For my sixth Water Follies, I was over it before it even began. A jarring announcement of more than 40 people losing their jobs just two weeks before the biggest event of the year knocked the survivors down a few pegs. After making it through five rounds of layoffs and buyouts in 4 1/2 years here, the mantra of "at least I still have a job" felt ever more empty.
The here-we-go-again nature of these announcements mirrors the draining feeling of covering Water Follies as well. I once again assumed the role of rover, while Bob Brawdy manned a scissor lift by the land-based "barge," Paul Erickson rocked the pits and Rich Dickin was stranded on an island in Pasco.
I had been trying to come up with another fun feature angle that would be as interesting to cover as the riverside homes I photographed two years ago, but didn't have much until Saturday morning, when I decided to focus on the games people play on the Pasco side. There's a lot more lawn and beach space over there and there were plenty of ways for adults and children to pass the time.
Leading the way was Don Kearns of Benton City, who gave me a good quote when I asked about the arm he lost 20 years ago in a hunting accident: "I've never let it stop me. Plus, I got a built-in excuse if I mess up."
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It makes for a decent photo essay, but they're almost all activities I'd photographed before, save the beer ski. I was happy to have that adult angle incorporated though, because as much as Water Follies has become a family affair, there are still plenty of people who go to party.
I also made sure to hit up the beer garden in Kennewick on Sunday for some drinking photos and found Marlee Rice and Brandi Mackenzie from British Columbia dancing up a storm. The highlight was Brandi accidentally smacking the drink out of Marlee's hand with her camera:
Here's the whole sequence:
It was fairly sedate besides that, though, and I geared up for a helicopter ride for the Unlimited Finals. Even that refreshing aerial perspective felt a little stale this year despite being at turns one and two instead of three and four like in previous years. It did give me a different backdrop for the lines of boats and a different angle of light,
but it was also a lot of rehashing old shots,
and getting reminded of what I would much rather be doing:
I also unknowingly stumbled into getting a photo of the infraction that cost Steve David a victory,
I did decide to mix things up a bit with video this year, and I'm thankful I did, or the whole year would have felt like Groundhog Day sans Andie MacDowell. You can see the result embedded at the top of this post, which I titled A Columbia Cup Minute.
Instead of following the basic newspaper video format of official-explains-event-while-b-roll-silently-shows-event, I decided to try cutting together quick clips to capture the basic feeling of Water Follies. Over the course of three days, I shot about 40 minutes of footage and scrambled to distill it down to one. I wish I had better closing clips and made some of the cuts even quicker, but I'm happy with how it turned out.
Some of the longer clips were from a GoPro camera that Paul Erickson loaned me, and I wish I would have taken better advantage of its waterproof case. Still, I got a pretty fun first-person view from the Air National Guard's Gyro Ball, also linked above, as well as a trip inside the kid zone bounce house courtesy of Xavier Zavala, 11. His help turned into a quick couple jumps for the video, but here's the whole thing:
It's funny to see his little arms swinging as he runs toward the bounce house and I want a GoPro for myself now. The only thing I don't like about it is how the wide angle really emphasizes the stick-like nature of my arms as I turn it on and off.
I've got the same weird tan lines, similar photos and stories to share. After six trips, I don't know how else to cover it. At least I have a whole year to figure that out.
If I still have a job by then.
For more of my photos from the weekend:
And for sports the whole world cares about...
The L.A. Times' Jay Clendenin bridged that old-time feel with modern equipment in his portraits of Olympians by shooting a version with a 4x4 field camera and a lens that's more than 100 years old. Framework also has a feature about the epic hurry-up-and-wait game of Olympic photo coverage. Across the country, the New York Times takes a look at what goes into getting those amazing underwater photos of swimming and diving.
The Strobist has a new DIY project for a portable studio that looks pretty snazzy and ties in well with his sponsors.
And check out this chilling rundown of the tough situations photojournalists have found themselves in, and how they grapple with the moral dilemmas of whether they should have intervened.