Bowled over it

January 31, 2014 

One major point of emphasis in journalism school is that you're a person first and a journalist second. This is most often applied toward spot news scenes. The closest I've come to really having to apply this concept in the field was in 2009, when then-reporter Drew Foster and I came across a rollover on Highway 240.

It's still the only time I've arrived at breaking news before emergency crews, and Mike Iverson was already there to keep a 15-year-old girl calm, holding her hand as they waited for help:

But what if I had gotten there first? There's no question that I would have rushed up to check on their status first and called 911, but I'm not sure what I would have done next. Photographed them inside the car? Kept my distance? Maybe I would have snapped a quick wide shot before rushing up and felt guilty about not sticking to that j-school mantra of being a person first.

That concept applies in less serious situations, however. And the Seahawks heading to the Super Bowl is the timely and weird segue for me to make it.

I've often been the weekend photographer when the Super Bowl rolls around. Without looking back at the archives, I can distinctly remember three separate occasions. I wrote a bit about the experience back in 2009 for Super Bowl XLKAI.

With the state team going to the game, there's been non-stop feature stories leading up to Sunday, and I've had the pleasure of photographing a few. First up was McKenzie Jane Brown, who got a tattoo of the Seahawks logo on her head in hopes of winning tickets to the playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, but placed second in the radio contest. I started with a profile shot that alluded to her job as a stylist:

I tried another angle that showed a bit more of her throwback jersey,


but didn't really like either, so I succumbed to my initial idea of using the mirror. I've leaned heavily on reflections for my photos in the past and wanted to avoid it this time, but sat McKenzie in her station and talked about the upcoming NFC Championship game with her. I got a nice expression here,

but zooming into 35 mm lost just enough depth of field at f/13 for me to go with the slightly wider shot:

If I had to do it again, I'd stick her at a station with more room to shoot from, slap a telephoto on a tripod and close down my aperture as small as possible, but this was one of five assignments on the day and I had places to be. Apparently McKenzie does too, as she was invited to appear on the Today Show on Friday. The story also gained other national attention, unfortunately bringing out the trolls at Deadspin and ending up online at the (ugh) Chicago sun-times. I also got to see it pop up on Fox Sports while I was out in a bar. My fellow patrons were not impressed when I pointed at the screen and said, "Hey! I took that photo!"

Fred Petragallo of Kennewick came into the office about a week later with Super Bowl tickets. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to get the ADA accessible seats and wasn't sure he'd be able to go. I trotted out the confetti from the 2012 high school football preview for a last-minute fun concept. Doubly unfortunate was that Photo Editor Bob Brawdy had been working on photos for Wine Press Northwest, so the main shooting area was tied up:

I hauled my own lights upstairs, moved the random props that were jammed into a nook in the room,

and had Ty Beaver help throw the confetti in the makeshift corner of the studio:

As was expected, I had some with way too much confetti,

and some with too little, though I rather like this outtake:

But I went with this one for print:

And finally, I got the chance to meet Seahulk at the Tri-Cities Family Expo. We weren't sure when he was going to be there, and since I was gone the day before, I hadn't had a chance to even think about calling to make arrangements. Luckily, some Pasco fifth-graders got a preview of the expo, so I was there early enough to catch most of Tim Froemke's transformation.

I worked some wide and high shots to try and show the expo background,

and came in tight for the facial work,

but went with this shot as Froemke and artist Dutch Bihary attracted a small crowd of onlookers:

I also cut together a decent video of the transformation:

Having seen the Seattle Times time lapse of his makeup routine, I didn't want to copy it. Also, I was horrendously underprepared with equipment to even do such a thing, but I'll stick with my original statement. Instead, I paid close attention during the interview and really worked to get some shots to pair with some of Bihary and Froemke's explanations. I also tried to shoot a few similar angles to cross dissolve for a time lapsey effect and for once, one of my videos actually got some traction, netting 845 views in a week.

Unless something unexpectedly pops up on Friday or Saturday, that'll be it for my Super Bowl coverage this year. We no longer staff a photographer on Sundays, so I'll be enjoying the game with friends. While it is kind of weird to not be photographing people's reactions to the game, it's a welcome change.

Sometimes the ability to be a person first is pretty easy.

For a much tougher life as a photojournalist...

Take 3:25 and watch this interview with Don McCullin, who offers some insights into his career covering conflict and his recent work that aims to broaden his legacy.

I'll be interested to see how this story out of Purdue develops after student Photo Editor Michael Takeda was detained by police.

Another day, another story about jerkoffs stealing photos online. This time, it's the popular Twitter feed @HistoryInPics. One quote in particular stood out:

"Photographers are welcome to file a complaint with Twitter, as long as they provide proof. Twitter contacts me and I'd be happy to remove it," he said. "I'm sure the majority of photographers would be glad to have their work seen by the massives."

The beef I have with them as a professional photographer is obvious, but the grammar snob in me just wants to snark, "Massives?! I don't care how big the people are who look at my photos." I'm guessing this might be in the Australian vernacular, but that doesn't make 17-year-old Xavier Di Petta's interpretation of fair use any less disgusting.

And in other blood-boiling quotes, here's The Guardian's Roy Greenslade's reaction to a British newspaper chain's decision to sun-times its photo staffs:

No event occurs -- fires, fetes, road accidents, cats up trees, whatever -- without someone being on hand to snap a picture. In the real sense of the word, newspaper photographers are therefore redundant.

I concede that standing outside court for ages to capture an image of a defendant or witness may still require a professional (enter the experienced freelance). Otherwise, for the general run of the news diary, anyone can do it.

Yep. Anybody can do it. Of course, that's assuming "it" means staged photos, blurry photos, missed moments, poor use of lighting, bad focal length choice or most importantly, a lack of rapport or intimacy with the photo subject. There's definitely truth to the notion that the masses can and will cover the majority of breaking news with an immediacy that's unpractical for the ever-thinning ranks of professional photojournalists to cover. But for every amazing amateur photo of a 747 in the Hudson River, there are countless unusable images submitted from every level of spot news.

~~~~~

kyau@tricityherald.com
(509) 585-7205
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