What's Your Name?

March 25, 2010 

One of my biggest problems on assignment early on was making sure I got names. It wasn’t like I forgot to get them, but sometimes I’d get caught up in making frames or trying different angles that I’d lose track of where people went. I lacked confidence in working a scene to interrupt my photo making to get names, ages, quotes and cities of residence, and came back to the office several times without names to accompany my strongest photos.

This problem has resurrected since the proliferation of our online photo galleries, but with a different cause. There’s something freeing about concentrating on making pictures instead of balancing creativity with a constant reevaluation of what photos you already have in the bag and which ones might work well as a package of photos, or which ones could stand alone. If the reporter is going for a certain angle in the story, then you’re working to make a photo that fits, hunting for the right composition, moment or emotion to suit the story. Sometimes, however, I end up regretting not taking that crucial extra step.

During last year’s Chalk Art Festival at the Uptown Shopping Center in Richland, I puttered around and made some standard frames of people decorating their designated sidewalk squares before coming across WSU’s community art space, in which students had encouraged any passersby to add to the collaborative piece and discouraged people from walking around the work, insisting that footprints and partial destruction were part of the process. I snapped this frame amidst some detail shots:

I didn’t really think much of it when I tripped the shutter, thinking that it may have a home in the photo gallery. I resumed chatting with the art students a bit more before moving on. As I walked away, I chimped and ended up really liking this shot. Her posture, the moment and the framing all seemed to come together in a frame that was a different image than I had seen from these events. I headed in the direction I saw her heading toward and kept my eyes peeled for a pink shirt and black pants, periodically checking the back of my camera again. As you may have guessed, I never found her, but luckily did find Elizabeth Muntean, 15, who decided to draw on herself after abandoning her first attempt on the sidewalk.

While I still like the other frame better, this one was at least different enough to keep me from feeling like a complete failure, though I should have worked harder to frame this in a way that would clean up the edges better.

Two weeks later, I covered Ye Merrie Greenwood Players Faire in Richland. I came across some members of the Sultana Dancers Troupe getting ready early on and made a frame I liked:

despite cutting it a little close on the left side of the frame. Later, I ran into Mary Elizabeth Quinn of Portland, who wiped her tears of joy on Hunter Page of Richland after running into some friends:

And in my mind, barring another fantastic discovery, I had my two shots for print. I had worked to get a colorful frame with a reflection in it and good expressions on everybody and made another photo that helped tell the story of the close-knit community fostered by Renaissance Faires. I went into gallery-filling mode, not necessarily closed to the idea of getting a better shot for print, obviously, but concentrating more on fleshing out my take with some cool details:

and a fun portrait of a pirate and his pomeranian:

Neither of which felt strong enough to usurp my previous winners of the day, but both frames that I now wish had more complete cutline information. The worst part about the snake photo is that I even asked the guy what kind of a snake it was, but I neglected to write it down since I wasn’t planning on submitting it for print publication.

This problem of mine is especially prevalent at sporting events in which names are assigned numbers. At last year’s Richland Invitational Cross Country Meet, I got some good shots of strong local runners Erin Hegarty of Hanford as coach Sean Mars cheered her on:

and Kamiakin's Anthony Armstrong, right, and Evan Fiske, who placed fourth and seventh, respectively:

So as I waited at the finish to get the ubiquitous exhausted-cross-country-runner photo, I wasn’t even thinking about getting names. With only space in the paper for one photo, it’s a hard sell to run one of these shots instead of highlighting one of the strong local competitors. I grabbed this shot of a runner who needed help rehydrating, something I hadn’t really seen before:

but didn’t get any shots of him with his number visible. Luckily, it was easy enough to track down his name later by emailing his coach, but it was still quite the brain fart to not make sure I could identify him while I was there.

You’d think I’d learn my lesson after all these post-assignment groans, but sadly you would be mistaken. I showed up early to the Kaleidoscope in Motion show on March 14 to get preparation shots for the gallery. Since the event was a combined performance of figure skating, Irish step-dancing and ballet, I planned on making a frame with all three during their opening number as my photo for print:

It was the logical (albeit obvious and boring) way to go about it, but with only space for one shot in the paper, I didn’t want to slight any of the groups by focusing on only one. Still, there are a couple of backstage scenes I should have seen to completion. One young skater had an odd pre-performance position:

and these sisters shared a moment as their dad awaited showtime with his camera:

Neither shots are knockouts. The slouching kid photo has an obnoxious piece of chair in the lower right of the frame and the kiss gets a little lost in the wide shot — a composition that might work better if the dad was doing something more interesting in the moment. Still, they should have registered as potential winners when I shot them. And while I usually try to tie everything together with some clever conclusion after espousing some sort of grandiose argument like I’m an authority on photojournalism, this is simply a problem born from laziness that I need to shake.


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