Archive for March, 2007

On my way out for a fun night and…

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Life seems to have a bad habit of having random bad things happen when I go out for an evening with the friends. Not bad things happening to me at least, but bad things happening to other people that I then must take photos of.

So I’m driving a few of my friends over to another friend’s new apartment for a night of hanging out. We’re almost there when we turn onto Lake St. only to have it blocked by fire trucks and cop cars.

At this point I know I’m going to be delayed for a little while. Drop my friends, and take the two block walk over to the scene of the accident.

In photojournalism classes they teach students to always have a camera with them. I use my carry around camera very little it seems, yet it comes in so handy. So I did what I could with my little P&S (Point & Shoot).

What amazed me about this is that the other car, a BMW four door, had the front drivers side knocked in a good foot or so, but was otherwise alright. What I would call major damage, but nothing that would make me think that the accident was all that bad. I apparently don’t understand the dynamics of car impacts very well.

At least from what I could see there were no major injuries.


And the joke is….

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Let me start by saying that I work long hours, some weeks, and have to be able to handle a whole variety of situations and reliably be able to get images out of any situation.

That said, today I spent an hour and half shooting at one park, then went and spent an hour and a half at another park, then went to dinner. All of these things were work, on a warm sunny high 70s day.

To hell with offices.

The other thing I always wonder about. Guys like this guy. In town for a conference on bio-engineering or something like that. Hard core science stuff. Looks like a hippie. Looks like the devil with his eyes rolled into the back of his head. Very nice. People like this are what make the world so good.

Are scientists just artists with the good sense not to go into the arts?


Predictability

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Certain events, actually many events, are pretty predictable. It gets to the point that wondering what is going to happen is a nice change of pace.

In this case local teams Fenwick and OPRF face off in water polo. Fenwick wins the state championship most years and is in the final game almost every year. Suffice it to say, this game wasn’t all that competitive and ended at something like 17-2.


Problems with Passion

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As an artist, you have to be passionate about your art. Or at least I can’t see any way of doing your art and not being passionate about it. The two go hand in hand.

I’m also a strong believer that all things which are strengths are also weakness, it just depends on the situation and how you use a particular trait.

The problem here is that sometimes that passion for a work, the passion that existed when creating a work carries on long after the work is complete. This passion can lead to see with tinted glasses.

As an artist unfortunately you have to see your work as what it is sometimes. You have to divorce yourself from that passion that so motivated the creation of the image in the first place. It’s a challenge, or at least it’s a challenge for me. Ultimately I see an image and I remember the conversation I had with the person. I remember how I enjoyed their company and laughed with them and enjoyed an exchange of ideas. None of that matters if it doesn’t show in the picture, but for me, it always shows in the picture somewhat because I was there.

Unfortunately when you have a piece of art you really like, but the circumstances surronding it are painful, to work on the piece and display the piece you have to feel some of that pain each time you deal with the piece.

For me that’s true with my Bed Series. It’s a piece of art I’m pretty proud of, I really enjoy the images from it and the ideas behind it. It also came from a relationship that brought a lot of pain into my life. Happily I’m far enough out of that relationship to work on the piece without the remembered pain being all to bad, but it still has it’s pin pricks and probably always will. But the series of images, as with some of the other images from that relationship, are images I really enjoy and am happy I created. Pain and happiness walking a path together, maybe that should be the synopsis of that whole relationship?

I don’t know how other artists work on pieces that were strongly emotional for them. I just know for me, when I work an image, I feel a little bit of that orginal emotion, the good and the bad. I also know that I can handle that emotion, to a point, and use that emotion to make the work better.

And then at the end of the day I need to set that emotion aside, remember that those days are past days, and go on with today.

My passion has to be there to drive me to create the piece, and edit the piece, and show the piece, but sometimes it also needs to not be there to truly and evaluate the piece, to decide how to use the piece and how to improve it.

Suffice it to say, it’s all a big balancing act.

I’d be curious to hear how others handle this conundrum, let me know if you get the chance.


City

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I’m always working to capture that image that speaks to how the city feels so often; large, busy, overwhelming, hectic.

This is one of those “corners” in Chicago that almost always has that feel. It’s at the intersection of Damen, North, and Milwaukee in the heart of Wicker Park.

This area always has something happening, people moving.

I also just felt like posting a photo.


Because it was a good day

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To be honest, this post is about nothing. I just had a good day, so I felt like throwing something up, but I’ll spin it a bit and make it about the opening of this new bridge.

This is a handy dandy (at least for me) new bridge crossing the Des Plaines River from Forest Park to Maywood. It extends the starting point of the Illinois Prairie Path.

Very importantly, to me, it also means that bicyclists don’t have to try to bike down Madison, a death defying experience some days, to get to the path.

For the photographers out there, may I humbly suggest, get out of your cars. Cars are wonderful, but not for seeing the world. And if you’re going to be a photographer you need to see the world, and get out of the room on wheels that is your car, at least sometimes.

At some point during the spring, I always like to do a few assignments on my bike. I find I can do spring shots better that way. I can see the smaller details, express the feeling of the season better, be more open to the experience of spring because I’m feeling it, because I’m in it.

It’s not practical, working on a bike. Who wants to have 10k in equipment on a bicycle? But if the equipment isn’t capturing the images, why own it at all?

Anyhow, enough subject matter. I had a good day. I like that.


Plains in the big city

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I love the city. Couldn’t live without it, but as with many people, some days I can’t live with it.

Getting “out of town” requires a bit of effort when you live in Chicago. First you’ve got to get at least sixty miles from downtown because the city itself stretches a long ways. Then you’ve usually got to drive at least another hour or so to get past the corn fields. Welcome to the Midwest.

My solution for getting “getting out of town,” when I’ve only got a short a while to do so. Northerly Island.

Northerly Island, isn’t really an island, and isn’t really north of much of anything, it’s pretty central. It is right off of downtown Chicago, it is pretty reasonably large, and has some relation to the plains that this area used to have. Though Northerly Island itself is a man-made island.

For anyone who played with Microsoft’s Flight Simulator it was the starting point of that game. It used to be known as Meigs Field. An airport off of downtown Chicago on Lake Michigan.

We’re going to ignore the fact that it was 70 degrees and somewhat sunny the other day, and that I felt like being outside.

Northerly Island is also a place where you can have some wide open space, on the lake, but within sight of the city.

It also makes an odd statement being a man made version of the nature that used to exist in this part of the country, while yet overlooking downtown Chicago. All the tall buildings being the first thing you see.

It also to me says something about what we, we as in Americans, have destroyed, reduced and otherwise left behind. It makes me want to get out of Chicago for a few days. Alas, that will have to wait till summer. And that’s fine, I’d prefer the nice weather. But for an afternoon hike I’ll take Northerly Island.

Also, if you want to buy either of this images as print, go here. There are also a couple more images available for purchase.


More from the cutting room floor

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The ongoing complaint of every photojournalist, every photo department, the paper never runs the photos they should run.

I can’t change this at my paper, at least not quickly. It doesn’t seem most photographers can change this at their papers. So we all end up with piles and files of photos that we, the photographers, think should have run, but never did.

So I’m now going to run them here, at least from time to time.

Having shot basketball for the last few months, you would think my editors would be tired of printing lay-up shots. Nope, not even close. In game that was about stiff defenses, hard fouling, rebounds and turnovers, not a single one of those images ran.

Oh well. At least I’ve got them, and they make me happy. At the end of the day what else can I ask for?

So just to provide some context for these images.

This was the lowest scoring championship game in Illinois AA Girls basketball history.

Turnovers we’re happening left and right, shots weren’t sinking very often. Elbows seemed very…let’s call it free, under the basket.

This was, as has been widely reported, a game based on defense.

Maybe these shots don’t show the victorious Fenwick Friars looking victorious, but they do show the game more as it was. Hard fought, and close till the very end.


This program was modified to fit the time available

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Weaknesses are strengths, and strengths are weaknesses. The only difference between the two are how you choose to use the inherent qualities of something. One way makes a quality a strength, one situation makes it a strength, another situation or use makes it a weakness.

Audio slide shows, for the most part, have to be kept pretty short. People just don’t watch them for that long. Or at least that’s what I’m always told, and that’s what I do.

So the rough figure is that you have about 2 minutes of time to keep viewers attention on a website. This means my recent Chiditarod audio slide show had to hit about 2 minutes. This also means some real beauties of quotes got left out.

This includes the winning team captain talking about his various forms of sabotage; replacing race maps with fake race maps, shoving opponents into snow banks, various forms of bribery, taping opponents wheels so they wouldn’t roll and tying carts together. Also cut, a good 45 seconds of the judges bragging, outright bragging, about their bribes (transformers, head rubs, 3 shots, cupcakes, chocolates, you get the idea.) And after listing all this off, “It was pretty awesome.” I also had to lose a woman saying she was going to get the next round. I really wanted this to get the drinking end across, but alas it had to be surrendered to the time goods.

Ya gotta love competitions that encourage cheating.

On the other side of the coin being forced into a tight edit usually makes the piece better overall. It makes the final piece tighter, more focused, which tends to be a good thing. It tells a better story for it’s shortness.

Also check out the coverage by Matt Bigelow, good stuff (video also available through Methods Reporter). Always love seeing all the different views of the same event.


A Good Day, or the end of creative constipation

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So I think I’ve mentioned a couple of time over the few weeks that I just haven’t found anything, any stories that have really got my blood flowing.

I, like most artists, need a subject to be working on, a piece to be completing. Otherwise I just feel like I’m missing something, and something vital to me.

The advantage to journalism is that different subjects are put in front of me day after day. This means, if for no other reason than the sheer chance of numbers, that one of these assignments will eventually turn into something interesting, into something more than an assignment, and more about me creating something I want to create for my own reasons.

So I got lucky and got one and half of those in one day, and it was a damn long day.

The one, the main one, was covering Chicago’s Chiditarod. It’s a grocery cart race around Chicago’s northwest side with bar hoping interwoven. Basically the competitors run from bar to bar, where they must wait, until they get to the end. The different teams all go with themes; secret service, bunnies, team zissou, etc, and the associated costumes. The grocery carts are usually decorated also.

Basically it’s a reason for a bunch of people to act silly, dress silly, and drink. Good time for all. Not to mention very easy to get a fair number of decent photos out of.

For me it’s a chance to work on something more interesting than “this week’s business feature is…” It’s a chance for me to have a story that makes me want to create something cool. A chance to make something longer and with at least a tad more depth. It’s not the long-term story I’m still looking for, but it’s a nice filler for a while, and I should be proud of it when I’m done.

I’m hoping to turn it into a audio slide show in the next day or two. Just got to do the computer work now.

That was my morning assignment. As soon as I got done with that I got packed and made a two hour drive down state to the girls high school state basketball championship.

Typically sports kind of bore me. They’re a bit repetive and we rarely run anything too different photographically. State championships though can be more fun, if for no other reason than there is more energy and emotion.

So I spent the night shooting Fenwick winning state. I got a lot of jube (jubilation) shots out of the deal plus some good action shots. The tighter the game usually the better the action shots.

I’ve shot state championship many times before, and I’ve shot losing teams before, and I get good shots out of those, but they’re just not as much fun as winning teams. Anything you photographic the emotions of the subject are going to effect your emtions. Does it really need to be said that over-whelming happiness beats saddness?

Now I need to turn all the basketball images into a slide show. The other thing about a good day, is that it tends to be followed by a few long days to get all the back end work done.

A good morning of shooting a fun subject and a night of shooting shooting good sports with good celebration.

A good day, all and all.