Thursday, February 28, 2008

I like disco dance

"Towson University students dance and sing during a dance rehearsal of "Front and Center," the last of the 13 pieces being presented in "conVERGEnce" in the Center for Arts Wednesday night. All of the pieces in the concert were choreographed by 19 senior dance students for the major's capstone class."

Wednesday night I shot a dance rehearsal of senior dance majors at Towson University. It was nothing near what Borat calls, " I like-ah disco dance" (Don't you love user generated content on YouTube! that is far from the original, ha).

Having recently recovered from the flu, it was to be back on my feet. Last Saturday night after shooting back-to-back sporting events, I grabbed a quick dinner at Bateman's and the went home to relax and watch a movie.

Having never seen it, I randomly began watching "Poltergeist." I made it all the way to what was probably the last 15 minutes of the film when my stomach swiftly started turning and twisting. Something was not right.

Next thing I knew, dinner was no longer in my where I had placed it two hours before. Feeling significantly better after being sick, I thought it was only food poisoning. Too bad that notion only lasted maybe an hour before I relapsed and was on the bathroom floor all night into the morning.

From that point on, I never left my bathroom or bed for the next two days. I am still not feeling perfect, but hey, at least I am up and active again.

Anyways, since I was out of the office and class Monday, the other photogs kindly picked up my slack, so I didn't have anything to shoot other than the dancers on Wednesday.

Assignments such as these are always what I call a easy shoot, tough edit. They are very visual and are catered to the audience. Thus meaning, the performers are dressed nicely, the stage is free of clutter and the lighting is impeccable.

You typically have to scout out vantage points in advance and make sure when you move, it's, quietly, when you're allowed and not to get in the way of the routines.

Also, when you do shoot, it has to the frame you want, no motor driving away. I don't think the performers, nor the staff would like a noisy photographer walking in everyones way.

Thus was the case last night. Although a full dress rehearsal, they were video taping. So I could only move between dance segments.

When I walked in, I saw the stacked lights and knew I wanted one photo to be from the back stage area. I liked image, but not for my lead. From backstage, I moved to the catwalks and made a couple frames, but wanted to stay away from the aerial, above image.

So then I finally made to the floor for the last performance. Sitting on the stage right in front of the performers, I saw the ceiling lights and started working with them. I kept waiting for the perfect layered frame, when one of the dancers dropped a huge prop purse right in front of me and my camera on the floor. I was forced to move slightly to my left and make the above frame.

It's not exactly what I wanted, but it works. Back to why I call this assignment a easy shoot, tough edit.

Normally on an assignment, I'll know in advance at least three solid images I'll want want to edit, caption and move once downloaded.

However, stage performance assignments with limited room to work, you have a lot of frames that appear nearly identical. Thus meaning you have go back through your images multiple times, even if you've already made note of which ones you like (this is called tagging in the photo world. It's done in camera and you can bring up only those images when editing).

Not sure what I have coming up the next couple of days, but I am jam-packed with school work. It's going to be a long weekend once I find out what I need to shoot on top of writing a five page paper, a 650-word article, study for a mid-term and do some Web site design work all before Monday.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Loyola love

"Loyola College attackman Collin Finnerty (no.20) celebrates his game-tying goal assisted by Shane Koppens (no.8) during the second quarter against Towson University, Saturday, Feb.23, 2008. Finnerty's goal ignited a six-goal run by the Greyhounds and eventually to a 13-8 victory."

Yes. That is snow. Yes. It was too cold to be playing lacrosse. Yes. I still had a blast.

Despite a winter storm Friday, which was more ice and rain than snow, the NCAA lacrosse season still began in Baltimore on Saturday and I was pumped.

Temperatures hovered in the mid-30s, the field was soaked and the possibly of rain lingered in the air. Not a typical day for a lacrosse game.

When I think of lacrosse, I think of 70 degree, sunny weather; or as I call it, shorts and a long sleeve weather.

So when I woke up hearing the game was still on after snow and ice blanketed Baltimore, I was a bit surprised.

Having played lacrosse since the age five, I cannot remember playing or even practicing with snow on the ground aside from my senior year in high school. A blizzard covered the region and our practice field. Since high school lacrosse starts on March 1 every year, to be practicing on a parking lot for a month was extraordinary.

To this date, it was the only time I ever saw snow effect lacrosse, although I am sure it has effected the game when I was not actually on an organized team.

Nonetheless, I was happy to be outside and off the basketball court. Since December, my sports shooting has been mainly basketball. Although I don't mind basketball, being confined indoors really makes you miss outdoor field sports.

This afternoon Loyola College helped Towson University open their season; with a loss. This is Towson's 50th season and I needed not only to cover the action of the game, but try to recreate an image from the early documented years of the program.

While my recreation image (not pictured) is not nearly as cool as Scott Strazzante's "Another Country" I am positive it will communicate that the program has come a long way.

As for game action, I am happy with my take, but more happy with my jubilation images of Loyola. I don't know why, but lacrosse makes some of the best celebration images of compared to any other college sports I've ever covered. Whether it's a single goal during the first two minutes of play or a game-winning score in the remaining seconds,lacrosse players know how to celebrate.

They're are not always wild, but they are passionate.

Speaking of jubilation pictures, hopefully I'll make a couple keepers during the MIAA championship basketball game tomorrow evening.

edit: Last night the flu hit me like a truck. I'll be down for a couple of days, so posting may be slower than normal.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Slow snow day

"A light snow blanketed everything but cement surfaces on campus Wednesday afternoon. The snow was not enough to cancel classes, and more winter precipitation is expected Thursday night into Friday, according to the National Weather Service."

Wednesday has been the slowest day of the year. I don't have classes on Wednesday, but I do have production for The Towerlight. From the moment I woke up, I knew it would be a dull day.

I started my day shooting a restaurant review and that would be the highlight of my day. Depressing, right?

The real reason my day was such a drag was because of the visual we used on the cover. Now, I am not one to chop liver, and I easily get along with everyone, but recent ideas pitched for visuals has been driving me a bit insane.

For tomorrow, the cover story is about the debate of whether or not students should be allowed to carry concealed handguns on college campus' for protection in lieu of recent college shootings, including Virgina Tech and Northern Illinois University.

While some wanted a cutout, I wanted a human angle.

As I said yesterday, illustrations, although necessary at times, are meaningless in my opinion. Any article, no matter how boring, will always be more meaningful and interesting to the reader if they can relate a the story with a human.

Even if a illustration is called for, it should at least include relevant statistics relating to the story. Cutting out a photo and slapping it haphazardly on the page does not make a reader want to pick up the paper.

For this story, I pitched the idea to find students who already practice safe (or unsafe) gun control. For example, go to the gun range with them, or go to the gun range and get a detailed photo of a certified instructor firing a handgun properly. Possibly find students in a gun club or anti-gun club on campus. These were only a few of my suggestions.

So last night, although I fought and fought to get a human angle to the art on the front page, we were still left with no photo assignment for cover Wednesday on deadline.

To my dismay, and at 6:00 p.m., I complied to shoot a fake gun.

It's frustrating to me when we run a cutout, it's a photo that anyone would could take. I would much rather run a compelling photo rather than cutout with a story.

Week after week I pitch my ideas for what makes the better art, that tells the story, rather than what may always be listed on the assignment. Cutouts simply don't do justice. Am I wrong here?

Nonetheless, the cover looked good since we went a step beyond just putting a cutout gun on the cover. We listed facts and changed the type to help grab the readers attention.

But I was still upset with my day, I didn't have any other assignments and there was no room in the paper for a snow feature. Knowing that, I just wanted to clear my mind by shooting. However, my above snow feature was all I could find worth posting for the day since I limited myself to campus. Ugh.

Ehh, I guess this is my bad day of the month. Tomorrow is only a day away.

Well, that ends my rant. My freelance assignment tonight was canceled because of the light snow, which is OK with me. It will give me a little time to catch up on some school work and possibly catch a glimpse of the Lunar Eclipse.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Texting troubles

"As text messaging has increased in popularity among students, some professors have enforced strict cell phone polices in the classroom, raising questions about public safety."

On Sunday afternoon my phone rang during my third assignment of the day, "Hey, Pat. We need a visual of college kids text messaging." So I packed up my gear during half time of the women's basketball, headed back to the office and moved the game images.

I had absolutely no idea what I would shoot for text messaging other than, well, students doing the deed. No, not that deed.

As I made my way across campus, randomly peeking into bistros and eateries along my stroll I saw no students. It was empty. Empty like a Friday afternoon on campus during summer. Then I realized, no students were going to be on campus since it was Sunday.

Resorting to my last option, I opted to find some random students eating at the restaurant in the University Union and make a photo illustration. These students, not knowing it at the time, would be my models for the next four and half minutes.

During my first semester at Towson University, I was told week after week to produce photo illustrations. It tore me up on the inside.

Illustrations, although necessary at times, are meaningless in my opinion. Any article, no matter how boring, will always be more meaningful and interesting to the reader if they can relate a the story with a human.

But in this case, rushing on deadline, not much to work with on campus, I needed to make a visual as soon as possible. I told my willing, helpful students to simply stand in place and text while I shot some frames.

I really was hoping for five or more students in the image, with them all at different levels of the frame to give it some depth. But working with the room I had and the time I had, I kept things to the point.

Papers seemed to move well yesterday morning, whether or not my visual helped that will never be determined.

As for my own thoughts on the story of professors taking away cell phones or not allowing them in class, I could careless. I mean, I do keep mine on vibrate and do check my incoming e-mails and text messages, as I never know who or what it might be about. It could be an assignment, it could be a random friend or it could be an emergency text alert about troubles on campus.

I'd surely put in question if a professor tried to take my personal property.

Then again, if I was being disrespectful and an annoyance I would be understanding. But I am respectful toward my professors and I've had them all in the past, or at least knew of them before hand. In addition, I pay attention and don't sit there and play games on my phone much like other peers.

Now with the situation I'll be covering tomorrow, I am not sure where I stand yet: Students being allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus.

On a unrelated note, I'll be glad to get away from shooting anything with lights or portraits. This past week has included one or the other, if not both.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Throw some text on it

"Towson University lacrosse players Brian Vetter, left, and Hillary Fratzke pose for The Towerlight Spring sports preview cover, Thursday, Feb.14, 2008."

The Towerlight started a magazine style theme with our special sport previews last year and we've been running with it since.

The tri-annual sport preview does exactly what it says: previews each sport for the coming season. For myself, I am instructed to shoot a simple portrait for cover, with intentional head space, which will then be accompanied with a banner behind the player’s heads and some more text/slogans overlaying the players. Although I am typically against a bunch of text and a magazine look in a newspaper, I think it works for these special sections.

I had seen a portrait of a businessman in front of glass like this and wanted to try it myself in a different way. I also wanted the light to fall off the players faces into a black, silhouetted look.

The problem was finding glass that resembled the photograph I had seen or finding an alternative solution. I did not want to shoot the players on a solid backdrop, as I did that for the basketball preview.

It had to pop and grab the reader’s attention, because the special pull-out section is buried in the middle of the paper. Without any notice, one may simply turn past the cover and be lost inside the paper (Figures, not one editor gave readers any notice about it in today's paper, not even sports).

To my surprise, the glass I was looking for was conveniently located in the newest building on campus in the Center for Arts. Since I preconceived my photo weeks in advance, I had already tested my idea; I only needed players in uniform.

However, that was the challenging part. The new sports editor decided to tell me the sports preview would be coming out Sunday, on Wednesday night. Not only did he give me little to no time, he also didn't supply me with any player’s phone numbers or availabilities.

Although I normally setup all my portraits in advance anyways, trying to schedule student athletes is always very difficult due to their class and practices times.

The above image was shot on a Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. Thankfully, I had no problems getting the players uniforms other equipment.

Overall, the spring preview came together nicely. It could have been better though.

You can view the original image here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Big 3: Lacrosse Preview

"Towson University's Britt Woodfield, Hillary Fratzke and Meggie McNamara, left to right, now in their third season, have been fixtures in the starting lineup since their freshman year. They will be relied upon heavily to carry the heavy load of postseason aspirations when the Tigers' season begins on Saturday."

It's my favorite time of the year: Lacrosse season.

If I could only watch one sport for the rest of my life, it would be lacrosse. There is nothing like it in the world. I grew up playing "the fastest game on two feet" since I was five-years-old and played my final game my freshmen year of college.

Although I enjoyed playing the game my entire life, I knew I'd rather be shooting photos and working on building a career, so I left it in my past. However, each year I miss it so much as I shoot an NCAA game each weekend.

With the season starting a week from tomorrow, I've been shooting a lot of portraits for The Towerlight spring preview.

This afternoon, I shot Towson University junior women lax players Britt Woodfield, Hillary Fratzke and Meggie McNamara. The three have been fixtures in the starting lineup since their freshman year and will be relied upon heavily to carry the heavy load of postseason aspirations.

The new sports editor gave me very little notice about all the portraits he needed for the special section, so I wasn't given much time to produce ideas. I originally planned to keep all the portraits similar with a theme, but with the small margin of time to complete the shots, I was forced to change my plans.

For the above, I showed up 30 minutes before the three girls had to go to practice. Although filled with smiles, the girls insisted to be "all business." It was a fairly simple portrait and I relied on my lighting to make them pop a little bit more than I usually do with lit portraits.

The day was overcast, but just as we were wrapping up, the bright sun and a glimpse of blue in the sky peered out from the cloudy skies. It was just enough time to shoot a couple more frames and get a little more color to the image.

"The Big Three" as referred to by the sports desk, seemed to like the image. For being standard, I like the image, too.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

To the left and to the right

"Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., makes a joke about Republicans voting for him during a speech in during campaign rally at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Md., Monday, Feb. 11, 2008."

As mentioned in my two previous entries, I covered two different presidential candidates over the weekend. One a front running Democrat and the other a trailing Republican.

I am not making any predictions, but after seeing the difference between the two campaigns, I am willing to bet a Democrat will be put in office. Now, I am not the most political savvy person and I don't get into heated debates about the stuff, but it’s a clear who has more support from voters.

Shooting the Huckabee rally this past weekend was completely different than Obama on Monday and each of these campaigns had positives and negatives aspects.

First, I was told by the publication I was shooting for that I needed no credentials and no pre-registration for the Huckabee event. "Just show up and shoot." I did just that and wasn't once asked for a credential or who I was shooting for. Although I arrived early, I could have easily came precisely at the speaking time and had zero problems with parking or walking right in.

In addition, the access was great. I wasn't limited to one area or riser. I freely roamed the base of the stage or the "pit" and it wasn't prohibited to wade through the crowd of 400 or more supporters.

I not only got great images of Huckabee, but of his supporters, students and others in attendance. It was nice to get a variety of images from a bunch of different locations in the ballroom. However, the crowd was not nearly as energetic as his male Democratic opponent and didn't barer many signs.

For the Obama rally in Baltimore, I was told I needed to be signed up as media 24 hours in advance online. Once logged into the system up, a credential would be left at the door when I checked in at the event. There was no given speech time, so I had to arrive very early and be ran through a security check point. Basically a quick scan by metal detector and have all my equipment scanned, inspected by police.

Between waiting in line and having my gear inspected, this took about 30 minutes. Makes you wonder why they go through the trouble of doing this at some candidate’s speeches and not at others.

If it wasn't for the fake media or as I called them the "basement built media" the event may have been a bit smoother. There were many photographers in the media check in that clearly weren't apart of any media. They had made a phony credential and brought a bunch of consumer equipment with them. I am talking point-and-shoots on monopods. Seriously, my golden retriever dog could have gotten in the media entrance if she had a camera on her collar.

Anyways, I don't want to rant about that too much, because they didn't get the better access, I guess it was know they were phony.

Once inside the wait was nearly three hours before Obama took the stage. My access was limited to the riser directly in front of the stage with all the other legitimate media. I could also roam on the floor in front of the riser and to one side, but that was about all I got. I couldn't get into either crowd sections and not anywhere near the pit.

I did try, but my yellow sticker on my credential was the same as wearing a vest saying, "Don't allow this dude into the crowd."

I guess the main down side was not being able to get supporter reactions, which was a bummer.

Nonetheless, these two events were a lot of fun, and although I got little sleep I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Well, my weekend is packed with work, so I am sure I’ll have plenty to update with.

My other main shooter at The Towerlight is going out of town, so I have to take in his assignments on top of mine. It’s going to be another long weekend and to be honest; I am not looking forward to it.

I’ve been shooting at least two assignments every day in combination with going to school for the past seven days straight. I have had no free time whatsoever, and I don’t think I am about to break this streak anytime soon.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


"Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., addresses more than 10,000 cheering supporters during a campaign rally at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Md., Monday, Feb. 11, 2008."

Wow. What a difference shooting Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama last night was in comparison to Republican presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee Saturday.

I was originally suppose to cover an Obama rally in Virginia on Sunday, but had something change last minute, so I never made it down. However, I knew I'd be covering his campaign rally in Maryland Monday, so I didn't sweat it too much.

The assignment came in Sunday and I was scheduled for 1st Mariner at 2:15 p.m. instead of College Park. Although listed as 2:45 p.m., it wasn't too clear what time Obama would actually be addressing the crowd.

I arrived at promptly at 2:15 p.m., only to wait 30 minutes at the media gate before gaining access. Not a day anyone wanted to be waiting outside either, as the temperatures hovered around 20 degrees.

Once inside, I bumped into fellow shooter Kevin Dietsch who shoots for UPI. Kevin and I, although not shooting for the same press, shot together at Preakness in 2007. I was glad Kevin was there, as what was suppose to be an original speaking time of 3:30 p.m., turned into a 4:00 p.m., which eventually turned into a 5:25 p.m. stage arrival.

Needless to say, the supporters, fans, entire crowd and media patiently waited for nearly three hours. I didn't mind the wait, but the same three songs were on repeat an driving me insane. "Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley..."

As we stood, sat, talked and played on our phones to burn time, CNN finally rushed to their spots onto the risers in front of us. Obama was due out any minute now.

Once Obama made his appearance, the crowd went crazy. It was electrifying. It reminded me of when I shot Maryland gubernatorial election night in 2006, when at the time, Mayor Martin O'Malley won the race.

Now, I am not making any predictions, but it was a lot different than shooting the Huckabee rally this past weekend.

While Huckabee gathered maybe 400 people, Obama rallied more than 10,000. The crowd was a lot more energetic and roared every time Obama said anything.

Each of these campaigns had positives and negatives, but I'll save that for my next post. Check back tomorrow for some more images, too.

I am not sure what images will run where, so I will share some more simplistic images tomorrow.

Thanks to Jazzmen, former Towerlight news editor, huge Obama supporter and current WMAR ABC2 intern for today's blog title.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Huckabee holds on

"Republican presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks during a rally at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., Saturday, Feb. 9, 2008."

I got the opportunity Saturday afternoon to shoot Republican presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.

With Maryland primary elections on Tuesday, all the hopeful candidates are making appearances for speeches or rallies. I’ve only shot gubernatorial elections when it comes to politics, so I had a blast.

Sure, he can't mathematically win because he can't get enough delegates to support him, but that hasn't hindered the campaign. I mean, he could still win, but it's just very unlikely.

It was also known the crowd and media wouldn't be as massive as say the Clinton or Obama rallies, but we still arrived about two hours early.

To burn time, I walked around College Park, the university that never responded to my application whether or not I got in. After walking for only 10 minutes, I realized the campus was not only monstrous, but way better than Towson in many aspects. Too bad I am graduating sometime this year or I'd transfer.

Anyways, around noon the ball room where the rally was being held starting filling up. I would estimate around 500 people squished into the alloted area.

This event was very fun to shoot, although more or less a speech, the action of the crowd and Huckabee had me darting back and forth in front of the stage constantly.

About halfway through the speech, I stopped shooting and took a peek of my surroundings. Although there is only so much you can work with during an event like this, I saw many different angles and images.

I would love to comment more on this event and my day, but this week has been non-stop shooting. I promise to update this post with more images, but this lack of sleep is beginning to take a toll on me physically. I need some shut eye.

Until tomorrow, check out my ten favorite images from the rally on my Sports Shooter page.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Primary persuasion

"Actor Kal Penn, who starred in the 2004 movie "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," speaks in support of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama at Towson University, Friday, Feb.8."

With the primary elections happening in Maryland on Tuesday, the buzz of political power has been resonating everywhere.

All the big candidates are expected to make appearances in the area between Saturday and Monday. I've never shot a presidential rally, so I don't know what to expect the next couple of days other than tons of traffic, in my car and on my feet, and tons of other media.

Starting off my campaigning photo spree was Actor Kal Penn, who starred in the 2004 movie "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle." Kumar as students called him, I called him Taj from the film "Van Wilder," spoke in support of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama at Towson University on Friday.

As always at Towson, a poor turnout for the event. I counted 20 students, one photographer and five television videographers. The media made up a large percentage of the crowd, which was depressing.

Even for those students in attendance, they still seemed to be pretty dull, sitting like ducks on a pond with zero emotion.

I had rushed back from an early morning assignment down at the Maryland Institute College of Art for this, one hell of a lame assignment.

I tried some random angles for something off the wall for a boring, behind a microphone speech. I found the angle from the back of the stage lent itself to some red, white and blue lights. The flair and a railing helped create a patriotic theme to the image.

I really expected a lot more students, at least 100 and more of a rally. The face on Penn's face says it all. He also seemed very disappointed in the low supporter turnout.

To be perfectly honest, it felt as if I was at a horrible comedian stand up show. Even when he tried to make some jokes, which were funny, students sat there dumbfounded.

He was probably thinking he should have stayed in home in sunny California.

Technical problems

"Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos argues a call during the first half against Saint Peter's at Reitz Arena, Thursday, Feb.7. Although Patsos was ejected following his second technical foul during the first half, Loyola was still victorious, winning 81-69."

On Thursday night I shot the Loyola Greyhounds men's basketball team. The squad is getting a lot of attention with hopes of getting into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 14 years. Last time I checked, The Greyhounds were tied for second in their conference. Not too shabby.

Knowing the arena, I got there a bit late and setup my laptop in a empty seat on press row. Sitting in press row at a basketball game is usually not a normal thing for photographers. We tend to transmit images from our cars or on the sidelines.

Last time at Loyola I found an outlet at the top of the stands and had no problems moving images using the free wireless Internet in the warm arena.

With a tight deadline, I was happy to have a nice padded seat away from the screaming fans. Figures with a positive comes a negative. First I couldn't get Photoshop to open without crashing. Once fixed, I then ran into a problem with the Internet. I had trouble connecting to the wireless.

So after editing two images and trying repeatedly to move the images onto the FTP during halftime, I had to speed drive up Charles street to get my images in before deadline. It was a close call, but the images in.

I wasn't the only one that had technical problems, as Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos was ejected following his second technical foul during the first half. As said by writer of the Examiner story, Dave Carey, "Patsos is known for his firery demeanor."

And that's what I love about the coach. He has so much flavor and attitude, it makes watching basketball entertaining, even at a low-scoring, boring game. He screams at bad calls, jumps up and down at good ones, all while his tie and suit flail into the air.

What a cool project it would be to make a season full of images of him reacting to game action on the sidelines.

He loves his players and shows just as much respect for the loyal Loyola fans. It makes me wish my university coach was the same way.

I guess you take what you can get.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Is waiting worth it?

"Waiting to enter the Citizen Cope concert out front of the Recher Theatre, Towson University mass communication major Bonny Piana smokes a cigarette, Tuesday night, Feb.5, 2008. As of Feb.1, smoking is now illegal inside bars, restaurants and private clubs throughout Maryland, forcing patrons to take their habit outside."

One downside to being a commuter to college is using my time (and gas) effectively. This often means burning time sitting in The Towerlight office with friends or doing homework between assignments, especially when they are scheduled for the late night.

Thus is true of my Tuesday.

After getting to school at 8 a.m. and having class until 4 p.m., I was given the decision, from myself, to drive an hour round trip home and come back to Towson around 8 p.m. for a photo assignment, pass it along to another photog or hang out until the night.

I decided with the latter. So after being on campus for 12 hours, which isn’t anything new for me or the rest of my colleagues at the campus paper, I hiked uptown with the writer to cover the story.

The assignment was to capture smokers, preferably college students puffing away outside of popular bars. With the new law prohibiting smoking inside of these establishments, I had to find the herds of people braving outdoor elements for a puff of tobacco.

The problem was no bar patrons were out at 8:30 p.m., except those attending the Recher Theatre for a Citizen Cope concert. Being "Fat Tuesday" I hoped to see some people out "early."

Recher Theatre does serve alcohol and follows the new law, so I shot some frames there. I snapped three solid images, including the above outtake. I also got some great quotes and insight on the new law by smokers and non-smokers. I found it ironic many of them were worried about littering and intoxicated people causing trouble in public when many of them were throwing their buds onto the ground as well.

But it wasn’t until I made my way down the block where I saw a bar I could make a better image. The lighting was nice, the colors popped and it had a nice symmetry to it. Not to mention it's one of the most popular college bars in Towson. The only problem was not one person was to be found near the pub.

So I waited, and waited. Then I waited some more. Still no one. Not even any passerby. I wanted to make the image so bad, but my eyes were growing heavy and my stomach was growing like, well, a hungry bear, as I had not eaten since 6 p.m.

I finally left at 10:15 p.m., of course after scoping out other bars, too.

But after getting home, I couldn’t stop thinking of the photo I wanted so badly to make. I was disappointed I didn't camp out and make the photo.

Had I stayed longer would anyone had even smoked there? How long would I have had to wait? Was it really worth it? Can I go back tomorrow and re-shoot? Am I satisfied with my original take? If I didn't have another late night assignment tomorrow, would I have stayed? Did it convey the story any stronger?

Questions like these and many more raced through my head. It's a tough call. Sure, I've stood in the rain for the perfect image and went nights with no sleep to communicate a better image to the readers. But was this assignment worth the extra effort?

My deadline for the image is tomorrow before midnight and I may again try to make the photo tomorrow after my assignment downtown.

To be perfectly honest, I am satisfied with the image we will run with for the story. But I feel that I owe to myself, my sanity (if anything) and the reader to illustrate the little image better. And if not, I'll be adding bit of extra effort on my next assignment.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


"North Carolina Tar Heel, Christine Nguyen, who took first place in the all-around competition, performs a practice floor exercise routine during the 13th annual Governor’s Cup Meet at the Towson Center Friday night. The Tar Heels earned a 194.000 team score to win first place in the meet."

I didn't start shooting gymnastics until I was in college, but to this day, I still think of Australian born photographer Chris Mcgrath's gymnastics image on his Web site (SPORT -image 27).

If you have never seen the photo, it portrays these events impeccably. There are many different competitions going on at the same time, which can be overwhelming.

His image captures six different gymnasts all doing something unrelated to one another at different levels of the image. The shutter speed at which it was shot also gives the image an artistic feel, one which I don’t think would be as effective if shot at a high shutter speed freezing the three main competitors in the photo.

The clean, black background which it was shot is something I could only wish for during any indoor sporting event I shoot.

The Towson Center, where I shot four different collegiate teams in action Friday night, has to be the most distracting, unclean background arena in Maryland.

If the complex wasn't ugly enough, as mentioned, these contests are puzzling.

What I try to do is find the top player of each team and shoot them at their best event, even if it’s just during practice.

This way I can go back and move an image of the points leader at the conclusion of the event. Luckily I caught the Towson player I needed during her first place floor exercise routine and the overall points leader from North Carolina during two of her top events.

The above image is something I saw when looking for a vantage point to clean up my background. Although these girls can twist, twirl and spin flawlessly, I am continually staring at their hands and feet. And I must mention, these girls could put on a dress and go out on the town as all of them have their hair and make-up down perfectly, even after a routine.

Nonetheless, I love Chris' image. He is very talented photographer. Definitely check out his Web site.