Photo, Illustration, or Simply Art?

I know, I am way behind in posting my work from the newspaper, and I should do some serious catching up (see the bottom of this post for info on that). But I came up with this image today and just wanted to share it.

Northwest of town there is an old warehouse/industrial complex building that used to be part of a coal mining operation. My assignment was to simply go to the site and get a "building mug" to show our readers what the place looks like now.

I got my shots, and went 360-degrees around the building to see if the structure would be more interesting from another angle. That's when I saw that not only were the small doors around the building wide open, but one of the big overhead garage doors was opened about 8 feet high. A quick peak inside revealed a pretty cool scene, though it was dark with some real hot spot of light shining in. I set up my tripod and started shooting.

So what is it? It is a HDR image. That's a High Dynamic Range image, taken from a compilation of seven different exposures, each one stop different, for three stops under and three stops over exposure. Now comes the interesting part. Photoshop CS3 has an HDR processing image built into it, but it is pretty straight forward and does not create a grunge look that seems more illustration than photo.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was taking on-line classes from; and this technique is the subject of an entire class taught by Ben Willmore. Basically the photo is processed taking the details from each exposure, and then the micro-contrast setting is turned all the way up. This creates detail and contrast between pixels and the edges glow and the color gets saturated.

So in answer to the question is it a photograph or an illustration - yes. And no. It is not strictly a single photograph, and it is also not an illustration. It is HDR.
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I did get a few of the old posts updated, so if you are interested, the dates of those posts are:


Dying in Agony: Newspapers looking Grim

There are some people in this world that simply love the newspaper industry. Love the challenges, the exciteent of being part of things, witnessing history as it happens, especially in photogrpahy where things are always different.

Unfortunately it appears that READERS are not among the group. Circulations keep dropping, and to stay afloat a lot of newspaper execs look for short term profits for their shareholders - so they cut costs. Employees seeming to be the biggest cost, nevermind that a smaller staff means less depth and quality, which in turn leads to less interest in the paper and so less customers buy - causing more job cuts and... you get the idea.

To illustrate just how severely the industry is being hit with job cuts THIS Link is to an interactive map of the United states showing where the job cuts have happened.

So here's a number - the site says as of today that 3,071+ newspaper jobs have been cut in 2008; and more than 2000 jobs cut in the last seven months of 2007. So in the past 12-months the industry has cut more than 5,000 jobs.


Memorial Day & the Return of the Knights

Small U.S. Flags adorn the graves of military personnel buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Gallup, placed there as part of Monday's Memorial day celebration for the City of Gallup.

The Gallup chapter of the Knights of Columbus salute the flag during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner at the McKinley County Courthouse Square as part of the Memorial day celebration for the City of Gallup.

The Knights of Columbus stand at attention as clergymen walk past them for the start of Memorial day mass at Hillcrest Cemetery in Gallup. The Knights have been absent from events involving the Gallup Catholic church for many years.

Posing as the Statue of Liberty, Aurelia Hooper stands on the trailer for Earl's Restaurant during the Memorial Day Parade through downtown Gallup.
Gallup's last Bataan Death March survivor, Tim Smith, sits at center-stage during the Memorial day celebration for the City of Gallup at the Courthouse Square. In addition to recognizing Smith, Air Force Sr. Airman Jason Cunningham and Army chief warrant officer Christopher Johnson, both of who died while serving, were recognized through proclomations read by Harry Mendoza, mayor of Gallup.

New Mexico state representative Patty Lundstrom struggles to regain her composure Monday while reading a plaque in recognition of Tim Smith, Gallup's last survivor of the Bataan Death March.
Karl Katenay Jr holds a flag and stands with his mother, Juanita Sherman, while watching a military vehicle pass during the Memorial day parade through downtown Gallup.
Sgt. 1st class Silver Delao, a VFW member, plays Taps during a graveside ceremony honoring fallen soldiers Monday at the Hillcrest Cemetery in Gallup.


Park It Right

The first three images are generic shots to go with a story about the problems, real and perceived, with parking downtown and how it affects business owners. Supposedly Gallup police have an officer or two that patrol downtown and write parking tickets, but there was no sign of such a thing when I was shooting today.

And of course, we couldn't let an afternoon go to waste, so a softball game was in order. Now that school is out and with no major sports to cover, the sports section and the photo staff turn our attention to the Boys and Girls Club of Gallup league.

Fort Defiance Wildcats runner Heather Biakeddy (4) steps onto first base as the ball passes between her and Gallup Mets infielder Patricia Lasiloo (15) as the two Boys and Girls Club of Gallup softball teams played each other Wednesday at Ford Canyon Park in Gallup.

Fort Defiance Wildcats first baseman Alexis Arnold (11) stretches to catch the ball while Gallup Mets runner Tyra West (4) safely steps on the bag Wednesday at Ford Canyon Park in Gallup.

Fort Defiance Wildcats runner Armani Anthony (5) lands on home plate Wednesday to score a run while Gallup Mets pitcher Patricia Lasiloo (15) waits for the catcher to throw her the ball at Ford Canyon Park in Gallup.


Second Chances, Second Career

The warning signs have been there for all to see, and growing larger every day. It has now reached the point where I feel like I am sitting in a room trying to ignore the elephant sitting in the middle of the floor.

Newspapers are in a lot of trouble. It is no secret - even the popular television show The Simpson's made fun of newspapers ("ha-ha, the industry is dying" - followed by principal Skinner scolding, "Just because something is true doesn't mean you have to say it.")

I have tried to write, re-write and edit this post many times now. It always ends up being a long, rambling and meandering thing in which I keep trying to justify my thoughts on leaving the industry, and at the same time trying to talk myself into staying put.

So rather than try to get things written out, when it is so much planning and speculation - trying to explore my best options - I'll merely leave this post as follows:

The news industry is changing, and there are a lot of people leaving it, voluntarily or not. I am at a point in my life where because of family and other reasons I am considering what my other career choice will be. I don't want to blindly sit around and then be caught unprepared when the axe falls for me in this industry. Even if I don't leave the paper for another 10 years, I need to have a plan in place.

In summary, two words: Exit Strategy.


National Nursing Home Week

Sometimes things happen that go way beyond your plans for not getting what you thought. I drove out to Chinle today for a series of event at the Chinle Nursing Home. The facility scheduled events all week, but the reporter suggested picking today, since it had the most things scheduled. Fair enough.

After a scary incident on the two-lane highway between Ganado and Chinle that involved my old car not having the acceleration it once did;and my misjudging how much time I had to get around a slow moving vehicle, I arrived at the home to find that Miss Navajo Nation wouldn't be attending this morning as planned. She got sick. It happens. Instead the children scheduled to perform at 10:30 started early and I had little time to set up and get images like I wanted to. (see the bottom two images below) It will be alright though, I told myself. After all, the reading buddies will be here at 11:00 and I can get some photos that are more personal - the buddies being one-on-one with the residents.

The top two photos here are from the time I spent waiting for hte reading buddies to come. They never did make it. Apparently the group of them had to attend a staff meeting and couldn't make it.

Chinle Nursing Home resident Annie Tsosie sits in a hallway and looks out the window Tuesday in Chinle, Ariz. May 12 through 16 is National Nursing Home Week.

Chinle Nursing Home residents Pauline Begaye, left, of Rock Point, and Ruth Addakai, from Shonto, Ariz., sit together and talk while looking out the window at the facility in Chinle, Ariz. This week is National Nursing Home Week, and the staff in Chinle scheduled multiple events throughout the week to celebrate.

Children from the Chuska School Indian Club perform for residents at the Chinle Nursing Home in Chinle, Ariz.

Children from Chuska School Indian Club gather around a small drum and sing Tuesday while other club members dance in the background while performing for residents at the Chinle Nursing Home


Diseny's High School Musical - rehearsing

Gallup Catholic high school students Elena Maldanado and Dylan Chavez strike poses together at the end of a musical piece during rehearsal for their upcoming performance of Disney High School Musical. The performance is Friday through Sunday at the Ken Halloway Auditorium at Gallup High School.

Gallup Catholic high school students Carolina Silveira and Robert Hallock dance together during a rehearsal for their upcoming performance.

Nikki Ranin points a finger and displays a bit of attitude while performing a scene depicting play auditions during rehearsal for their upcoming performance of Disney's High School Musical.

Students at Gallup Catholic high school practice the choreography of a song during rehearsal for their upcoming performance of Disney's High School Musical. The performance features 21 musical numbers,


Golfing to the State Tournament

When I got the assignment for a golf portrait I only had a few hours notice on it. I also had no details other than to meet her at the clubhouse of the newly re-named Fox Run golf course.

The sky was less than ideal - hazy high clouds and patches of blue that gave me either extremely dark subjects or blown out skies with no details. Getting the shot the way I wanted required a two-part process. To start with, I under-exposed the scene on-camera by 2/3 to 1 stop of exposure. Then I applied an SB-800 speedlight flash set to over-expose by 1-1/3 stops. This gave the darker background and made the golfer have some illumination.

For a second step, I looked at a technique that is either very simple or very complex in Photoshop. I have been using RAW (NEF) file formats for my photos for some time, and have been interested in HDR imaging (High Dynamic Range) - so this was my chance. I merely opened the file up twice, using Adobe Camera Raw 4.4. One copy was set for the sky details, and the second copy set to give her good exposure. I simply dragged the background layer from the one image and dropped it into the other. Then I created a layer mask for the added layer and painted out the areas of the top layer that were not right. The end was an image that has detail in the darker areas and detail in the clouds above.

Is this ethical? In my opinion it is. The image is the exact same frame, and all I have done is manipulate the shadows to be bright enough to see into, and darkened the brighter areas so that they did not simply turn into white highlights. In my opinion this process is nothing more than a controlled way of dodging and burning the image. It is making the image fit within the limitations of highlights and shadows inherent inour photography equipment and our printing processes. I merely brought the range of tone to a level where the newsprint will deliver detail in all areas for the reader to view.

Gallup Catholic Panther golfer Marqui Armstrong is taking her game on the
road, traveling to compete in the New Mexico state golf tournament.


DJ Abel Rock

As part of our efforts to appeal to a wider audience and give younger readers something of interest, we have started a weekly band profile for the local music scene. Tonight was my turn to shoot the portraits for the story, and I got to spend some time working with a local DJ who runs the sounds at Club Zen on Friday and Saturday evenings.

He was enthusiastic about the images when I showed him the display screen on the back of my camera - something I don't do often but I wanted him to understand the shots I was getting and the adjustments I was making. This is my favorite shot from the session, but DJ was less than excited about the red shirt. He soon changed to a black shift and we cotinued with the session.

This final shot too a bit of work - even though it probably looks simple. He wanted his name to be visible on his laptop cover in one of the images. Problem is that I set up my two SB-800 units with umbrellas for lighting him. I really didn't want to move my lights around and change the feel of hiw he was lit.

My solution was to take a third flash and wrap a flexible/nylon padded filter carrying case (with a velcro-style strip on it) around the flash and fashiona small snoot. Then I shot with the camera in my right hand and the snooted flash in my left, aimed at the top portion of the laptop.


Native H*O*P*E

Dr. Clayton Small talks to participants in the Native H.O.P.E. youth suicide prevention advocate training program Tuesday at Shiprock High School, as they discuss their opinions on the proper age to begin being sexually active.

Dr. Clayton Small, center left, talks with participants in the Native H.O.P.E. youth suicide prevention advocate training program Tuesday at Shiprock High School as they prepare to perform a skit about violence in the home.

Tessa Medina-Lucero and Dr. Jeff Powell play the roles of high school students while performing a skit about alternative sexual orientation Tuesday during the Native H.O.P.E. youth suicide prevention advocate training program at Shiprock High School. The three day program is led by Dr. Clayton Small and designed to offer a culturally appropriate peer-to-peer suicide prevention model.

Norm Joe portrays an intoxicated father passed out while his teenage children try to sneak back into the house after staying out late as part of a skit during the Native H.O.P.E. youth suicide prevention advocate training program Tuesday at Shiprock High School.

A hand-written poster with ideas to stay out of trouble and away from drugs adorns the wall of the gymnasium Tuesday at the Native H.O.P.E. youth suicide prevention advocate training program at Shiprock High School.


Baseball: Panthers vs Bengals

Gallup Bengal P.J. Gutierez (12) slides past Gallup Catholic Panthers catcher Gary Archuleta (7) to score a run as the ball bounces over his head Thursday at Ford Canyon Park in Gallup. The Bengal JV team trailed 7-2 until the seventh inning, when they rallied to tie it, and then won the game 9-7 in the ninth inning.

Gallup Bengal third baseman P.J. Gutierez (12) tags out Gallup Catholic Panther runner Gary Archuleta (7) as he slides to the bag.

Gallup Catholic Panther runner Brice Blanco (11) races to get to first while the ball gets past the glove of Gallup Bengal first baseman Chris Trujillo (24) at Ford Canyon Park in Gallup.

Gallup Bengal Matt Tafoya (7) ducks to avoid an unpleasant encounter with the ball Thursday while taking the first at bat against the Gallup Catholic Panthers at Ford Canyon Park in Gallup.

Caught between third base and home, Gallup Bengal Gabe Lopez (5) tries to turn back but Gallup Catholic Panther catcher Gary Archuleta (7) catches up and tags him out.

Husband and Wife - Working together with God

Husband and wife pastors Roger and Lynn Perkins provide spiritual guidance for the congregants of The Church of the Holy Spirit located at 1334 Country Club Drive in Gallup. Although the couple have been working for the church since last November, they will officially be installed in a special service on May 31.

Inside the church, from the choir loft.

Getting the stained glass to match the light inside required to develop the same photo twice, once set for the room, once for the windows, then using a layer mask to merge the details from the two.

After a jewel encrusted cross was stolen from the Church of the Holy Spirit several years ago, Gallup resident Sally Noe donated this new cross to the church in memory of her late husband.
Outside of the church building.

This final detail shot was mostly for myself. I was surprised to see such a wide range of versions of the Bible inside the church. The Presbyterian church I attend uses the NRSV as the standard translation, and other churches I have visited in the past seem to have their favorite versions on hand as well.