Failed Background Check

March 22, 2012 

Composing from the background forward is a tenet that was drilled into my head at an early stage by numerous photojournalists. Critiques, whether they were directed at me or if I was only an observer, often revolved around an inadequate background.

Whether you're trying to avoid distracting background elements or taking advantage of good ones, I've learned to be more patient while waiting for the moment to come into the frame.

Luck swings both ways, though, and sometimes subjects don't move into place.

Wednesday's Walkin', Rockin' & Rollin' for March of Dimes at the Charbonneau Retirement Residency raised about $700 for the charity along with my blood pressure.

It started ordinarily enough, as I arrived after the pancake feast in time for some group photos before the walkathon:

My first snap of the walk is a good example of not selecting a good background:

I decided to follow a group up to the third floor as residents were encouraged to stroll or roll wherever they wanted. That's when I realized how sweet the atrium was and darted out of the elevator to utilize the colorful skylit setting:

The empty second floor wrecks it, though and I followed the group to see what the hall wanderings would look like,

before deciding to hang back and work the atrium. Sparse and inconsistent walkers led to a couple duds:

And the best I could manage still wasn't what I had hoped to capture:

I headed over to the third-floor refueling station as they announced the end of the walkathon to shoot something a little tighter as an option for smaller reproduction before wrapping:

It was a little frustrating that things didn't come together, with walkers filling the frames within the bigger picture, but that's how it goes sometimes. Since you can't ethically influence your subjects to do what you wish they would, it's hard to get too upset when things don't work out. But when a surprisingly good background with good light doesn't get paired with the same level subject interaction, it feels like a missed opportunity.

To read about some actual tough photos to make...

Check out this Q&A with Dominic Bracco II, who has been covering the bloody drug war in Mexico. His thoughtful explanations of how he tries to cover tragedy with dignity should show that photojournalists aren't just ambulance chasers, shooting indiscriminately for the bloodiest, most graphic frames.

While there are glory-seekers who envision contest wins while witnessing horrific news, that doesn't mean law enforcement should treat us all like soulless vultures. They also can't beat up videographers who are filming from their own driveways. It'll also be interesting to see how the arrest of two Chicago journalists will play out.

Also in Chicago, Scott Strazzante finds a fresh angle on hockey late in the season. As we brace for Ams playoff coverage, I've been thinking of how to shake things up myself. I'm guessing you'll get to read about me blabbing about it in a few weeks.

These fantastic ant scenes by Andrey Pavlov show how patience and planning beat Photoshop any day. It also made me think of this fascinating interview with Mark Moffett on Fresh Air a couple years ago.

And my geeky cufflinks may get company from a nerdy pair of hands soon.

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