Slight or Flight

October 14, 2011 

We may all be unique snowflakes, but I guarantee everybody shares at least one pet peeve.

The annoyance of somebody telling me how to do my job is often made even more irritating by the fact that s/he is also toting a camera. Of course, I welcome suggestions and heads up on interesting people or scenes that I might have overlooked, but it's hard not to bristle when somebody tells me I need to get a photo of something.

Or even worse — what I shouldn't be photographing.

The angsty teen inside me often squeaks at me to do it anyways, all in the name of spiteful fun. I try not to let this passive-aggressive rebellion influence me, but sometimes the best photo just happens to inadvertently flaunt that sass.

Last week, the Mid-Columbia Partnership had its first Aviation Day at Bergstrom Aircraft in Pasco. The mostly home-schooled kids got a chance to poke around real planes and learn a little about flying and navigation. The most visual station featured balsa wood gliders with foil flight controls. Even cooler was that the kids built and threw the little planes around a hanger full of actual planes.

One girl was really into flying the plane around and either didn't notice or didn't care that I had started focusing on her. Right after snapping a moment I really liked,

somebody came up to me to suggest that maybe I didn't want to be photographing that particular child. It's common for students to have a media blackout because of a messy custody situation or some other valid reason, but it turned out she just wanted me to focus on MCP students and this girl was from Oregon and visiting her cousin. Maybe my annoyance was clear because she was really nice to me from then on and I set off to find other photo options.

I already had a fairly standard shot pocketed from when I first got there of Evan Anderson playing fighter pilot while instructor Jack Fastabend explained the cockpit controls:

It's pretty much what you'd expect from an event like this, though, and the curvature of the cockpit window made it hard to keep the controls in-frame.

I liked this detail from the navigation workshop since they're using crayons to plot a flight path,

but I knew there was no way that would, uh, fly as the only photo in the paper and I didn't love it enough to fight for that.

This scene took too much explaining for how uninteresting it is:

The students first filled the cups to a certain weight by sight and then tried it again with a box obscuring their vision to simulate flying by instruments instead of sight during inclement weather.

The mini planes were clearly where it was at, so I headed back. I already had a decent plane-building shot from my first trip,

but while I like the frustrated look on the girl's face, it didn't capture the excitement of flight — something I felt was the main thrust of the day. Getting good shots of the kids flying their gliders was a little tricky, though. The hangar was huge and the kids were bouncing all over the place. I had to stay relatively close to the opening looking inward so that I could use the natural light spilling in and I knew I wanted to work in the big planes in the background while still placing the subjects in relatively clean spots. Then I also had to capture the small planes in a recognizable way while finding a kid who was into flying enough to not really pay attention to me.

I wanted to get multiple kids throwing their planes in a mini air show, but failed in my attempts to capture the same fun spirit the first photo does:

This one is close, but his expression is just a little off:

I also liked this shot at the time,

but as Photo Editor Bob Brawdy pointed out, it's harder to read that throwing motion in relation with the incoming plane. I also don't like the fact that his head is placed over that jumbled mess and we went with the first shot and the navigation detail for the paper:

The woman who alerted me to the girl's non-student status probably thought I was purposely sticking a finger in her eye, but I hope I've shown that's not true. While I empathize with people's desire to get people in print who "deserve" it, I don't agree with that misguided notion. Regardless of whether she was a student with MCP, she was part of the event and I thought that moment best captured the wonder of flight that seems to have been lost by jaded frequent travelers. It's a point touched on in this oldie-but-goodie clip of comedian Louis C.K. on Conan a couple years ago.

I put in due diligence to get a comparable photo of an actual student, but things just didn't line up. Maybe some of the kids or MCP staff were disappointed, but we don't cover events exclusively for the subjects who are there. Here's hoping the photo gallery took edge off that sting.

Speaking of pain...

It's been an embarrassing couple of weeks for cameramen. Last week, a TV guy took a tumble while following the Rangers' Adrian Beltre home. Some very unsympathetic still shooters at felt some karmic balance after seeing that. Then on Wednesday, a couple of cameramen took their beef outside after jostling for position to capture David Stern announcing the cancellation of the first two weeks of the NBA season. I saw much better fights in middle school.

Adobe unveiled a nifty new tool to correct blurred images. There will be a lot of hemming and hawing about the further dumbing down of photography, and the same counterargument that you can't buy talent or creativity.

Register-Guard shooter Chris Pietsch has a cool personal project as he revisted his childhood home.

And here's an interesting argument for smaller papers to ditch their video efforts. The big boys are undoubtedly doing some amazing multimedia work, as evidenced by the recent Emmy nod to the New York Times' "A Year at War." While I agree with the author's assessment of small papers' poor video productions, I'm wondering how young multimedia journalists are supposed to build a professional body of work to get to that point.

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