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Hanford (de)tour

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden's visit to Hanford on Tuesday brought a frenzied, but fun change of pace to stories we cover on the nuclear reservation. Working in the Tri-Cities means you don't have to deal with many media scrums. Three TV stations, radio and me is about as big as it gets, and even that full house is uncommon.

Tuesday brought a duo from the Oregonian, two pairs from Seattle TV stations and reporters from the Seattle Times and AP in addition to our local crew. While still far from the real media hordes that roam major disasters, politics and sports, the crowd mixed with Sen. Wyden's entourage and various other officials and media handlers made for some tight working conditions inside historic B Reactor.

And with everybody getting in everybody's way, it just takes extra patience to get some media free shots, like this one from the control room that ran with Annette Cary's story about the senator's support for including B Reactor as part of a National Historic Park:

There was plenty of room for the press conference portions of the tour,

as well as after we left B Reactor, but there was always the chance that somebody was in the scene you were waiting to line up:

It was interesting to see another still shooter in action, though, and a pleasure to chat with the Oregonian's Jamie Francis, who teamed up with Bruce Ely on a spectacular multimedia project about the Columbia River published last fall.

My video of this event was far less spectacular and only drew 30 views as of Thursday:

Compare that with this quickie 360-degree panorama of the vitrification plant I put together with Photosynth on my iPhone:

It got 67 views, which is still pretty pathetic, but the panorama took about the same time to shoot, produce and share online than it did for me to set up my tripod just to record Sen. Wyden's press conference.

It had been a while since I played with that app and I wish I would have done a few more throughout the tour during all the downtime that comes with covering VIPs. And while I shot a few photos with my big-boy camera to pass the time, trotting out the old viewfinder cliché,

and playing with some door frames,

The bulk of my recreational shooting was done with the always fun Hipstamatic app on my iPhone. I even strayed from my usual (virtual) film and lens combos with mixed success while silently snapping the quirky details and media happenings on the tour:

And this is edited down from the 90 or so I shot on my phone in addition to the photo gallery I produced. In some ways I'm thankful to not have to deal with big groups of media regularly on assignment. Already-controlling organizations become even more restrictive as eyes on them multiply exponentially. It can be a pain to compose out the other cameras in your shot as you go with an angle you didn't really want just to avoid that visual clutter.

It's sure to be one of those grass-is-always-greener scenarios, though, and if I ever find myself in a place of perpetually heightened media competition, I'm sure I'll look back sometimes and yearn for the smaller assignments where I'm the only journalist. But while the long, plodding day was only punctuated by the most basic of excitement, upping the level of competition and seeing some new journalists from bigger cities do their thing made it all worthwhile.

Speaking of competition...

It's annual photo competition time and that means the annual ritual of bemoaning over-toned photos. Photoshelter's Allen Murabayashi has an interesting take while looking at the World Press Photo of the Year. Personally, I like the less toned version better, but the final version is not as extreme as I've seen in years past, and if contests are going to repeatedly award photos with extra-dramatic treatment, people are going to keep doing it.

What's really sad is how many countless discussions we can have on the internet about a photo of people carrying dead children and virtually scream at each other about the toning and not the tragic content.

Lens is doing a project for teenage photographers across the country to document their hometowns from a young perspective.

Also on Lens is a thought-provoking interview with Armando Sanchez about looking beyond the literal while photographing.

Somewhat in that vein is a new app that tries to get mobile shooters to slow down and think more before they shoot. It's a cool idea, but how much do you really have to think when you have an unlimited and free supply of virtual film?

And finally, Lucas Carter has a slick website and enticing trailer for his forthcoming documentary Why I Fight.


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