Thursday, February 26, 2009


My co-worker Jerilee Bennett looks at the website of the Rocky Mountain News announcing their final edition.  She just came back from an assignment.  We both looked at the page in disbelief.
We knew this day was coming.  We didn't know when.  But we knew it was coming.

 It still took my breath away when I saw the headline.  Like the death of a good friend.  I know a lot of people at the Rocky Mountain News.  I've chewed a few mouthfuls of dirt with most of the staff photographers out on assignment from one end of this state to the other.  And the country from time to time.
Air Force football games, CU games.  Forest fires, Fort Carson memorials, breaking news.  The list goes on and on. These people are my colleagues but they are also my friends.

I will miss the friendly competition.  I will miss going out and having a few beers after a long day shooting the Denver Broncos on the road.  I will miss picking up this newspaper and not being able to see those incredible photographs.  I will miss the Rocky Mountain News.
This is sad, sad day for the state of Colorado. 
Here's to you my friends and colleagues.  Here's to you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tough Day at City Council

So I had to photograph a City Council meeting.  Usually a yawner but this one was a bit more lively than usual.  I was there for item No. 11, budget proposals.  In other words they were cutting public transportation, raising fees, consolidation but mainly the cuts to the bus service.
It was a painful day for all.  You could see the strain in the council members faces and the angst with the crowd.  
I stood at the front of the meeting where I could have an eye on the council members as well as the crowd.  I needed to be in a spot where I could see all faces all the time.  I was looking for a reaction image.
It's interesting aiming you camera in a room which is mostly silent and the camera is clicking away.  It's a bit disconcerting especially when getting glances back from people who obviously don't like being photographed.
A big sigh of relief, for better or worse, was felt at the end of the discussion and the vote.  But then reality set in.  The council was obviously upset as demonstrated by Margaret Radford as she leans back in her chair and Cynthia Barram who put her hand to her face with the realization she will not be able to use the public transportation system to get back and forth to college.  She's in a wheelchair and it will be more difficult for her than most.
These are tough times but I will reiterate.  We need photojournalists in our society to be there to document the rollercoaster that is life.  
I can only hope through my work someone will be able to help Cynthia.  It's why I do what I do.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hanging at the Local DHS

I pull up in the parking lot of the local Department of Human Services on Spruce Street and I start to feel anxious.
I feel anxious because I am about to photograph a very sensitive situation.  
Regular folks experiencing a very tough time in their lives.  Many are here because they have no job.  They have no money.  They need help.  They need food stamps.
I am about to take photographs of people in a very personal time of their lives for a story we are doing about this recession from hell.  I have all of my camera gear and people begin to stare at me and show signs they are uncomfortable with my presence.  
I might as well be wearing a clown suit.
I immediately get to work and try my best to be respectful and polite without overdoing it and being condescending.  The first thing I do is try to make contact with a manager.  Immediately I get glares because people think I am cutting in front of them.  I reassure them I am not but I am beginning to feel a little pressure.
The DHS staff then allowed me to get behind the counter and photograph them at work helping people.  Soon I gained the trust of the staff and eventually some of the people looking for help.
 It wasn't long before I met Keri Johnson and Andrew Shellito who were both out of work and getting help.  They allowed me to photograph the process of obtaining assistance and were very polite to me, something I very much appreciated because many others weren't.   And I don't blame them at all.  The last thing I would want is someone hanging out at DHS taking photos of me trying to get food stamps.   
The image of Keri and Andrew was what we lead with on the front page of the paper.  They were great about the whole thing and I wish them the best of luck.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Point A to Point B to Point C to Point D to Point.............

I looked at my speedometer today and realized I put on nearly 100 miles on my car over the last 30 hours or so zipping around Colorado Springs photographing this and that.
"What is your day like?"  I get asked that question or something similar at least once a week.  My response is usually "I never know what I'll be doing from day to day."
It's true. 
 Unless I get a phone call from an editor in advance or an assignment down the road I really have no clue what is in store for me from day to day. 
Yesterday I photographed a morning softball game followed by a a bridal fair in downtown Colorado Springs.  I then rushed to make my way to the airport for another return from Iraq homecoming.  Luckily that one was called off.  After that I photographed our high school athlete of the week.
On Monday it was a phone call from my editor Dave Turner who sent me on a house fire run minutes before I was going to make it to work to check my schedule for the day.  A 180 degree turnaround from that emotional scene and I was on my way to photograph a burger joint for a restaurant review.  An hour before that it was a school board meeting that, thankfully, was canceled.  And then back to the office to edit and listen to the police scanner and wait for the next potential disaster.
Do you get the picture?  I'm all over the place.  And this is what makes being a photojournalist a very interesting profession.  
I heard an old joke once, probably told a hundred times, by an grumpy old photojournalist once who shall remain nameless.  
He said,  "If you ever hear a photographer bitching it's because he doesn't want you to know how great of a job he really has."
That's the truth, brother.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Conner Stevens Athlete of the Week Photo Shoot

I didn't want to shoot Conner in the studio today.  I was looking for something different.  The last three athletes of the week have been photographed in the studio and it was starting to feel stagnant.  At the same time it's more challenging to shoot these kids on a Sunday because, well, it's Sunday and it doesn't always work out because of their plans. 
Before we switched to Sunday for Monday's paper we had been arranging the photo shoot on Monday for Tuesday's paper.  That made it easier because you could catch the athletes at their school.  Now it can be a scramble and it's harder to arrange to meet at the school because it's closed on Sunday's.
So we've been having them come down to the paper to do the shoot in the studio.
Today I wandered the building for about 30 minutes and then I decided to head to the bowels of the newspaper and take a look around down there.  I loved it.  I decided to do the shoot in the basement dock area where the printing press is and stacks of one and half ton paper rolls by the dozens sit.
The dock is loud, spooky, hot and smells like ink.  But it was different and I think it could look pretty good.  At least more original that the studio. 
After a few electrical problems we got under way.  I used two lights and attached a green gel to one, complimenting his schools color.  I just let Conner Stevens be himself and we made some good images that I think reflected the Pine Creek wrestler's personality.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

R.I.P. Meredith Murray

I never met you Meredith but you have put a smile on many present and, I'm sure, future generations of Doherty High School theater students.  Meredith's father generously donated all of the costumes she created as a a Hollywood designer to Doherty, her alma mater. She graduated from the school in 1993. She died of an accidental overdose of antidpressants just 35 days after her mother passed away from cancer in May of 2008.  
A tragic story. 
 Meredith designed costumes and wardrobes that have appeared in numerous television shows and movies including "7th Heaven" and movies such as "He's Just Not That Into You," and "Fast Food Nation."
I was able to snap this little gem for a front page story of these Doherty students who were trying on the costumes for a rehearsal at the school.  They were so excited to have all those options.  It was nice to see.  I'm sure somewhere Meredith Murray is thrilled and happy to see all those happy faces.  I hope her family knows how much these kids appreciate what her father did for them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Then Chaos Ensued

We, the media, lined up seven cars deep and were escorted onto Fort Carson.  I was the third car just behind the KRDO news truck.  Our reporter Tom Roeder was the first car.  We were heading to one of the most emotional events we cover these days at The Gazette.

The homecoming of soldiers from the war in Iraq.

I carried in two camera bodies, a waist pack, a 300 mm lens and a audio recorder.  I was planning on doing an audio slideshow.

I was in over my head.

We got in to the Special Events Center with about eight minutes to spare before the soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were to arrive in the extremely dark building.  I was going to attempt to make an audio slideshow of the event with sound bites, a few interviews and just the general chaos.  I have photographed these homecomings before so I knew, for the most part, what to expect.  Well just short of getting everything set up, the soldiers began arriving to the roar of elated family members.  I mean roared.  

It caught me off guard.

I tried to shoot and do audio at the same time.  Things were moving too fast to do both.  Something had to give.  I put down the recorder and started firing away.  In five minutes it was all over.  Soldiers and families reunited in hugs, tears and kisses.  It's easy to get caught up in the emotion.  When those soldiers came through the doors even I got a little choked up.  I had a lump in my throat. 
 My father went to Thailand and Vietnam in the 1970s during the Vietnam War and I remember when he came home.  I was a tot but I remember.  My mother and my two sisters picked him up from the airport and there was no mass greeting.  No music over the loudspeakers.  No cloud of smoke to make their entry dramatic.  No welcome home signs.  It was subdued and everyone went about their business in the airport that day.  It was the winding years of the Vietnam War and not too many people cared at that point.

 I thought about those moments as hundreds of family members reunited.  

This unit lost 15 members and saw some of the fiercest combat of the whole Iraq campaign.  They fought in Baghdad, Sadr City and Mosul.  It must of been brutal.  They looked elated and exhausted.  But they were home.
I was bummed I couldn't pull off the slideshow but that's how it goes sometimes.  Things happen too fast and you have adjust quickly or you'll miss everything.  I nearly did.  

Monday, February 16, 2009

Feature Hunting

I was out hunting for wild art or a weather feature and came across Jason Cox pitching to his brother Cameron in Manitou Springs this afternoon in 60 degree weather.  Will you look at the detail in the sky?  I could never get that with a Nikon D2Hs body.
Dang I love the Nikon D3!

"Photojournalism Isn't For Everyone"

"If you can't take criticism from one of our own, how are you supposed to act when people are yelling, crying or upset with you while on assignment?  Photojournalism isn't for everyone."  Chris Stanfield, photographer
This was a comment Chris Stanfield made when on a recent discussion board at concerning constructive, or destructive, criticism of a student's photographic work.  
I get asked all the time what it's like to photograph some of the most intimate, heart wrenching moments a human being is put through.  Well, it's not easy.  My heart races, my mouth gets dry, I become profusely apologetic.  But I keep on taking those photographs.  It's something I feel I was meant to do.  It is a very hard job to do sometimes.  But it is also rewarding.
In this photograph a mother and daughter are embracing after they lost their barn with several animals in it following a massive grass fire in Ordway, Colorado last year that nearly wiped the town off the map.  Several houses and other structures  burned to the ground.  Two firefighters were killed and many animals perished.  It was a brutal assignment but I knew I could do this without hesitation.
After I was done photographing this scene the little girl graciously gave me a piece of Bazooka gum and thanked me for doing my job.  I still carry the wrapper in my wallet.
Again, photojournalism isn't for everyone.
But everyone needs photojournalists whether they realize it or not.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My First Official Assignment Using a Nikon D3

OK.  It's not technically my first assignment using a Nikon D3.  That honor belongs to the 2007 World Series between the Colorado Rockies and the Boston Red Sox.  And again in August of 2008 our staff was loaned D3s by Nikon.  My first assignment was photographing the Democratic National Convention in Denver with that round of D3s.  When we had to give them back in October my lower lip was quivering.  You had to pry my arms away.
Well, now we each have a D3 for real and today I shot my first offocial assignment at the Penrose Library in downtown Colorado Springs.  Nothing terribly exciting.  It was a juggling class.  On either side of the room were walls of windows.  I started to get worried.  Either way, because of the direction they were teaching the class, the photos were going to be blown out by the light coming in from the windows.  And on top of that the interior light was goofy.  It was just a mess.
I shot most of the assignment at about 1600 ISO and needless to say was incredibly impressed with how the D3 handled the situation.
In the past I may have whimpered back into the newsroom with my tail between my legs if I was using a Nikon D2H or a D2Hs.   

Friday, February 13, 2009

"The Gazette Will Survive"

That's what John Hazelhurst, a writer for the Business Journal,  just said during a KRDO news story interview about the plight of newspapers which have been shrinking for years now.
Hazelhurst commented on how some newspapers will publish less days and how print will be moving to more of an online presence.
He's correct.  Newspapers have been gravitating to the internet for years.  Some have been a bit slower than others.
The Detroit Free Press is an example of a newspaper printing less.  I believe they are printing three days a week now.  I'll have to check but I believe that's the case.   Don't forget they are in a part of the U.S. that has been hit hard by this recession.  We all have. But I believe those that who adjust correctly will survive and maybe even thrive.
Our newspaper has decreased in size but it is currently stable in subscriptions.  In fact we are making postive changes.  Our online presence and viewership is increasing rapidly.  We haven't forgotten about our subscribers who prefer an actual newspaper either.  We, along with everyone else in the business, have a few kinks to work out but I think readers will start to see an improved difference sooner that later.
This recession has been hard on the newspaper business but The Gazette is adjusting.  We have a publisher who is very aware of what readers want in a newspaper and has a staff who are motivated.
We have work to do but I'll just say January was a good month for us and now hopefully for you the reader.  Bear with us.  It's going to get better and better.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Between a Red Rock and a Hard Place

Fellow staffer Kevin Kreck just pointed out a letter to the editor concerning a photograph I took that went with a story about  the 100th anniversary of the Garden of the Gods.

The letter:  Parents Must Act Responsibly

When I saw the front page of The Gazette on Sunday my stomach felt sick.  There was a picture of a man holding his child while climbing in the Garden of the Gods, putting that little 2-year-ld in danger's way.
Why do parents think so little of their responsibility for their child's welfare that they do stupid things like this?  You can see parents running or climbing Pikes Peak with a child in a back pack.  One slip,  a backward fall, and that child is hurt or dead.
Parents must think of their children first ahead of their own enjoyment of the moment.  I you can't do that,  you shouldn't be a parent.

Margaret Maloney

I agree that parents should be mindful of all things that are happening around a young helpless child.  It is a parent's responsibility to make sure their child is safe 24 hours a day.  But this photograph isn't exactly telling the whole story.
First off David Natalizie and his daughter Carianne were walking on a rock formation on a very dry and warm day.  There was no snow or rain so the rocks weren't slippery  Secondly, they were about 18 inches off the ground on a sloping piece of rock heading towards me.  What Margaret and all of the other viewers of this photo can't see is that David's wife is about 6 inches to their right with her arms out just in case they had a fall of approximately a foot and a half.  David seemed like he was in complete control.  He took his time walking the 18 inches back to the ground constantly looking around making sure he didn't misstep. 
 I don't think he was endangering his child the way Margaret has assumed.  Therefore, in my professional opinion he was no being a bad parent.  He was just trying to help make a memorable photograph for his family's photo album and being very safe while doing so.
By the way I have a two-year old son who has stood on a rock in Garden of the Gods higher than that one.  I'd say it was about 30 inches off the ground.  He didn't fall off either.

Things You Never Want To Hear Your Kid Utter

I was driving to the library for our weekly The Wiggles movie run when, after flipping through radio station, a Steve Miller Band song came on.  I turned around and asked my son if he liked that song.  His response,  "Turn the rock and roll off Daddy."

He's two.  I was crushed.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I had been posting photos to our newspapers blog site and therefore had put this one on hiatus.  That blog has since been shelved.  So I thought I would resurrect this one.
One of my favorite things to do at The Gazette is the prep athlete of the week photo shoots that occur throughout the school year and feature a gamut of very talented local high school athletes.  It gives me, the photographer, a chance to explore lighting techniques and play off of each student's personalities and where they go to school, team colors and what sport they compete in.
In other words an environment portrait of some nature.  Often times these arrangements are made in haste and you have very little time to think and plan out your plan of attack.  Sometimes you have about 15 minutes to do a portrait.  This includes planning it out, setting up lights and then the actual shoot itself.  It's a true lesson in efficiency.
Here are three students I recently photographed using studio lights at The Gazette and on location.  We have a Rampart High School swimmer, a Coronado High School wrestler and a Mitchell High School basketball player