Fogged in the glass

September 20, 2013 

I've made a bad habit of not always trying out a concept before committing to the idea for a photo shoot. Maybe the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants nature of daily newspaper work has conditioned me to just make the most out of any particular situation, or maybe I'm just not that organized. Either way, it's something I've been trying to correct.

My friend Cody Wetmore bequeathed his old fog machine to me in preparation for his move to Indiana, and I was excited for the new prop. Sports writer Craig Craker's story for Friday the 13th about local football players who wear No. 13 seemed like a good reason to trot out some spooky fog.

Seeing as how it hadn't been used in years, I tested it out a few times in the days leading up to the shoot and it worked like a champ.

I had my lights set up hours before the shoot since we scheduled it after I covered the 9/11 remembrance ceremony. I wanted to get the photo of Kennewick High's Brock Sittman quickly so I could edit the 9/11 photos for deadline and the gallery.

With the lights dialed in and the fog machine warmed up, I had Craig hit the switch and we were rewarded with thin wisps from a struggling machine. A little more time to let it cook some more and it seemed worse. I tried moving it closer so that the light fog could still provide some effect, but it was barely working at that point.

I shot a few basic portraits with some spooky green light as a backup:

Craig mentioned an idea he'd suggested earlier in which we would have photographed the player with all sorts of bad luck clichés, something we both agreed would have been too big of a production to pull off in our tight time window. When he started listing them off, I thought about breaking the large mirror we have in the studio:

It's old and not in particularly good shape, but would be expensive to replace, so I called up Paul T. Erickson to either get his blessing or have him talk me down. He took the latter route and after chatting about options and how little time I had left to get this and my deadline work completed, Paul suggested breaking a photo frame's glass.

I just so happened to have a framed picture of Ronald Reagan and a chimpanzee from the 1951 classic Bedtime for Bonzo that I picked up at a thrift shop years ago.

I love it when my weird hoarder tendencies pay off.

I pulled the photo out and stuck some thick black paper in before breaking the glass. A few sharp raps with the heavy scissors didn't do anything, though, so I took a standing shot with a broom handle, breaking much more than I had planned. I was hoping to crack it throughout, but leaving some big enough shards to adequately reflect Brock. This meant I had to delicately balance the frame and not spill the loose glass before getting a decent portrait with it.

In hindsight, I should have just set it on the ground, but I stuck in in my reflector holder to try and get as much angle on it:

Not being able to get it on a vertical plane meant I had less control over the background and had to stick Brock on a step ladder:

And while I wish I could have had more flexibility to move the frame around and had a big enough shard to reflect him and his jersey number, I was coming up on deadline and scared of spilling the glass. Here's the best I got:

Thankfully, the Bedtime photo is on foam core too, so the picture is back on display:

The photo I made is OK and I think it gets the point across, but it's a far cry from what I was hoping to get. It does make a little more sense than fog, I suppose, but the mad scramble resulted in harried execution. Still, it was exciting to work under the pressure and it was a good reminder that the best laid schemes of mice and men are often effed in the A.

Onto the links…

Two viral photos, one source, and no relation to the news at hand. That's what happened during Monday's Navy Yard shooting in Washington D.C. After @timjhogan tweeted photos from fellow congressional staffer Don Andres of a supposed victim of the mass shooting, news agencies went bananas, tweeting replies asking for free usage of the photos, which Tim Hogan granted. It turns out the pictured victim was likely suffering from a medical condition.

Obviously, it doesn't seem like Hogan was being deliberately misleading, but this incident is a reminder that while the importance of on-the-scene citizen journalists is indisputable, sometimes their credibility is. Any professional journalist would have at least tried to figure out what was actually happening at that scene without tweeting that it was related to the shooting.

For a professional perspective, Leah Millis shares her thoughts on gaining trust and working a story at The Image, Deconstructed, while National Geographic's PROOF blog features some thoughts and advice from 44 of the yellow book's storied photojournalists.

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin's Jeff Horner wrote a lovely retirement column and somehow condensed his 33 years of photojournalism experience into a 15-image gallery. It's well worth a read and look.

Check out this funky fresh digital mashup of vintage crime scene photos and their modern locations. Stylistically, I love the 497 Dean St. Brooklyn, N.Y. and Fulton Fish Market fire images best. Some of the others look a little stark in their superimposition for me, like grisly stickers slapped onto the modern photo.

And finally, The Strobist, whom I've linked to frequently and credit for teaching me most of what I know about lighting, did a feature on some jerk I know: me! Check out the post highlighting my high school football preview stuff.

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