Tassel wrasslin'

June 7, 2013 

With the bulk of graduations finished, it's time for my annual look back at back-to-back-doubleheader 2013 (#btbd2013). Like last year, my Friday schools were River View in Finley and Columbia High School in Burbank. To really get crazy, I decided to switch the order of those schools, starting at River View and ending up in Burbank.

Not a great choice, it turns out, but the logical one given the Groundhog's Day nature of covering these every year.

While there were some nice moments in the preparation, the graduation culture at River View makes its post-ceremony energy much more exciting. Unfortunately, they both started at 7 p.m., so I had to leave as soon as River View's started:

Aside from the touching moments, there was a pretty funny one as Bryce Hoburg's mortarboard design was nixed,

and he used a bottle opener to pry a letter off:

The ceremony in Burbank was pretty standard, though Joel Blanco's original rap provided a couple decent crowd shots:

The diploma presentation had its moments too:

Mix in some hugs, smiles and cap tossing, and you have a nice ceremony,

but it lacks the raucous silly-string-and-balloon celebration of River View that I saw last year.

Saturday brought a duo of dreaded Toyota Center graduations. As I've written before, that's not a slight on the schools or the ability of Toyota Center staff to produce the ceremonies. I understand the logistical advantages to having five of the big schools' graduations in the same location to save on overhead, but the static scenery is boring to photograph, the lighting in the tunnels where graduates get ready is awful and those ceremonies lack the personality of the smaller schools who have home court advantage.

Still, there are good shots to be made and Kamiakin's wasn't a bad way to start.

The staggering 13 valedictorian and salutatorian speeches looked daunting, but each one kept it short and they all talked about significant items, which at least kept my visual interest up enough to prevent myself from going comatose:

Cooper Atkinson even whipped out his camera to get a shot of the crowd:

I got lucky on the hat toss too, catching a strobe from the crowd at a good moment:

It was fun and easy shooting as the valedictorians, salutatorians and ASB brass led the rest of the graduates in a group dance,

but my favorite moment was as Marisol Sanchez got emotional while walking off stage with her mother, English teacher Linda Palomarez:

It's not the greatest photo, but it just felt special. Not many parents get to share that moment with their kid.

Southridge was up next and they had great energy throughout,

there were some other funny little moments,


and students seemed more demonstrative after getting their diplomas:

Intentionally catching the Dorian photographers' strobes didn't turn out quite as cool as the happy accident at Kamiakin's,

but it's always fun to shoot with a one-second exposure without a tripod.

Once again, the most meaningful moment was a personal one, though. Fellow Herald photographer Rich Dickin's son Parker was part of the graduating class and I positioned myself near him for the hat toss. I knew I had plenty to choose from and with Rich in the stands, I figured a shot of that moment would be nice to pass along. Things lined up better than I had hoped, though, with his friend Jake pointing up and the other kid in the back screaming while the hats are still in the air:

When it came time to pick photos for the paper, it was a clear frontrunner. Typically, we avoid putting family and friends of newspaper employees in the paper, but I wasn't considering it because Parker was in it. Nixing it only because of that would be just as unfair. In fact, the only thing that was giving me pause was the fact that I had turned in a hat toss the day before from Burbank.

It turns out, Rich was able to photograph Parker on his first day of school 13 years ago at a different paper, so the whole thing came full-circle in print on Sunday. As tedious as covering multiple graduations can be, being a part of that was a personal reminder of why this coverage is important to the community.

Speaking of community...

I've started contributing one column per month to The Pot Luck, a collective of Tri-Cities bloggers who offer their thoughts on community. My scheduled day is the 6th of every month and talking about the Sun-Times layoffs for Thursday's post was a no-brainer. It's a column I could have and probably should have written for Behind the Fold last Friday if I wasn't so damned slow at writing, which serves as an easy segue into what's stupid about arming reporters with iPhones as a replacement for trained photojournalists.

I think I'm a decent writer, but it's not my primary skill and professional interest. Don't ask me to cover a city council meeting or file for public records requests, though. The occasional column and pinch hitting on a fluffy feature story or breaking news fits my writing skill just fine, thank you. There will be the occasionally decent photo by a reporter with an iPhone, no doubt, but as I've harped on for years in this blog, what makes a professional photographer is being able to produce a publishable image from the most horribly lit, non-visual situations.

A person with an untrained eye, with improper tools and with a story to write as their primary job is not going to be able to make that proverbial chicken salad.

I could go on and on, as my social media streams have been for the last week on the subject, but I'll cool it for now. Go have a peek at my column at the Pot Luck if you want to read some more of my thoughts on the issue. It's full of links that I'll update as more stuff comes out. It's all stuff I'd be adding here if I wasn't trying to get you to click on over.

And if you'd like to help send a message to CEO Timothy Knight, sign this online petition.


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