Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fest for Tigers: part two

"The Roots' drummer Questlove keeps the beat while MC Black Thought (not picutred) pauses during the band's set at Tigerfest on Burdick Feild at Towson University, Saturday night."

Tigerfest is labeled as a spring music festival and attracts thousands of students to Burdick Field each year.

While the events keep attendees busy throughout the day, people come for the bands.

As I made my way through the naked, the intoxicated and the passed out on Saturday, I couldn't wait for the The Roots to start playing so I could wrap up my long day.

I could have easily parted early and left the fate of The Roots images to one of my other five photographers covering the event, but I had been shooting all day and had stayed for the main performance.

Also, some of them are still infatuated with shooting "celebrities" and often lose their focus. Nothing wrong with being excited, I just feel they are shooting it for the wrong reasons sometimes, so I wanted to cover my bases.

While I mentioned I had a lot of fun shooting Saturday, I am not much for shooting concerts.

Not that they're not my thing, I just tend to think the crowd and the actions of people at a concert are more entertaining and make better images than the performers.

Around 7:40 p.m., I grabbed my coat from my car and debated to bringing my 300mm lens. I knew three of my photographers had credentials for the pit (the "safe" area between the band and the crowd) and I wanted to get something different from them.

However, I knew the crowd would be large and wild, so I didn't want to risk getting it banged up.

The Roots took the stage on time at 8 p.m. and drew the largest, loudest crowd of the day despite light rain and chillier evening weather.

I opted to start in the pit anyways to mainly get some crowd images. Multiple scuffles between audience members broke out before the start and between myself and another photographer, got some interesting images.

After the first song, I moved to the back of the crowd to get some different images, before submerging myself into the wrath of the crowd.

I knew I could get some interesting images by going into the heart of the audience.

I got pushed around, smoothed by sweating loud students and often had to watch for falling bodies when those around me decided not to hold up crowd surfers anymore, but it was worth it.

Extra effort always goes a long way, and frankly it's always more entertaining putting yourself into the story itself without effecting the outcome.

I stayed for three total songs so I could beat the rush of the crowd. My band photos were OK, but as a friend once told me, "a monkey could shoot a band."

I'll try and get some more images up Tuesday, but I doubt it. I have the day off since it's my birthday (officially now 12:01 a.m.) along with some of my other friends: Dave, Arianne, Aj, Eric, and Cara.

I know I forgot some people, but isn't that weird that five of my friends and I all have the same birthday?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fest for Tigers: part one

"William Daywalt, a UMBC student, is tossed around the crowd during The Calling’s performance at Tigerfest at Towson University, Saturday, April 27. Daywalt was among the many students that attended Tigerfest and was not from Towson. The Roots performed at the end of Tigerfest. The band played an hour-and-a-half-long set, which they finished up with their song “The Seed 2.0.”"

Well, I was pleasantly surprised with Tigerfest and the weather Saturday.

After shooting a couple morning and afternoon assignments, I arrived at Towson University around 4 p.m. to cover the annual Tigerfest concert and festival.

Something changed from last year. There were a lot more people and more rowdiness to the students and visitors.

Nursing a fresh sunburn, mild dehydration, due to lack of fluids, and an empty stomach I walked around scouting out subjects.

The first subject I scouted out was the pit beef stand. The sandwich, ice-cold drink and Advil were much needed. Too bad the pounding in my head didn't stop until I got home.

As I pushed through the day and around Burdick Field nearly 20 times, I tried to find the story of the event. As I previously mentioned, it's typically a very tame event.

People lying on the grass, others playing on the inflatable entertainments, students dancing to the music, etc.

Conversely, this year was dissimilar. I don't know if it was the summer like weather with no rain, the main performances to come or what seemed to be less strict rules.

People were clearly having an excellent time. Some decided to bear it all by not wearing any clothing, while some chose to lose it all on Burdick by proving they drank too much.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, I saw at least two naked people, three pukers and a dozen or so passed out.

The funny thing is when I jokingly asked their buddies if those passed out had too much to drink; their response was always the same, "Nah, man. He (or she) is always like that. They are just tired."

Right. I didn't care either way, and I relayed that to them each time, but I still found it very comical. One guy even regained conciseness after his friend told him I took his picture and he then proceeded to beg me not to publish his photo. Twice in 30 minutes.

All in all, I enjoyed myself. I told all my photographers that they were not scheduled to shoot, but I highly recommended them to show up and shoot as much as possible.

The seven page (mostly) photo spread looked great; a nice contrast of images. We all captured the day differently, but it came together to tell the entire story in the end. I am glad everyone showed up to make pictures. It was a long day of editing down 5,000 images Sunday.

Tuesday I'll talk more on the crowds and performances. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tour de Westminster

"A competitor fails to clear the bar of the high jump during a track and field meet at Francis Scott Key High School, Saturday, April 26,2008."

First, let me proudly and eagerly announce, I am an official summer photo intern of The Baltimore Sun. The call came Wednesday to stop by for an interview on Friday afternoon.

Everything went smooth and they asked if I could join the team for the summer (following my return from Japan).

I've always looked up to each and everyone of the staff photographers at The Sun since I've started reading the paper, so as you can probably sense, I am very excited.

Anyways, Saturday was already jam packed with assignments, but I opted for another one that was suppose to be simple and in Westminster.

I had to shoot one pole vaulter at Francis Scott Key High School. The assignment said 9:30 a.m., but lacked a lot of information for some reason. It didn't say the team of the vaulter or if it was a portrait, a meet or practice.

To make sure I wasn't going to make a fool of myself, I found out it was a meet and I only needed some warm up images or in action images. Fair enough, at least I wouldn't have to be a meet all day shooting numerous athletes.

I also tried calling my subject to make sure his event started at 9:30 a.m., guess I should have called more than once.

I woke up early and drove 45 minutes out to what seemed like the middle of nowhere. When I arrived, I asked just about every vaulter who Shawn was. Figures, the only bright red-headed kid, whom I asked last was him.

I introduced myself and told him I'd be making images of him and asked when they started. "Umm, probably around 11:30 for warm ups," he said.

What. Are you serious? Men's pole vaulting didn't even start until noon?

So instead being upset and bitter for the rest of the day, I burned time by shooting other events and images.

I guess it worked out for the best, because I got to shoot track and field, which is the basically 10 different sports in one, with no deadline or direction.

However, with a 1 p.m. assignment and hour away, when Shawn started warming up, I had to act fast and make some photos less than 10 minutes.

But figures, I leave so I can make it perfectly on time to my next assignment and the Tour de France decided to be on Union Bridge Road, thus delaying my drive back to Towson by 30 minutes.

People were passing each other while passing bicycles. It was getting dangerous at times.

Well, I just had a five assignment day and super exhausted. I can't connect my thoughts anymore and I have an early assignment and a long day of editing images from five photographers from Tigerfest. Must, get, sleep. Check out some of my other track images and I'll be back Monday.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Splash or blast?

"Towson University junior Alex Plimack enjoys the rain on campus as he leaps into the air with aim of a large puddle on Burdick Field on Sunday, April 20."

The buzz has begun at Towson. The annual concert and festival known as Tigerfest is set for Saturday.

Every year the school hires a group of local bands to open for a national act. Unfortunately, that band is usually despised and labeled as a disappointment each year. No joke.

Granted this will only be my second (and last) Tigerfest, I've heard the negativity dates back further than my presence on campus.

Last year, Dashboard Confessional took the stage as the main performance. They don’t rank in my favorite genre, but then again, I was shooting all day, so I could have cared less.

This year, The Roots will perform. They are pretty good, nice flowing music, but I couldn't name one song by them.

Can you tell I am not much into music?

Aside from the standard band hating, students love Tigerfest, unless it rains. Yep. You guessed correctly, it's going to rain Saturday. It's an excuse for students to get wild with peers and consume various drinks throughout the day.

But to someone who has covered tailgating at NFL games and the Preakness infield, the entire event is pretty tame. Not that I am promoting alcohol use at the event, but the festival is geared toward elementary and middle school children with free carnival games and such.

My question is what college kid wants to play on a moon bounce or have their face painted? No students really show up until the main performance and if there are people there beforehand, they are standing around intoxicated. Doesn't seem like any fun to me.

The school does provide a beer garden, but from what I gathered it's very strict.

But hey, this is coming from the guy that likes to look up words and usage on the Internet and shoot photos. What do I know? Ha.

Before the event, I'll be shooting what could possibly be my last college game of the season.

It was a great season of shooting, maybe I'll squeeze one more in. There is no way I'll make it Boston for the Final Four, although I wish I could (hey, Inside Lacrosse, if you're reading this and need an assistant or extra shooter...)

Alright (AP says ALL RIGHT, I don't go for that rule...), back to writing my final feature for class. Be back Sunday folks.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Two hour Tuesday

"Jamie Johnson, an electrician staff member for “Largo Desalato,” adjusts lighting and other objects on the wire ceiling that over hangs the set in the New Studio Theatre in the Center for the Arts Tuesday afternoon. “Largo Desalato” is the current production for Towson University’s theatre arts department and will premiere Friday, May 2."

Tuesday was looking like just another day in the books. Two classes gone by and nothing learned or done. I literally could have stayed in bed and gotten the same amount of nothingness accomplished.

No, it's not my fault for being a lazy college student, it's my professors for failing to interest me and deciding to treat me as a high school student in my liberal arts courses, "OK, let me see your progress on your two-page paper due in the middle of May..." Please.

That all changed when I walked into my into my New Media class in the afternoon.

Instead of sitting in front of a computer for two hours we got a real assignment.

"In two hours you have to find a story on someone with an interesting job on campus, shoot photos (read: produce slide show), write the feature and capture audio (read: record a podcast)...AND put it on your course Web site," our professor said.

However, it would not be graded.

What went through my mind? This is total bull-spit. Why would I waste my afternoon cranking out an entire package for nothing? No grade. Not published. What gives?

"The story chosen by Dr. Lieb for the new Mass Communication Web site will receive up to 11 points, that's one entire story. So if your feature isn't turning out, this could easily replace it."

Now what am I thinking? Screw my current story I am working on and who in the world can I find to interview.

Everyone split into groups of two or three, and then ventured out to find the best story. It's a competition and I am a competitor. These 11 points were mine for the taking.

But what kept racing through my head was: who am I going to profile and can I get this all done before 3 p.m.?

A couple ideas ran through my head, but nothing was sticking.

Time ticked away and at this point we've wasted 30 minutes sitting around. The only images I had taken were of my hand and the only words written were on Facebook. Even with the help of my two other group members, Sharon (The Towerlight editor-in-chief) and Alex (The Towerlight arts editor) we were still drawing blanks.

We've profiled a lot of different students and faculty in the past together for The Towerlight. It was going to be more difficult for us to come up with something fresh and interesting. It was almost a guarantee our peers would seek out the easy, already reported stories.

Time check. 1:15 p.m. and still nothing, so we decided to finally walk around. Some how we started to trek toward the Center for Arts. Then it hit us randomly - the guys that build sets for plays on campus.

After walking into the workshop and then to the set construction, we had are OK and we working away.

As Sharon and Alex reported and captured audio, I shot various photos of the staff drilling, sawing and sanding the set.

It felt like I was on an actual tight deadline as I continually looked at my watch and the back of my camera making sure I had enough images.

Sticking to a tight schedule we rushed back to our computers.

Bing, bam, boom. We cranked out the story, images, podcast, editing, and published it to the Internet in less than two hours.

Although to a degree stressful, we looked at each other after we were done knowing we couldn't have done all this in two hours without each other. We had a blast doing it and we met the deadline with a smile on our faces.

It was by far the most fun I've had in class. Wait, it's the most fun I've had doing in-class work out of class. Wait, does that even make sense?

What I am trying to say is we felt good about the story we found and reported on. It was fun to get out and do what we will be doing post graduation.

While learning things in a classroom is important and useful, I know I've gotten way more from actually reporting and shooting for The Towerlight and as a freelancer.

In addition, it's not often I leave class with a positive look on the rest of the day. But what can I say, I love journalism. The greatest motivator is the deadline.

As for the bonus points, I am pretty confident we took the prize. I peeked at the class Web site long after the deadline and didn't see any other articles or story packages. Well, I did see one, but to be honest, it wasn't that great.

Now the waiting game. Did we succeed or fail? Will the points be ours or another group?

You can check it out for yourself. Writing and reporting courtesy of Sharon Leff and Alex Plimack and images (click main image) and web hosting by yours truly:

Setting the scene

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Forecast: unpredictable

"Shoes and shirt off, Towson University sophomore Ryan Brooks soaks up some sun at the Speakers Circle Thursday afternoon. Below, a student walks across the Union bridge Sunday afternoon. Over the weekend, Towson and surrounding areas experienced unpredictable Maryland spring weather with high temperatures in the 80s Friday and Saturday and dipping to the low 60s on Sunday."

Stories fall through, change and layout gets transformed. It's the nature of the beast in journalism.

Just when the editorial board decides what is of importance and cover worthy - change strikes. Life gets hectic for everyone, from the page designers to the reporters and everyone in between.

Running around, making calls and conducting interviews. Trying to salvage a story or structure another article worthy of the front page.

But while the nouns and verbs are being pumped onto the computer monitor by reporters the biggest stress normally lies on the photographer trying to find art that works well with the new story on deadline.

Thus was true last week.

The Student Government Association elections went haywire. To keep things to the point, the paper could not be objective, visually, and ran into some difficulties with turmoil within the SGA. (read: the first election commission resigned after the SGA senate voted down an extension deadline for potential senators.)

Nothing went as planned.

With the story about elections unpredictable, the paper went to "plan B" which was, umm, yeah. We were not sure.

The only other main story worth gracing the front page was the ongoing tailgating policy story, which in my opinion, is absurd. After initially [basically] eliminating tailgating at the university, the school has decided to may keep BYOB policy. But who knows what they are thinking.

The downside to running this story is again... no visual. There have been past images ran of tailgating and to be honest, no images worth running on the cover from the past six months with people drinking in a parking lot.

At this point, there was only one option. Feature standalone on cover. Thankfully unprecedented spring weather with high temperatures in the 80s Thursday, Friday and Saturday shined throughout campus.

Features are always easy to be made with odd weather, be it hot, cold, raining or snowing. So I set out on campus Thursday to find something worth being printed onto toilet paper news print (sometimes I do with it were a glossy front publication).

I did my classic routine when finding a feature on campus. Walk around twice, and then shoot.

The first time around, I scope out possible subjects to photograph. Often stopping and examining their actions.

The second time around I'll snap a couple frames from a distance and also shoot anything that is new on my second trek around.

On my final walk, which is normally back toward the office, I'll make my images and get names of my subjects. With campus as small as it is, this technique works beautifully each and every time.

With an image ready to be laid out on Sunday, a second election commission was in place, and the SGA elections would go on as planned. But we still didn't have an image to accompany it.

We decided to run the tailgating story, the SGA update and the weather standalone, with a twist.

Instead of just running the warm weathered feature, I also shot a feature in the rain to show the unpredictable April weather.

Pop quiz: What have you learned?

Yes, that's correct. Things are bound to change when you only publish twice a week. Thankfully the Web site keeps news freshly updated anytime it feels like breaking. But I am happy that we once again kicked ass and got a nice looking cover.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Driving Miss D.C.

"A young girl reads a book in front of the Second Inaugural Address that is etched in stone on the north wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Saturday afternoon."

Now I know why I don't visit the nation's capital much. Traffic. It's everywhere. On the highway, downtown and on the sidewalks.

But I can't complain because Saturday was delightful.

I've been trying to go to Washington D.C. for the past couple weeks because I haven't been in years.

The last time I visited was after a full day escapade of driving home from South Carolina. It was merely a pit stop rather than a visit. Nothing was open and it was hot and humid.

As I mentioned previously, I've really wanted to see the cherry blossoms. However, with work and tricky April weather, I haven't been to able get there until Saturday.

I finally turned down an assignment Saturday, so I could finally take a day off.

But I didn't get to see any cherry blossoms since the budding occurred nearly two weeks ago and last week a storm erased what was remaining of them off the trees.

I had fun aside from my stereo camera screwing up and the film tearing after shooting this image. I guess the film snagged on something after winding to the next frame. Sucks. I lost all my images.

On the positive side, I did get to eat at Temari Cafe in Rockville, which is the closest to real Japanese food I'll get to eat before I go back to Japan in June. It's one of the few Japanese restaurants actually owned and operated by Japanese, not Koreans or Chinese.

I had tonkasu (pork cutlet), which was the same last meal I had in Japan in January. It was so good.

Well, back to work and then to my soccer game. Its been a busy day.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


"Kate Panos of Whiteford, Md. takes advantage of recent summer-like temperatures by bouncing and performing a trick on a trampoline stationed in the backyard Thursday evening."

Sometimes shooting every day will get you into a negative rhythm. How? By shooting the same types of assignments over and over. It gets redundant.

Other times you’re spot on and everything you shoot is made effortlessly.

And then there is the middle road. The average - your standard performance.

I prefer one of the latter, but life isn't perfect and everyone has bad days.

Earlier this week, I was in a slump. I felt that everything I shot wasn't to my own standards and I needed to find a positive way out.

When I am in a rut, I find shooting things that I enjoy brings me out of these valleys. Simply using my camera creatively during daily, fun activities.

In this case, it was using a little bit of inspiration from fellow Maryland shooter and all around good guy, Charlie Shoemaker of the The Gazette. All it took was a glance at his blog (Thanks, man).

His most recent post had some interesting images of him and a friend bouncing around on a trampoline. With the use of a nice sky and strobe, he created some ‘featurey’ images (is that even a word?) and a headline that is sure to catch anyone's attention, "Saturday, sure, let's jump."

With that in mind, I decided to take advantage of a delightful, sunny and 70 degree Thursday evening. Kate stopped by my parents house to have me help do some art work for her second grade class.

Having the urge to shoot some images, we goofed around on the trampoline that is stationed in the backyard. It gets a lot of use by my nephews, and I am glad it's not a lawn ornament. Random fact: I think I got it for my 13th birthday.

Anyways, I did a little essay of Kate and I flopping around on the trampoline. It was nice to just fluently shoot images exactly how I saw them with no pressures of tight deadlines.

It eases the mind and erases the bad assignments. It's a recharge.

And then it clicks in my head, as it always does when I do this, that I always get images I like when having fun.

Sometimes we get bogged down, as I've mentioned before, and we need to take a break from what we love. But when you passion is your career, that is sometimes difficult.

Conversely, it's import to live, eat and breathe your trade, because the most important thing is to do a huge volume of work. This will only help you get your work to where it as good as your ambitions.

To see the rest of the images click here.

Saturday I'll be in Washington D.C., not shooting anything, which kind of sucks because there are a lot of good games in the area this weekend.

Side note: Check out Fernando's a spin of Darnay's "Forty 5 Days" blog. It's conveniently called "40 Five Days." Pretty entertaining. Although I think I am Fernando's only subscriber.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Remembering: VT tragedy

"Amid nearly 50 students, junior Devon Gallo consoles Jackie Dragon Wednesday night at the Speaker’s Circle during a vigil held in remembrance of the victims of shootings at Virginia Tech. April 16 marked the one-year anniversary of the tragedy that left 33 people, including the gunman, dead."

As the sun set over Towson's campus Wednesday evening, candles affixed inside red cups illuminated the solemn faces of more than 50 students who attended a vigil to mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Virginia Tech (Thanks, Nick. This is your one and only plug, ha).

Tragic stories, events such as these and 9/11 will always be etched into my mind. The vivid detail of the day as it unraveled is unlike any other day anyone has ever had.

For those directly involved, I am sure it has much more meaning and significance in their lives than my own, but it’s a situation where everyone remembers.

I remember day. I was sitting at my desk in The Towerlight on an early morning.

An assignment got canceled and I wasn’t even supposed to be in there around 10 a.m.

Friend and editor and chief at the time, Brian always had the television on when he was in the office.

While his blogging played a part of it, it’s like he knew when something happened before it ever did. Whether it was a car chase or a politician doing something or saying something dumb, the television would be turned on minutes before it was broadcast.

April 16, 2007 wasn’t any different.

I remember him turning on the television and we all thought, OK, just another school shooting. It’s sad to say, but it’s true. Just another shooting.

But then, the fatality numbers starting increasing and it was speculated the shooter was still alive on campus.

It seemed if everyone’s lives had stopped. Everything was suddenly not as important as finding the up to the minute news on Virginia Tech.

I decided to skip class, something just didn’t feel right, and other staff members where returning to the office saying they couldn’t sit in class knowing this was happening. We all huddled around the television and watched the entire breaking news cast.

The shooting started off with one casualty and later reported over 30 dead.

The day turned out to be reported as the deadliest mass shooting in nation's history.

Doing what we could, we all once again put everything that truly matter to us aside, and worked hard to put out a special edition of The Towerlight the very next morning. It was long, unexpected and sad, but it was worth it to each and every one of us.

Now day had many turns in it and I am not vividly describing each action of my day. But I remember it verbatim. I even thought of driving there to cover the aftermath. But I never did, and I regret it.

It’s now one year later. And I still remember it all; just like the entire nation. Everyone showed thier support, and I covered all the events on Towson's campus Wednesday.

It’s very scary that these types of things can happen. My thoughts and prayers go out to the students and families of the victims injured and killed, and those still suffering from the actions of the gunman.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Buggs, not bugs

"Towson University assistant men's lacrosse coach, Andrew "Buggs" Combs coordinates the offense during practice at Johnny Unitas Stadium Tuesday afternoon. Son of Gordy Combs, Towson head football coach, Buggs Combs returns for his sixth season as a member of the Tigers lacrosse coaching staff."

I learned something this week, never swing on the first pitch. But that has nothing to do with the two hours I wasted spent shooting baseball Tuesday afternoon.

That's right, it’s baseball season again, if you haven't noticed, and one the most dreaded sports assignment there is, well, to me anyways.

It's America's favorite past time and my least beloved now time. While I can't complain that the game is entertaining with an ice cold beer in your hand on a humid July evening, I just can't get myself into loving to shoot it.

Don't get me wrong, I'll shoot it any day of the week just to be working, but I struggle week in and week out to get something I am pleased with unless it's a remote camera stationed above home plate.

I am not going to sit here and rant why I dislike it, but I thought it would be nice to share where I spent my afternoon sitting on the hill Tuesday.

Seriously though, I watched nearly a hundred or more pitches (how many pitches does a pitcher throw a game on average?) and not once did anyone swing on the first pitch.

Granted, I never played baseball, but I would think that if anything, that would be the wisest pitch to swing at.

Fortunately, I got to shoot lacrosse practice, MY favorite American past time, beforehand.

My assignment was originally to shoot a portrait of Towson University assistant men's lacrosse coach, Buggs Combs, but I thought it would be better to shoot him during practice.

The story is basically how Combs, son of the football coach, has been a product of the university since he was young, yet he never attended the school. He went to University of Maryland where he played lacrosse, but later returned to be the assistant lax coach and offensive coordinator.

For the assignment, I brought along my wide angle, Pocket Wizards (radio salves) and a monopod to hopefully get a nice in-the-huddle pole cam image (For those unaware, this is when you basically stick your camera on a six-foot extension pole and raise it in the air for an extreme high angle). However, I also brought my 300mm for insurance.

Figures, not once during the 35 minutes I was there did the team get into a huddle.

A majority of the time I spent on the blazing hot field, I spend behind the, what I like to call, catch net. This prevents the missed shots on goal from not to sailing into the street. It also protects photogs from getting rocketed in the head with a rubber ball traveling 90 mph.

After making an image that could be used as a jump photo, I waited and wait until I got a nice layer frame of Buggs directing the team.

Between a friendly boxing match between teammates that fired up (and cracked up) the team and a close call on being decked by a shot, I finally did and called it quits before heading over to dreaded baseball.


I guess I can’t complain about baseball too much, as I am due to shoot the O's at some point during the summer. At least I'll get a couple free hot dogs out of it.

NOTE: I don't know whether or not I like the image in monochrome better, so here it is.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Primary colors

"Dyan Brasington served her first day as vice president of director of economic workforce development April 4, after what she described as months of interviewing. Four days later, she was married at The Belvedere in Baltimore before taking two days off for an abbreviated honeymoon and helping her son decide where to go to college. "All of these life changing things are all happening at the same time," Brasington said. "It's been all of these experiences within a week. Now that I think about it, wow."

I was running late and knew I didn't want to keep my subject late on a Friday afternoon.

Having set a doctors appointment last week at 3:30 p.m. for [last] Friday, I didn't know at the time that I would be shooting a portrait at 4 p.m.

Luckily, the writer was going to meet me at the subject's office and do the interview, allowing me enough time to setup and stake out a visually appealing location indoors or outside.

However, realizing that it was a Friday (Friday means nothing to a journalist, especially one that shoots a sporting event every Saturday) I didn't want to have her go through a 30 to 45 minute interview and than have to deal with a photographer.

I opted to shoot her during the interview, which I tend to like better.

While I have the freedom to be as creative as I want to be during a portrait, emotions are generally more evident when subjects aren't one on one with a camera.

Being behind the lens, I often don't realize how intimidating it can be to have a big, bulky camera in your face. This is why I try and get to know my subjects by just talking with them and getting them to relax beforehand.

But as I said, I didn't want to waste my subject’s time getting to know her. Unlike me, she had a child and new significant other to get home to. All I had on my mind was an overpriced plate of "American" sushi.

When we walked into her office, I told her that I was going to candidly shoot some frames while she spoke with the reporter. She agreed that would be OK.

I made the quick executive decision to have her sit in front of the wall opposite of the window.

This would allow me to use ambient light and an 85mm at f/2 to get a nicely lit, sharp image.

As I began shooting, I waited for her to speak on topics she was passionate about. I shot tight and from a bunch of different angles.

But I kept noticing her big smile and bright eyes. Ah, harmony of the primary colors.

However, I started second guessing my judgment to place her in front the yellow wall. Was there somewhere else I could have placed her? Should I have shot an actual portrait? Does she approve of this? What about the writer, did they want a setup portrait, too?

When in this questioning process, I tried to relax and think rationally. Why was I thinking this wouldn't work?

So I took a deep breath and started shooting how I saw things. I made the above image, relaxed and with the perception of her bright eyes against the wall.

I knew this would never see light of day in print and wouldn't want it to. But it was my vision and made it anyways. It had helped me start thinking how I should be, not how I was before I made the image. Feeling rushed.

But after I made the image and admired it on the back of my camera for two seconds, I got the idea to simply center her evenly in the image.

I tend to always use the rule of thirds and shoot tight on little assignments like these, so I wanted to branch away from that.

I like it; only wish she would have maybe spoke with her hands, rather than had them in her lap, thus adding another element to the image.

This is the image that ran.

Well, I am sitting here looking at my to do list, and I am not going to lie, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and a bit down in the dumps. But it has to get done.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Floating lax balls

"Drexel's Brian Neary (no.1) shoves Towson University midfielder Timmy Andre, jarring loose the ball during the first quarter at Johnny Unitas Stadium, Saturday, April 12. Drexel (10-3) defeated Towson (4-7), 10-9."

This spring I've shot more lacrosse assignments than anything else.

Good thing is I really enjoy shooting the game, since I grew up playing the fastest game on two feet.

My project for my second to final Mass Communication (NOT, communications, big pet peeve of mine) course entitled New Media, is on the rise of the sport. I've been shooting, writing, reading, and searching for stories related to the rapidly popularizing sport.

I've studied and searched out stories ranging from: a coach reaching 300 career wins, new technologies in equipment, teens beating one another with lacrosse sticks in a gang related issue, and most recently, high school students introducing the sport internationally in South Africa.

It really is amazing to see how far the game has come since I started playing at the age six.

When I started playing, it was merely a spring sport played in Maryland with laced back, bulky helmets. Now it’s all over the United States, very popular, one of the most attended NCAA championship games, and fashionable with advertising everywhere you look.

But even though the game is at a new level, some universities are identifying how long they’ve played the sport.

On Saturday, Towson University hosted Drexel University. Since the program reached its 50th year, they had a throw-back day, recognizing the then-1974 Towson State University Tigers, when they won the NCAA Division II men’s lacrosse championship.

They had jerseys similar to the 1974 team, which was attractive. It also kind of reminded me of the jerseys my brother wore when he played at Towson [State] nearly a decade ago.

Anyways, since I've been assigned to so many lacrosse games, like anything, it has become redundant. So I am continually trying to change my approach to the game.

Whether it's shooting from the stands or press box to get a different angle, or by anticipating a certain play or action of a match; I am always trying to stay on my toes.

This season has been amazing weather wise, and the games haven't had a dull moment either. Just about every game I've covered has been a close match; well, at least for one half. Even if the game was a blow out, the action has been phenomenal.

One photo I've been trying to make at least once a game involves having either a ball or stick flying through the air.

While the game is very fast, hard-hitting at times, things do get clustered and difficult to shoot when there are six or more players crowded around the goal.

So when I get an image of a stick being checked out of a players hand or a ball floating in mid air, it makes a reader stop and wonder what they are seeing.

This is a great way to get the reader to stop on the page and get more information, and that's always good in any story, especially a sports story when most readers only care about the score and the first couple graphs of the article.

Here are two more related images I've made in the past two or three weeks that's have ran:

Image from University of Maryland
Image from Towson University

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Archiving due to weather

"Baltimore Ravens' cheerleaders sprint out onto the field for Monday Night Football at M&T Bank Stadium, Monday, Dec.3, 2007. The New England Patriots at defeated the Ravens, 27-24."

This is nothing like getting fooled by April showers.

All week I had planned on taking Saturday off and going to Washington D.C. to see the National Cherry Blossom Festival and attend Sakura Matsuri, one of the largest single-day Japanese street festivals in the United States.

Covering nearly one mile of downtown Washington D.C., the festival features exhibitions of Japanese culture, street vendors, food, and more. I've never been, but it happens every spring during the climax of the cherry blossoms and attracts over a million visitors.

But here I am, not there.

When I went to bed last night it was storming, so we had already begun to reschedule our day.

When we woke up it wasn't very pretty outside and the weather was calling for afternoon showers. Residing over an hour from Washington D.C., we decided to not risk driving all the way there and have it be a miserable day.

I should have known it would be the nicest day of the year. Doh!

So instead of shooting images, sipping sake and munching on ooshi (delicious) foods, I ended up taking an assignment. Thankfully it was outside. Too bad everyone in the press box ragged on me for being there and not being off doing what I wanted to be doing.

After the game, I decided to take it easy and relax at home. However, relaxing meant doing homework, and more importantly, archiving all the NFL games I shot last year and some other assignments lingering on my hard drive.

Normally, I burn all my assignments to DVDs and also copy them to external hard drives at the end of the day or end of the week.

But sometimes, assignments get left on my computer for various reasons. This evening I noticed I only had seven gigabytes of storage on my laptop, so I decided to inspect why.

I had forgotten to back-up all my NFL games. Odd.

Now that I am done, I am now running on 50 gigs of space. YES!

Back to recent shoots tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Remembering Kevin Ryan

"Clasping their hands, Kevin Ryan's father, Charlie, and Ryan’s uncle, Jamie, speak about some of their favorite memories of Kevin in Clarksville, Md., Wednesday. The two created a golf tournament to raise money for a memorial scholarship fund in remembrance of Kevin."

His Facebook wall is filled with messages from friends and family and the tribute group has over 1,000 people in it. But these memories celebrating his life won't bring back Kevin Ryan.

A tragic, sad story, these are situations that are not only difficult for those directly affected by the loss, but those covering the story as well.

Journalists are to be objective. But sometimes, most times, it's hard to not put yourself in your subjects shoes, especially when someone young passes. It's only natural to show sensitivity and compassion.

Unfortunately, sadness is a part of all journalist's jobs and we're only doing our job by reporting on the situation.

Last October, a hit-and-run claimed the Towson University freshmen's life as he walked from an off-campus house to his dormitory.

Since the accident, his family has struggled through the painful realization that he is gone.

“There’s not an hour that goes by that you’re not reminded of this,” said Ryan’s uncle, Jamie Ryan, in an article in The Examiner.

While, this story was placed on front pages in the area last year, the story is circulating again, not because of the trial approaching in July, but because of a golf tournament created by the family to raise money for a memorial scholarship fund in his name.

Knowing this would be a top story, Nick and I headed down to Clarksville on Wednesday to report and shoot some images.

While it's never easy to speak on a discomforting event that has changed many peoples lives, Kevin's father and uncle were very nice and open about what happened to their family and friends.

They respected us and made our job effortless, allowing us to show the human interest and spread insight on their loss.

I can't image what it's like to go through an awful event like this. But I couldn't help but to put my camera down at times and just listen.

It was comforting to see joy expressed when they reminisced on his life.

I did my best to try and capture their joy, but I knew, from also experiencing a family death, that sorrow and pain was still there. I saw this in their tightly grasped hands as they spoke to Nick.

This works well with the story, and I know Nick touches on the wrist bands also created in his memory.

For more information check out Kevin Ryan's Gift Web site.

Also check out the story on The Towerlight.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Blooming blossoms

"A couple navigates through Ueno Park in Tokyo, Japan on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008."

The first official day of spring began on March 20 and the days have been getting warmer, longer and rainier since.

I don't know if it's the rising temperatures, my recent flight booking or recent trip to Outback Steak House (and seeing the awesome blossom on the menu), but it all has me wishing, waiting for my return to Japan this June.

If you're sitting there thinking, what does this monochrome photo mean and what does it have to do with this post and Japan?

Well, Japan is know for their sakura, or cherry blossom. It's their unofficial national flower and this area is known to showcase them every year.

Unfortunately for me, when I was in Japan in January, I didn't get to see any blossoms in one of the countries most crowded and popular cherry blossom spots: Ueno Park.

The park, one of Tokyo's largest, features more than 1000 trees along the National Museum and around Shinobazu Pond. I can only imagine how colorful and gorgeous it really is during its peak.

Ueno Park is one of my favorite parts of Tokyo. It was also the first time I tried Takoyaki, or fried octopus. I had no idea what it was when I ate it, other than it had tako (octopus) in it.

According to Wikipedia, it's a popular Japanese dumpling made of: batter, diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, konnyaku and green onion, topped with okonomiyaki sauce, green laver, mayonnaise, and fish shavings.


I had bought them at a street vendor, but I recently saw a restaurant in Osaka where you can make them yourself on my new favorite travel show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.

Well, it's obvious my post has shipwrecked and my appetite has taken over. What can I say? The food is literally to die for in Japan.

Anyways, cherry blossoms have been celebrated for many centuries in Japanese culture. But luckily for us Americans, more prominently those that live in or around Washington D.C., they have cherry blossoms, too. And from Japan.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. annually commemorates the 1912 gift to the city of Washington of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo. The gift was given with hopes to enhance the growing friendship between the United States and Japan.

Now I have never known that until this earlier year and I've been to the nation's capital many times. Intrigued, I hope to get down there next weekend for the 48th Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese street festival.

The Web site says they have everything from sushi to sake. Two words I can actually write in traditional Japanese. And two things I love to eat and drink.

Hopefully it will hold me off until my trip. Only 72 more days.

One last side note, I finally saw "No Country for Oldmen." One word: Awesome.

To read about my last trip, type in Japan in the search bar or follow this link and scroll down.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Using your senses

"Towson University goalie Billy Sadler sits on the ground in disbelief after UMBC attackman Dom Scalzo (no.13) scored his second goal of the game during the fourth quarter at Johnny Unitas Stadium, Tuesday night. The Retrievers scored six straight goals before winning, 9-6."

Last week I was sitting in my film class and started drifting into another world.

I filtered out everything I didn't want to hear and random thoughts raced through my head like a sprinting greyhound. I had lost track of the lecture echoing in the classroom.

Then I snapped back into reality when I heard a comment by my professor.

"Have we become afraid of silence?"

While it didn't have anything to do with his lecture (OK, I lied, I was paying attention to a certain degree) this statement got me thinking. Have we really become afraid of silence?

Everyday our lives are consumed with sound. From the second we wake up with an alarm clock, to the minute we turn on the television. We listen to the radio in our cars and we talk to friends, family and colleagues throughout the day.

When alone, we are on the computer listening to albums or viewing videos, and cellphones now have the Internet and movies, not to mention music, too.

Tomorrow, catalog all the things you hear and all the time you have pure silence in your day.

Silence isn't bad and needed in today's hectic technological world.

While I've never been in one, I would think a sensory deprivation tank would be relaxing. However, according to Wikipedia, "though short periods of sensory deprivation can be relaxing, extended deprivation can result in extreme anxiety, hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, depression, and antisocial behavior."

On a lighter note, I often joke when I am in my car with others, as I will turn off the radio and say, "Let's think about our thoughts," because I don't think we do get enough silence.

Speaking of senses other than hearing, I was browsing a different professors Web site in an effort to find the office location of another. I then stumbled across a couple fascinating articles blogged on by my Magazine Publishing and former Media Law professor, Dr. Haller.

The one article entitled "Blind use cameras to capture their world" is amazing.

Although there probably have been many articles related to this topic in the past, I've never read any like it in the past.

In addition, I feel it is true that seeing isn't everything, but using your all senses helps make great images. It also helps to develop a personal vision rather than a standard snapshot.

Keep that in mind next time you're shooting an assignment or an image of your family. Don't just see it, but listen, smell and feel your away around the environment you're in.

Here is another article Dr.Haller discusses with an image.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

My big, fat Greek parade

"A child races his mother Sunday before the start of the 2008 Greek Independence Day Mid-Atlantic Parade on Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown in Baltimore. Many colorful, traditional Greek costumes were displayed by representing various regions and islands of Greece."

The past couple days have been a daze. This is just a short post as I catch up on my assignments, school work and life in general.

My last assignment Sunday involved a bunch of people named Nick doing this thing where they walk up a closed street waving and smiling. I think it's called a parade.

Jokes aside, it was a beautiful day outside, a touch nippy, but a wonderful afternoon for a the 2008 Greek Independence Day Mid-Atlantic Parade on Eastern Avenue.

It was also a nice, light hearted assignment after shooting a portrait of a man who threatened the Governor by e-mail and was arrested.

Once I found parking and crammed my car into the world's smallest parallel parking spot, I made my way toward the starting point.

There early, I figured I'd shoot a majority of my features before the start.

As I weaved in and out of the Greek and Spartan warriors, marching bands and sea of white and blue dress, I noticed nothing but smiling faces.

However, getting names was tough. Now, I know Greek names are long and complicated, but when its loud, it's even more difficult to understand and write down.

One boy's name I jotted down was named Panos. Pretty cool.

Anyways, I made a bunch of images, but after I got back I loved the above. The simple joys of a child always make a great feature in my opinion. It's a universal emotion.

Nothing makes you smile like a happy child. In this instance, racing someone, who I would assume was his mother, brightened his day for a brief moment.

It doesn't really tell the story of the Greek Parade, but it works for me within. The way they ran right by ignoring me, the way the child was dressed professionally and the way the women in the picture was running floating by in heels.