Wingate Baseball

I decided today to give the blurred pitcher shot another try after my earlier attempt this month was not published. This time around I went for a bit of a compromise, keeping the image lighter and the pitcher sharp, just blurring the background with a slightly slow shutter speed and panning with the pitcher as he stepped into his throw.

Out at second base. I was able to motor-drive a sequence of this play, and although the runner's face is not visible, the action of the feet in the air makes up for it to me. The previous frames did not have the same sense of the runner trying desperately to make it to base.

Sometimes the assignment is the routine shot, the boring politician thing. Here Gallup's new mayor, Harry Mendoza, was officially sworn in to office this morning after defeating Ralph Richards in a run-off election on Tuesday.

I have shot in the city council chambers on many occasions and I know the lighting is dismal in there. Having a good idea of where the judge and mayor would be I set an SB-800 remote on the councilor's desk area to the left and bounced it off the wall to give some open light with little shadow. Then I put my master SB-800 on pretty directly. It worked pretty well, although the judge's hand did get blasted a bit too much with light and needed some burning down in the editing process.


What Vintage

I spent part of my afternoon wandering along Santa Fe Avenue in Grants, New Mexico this afternoon. I was not in a rush to return to the office and had some time to look around and make images I have passed up before.

I was making some images of a couple of abandoned buildings (I have an ongoing interest in abandoned things, what their histories are and how time has eroded them) when I spotted this old relic in the back.

My first instinct was to photograph the whole car from a couple of different angles. While I moved around the old beast making those images the patterns of the broken glass caught my eye, and I realized that I not only didn't need to see the whole car, I didn't even want to see it. Small details could tell the story.


Available Light: Every Light that is Available

The old joke in photography is that available light is simply every light that is available to you. I have been neglecting light for a while now, working on content and not so much on color and contours. After seeing some of the work being posted on the Strobist blog and some other places as well I decided that I really should begin using light that I control.

To start with today I had a portrait assignment at a bland strip mall space that has been turned into a church of sorts. You know the room. Window store front with boring, hideous overhead fluorescent lights and bland walls. While the reporter conducted her interview I decided to set this shot up with a stool (already there) a blank section of wall and two Nikon SB-800 flash units. One is set to the back and left with a blue gel to color the wall, and set to about 1/4 power. The other flash is set to iTTL, mounted on a stand and connected to the camera using the SC-17 sync cord and a LumiQuest softbox diffuser. It only took me about two minutes to move the lights to where I wanted them once the subject, Rev. Milt Shirleson, was seated.

Over all I like the image, but was not careful enough with my background light, which did spill over a bit and turn the edge of his face and chin blue. Next time I will have to use a snoot or scrim of some type.

I had a major advertising assignment today that included 21 different set-ups at two different stores. I tried to light the items as simply as possible while still getting a bit of pop and impact to them. If I used ambient light then everything would have been flat and low contrast. So enter a single off-camera SB-800 flash using a TTL cord and a LumiQuest softbox diffuser to light it from the left side. Details stand out and things sparkle a bit, probably even enough to stand out in newsprint.

This final ad image was done entirely with the ambient light. The jacket is on a mannequin facing the front of the store with a large plate glass window facing north letting light in. In effect it was a giant diffuser that gave what I feel is a pleasing wrap to the light and eliminates hot spots and hard shadows.


Weather is a Factor

Winter tried to make a comeback in the Southwest today. I encountered some rain, and managed to make an image of it that I like and my wife likes as well. It was taken holding the camera in one hand, with a 12mm lens set to auto-focus then just point and hope. I certainly was not going to try and look through a camera while driving.

Shortly after the rain we got hit with a sudden hail storm that had drivers skidding off the road all over the place. These lower two images are from the aftermath. In the one image Albertina Watts, an EMT from MedStar Ambulance, is using tape to gently remove shards of broken glass from the face of the driver of the mini-van after it lost control, hit two different semi-trucks and a guard rail. The second image is the fire fighters cutting the van open enough to get the driver out.


Baseball Time in Thoreau, NM

My first baseball game of the season was moderately successful. The lighting was difficult as the clouds kept playing hide and seek with the sun, leaving my meter readings changing every time I blinked. The first frame here was shot using the paper's old Nikon D2H camera, with a 300mm f/2.8 and I think a 1.4x teleconverter from the 1st base dugout. Something seems a little off in the details and highlights, even though I was shooting in RAW/NEF file.

A long time ago I had a book called Sports Photography or something of the sort. In there was an image of a pitcher that was just a blur of motion. I had something like that in mind for this image. A National Geographic photographer said (and of course I can't remember his name right now) that just because you are taking a still image doe not mean that the image has to be still. After a long season of basketball I decided that I wanted to play around with motion blur a little bit. The pitcher was the best choice - repeated action in a predictable spot with nearly the same speed. With digital cameras I can check my LCD and see if I need to increase or decrease the shutter speed to get the amount of blur I am after. Then It was simply a matter of making the image and panning with the head enough to keep the face sharp.


Vision Check and Junior Police Officer Academy

Today was a busy/productive day in terms of assignments. None of them were extremely in-depth or wonderful stories, but they were all solid community awareness pieces.

I started off at the Baca Community school near Prewitt, NM. A group out of Gallup called ChildSight New Mexico was providing eye exams at the school and also ordering eye glasses. Even though I was invited by the eye people, I had fallen down on making contact with the school to make sure things were good. The staff was great and made sure to let me know which students had signed permission slips on file allowing the children to be photographed.

I then made the images with only the slightest bit of the child's face showing. I was really caught up with the details of the Phoropter that they use, and even spent some time taking some personal shots of just the machine with some dramatic lighting.

This other assignment is from a feature story about 25 students from Grants, NM attending a Junior Police Academy training. Today's events were held at the Western New Mexcio Correctional Facility. Because I had a total of five assignment today I was not able to spend the entire day with the junior officers. They had some interactions with some of the inmates before I got there.

Once through the front gates I was escorted to a gymnasium with some of the ugliest lighting I had ever seen. Half the lights were off, and the ones that were on were a hideous yellow cast. I did what I could with available light, but there was no contrast to the images and I ended up having to use strobes.

The students got to try their hand at firing shotguns and pepper guns. The shotguns were loaded with bean-bag shells, and did not give much of a kick when fired - but inside a bare gymnasium they did echo...


Water Problems

Sometimes things just don't work out like you hoped. Especially in news photography. I was on my way to find a feature photo when I stumbled across a water line break. Water was gushing out of a pretty large hole in the ground and workers were trying to decide how to handle it. There some some concern over a large section of road and rock tumbling into the area where the leak was, so they were being careful about climbing into the hole.

So I stand around and talk to the guys from the crew as they wait for the water pressure to drop enough to put a clamping collar onto the pipeand seal off the leak. By this time I have invested about two hours in standing around talking and waiting. I imagine seeing this worker climbing into the hole and getting sprayed with all kinds of water and that would be my shot. Well, instead he climbed in from the other direction and leaned down to reach over some other pipes so that he was upside down during the placement of the clamp. So what did I get? A shot of the back of his head.

Once he got things positioned then he climbed over the white pipes on the right and got to work on tightening things down. So I tried to focus on the work itself, the things his hand were doing. I could get just his hands, but what he was doing was not clear, and most frames had the back of his hard hat. A few frames had a portion of his face.

The second image is the aftermath, as he wipes the mud from his hands. I often get so caught up in shooting the over all scene that I overlook these types of details, so that is one of my ne self assigned rules - look for a detail shot.


Softball: a New Season or Time to Change Gears

After just completing such a run of basketball images from the tournaments I thought that softball would be easy to transition into. Not really. Where as basketball is pretty non-stop with action happening on a rapid basis, baseball and softball are more mental. There is a lot of down time where you lose focus (no pun intended).

The two images below are from the same play. The first is the best peak action for the players, while the second image is more interesting compositionally - it has a diagonal of movement in the image that adds tension, and then Sam Gomez has some energy to his umpiring as he calls the runner out.


A Variety of Things to Do

MY first assignment of the day was to visit the office of ChildSight New Mexico as they prepared to visit a couple of schools next week. -- ChildSight New Mexico program coordinator Angie Holtsoi uses a lensmeter to double check the prescription on a pair of eyeglasses Thursday at her office in the basement of the Octavia Felin Children's Library in Gallup. ChildSight provides eye exams and eyeglasses for students inNew Mexico, traveling to schools to administer the exams and distribute the glasses.

Shortly after finishing that assignment there was a report of a car fire. The smoke was visible from a couple of miles away. I rolled up pretty fast, but once again got shot down by the wonderfully efficient Community Service Aids who pretend to be full-fledged police officers. They blocked the only road in to this neighborhood a block away from the scene and at the bottom of a steep hill. So I had to find a way in through a dead-end stree and then got permission from a hone owner to go through her yard to get to the scene. By then there is only the smallest hint of flame, and this frame is the fire department smothering it.

The story gets better still (not that it was anything special until this point) - I am standing suite a distance from the scene. The fire is out. The owner of the car came up behind me and asked what happened... it's all over. Suddenly one of the Community Service guys sees me, marches over to the nearest telephone pole, ties up some police tape and starts walking stright at me with the tape. He passed less than a foot in front of me with the tape, I guess to show me who was boss - then realized that the point he was going to tie the other end off to was about 15 feet closer to the fire, and I was well outside of the area he was "securing"

This image did not run, but was more of a problem solving exercise. We have some heavy traffic being detoured over what is essentially a service road and across the railroad tracks. Politicians are looking to get some money to make another overpass in town, and the story was about the need for one. To get the maximum effect for the traffic my first instinct was to get in tight with a wide lens. The problem with that idea is a wide lens would add seperation between objects, and make the traffic seem farther spread out. So the solution was to use a long telephoto lens and make everything stack together, compressing the image and making the traffic problems more apparent.

This final image is from a new diner in town that wanted to do an advertisement with us. While the image works for the needs, I would like to work on honing my lighting skills to figure out how to make an image like this stand out and be interesting. Always more to learn...


When the Weather Turns Nice...

This first image today was a happy accident. After helping my wife get my son off to day care I spotted a pair of doves in a tree in my backyard. By the time I got my gear and opened the back door they were gone. I stood and looked for them for a few moments and a different bird landed in the tree. I focused and grabbed a couple of static (read: Boring!) images hen it suddenly lifted into the sky. I fired and only afterward, when I brought up the image on the computer did I see the nice blur of motion. I had my shutter speed set pretty low and never even checked it. The downside is that there is so much blur and I know so little about birds that I have no clue what type of bird it is. But it certainly says "Spring" to me.

With the weather turning nice we are all heading out of our homes now. That includes this young musician from my neighborhood who was minding his own business playing in his driveway when I pounced (grin). I used an off-camera strobe to give a different look to the light, but I had some technical issues with my lens and the exposure was too high. This is where shooting in RAW would normally have saved me, but for some reason I had set my camera to JPEG file type and I had to do the best I could with the Shadows/highlights tool in photoshop. What technical issues? Well, a couple of months ago I dropped my 12-24mm lens and it bumped the aperture lever. Not badly, but every once in a while the aperture lever will stick and the lens will stay stuck at f/4, no matter what I set it on the camera. So I told the camera the scene was being shot at f/11, and it exposed it at f/4.


Popular Photography - letter published

Back in December I read the contest issue of Popular Photography & Imaging and was very displeased to see that their first place winner in the Nature category was of an image that was a compilation of multiple images on multiple days with a lot of editing done on the computer. I was upset enough that I sent them the following letter:

That the judges of the annual photography contest chose Mehmet Ozgur’s image as the first place winner for the Nature Photography section is simply insulting to the readers and to every nature photographer who has ever made an image. Certainly the image is interesting and well done, but as the caption clearly states, it is not a natural image. It is a compilation of 15 different images. The category of nature implies that the viewer could go the same place and see the same thing – as the image reports on what was there in the real world.

I am a professional photojournalist and all around us are examples of the credibility of photographs as truth being destroyed by over-zealous photoshop junkies that feel the need to improve on or outright create reality to suit them. Your contest had a “Creative” category that Ozgur’s image would have been properly suited for. Instead we have to see editors, designers and anybody else that has access to a camera and computer software present images based solely on impact, and not on credibility and reality.

More and more often when a photographer captures a remarkable image the people that view it question the reality and the credibility of it. The last thing in the world the photography industry needs is publications letting created images be judged alongside true images and leading the readers to accept that altering images is the ethical thing to do.

A short while later I received a reply that the editors wanted to publish my letter, but since the contest was already in the past they wanted to edit it to make it more about Photoshop misuse. They also requested that I send them a photo to illustrate my point about real images being questioned. In response I sent them my image of the goats on top of the ridge during the balloon rally. So now we get to today,and the new issue of Popular Photography arrives in my mailbox and my letter and photo are displayed pretty prominently on the letters page - with the text in bold and a larger font than anything else on the page. Not exactly the best way to get published in a national magazine, but it is published and I am getting paid for the image use.

I could not find the letters page on their web site, but they do have a large portion of their magazine on-line at Popular Photography & Imaging

Here is the edited version of the letter:

As a professional photojournalist, I find that the credibility of photographs as truth is being destroyed by overzealous Photoshop junkies who feel the need to "improve on" or create their own reality. Anybody with a camera and computer software can present images based solely on impact, instead of reality. More and more often when a photographer captures a remarkable image people question the credibility of it.

For instance, many ask me if I added the balloons to this shot. I didn't. This is exactly what my camera captured at the Red Rock Balloon Rally Near Gallup, New Mexic, this past December. As far as I am concerned, altering an image is not an ethical thing to do.


Kirtland Central girls go to Championship Game

The only team that made it to the Championship game was the Kirtland Central Lady Broncos. I have always wondered about them being included in our coverage area, as they are only about three miles outside of the Farmington city limits. Still the sports editor here says we cover them , and if it helps us with sales then I am certainly not in any position to argue.

The game was pretty good, and I ended up with some decent action images from it. I got the focus issues of yesterday straightened out and my images looked pretty sharp and clean, even before running the Noise Ninja filter on them. It's amazing what something as simple as wiping down the electrical contacts on the lenses and inside the camera bodies can make.

Kirtland Central Lady Bronco April Christie (24) threads her way past three Aztec Tigers during the girls 4A State basketball championship game Friday night at the Pit in Albuquerque, N M. The Lady Broncos let a 12 point lead slip from their grasp and lost 52-46.

Kirtland Central Lady Bronco Dayon Hall-Jones (10) stretches to grab a rebound Friday but Aztec Tigers Sorrel Huntingon (13) and Stephanie Oakes (44) keep the ball just out of her reach during the girls 4A State basketball championship game.
Kirtland Central Lady Bronco Dayon Hall-Jones sets her sight on the hoop Friday while looking for a way to score past Aztec Tiger Stephanie Oakes (44) during the girls 4A State basketball championship game

Kirtland Central Lady Bronco Ali Hathaway (20) aims for the basket while Aztec Lady Tiger Rayla Doty (52) tries to stop her but fouls her in the attempt Friday night as the Broncos lose to the Aztec Tigers

Kirtland Central Lady Bronco Ali Hathaway (20)keeps Aztec Lady Tiger Rayla Doty (52) at bay Friday night as the Broncos lose to the Aztec Tigers.


Basketball Touney - girls semi-finals

Another 8 AM game in Rio Rancho. Not getting done with editing and transmitting until almost 1:30 this morning and then having to get up at 6 to make it out toe Santa Ana Star Center has me a bit short on sleep. I am not overly excited with my image from today. They are solid, but not anything special, with the exception of the second image down, where the Navajo Pine girls is on the floor trying to keep the ball from being taken away - that summed up the game pretty well - a desperate bid to hang on.

Navajo Prep Lady Warrior Charmayne Yazzie (34) tries to keep hold of the ball Thursday morning while Texico's Amanda Bass (30) steals it away during the girls 2A New Mexico high school basketball tournament at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, NM. The Lady Warriors lost 42-30.

Navajo Prep Lady Warrior Charmayne Yazzie (34) tries to keep hold of the ball Thursday morning while Texico's Amanda Bass (30) steals it away during the girls 2A New Mexico high school basketball tournament at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, NM. The Lady Warriors lost 42-30.

Navajo Prep Lady Warrior Marqia Begaye (11) looks for an opening to shoot the ball Thursday morning against Texico high's Faith Martin (20) and Amanda Bass (30) during the girls 2A New Mexico high school basketball tournament game.
Navajo Prep Lady Warrior Monique Ironshell (21) steals the ball from Texico's Katlin Luscombe (5). (This photo was a bit unusual compared to the rest of my stuff, but is actually a bit out of focus. I struggled all day with focus issues on my images and am wondering what the cause is - lens, camera, or a combination...?)

The evening session back at the Pit in Albuquerque had me covering the Gallup Lady Bengals in a game they should have won, but lost when they sat on the ball for the last two minutes of the game with the score tied 37 all. They literally stood not moving for almost two full minutes, then made a move and got fouled. The 1-1 free throw was missed, and suddenly Clovis had the ball with 9 seconds left on the clock. Clovis shot and missed, with the rebound up for grabs several times before they cank the shot right as the buzzer sounded. Gallup found themselves out of the tournament, losing 39-37.

Gallup Lady Bengal Telisha Joe (11) tests Clovis high's Brittany Johnson (22) while trying to drive up the lane to score Thursday during the New Mexico high school girls 5A state championship quarter-finals at the Pit in Albuquerque.

Gallup Lady Bengal Erica Sowers (3) and Clovis high's Mariah Sena (5) struggle for possesion of the ball Thursday during the New Mexico high school girls 5A state championship quarter-finals at the Pit in Albuquerque.

Gallup Lady Bengal Ashley McCurtain (32) looks for a teammate to pass the ball to while Clovis high school's Antiesha Brown (14) stand in her path Thursday during the New Mexico high school girls 5A state championship quarter-finals game.


Basketball - the boys get a turn

My morning started off with another 8 AM game - this time at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, NM. The Navajo Pine Warriors played against the Mesilla Valley Christian Sonblazers in the boy's 2A tournament.

Navajo Pine Warrior Walter Bia (3) bumps into Mesilla Valley Christian Sonblazer Zach Adams (20) as he aims for the basket Wednesday in the boys basketball state tournament . The Warriors lost 79-65.

Navajo Pine Warrior Randy Nez (15) takes aim at the basket Wednesday while playing against the Mesilla Valley Christian Sonblazers in the boys basketball state tournament.

Navajo Pine Warrior Pernell Begay (24) tries to make a basket but is fouled by Mesilla Valley Christian Sonblazer Tommy Adler (14) on Wednesday morning during the boys basketball state tournament.

Next came the Gallup Bengals playing the 8:15 pm game against the Hobbs Eagles at The PIT. Hobbs won 64-59.

Gallup Bengal Alfonso Hubbard (20) pressures Hobbs Eagle Heith Carver (34) as he drives toward the basket Wednesday night.

Gallup Bengal Antone Williams (24) shoots for the basket Wednesday night as the boys lose 64-59 to the Hobbs Eagles in the New Mexico boys basketball high school championship tournament.

Gallup Bengal Alfonso Hubbard tries to get clear of Hobbs Eagle Jeff Taylor (44) during Wednesday night's New Mexico boys basketball high school championship tournament game.

Not all of the action is on the court, and to show a little taste of the experience I turned my cameras toward the crowd a few times. Some of the fans found some orange paint to cover their faces with and cheer for their team. (Above) --Gallup high school freshman Harris Kinsel and classmate Paulette Coffey cheer on the Bengal boys basketball team Wednesday night. (Below) - Gallup high school freshman Paulette Coffey cheers for the Bengals boys basketball team Wednesday night.


New Mexico Basketball Tournament

This week I am permanently encamped in Albuquerque to cover the State basketball tournament. We have five girls teams and two boys teams that have made it to the finals, including Wingate, Gallup, Kirtland Central, Navajo Prep and Navajo Pine girls; and the Gallup and Navajo Pine boys teams. Of course, some of the gamesare at different places at the same time, so I couldn't get to all of the games.

All of the images I took today (and for the rest of the tournament it appears) are without any flash/strobe lighting. I just got my company Nikon D2H back from repair, and am also using my personal Nikon D200. Between choosing to shoot all of my work in RAW/NEF format and making use of Noise Ninja plug-in for Photoshop I think that the images will be acceptable.

Wingate Lady Bear Jennifer Peshlakai (23) leaps toward the basket Tuesday morning while Hope Christian Husky Andrea Torgrimson (5) tries to keep her from scoring.

Wingate High School band director Pat Neff plays the drums while keeping an eye on the action as the Wingate Lady Bears play in the New Mexico 3A Girls Basketball Championships on Tuesday at The Pit in Albuquerque. The Lady Bears lost 68-59 to the Hope Christian Huskies.

Wingate Lady Bear Alicia Smith (21) drives between Hope Christian's Kristin Smothermon (12) and Meaghan Martinez (15) as she tries to score.

Tuesday evening I was back at it, covering the girls 5A play-off game featuring Gallup and Alamogordo at the University of New Mexico arena - AKA The PIT.

Gallup Lady Bengal Telisha Joe (11) runs around Alamogordo's Brandy Tanner (55) during the New Mexico High school girls 5A state tournament Tuesday night at the Pit in Albuquerque. The Lady Bengals won 35-25 and advance to the next round on Thursday.

Gallup Lady Bengal Cleo Clank (33)aims for the hoop Tuesday night as the Bengals defeated Alamogordo 35-25.

Gallup Lady Bengal Ryequel Denny and her teammates run up the ramp as they leave floor of The Pit after defeating Alamogordo.