Tri-Cities rolled out a fresh batch of graduates last weekend, but the mutual feeling on the photo staff opposed the impending pomp and circumstance in the days leading up to commencement ceremonies — none more so than I, who had to head back from Boston the day before my kid sister's college graduation to help cover our local high schoolers' milestone.
I'm not downplaying the importance of this milestone, and despite the lack of excitement for covering commencements, the photo staff still busted its collective ass to capture moments for Mid-Columbian high school graduates and their families.
Why all the grumblings then? First, graduation season is one of our crunch times, when everything is happening at once. If you end up covering Connell and Othello, that also means hustling between the two, only getting to cover the beginning of one and the end of the other, which makes it tough to produce a quality photo gallery. Even though we throw back our heads and drag our feet before we cover these events, we'd all rather put in the time and effort to come back with photos we're proud of rather than shootin' and scootin'.
Second, all these ceremonies sort of blur together. Even a n00b like me, who only just finished his third year of covering graduations, is shooting the same types of images over and over, the most ubiquitous being the "kids getting ready" shot:
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which is the most conventional unconventional graduation shot possible.
And you can't forget the hat toss:
Plus the whole ceremony is rife with "Hey! Camera guy! Take my picture!" moments:
Although sometimes, I'm happy with the result:
The repetition was exacerbated by the fact that three of my four graduations were at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. I understand how this is logistically beneficial to the schools, but it's aesthetically brutal for me. The lighting is tough in the tunnels where kids await commencement and it's uncomfortably stuffy:
There are fewer pre-ceremony photos compared to graduations held outside and on the kids' home turf. The most interesting element I spotted was a view from the floor into the tunnels. I made versions of this shot at Richland's graduation:
And again for Hanford, immediately after:
Then I couldn't resist trying one more time the following day at Kamiakin's ceremony:
where I was somehow spotted by the waiting kids. In an effort to avoid repetition in the galleries, I picked the Hanford shot and left the other two as outtakes. While I liked the bigger crowd in the Richland shot, there's a lot of parental camera awareness. I also like the Hanford grad in mid-step. And the most pragmatic reason is because I wanted to beef up the Hanford gallery.
While numerous Richland grads personalized their big moment with actions such as a piggyback ride off stage:
or with a tasteless shirt, as in this outtake:
Hanford's ceremony was sedate. It didn't help that Richland's ceremony went a little long and Hanford's started late, but the Falcons' commencement didn't move at a speed befitting its mascot. And, of course, when one of the very few graduates danced off stage,
I was on the other side. I found myself wandering more than during other ceremonies, restlessly hunting for something interesting:
Kamiakin the next day was more animated and delivered the only beach ball crackdown I saw all weekend:
And also featured Danielle Ello, one of five valedictorians, who not only jumped for joy:
but sang part of her valedictorian speech. By the end, I could definitely empathize with the sound technicians:
who were probably the only people more sick of Toyota Center graduations than me.
I approached my final graduation with mixed feelings. Even though I was happy to be outdoors, it was Pasco's graduation, and that school is notoriously difficult to work with in almost every capacity as a photojournalist.
They didn't disappoint in that respect, denying me access to the students as they walked down the ramp into Edgar Brown Stadium. Then I came across Altagracia Peregrino, who was trying to catch a glimpse of her granddaughter Tania Montes:
which kind of summed up how I felt as I hustled around the stadium, dreading the crowd I would have to fight en route to the stadium floor.
After that initial setback, though, I couldn't have asked for a better commencement, which I will explain with brevity that matches the ceremony (somehow the shortest despite the staggering 534 graduates participating).
There was some fun light:
An active crowd close to the students:
Plenty of sweet little moments:
And best of all, a refreshing rain brief enough to avoid major discomfort, but long enough for a few snaps:
While saying that I'm looking forward to next year's festivities would be a stretch, the fun end to my graduation responsibilities left me with fond memories of this year, and if I did my job right, those memories are now preserved for the community.