When I first started seriously making photos a few years ago, finding an interesting angle was everything to me. I’d spastically scuttle around whatever scene I was working in search of holes or interesting frames to shoot through. Potentially informational elements were often reduced to OOF (out of focus) blobs since I’d just discovered the joys of shooting wide open.
Lighting, and more importantly, the moment, were unfortunate afterthoughts during this stage of development. As soon as a face appeared in whatever mini frame I was sniping, I’d click and hustle off to my next creative destination.
Needless to say, I ended up with a lot of potentially cool frames that lacked any substance or emotion. Over time, I learned to be more selective about where I camped and more patient about working each scene.
Most recently, I went to photograph the tours aboard the Lady Washington, which recently returned to the area. I wanted to shoot something different from our coverage in May — a tall order considering the 90-image photo gallery we published back then.
I picked out a spot underneath the stairs that went into the ship’s main hold and was able to snap a frame fairly quickly:
There was a time in which I would have seen this on the back of my camera and strutted off, brimming with self-satisfaction about having captured something most people would not have noticed. I kept at it a little longer and came up with this:
College photo Kai would have hurried up the stairs to get the kid’s name, but he would have missed what I was finally happy with:
Wanda Schaben, left, of Kennewick watches as Savanna Kephart, 7, of Spokane descends into the ship's main hold with her family, while first mate Jeremiah Gempler of Boise works to fix the ship's clock. Kephart, a pirate fanatic, got to give her Halloween costume a test run. "She's been dying to wear it all week," says mom Shelley. "I didn't tell her until we got here. I couldn't have dealt with her talking about it the whole way down."
Wait, your socks are still on? The earth did not crumble under your feet when this photo was published? OK, fair enough. This photo won’t win any contests, but I like the moment and think it communicates what these tours are like. The ship’s crew continues to work as people look around and live out mini pirate fantasies. I would have liked it even more if Savanna had paused right there for a second to get rid of the motion blur and had a more excited look on her face, but the fact that she happened to descend while Jeremiah was still working on the clock, the face of which was now turned toward me instead of downward, Wanda stayed put and looked toward the light, and that Savanna was even wearing a pirate costume was serendipitous enough to shut up a whiner like me. And it’s still my favorite shot from my day with the tall ship.
Besides skill, patience and anticipation, however, there’s always a dose of luck involved in making shots like this, and sometimes, luck’s influence is felt far away from where the photo was made.
Back in September, I covered a volleyball match between Southridge and Eisenhower. Usually, volleyball photos run small somewhere deep inside the sports section, but on this Tuesday night, there weren’t any national or regional stories to hog the front of the sports section. Knowing this, I decided to go for a wide-angle shot.
Volleyball is a pretty tough sport to shoot and getting a good wide-angle shot is something I’ve struggled with in the past. The fast moving sport employs a lot of misdirection and getting the right stuff in focus can be challenging. Fortunately, Southridge has one of the brightest gyms in the area. I shot plenty of CYAs first, before devoting the rest of my time to wide angle shooting and managed to grab this:
It was extra fortunate that the shot featured Meagan Doyle, one of two players sports reporter René Ferrán was highlighting in the story. Even better was the inclusion of Eisenhower’s star player, Tori Fisher. While it may not seem incredible that outstanding players showed up in a photo, more often than not, my best shots seem to end up highlighting the least influential players.
I decided to go wide again at a recent soccer match between Kamiakin and West Valley. It had been a while since I last tried to capture a goal from behind the net, another angle with which I’ve had limited success. This opportunity was made tougher by varying cloud cover, which changed the exposure at inopportune moments.
It brightened up suddenly as Kamiakin’s Kristyn Bohlander shot one past West Valley’s Lee Hanses:
And with the approaching action, I didn’t think to double-check my exposure, slightly overexposing the frame, but thankfully not blowing out all the highlights. I was happy, but not thrilled. Better anticipation would have placed me a few steps left to get a better angle on our local player, but I had my photo, so I waited for the scoreboard to change to snap a visual note reminding me which point that was.
It never changed, however, so I started to worry that there had been a penalty I had missed. Sure enough, I found out after the game that Bohlander had been offside, nullifying the goal and any reason to publish the photo. I apparently missed the ruling while chimping and critiquing my photo.
I tried to hide my disappointment as I strolled back to my car, not that anybody would notice or care, but a parent had complimented me on my photos from the week before, when Kamiakin defeated Southridge:
And since compliments provide me with more sustenance than food does, I wanted to get something cool. As I looked through my take, there weren’t very many options since I had devoted much of the second half to camping behind the goal.
This shot of Kamiakin’s Shannon Gunion going up against West Valley’s Ashley Richardson was a no-go. Besides having run a header shot the week before, it’s an awkward moment:
I almost went with this one of Kamiakin’s Madi Meyer and the rest of the team defending a corner kick:
But it’s not the best angle and timing on the moment, and really, the only thing I like is the odd arrangement of players. It’s different for the sake of being different, and that’s no good.
I went with Kamiakin's Jori Skorpik (1) and Chandra Stevenson battling for the ball against West Valley's Lindsay Burns:
It’s nothing special, but we shoot those CYA photos for a reason, and sometimes even the best intentions and effort results in the need to cover your own ass.