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2006/09/30

Football Blowout

Homecoming football games can be very problematic here in Indian Country. I don't quite understand the reasons, but the players around here just seem to lack the skills to play the game. Either it is a lack of programs available to them as youths, or just physical size limitations, or something else. Whatever, there is just not a real big emphasis on football around here. Last week's game was a 66-0 blow out in Thoreau. This weekend was homecoming for Ganado, where they lost to Globe 25-0.
Covering these types of games are tough. For one thing, I am trying to show peak action and competitiveness. That is hard when the one team can't hang on to the ball, and the other team can't be touched or stopped. It is also tough psychologically. I don't want to pick on these kids out there working hard and trying their hardest to play the game. The idea behind these games is to teach the players team work and sportsmanship. It is hard to be excited about being on a team that is pounded into the pavement, and on the other side of the field the other team is rolling up the score rather than being good sportsmen. I guess they see the pros do it - worrying about their contract bonuses and stats to renegotiate their billion dollar deals, so they figure it is the thing to do.
Historically, newspapers would often change the scores of the games to make them sound less lopsided. While I don't agree with that practice, I do understand the reasons. I prefer to leave the final numbers out of the captions, and simply state which team won and lost.

2006/09/28

Christian Rivalry

Despite the fact my sports editor had, once again, given the wrong time for the assignment, I got to cover a soccer game today. Assigned for 5 pm, the game started at 4, and I found myself arriving at half-time. (The reporter walked in a few minutes after I did, so he was also told the wrong thing.)

In Gallup we have the public schools, and two private schools - Rehoboth Christian and Gallup Cathedral/Catholic. They are pretty evenly matched, and they have a rivalry without hating each other. There was some real physical play during the game, and the game was tied 2-2 with less than two minutes left. I did get a image of the player kicking the winning goal, but to me this crossing of arms and tangling with each other showed the duel that went on better.

Either way, it was nice to cover a game where I had daylight and didn't have to deal with strobes and other issues.

2006/09/26

Tangled Web

Last night when I stopped by the house to see my son and grab a bite of dinner my wife pointed out a partially completed spiderweb in our back yard. The sun was setting and creating a really nice light illuminating the web and casting the background into heavy shadow. Getting the shot was a bit tricky as the wind was blowing, moving the web and making it hard to get an image in focus with the Macro lens. The advantage of digital imaging is that I could check the screen for exposure and focus to tell when I had the image.

Tonight the web was finished, but I got outside a little too late to make a new image of the completed trap. How does a spider know how to make something so complex? Do they even know what the big picture is when they are done? Perhaps our lives are like that - we move along and do what we think is right, not seeing the big picture of what we are accomplishing and not knowing how many different people we touch as we wander around and spread out the patterns of our days.

On my viewing list for tonight: 'Chased by the Light' - a documentary about photographer Jim Brandenburg's 90 day self assigned project to take one, and only one single photograph each day to record the change of seasons from fall into winter.

'If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.' --Wu-Men

2006/09/25

Wildlife Woes

This is an image for an upcoming story about the conflicts between ranchers, hunters and wildlife in the Cibola National Forest/McGaffey Lake area.
Ranchers are having problems with elk getting into their grazing areas, eating the grass and hay they need for their cattle and destroying fences and creating other problems in the process. Some of the ranchers have taken to shooting the elk, wounding them so they wander off and die off the ranchers' property.
Meanwhile the hunters are angry about the animals being shot and run off, and they resent the ranchers.


While I was out in the forest and ranch lands I came across a small herd of deer. I was amazed at how close I was able to get to this one in particular, especially since it is hunting season (bow hunting and muzzle loading I believe).
As the deer wandered away into the woods one of them turned to look back at me - apparently deciding that the giant camera lens was not an actual threat - before walking deeper into the trees.
I don't understand it exactly, but there is always a thrill I get from recording a wild animal, even if it something as relatively common as mule deer.

2006/09/23

Gear Head


While not particularly liking to be concerned with discussions of the equipment I use, I have been considering making the switch from Nikon to Canon camera systems. I started with Nikon gear in the mid-90's, and have stuck with them ever since. Lately however Canon has been so far ahead of them in image quality and file resolution size. Still, I was pretty tied in to using Nikon gear with as much money as I have invested in lenses for the Nikon cameras. More and more news photographers and newspapers are switching to Canon because of issues with image quality in low light situations.

In addition, many magazines and other photo buyers are demanding a high resolution image file for publication. My Nikon D2H camera with only 4.1 megapixels and D100 with 6 megapixels of resolution could not meet the requirements, so I could not even take assignments from these potential buyers of my work.

So Thursday I received my new Nikon D200 camera body. I have heard rave things about the camera (including an endorsement of the camera from a friend of mine that was working as a sales rep for Nikon), it was half the price that I paid for my D2H and more than double the resolution at 10.2 megapixels.



That evening I took the D200 and my D2H to a volleyball match and used both of them with the same settings. The results were stunning. Images from the D2H required a lot of sharpening and noise reduction and other image clean-up. The D200 images took virtually no clean-up and the file size was so large I was able to crop in without losing detail.

Armed with this new camera I am glad that I did not spend the money and take heavy losses to sell my Nikon gear and buy Canon. This camera has amazing quality and will handle all of the things the D2H did, plus a few more. Anybody want to buy a used Nikon D2H camera body?

2006/09/22

Taking Flight

Rain. I already complained about Friday night football and the lack of light. Add to that tonight's rains and well, the results from the game were not anything special to share.

On the other hand, I had a generic assignment to "shoot something for the airport". The reporter has not yet told the editor whether the story is about the airport itself, the possibility of a new airline providing commuter flights here, or the upcoming air show. So I went out and had a bit of fun with this thing. In front of the airport is a retired fighter jet that I thought about doing some time exposures and light painting with, but once I looked at the way it was positioned I found there were too many surrounding light sources getting into the image. Instead I used a slow shutter speed and moved the camera during the exposure to create a feeling of movement.

2006/09/21

Politics and Pigeons

I have photographed New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on many occassions. Today was a rare time when I got an expression from him that I liked. He can be difficult to photograph at times, but today I got an imae of him that I actually liked, despite the busy background. The situation was him stopping in Grants, NM for a re-election rally and lunch.

While this image is a decent one of the governor, it does not do much to convey the scene. To do that I tried this second image that included a section of the people in attendance. With the guard rail and water behind him there was not a lot of room to move around, so the best way I could come up with to cover this was from the side with a very wide lens. It shows the scene a lot better, but the governor becomes a small portion of the photo. It also creates the problem of including my reporter in the picture (toward the left with the hat and his head lowered as he scribbles his notes)

People say that journalism is "History in a hurry." I wonder if photojournalism is Art with compromises.



My new camera arrived at the office this afternoon so after setting the clock and menus to where I wanted them I headed out to try it out. On the way to the office I had spotted a house with over 100 pigeons wandering around the roof. It looked pretty interesting and had some variety to lighting situations, so I decided to test the camera out there. I shot a bunch of images and the camera was working well. I finally decided that I had played around enough andwas getting ready to pack it in whenthe home owner arrived. After stopping to explain what I was doing I asked him about the pigeons, and he said he feeds them all the time, and was just getting back from the store with more bird seed.
Once he unloaded the car he pulled out a pucket and scattered some seed on his driveway. Suddenly the birds swooped down and started eating. As I moved to get a better angle the pigeons spooked and flew back to the rooftop. This happened a couple of times before I decided to simply stay put and shoot with a wide lens to get some motion of the birds flying down.

2006/09/20

Morning and Evening light

--The driver of a small car tells Gallup police officers about the accident that ended up with the car resting on its roof Wednesday morning along Sanostee Drive in Gallup. The driver, who was the only person in the vehicle, was not injured.--

I am not a big fan of car wreck photos. Ho-hum. Happen all the time around here. I still get sent to them though, and our editor likes to use them. This morning I went to this one only a few blocks from my home. A nothing event, but I was loving the color and direction of the light, so I shot it with a wide angle to show that rather than the tight shot. I do have one question about the wreck though - how did he manage to roll his car over like that in an area that was supposed to have a speed limit of 35 MPH.


The evening assignment I had was a soccer game in Grants. It was difficult to make a decent action shot as the local team lost 11-0. They rarely got across the mid-field line,leaving me to shoot almost nothing but defense and goalie stuff.

2006/09/18

Night light

Dusk and dawn are the periods photographers refer to as magic. The sun creates wonderful color and a directional light that makes subjects look their best. I got back from my Albuquerque doctor's appointment and watched the sun set, making the sky glow red as it lit the smoke and haze from the California forest fires. By the time I was back to my car and my gear the colors were alreadt fading. I pulled out my camera and wandered around the church grounds for a bit before this scene caught my attention. The streetlamp over the parking lot beamed through a tree and lit the wall with a warm yellow light that looks like the color of autumn. Lacking my tripod I used the wall of the building to brace my camera for a steady shot.


My trip to Albuquerque has two purposes. First was to get a check up on the progress of my knee. Piggy-backed on to that was helping out an elderly couple that were passing through Gallup and had a medical emergency here. They got moved to Albuquerque, with their car left behind. Since I was heading there anyway I volunteered to drive their car to them, and then my friend Don picked me up and brought me back to Gallup.

The news on my knee was not as good as I was led to believe on the day of the surgery. The surgery report revealedthat my leg had deteriated more than I thought, and there was some pitting in the bone, being stage I arthritis. And then there was another section of my thigh bone that actually has holes all the wat through -- Stage IV arthritis. I do not need physical hterapy, but have been cautioned that I need to eliminate kneeling, crouching, climbing ladders and impact. That's going to be a hard bit of advice to follow, between having my 18 month old son to play with, crawl around the floor, romp etc.; plus the crouching, kneeling , bending and manuevering I do with my shooting... Well, it will be tougher for me at basketball games.

2006/09/16

Head Games

When I first started as a photographer for the Minnesota Daily I simply dreaded covering soccer. The field was huge, there was no way to keep up with the action and no time between plays to get set for the next move. Besides, who really cared about that sport?

That was a long time ago, and I find that soccer is probably my favorite sport to photograph these days. It is non-stop action, giving a lot of chances to get some esciting photos. Often the games are during the day or early evening (see my comments about lack of lights from yesterday). Plus, the kids don't wear any helmets or hats to obstruct their faces and the expressions.

My biggest complaint about soccer these days comes from having wrong information from our sports desk. The assignment said the game was at 12 Noon today. I went on-line to download the rosters for the schools and the official site for the New Mexico Activities assoc. said the games were at 2 pm ofr girls, and the assigned boys game was not until 4 pm. So I made a couple calls and got in touch with one of the coaches and confirmed the times. I'm glad I did. The assignment time was wrong and I would have missed some good images.

We had some great weather, really nice light, and some really good action. Times like today make me realize that even if I am not making a lot of money, I have a really cool job.

2006/09/15

Friday Night Lights...?

One of the most frustrating things for me working at the Independent is that we cover a lot of high school sporting events, and NONE of the venues have adequate lighting for making images. The high school in Gallup had decent lighting the first year the gym was opened - but that was 9 years ago. Now all of the lights are old and all you have to do is look around and you can easily see that each bulb is in a different stage of dying. They all glow different colors. This forced us to set up a studio lighting system up in the rafters.

Football is another story. Football is not a huge sport in this part of the world, and yet for some mysterious reason the people in charge keep insisting that all of the games be played on Friday night. Then somebody stand mid-field with a Zippo lighter and they say the lights are on... Why on Earth can we not have games on Saturday afternoons? It would mean students would not miss classes Friday to travel around the state. It would mean that parents would not have to leave work early to travel out of town and watch their kid play. It would mean that the schools would not spend money trying to light fields. And yes, it would mean that I could shoot a game in daylight and not have to be limited in my image making by how much power I have left in my flash unit.

So let's hear it for Saturday football games for the high school kids!

2006/09/14

Back to work

A day earlier than expected, but I got tired of staring at the walls here at home, so I made my way back to work today. In typical fashion there was not much planned ahead, and John had it all nailed down, basically everybody told me to go back home. No fun. Instead I headed over for an oil change in my car and got some groceries.

Then the cell phone rang and it was time to play paparazzi/camera stalker. Our publisher sometimes gets these things that he wants done that I totally disagree with. Today I had to sit outside one of the local real estate offices and get some photos of one realtor as she left the office. Why? Supposedly she has been having her husband use his position in the city to steer business to her. I was not comfortable with doing this, but the more I thought about the more I realized a few things and reminded myself of one important thing. I realized that we see this type of stake-out photojournalism on a daily basis. Television crews go to people's homes all the time. And when people come and go at courthouses or other perp walks there are still and TV people there. This was not much different.

The really important thing that I remembered? It is his newspaper. He's majority owner, he signs the paychecks and ultimately it's his call what he wants to see in print.
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In addition to this blog I am also taking a stab at having my own web page. I did some searching and secured a personal URL name and found a relatively cheap web hosting service so that I can put up a site to allow potential clients to see samples of my work. With such a common name I thought I would have difficulties creating a unique site name - for starters there is the very famous painter/artist Jeff Jones who did a lot of sci-fi book covers and other work in the 60's and 70's. And my name is so common... there is a reporter at the Albuquerque Journal with the same name. Anyway, the new site name makes sense and is fairly straightforward: jeffjonesimages(dot)com.

With any luck I can get it built in the next week or so. When it is up and running I'm sure I'll announce it here.

2006/09/13

Downtime - a chance to learn

After being out of commission for nearly a week I am up and walking pretty well without crutches. I plan to take one more day of taking it easy before going back to work.

My time off has not been a total waste. I have been doing a lot of research on the internet about color space, printing and other things that are probably more techno-geek than I should be trying to handle. In particular I have been taking an on-line class from Epson. It is their Print Academy, a 12-week experience that only takes about 15-minutes a day to watch the video segments of. The tips they have for Photoshop are really good, and I think that I have already paid for the course with what I will save on wasted paper and ink.

My plan for tomorrow is to dig out the old D1H body (that my daughter dropped) and see if it needs to be sent in for repair. I gave her the D1H for Christmas, but I am thinking that she may be better off using the D100 as it has a better flash exposure and higher resolution. Regardless I need to wander out and make a few test images and get back into the shooting frame of mind so I can return to work Thursday.

2006/09/07

Incisions, incisions....

No photos to share today. Hard to take any when you are flat on your back in a hospital gown, unconscious as a surgeon goes to work repairing your knee. My wife called it a 'procedure' and not surgery. I guess it is semantics. I have been having some knee pain for about two years and when I finally got it checked out the conclusion was that I had a medial tear to my meniscus. The operation went smoothly and I was able to walk on my leg less than an hour after waking up. The crutches are more of a bother than a help, and the pain is pretty minimal.

I am going to be out of commission from working for about a week - maybe less if this is the worst of it. So I plan to dig up some older images over the next few days of sitting and keeping my leg elevated.

Even having had surgery today I really had a good day. I got to spend time with my friend (and pastor of my church) Don who was so gracious to offer me a ride back home from Albuquerque. I think I babbled a lot more on the drive back than I intended. Side affect of the stuff they gave me for the surgery...?

Now I get to legitimately sit on my sofa and watch TV for the next few days. Too bad there is not anything worth viewing.

2006/09/05

Detours for a Reason


At the start today was pretty non- productive day at the paper. I was mostly coasting because the two other staff shooters were working (also known as driving around praying for something to shoot because we have no assignments) and I was over 40 hours for the week. (Being salaried and having the holiday there was no overtime pay.) So after meeting Matt for a late lunch I was heading home from the paper and the traffic was backed up all over the place. Half the city is involved in a massive construction project and the result is that getting places quickly is now a bit of work.

I decided that a detour was in order, cutting around behind the mall and taking the back road past Wal Mart, over the tracks and out to Rt. 66. Well, the detour was a good idea. It only added an extra hour to my drive home. On the way I drove by some open grazing land that has been under water for the last couple of weeks because of our monsoon rains. The last few days it has started to dry up. As I was driving by I noticed something out of place in the middle of this wetland. I slowed down and pulled over and saw a Great BLue Heron just sitting in the middle of the field. It paid no attention to me as I hauled out my D2H with 300mm and 1.4 tele extender. I probably could have approached closer without disturbing it, but the land was mud, there was a barbed wire fence and 'no trespassing' signs pretty much dissauded me.

Still I got pretty close optically(though a 500mm f/4.0 lens would have been sweet!) and came away with a shot that I am personally happy with. Often I think my editor doesn't much care to see the wildlife and nature htings that I turn in on slow days, but I do hear about them from people in the community, and they always have favorable things to say. So why not put in some eye candy once in a while if the readers like to see it...?

As I said, the detour added an hour to my drive home, as I stood there moving a little this way or that to get rid of some annoying telephone poles and other items from the background. I also spent some time waiting for it to turn its beak just right so the sunlight would illuminate its eye. If it moved just a tine bit in my direction the detail and color in its eye was lost in shadow. I was hoping that just once it would stretch its wings and display a bit of motion. The only thing closeto that was it opened its beak for a moment.

My point for today is don't be afraid to alter your plans and go a different way. There might be a reason that you are being sent on a detour.

2006/09/04

Soccer: No Pads Required

Some people say that soccer is a safe, non-contact sport. tell that to this girl I photographed on Saturday as she got landed on by a goalie. First the goalie's arm, then her torso landed right on her face. She ended up leaving the game to be checked out at the local hospital.

For most of the game I had been using my D2H with a 300mm and 1.4x teleconverter on it to get as tight as possible. My seoncd camera had my trusty 70-200 AF-S VR lens on it, and for having watched the Gallup girls play last season and again last week I knew to follow the attacks on goal, because a couple of the girls were simply not backing off when the goalie came out to grab the ball.

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My other assignment for Saturday was to cover a memorial peace walk. My assigning editor made it very clear that this was not a march, protest, rally or any other such thing. It was a memorial walk. I was a bit surprised to see the number of media photographers there -- including a couple of former Gallup Independent staff members. All those cameras and none of us thoughtto take a group photo.

Anyway, the assignment was vague, and I did not hook up with the reporter and the walk started an hour late and I had to rush to make the 2 hour drive back to Gallup from Farmington for the soccer game (above). Still, I was pretty happy with this photo that I came up with.


The young man being remembered in this photo, Clint John, was shot and killed by Farmington, NM police in the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart. This event has really put the Navajo people on edge and some are suggesting a boycott of Farmington businesses due to racial prejudice.

I do not make my way to to Farmington very often, as it is nearly the same distance from home as Albuquerque, but one a few occassions that I was there my wife and I have seen some of the prejudices of the people towards the Native Americans that come into town. In one instance we tried to go eat at the Applebee's, and there were several groups of Native Americans waiting to be seated, but the hostess was making them wait while trying to lead us to an open table. When we protested one of the people waiting said it was okay, that's the way things go. We decided to go find a different place to eat.

2006/09/03

My first blog

First, an introduction -- I am the senior photographer for The Gallup Independent, in the small city of Gallup, New Mexico, USA. The paper is a 16k (roughly) six-day per week newspaper that covers Gallup, Grants and a large portion of the Navajo Nation reservation including Window Rock, Shiprock, Tohatchi, Chinle, Ganado, Thoreau, Crownpoint and many other places. Our coverage area ranges from Tuba City, Ariz (near the Grand Canyon) to the edge of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and north to Farmington and Shiprock, NM. Some people say that our readership area is larger than the entire state of West Virginia.

For nearly ten years now I have been working at this newspaper that was uspposed to be my temporary stop on th way up the career ladder. Different events in my life have kept me here - such as my wife attending graduate school in nearby Flagstaff, and our getting custody of my daughter (which had us stay here to give her some stability in her schooling and social life).

Some of my work is on display at our website for the newspaper at: http://www.gallupindependent.com This is not a complete publication of our newspaper, and does not include any of our sports images, but it can give you a look at some of the work we are producing here.

For my sports images I sometimes share them at Sportsshooter.com , one of my favorite web sites to visit and keep up to date on things happening in the photography industry.