test run of the route heading up halfway to test our navigation and get a look  at what the trail has to offer.

Our route starts at the Regency Gate and heads out on Donner Canyon Road.  We follow it to Cardinet Oaks Road to Middle Trail.  From there we pick upProspectors Gap Road to take us to the the final approach on North Peak Trail up to the summit building.  We will start at about 525 feet high and about 4 miles later with a lot of huffing and puffing we should reach the summit at 3,849 feet.

Our test hike would take us to the halfway point of the Middle Trail and Prospectors Gap Road intersection at about 2,140 feet up.  I don't trust signs and the one at the Regency Gate saying the summit was only 4 miles away seems too good to be true.  We packed light with just the necessities and hit the trail just after 8:00 a.m

It was a scorcher on the trail today and this route will make us work.  The route I usually take to the summit is about 8 miles with the same elevation gain so this new route would make us ascend quickly.  There isn't a lot of flat spots, you are either heading up or down and a pretty good rate.  the foot is mostly dirt trails with rock and gravel so footing is not the greatest.  We headed up for the most part without using our hiking poles but coming down they come in handy to keep your balance on the treacherous spots of the trail.

It was slow going heading up the twisting trail.  Donner Canyon Creek is bone dry and the dry grass along the path is marked by the fiery red of poison oak spring up everywhere.  We tried to keep a good pace but the heat was sapping us quickly.  near the end I did a solo reconnaissance mission to Prospectors Gap Road and was rewarded with a narrow twisting trail and a a little bit of dehydration.

We got a good look at where we are going.  Another hiker on the trail at the road junction told me that the majority of nasty inclines part on the route we picked is done by the time you reach the halfway point so I feel good about that.  It will be a tough climb but we are up for the challenge.  I think the only thing that could stop us reaching the summit is if the weather stays unbearably hot.  We might make a decision to cut the hike short it if that happens.

It was a grueling hike today but a good practice.  I look forward to congratulating my hiking partner on her birthday climb on the summit grounds in a couple of weeks!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A hard hit

I was processing freshman football photos at home when I got the call that there was bad accident on MacArthur Drive near Schulte Road.  Saying it was bad is an understatement.  I am just amazed the driver survived the impact.

The car that once was a nice Honda Civic was traveling north on MacArthur at a pretty good speed when for some reason it veered off the road, onto the shoulder traveled across a few yards and then impaled it self on a redwood tree.  The impact sheared most of the tree down but the trunk plunged all the way to the dashboard ripping the front of the car in half trapping the driver.  The car's engine was sitting next to tree no longer attached to the car frame.

By the time I got on scene the driver had been cut free of the mangled wreck and was being loaded into the ambulance where he would be taken to a landing zoner for a waiting air ambulance.  How he lived I am not sure, I would have thought the damage to the car would have crushed him to death.

It has been a while since I have seen a car ripped up quite like this.  Even the emergency crews and police seemed amazed at the amount of damage done and the fact the driver had survived and was in fair shape considering the severity of the accident.

It is has been one of those weeks, one moment working on photos of a kid running with a football and the next moment I am running to an accident.  I can't wait for this week to end.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Burn out

So this is the prettiest fire of a smoldering heap of compost I think I have ever taken.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The broken hearted

There is some kind of rule about being a journalist.  You stay unbiased on assignment, you don’t show an opinion and you never show any emotion.  It’s kind of like being stuck in neutral as you make your way around on assignment. What you see doesn’t matter it’s not supposed to bother you.  You’re not supposed to feel.   At least that is the way that is the way it is supposed to work.
This week has been a trying time for many in Tracy community.  From the third homicide to the tragic events of Saturday where four teens lost their lives many have felt that unbearable anguish of loss and despair.  And unfortunately I have been there to record those moments.  It’s part of the package deal, get the press pass and you take a front row seat to the heartbreak, grief and sufferings that befall us.
I shouldn’t complain, I have a job and I knew what it entails.  I should be used to this by now.  Back in 2007 I saw a sea of grief that I could not comprehend and I was not ready for.  Another tragic accident claimed a teen’s life and badly injured three others.  Friends, family and community members rallied together on a cold January night in display of sorrow and pain that I still have a hard time dealing with.  I wasn’t ready for what I saw back then.  I guess time makes you stronger or harder or maybe I knew what to expect on the irrigation banks Sunday night as a vigil was held for the four teens killed in the crash.
I guess the hardest part is keeping your composure, maintaining that guise of neutral observer.  It is hard to be stoic in the face of such overwhelming grief.  A couple of months ago I almost lost my mom.  As the ambulance and fire department arrived I broke down and began to cry.  I remember telling my dad in the emergency room how stupid I felt crying in front of the fire department crews.  I showed I was weak, I wasn’t strong enough, and I couldn’t keep that veneer of the hardened professional afloat.  Out on assignment I am not allowed the luxuries of such weakness and feelings no matter what I see.  So with as somber a face I could muster on a late Sunday afternoon I gathered my camera gear and headed for the vigil.
The vigil for the four teens was to take place on the irrigation ditch bank near where they lost their lives.  Hundreds had gathered for a moment to share their sorrow, their memories of their lost friends and family members and to show support for each other.  Walking up to the scene a CHP officer offered me the advice to try and take the pictures discreetly.  I knew I would be an intrusion at the event but there was nothing I could do. 
Walking up to the bank I could hear the sounds of sobbing and tears as friends cried remembering their painful loss.  How do I discretely photograph something like that?  The crowd had huddled around a memorial with one of the teen’s parents at the center.  Others had clustered around four crossed driven into the hard dirt of the canal bank.  Everywhere people sobbed quietly.  Some could not contain their anguish and their tears flowed among wails.  I wanted to be anywhere but on that canal bank.
I walked around the crowd, got what pictures I could of the mourners.  A group wiped tears away as they left candles at one of the crosses.  A man composed his thoughts as he sat by himself next to the water where they perished.  Eventually I had to try and take a picture of the mother who lost a son and daughter in the crash. 
I did my best to keep my distance from the family, I shot with a telephoto lens when I could, and I tried to keep an angle so I was not directly in their line of sight.  It is hard to be inconspicuous carrying a press pass and camera gear but I did my best.  As the vigil wound down the mother began to weep uncontrollably in front of me and for the first time in a long time I hesitated.  I honestly could not lift the camera to my face to photograph the moment.  Maybe it was a moment of weakness or a moment of true compassion I am not sure which. 
As the mother left the vigil she stopped at each cross marker left on the canal bank.  As she knelt at the cross fin memory for her son she touched his and wept openly.  Standing away from the scene I photographed this moment of suffering through a small opening in the crowd of people surrounding her.  This was the photo I struggled with the most.
On one hand it conveys the sense of loss and suffering felt by everyone and on the other hand I felt like a shit for taking the picture.  I have these moments of self-loathing for intruding on her grief even though I know it is part of the job.  We talked about the photo at work and decided to use it but not to make it the main photo.  I was worried about how people might react to the photo but I felt that it told the story of one mothers agonizing loss.
It breaks your heart to have to see things like this.  Suffering, despair sorrow, these aren’t the reasons I got into journalism but it is part of the price you pay once you are in the profession.  I have had a sleepless night since the vigil, one of many nights thinking about the things I have seen, the witness to tragedy I have become.
I know days like these are just part of the job and a week from now I will have put this assignment behind me and moved on.  I like to think that day on the canal bank is the first step to mend the broken hearts from this tragedy.  We all hurt even if some of us never show it.