Sunday, August 31, 2008

Walking the halls of the mall

"Connie Tate of Baltimore enters the mall of Marley Station early Wednesday morning where she has walked the halls for the past 20 years. Since 1988, a group of 25 people have walked the halls of Marley Station mall each morning. The group celebrated their 20th anniversary with a slide show, awards and a reception."

Mornings aren't my cup of coffee tea. I don't drink either (no caffeine), but mornings just don't mix well with me. Well, at least they didn't use to.

In saying that, for the past two months I've learned to get up early and go to work and surprisingly feel a sense of accomplishment. Why? Because I can look back around noon and see all that I've done, considering I'd still be sleeping otherwise.

A couple weeks ago not only was I up and out of my house by 7 a.m., I was shooting the people we've all heard about, but probably never witnessed. No. Not criminals. I am talking about mall walkers.

Yeah, I am talking about those people who lace up their sneakers and trek around the local mall before the all the stores open, before you ship your kids off to school and probably before your alarm clock even buzzes.

These walkers I met weren't just your average sneaker wearing, early morning workout crew though. These were a group of friends who made the drive to the same mall just about every morning to walk more than a mile indoors.

Friends, past and present, walkers new and old, gathered at the mall of Marley Station to commemorate those they lost and those they add to the squad. Why? Because they have been walking continually for 20 years.

Some of the walkers were now quite elderly and are no longer able to walk the halls, but they still attended the event. Many of them told me how they had become close friends over the years and go on trips and share dinners together.

Now that's a sense of accomplishment and a commitment if I've ever seen one. I mean, getting up early is one thing for me.

Not only do I cringe to my Foo Fighters alarm clock on my Blackberry anytime before 8 a.m., but to get up and then workout, even be it walking, would be tough for me.

Granted, I probably do it anyways and not know it, the fact that they get up and go to the same place and walk with the same people is fascinating for some small reason.

As for the assignment, other than being still half asleep, it was tough trying to come up with something interesting and visually appealing, yet that still told the story of these walkers.

I spent about 45 minutes shooting through open store fronts, reflections in the mall, and other nicely lit areas of the mall. I thought I did a nice job getting the pedestrian as well as the artistic side of the story.

In addition to only mall walker images, the group also held a ceremony which allowed me to get some more telling moments of the groups happiness as they congratulated one another on their small momentous occasion.

It was an early morning for sure, but I am glad that I've gotten used to the fact that mornings are a part of life. And like the mall walkers, I have actually started to like the fact that I am getting so much done by waking up before the sun and not sleep the day away.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Back to school blues

"Second-grader Kaila Griswold shows her excitement to be back at school following summer vacation as she watches other students in Kathy Wilson's class unpack their supplies at Vincent Farms Elementary School on Monday, Aug.25. The new school opened its doors for the first time Monday."

New book bag. Check. New lunch box. Check. New crayons. Check. Summer over. Check.

School has unofficially begun in Maryland and students from kindergarten to college are packing their book bags and dreaming of the beach as they now listen to their professors ramble.

For myself, I am wrapping up my undergrad with a class two mornings a week. That doesn't go to say that I won't be anxious to get back in the classroom like I've always been on the first day of class.

The first day of school always had a certain feel to it. Hard to put into words, the morning has always been a brisk and damp one as I made the commute into class.

I always wondered who would be in my classes, what the professor will be like and what sort of new routine I would have to develop to stay on top of things.

While most of those questions raced through my brain each semester, I can't really recall what I thought the first day each year grade school began. Nonetheless, I got a glimpse of what it might have been like though as I got to shoot the first day of school in Baltimore County last week.

After strolling through the IKEA styled school (seriously, I felt as if I was in a friends apartment rather than a classroom) with the reporter, I made my way out to see students be dumped off of the big yellow buses.

While some students screamed from windows waving at fellow pupils, others gazed from the windows at their new school. It was endearing to see such a scared faced as they peered from the windows of the bus.

As they trekked to their classrooms, the reporter and I decided to stick with one class. Again, funny and cute, most of the students instead of worrying about their class load and difficulty of text books, these children were more worried about if they had enough crayons to last them the first day of school.

Of course, there the full range of students in the class. The quiet little girl diligently doing her work, the half asleep girl who needed a Red Bull didn't want to be in school (above...and usually what I probably look like) and the wild child who the teacher was dreading having in class.

I had to watch myself as I made photos for the first 25 minutes of school because everything these students did just made me laugh. The silly questions they asked, the things they said and did. It was comical, but reminded me that I could never be a teacher; especially in an elementary school.

After witnessing my share of classrooms through the years, I've decided to write to my favorite teachers from elementary school through college to thank them for what they've done to help mold and teach me after I am done college.

As for my schooling, I'll admit, although eager to move onto the next step of my life, I'll miss it. From the moment I walked into kindergarten I've had a miniature world at my disposal, with very few real world 1restrictions or pressures. In short, I could do what I wanted.

But now as my days of being a student come to an end (unless I pursue grad school) I'll miss that independence. Sure I'll be able to still "do what I want," however, it will be time to grow up and take on a new chapter as I search for a suitable career in journalism.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Inspiration three ways to Sunday

"A competitor begins the 17.5 mi. bike following the swimming portion of the Iron Girl Triathlon at Centennial Park in Columbia."

I'll admit that I was not looking forward to having a 6:30 a.m. assignment 45 minutes away Sunday morning. The only thing motivating me to get out of bed was the thought of nice morning light at the triathlon.

Earlier in the week I had the pleasure of shooting a triathlete train for the The Aflac Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon. She was really excited and was hoping I'd get to cover it. What I didn't know was I would be there, too.

Held in Centennial Park in Ellicott City on Sunday, the race put contestants up against a swim of 0.62 miles, a bike of 17.5 miles and run of about 3.4 miles.

I had never shot a triathlon before, so I wasn't quite sure how to prepare for the event. All I knew was it hosted more than 2,000 athletes of all ages and they would be competing in the water and on land with bikes and their feet.

After careful consideration (read: still half asleep) and a cup of yogurt at 5 a.m., I decided to use only one body, my Nikon D3, and two lenses, a 70-200mm and a 17-35mm. This would eliminate too much gear syndrome, which I do too oftensometimes. I also wanted either tight images or really wide, so these would do the trick.

In addition, I also brought along my Canon G9 with underwater housing, which I put in my waist pouch with my unused lens. I wasn't sure how I'd use it, but figured I'd bring it along for fun.

After parking in a dusty field, I made my way to the starting block where contestants jumped into the water for the swim as the sun rised. I figured I go for the underwater housing first to get my creative juices flowing.

As I laid on the wooden dock area by myself, I felt a presence over top of me.

"OK, ladies. Get ready. We got The Baltimore Sun here with his underwater camera shooting you," echoed the microphone man.

I have never been called out on an assignment like that, so I got a good chuckle out of it. When I looked at him and laughed, he said, "Hey, might sell you guys some papers tomorrow."

Might have been true, but I am normally one who tries to blend in, not stick out. That doesn't go to say the latter is probably how I normally appear beyond my inner belief.

Anyways, everyone that entered the water looked right at me after that loud speaker comment, so I decided to pack it up and try it on the exit area of the swim on the other side of the lake.

It was a good idea to move to the other side of the lake, as I wasn't bothered and ended up with a couple frames I liked. Such as this frame. OK, aside from the fact I was shooting blindly and at one frame every five seconds or so.

As the day went on I found myself inspired not only by the upbeat music, but the girls themselves. I was questioning whether or not I'd be able to complete the course. This coming from the guy who just got back into mountain biking after a long hiatus off of a bike.

Following shooting the swim, I treked back and forth between the run at the finish line and the bike. Finally bumped into Todd Spoth from Texas, who is working for Patuxent Publishing Company. Good to finally meet you, man.

For my images, I love how I saw things throughout the day, especially near the beginning of the biking portion of the course. I abused the bright pink fencing, but what are you going to do. I had to work it, even though I am partial of the posted and this image here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Biden country

"Lewis Collat walks regularly past the home of Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., in Greenville, De., but Saturday morning spotted media, so he grabbed his camera. Then he saw a helicopter and returned home to get his binoculars, only to miss the slight appearance of Biden as he left his home for the Democratic Convention. Presidential hopeful Barack Obama selected Biden as his running mate early Saturday morning."

Delaware was on my plate for Saturday. That is only, and only if presidential hopeful Barack Obama selected Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., as his running mate.

All week the nation awaited his decision for a vice president, only to have it pushed back again and again.

As I snoozed Saturday morning, I rolled over to see the light flashing on my Blackberry. With an original start time of 2:30 p.m., I planned on skipping into the office around noon and wait for the call to head up north.

But with my phone on silent, I had missed the call. As it flashed red in my light sensitive morning eyes, I instantly woke up and saw that it was on. Biden was chosen.

I snagged a quick shower and breakfast. Then jetted to Interstate 95 to Wilmington.

After getting into Delaware, I met up with the reporter at local tavern Biden often frequented in his hometown of Greenville, De.

Our plan was to get a reaction story of those who might be or have been in contact with the vice presidential hopeful.

As we started to strategize our game plan in the parking lot, we both saw a helicopter in the not so far distance. We made jokes about following the chopper to Biden and said in jest, "there he goes." It seemed to be a police looking helicopter, so we went on our way of interviewing some locals.

Not 10 minutes later I overhear outside a coffee shop a couple speak aloud about how good he looked. "He" referring to Biden.

The couple had driven to Biden's neighborhood after seeing on television that he had yet to fly to Illinois for convention.

So we missed the dramatic departure by a couple minutes, but found some interesting people throughout the day.

My favorite was the (above) older gentlemen.

Since we had also missed Biden, we still opted to see if anyone besides sleeping television crews remained at his residence.

I say sleeping because one station's crew said they had been camped out for 30 hours without sleep and one of their crew members at that moment laid upright in a camping chair in the woods sleeping.

Anyways, Lewis Collat lingered out front of Biden's home hoping to still catch a glimpse of the action. To his dismay, it was all over. He was prepared though.

A regular walker on Biden's street in Greenville, De., Saturday morning he spotted media, so he grabbed his camera. Then he saw a helicopter and returned home to get his binoculars. But from all the pacing back and forth, he missed the exiting of the man himself.

He was endearing and had some good views for the reporter's story. The best part was he didn't want any pictures taken of him, but I got about 25 frames of him on the scene eagerly looking over the gate by shooting from the hip.

I hope he doesn't mind if he ever reads Sunday's paper and spots his mug. I couldn't resist. He was an entertaining man that had tried to cover all his bases with his optics that he missed everything.

Don't worry Collat, we missed Biden, too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Suffering: loss of a loved one

"Imre Kovasci, husband of Kathleen Kovacsi, emotionally reacts as he speaks about his wife's disappearance and the search for her while standing his wife's room at his home in Pasadena, Md. His wife Kathleen, a 57-year-old Alzheimer's sufferer, was last seen sleeping at her home on July 16. Her body would be found six days later just a tenth of a mile away in thick and overgrown wooded area."

Death is never an easy subject to tackle. Whether you're first-hand apart of one, a friend passing condolences to a peer or a reporter and photographer trying to tell the tragedy to others to help relate them to the story.

I thought I'd stick with the theme of covering a death and post another story I covered more than a month ago.

Kathleen Kovacsi, a 57-year-old Alzheimer's sufferer and wife of Imre Kovasci one night disappeared. She had wondered off before, but this time it was serious.

Last seen sleeping at her home on July 16, the family searched with neighbors, friends, family, and police for days.

Six days later, her body would be found just a tenth of a mile away in thick and overgrown wooded area from their home.

It was a tough loss for the family and we were lucky to get a glimpse inside the family's loss. Additionally, we also got to hear the joy they shared with their mother and wife before she passed.

Alzheimer's was not only a psychical part of Kathleen's life, but a emotional journey for Imre and the rest of his family.

Irme talked about everything from his college years and meeting her at College Park to the day he realized she had an illness.

He recalled her saying she took out the trash, when in fact she didn't. As the chronological story progressed, he made it apparent that his family had a full-time job caring for their loved one.

But in turn, not once did they ever regret it.

Like Imre, when we talk about death, we get naturally get upset. But sometimes we want to be bold, strong and hold back our emotions.

Thus is generally true from my experiences speaking to others on the record about their loss. But there is always that one moment they share that has such a deep meaning to it, and they show their loss emotionally.

Usually a touching moment, the story Irme shared was a tough one for him to talk about.

Happy to have his photograph taken throughout the interview, he reminded not only me, but the reporter too, of several things he thought would help those that have a loved one that suffered from Alzheimer's.

One thing was issuing some sort of ankle device to track their whereabouts. The other was just as important to him though. He wished he could pass to others as a general message to take lots of pictures of those you love.

See, his wife didn't like having her picture taken, so he didn't have many images of her to share.

Like pictures, since his wife suffered from memory loss among other effects of her disease, he spoke about how the little things mattered in his relationship. Since the romance was gone, things like when she would hold his hand for a brief moment or thank him for all that he does touched him.

Then couple months before her death he found something. This object was cherished and he spoke about how much it meant to him, but no longer had because he had given it to the police to help in the search.

Tucked under his pillow, it was the most recent picture of Kathleen with a message on the back.

It read: "I Love You."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cult 'Brainwashed' daughter

"Seeta Khadan-Newton, mother of Ria Ramkissoon, 21, who was recently charged with killing her 21-month-old son, Javon Thompson, while she was part of a tiny religious cult that seemingly kept to itself in the inner city, says she still cannot believe it. Khadan-Newton had been fighting since April 2006 to extricate her daughter and grandson from the cult; four other members have thus far been charged."

I am up early and not working until 3 p.m., so how about a nice uplifting story to start the day.

Last week at the end of my shift I was sent to photograph Seeta Khadan-Newton at her home in Baltimore City.

She is the mother of Ria Ramkissoon, a 21-year-old whom was recently charged with killing her 15-month-old son, Javon Thompson, while she was part of the religious group called 1 Mind Ministries.

The story timelines back to 2006 and reads like a plot to a movie.

Saddening, Javon Thompson, Ramkissoon's son, was killed when he failed to say "Amen" after meals, and then restricted food and water before finally passing away.

According to reports, the lifeless child was placed in a suitcase and dumped in a backyard in Philadelphia as the cult moved further north to New York.

Unknown of the death and fearful for her grandson, Khadan-Newton attempted to rescue Javon and her daughter multiple times. She tried just about everything in the book, but got the same answer each time. The child was with her mother.

Her attempts went unsuccessful and recently another woman's attempts to retrieve her children led police to the group and eventually led to charges in Javon's death.

Group members now face first-degree murder charges in the child's death.

However, Ramkissoon's mother is still saying that her daughter was brainwashed by a cult and acted only at the group leader's will.

Heartbreaking, I needed not only to make some copied pictures of Javon during my assignment, but capture Khadan-Newton in a way readers could understand the story.

After she looked through pictures for me, I asked her to describe how old and when the two large framed pictures on the table were taken.

The pictures were placed with a rose, were placed nicely in the room so that they stood out and I knew they had deeper meaning to them.

As I sat on the end of the couch, Khadan-Newton picked them both up and began speaking; describing things she missed about her grandson and daughter.

But when she got to Javon’s picture, she got choked up. She was at a loss for words.

For a very brief moment, she removed her eyes from the picture, staring at the ceiling, and clinched her mouth shut to hold back her deep loss for her grandson.

I finally got some emotion that she really felt. Although a by the book image of a subject holding framed pictures or not, I think it illustrated the story of her loss of both her daughter and grandson.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Spotting smoke

"Fire fighters work to put of a small shed fire on Kays Mill Road in Westminster Tuesday afternoon. It was reported that it began around 11:00 a.m., and two minor injuries were reported. One minor burn to the property owner and one to a firefighter."

Until my summer intern start at The Baltimore Sun, I've never witnessed a fire. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I've always been somewhat of a breaking news hound.

You never know when you're going to stumble onto something newsworthy, so you always have to keep your senses alert. I am not sure why, but in the past two-weeks I’ve observed two fires. The second one was last week.

Following my morning assignment at Ravens training camp, I started to make my way back to Baltimore instead of transmitting from the local hotel.

I don't know why I decided to drive back and move my images from the office. Well, it probably was because I didn't have any other assignments scheduled for the remainder of the day, didn't have any friends to eat the delicious media lunch with and my deadline was mid-afternoon.

As I trekked down the highway I spotted some smoke at a distance. It wasn't a normal camp fire, wood burning smoke; it resembled the same smoke I witnessed at the house fire a couple weeks ago.

Upon further inspection, I noticed it had probably just started and followed the smoke and sound of fire engines.

When I pulled onto the road it was on, I saw an elderly lady on the fringe of her driveway, so I pulled in and asked if it would be OK to park there. She said it was fine, but made me promise to inform her of what was happening when I made it back to my car.

She was obviously upset and told me her cousin lived up the hill where we could see firemen racing to the smoke.

As I made my way up the hill and began shooting, I was relieved to see it was only a large barn on fire and had overheard no one was injured.

Then something funny happen. Shooting from one knee, I stood up and looked directly to my right. It was Glenn, another Sun photog and editor. I found it ironic that we were both there, next to each other and didn't even notice one another.

I had been there probably 10 minutes or less before him. He had thought I was a shooter from the local paper since he couldn't see my face, as my camera was glued to it.

He had been going out to Westminster, while I was heading home from Westminster.

We were both in the right place right time, but he told me to handle it and went on his way.

Following the extinguishing I found out that no one had been seriously injured and that a tractor had started the blaze.

It's always a good thing when no one is hurt, but it's always a bit of excitement when you stumble across some unscheduled spot news.

As for the elder woman whom let me park in her driveway. She couldn’t have been happier to hear the news that no one was hurt. Not only did I have a bit of adrenaline rush that morning, I made someone else’s day, and sometimes that is all that matters.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Preparing mentally, working it

"Catherine Jeffrey returns a rally at the USTA Junior Open Tennis Tournament, which is taking place this weekend in Druid Hill Park, after a 30-year hiatus. The tourney is for ages 8-18 and is a closing event for the All-Star Tennis Camp, a six-week tennis program for inner-city youth."

Last Sunday was hectic in a mental, non-demanding way, but ended low key.

As discussed in my last two entries, I began my day at Pimlico Race Course for the third annual Virgin Mobile Festival. Excited to be back and amped to get a little time to sleep in, I arrived around noon when the festival actually began.

Combing the crowd for features, I was having a slow day. Patrons were not doing much, and I made only two images I liked in about an hour.

Then I got a call from my editor. "Start packing up and head back toward the office. I'll call you back in five-minutes with more," he said, and instructed me to do.

Confused, I rounded up my gear and headed out of the media lounge. I was being pulled off the assignment and not sure why. I was anxious, yet eager to find out what was going on.

A couple minutes later, after I lugged all my gear back to my car and began to venture back downtown, I got the tragic news.

An 18-wheeler truck had crashed off the Bay Bridge, killing the driver. I've never heard anything like this before, and I cannot even recall a distinct accident on the Bay Bridge, let alone a vehicle actually plummeting off the side and into the water.

Although our freelancer had also been pulled from his assignment to jet down to the Bay Bridge, my editor was still trying to scrounge up a helicopter to get some aerials.

I was excited. I had never been in a helicopter, and have always had a freakish desire to shoot aerials. My mind was racing, along with my adrenaline. Where did I need to go, what gear did I need?

But then I got another call as I almost made it back to the office. A chopper wouldn't be available for another three-hours, thus meaning we had to count on our freelancer to get through the traffic mess and capture a telling image.

This also meant I had to cover the freelancer's centerpiece assignment he had been covering earlier in the morning.

Told to "work it," a phrase I often hear and becoming accustom to, I needed to do the best I could in a short amount of time in case we could score a helicopter sooner.

The story was about a junior open tennis tournament, which was taking place at Druid Hill Park over the weekend, after a 30-year hiatus. The tourney featured children, ages 8-18, and was the closing event for the All-Star Tennis Camp, a six-week tennis program for inner-city youth.

Since I wanted to have some go to images in the bag incase I was called to leave there, too, I shot some pedestrian images for the first 10 minutes or so with a 400mm. Photos I knew were clean, tight and story telling.

Sometimes when I am put on the spot to work quickly I void my personal vision and shoot quickly and clean. But as time goes by and I start making the same image over and over again, I get out of that rhythm and capture the more artistic side of me.

The above kept catching my eye as I made my way from one court to another. So I finally started shooting it, although I had to manual focus through the fence. A passerby thought I was crazy and said, "You know you can go on the court?"

As 4 p.m. approached, I trekked back to the office and dumped my tennis, and what I and what I had from V-Fest, into the system. Still no chopper, but Colby ended up getting some great images of the truck after fighting an overheating car and mind-numbing traffic. Kudos, Colby.

After he was back, I spent the evening archiving what seemed like more than 10 DVDs worth of work. Although my day wasn't "crazy" with me running around shooting multiple assignments on tight deadlines, plans kept changing, so I needed to stay prepared mentally for anything that could happen.

But that's a normal life of a journalist. Things change and they can turn in a moment’s notice, so one must always stay prepared for anything.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

V-Fest: Feature finding - Day 2

"Jess Apo of Gaithersburg, Md. dances as Wilco performs at Pimlico Race Course for the third annual Virgin Mobile Festival. As the sunset, patrons had to decide whether to hear the Foo Fighters or Jack Johnson close out day one of the festival."

You know you're at a Pimlico event when you roll down Park Heights and see fine folks of Baltimore selling parking spaces. I am willing to bet half of the spots they are selling aren't even theirs to sell, but they do it anyway.

Whether or not that is good for the economy, selling parking was again the case as I made my way back to Virgin Fest Sunday for day two.

Signs everywhere. $20 here. $30 there. Who knows where these people actually make one park or what they do to your car, but I'd sure never trust their "cheap, close parking."

With secured parking in the media lot and having shot a full day of mostly bands Saturday, I was ready to put that in the past and make some good looking, story telling features on Sunday.

As at any event, there are people being people. It's just a matter of finding those fine folks who tell what the event is all about. This usually means walking around and around, again and again, until you feel you've made a decent amount of photographs.

I am not going to lie, I was put to the test after I saw what Monica had produced. She knocked off some images I had also seen, cutting hierarchy of already preconceived images almost in half.

An hour passed Sunday and I had only made two images. Things were quiet early, but that's no excuse of how slow my shooting was going. But then I got a call. I was being pulled off the assignment.

A semi-truck had crashed off the Bay Bridge, killing the driver. My editor was trying to scrounge up a helicopter to get some aerials, but in the meantime, I would have to cover for Colby, our freelancer, who was covering a centerpiece for Monday. I'll get more into depth into this story on my next post.

So I was disappointed I had to leave. I had wanted to try some ideas with crowd surfing and other things going on at Virgin Fest. But I had to do my job, and that was going elsewhere to help complete a story.

Luckily, on Saturday, I did make a handful of features between bands and transmitting.

I didn't have much time to shoot features Saturday. Literally about five to 10 minutes each time I walked to or from the media lounge or stage.

Overall I made about six features Saturday of things that grabbed my eye as I made my way through the soup of music lovers.

Random note: I think I know why they call it Virgin Fest, too. A lot of young people under the age of 18. Yet, ironically, these "virgins" where all dressed very, dare I say, barely.

It's like a movie when the girl kisses her father before bed, but then tears off her pajamas and is dressed sexy, then proceeds to hit the town without his knowledge or permission.

Anyways, aside from the barely dress and dressed up characters, I focused on the a crowd, whether crowd surfing or dancing. However, I liked the above picture (although it lost some saturation and color after uploading) the best.

This was during Wilco's performance and as the sunset. People scattered across the lawn relaxing and soaking up the remaining sun rays and tunes of the day. One girl though stood out a she was the only one enjoying the music with dance.

I "worked it" as my editors tend to say, and liked the mood and light of the image. This verison ran in print on a page front, but I still like the colors in the above.

Overall, Virgin Fest was fun, but I wish I could have shot more features.

More on my day after "V-Fest" last this week.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

V-Fest: Preakness on Ritalin - Day 1

"Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl acknowledges the crowd at Pimlico Race Course for the third annual Virgin Mobile Festival as they headline Saturday night. This is a two day festival of 40-plus bands, art exhibits, sideshows, and more."

I expected Preakness infield: baby pools filled with booze, barely clothed revelers and actions that mom and dad wouldn't be happy to witness. But I was wrong. Virgin Mobile Festival at Pimlico Race Course, while exciting, was more like Preakness on Ritalin. Cool, calm and collect with smooth tunes by star powered bands.

What made the festival different, for the most part, was that patrons were not allowed to bring alcohol in from the streets; it all had to be purchased. However, that didn't stop some of the crowd from bringing in other forms of drugs - rolled paper green, smoky substances.

Planted at the festival for two days, my assignments were different each day.

On Saturday I was paired up with Sun photog extraordinaire, Monica Lopossay. While she got to surf and search the crowd for features, I was put on the bands beat.

Conversely, my roll would be switched and I'd get the features on Sunday.

So on Saturday, while she waded through the soup of drunkenness, making killer clean photos of hulla-hoopers and a motorcycle tightrope dare devil named Monkey something; I was challenged to shoot nine bands on the same two stages time and time again.

From Cat Power and Lupe Fiasco, to Wilco, Jack Johnson and headliner Foo Fighters, it was difficult to photograph these bands differently every hour. I was put to the test and deep down I believe I did the best I could with it. I possibly would have changed my approach if I had to do it all over again, but I am not sure how at this very moment.

To make note, I am not much of a performance, band shooter because you know what you're going to get. Well, I don't mind plays or dances because they usually have cool lighting design that makes the job a little easier.

At a concert you're thrown into a photo pit with 20 or more shooters and everyone is shooting the same person or persons. If you get lucky, an outdoor night concert has intricate lighting. This concert was mostly in the day. Same light, sunshine all day long.

Honestly though, a monkey could shoot a band performance. And for the record, not all of the "photographers" in the pit at the festival probably had any idea what they were doing or were even taking pictures.

One girl actually had the nerve to tap me on the shoulder and tell me to move out of her way when she didn't fire one frame the entire two songs we were allowed to shoot. Rigggghhttt.

It's not too challenging and I tried my best to be different for what ever its worth. So as you can tell, while I enjoyed the day listening to free music and shooting high-profiled bands, I despise shooting bands.

No offense to those making a living doing it or those that eagerly await the next big act to come to town, but shooting bands is an easy gig. To use the over used phrase - it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Well, now that I think about it, maybe if I had more free range on where I could shoot the band from, not just a thirty-by-five-foot area, it might be different. I don't know where I am going. In my head I am ranting more.

I love music. I enjoyed the Foo Fighters live, especially when they open with a song like this. But shooting bands is not that thrilling or hard.

I guess it is what it is.

On the positive side, I did manage to shoot some features I liked in between bands and transmitting.

Although Monica ruled the ink on the pages with her gorgeous features on Saturday, I was pumped to go back Sunday when my rolled got reversed. I'd be shooting the features. More on that tomorrow.

Until then, here are a couple more band photos I liked: Foo Fighters, Lupe Fiasco, Jack Johnson, and Cat Power.

The Baltimore Sun Virgin Festival photo gallery is here, but I am not sure how long it will be up.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Back at Cal's yard

"A player rounds the bases during a skills challenge at the opening ceremonies of the Cal Ripken World Series at Cal Ripken's Yard in Aberdeen Friday evening. This is an international tournament for 12-year-old teams."

The date was 08-08-08, and I was shooting the opening ceremonies. I always dreamed of it. Rhythmic patterns, bright colors and in a foreign county. Ah, the joy.

OK, OK. I am speaking in jest. I wish I was in Beijing for the Summer Games, but I am not. However, on the other hand, I was at the summer games, right?

Although I wasn't at the highly anticipated real summer games, nothing beats an assignment in the remaining hours of your shift that is close to home.

On Friday night, I ended my night in Aberdeen for the Ripken Little League World Series opening ceremonies. Just about 30 minutes from home.

Last year I was literally camped out at the Ripken Stadium Complex covering the local Harford County team.

Aside from the pub I was shooting for, I managed to score a couple freelance gigs with some newspapers out west whom had a team playing and meeting up with the legend himself, Cal Ripken, Jr.

Since I knew my way around, I wanted to at the very least throw a remote onto the roof of the press box to get a little different action of what could be pretty straight forward.

Basically it was a prolonged ceremony introducing each team. Enter team Japan. Raise your hat when your name is called. Stand and watch the next team. Repeat steps one through three.

I arrived about 45 minutes early, only because I wanted to beat I-95 North traffic, and threw up my remote and walked to the field for a couple tests. Looked good (that's me in dark blue). Light was a bit harsh, and setting fast, so I was going to bank of almost no sun.

The events began and I shot before the players hit the field and as they made their way from the outfield to the infield.

As I shot from the field, my remote fired simultaneously. Perfection. Two angles. One button pushed.

As the night, light fell, and my deadline closer, I took down the remote and shot with a 70-200 from the roof of the press box during the brief skills challenge. I even nabbed a shot of Aegis photo editor and shooter, Matt Button.

I even got a nice breeze and a wireless connection from the roof. With my photos being sent via rooftop, I decided to keep shooting as my deadline passed.

Most of my images from the assignment weren't "pedestrian" per say, and I didn't think they'd run in print, as they didn't really convey the story perfectly.

Yet, I enjoyed spending more time than usual shooting the assignment as I saw them in an artistic way rather than my typical manner.

The photo that ran clearly told the story, but as mentioned, I liked this one and this one better to share a few. And one image that had no meaning toward the players.

In addition, I love making images, no matter what they are of, and I am always interested in trying to mount a remote camera at any event when given allotted time. This last assignment of the night, close to home was perfect for that.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Cut the cut, find the fire

"A firefighter inspects damage as others put out remaining flames at a house fire on Glenmore Ave. off of Bel Air Road in Baltimore, Md. Wednesday evening. It appeared the fire damaged mostly the rear half of the home and it was reported everyone made it from the home safely."

Woah. Where did the week go? I normally try to post every other day or worst case scenario once every three days, but I have no idea what happen to the days this week.

They've been keeping me busy at The Sun and that's a good thing. I am in the middle of a 10 day week and things have been fairly exciting this week.

On Wednesday, I worked the atypical nine to five shift and had some straight forward assignments. Since my morning actually kicked off around 7 a.m., no that's not when I rolled out of bed, I finished an hour and a half early.

Since I was off, my to do list called for something important - getting a haircut. It has been a high priority for the past two weeks. Some priorities, right?

Anyways, some how I managed to score an appointment the day of my call and at 5 p.m. Perfect.

After clocking out, I grabbed some dinner, washed my car up the road (thanks to my mistake of parking under a tree on Bank Street, thanks birds) and headed toward Bel Air Road.

But then something caught my eye as I stepped out of my car into the parking lot of the hair cut parlor. Smoke.

It wasn’t billowing, thick black smoke. It was almost as if something exploded and then dissipated into nothing.

With about 10 minutes to spare, I jumped back into my driver seat and puttered down the road to see what was going on. As I inched closer and closer to the thin smoke, I began seeing helicopters and people standing on the sidewalks.

Quickly I grabbed a parking spot at a convenient store and called my assignment editor to see if he knew of anything going on in my vicinity. He didn't, but urged me to check it out.

Sprinting down the street, asking those outside what was going on; I tried to find my way toward the emergency. About five-blocks down the road, I was clueless on where to go, but then I followed the sound of a passing fire truck.

I cut across Bel Air Road and ran for another solid five-minutes. At this point I was glad I had not been drinking the night before, and pleased to know playing soccer and mountain biking every week put me in somewhat good shape.

Finally, I found the street of the fire. More than six fire trucks lined the road and as I approached the house, it looked as if it had been extinguished.

I followed up with my editor, canceled my hair cut and got off a couple frames before I was politely asked to move to the street among the bystanders. In addition, I was told everyone had made it out safely, which is always a plus, but the damage was fairly significant.

I didn't spend much time there, as the scene was beginning to wrap up. Nonetheless, the small, off the clock adventure was enough to satisfy me for the evening, even though the images weren't "exciting" per say and never made it to print.