Monday, June 30, 2008


"Water splashes from Maryland's second highest vertical drop waterfall onto a swimmer as he cools off at Falling Branch in Northern Harford County Saturday, June 28."

Last week I began to finally feel significantly better, but I needed to get out of the house to get my body moving again.

As I drove around, I tried to find a place I've heard about, yet have never visited.

While I feel like I've been on every square foot of Rocks State Park throughout my years growing up in Harford County, I failed to realize that the very popular Falling Branch was located within the park.

All my life I had heard people, friends talk about the fun hangout spot located at this vertical waterfall. For some reason I believed it was some out cove buried deep in the forest somewhere in Pennsylvania.

To my surprise, this clear watered, wood surrounded habitat was stamped on the other side of the park.

A scorching heat and severe thunderstorms lingered as we pulled up to the gravel parking lot. It was looking like an adventure as no water was in sight.

After a short 10-minute walk through man-made trails we started to hear the sound of splashing water. I was fascinated with how big the water fall was and its location. The trails leading back to it were similar to those I have at my parents backyard and woods.

It makes you wonder what other rock formations and water creations are in the state that maybe aren't apparently visual to typical passerby.

Anyways, I was disappointed I left my underwater housing and Canon G9 at home, because I was so hot standing around shooting random pictures from the dry land, that all I wanted to do was jump in.

The water was fairly cold, however, all those I chatted with said it was pleasantly refreshing.

A refresh is what I needed.

Feeling under the weather is never fun and laying around the house only frustrates me. I guess instead of purifying my body with cold rushing water, getting my camera back in my hand was all I needed.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

In for Eddie Adams

"Towson University wide receiver Dayron Arnold accelerates through the 40-yard dash during the 2008 NFL Pro Day at Johnny Unitas Stadium, Wednesday, March 12, 2008. Arnold was one of 10 Towson football players trying to impress NFL scouts with hopes be invited to one of the 32 team's training camps."

As some may have noticed, I've added a new link entitled EAW. I can hardly contain my excitement as I can now ecstatically announce that I've been accepted for the Eddie Adams Workshop aka Barnstorm XXI.

For those that have never heard of Eddie Adam's Workshop, it is: "a four-day gathering of the top professionals in photojournalism, along with 100 carefully selected students. The Workshop's purpose is to create a forum in which an exchange of ideas, techniques, and philosophies can be shared between both established members and newcomers of the profession of picture journalism. The Workshop is tuition-free, and the 100 students are chosen based on the merit of their portfolios."

In other words: it's a mind blowing, intense, sleep deprived, tuition free, life changing experience that a student (or professional for less than three years) will never forget.

Last year I got the axe and didn't make it in. I took it personally as I really believed I had a strong opportunity to be among the top 50 students applying. But I didn't.

After that, something changed. I started seeing differently and approaching my subjects in a way I didn't before. I worked very hard at developing my own personal style and made a strong effort to excel in assignments I thought I normally wouldn't do well in.

I rarely turned down freelance assignments, no matter where, when or what of. I started going through my takes two or three times after I had transmitted, too. And tasks like this made my work get a little stronger in my opinion.

As I looked back through my images, trying to decide how many and what to submit, I made sure they were photos that were my own vision; things that weren't always on an actual assignment, too.

After doing the simple tasks of filling my name out, what college I attended and writing my short personal statement I spent a solid week combing through my images trying to find those that said, "these are Patrick Smith photos."

Once I had a solid 20, I knew I could break it down into 10 or less images. So I did something I didn't do last year. Ask for help.

I got three varying opinions from three friends. While some of their differences were voiced, they all had certain images they collectively liked for one reason or another. It was the single best thing I ever did. Ask for help.

When all said and done, we came up with a small theme: personal to on assignment. Basically I started my portfolio off with features I had made while off the clock and transitioned them into those I made while working on tight deadlines.

We got it down to 13 images, but I knew deep down that some images didn't belong and canned them. Then it came time. Judgement day.

Submit. Now I wait.

I remember last year, I checked my e-mail literally every time I had the chance in June. If I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I checked. Waiting. Wishing. Hoping.

Then I finally got it. It was in my junk e-mail folder for two days. I had been rejected.

Conversely, this year, while sick, laying in bed the night before I was supposed to leave for Japan I get a new e-mail. I crossed my fingers and hit open:

"Congratulations! You have been accepted as a student for the Eddie Adams Workshop XXI!

Your application went through a rigorous selection process. After the first round of editing, yours was chosen to enter the final portfolio review where a panel of judges selected 100 applications (50 students and 50 professionals). We are very excited to welcome you as a member of the Barnstorm class of 2008!"

While I was hurting all over and nauseated, I did exhibit a big smile and my feeling of sickness vanished for a minute.

So now I'll be off to Barnstorm XXI, which is held October 10-13 in Jeffersonville, NY.

I feel privileged and hope to learn a lot from this fantastic experience, meet a lot of great photographers and make some new friends.

Thanks again Assaf, Monica and Roth.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dew the Dew: A look back

"BMX competitor Jorge Jovel takes a practice run during the 2007 AST Dew Tour: Panasonic Open in Baltimore, Thursday, June 21, 2007. Due to high winds the BMX vert prelim event was postponed."

Being ill probably is the worst thing ever.

The world goes on around you as you're confined to sitting in bed, couch indulging horrible TV programming and surfing the same Web sites in the pajamas you've had on all day until your mind goes into crazy mode as you wonder what the normal life was like before getting sick.

One place, other than Japan, I wish I was, feeling better and being myself this past weekend was the AST Dew Tour: Panasonic Open in Baltimore.

Obviously, I was still on the media list from last year as I received dozens of e-mails each day announcing new updates from the extreme competitions, thus meaning there was probably a media credential with my name on it sitting in a box somewhere at M&T Bank Stadium.

Although I was only stationed on the top-side of the vert ramp and street course for one day last year, it was one of the most entertaining, laid back sports assignments I had ever shot.

It was windy, so I missed out on the freestyle motocross and BMX dirt course, which I was really looking forward to shooting for the first time.

However, shooting these extreme sport events is something I hope I get the chance to cover again in the future.

First, the access was great. Any place I wanted to go at any point in time I was granted with it. Aside from the large ego, power-tripping S.A.F.E. employees, everyone who ran the event were super easy to work with.

The angles I was able to get were unlike the typical football game and since it's not something I would normally shoot during the week, there really is no repetitiveness to the skate, bike and motocross competitions. It had a nuance to it, too.

I made many great photos last year and saw many of my fellow shooters make even better images. As I mentioned, there were limitless possibilities in approaching each event.

Much like the X-Games, the Dew Tour is gaining lots of popularity and it showed in the crowd. Primarily set for a younger mindset, these athletes are very popular, yet not blown out of proportion like I see with some NFL players.

Overall it was refreshing event that I really missed shooting this year. Granted I would have missed it anyways being in Japan, but being stuck to my bed about 40 minutes away as I try to get better makes it even worse.

On the better side of the spectrum, I am starting to feel somewhat better. I guess the medication is starting to kick in and my bland, mundane diet is working. But it's all about the progress; small or large.

All I am dreaming of is feeling better, a large slice of pepperoni pizza and my D3 in my hand.

I guess I'll take it day by day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

No Nihongo

"A traveler pulls along her suitcase as she makes her way toward her terminal at Baltimore Washington International Airport early Wednesday morning."

Sometimes life is chalked full of hard decisions and I made one of the toughest I can remember this week.

For the past month I really have not been myself. My health and I have been on this see-saw type relationship and its been bothersome in my life. It actually has been going on longer, but the last month has been very rough.

I visited a couple doctors, specialist and got some medications, but nothing was completely solving my stomach-centered problems. Only holding off the symptoms for a couple days at a time if that.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning, the morning we leave for Japan. All night and all morning I was feeling pretty much the lowest of lows. I was hoping that it was just a small flair up and by the time I got to Japan it would pass.

At the airport, I was still feeling ill and thought I'd still shoot some photos, video and take our first flight to Houston hoping it would escape my mind and for it to all pass. However, at that point I was miserable for four hours on the flight.

When we got off the leapfrog flight, I had to make a hard decision to try and make a 13-hour flight into Tokyo or postpone the trip and think about my health.

I knew at the time I could not do a 13-hour flight and I really didn't want to risk being sick for two-weeks in a foreign county.

After long thought, we called off the trip and decided to get me back home. It was a horrible, sad, ill feeling day.

Since arriving back in Baltimore, for the past three days I've been in and out of the hospital going through various tests that were not so pleasant; I guess the good thing is I don't remember half of them due to the anesthetics.

The good news is that there are no serious problems and hopefully (I am really hoping) that I should be feeling better soon. From what I understand, had it been taken care of months before when it was just starting, I'd be in much better condition. But I allowed it to get to far off and now in the position I am in.

Thanks to wonderful Kate for helping me out the past couple days and totally understanding.

We got nearly all of our money back for the flight, JR passes and will make it to Japan in the future. But it's not getting the money back, it's hopefully getting me to feel better and back to who I am.

Sorry for any inconvenience I've caused to my readers looking forward to Japan pictures. I am upset we could not go back and see my friends and document our travels to new places, too.

Posting will be slow as I make my way back to feeling better again. Thanks for understanding.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Father's gift

"PJ Shafer plays with his five-years-old son Hayden on the playground at The Shafer Center for Early Intervention Wednesday, June 11,2008. Hayden was diagnosed with autism while PJ was working as an attorney in Owings Mills. In order to be there for Hayden, PJ switched careers to have an active involvement with Hayden's day-to-day life."

Big Daddy. I guess the two-word phrase is synonymous with the blockbuster hit starring Adam Sandler, a fictional video game wrestler created by my buddy and the nickname given to a friend’s father’s business associate.

But what the name in this story means in being a bigger man, giving up his first passion of work to spend more time with his son.

Earlier this week, I got to hang out with PJ Shafer and his five-year-old son, Hayden. Hayden was diagnosed with autism while PJ was working as an attorney in Owings Mills.

But in order to be there for Hayden, PJ switched careers and joined his mother's financial planning business. Since then, he started the Shafer Center with his wife, allowing PJ to have an active involvement with Hayden's day-to-day life.

This in turn has transformed into a bigger gift to all students enrolled at the Shafer Center, it has also helped other children on the same spectrum.

On my way to Reisterstown, I had no idea what to expect. Since I didn't have much going on, I was hoping to hang out a lot longer than I typically would on an assignment.

I arrived a bit early and met with PJ, where he was enjoying some fundamental fun with his son on the playground.

The place where any kid is happy and any father can enjoy simple interaction with their children, so I opted to follow them around the playground for 45 minutes.

Their affection toward one another was imminent and this photo ended up running with the story as they took a break from running around the multi-colored playground on a fantastic weathered morning.

While the image that ran may be deemed endearing by some, the above was an image I thought showed a bit more personality of the two.

The Hayden swing was what it was called. PJ frequently picked his son up and did this. I missed it the first time, but saw how much Hayden liked it, so I stood on guard for it again.

The pleasure of being swung back-and-forth by his father, while a melody of song was sung, "The best type of swing is the Hayden swing..." was anything but obtuse to Hayden. He didn't like it, he loved it.

His face exhibited pure joy and it was evidence he loved his father, as we all should on Sunday.

Happy Father's Day dads.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Second chance for Clark

"Towson University defensive back alumnus Eric Clark got a second chance to follow his dream of playing professional football after facing drug possession charges that were later dropped in November 2007. Clark is currently living in Baltimore as he works on landing a spot on an Arena or Canadian Football League team."

Perseverance. That pretty much sums up now Towson University alumnus, Eric Clark.

Arrested with a former teammate, Clark was locked up after Baltimore County Police officers found drugs in their apartment in Cockeysville and indefinitely suspended the two the football program.

However, due to a lack of evidence, the case against Clark, who was charged with possession of marijuana and the intent to distribute, was dropped in November.

From an article in The Towerlight, Clark said, "This experience has taught me a lot about how to make sure I stay in good situations and not get caught up in other people's problems.

"My name has already suffered a lot of damage..."

I cannot imagine what is would have been like to be in his shoes last year. Missing classes, being faced to interviews and speculation by local media outlets and probably the most painful, missing football.

After all cleared, I ran into Clark earlier this year when I was assigned to shoot photos of his teammate, Brian Bradford, as they trained for the NFL Pro Day.

While we didn't know each other personally, he got to know a little about me as I hung out with them all afternoon.

Then at the NFL Pro Day, those two faced all the pressure from the scouts. I got to learn a little more about him there.

Since The Towerlight now puts out one summer issue, I had to shoot a couple little assignments since school has let out and finally got the chance to catch up with Clark.

The story is basically about how he has gotten a second chance and is still pursuing his dreams. While I displayed the image above, this image will probably run with the story.

When we met up, since we got to know each other a little in the past, we skipped the small talk and from the get go he was very trusting and open to anything I had in mind.

Definitely beats the corny joke I sometimes say to kids, "How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice." Not funny, right?

While it would have been nice to stay until total sunset, I didn't want to keep him long. But while we did wait for the sun to come down, turn a little more golden we chatted about his dream of playing professionally.

Oddly enough, we shared a lot of things in common relating from life to football and photography. This in turn opened him up even more. I only wish all my portrait subjects were so easy to work with.

Now I need an oatmeal bath or something, maybe a trip to the hospital to get rid of this west nile virus I probably picked up from laying on a grassy hill as I got bit by a million and one mosquitoes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More storms crush area

"A Honda Accord sits crushed by a fallen tree on Loch Raven Drive following a severe thunderstorm that passed through the region Tuesday, June 10. According to a witness, the driver left the scene in a Baltimore County police car and was not seriously injured."

Sometimes you stumble across things you never would expect to see at unexpected times. Thus was true of my Tuesday evening.
It all started when I began driving to Howard County to help friend David Hobby on a shoot of his. However, severe thunderstorms passing through the area, state called for him to cancel the anticipated shoot, so I whipped a U-turn and headed for home.

As I crossed the Dulaney Valley Road bridge just before the Jarrettsville Pike, between Towson and Jacksonville, I opted to take the back way home with hopes of finding some sort of weather related feature.

There are always people out by Loch Raven Reservoir watershed rain or shine.

Passing the Towson Golf and Country Club I noticed a lot of sticks and leaves in the road and a couple of fallen branches. While not raining at the moment, the storm I had earlier ran through to get to my car must have done some damage to the area.

Then I approached the entrance to the park, where I normally just drive by, when I saw the flashing lights of a police car.

Instinctively I pulled into the nearby restaurant where two people stood looking down the road.

A car had been crushed by a fallen tree.

They told me before even getting out of my car that the driver was OK and that he had been taken away in a police car.

After I snapped a couple frames, I realized that I pulled up around the same time as Baltimore Sun staffer, Ken Lam. I sort of chuckled to myself at the irony that we were both standing there shooting the same inanimate object with our 70-200's then made eye conatct.

But I guess he beat me there as he had the driver in one of his images.

I moved two images, but don't think I made the deadline. Funny thing was I was going to call The Sun photo desk, too. I guess they were onto it, unless Lam was lucky like I was.

Couldn't connect any sort of human element to the photograph, but all in all glad the driver was unharmed.

It's not everyday you see something like a tree crushing a car and it helps tell the severity of the storms that passed through the state; whether or not mine will ever be seen beyond this Web site.

I guess this photo makes up for the comical image I missed of the pig littered semi-truck I saw on the highway where about 100 pig noses stuck out the side of the container and the super cool assignment with Hobby.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Beyond the boards at the beach

"A fog fills the air while a crowd forms around a magician as he hands a young boy his card that he pulled from his friend's wallet on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Md. Friday evening."

The beach is relaxing. It’s a place I know everything about.

Fortunately I get the opportunity to make the more than two-hour trip south whenever I have the chance since my parents own a condo oceanside.

But the condo cannot hold everyone and it normally takes some advanced planning if we want a quiet weekend or don’t mind giving up the beds to the parents, or brother with kids, which translates into sleeping on the floor during any given weekend in July.

This coming weekend I'll be drinking too much having fun at my good buddy's wedding and then I am off to Japan.

Being in the land of the sun for more than two weeks and then returning to an internship lasting the remainder of the summer I thought sitting on the beach soaking up the sun, eating some great indigenous foods of the Chesapeake Bay and seeing the bizarre sights I love would be a perfect way to officially start my summer.

But after making the trip and walking on the boardwalk Friday night it hit me. I really don't know everything there is to know about the place I call "the beach."

Sure I've been to this barrier spit way more than 100 times, and I've eaten at all the local places along with the staples that are basically the Chilis and Outback of Ocean City.

But there is so much to this small town that we don't get to see. There are so many people we don't get to meet beyond the surface. There is so much to do that we haven't done. The more I think about it, it's like home.

I cannot speak on behalf of everyone reading, but how often are our days consumed with the same daily food chains and people? I know besides work related people I get to meet and my sense of wanting to be adventuress that I mostly eat, see and talk to the same people day in, day out.

As we trekked along the foggy pier know as the boardwalk, I noticed so many different types of people. It's one of my favorite things to do at the beach: people watch.

But in past years, I never took my camera and what caught my eyes this time were the performers. From magicians, musicians and artists, they all had an expression that wanted to be witnessed by passerby.

But who were these people when they weren't performing on the overcrowded wooded walkway? It interests me. I am not normally the kind that stops to watch a man playing two trumpets or the magician throwing cards. I did Friday.

I guess what I am getting at without rambling 300 more words than I should is that there is so much more that surrounds us that we have no idea about.

I pose the challenge to go against the golden rule and talk to strangers. Seek out the stories of the ordinary people you pass daily. Go into the restaurant you've never been. Try something new.

I've always had a strong interest in others, and it hit me when my professor once said, "Do something new each weekend. See the world."

She was right. There is so much to the world, so many places to see, yet, we barely know the town we live in. I guess that's why I love traveling and meeting new people.

On a recent episode of one of my favorite shows, which I've mentioned before, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Bourdain whom has been around the world, came back to explore his hometown of New Jersey. It was fascinating to see his viewpoints of a place he thought he knew everything about and what was his home.

Japan will again open up my eyes to dig deep and step outside of my comfort zone, try new things, meet new people and come back a new person. But I cannot forget that even the places I visit normally can have the same effect on my life.

Now back to my love/hate relationship with Tom Green Live. Yeah, that Tom Green. He has a live Internet talk show which is pretty entertaining to listen to when blogging late night.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Advising graduation

"A graduate takes a high vantage point as she searches for family following the College of Graduate Studies and Research College of Education commencement at the Towson Center Arena on Wednesday, May 21. Towson University will award about 2,027 baccalaureate degrees, 547 master’s degrees and 15 doctoral degrees over a three-day period during its 143rd commencement exercises."

The countdown begins.

I leave for a quick get away to Ocean City, Md. in three days. I depart from the county enroute to Japan in 15 days. When I get back I start my internship at the Baltimore Sun; 33 days until that.

And after summer, in relation to my past assignment, one semester to go before I complete my undergrad at Towson University.

Unfortunately, I was not walking across the stage, flipping my tassel and receiving my diploma a couple weeks ago as commencements around the Maryland area began.

I must say, each time I shoot a graduation and see students walk across the stage it gets harder, knowing I'll soon be there. My time will come though.

This is why I didn't walk across this May as I eagerly expected.

When I walked into my adviser’s office last winter to check my graduation status, I was confident I only needed two classes to make the next step in life. However, I was informed that I lost some credits in transferring and needed to make it up with some liberal arts.

As my blood pressure escalated and I started to drown out the voice of my adviser (which was my fifth one at this point at Towson) I realized I would be taking an extra semester of meaningless courses to get through my undergrad.

My track record with advisers has not been great at this school as just mentioned. The first one I was given was little to zero help, so I opted to change, but the second one was not up to date with the changing Mass Communication track.

I wasn't being greedy or impatient; I needed to be guided in the right direction precisely.

At this point, I asked them to refer me to a specialist in the journalism department. I guess when I said journalism; they figured I meant forensics, because when I showed up to meet my new adviser, I was in the science building.

After the mistake, again, I was told I would be sent in the right direction. This time, I decided to skip the advising and do everything on my own. Little did my advisers know, I was already doing this, I was just seeking a bit of advice from them.

Yet again, I ran into a problem. I needed to register for one of my upper levels and couldn't get in for some reason. I looked up my next new adviser and come to find out, yep, she was in advertising, not journalism, and couldn't help me out.

Finally, I was searched on my own, where I should have started, and located Dr. Baker. A great guy, he helped get me into the class I needed, confirmed my remaining status as a Towson undergrad and also gave me some great wisdom on the changing world of journalism.

Conversely, when he confirmed, he authenticated that I needed six more credits in the fall after May to get my piece of paper and handshake from Towson president, Robert Caret. Tough break.

But I guess you are dealt the cards you are given for a reason and I have taken it in stride, as good always comes from the bad in retrospect. And it has.

One bad though. Shooting more graduations, including the same one, for what seems like the ninth time, at Towson.

Much like other assignments in photojournalism, events and things repeat themselves and we as journalists much find new angles and perspectives in which to inform the reader.

An outtake, the new light design were one thing that kept catching my eye as I waited tolerantly on the floor, in the dark for the commencement to start.

Once graduation started, it reminded me of the end of sporting match. Whether or not you get a great action shot, you always want a nice jubilation or dejection shot following the match. However, during regular season, these images don't come often. But the entire game you know you still want to try and capture one.

For commencement, you watch, you shoot, you want that one student to jump and shout or make a funny face, or heaven forbid, trip. I counted three of the graduation I shot, only getting one since two names are being called at once.

I typically wait for the outside accolades from parents to make my main image. It is something that varies from family to family rather than the classic grip and grin on stage.

It's also usually brief and challenging. And the story with any graduation is finding mom and dad. Or parents finding their son or daughter, which is usually something like finding Waldo.