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2006/11/30



MY first basketball game of the season went well enough. I was experimenting with using my Nikon D-80 camera for sports, and after some adjusting, trial and error I was able to actually use the camera for sports. It does have a limitation of only 1/200th second for a flash sync. speed, and only handles 3-frames per second (as opposed to the D-200 which goes at 5-fps, and the D2H which rips 8-fps). I actually found that by setting the ISO sensitivity down to 400, and dropping my shutter speed to 1/125th was when I got the best results.

Overall the images turned out well, considering I was using direct/on-camera flash to light inside a gymnasium with yellowish-orange walls and ceiling.

Festival of Trees

As a fund raiser for the local Kiwanis club, the past two years a variety of businesses have set up Christmas trees and donated items to go with the trees. Once the trees are set up people can buy tickets for a chance to win the trees. Tickets are two for one dollar, and once purchased you simply go to the trees you like and drop your ticket in the container next to it. Then a drawing is held to give away the trees and items.

The space that was used for setting up the display is the empty K-Mart space at the mall. Very large, and less than interesting light made making a photo challenging.

At first I made some images of employees from Wal-Mart (don't get me started about them!) setting up a tree, but there was something a bit static and uninteresting about them.

I finally decided that I could add some tension/movement with a slow shutter speed, and at the same time kill my lighting problems. I set up a tripod (now there's something I rarely do for newspaper work) and set a slow shutter speed that would make the people walking through the area into ghostly blurs.

2006/11/29

Snowfall

A semi-truck lays on its side in the median of I-40, three miles east of the New Mexico/Arizona border, while a tow truck salvage crew get ready to start pulling the cargo and setting about righting the truck.

(Below) - A police officer looks at the damage to a car that slid out on the hill and smashed into the curb. When he stopped to check on the driver a second car slid down the hill, hitting the first car and knocking it into the front of the patrol car. The damage was minor, but they still had to send a second patrol car to write up the accident report for the first unit.

I am not sure what time this morning the snow actually started, but we got somewhere around an inch of the frozen mess on the ground. We get a couple of these snow falls each year, and still people are surprised, and do not adjust their driving in the slightest. What really surprises me is the truck drivers on the highway that have so much trouble.

The Wreck on I-40 was right next to a rest area, so I parked there to keep my vehicle safe from getting hit wile taking photos. As I was walking by the truck area I found this driver working on his wipers and the sprayers to keep his windshield clean. A big problem with snow around here is that it melts away pretty fast, and the result is a lot of slush and spray on windshields.
The lighting for this was awful - I knew I didn't want to mess around with using a flash, and I didn't have a lot of time to get the shot (he was done in only a minute or two). So I shot the photos in RAW/NEF file format and metered for the clouds and added 2/3 of a stop. I did not want to lose the details completely. Then back at the office I used the Shadow/Highlight tool in photoshop CS2 to darken the highlights and bring out some detail in the shadows. After that I fine tuned the image using a couple of layer adjustment masks to dodge out spots on his face and burn down some of the detail in the clouds.

At this point I am shooting almost exclusively in the camera RAW format. It gives me some real flexibility in the final image toning, but is gobbling up space on my external hard drives.

2006/11/28

Art and Authors

This sculpture and painted pony are the work of more than three dozen artists, and it is truly a one-of-a-kind piece. This week is the Reunion of the Masters, where several of the more famous Native American artists come and give demonstrations at the Gallup Cultural Center, and to top off the event the sculpture is being raffled off. When I was there at the gallery I was told that more than 125 tickets had been sold, and the price was $1,000 per ticket.

What's really interesting about today is that I started out with no assignments for the day. Checked around for something going on, and our local community calendar had a listing for the reunion of the masters demonstrations. I wandered on over, got the images of the kids and the author (below) and decided to photograph the sculpture as long as I was there. Back at the office I edited and filed the photos and was heading out the door when a reporter told me she was doing a story on the event, and a second story on the raffle of the sculpture, and wanted to know if I could get some photos for it.


Something new this time around was to also include some authors in the events for the week. Author Roberta John came to the gallery and read both of her books to students. I tried a couple of different angles for this, and decided that this image worked the best - showing the cover of the book, the author's face and some of the children she was reading to. The editors decided that they wanted to run the other photo (below) . It is certainly a different angle, but I didn't like that the image was not showing any expressions of the kids, and the main element in the frame is the table, which is somewhat boring.

2006/11/24

Red Rider

I don't think that he's a city employee, and I doubt that his gear is standard issue for the fire department, but this guy hitched a ride on the back of one of their trucks to make an entrance at the shopping mall.

I am not a fan of Wal-Mart at all, and our publisher does not want us covering anything there, but I really wanted to go after hearing that their corporate offices had declared their stores off-limits to all media for this biggest shopping day of the year. Let's embrace the American way of life, and all be one big team and family at Wal-Mart, but only when it suits us. Hmm. I guess they are just following the lead that our current political leaders have set - making photography and reporting of the actual events a restricted activity. The land of the free? Only if you are choosing to conform.

In any event I decided that I really didn't want to deal with the crowds and the hassles, especially when the management had been very inviting to my request for permission to cover their event.

2006/11/23

Thanksgiving Feasts

After shooting the Toys for Tots event I had a second assignment to go to Care 66 and get photos of them making their Thanksgiving dinner. The facility is an interesting one, in that it is a homeless shelter, but it is different. The residents are required to get jobs and they take life skills classes and it is more like a rehab center than it is a shelter. The downside of this is that the residents are almost all in positions that they do not wish to be photographed or identified. The acting program director and one of the residents who is from Cuba were willing to be photographed to promote the work of the center.

Thanksgiving Exercise


I had to work today - Thanksgiving. The event was early enough in the day not to disrupt things for me too much, and the reason was certainly worthwhile. The police department helped put together a 5K fun run to raise money for the Toys for Tots toy drive. They had more than 40 people show up for the run (and more than one participant walked the course). The event itself was pretty mundane to photograph, but after the run I found these three children hanging out together, and it seemed to be the best image of the morning.

2006/11/22

Flight Plan


I was having some concerns with one of my lenses not focusing sharply at long range, so I looked up into the sky and saw a jet flying overhead. I composed and fired the camera a couple of times and the image was acceptably sharp. The color looked a bit flat, so in Photoshop I hit "Auto-levels" just to snap the color and contrast a bit and see what it looked like. I expected a mild shift in color. Instead the auto setting took the image to extremes of contrast and I found myself liking the resulting image. Yes, it is an exaggeration, and there is no news value to it. Just an image that made think :Huh, that's kind of cool."

2006/11/18

Football Post Season Prayers

For the first time since I started working for The Gallup Independent ten years ago the local football team has been included in the play-offs, and just barely. Getting in on a wing and a prayer comes to mind. Two other teams in their class were disqualified because they had ineligible players during the season. The notification of their inclusion in the play-offs came so late that the players had already turned in their equipment and missed one week of practice.

In the end the game was lopsided, and the Gallup Bengals were de-clawed as they lost 43-3. At the end of the half they were losing 41-3, and the opposing Sandia Matadors did not try to run up the score, but then the Bengals fumbled the ball out the back of their own end-zone, chalking up a safety.

2006/11/17

Flu shots

The senior citizens center in Grants, NM was a crowded place to be today. Public Health department nurses and personnel came in and gave free flu shots to the seniors that wanted them. When I made this photo the count was already over 300 patients who had been vaccinated, and there was still an hour left to go.

2006/11/16

Wildcat house

In the remote north eastern corner of Arizona is a community called Chinle. Not much of note is there, except for the great tourist attraction, Canyon de Chelly. (French, so its pronounced d-shay). The Navajo people are basketball fans in the fullest sense of the word - fanatics. Until I came to this area I had never thought a high school basketball game could have a sell-out crowd that would make enough noise to require the use of earplugs.

To accommodate all of those sports fans a new sports complex was created - to the tune of $31 million. ($24 mil for the arena and $6.9 mil for the aquatic center). Today was the formal dedication for the complex. I really did not want to have more photos of talking heads at a podium, but rather wanted to get some behind the scenes stuff and show off the facilities. The answer to my wants was to get the sound system guy running the board. He not only ran the board today, but he also designed the sound system with 28.5k watts of power.


The pool is something truly new to kids in the middle of the high desert. I made some images of the pool itself, with light from the windows reflecting onto the water, but then students from the high school came in and started getting up close, and that seemed more compelling. Newspapers do best when they are telling about the stories of people, and people doing things is the stuff we thrive on.

2006/11/15

Turkeys


This year the Navajo Nation got a grant/donation that allowed them to purchase $25,000 worth of frozen turkey from Wal Mart here in Gallup. That's a lot of turkey. The assignment was vague, only thing I was told was to go to Wal Mart and get photos of people picking up the turkeys. It turned out that the turkeys were being picked up in large quantities to be distributed at various chapter houses across New Mexico, Arizona and up into Utah.

This year the turkeys were almost all going to agencies to be prepped and served for Thanksgiving, rather than passed out to individuals to cook on their own. The reason? Because when they have handed out the frozen birds to families the following weekend has seen a large number of frozen turkeys for sale at area flea markets. As I have said before, poverty is a way of life out on the reservation.




The annoying thing about the assignment? I had been in and out of the store several times to talk to employees and the assistant manager. I had my Kata camera bag and two bodies over my shoulders. The reporters were in the building talking to the program directors. Everything was fine. I walked around the building to the loading dock to get my photos, and then as I am leaving a plain dark car pulls up next to me, and a plain clothes loss prevention employee gets out and starts questioning me about what I am doing. He tells me that "They don't allow no cameras on Wal Mart property." I responded that I was leaving, and had already been in contact with their management, and that was that. I presume he went and checked, but what was he going to do at that point. I really had the urge to push the issue and ask them how any customers were supposed to purchase any of the photographic and video equipment they sell since having one in your possession ist verboten.

When will people learn - PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT A CRIME

2006/11/14

Navajo Grandma and Grandpa Pagaent



The first photo is of Dorothy Bitsilly being crowned, and the second she addresses the audience after being crowned during the Navajo Agency on Aging Fourth Annual Shima doo Shicheii pageant at the Fort Defiance Chapter house in Arizona. Earl Laughlin, background, from Whippoorwill, Ariz. was also crowned.

I have a strong, visual fascination with the traditional and elderly Navajo people. Their faces are so interesting and distinctive, and hint at the troubles and experiences they have lived through. Add to that the colorful traditional clothing and the jewelry they wear with such pride and even if they are simply standing at a podium I find them interesting to photograph.

2006/11/13

Wood Stock

The Navajo reservation and surrounding area can safely be compared to a third world country in many ways. Poverty is common. Many homes have no telephones, running water and even electricity. The nearby coal mine has an area open to the public for people to come and buy coal to heat their homes. Other reservation residents use wood pellets or plain old wood stoves for heat and cooking. This photo is of a woman loading up the back of a pick-up truck with wood, which she said would be about one month's supply for their home.

The weather was gloomy, but a bit of sun crept through and gave me some fairly nice, even lighting on her face and made exposure and color correcting of the image a breeze.

2006/11/09

Volleyball - Part 2

More photos from the New Mexico State Volleyball tournament in Albuquerque, NM. We had four teams in the tournament today, and all four ended up losing and not advancing to the finals.

This image is a bit static (above) but I did like being able to get three girls from the team into a single image. That is not something that I can often accomplish with volleyball.

This image of a the Laguna Acoma player spiking the ball seemed pretty routine when I first put it up on my computer screen, but on closer examination I saw that her fingers are bending in a pretty unusual way and that I had caught the exact moment of her hand striking the ball.

2006/11/08

State Volleyball - Round 1



The New Mexico State volleyball championship got underway today with a series of round robin/pool play games to determine who would be placed where in the tournament brackets. Overall the game scores meant little to the teams. They only played two games to 15 against each opponent before shifting to the next set, so I didn't even track who they played against, focusing only getting the images. So here's a collection of a few from today's events.




Tall Bear in Tent City

The trail is under-used, except by some joggers who have been complaining about being harassed by the intoxicated people living in a little tent town. If a person watches the side of the road as they head east on I-40 through Gallup they can probably spot the little cluster of tents, mattresses and people.

I was told that the reporter would be writing a story about it, and that he wanted to meet at 2 pm and head over there together. I waited for a little while at the office before deciding to head out on foot alone. It probably was not a smart thing, going into an untraveled area with $5k worth of cameras and stepping into a group of homeless people that are often drunk all alone. But I did, and I was able to get the few less than comfortable people there to relax enough to leave me alone and wander out of camera range. I spotted the black hawk and had the photo of it, and shared the photo using the camera's LCD screen and that broke the ice and got people to relax a lot.

A short while later the reporter arrived and every body's guard went right back up. Two of the men there were clowning around and even asking to be photographed and put in the newspaper. This gentleman was likely intoxicated, but he was very comfortable having an audience to talk to. When I asked his name he told me simply, "Tall Bear".

After we finished and were heading back to the office the reporter stated that he wasn't sure how to handle the story - he wanted people to know about this place, but did not want to draw so much attention that the authorities started causing problems for these people, who have enough difficulties to face already.

Go Team Go - Grand opening

Te assignment was simple and last minute - get an image for the opening of the new sports apparel and souvenir shop downtown. They're putting up the sign out front right now.
When I arrived I was not real impressed with the inside of the store. There was a ladder in the middle of show floor, and the two employees were not doing anything visual. Back outside the sky was pretty ugly, so I was looking for a way to minimize it. In the end I started looking at the diagonal lines from the lift, and the reflection of it all on the store window. I considered using a polarizing filter to eliminate the reflections and allow the readers to see right into the store, but I think that in the end, having the reflection with the odd bits from the display being visible make the photo a bit more interesting. And as Vinvent Versace said at the Epson Print Academy, Audience involvement is important.

2006/11/07

Common Black Hawk

Between the Rio Puerco and I-40 near downtown Gallup there is a little used walking path. I was following it in search of a shanty-town where people are reportedly living in tents. While making my way along the trail I spotted a large bird swooping around. Large birds around here are usually crows, but this one had some brown and white. It landed on a street light just past me, so I took my D200 and my 70-200 VR lens, added my 1.4x teleconverter and got ready to click.

A pretty widely known wildlife photographer, Moose Peterson wrote in something I once read that birds often defecate right before they take to the air. I slowly moved closer to the bird, keeping my eye to the viewfinder and watching the focus as I moved. Then the bird dropped it's messy deposit and I started to take a photo. And that is when the hawk beat its wings and took off into the air. Not exactly a pure nature image with the light pole the frame, but I wanted to give some context of the images being in a more or less urban area.

2006/11/04

Pushing to the Limits

The 2006 Arizona high school cross country championships were held at the Cave Creek municipal golf course in Phoenix. The weather was decent for running, and as is common in the 3A category, the kids and the schools from the reservation dominated the event. A Tuba City boy (above) was the first to reach the line in the boys event, followed closely by a runner from Ganado, Ariz. The top runners cross the line with energy to spare nearly every time. Then come the middle runners, and it is not uncommon to watch them collapse just past the finish line.

A trainer pours water on the forehead of a runner from Window Rock high school after she crossed the line and collapsed. A man nearby took offense to my taking photos of the happenings,but I wondered why. My point for the photos is not about showing that she didn't win (she took fifth place overall - pretty impressive in a field of 109 runners!) but rather my intent was to show just how hard these kids push themselves, how hard they fight to do their best. This photo, to me, is not about defeat but about courage and accomplishment. She pushed herself to the absolute limits that her body could handle.

2006/11/03

Burning Phoenix skies



Drove to Phoenix this afternoon/evening so that I can cover the Arizona State High School cross country championship races tomorrow morning. The drive down between Payson and Mesa is a bit challenging in the late afternoon. The sun can be blinding as it pops through the trees near Payson. Farther along the road is a narrow two-lanes with no shoulder as it snakes down nearly 30 miles of winding descents. Of course that is when the sky turned bright red, appearing to be on fire almost. And that is when there was no good place to stop and pull safely off the road. Finally, at the bottom of one of the hills there was a trail that I pulled into. I grabbed one of my cameras and made a couple of quick frames with my 70-200mm lens and switched on the Vibration Reduction/Image stabilization. (The bottom photo). Even as I did that the light faded from a completely red sky to just a hint behind the mountains. I scrambled for my tripod and my Nikon D80 camera body. Then walked around trying to find a clear shot of the mountains. It didn't work. I was so far down into the valley that there were tree branches in the way no matter where I turned. So, in the end I decided to include the branches into the frame, along with a slight amount of the trail itself (top photo).

In photography, light is everything. Color and shape. That's all there is. After all, it is literally 'writing with light'. A mistake many people make is that they think they are taking photos of things. They are not. Rather, they are taking photos of the shadows and highlights and color - the light being reflected from the subject.

2006/11/02

Ground Breaking images

One of the least enjoyed assignments in newspaper photography is to cover a traditional "Ground-breaking" ceremony. A bunch of dignitaries stand around with shovels, pose and pretend to dig the dirt a little bit. At least this one had some color to it. The sun was cooperating and the red shovels popped out against the red ground and blue skies. I was not even interested in getting the traditional image of people digging... at first.

Once the speeches were over and the people moved to the ground-breaking area. There seemed to be a lot more shovels for this event than would usually be needed. The reason was that the school was including two students from each grade in the ceremony. It was still the same thing, but the kids digging gave it a bit of a twist and made it less about the people who wanted to be recognized. The best part was that the kids just kept digging and digging...

2006/11/01

Soccer Losses


The road to the New Mexico State high school soccer championship title started today, and for the teams from Gallup it proved to be a short one. The Rehoboth boys lost 3-2 in overtime, and the Gallup Cathedral team lost 2-0. The image above was a moment that started and ended very quickly. One of the star players was taking the loss very hard. He walked past the coach, and the coach quickly wrapped his arms around him for a brief hug to try and console him. The background has a bit more going on in it than I would like, but the rim-lighting and the inter-connection of their hands still makes the image work well in my opinion.



This image is one that I didn't even realize I had until I got back to the office to edit. The big problem with a D-SLR camera is that for the image to be recorded the mirror flips up and the viewfinder goes black. For sports in particular, if you see the action then you missed the shot. When I saw these two players heading together I tripped the shutter, not knowing what had actually happened. As you can see, the Rehoboth player took a kicked ball right in the bread-basket.









This third image is of a player from Gallup Catholic getting overly aggressive in trying to make a slide-tackle. He did break up the play, and knocked down his opponent. He also earned himself a yellow card for his actions.