Thursday, April 28, 2011

Base to bus

It was the same old grind today.  Stand out in the wind for four hours until my head feels like it will explode from the next sneeze.  Shoot a softball game, shoot a burning bus.  Same old stuff.

You know I am sneezing loud when the softball players and umpires look at me and say bless you.  The wind knocked me for a loop today, hold the camera in one hand, a snot rag in the other.  Oh yeah I lead the exciting life on assignment.

Things did pick up a tad when a charter bus burned to the ground on Interstate 580 this afternoon.  A bus load of kids heading home to Fresno after a trip to the Bay Area found their road trip detoured when the bus caught fire.  No one was injured but the bus was reduced to burned out shell.  I managed to grab my shots from the Bird Road overpass across I 580 after I heard the freeway was closed in both directions due to the fire.  I gambled and tired Bird Road after I heard the fire was near a gravel company.  Sometimes I get a little lucky on assignment.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hidden meaning

I saw this graffiti on a wall off Cabe Road while I was on assignment.  I am not sure what the cryptic message means but it is uber creepy.

Dished out

A fixture on top of the Tracy Press building met a unceremonious end when a crane removed the Associated Press satellite dish this morning.
The huge dish was hold over from the days of low-bandwith-power telecommunications satellites that required a massive receiving dish to haul in their signal.  Years ago AP moved from transmitting by satellite to transmission over the internet with secure login sites.  The dish sat inactive long before we dropped the AP contract.
Crews removing our dish this morning said they have been going around to many newspapers in the Central Valley removing these behemoth dishes.  All the dishes in Sacramento and Modesto are gone, the fiberglass dishes scrapped after removing the metal bracket s for recycling.
I'm sure some will see the dish's removal as a sign the paper is in danger of closing soon.  I'm just glad it is off the roof.  I was waiting for it to crash through the roof into the break room upstairs.  Now that would have been a photo-op.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The mojo is back

Just like Austin powers I got my mojo back.  Shooting a golf tournament this morning I summoned up the dark powers of the Bunker Dance and it worked.  First try too.  I even got another guy to take a trip to the beach.  It is a little evil to use on the course but I do like the pictures of sand splashing around everywhere.
Bunker bunker BUN-KER     Bunker bunker BUN-KER    Bunker bunker BUN-KER

God I love my job sometimes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I needed a little quiet time away from everything, just a little time to breathe and try and get my mind right. I decided the best course would be a couple of hours hiking up to the top of Mount Diablo.

I didn't plan to take a lot of photos, just a when ever something grabbed me as pretty enough to stop to admire the view.

The weather was just right for a trip to the top and my iPhone's GPS recorder logged the trip and just under 14 mile roundtrip with a climb of just over 3,200 feet.  I took me 3 hours 4 minutes to trek from the Mitchell Canyon staging area parking lot to reach the summit building.  One day I'll break 3 hours.

It was a good hike, strenuous, challenging and  peaceful.  When the only sounds are birds in the nearby trees, gravel crunching under my hiking boots and the sound of my labored breathing as I negotiated the switchbacks it gives you time to think and reflect.  It quells the chaos and discord around about and recharges the batteries for another go.

It may not be as beautiful as Yosemite but Mount Diablo holds a special place in my heart.  Whenever I feel the walls closing in I turn to the wide open spaces of the mountain to get my mind free again.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A better blur

This photo was the discussion of some good natured ribbing around the newsroom.  Everyone was happy I took this blurry photo to go along with a story about an elementary school's fitness race program.  It's nice to know I can take a blurry photo and still gets into print, but it is actually harder than you think.
So this is basically a straight pan shot.  While it is blurry I like to think of it as a controlled blurred.  We use panning to give the reader a sense of speed of the subject.  Basically it is just selecting a low shutter speed, following the subject as it travels parallel to the camera and making the exposure while you track the subject.  The tricky part is shutter speed selection, panning speed and the subject's speed.  All need to be just right to get the proper effect.
To get the picture at top I took 208 exposures.  Most of them were throw aways-not enough motion blur, too much motion blur  or it just didn't look right.  Maybe the end result was just too busy.  I was lucky that I had about a half an hour of kids running continuously so I could try different shutter speed and panning speed combinations to get the right effect. I first shot a couple of standard running shot so I would be covered with usable art in case the blur effect failed miserably.
The key to getting a shot like this is speed.  You have to have a subject that is really moving so I waited for kids who were in dead sprint to pass by.  Next is a suitably slow shutter speed.  That meant cranking down the ISO setting on my Eos 1D MKII to the Low setting which is 50.  A small f stop would then force a slow shutter speed selection, I was working around the 1/15 to 1/50 of a second range.  For the image to work you have to have something sharp and in focus in the frame otherwise it is just a wash of color and too abstract.
I was shooting with my 70-200 mm zoom lens and would shoot some frames then chimp the results, gauging if I needed to crank up the shutter speed or slow it down.  The panning speed of my camera was a wild card in the process so I shot a lot hoping I would get a couple that worked.
The best shot wound up being with a shutter speed of 1/20 of  second with an f stop of  f.20.  I wasn't too concerned about the depth of field as the background would be a blur.The result is a photo that has a enough blur to show the speed of the kid running around the track while still having the face be sharp enough to see who he is.  It  just goes to show a blurry photo can be the best idea for the story.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Just another shot

Of all the photos I took in 2010 I was sort of surprised that this was an award winner.  For a story illustrating the city of Tracy's new regulations on panhandling I was assigned to find a homeless person panhandling for the cover of the paper.

I picked a guy who has sort of become a regular in town.  he hangs out at the entrance to the Safeway shopping center on 11th Street.  I could have taken a picture of his face, there are no rules against it, but I opted for a shot  that highlighted his sign and the parade of cars that ignored his plight.
Honestly I think it's an OK picture-nothing to get excited over-and was surprised by the 1st Place Feature Photo award for our newspaper circulation size.  I received what amounts to an honorable mention for a photo of grass fire and a sports photo that I can't remember entering so overall I guess I had a decent award year.

It's great to be recognized by your peers for your work and it's nice to be able to show the family another 1st Place plaque.  Now I just have to find some space on a wall to mount it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gun shy

I had one of those "oh shit" moments the other day shooting the Tracy high baseball game.  I was shooting from along the first base line when a batter connected with the pitch, fouling a line drive screamer above my head.  It was a little too much like last year knock in the noggin from another foul tip.

On this shot I heard the ball impact the bat and saw as the ball heading straight toward me.  Putting all thoughts of looking cool aside I flinched and ducked as best I could as seconds later the ball hit the metal bleachers behind me with a clang.  The scary thing was shooting with the 300 mm lens my field of vision is pretty narrow so I lost track of the baseball quickly.  My last sight of the ball was it heading toward my lens with some speed behind it.  It was probably a good distance above me but I am still a little gun shy standing on the field.  I probably have a better chance of getting hit by the ball during the between inning warm-ups than I do during the game action.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Signs of spring

With the warm summer-like weather upon us Alice and I went in search of the signs of spring with a hike in Jamestown.  We met up with a friend of Alice who led us on a tour of Table Mountain.

 This was a different hike to say the least.  Our trek would take us on climb of about 900 feet to the top of Table Mountain which sits at 1,700 feet. There we would explore the flat top of the mountain and its seemingly endless sea of volcanic rock and wildflowers.

 We spent almost six hours exploring the mountain top to bottom and its harvest of colors.  We made the journey at the right time as the blooms abound and the mountain top is still cool enough to explore.  It was a fantastic hike and a great way to add some color to our day.