Snow and Spell

The snow that came down this afternoon was light and not sticking to the ground as it fell. I tried a couple of images showing the snow in a straight forward way, like below. They simply were not working well, so as I was sitting in my car wondering where to go for a better image of the weather I decided to try something a bit more unusual, and use the melted snow on the window as a filter to create an impressionistic feel to this image of a mailbox mounted on top of an old wagon wheel. Sure it has been done before, but what in photojournalism hasn't?

Laguna Acoma Middle school students Austin Jones, left, and Kristopher Vallo, both sixth graders, laugh together after finding themselves to be the only two students left in the Grants/Cibola County school district spelling bee Tuesday morning at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Grants. The two sixth graders outlasted 95 other students to win the bee.


Food for Fingers and Napkins

Tommy Evans serves up some French fries Monday during the lunch rush while his grandson, Casey Evans, works behind him adding barbeque sauce to an order of ribs.

Bob Goode, the food man, ads seasoning while making a recipe of deviled eggs Monday evening in his Gallup home while teaching a community education class on making finger foods .

Cooking class student Sandi Johnsey stirs together ingredients Monday evening while instructor Bob Goode talks to other members of the class about ideas for food presentation at his Hill Street home in Gallup. Goode is teaching a four part course on creating finger foods as part of the University of New Mexico's Community Education classes.


Frozen Lake Fun

A former Gallup resident telephones our editor yesterday and said he had this very interesting ice fishing hut he made out of second hand sporting goods, and that he would be using it on Blue Water Lake today, inviting us to come and make a photo. The ice hut was one thing to make an image of, but more interesting in terms of photos was the action of the kids on the snowmobile and the guys getting their Jeep unstuck.

Guy Marsh, the creator of the shack, said that when he got to the lake there was not a single sign of anybody having been out on it. Being from Minnesota I understand that ice can be quite safe to walk on and even drive on if conditions are right. But I suspect that the majority of the residents here in the high desert simply have no experience with bodies of water in sustained cold weather.


Movie Tickets and Basketballs

Allen Theaters cashier Mary Lou Vigil hands a movie ticket to a customer Friday afternoon at the Red Rock Six Theater in Gallup. Movie theaters are struggling to keep customers coming through the doors with customers now having other options such as video rentals, pay per view and cable television movie channels.

Crownpoint Lady Eagle Sam Enrico (44) keeps possession of the basketball Friday night while Zuni Thunderbirds Shalayne Lasiloo (10) and Melanie Nashboo (32) try to take it away at Crownpoint High School. The Lady Eagles won 61-45.

Crownpoint Lady Eagle Alisha Murphy (41) guards against Zuni Lady Thunderbird Druanne Yuselew (21) as she tries to recover a loose ball Friday night during the varsity girls basketball game at Crownpoint High School.

Paper Towers

Dillan Long and Erinn Carrica work to reinforce the support legs while Kasia Sanchez sticks another tube of rolled up newspaper on top of their tower Thursday afternoon at the Future Foundations Family Center in Grants while competing with other children to see who could create the tallest structure.

Brionna Patterson and Ryan Carrica work to add more height to their tower while Dewayne Hudson watches them Thursday afternoon at the Future Foundations Family Center in Grants.


Grants and Dragons

Las Alamitos eighth grade student Zachary Smith entered a competition with the Nickelodeon television network and won a $5,000 prize for sports equipment, games and other items to be purchased for the Future Foundations Family center in Grants, NM.

These are some portraits that I made in about 10 minutes with a fairly shy 8th grade boy. He plays on the school's basketball team and had won a grant for athletic equipment for the local rec center, so it made sense to stick him in a setting like this. The colorful basketballs that I found inside the gym when I started to set up were a stroke of luck. I gave him a ball to dribble and it relaxed some of his nervousness .

The images are made with available light. The gymnasium at this school has an incredible wall of frosted windows on the one side, and I just had to set and click.

Below are a couple of ad photos I shot for an upcoming Chinese New Year event at one of the Chinese restaurants in town.


Metalics and Serendipity

Paul Bosco empties bags of aluminum cans onto a conveyor belt that feeds them into a compactor Wednesday afternoon at B&R Pawn Feed Recycling and Livestock on Maloney Avenue in Gallup.

Brandon Garcia touches up the paint on his recently completed 468-cu Big Block Chevy engine that he is preparing to put into his modified El Camino SS at M&R Auto on Maloney Avenue in Gallup. Garcia, who is the vice president of M&R, takes his truck to Albuquerque to compete in drag racing events.

The bottom image here is the one I intended to make. I was driving around town and saw this engine block sitting in the doorway to the garage. I was expecting that there would be a mechanic soon working on it. Brandon told me that he was going to paint the engine in a little while and that his mechanic would start working in putting it in next week. I checked with him on what time I should return, and when I did he was practically done. He sprayed a few squirts of paint as a touch-up to spots, but with the black paint on black engine it didn't read as well as I had hoped.

That was when I spotted the can recycling machine going like mad. I made some images of Paul dumping cans in from ground level, but was not happy with the shots - they were of his back and not really showing the conveyor all that well. Soon Paul moved to the back side to pull out one of the blocks of cans that was stuck. I made a few frames that I liked, (including the middle frame here) when I thought to myself, it would be really great if I could climb up and make my images looking down. As I stood there I suddenly realized that on the back side of the conveyor was exactly what I had wanted - a small steel ladder was leaning against the machine, perfect for me to get to the top and make my shot.


the Young Americans

James Cerrato, a member of the Young Americans Music Outreach Tour, leaps into the air Tuesday while working to teach students their dance moves at Gallup Catholic School. The Young Americans held a three day workshop for 109 area students and were preparing for a concert performance

Nick Titus, a member of the Young Americans Music Outreach tour, directs students for their singing parts Tuesday at Gallup Catholic school.


Derailed - Political Process

Workers from GandyDancer LLC, and Albuquerque based railroad contractor, work to clean up the damage Monday after a five car train derailment early in the morning blocked both sets of tracks in Houck, Ariz.

Leonard Tsosie raises his right hand and takes the oath of office from Chief Justice Emeritus Tom Tso as he is sworn in Monday morning as a Navajo Nation Council Delegate in Window Rock, Ariz. Tsosie said that the decision to leave his position as a New Mexico Senator to become a council delegate was difficult, but ultimately came down to the opinions of his constituents.

Meanwhile, outside.....
Calvin Johnson, left, president of the C-Aquifer for Dine, leads others in chants against the use of water by Peabody during a protest Monday in front of the Navajo Nation Council Chambers in Window Rock, Ariz.


Puzzles and Players

Rania Dewahe and her cousin, Nathan Dewahe, both from Acoma, try their problem solving skills Friday while working on one of the Brain Teaser Puzzles at the University of New Mexico-Grants library.

Boys Basketball Action tonight: The Ramah Mustangs @ The Rehoboth Lynx. A trio of images that I made at the game, using a pair of SB-800 flash units on light stands at the corners of the baseline. The lights were set to 1/4 power and triggered via Pocket Wizard wireless transmitter units.

The Rehoboth Lynx won 70-58.


Educated Bee

Thoreau Elementary School fifth grader Jerilynn Charley leans down to get a hug from her parents, Victoria and Nelvin Charley on Thursday after she took second place in the McKinley County Spelling Bee at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Gallup. Returning champion Gabriel Lim won the event again this year, correctly spelling the word mayonnaise.

After getting the normal shots of the students looking bored, concentrating or whatever all while spelling their words on stage I spotted this young lady, the runner-up, getting congratulated by her parents. Interaction and emotion are much better story-tellers than a mug shot. 'Nuf Said.

Enrolling, Unrolling

(For a story on classes being full but over all enrollment numbers being low at the local college)
University of New Mexico-Gallup student Colleen Palmer uses a computer Wednesday at the Student Service center in Gurley Hall to check her class schedule while other students wait in line to enroll in classes. Palmer is completing coursework for her associates degree in psychology.

Jennifer Verdugo-Black holds a pair of the blue jeans that she used to wear eight months ago before undergoing gastric by-pass surgery. Since having the surgery she has lost 137 pounds, and is still working to lose even more.

We don't have a studio space at our office. After all, newspapers are usually about things happening in the real world. We do have an empty room between the old darkroom and the new press hall. It is dingy and cinder block with ugly flourescent lighting. But with not enough lighting that it has to be a problem. The walls and ceiling are all the same nuetral color - near white.
I decided that the best way to do this portrait was to make the image stark and try to convey the idea of a person overcoming a personal battle with weight (a battle I know all too well). So to make the image I utilized Nikon's wireless flash system. I placed two SB-800 strobes directly behind the subject, one aiming about three feet up the wall, the second aimed about 6 feet up the wall. Then I manually set them to fire at 100% power. Then I set the third flash unit (which triggered the other two) on camera and pointed it to the left and up, giving a smooth, low contrast bounce that gave some shape and form to Jennifer. The two lights in the back blasted the wall, over exposing it and turning it to pure white. Instant portrait studio for a high key background.


Responsible Guests

A pair of doctors in town decided that they wanted to build a guest house behind their home, and they decided that they wanted it to be very energy efficient. I think the term the builder used was "Green Building". The house is fairly small, less than 900 square feet, which by itself makes it affordable to heat. But this house has several other key features, including hot water tubes that run through the sub-flooring. These radiate heat up into the room. The house is also sealed up with plastic ans has some high quality insulation in all of the walls. Add to that the passive solar heating from the high, south facing windows and the on-demand water heater in a box system and the energy costs will be less than I used to spend for a pizza.

Winter of the Soul

Sometimes I think that newspaper work is killing my creativity. Sure, I get to go out and make photos every single day, and I get to be a lot of places that others won't/don't go to and make images. The problem with that is that I need to find the best options to tell the reader a story that will make sense to them and have a reason. Creativity is more about expressing the things that say something to you. I feel that if art is done for any other audience than the person creating it then it is no longer art, but product. Sometimes when I am out and about I spot something that interests me. I try not to analyze the why too much. I instead focus on what it is that interested me and make an image just for myself. This is an image like that. At the end of the day I decided to turn it in to the paper as well, knowing that often there is a need to fill space and break up 80 inches of rambling text. Whether it gets published or not does not matter. The image already served its purpose when I made it.


Free Speech

A paradox if ever there was one. An adult bookstore opened on a pocket of private land, surrounded by the Navajo reservation. When it opened a small crowd came out and protested (which actually helped business from what the owner told one of our editors). Now, several months later they have gone out of business. So some of the original protesters came out to celebrate. I find it odd that they would stand in front of the business, holding signs and waving the flag and enjoying their right to free speech and freedom of expression to object to a business that existed because of free speech...


Martin Luther King Jr day

I was disappointed by the turn out for the events today in Window Rock. Maybe I thought that the Native Americans would see that there is still a great deal of social injustice, and how important one person can be.

Regardless, I did not want my photo coverage from today to only be the standard images of people marching and holding signs. So when the march ended I was hoping to find something, anything different. That's when the demonstrators gathered in a circle for some remarks and introductions. Then the drum group played the closing song, and with the Window Rock in the background I had am image that was different, although it did not really say Martin Luther King Jr. Day.


Haircuts are boring

I was having a slow day of finding photos. Gave up and went to get my hair cut. In the process I realized that for quite some time now I have been breaking one of the cardinal rules of photojournalism: Always have your camera ready. This time it was in the trunk of my car.

As I sat waiting my turn for the barber this little boy climbed into the chair and started making some wonderful faces in reaction to the scissors. I sat for a few minutes before deciding I needed to get my gear and make some images. When I returned with my camera the faces were fading. I had missed the shot. IT wasn't a total loss though, because soon the little kid was fast asleep. Yep, the barber was struggling to keep him from falling out of the chair. I got lucky and still made an image from what was a missed chance.

Basketball can be an easy sport to cover, if you are willing to settle for the standard armpit shot of the player shooting the ball. I have been making it a point to try and get those types of images only as back-ups, in case the sports desk decides they need a file photo for a profile or something. What I am really interested in is the unusual. The collisions and the out of control moments. Chasing down the loose ball and such. Here the games are competitive enough that even the girls have their share of contact.


Rez Ball - Window Rock vs. Monument Valley

It has been a while since I photographed basketball at the Fort Defiance field house. I had forgotten just how crowded the gymnasium is there. The walls of the gym are only about 12 inches from the edge of the court on each end, leaving no safe place to make photos from along the baseline.

Instead I sat in the doorway of the gym, half in and half out, my shoulder against the wall. It was the best I could do while staying out of the way of the players and the referees.

The games were intense (as always) and even though the Window Rock girls lost by 21 points the crowd was still behind them the whole game. The boys game looked like it was going to be lopsided, with Window Rock taking off to a 12 point lead at the end of the first quarter, but by half-time they were pretty even. In the end Window Rock won 80-75 in a solid and energetic game.

I am still amazed at how big the sport of basketball is to people on the Navajo Nation. The arena was sold out and people were turned away at the doors. I often think it is only the basketball coverage that makes people read our newspaper.