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Photos on the half-shill

Covering local events can sometimes be a challenge when your subject views the local paper as nothing more than free advertising. Nowhere is this more apparent than when I'm tasked with covering an expo or fair.

I usually start with a quick walk through the corridors of people promoting their products to keep an eye out for interesting stalls and vendors who aren't overly interested in me. While I understand the news value in informing our readers of these events, it's hard not to feel like a shill — a feeling that is exacerbated by overzealous vendors who give me the hard sell in an attempt to garner some free publicity.

With those conditions met, shooting a serviceable frame isn't too tough. Amanda Antonio was removing extensions from Whitney Idler's hair at the Tri-Cities Women's Expo, where Victoria's Academy of Cosmetology was one of 140 vendors. A well-placed mirror gave me something to work with:

Dale Haven's ice sculptures were a no-brainer setting to work with at the Three Rivers Bridal Show.

And even though I usually try to feature local businesses, East Bay, Calif., artist Mike Hinch’s quirky figures were too tough to pass up at Custer's 14th annual Christmas Arts & Crafts show.

It’s pretty formulaic, which is nice when getting art from a fair or expo is sandwiched between more complicated or worthy assignments, but it doesn’t go very far in terms of nurturing one’s photographic soul. Believe it or not, I take pride in my work, and if seeing one of my substandard photos in print makes you cringe, you can bet I did so twice as hard. I’ve yet to figure out a more interesting approach, however, and the dingy lighting inside the TRAC and the Three Rivers Convention Center don’t help either.

So when I went to cover CBC’s annual Career Expo last week, I really wanted to try and shoot something different from what I usually do. It helped that there weren’t really any flashy booths for me to work with, so I wandered a bit before trying to get a frame that helped show how busy the expo was — a relevant bit of information in this job climate.

My first angle was too cluttered, with random bits of display boards and banners scattered about, so I didn’t bother working it long enough to capture the numerous expogoers in a better arrangement:

The main atrium of the HUB had much better lighting:

But it just didn’t seem to convey the busy feeling I was going for. Plus, students who weren’t attending the expo were using the HUB as usual, so I thought it might be a bit misleading to run with this as an image to show a busy career expo. I headed back into the Byron Gjerde Center to get something safe, and ended up chatting with Sue Beitlich from the city of Kennewick. They were getting the word out about their online application process, so I waited for her to show it off to the next job seeker. Despite the obnoxiously placed “City of Kennewick” sign, I chose this angle because it showed some of that busy crowd without having a bunch of distracting display boards providing free advertising.

I wasn’t thrilled with the shot, but I went to check out this guy’s story. It turns out that Doug Gruba had been working at Tri-Cities WorkSource helping people find jobs not so long ago, but his contract hadn’t been renewed. It was a good story that ended up being the lead of Pratik Joshi’s article. Although I still like the well-lit shot better, being informative in my job often trumps being aesthetically pleasing.


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