Lifting the Blog

March 10, 2011 

It's been a mopey few weeks of work. Each successive grumble seemed to propagate a few more gripes. I was desperate for a way out of my rut because wallowing in my own funk every week was making me feel like an angsty teen. And while it's easy to see how you got into the gutter, the way out is never as clear.

But sometimes, the most unexpected assignments can start leading you out.

Covering the aftermath of last Tuesday's shooting in Pasco didn't seem like a very interesting photo assignment. Sure, murders are juicy stories that are always the most read online, but they aren't photo-rich. Heading out to the crime scene on Wednesday morning was the standard exercise of hurry-up-and-wait, resulting in a pretty boring photo:

I was equally unenthusiastic about covering accused shooter Tashia Stuart's first appearance in court. Aside from witnessing the glorious courtroom antics of David Webster, trial coverage has been a static, boring and sometimes frustrating affair for me. Bad lighting and tough angles from designated shooting areas can make it tough to even accomplish the basic goal of "here's what this person looks like." Covering former Prosser mayor Linda Lusk's first appearance was a chore as the crowded docket meant she was often blocked:

I thought I got a decent frame, but was dismayed to realize she's blinking in the photo,

and here's what we ended up running:

Ramon Madrigal made things intentionally difficult by deftly whipping a piece of paper in front of his face as he turned to leave,

taking a different route than Jeffery A. Sullivan, who made sure to address the media at his sentencing hearing:

Sometimes, you're reduced to the duh minimum of making a very straightforward photo of "here's what it looked like in there," as was the case during the verdict for Phiengchai Sisouvanh Synhavong when the provided angle to shoot from didn't give me any choice:

Though it's not like she ever reacted to anything anyway.

And when you do have a decent angle to work with, you end up with your camera trained on the subject's face, hunting for small, potentially telling, expressions. I'm not sure what Donald Schalchlin's twisted mouth means as he enters his modified guilty plea, but it's better than no expression:

Poker-faced Vicente Ruiz looked up for a few moments during his sentencing hearing, which you could interpret as a prayerful expression or a sign of boredom:

I'd put my money on the latter.

Tashia Stuart's appearance was cleary different as soon as she tentatively entered the courtroom, faced with my shutter clicks and all three T.V. stations:

Her frazzled, frail and emotional demeanor carried on throughout her appearance, creating a strange tension during what is usually a static event:

This is the shot we ended up running with the story:

It's not as if I felt good about photographing somebody in such a disheveled state. Quite the opposite, actually. The shoot made me a little uncomfortable the whole time and it was the most intense pre-trial courtroom experience I've ever had. Usually, I snap a dozen or so frames at something like this, clicking a few more than I think I need for blink insurance, but I couldn't stop photographing, ending up with 68 photos.

The experience was interesting and exciting mostly because of how unexpected it was to see that level of intensity so early in the process. Still, I'm no veteran at court coverage, so maybe this isn't that uncommon, but it was a first for me and a nice break from the almost overwhelming boredom I've been experiencing at work.

A few days later, I jammed out of the CBC women's first-day appearance at the NWAACC tournament to cover the Prosser girls' state title game in Yakima. While I still enjoy watching and playing basketball, covering it has gotten a little stale for me. I'm also not a big fan of high school girls hoops and wasn't thrilled about making the drive to and from Yakima on a long Saturday shift. As the game clock started ticking down and it was clear Prosser would win, the starters took their garbage-time rest and senior Tayshia Hunt, who played a great game, let out her excitement:

There was plenty of jubilation after the game too, and I've converted a few to black and white because of some funky colors I didn't care for:

I've often said that I don't approach local sports coverage with any sense of being a fan. You can always tell the parents and amateurs from the professionals because pros don't cheer for the teams they're photographing. Seeing their excitement definitely brought a smile to my face, though, and I followed Hunt and the trophy into the crowd for our main sports photo:

I was tempted to leave sports reporter Jack Millikin, right, in the shot, but opted to keep it tight.

I didn't even care how tired I was on the drive back, or that I had two photo galleries to edit and post at the end of an 11-hour day. It just felt nice to have some change of pace. True, every day on this job is different, but sometimes it feels like they're just different shades of gray. These two assignments helped inject a little metaphorical color into my workweek.

Here's hoping the return of sunshine will help continue to burn away my gloomy fog.

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