Monday, March 22, 2010

the end of madness...not necessarily the beginning of reason

last week's work began where it left off - more travels (this time nearly 3 hours away), more basketball - but this was the end of the line - for the team and for my hoops season, as well....

the next morning it was shooting the 24 kids that made the region best wrestlers for the season - kind of glorified headshots, really, which is why it's nothing i'd post....later that afternoon, off to a water park at a hotel complex off the highway in Dundee which was giving people free day-long access to the park with a food donation for the Salvation Army - man, that was tougher than i thought it'd be - first off it took about a half hour for my gear to stop fogging up - and it's not like it was even cold to begin with, it was just THAT steamy in there! and dark, but it looked like fun

well, some of these are so old at this point, that i've somewhat lost steam to rethink all the back story, so i'll probably be pretty brief....

feature hunting one afternoon, with initially scant success, i finally stumbled upon these kids - an older girl sitting alongside a building, busily texting away while she kept an eye on her sister and a friend riding their bikes up and down the block - felt okay with what i got from the situation, but i think it could have been better - wanted to work that shadow thing more, but, as so often happens, when you want people to cross in front of you, they always seem to feel they need to go around - not get in your way...but I WANT YOU TO GET IN MY WAY!!!! you keep thinking!!!

weekend was a couple events at the mall - one, a kids' science place having a show - supposed to be all about kids making slime, which sounded kind of promising, but, things didn't really turn out to be so - it was a stage show of different chemical properties - things that combust (on a minor scale, of course - i mean, we are in the mall after all - and things that absorb water - mostly it was a couple people from the science center on the make-shift risers and kids and parents sitting in folding chairs watching - so, not quite what anticipated, but you do what you can

later, the Easter bunny was to at the end of the show, a couple mall workers come walking up, guiding the bunny-clad being, and the kids are pretty oblivious, cos they're all getting stickers from the science center people, so the workers, and bunny in tow, turn around and walk away
well, so much for all that! after a while, since bunny is not making any grand re-entry, i head off in the direction they went and find them back at their Easter station - ie, pictures with santa-cum-easter bunny photo set-up...but, no one's really coming...oh, a few kids come, and they get their pictures taken, and they leave, and some just want to see the bunny, but mom & dad don't want to pay, so they come up and look at the bunny and walk away, so, i got not a lot to work with here, and neither do the workers i might add, so one of them goes up and snuggles in next to the bunny for a rest, and then they start joking around, and she leans in close to the big black see-thru-ish bunny eye and says "i can see you in there!" and they start giggling, and i'm shooting, and i'm feeling like this is probably way better than anything i'll make of kids sitting on bunny lap, so i call it quits....and for some reason, the paper never uses this pic anywhere - not sure why.....i kind of liked it

so, the following week, sports are done, and it's back to feature hunting, and other featurey story things, including an "Italian Club festival" - which really is only a festival if you consider lining up to get a plate of buffet food, eating it and leaving a party...stayed as long as i could, given the next assignment, and hoped for a moment, which i sorta got, but it's just decent daily really

on a following day, had a few assignemnts - one of those "boom, boom, boom" kind of days -first, an anti-tobacco assembly at a middle school - i pull up, there are rows of t-shirts hung outside the building, and i see the sign proclaiming each of them to represent the number of deaths in the state last year due to tobacco - well, too bad, they didn't tell us when they were gonna put those up, cos that's WAY more visual than the kids speaking at a microphone in the gym, but, as is often the case, they found it PERFECT timing that we could be there for the assembly, and to get a picture of their finalized t-shirt memorial....and now they were going to gather for a group portrait in front of it all.....oy vey, this madness will never end...but, they did all head outside, post-assembly, for aforementioned fotos, but also to answer questions as kids from the various classes trekked thru the display - nothing too great, obviously, but better than the indoor shots at least, especially since this was page one

had just enough time to jet further up the road to a library for a "peeps art" making activity at the library, which i'd scheduled to shoot since we were gonna be in a nearby town just prior, and around which subsequently my co-worker had scheduled a portrait for the swimmer of the year - since we were gonna be right there in town anyway....all of which makes for an amazingly good plan, except for the fact that it turns out the peeps art library thing is NEXT week, and now i have an hour and a half to kill in Milan...but, it is a nice warm spring day, so, there have to be features, and off i go...
through neighborhoods, business areas, and i'm not seeing much, so i head back to this old auto shop, outside of which i'd noticed a cool old car parked beneath a big old tree, and which i'd planned to check out on my way out of, i went there and made some frames
Uncle Jeff's Auto Body Shop...

i don't even know if it's still actually open or not, but it is full of cool old michigan remains

then i went back to feature hunting - found a family outside and pulled over - they seemed to be either playing in their yard or about to go for a ride, but i felt i could make something....after explaining that i wasn't there to sell them family fotos to mom who had an accent i couldn't quite place, i hung out and started shooting, til dad came out and started arguing with mom in a language i also couldn't quite determine, and then they all went inside and dad came out and stared at me from the porch - i just left hoping i hadn't created some kind of domestic situation

then i stopped in at the city's park, and i was about not to get out of my car and just shoot the kid on the swing photo, but i still had a half hour to kill, so why not just try and work it to see what happens, so i did, and i guess, for what it is, i'm okay with it for a daily feature
the portrait i shot is pretty so-so, so i won't waste anyone's eyeballs, including my own

next day went to an elementary school who was capping off their March reading month, themed "the Renaissance," with "Renaissance Day" - among the events, knights on horses were to ride up to the school and read stories to the was a windy day and pretty chilly, but still totally do-able - i mean, this is michigan, we can take it, right?! - but, apparently the knights thought otherwise, so it turned into they'd ride around the school and the kids could see them pass by the windows - great! so, that was kind of a bust, and after the story time, lunches began, after which would be more activities, so i pretty much hung out there for a couple hours or so, and i wasn't totally happy with how it all worked out in terms of my pix, but i did like this one of these kids lined up after lunch and this almost-there moment

nabbed by one of the reporters who'd just gotten a hold of a woman who was among the victims of a recent apartment fire - she'd lost nearly everything in the blaze, the most tragic being the family dog, Lola....or so she thought, as well as the fire fighters, as well as us, who'd reported the day before that several homes were lost, no lives, except one family pet....amazingly, this dog bound out from amid the charred rubble the next day as fire crews went back in to investigate....the woman and her daughter agreed to meet up with us after work, and i made this portrait of the 3 of them in front of their burned-out former unit - headline - "Lola Lives!"

more school, more kids - this event was a party for kids who'd done the best in the monthly good conduct program - this time, instead of the parents hosting the party, kids from the high school hoops and cheer teams got involved, and they had various stations with relative sports-themed activities - a bit hectic, and not quite what i expected - fairly pedestrian shoot, but i did like this expression/moment between 2 little girls as they did their sport visor craft

and on a different day, at a different school, a local dentist (my dentist, actually) was visiting the after-school kids club to talk about teeth and taking care of them - this guy's actually really good with kids - kind of like a Mister Rogers does dentistry - but, really it's him sitting or standing in front of the group talking and showing teeth and how to brush - there was a puppet, though, a kangaroo in whose mouth he'd put one of those dentist teeth sets they always have sitting around their offices - kind of creepy looking, actually - anyway, just liked the expression on all these kids' faces

a group of high school band kids formed their own sax quartet, and one evening they were holding a fundraiser at Wendy's, who was giving them 15% of the proceeds during the 2 hours they played, which would go toward the school's band program...they were really good, but it was tough to shoot - not a lot of moments there - they're up front playing, in front of the bank of windows, so they're totally backlit, and the people there, well, they're eating burgers...what's a gal to do - waited and searched for SOMETHING, but the best i got really was the manager clapping along as she tried to stir up the crowd in the spirit of the night

baseball season is getting underway, and the preview story included a focus on a kid who is a stand-out in a few sports, including baseball...the team was having a scrimmage one afternoon, which the other team was like an hour late getting to, so i shot some pre-game featurey stuff of him, but ended up liking this moment in the dugout during play the best

speaking of plays, that other season is upon us - wel, the theater season seems never to really end, but this is the big spring production time for the schools...Monroe High was rehearsing for a musical adaptation of Wilde's play "The Happy Prince," the music written by a Monroe native who performs music around the country - this is the "world premiere" of his musical...the music was really beautiful, and these kids, man, they just never cease to amaze me, how talented they are....liked the elements going on as they did a sit-down run-thru of the songs at rehearsal start

and then, there is my inevitable "in the wings" feature

that weekend's work included shooting a church group who is part of the international Lutheran workers making Braille and large print Bibles and other religious materials for the blind/impaired - quite the production line they had going in that church basement

afterwards, went to shoot a feature foto of some 4-H kids who were bringing baby animals to a store for kids to get their Easter pictures taken with - chilly day, so not a lot of traffic, but there was this one boy snuggling with his baby goat (god, i want a goat!) - it not only kept him warm, but he told me it makes for a really good pillow

and that was it for march!
march in, march out, march on!!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

march madness & more

along with the country at large, the week has been one consumed by basketball - girls hoops, boys hoops, and lots of driving from one to the next - good way to see small towns in your state that you've never heard of before and likely would never go visit were it not for tournament level prep sports....

we're trying to cover everyone, despite our staffing, which means trying to get to 2 games a night, as was the case tuesday - at least mine were at bookends of our county, which helped - got to stay for the first half of one game, which was in downriver Detroit area, and i really felt like i should stay for the end, because it was a good game, but i figured it'd take about an hour to cut across to Milan, which is on the outskirts of the northwest part of our coverage (with no clear cut from one to the next except for a windy back road) there just at game start, and it was a close one, too, but they lost, so, not a lot of good reaction - and for some reason, it seems we've moved away from running sad reaction, so if they wanted that, i should have stayed at the first til the end, but who can predict these things, right?

worked a split the next day, cos i normally would be on shift in the day, but there was a news assn. that night as well as sports, and the hoops was out of town, so there was no way Mr. B. could cover both - not much going on in the day, so i stayed for a while, then took a break and went back in before heading out to cover the final service at this church, which is being forced to close due to building code violations and safety issues...a lot of weird backstory to this one - a guy from the church contacted us to do a story about how they were losing their church, then later said we should contact the head of their board to make sure it's ok for us to cover their final service, and he's in canada, and finally that morning, the reporter reaches him, and he's hesitant, cos they don't want "bad publicity," but the reporter assures him we're not out to slam them, just tell their story, so he gives the okay, and meanwhile, the guy who originally told us about this calls the reporter and says he really doesn't want his name or any quotes to be in the story now (sketchy) - oh, and it's not really gonna be a service, it's a bible study in a basement room, but whatever, this is page one for the next day, so we have to go cover whatever it is that's going on, even if it doesn't look very "churchy" (think i just made that word up)...
so i get there, and a coulpe people are sitting in chairs, and they're either just sitting there or they're looking through last week's sunday ad inserts, and no pastor is guy tells me they're all in a board meeting, and things will start whenever they get i wait, and i wait, and i take a picture of these old signs and gospel record album that they've tacked up on the wall - looks like it should be something in the south

and then a man comes out and approaches me and starts saying how this is such a hard time for them, and they really don't want any bad publicity on top of things, and the small church community is very chatty, and they don't want to fuel the rumor mill, and no one at the church knows who contacted us about this, but it wasn't any church head, and i'm thinking, he's gonna kick me out, but he doesn't come right out and say that, so i tell him again, we got the okay from their head in canada, we're not out to smear them, and frankly, gossip and rumor mills arise from almost every story in a small town, and we're not trying to be a part of that, but it happens, and no one can really control that, so finally he says, i know you have a job to do, we just really want to avoid more hardship...i think he really just wanted me to volunteer to leave, but i wasn't doing that and leaving us with nothing for page one, so i reassured him again and said i was just going to make some pictures when things got going, nothing intrusive and that i would be able to write a caption that expressed their feelings about their current, he goes back into their meeting, and finally it wraps up and they come out, and the visiting pastor leading the bible study (because their real pastor is in the hospital recovering from an emergency hip replacement surgery after falling a couple days ago - just to make things even rosier for this congregation!) says that he's just going to fill them in on what's going on, will have a short prayer and that'll be it - "this will be brief" - and it was, all over in about 5 minutes....thank god for pentecostals, and their more visual praying, and the woman i focused on just happened to be the wife of the real pastor, who personally built that building with the help of church volunteers 55 years ago, so, it all worked out in the end, but it was a strange one!

the next day, back for more sports - regional girls hoops finals - and they were playing in a town called Quincy, which looked to be about 2 hours the sports reporter and i met up at the paper, and then, off we went - he's a quirky guy (every sports department i've ever worked with has at least one!), but he's fun quirky, so the longish drive didn't really seem so fact we even got there early enough for him to make a stop at dairy queen for a bbq pork sandwich, which he was really happy about!

the game was really close, total nail biter down to the end, which seems to be the running theme of all our tourney sports events this season....they won, and it was just this overwhelming emotion - especially from one of the girls, who just played the whole game and plays so hard and with so much heart, that by the end she just started bawling - the kind of happy that could just as easily look like sadness - all it is is simply raw, extreme emotion spilling out all over- and, as i learned, this was the first time in school history girls hoops have won a regional, a pretty big deal, and their boys team was playing for the district finals the following night, and they've never gotten this far either, so all around, this whole school is just amped up on a march madness cloud of adrenalin and school spirit!

and that next night, it's off to that very game - this drive not quite as far, but unfortunately for Jeff, this town has no dairy queen, so, we just head to the gym....
they're playing a team that's also in our county, so i can shoot action of either, and the cheerleaders stay off to the side, so i don't have to compete with that for a good spot, but this is also one of those gyms that has all of about 5 feet from the wall to the basket, so it's tight, and i kind of struggled with finding the right lens and right position to get anything good, and it was a very physical game, with guys flying into the wall behind the basket, so i had to be kind of on my toes not to get slammed into by very tall boys - turns out i avoided them, but i did get run into by a ref, who back-ran into my 70-210, which rammed the whole works right into my eye socket - ouch!

so, another crazy game, the one team had pretty much commanded the whole game (which was a surprise, cos they were the underdog coming into it - this being the boys side of the girls that had won the night prior) - not by a huge margin, but steady - until the final 4 minutes, and then the other team had a good run, and they pulled ahead, and they were ahead by 5 points with a minute to play, so now i'm on the sidelines shooting reaction stuff, and i'm focusing on the other team, kind of going back and forth, but i feel pretty certain they can pull out this huge upset, so i'm at their end, but then the other team scores, and these guys start missing free thrown on fouls, and now they're only ahead by 2 points, and there's about 20 seconds left, and i'm like, crap, which bench do i go by, cos this could go either way, and i'm really torn by the last 2 seconds, because the losing team gets the ball in the hands of this kid who's a really good 3-point shooter, and if he shoots that and makes it, they're gonna go nuts, but if he doesn't, then the complete upset team wins, and they're gonna go crazy, and i got now one second to figure out which way to start running - he does shoot it, and he does make it, and they do go nuts, and thought i wasn't quite in position to get that, i still liked what i got reaction-wise, and then, it was back in the car, after the reporter finished his interviews, and back to edit through all the pix to submit for the next day....and then, stick around to do the desk toning that night for the next morning's edition

could not get to bed after all that - got home about quarter to one, and had a 9 am assn the next morning - boy scout pinewood derby, which we shoot every year, though this is my first time to catch it - cute little kids, cute little cars - the assn. said the big deal this year was that they were going to have a "car show" - that turned out to be the kids putting their cars in a row on a fold-out table, and they could all vote on their favorite - hmm, not terribly visual - but it was alright in all - i liked the expression of concentration this kid had as he lined up his car for one of the races - and the other faces and flags, etc....

after that i went to the Maple Syrup Festival, which i was actually kind of excited to shoot, but the day was rainy and windy and cold, so i was a little worried that my good potential might be taking a bad there, and unfortunately my suspicions proved correct - they'd had a pretty low turn-out thus far, and even a lot of their volunteer re-enactors didn't show up (lame!), and to make things worse, the trees were completely dried up after producing a medium-sized pan's worth of sap, so there really wasn't barely anything to boil - great - found this family walking though some of the historic old trading post buildings, and i stuck with them, at least getting this image of the kids playing inside one of the covered wagons - which has pretty much nothing to do with maple syrup, but then, there really wasn't much maple syrup going on at Maple Syrup Day this year! and again, i knew this was our page one art, so i gotta get SOMETHING!

soon, the rain was turning to little pellets as the temps dropped and winds kicked up more, and so, finally i called it - time of death of this assignment - and i left, but i really liked these trees and the flooded inland surrounding them, so that's my scenic contribution for the week!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

sports, music, math and more

whoa...i am sorely behind...time to play catch-up again.
last weekend was pretty much consumed with the state wrestling championship - we had only one team going this year, but they were expected to likely win the whole shebang - every year they get close - usually make it to the final round and then lose, but this year was gonna be their year, according to those in the sports know - which i guess includes me, by proxy
friday afternoon was the quarterfinals, which they won, not a lot of reaction there, and some nice action, but if i posted action from all 3 matches, i'd probably exceed my blogspot allowance, so i'm only posting stuff from the finals...

anyhoo, after they won friday, we transmitted story/fotos from the arena before heading home, which was good, because it took us a while to get back in the snowstorm that apparently started at some point during the match...
next morning, met the reporter at the paper super early so we could get there on time for the semi-finals start at 9 am, which they also won, so then it was waiting til 4pm for the final the meantime, i sent fresh fotos back to the paper, posted up the foto gallery from the match - which took about 2 hours - did i mention the 4gb card that i bought before the weekend - i have teeny cards, which on the D3 don't go very far, and knowing how much i'd probably shoot, i needed something bigger - the smallest i could find was the 4gig - i really never want to have to edit 750 fotos down to 5 to transmit again! needless to ay, thats why the upload to our foto galleries took such a long time....not much time left before the start of the finals by that point...just enough to go find a pre-match feature to send back - needed to get fresh fotos to post on the web throughout the event - so we were sending stuff before the matches as well as right after -

so, finally the fans turned out in better number, were a lot louder, and the finals were the proverbial nail-biter - they weren't doing as well as expected, and essentially it came down to the last match, which they could only win if the kid got a pin, which he came damn close to a few times, causing the emotion to swing from sad and resigned to anxious and excited, then back to sad, then excited again, and then, well, he didn't get the pin, and it was all sad sad sad, crying, upset, angry - not the most fun time to be there on the sidelines taking pictures...and to lose by only one point - pretty rough...

anyway, that was the state finals - then we just edited and sent our stuff, and then drove back to monroe - long friggin day, to say the least

had a day off sunday, then was back in monday - had a portrait of a bus driver who'd helped a man who rolled his car off an icy road as she was doing her morning route, then business story portrait on a local guy marketing electronic cigarettes, then hoops that night

next day, more hoops

wednesday morning, i headed straight out to one of the elementary schools where kids were taking part in World Math Day, where they answered math questions online, playing for speed and accuracy against kids around the world...pretty cool, because they all got to have an avatar and could see that of other kids, as well as what country they were in...these 2 boys were such a trip - they're best friends - two peas in a pod according to their teacher - and they were really into the event, which always makes for better pictures...mostly they were just funny and cute, and i had a really good time shooting this.....

thursday, had a portrait of a man who's fighting stage 4 colon cancer - he wants to speak out to urge others to get a colonoscopy by age 50, cos if he'd done that, he probably would have caught his cancer before it got so dire, and this is colorectal awareness month, so, there you have it....

after that, off to, yes, more of the teams was going into the game with an undefeated season, and if they won would set a school record for having an undefeated, kind of a big deal, but they were supposed to win it wthout too much threat, acording to the sports folks....but, this would be the same folks who predicted a fairly certain win of a state wrestling champion....

they did, eventually win it, after double overtime, that is - craziness!

tried to shoot a couple featurey things for our weekly foto page at half-time and near the end, as well
up super early (well, pre-7 am is super early to me) next morning to shoot a custodian at the middle school for a sunday 1a piece on how the district is considering privatizing their custodial services in order to save money...we talked to 2 custodians - this guy, who has decided to retire at year's end and avoid all the stress of worrying about losing his job if they do privatize - the other was a woman at a pre-k school who quit her position as union rep, because she was sick of all the stress, especially now with this issue on the was a half day in the district, and neither had much going on, so i figured, not knowing what i'd get either doing, i better try to do both, just to be safe - maybe one could be a working shot andthe other a portrait to help support the package, if the work part is kind of lame - cos he told me it'd just be cleaning the cafeteria after breakfast, then taking out trash, replacing a soap dispenser, and office work - didn't sound too promising visually, which is why i shot both to be safe...
worked out okay, you never know what things will come up in the day, like a leak in the bathroom - i liked this moment when he was waiting to get through the hallway during class change, tried to drag the shutter to get the motion of the kids and add some interest - the best moment visually was kind of ruined as the kids had to turn and mug for the camera - goofy small town kids throwing "gang" signs for the camera - can someone just tell them how really stupid they make themselves look - like they would last 2 seconds doing that around real gang members....whatever....

then i went to check out the other lady - she was doing some work - dusting the walls of the school (i really want one of the extendable dusters, by the way), and then i made a portrait while we were in her office talking - she just happened to stand in this pose, and i was like, hey, can you just not move for a minute - paper ended up using both of these, and i think they kind of play off each other, so i suppose it worked.

that day there was also a band festival of music - the orchestral kind of bands from high schools and middle schools competing in stage performance and sight reading at the college theater...had planned to go straight there after the custodians, but i wanted to dump off my card, so i swung back into the paper - ended up toning the fotos for that day's paper and some other desk work, so i ended up getting to the band thing later than planned - still, it was supposed to last all afternoon, so i wasn't too worried....of course i get there and the place is dead - everyone just went to lunch for an hour, and it won't last as long as planned either - in fact, there are only 2 groups left to perform - WHAAAAAT?! and i know this is slated to run as a package - which could mean 2 fotos, or could mean 4, and now out of the 10 schools that were supposed to be there, i'm only goin to end up getting pictures of like 2 - lame! not that i'd try and shoot all of them, but just one more would have been nice...oh well, so i leave for a bit, come back, and one of the bands has started, so this lady's like - oh, you can;t go in, you have to wait til they're done...really, well, that's just not gonna work so good, now is it?! but, i've been in the theater enough times to know the back way to the stage - foil me if you can lady!
so i shoot a feature of the other band waiting in the wings, so to speak, which i kind of liked

and then get to the stage and get some pix of the band - nothing great, pretty standard stuff - while waiting for the last one to come on, some guys working the program say - hey you should go shoot from the catwalk - the very not so good with heights me looks up, waaaay up - yeah, that'd probably look pretty cool, but i dunno - but i keep eyeing it - she's thinking about it, they joke to each other - okay, so, i'm not gonna be a wimp, and up and up and up i go - it really wasn't so bad, because it was pretty wide, and once you start shooting, you can kind of forget about things, except for the fact that it's about 1000 degrees up there, and i keep worrying that something stupid will happen, like a pen will fall out of my pocket and land straight in the opening of the tuba

thankfully, no silly drama, and the package ended up working out okay
so, that was the week, which seemed interminably long, and now, it's back in for the start of another, after a longer weekend that feels like it was only about a day - boo!