Boring bookends

May 10, 2013 

While there is a lot of fun to be had on the job, the bulk of what we do is make the most of boring situations. Bookending the thrill-a-minute world of construction photography are two of the biggest culprits:

Ground breakings and ribbon cuttings.

I had the pleasure of shooting both recently, starting with a ribbon cutting for the new Steptoe expansion.

First, the setup was backlit:

The inclusion of Kennewick High School's drumline was cool, and in hindsight, this probably should have been my shot:

It would have had the added bonus of putting KVEW's Josh Peterson into the paper. At the time, I didn't like how Kennewick Mayor Steven Young's face was blocked by the podium and the fact that the band is in the shade of the overpass.

My favorite from the day was this shot of Mayor Young chatting with David Reeploeg, central Washington director for Sen. Maria Cantwell, as he joined the line of cars waiting to use the newly opened road for the first time:

It was one of those rare times where I got to flex a little photo creativity on these assignments. It's not a home run, but as far as chicken salad goes, I was pretty pleased.

Which of course meant that the editors soundly rejected it.

We ran this instead:

It features Steve Gorcester, executive director of the Transportation Improvement Board, and fit the bill for run-of-the-mill press conference photo. What clearly was never an option was a photo of the actual ribbon cutting:

But at least there's some action, you might be thinking.

True. That is what everybody was there for, after all. That contrived, made-for-T.V.-and-photo moment would just feel dirty to run. With a little better separation between the colors of the shears and the background, this moment of Mayor Young faux threatening Richland Mayor John Fox would have worked,

but I was worried with how it would reproduce and the humor isn't all that apparent on everybody's face.

A couple weeks later, I turned in this shot for the groundbreaking of Kadlec's new Urgent Care clinic in Kennewick:

Why was the contrived golden shovel image OK this time? It featured at least a real moment as Kadlec Health Systems CEO Rand Wortman, center, fanned away the flying dust after the photo op:

While not the most scintillating bit of information, it at least speaks to the weather a little bit and has a hair of humor.

That, and I didn't really have anything better. My attempts at getting the important people hobnobbing before and after didn't quite pan out:

Neither did the shots of people signing the commemorative poster:

And this podium shot of Kadlec Clinic President Ken Lester wasn't any better:

None of these shots would even briefly be considered for my portfolio, but these types of assignments are a hefty percentage of what we shoot in the daily grind. For every balloon rally, there's a dozen situations where you're photographing people standing around in bad light or sitting in dim light.

As frustrating as these gigs can be, there is a certain level of pride of easily being able to make a publishable photo while trying to shoot something worth looking at for more than a glance.

In the world of photo news people actually care about...

Jon Sall talks about working diligently as a productive member of the Chicago Sun-Times for half his life before unceremoniously getting the axe. He not only won awards, but apparently made a lot of money for the company as director of the online video department.

"I'm told they made over $300,000 for Sun-Times Media," he's quoted as saying about documentaries they made chronicling Obama's presidential campaign and inauguration.

I've often said that I think the newspaper industry is going to get worse before it gets better. It's hard not to remain pessimistic when you see moves like this. Rob Hart, a photographer for Sun-Times Media had this to say about his colleague, "Jon Sall is a class act, the kind of person that should be running a newspaper instead of being shown the door by lesser men."

Time's Lightbox features an essay by Taslima Akhter about the tragically beautiful photograph from the ever-deadlier garment factory collapse in Bangladesh.

Gear geeks will appreciate this technical dissection of the Fuji X100s' guts and just how high-speed synching works with its leaf shutter.

And check out this Q&A with Peter Belanger about the deceptively complex job of being one of Apple's minimalistic product photographers.

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