Friday, November 30, 2012


I'm not too much on ballet so today's assignment at the Grand Theatre was interesting. I covered a special performance of Handel's "Messiah" by a local ballet company for students.

Covering a performance in the theatre is always challenging with contrasty stage lighting but today's event threw in a new wrinkle.

Usually I can spend a few minutes nailing down a exposure with a few test frames but during the ballets different acts, from one song to the next the color and intensity changed.  Dark tones cold blue tones and sunny bright yellow light played across the stage as i scrambled to keep up with the changes.

In a case like this I usually forget the color balance, it is what it with the different colored gel lights and just try and keep the shadows from clipping.

All in all I got some interesting angles and a good feel to the ballet.  Oh and I learned some trivia too. The audience stands whenever "Hallelujah" chorus is sung.  I learn something new everyday on the job!

Coming soon

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The gray

This was supposed to be a nice sunrise photo shoot but sometimes mother nature turns on you in the most interesting ways. Standing in front of the wetlands at the Isenberg Crane Reserve outside Lodi this morning I waited for the sunrise against the the gray.

Fog.  Thick, nasty tule fog settled across the area early Sunday morning shooting my sunrise down in flames. No not flames, more like smothered in with a grey blanket. My 3:30 a.m. photo call was rewarded with a blank featureless scene with the sound of the cranes echoing in the thick mist.

The forecast had called for patchy areas of fog through the Central Valley and on the road I hit the wall of white outside Stockton near 8-Mile Road. I was already committed to the attempt so I kept going toward Lodi and hoped for the best.
The fog pretty much dashed any hopes I had for some nice sunrise photos. I kept checking the time as sunrise was scheduled for 6:57 Saturday morning. Dawn broke shortly before 6:30 and the darkness was transformed into a featureless gray sea stretching out to the horizon. As the sunrise neared I could make out the murky shapes of cranes standing on a bank but the details were indistinct.
I put my 300 mm telephoto with a 1.4 extender which did nothing more than exaggerate the lack of contrast in the scene. I eventually switched to just the 300mm lens and set the camera on a tripod for time exposure shots.
As the sun rose the fog seemed to grew denser in patches and drift across the wetlands. I could see the shapes of the cranes as they went in and out of my sight. I concentrated on a group in line on the nearest bank and captured their departure as best as I could.  As soon as they lifted off and gained a little bit of altitude they disappeared from sight. I could hear them as they circled the wetlands above me but they were invisible in the thick morning mist.
I did try and capture some of the feel of the scene.  The dark, still mood at the wetlands had a unique beauty all its own.  The photos I took this morning have a quiet feel to them, the low contrast and soft look from the fog give them a painterly quality I sort of like.
But I did want a sunrise so I will make the trek to Lodi sometime again in December and brave the bone chilling cold to capture my sunrise. But in the meantime I will enjoy my quiet moment in the grayness and think about my coming sunrise.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Two images, two moments in time with the same person but a much different story. I was covering the Tracy High football playoff game against St. Mary's when I captured two pictures that told the story of the game from beginning to season end.

For the football coverage this year I have been putting together slide shows for the web story.  They usually run anywhere from eight to fifteen photos.  For the playoff game in Stockton I planned on covering the whole game, getting there early to cover any interesting pre-game activities and then staying to the end if it was close to capture any post game emotion.
With five minutes to go before kickoff Tracy High senior Nate Shelton led a team huddle where he exuberantly called for his team to take the field and battle St. Mary's.  His speech was emotional and using my wide angle zoom held high above the huddle I captured the action.
St. Mary's would go on to defeat Tracy 34-6 and move onto the next round of playoff ending the Bulldogs' season.  The team gathered one last time for a huddle with their coaches and it was there that I saw Shelton again with a much different emotion. With his last game in a Tracy High bulldogs uniform over he knelt on the field an cried as the coaches talked to the team.

So there is always that little hesitation, should I photograph him crying or not?  You debate the ethics and necessity of capturing his tears for hours but in the field I have to make a snap decision and I chose to go ahead and shoot.  I try not to edit in the field, those are choices made more wisely away from the scene.
I tried not to be too obtrusive shooting with the 70-200 zoom as I watched the team and Shelton come to grips with the loss.  In the end I think it tells a different part of the story showing the depth of emotion the players had for the season coming to and end.  I decided not to lead the slide show with the image but made it the second picture.  Among the photos in the slide show is an image of the coaching staff reacting to the St. Mary's team scoring with two seconds in the first half to take a two score lead.
I halfway expected complaints and criticism of my choice to shoot and use the photo but I haven't heard any so far.  It's hard to gauge what people think but I think in context of the game and the other pictures it is presented along with it tells a complete portrait of the game, their emotional highs and the depth of their season ending loss.
Same person, two pictures, two entirely different stories from one game.  It's all about telling the whole story, good or bad, happy or sad.  That's what the job is all about.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


I hurdled a personal goal today.  It may not seem like much to most people but it means a lot to me. Somewhere on a stretch of the Ridgeline Trail at Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park I crossed the 200 mile mark for hikes this year.

I couldn't tell you which steps did it but it felt like it had to have come climbing one of the hills. Somewhere in the early morning chill I crossed a mark I never really thought I'd reach and felt like such a long time coming.

Early this year I set a goal to reach the 200 mile mark by December 31. I don't know why I picked 200, 150 miles seemed much more reasonable but I guess I thought 200 had a nice sound to it. But trudging along trail through the year I had my doubts I make it.

Two years ago I tore the meniscus in my left knee on a hike.  To this day it still gets tight and my running days are over.  I'm knocking on 49 years old and a tubby photographer to boot.  Sometimes I think my better days are long past but I still wanted to challenge myself this year.

Most of my hikes have been solo adventures this year.  Hiking solo means I press a faster pace on the trail and I have picked some of the more demanding trails to test my mettle. Being alone on the trail I have lots of time to think and reflect. It's almost a therapy from the everyday pressures of work and life. With only the sound of the wind in the trees, the crunch of the gravel beneath my boots and the sound of my own breathing I drift off to another place and everything is forgotten except for the trail.
The hikes so far this year have not always gone off as planned. My near disaster in June taught me a good lesson in hydration and the Las Trampas Wilderness gave me a good test on a poorly marked trails.  I've learned a lot going solo this year, lessons I will put forward in future hikes but still through the good hikes and death marches I still had that goal in the back of my mind.
I have been inching closer to the 200 mile mark and in September it seemed like I had a chance to hit it.  I picked a few longer hikes to try and cover the distance faster as I whittled away the remaining miles.  With the coming of winter and sunset coming earlier I knew I had to make the push and get the mark this month.
Down to just over 3 miles left to my goal I began to wonder where I should hike to reach my goal? I thought about Eagle Peak at Mount Diablo but I am saving that for the last hike of the year, a new tradition I have.  So then I got the idea to return to the site of my disastrous hike and do it right this time.  So just after 8 a.m. this morning I set out for a loop on Ridgleine and Thermalito trails at Pleasant Ridge.
I knew I wouldn't have the same problem as I did this summer. it was about 60 degrees cooler to start my hike.  I packed light, my Canon 40D, the old kit lens and a a liter of water. The trail had a few mountain bikers, the occasional dog and owner but mostly gloriously empty trail and sunshine as I set out.
Except for a wispy line of fog in the distance and the thin line of jet contrails in the sky it was clear but chilly morning to start out.  I made it to the end of the first half of the loop in about an hour reaching the turn to the  Thermalito Trail.  I was busy admiring the shafts of sunlight filtering through the trees and didn't think but somewhere in that first leg of the loop I reached my goal.  200 miles.
I guess I should have broke out some victory dance or at least snapped a self portrait.  I just kept hiking finishing up my 7.12 mile hike in just under 2 and a half hours.
I know reaching 200 miles hiking in a year is no big deal.  People run marathons, ride the bikes climb all four peaks at Mount Diablo every month- what I did isn't anything special.  Except to me it is.  There was a time after I damaged my knee I wondered if I would ever be able to hike again. After my dehydration experience I wondered if I had enough trail savvy to go it alone safely.
Doubt is a wonderful thing. It creeps into your life and fills you with a enough worry and uncertainty that you think you can never get it right. I doubted if I could do it.  I doubted if I would have the time.  I doubted if I had the physical stamina for the long hikes.  I doubted if I really wanted this goal at all.
So today on my 28th hike of the year as tracked by my Motion X GPS I have hiked a total of 203.34 miles. That goes along with the 47,909 feet of trail I have climbed in those miles. I made it.  Through hardships, worry at work and crisis at home I made the effort and followed through.  I think weather permitting I will cruise in to finish the year somewhere near 215 to 225 miles.
It was a long road, literally but I am glad I made the journey.  it may not rank with the some of the adventures other people do but it means the world to me.