Toast of the frown

October 26, 2012 

Photographers are an opinionated bunch, and when it comes to photos, there are myriad disagreements. Canon vs. Nikon, primes vs. zooms, tilted horizons, crops and other crap all fuel unnecessarily heated online debates. While working professionals tend to be a little more thoughtful in their perspectives, ask 10 of them how to edit a portfolio or a story and you'll probably get 10 answers. There's one thing that just about every photojournalist can agree upon, however.

Covering press conferences sucks.

The canned presentation and talking heads at podiums don't generally lend themselves to interesting photographs, and when they do, it's often because the lighting and shooting areas were set up that way. Often the best photos are before or after the event, when the important people are having semi-candid interactions.

When I showed up 10 minutes early to last Friday's Wine Science Center dedication, I realized that wasn't quite early enough. Other media outlets were busy milling about already and I was kicking myself for not arriving before the staging was set. The best I was able to get before the program started was of Gov. Chris Gregoire chatting with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates CEO Ted Baseler by the stage:

WSU President Elson Floyd is caught in an awkward moment in the background, however. The windy weather added to the awkwardness throughout, giving the governor a funky fauxhawk/combover look:

There wasn't much to be done about that, though. It was easy enough to get a CYA of the important folks

as I waited and hoped for something more interesting. I knew that probably wasn't going to happen at this event's equivalent of golden shovels in the ground,

but saw some sparkling white wine being poured as the agenda wrapped up. Alcohol is a rarity at these things and it fit the theme of a wine center. I moved back to my original angle because I liked having the school (and future center site) in the background with a flag to help show the wind:

The other angle wasn't bad, but lacked the minimal context and really looked just like any other staged presser:

Plus, shooting wide with the extra depth of field would have made for a very messy background. Most of the other cameras stayed over by the sign,

so I knew I was taking a small gamble. Maybe I missed the memo early in the conference, but I'm guessing the VIPs were merely playing their angles toward the biggest mass of media:

Baseler made a toasting gesture to some people behind me, but everybody else is in an awkward mid-moment:

The small gamble turned into a small failure, but I'll take that gamble again, given similar circumstances. There's no doubt the bigwig toast was a premeditated visual. And in a situation where getting a serviceable shot takes minimal effort, I'd rather try to work the less-viewed angle in hopes of getting something different from the rest of the pack than the shot everybody else did.

Small though that victory would have been.

How about something big?

Check out this 9-billion-pixel image that shows 84 million stars. The 100% crops are pretty incredible.

Journalists, Occupy Wall Street protestors and some New York City Council members have teamed up to sue the city for civil rights violations during the Occupy movement last year. I look forward to seeing how this is resolved. No doubt it will be several years and crises in the future before anything happens.

Budding professional photographers might want to check out three big mistakes one photographer made while starting her business.

For you time lapse junkies, check out some trippy clips of a human-free Seattle and some fanciful star trails in action. Both use some digital trickery to stack images for the final effect.

Even crazier digital trickery can make legible text emerge from out-of-focus images. It's not aesthetically pleasing, but an intriguing tool for forensics use.

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