While we always rely on the openness of strangers and the help of regular sources to report news and features, I feel more indebted than usual after this year's Water Follies coverage.
After a thrilling and nauseating ride from Will Allen on Thursday, my usual stomp through Art in the Park on Friday mixed with other non-Follies news before sticking around for a friendly R/C hydroplane race between Unlimited driver Jimmy Shane and his crew member Nelson Holmberg:
Holmberg, a regular R/C hydro competitor for about nine years, botched the first turn and flipped his boat on a buoy, ceding victory to first time R/C driver Shane. The fun also had a nice local news hook, as Holmberg had raised $600 for the local chapter of the American Red Cross — money it surely needed in the wake of the recent fire that displaced about 60 residents at Sacajawea Apartments in Pasco.
Saturday brought the real challenge as reporter Tyler Richardson and I set out to report what the boat races are like from the various boats. I had pitched the idea since I've always been curious what the scene is like way out in the flotilla of Follies-goers. That story seemed to be in jeopardy around 11 a.m. after a miscommunication with patrol boat driver Mike Maloof meant he couldn't give us a ride until at least 1 p.m. because of the air show.
Several sweaty expletives and frantic phone calls and texts later, Tyler and I were hustling the three miles west on Columbia Park Trail to the boat launch in hopes of finding another ride out. Thankfully, we caught a lift halfway to Edison Street from a young trio with a white pickup before I ran up on Mario, who was leaving the bird feeding area with his family. Despite my semi-aggressive hitchhiking method, he gave us a ride the rest of the way.
Tyler did some interviews around the dock as I contacted Jesse Medrano and Chris Salinas, whom I'd met earlier in the day. Jesse and his brother Jerry had rented a 59-foot house boat and Tyler and I were hoping to link up with them. Another miscommunication later, and I was yelling at a boat that had just shoved off, asking for a ride. It turned out to be Garrett Spencer, left, Steve Verece and Cody Hancock, all of Olympia, who were in town for a friend's bachelor party:
Thankfully, they gave us a lift out to the house boat, where we hung out for a while, talking to people, making photos and politely declining repeated offers to join in the boozefest.
Jesse even graciously drove us around in his boat for about 30 minutes so Tyler and I could interview and photograph other flotilla party people. And while he and others on the house boat joked about making sure we put them on the front page, they were extremely hospitable and didn't ask for anything in return. The Medranos even own a business, Versatile Media Group in Kennewick, and they weren't constantly talking about it or asking for free promotion in return for their hospitality.
The only problem was getting back. We weren't going to put Jesse out even further and ask him to boat us the 10-minute trip back to the dock, further removing him from the party he'd paid so handsomely to co-host. That route would also require more hitchhiking back to the boat races — an even tougher task by 2 p.m. I called up Mike, the patrol boat driver, who wasn't supposed to go that far and who had enough patrol boat duties that he probably couldn't have if he wanted to.
Tyler flagged down a Benton County Sheriff's boat. They couldn't give us a ride, but they got in touch with another sheriff's boat that could. This was extra fortuitous, since Tyler could interview them for the police angle and I could photograph it. Cpl. Erik Magnuson, Det. Rick Washburn and Deputy Scott Belcher were nice enough to peel away from their duty to give us a lift back to the start and finish line, where we linked up with Mike and tagged along with his girlfriend and her kids on the patrol boat.
The story and photo page turned out pretty well after a dicey start, which actually made the adventure more fun.
Sunday was more boilerplate, with a morning in Pasco and an afternoon back in Kennewick. Once again, thanks to event director Kathy Powell for putting up with my incessant calls and texts with a smile on a weekend that she has a million other things happening. As usual, I was prodding her to get me on a helicopter for the Unlimited Final.
The officials at the golf course seemed pessimistic about my chances to get up. They had smaller helicopters this year due to their regular choppers being tied up fighting wildfires. Kristin from Inland Helicopters in Spokane was helpful, though, and offered to let me join KNDU's Ben Burchfield, which was a relief, since our helicopter selfies have become somewhat of a tradition the last couple years:
And because nobody looked through all 160+ photos I posted, here are my favorites from the weekend:
Also, a big thanks to Steve Andrews, Matt Watkins and Edward DeLorme, who sent us some great shots of the two flips on Sunday, both of which happened at the least-covered area of the course by our staff. Steve's great shot of J. Michael Kelly flipping the Miss Beacon Plumbing went on our front page and Matt's motor-driven series made for a nice animated GIF:
Back in Kai-photo-land, I had just started down my Hipstamatic obsession during last year's boat races, so I decided to annoy all my social media connections with a flood of iPhone snaps throughout via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:
Along with the helicopter finale, the other constant was that Water Follies continued to be the biggest hey-take-my-picture event of the year. I tried to goad a few groups into doing something memorable, but for the most part it was the same ol'. And to all the people who tried to bribe or threaten me to put their group shot on the front page:
Sorry. I hope my blog is a good consolation prize:
All in all, it was the most fun I've had covering Follies yet, which is saying something after the "Best Seat in the House" story from 2010. It's crazy to think that I already have seven Columbia Cups under my belt now, and while I may put pressure on myself to come up with a fresh angle next year, that task will ultimately rely on the kindness of semi-strangers.
Speaking of (the) Stranger...
Dominic Holden shares a ridiculous encounter with Seattle police over at the Seattle Alt Weekly's SLOG blog. Even if Holden was acting more indignant than he says, the police reaction is insane. I've tried to keep up on the news of all these similar incidents, and I can't remember an officer threatening to bother somebody at his or her job in retaliation. Once again, I'm thankful for the positive working relationship we have with most of the local law enforcement around here and hope these incidents become less frequent. It would be naive to think they will, though.
Hupspot has an interesting story of Bohemea's downfall on Tumblr. While the photographer part of me cheers the micro-blogging site's enforcement of copyright infringement, the other part of me thinks that five complaints out of more than 100,000 posts should have warranted a little more consideration on behalf of the blog owner. Still, I hope this becomes a cautionary tale for all the other photo stealers, who...oh geez, how naive can I be?
I've been a fan of local shooter Sonja Yearsley's underwater fashion work for a while. Readers of the actual paper may have seen her work in our Sunday Extra section and water safety guru Mark Allen shot a cool behind-the-scenes video of her at work.
The Strobist, David Hobby, just wrapped a two-part post about how to make the most of a minimal space. Be sure to check out part 1 first.
And finally, Herald reporter Ty Beaver had his honeymoon photos featured on Gawker's Dodge & Burn. I love the opening photo and congrats to him and Jobetta.