Holiday Jeer

January 4, 2013 

While I don't consider myself a Grinch, shooting holiday features year after year has exposed the grumpiness in me the last couple years.

It's not the sweet messages of hope that sour me, it's the repetition, with each again?!-worthy assignment testing the limits of my eye rolling.

I tried to mix things up while covering the Living Nativity again, hoping to get something cool from the setup after relying on a dramatic, torch-lit shot last year:

While I like this cool-colored quiet setup,

it wasn't strong enough to carry the front of the metro section and didn't say much about the performance.

I liked how this scene was developing, with his baseball cap conflicting with the Roman soldier get-up,

but didn't get anything too interesting either and ended up going with this fun little moment as the kings got ready:

Not my best work, to say the least.

I groaned again at the sight of our White Christmas developing, and headed out at the start of my shift to look for a snow feature. I stumbled across some other poor souls working the holiday to remove a tree that fell during the previous week's wind storm:

I like this shot quite a bit and settled into covering the Union Gospel Mission's Christmas feast, producing one of my better videos to date:

I probably should have spent a little more time looking for some snow features, but it was pretty dark after I left the mission and I wanted to spend my precious-big-money holiday hours putting together a decent video.

Still, I always cringe at how gung-ho we get around here with the most minimal amounts of snow. We've had snow every year I've lived here. No big whoop. No story.

But now I've swung myself too far in the opposite direction, standing helplessly and pointlessly in opposition to fluffy snow coverage, sneering at anybody who'll listen.

My guttural throaty noises of disdain carried into the day after as I spent a couple hours trying to make the always-boring photo to go with the never-interesting post-Christmas-gift-returns story:

The turd garnish was not even having this photo run in print after breaking news bumped it.

No event we cover illustrates this Groundhog's Day phenomenon better than First Night Tri-Cities, which has boasted pretty much the exact same lineup each of the three years I've covered it. The problem is that the different headlining acts always perform way too late for deadline, so you're stuck with the same major acts of the Gothard Sisters and Vocal Trash.

I went early to catch the magic show and got a decent moment of Keith Ramsay accusing Liam Truman, 6, of Pasco, of ruining his magic wand,

but aside from that and this awkwardly funny snap,

my take was full of crappy carnival clichés. I featured the Gothard Sisters last year, so I wanted to avoid that, and despite the fact that we previewed Vocal Trash in Atomictown, I added a stage shot with OK layers to the magic moment above:

This photo might have been a good candidate had I used the frame a little more efficiently,

but my favorite from their performance was this semi-abstract eye candy:

I was a little nervous about breaking the newspaper conventional wisdom that a photo needs a face, though, and wussed out. I'm regretting the decision to not try and get it in for something different, though, and I'm wondering why I'm complaining so much about being stuck in the same ol' same ol' when I had a perfect opportunity to buck that trend.

In some ways, I'm becoming the grumpy jerks that call and complain about stupid things all the time.

The stupidest in recent memory are the complaints about the fluffiest of holiday fluff -- our annual look at the mail carrier who helps answer letters to Santa.

I didn't photograph it this year, but had done so the three previous years:

When this ran on Sunday, fellow weekend worker Dori O'Neal fielded a call complaining that opening somebody else's mail is a federal offense.

The same day, somebody messaged the Herald's Facebook account, flabbergasted that we would run such a story two days before Christmas. I and everybody else ignored it until this person followed up a week later. Here's how our conversation went until I got fed up and Executive Editor Laurie Williams finished it:

I hope my curmudgeonly ways don't sink to that level.

It's tempting to look at this and realize that I don't have much to complain about. I'm still working in a struggling industry when so many who are more talented are out of work, and if the biggest thing I have to complain about is covering the same easy-to-shoot assignments every year, I'm doing pretty well.

Plus, the holidays bring other feel-good stories, like getting to see Abi Hamlin return home and meeting the Richland kids who put together goodie bags for the homeless.

But if I didn't have complaints, I wouldn't have much to write about, and then you'd really hear me bitch and moan.

For somebody who doesn't complain much in bad situations...

Check out David Hobby's appearance on DigitalRev's Pro Tog, Cheap Camera. Stuck with some chintzy knock-off flashes and a Buzz Lightyear toy camera, The Strobist figures out some clever ways to maximize the images from his minimal setup.

Polaroid is planning to launch Fotobar stores to encourage people to print out the images stuck on their myriad gadgets.

I've often wondered how this current era of photography will be archived. It's estimated that people today take as many photos every two minutes as people in the entire 1800's. Will we be able to look back in 200 years to see a collection anywhere near as impressive as this feature over at Time's Lightbox?

And just for fun, The Dallas Morning News' Gerry McCarthy is officially the mad genius of year-end photo reviews. He's the one that I, uh, borrowed the 10 worst photos from a couple years ago and this year he's recreated his 10 favorites in crayon.

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