Monday, March 30, 2009

Senator auction - I lost count

"Baltimore-based a capella group Smoothteaze, bows on stage of The Senator Theatre during a town hall meeting in Baltimore, Monday night. The Senator Theatre closed its doors Monday and is supposed to be auctioned in the near future."

I've never seen a flick at the The Senator Theatre in Baltimore. But the historic theatre, which opened in 1939, is facing to be sold at auction in April - again.

According to reports, a payment has not been made on the theater's $940,000 debt since September and a town hall meeting was called two weeks ago with hopes of divising a plan to save it.

Enter my assignment. Warm the popcorn. Roll film. Start the community disagreements.

The meeting came about several days after 1st Mariner Bank, which holds the theater's mortgage, said The Senator was in jeopardy of being auctioned in a foreclosure, and announced the auction could be held as soon as mid-April.

Now, I've never seen a flick at The Senator, yet, and heard it's nothing short of amazing. Now that I think about it, I did assist friend Chris Assaf there when he was shooting Baltimore Raven linebacker Terrell Suggs a couple months ago. While a movie wasn't playing, it was a cool experience walking around at that point in time.

Continuing on, foreclosure threats is nothing new for the theater. It has faced chronic financial trouble in the past couple of years. From what I can recall, I believe this is the fifth time? Correct me if I am wrong.

With the way the economy is now, I am sure nothing short of Edward Norton rolling up in a limo with an overflowing brief case full of money will save it. But I could be wrong and this meeting was obviously held to help community members and civic leaders explore measures to save the historic space.

Not sure what to expect, I had simple instructions. Get an image of the owner, Tom Kiefaber, and the marquee at dusk.

Well, that proved to be a bit hard. Now only did Kiefaber hide in the shadows of the pitch dark theater, every time I lined up a shot, I felt as if he was intentionally avoiding my lens and would move.

Granted, I had gotten a couple frames of him in the beginning of the meeting and wasn't only shooting him, it was a frustrating two hours.

The night rolled along, and I had fun chatting up with my buddy, and Baltimore Sun nightlife and local entertainment reporter, Sam Sessa, among other local media there, all of whom where either there listening, some on, and others off the clock.

I didn't really hear many tangible steps in helping preserving the theater, it was more or less some arguing, questions being asked along with some praise.

As for the above photo, I liked it for its symbolism and thought it was appropriate. Back in the day, singing groups would perform before movies, and this is kind of like the last singing performance before the movie at The Senator.

Alas, enough words from me. I hope The Senator remains open, but a foreclosure auction since been set for April 20.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Edible art

"As projects are privately judged in the gymnasium, fourth grader Oliva Cowie, 10, of Sparks Glencoe, tries to peek through the hallway door during the Annual Edible Art Show at Fifth District Elementary School in Upperco, Md., Tuesday night. The show showcased student’s use of food to create storybook characters, copies of famous artwork, creatures, architecture, and more."

Kids are endearing, and they always make great photos in my opinion. They are honest, too young to understand criticism and always having a good time. However, I find that parents often make me despise children. Well, maybe it's only the parents I have a small hatred toward in certain circumstances.

In this instance, nothing bothers me more than when parents take more pride in school projects then the students themselves. Especially at this edible art contest in Upperco, which is in northern Baltimore County, at the Fifth District Elementary School.

The rules were simple. Each child needed to make a piece of art using only edible items. They could use food to create any and everything from: storybook characters, copies of famous artwork, creatures, architecture, and more.

Needing to make a only two frames, I concentrated on finding one detail of a project and at least one funny moment.

Well, I quickly realized that the children at this event generally didn't care about their own project, which I can maybe understand. It's like anything, if you put too much time into one thing, after a while, there really isn't much to it - to yourself that is.

That's why when I edit photos or listen to my interviews, I go with what catches my eye or ear first, because normally that is all someone is going to give it. Just a once over.

But that wasn't the case here. I think they weren't interested in their own projects because their parents had probably created them.

I saw one mother yelling at her kids not to touch their project as she assembled it. When parents came over and said how nice it was to the children, the mother smiled ear to ear and was proud as a peacock.

This is America though. Where we strive off of competition and that it's always evident parents and their children. Parents always want to believe that their child is the best at everything they do. {rolleyes}

Alas, I had a fun time. And to be honest, I cannot be that upset with parents being proud of their children and wanting them to do their best, even if it means them creating their son or daughters project.

Totally unrelated, I always find it fun to pick out the kids that you think resembled your own mannerisms and friends behaviors when you were that age. I totally saw kids that could have been me and my friends, and their projects were not built by their parents. Ha.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Northern Short Course - Awards

"Brian Bichell of Rosedale, Md., drags a lifeless deer from the forest to his truck after he shot it with a bow and arrow, as he and other archers gather for the opening of the annual deer hunt season in Loch Raven Reservoir off of Paper Mill Road in Baltimore County, Tuesday morning. (2008 Archive)"

I have never really been much into entering contests for various reasons; mostly because I've always been a self taught photographer and never knew about what to enter. In contrast, I was pushed to enter some regional and national college oriented contests in school when the campus paper paid for my entries; and I did very well in those.

Since I wasn't big into contests, I never paid attention to them; until now. You can bet I've seen every winner from every contest as far back as they go.

So now that I know about all that exist, I look back and wished I would have entered CPOY and all of the other contests such as: POYi, BOP, PDN, WPP, etc., each year.

Sure, I may have never placed, but I find it healthy to go through your past years work and reflect on what was a success, a failure, what worked, and what didn't, and organize your images accordingly.

With that, following graduation I've vowed to spend the time and money and enter all the major contests, be it the large international ones, or the simple, smaller Internet-based ones such as on Sports Shooter and NPPA.

This year, I've entered my work into what I call the "big dog" competitions for the very first time. I didn't expect to win anything, didn't place in POYi, and nothing in BOP (yet), but I got a little bit of a surprise last weekend.

This past week was the annual NPPA Northern Short Course, which includes their own photo contest for those members in regions one, two and three. Although I didn't make it to the conference in Virginia, I did enter the contest.

As I checked the results last Saturday night on my Black Berry, my heart stopped when I read that I had won an award.

I won't lie, I was totally shocked that I placed. I was competing against some of the best photojournalists on the East coast, including those at: The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Washington Times, The Baltimore Sun, Getty, AP, and more.

I am talking about exceptionally talented photographers who have entered piles and piles of contests for decades and know not only what wins, but what grabs a reader. In addition, have been shooting years before I was probably even born.

Not to mention those who are also breaking into the market, like me, entered as well. Simply put, I was up against really amazing folks in this industry that I often look up to for inspiration.

Well, after reading my name at midnight on my phone, there was no way I was getting to bed, so I wanted to double check that I actually placed. That's when I was shocked again.

I had won five awards, not just one.

I placed third in the feature picture category (the above image), third in the portrait and personality category, second and third in the sports action category, and received an honorable mention in the sports feature category.

Normally I am not one to toot my own horn, but it felt great seeing my name beside some of the industry's best for my first time entering a contest against like this.

While it may not be a national or even international contest, and there is no telling what happens behind closed doors with the purely subjective judging, it's still great to be recognized. Not to mention, helping The Baltimore Sun get a third place team overall, and beating out some of my friends and fellow shooters, who I think the world of, here in Baltimore, was cool.

What can I say. My excitement shows in this post. Simply put: it was a little nice boost to be recognized.

To see a full list of the winners, Click Here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Talking like a girl

"Kelsey Powell of Harrison, Ny., dances to mash-up style remix musician, Gregg Gillis, better known as Girl Talk, at Loyola College in Baltimore, Md., Friday, March 13, 2009."

I remember sitting in my room surfing the Internet late one night about two years ago. My buddy Lauren and I were chatting on Instant Messenger and she kept telling me how her friend was listening to this crazy mix music.

She was probably replaying the tunes in her head over and over, only unable to think of who it was since she was hearing a ton of different songs at once.

The next day she figured it out and sent me a link. It was amazing. The artist was mash-up style remix musician, Gregg Gillis, better known as Girl Talk.

I had never been to a Girl Talk show and I was advised by many friends that it was something I had to go to. In addition, to bring a shirt I wouldn't mind getting ruined from the loads of sweat.

Overall it was epic. I had an awesome experience.

And if you missed the link, I decided to throw together a short video with some stills. I sort of got anxious and posted it earlier this week, so you may have already seen it.

Also, it doesn't do much justice of getting a sense of place without video and audio of the crowd. Alas, enjoy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Time to dance

"Morgan State men's basketball team players (left to right) Marquise Kately, Reggie Holmes and Rogers Barnes react after their first-ever NCAA tournament bid is announced on a projection screen at Morgan State, Sunday, March 15, 2009. They will play Oklahoma in Kansas City on Thursday, March 19."

Some assignments bring you glitter and gold - nice light and beautiful colors. Others bring you dirt and darkness - zero light and dull colors.

While I hate shooting the latter, it's just part of the job.

The other day was the NCAA basketball bracket unveiling and I was assigned to get a reaction of Morgan State inside the theatre where they would be watching.

The Bears were excited to witness their first ever NCAA tournament birth, after their first MEAC Championship in 32 years with a win over Norfolk State.

I knew it would be an momentous time for all those in attendance and could hear the band playing as I entered the building.

When I got inside, I posted up on the stage, under the giant projection monitor of the selection broadcast and in front of the team.

Having no idea when they would be announced, and I assumed they didn't either, I just sat there waiting for the decisive moment.

However, I must note, when I first walked in the light was nice. I am talking 1/500 @ f/2.8 @ ASA 800. I was happy with it, but not entirely pleased.

But then, when the show started it went dark. I mean pitch black. I was only picking up a little light from the monitor and some television camera lights.

So I did what I had to do. I cranked the ASA up to 6400 and was now shooting 1/60 @ f/2.8. I was kicking myself for not bringing in my primes, but glad the D3 existed. I cannot ever recall cranking my D2Xs' up to 1600 ASA let alone 6400 ASA.

Then the announcement came. I motordrived hoping to catch focus as they jumped up and down, clapped and cheered. Luck was on my side, although half of my frames were completely blurred.

The No.15 seeded Bears were announced to tip off against the No.2 seeded Oklahoma Sooners. And go figure, once that was said, the house lights quickly came on.

Anyways, to wrap this up, I found this great quote on the Morgan State basketball Web site:

"They could've sent us to Siberia. Who cares? We're playing. People are going to be there, it's going to be on TV, CBS is going to be there. So who cares where we are? I always say it doesn't matter where we play. Just give us two baskets and a ball. We could play it outside," Coach Todd Bozeman said.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rattled Sabre

"Southwestern senior forward Reggie Street tries to control his emotions as his team's season and his high school basketball career come to an end after they were defeated, 70-31, by Perry Hall during the first round of the regional tournament at Perry Hall High School on Friday."

Woah, sorry for the lack up posts, last week was slow, and then things got really busy and I really wasn't in front of my computer for an extended period of time.

I've been shooting a lot of high school basketball this year and the game action and post game reactions have only gotten better as the season has progressed.

With playoff season in the air, I got started by first shooting the first-round Class 4A North regional playoffs with Southwestern facing off against host Perry Hall.

Knowing my deadline wouldn't be immediately after the game, I made a full-day effort of phone calls and e-mails to the Perry Hall Athletic Director to get approval for a backboard remote camera. I had not run one in a good bit, and knew it would have been a perfect opportunity.

Well, to limit my words, multiple phone calls, messages and e-mails later, I didn't get one response. Not even an simple answer of: No. I was thoroughly disappointed, especially when I saw the AD walking around at the game.

Anyways, most of the action I've shot this year has been city schools playing one another, so getting a game in the county I thought would be a nice change of pace.

But I was in a for a long night. First off, there was no one at the game, it was empty and the gym radiated the most disgusting, yellow sodium vapor lights I've ever witnessed. Ever.

Perry Hall was also matched up against Southwestern, who posted a 4-15 record before the game.

Now, I am firm believer of not needing an extraordinary situation to make an extraordinary picture. But this game was just a drag.

Perry Hall jumped out to a 19-2 lead in the first six minutes. It was setting up to be a demolition. Not to mention, I've never seen to many bricked shots in a high school game game that wasn't in my own driveway.

The action was sub-par, Southwestern looked rough, and Perry Hall was fired up like they were running the table on Lake Clifton (an undefeated team).

By halftime, Perry Hall had a commanding, 42-9, advantage. As they looked for their next match up, I was looking for the door.

By the third quarter, I was so drained of shooting the blow out game and a bit outraged that Perry Hall was still playing their starters, I began making pictures that would never see the day in the small community paper I was stringing for.

I was hoping for some better dejection images, but this guy was standing in the hall like he was about to lose it, after being crushed, 70-31. Might not read that way initially, but I liked it way better than anything else I made that night.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Yellow snow

"A passerby makes his way down Jackson Street in Baltimore as a winter storm passed through the area, Monday, March, 2, 2009. (CLICK PHOTO FOR VIDEO)"

Last Monday, March made its entrance as the old saying goes, "March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb."

Maryland was hit with several inches of snowfall, which in turn amounted to messy commutes, power outages and many closed schools. And I found myself out in it.

I got the call Sunday night when the snow was already supposed to begin falling asking if I'd be able to be on for weather duty.

Without as much as a snowflake falling from the sky and before going to bed, I made sure I had everything in order and ready: my boots and snow gear laid out, cameras charged, full tank of gas in my car, and a shovel in my trunk.

Originally forecasters were calling for 8 or more inches of snow throughout the state. But in the end, about 2.5 inches of snow fell in Baltimore City and up to 5 inches in surrounding counties. Conversely, St. Mary's and Dorchester counties had the largest snowfall totals in the region with 11 inches.

Although the snow wasn't as heavy in Baltimore, I still needed to go out and find some features and move them before 10 a.m.

So up at 6 a.m., I was out cleaning my car and headed downtown by 6:30 a.m.

Initially, I was going to follow the news, see where the traffic was backed up and where the incidents were. Although roads were slick and covered, I wasn't hearing much on the news side other than the typical school closings, minor accidents and power outages.

After successfully, and skillfully, parallel parking in about three-inches of snow near the inner harbor, I trekked around shooting folks doing what they do when it dumps the cold, wet, white stuff.

From playing with their dogs and cleaning off their cars, to making their daily commute to work, I made sure to capture them. Except for sledding children, I was told to avoid them.

I transmitted half my take and moved uptown and then made a couple more frames before getting the call to send some more.

Overall things went well, it got a bit hectic at times trying to dethaw my hands and transmit soaking wet in my car. But I had fun and made some images that I though depicted downtown Baltimore truthfully. My three favorites being the umbrella, the snow plow and guy playing with his dogs.

The latter wasn't put on the wire because the guy said he was a reporter for the Washington Post and I opted not to get his name for that reason.

I must admit that my Subaru saved me multiple times, too. The all-wheel drive is clutch in snow. Not to mention, my radio is great. I got to listen to WBAL all morning long and hear them say "closed" near a million times. Ha.

By the time I was done shooting around lunch time the hype seemed to be over. The main roads were clear, it had stopped snowing, the sun was out, and those on the radio had stopped talking about this winter storm.

And get this, it was 70 degrees in Baltimore later in the week. Got to love March weather.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Agony of defeat

"As celebration begins, St. Vincent Pallotti guard Leon Porter hides his emotion after his team was defeated by St. Mary's, 62-60, in the final seconds of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference basketball championship at UMBC's RAC Arena on Sunday."

In my last post I talked about showing up early and witnessing one of the greatest high school basketball celebrations I've ever seen.

With that, I also managed to shoot the dejection of St. Vincent Pallotti.

After the buzzer sounded and the crowd rushed the court, my initial aim was at St. Vincent Pallotti guard Leon Porter. As players walked off the court, heads hanging low, and his opposition cheered and hugged one another, he collapsed in the middle of the court.

Behind him, St.Mary's players went crazy. But I kept focusing on him. I've been there, feeling like the loss is all your fault.

I still remember a travel soccer game when I was about 11-years-old and we made it to the playoffs. Overtime had expired and we were in a shootout. I am up and drilled the ball right into the keepers chest. He didn't even have to move. Man, did I feel the pain.

Well, I was clicking away until St.Mary's players ran him over and I saw the jube.

Two frames that have nothing to do with what I was suppose to shoot, and all for what? Being early. Got to love it.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Thrill of victory

"Fans carry off St. Mary's senior Nick Groce after his layup with four seconds left lifted the Saints, 62-60, in the MIAA B Conference championship at UMBC's RAC Arena. Groce scored a game-high 26 points."

Showing up early rarely does any good. Most of the time I find myself sitting around shooting frames of things and people that have nothing to do with the story or event I am about to shoot or playing on my Black Berry.

However, showing up to wrestling early saved me from not getting any art and having the paper suffer without a picture. Well, last week it led me to witness one of the greatest basketball celebrations I've ever seen.

I was assigned to shoot the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference basketball championship between No.2 St.Frances and No.3 Calvert Hall. This was supposed to be another thriller, as their last match-up saw three overtimes.

As per usual, I arrived early. In this case, an hour early since I needed to get some head shots of the coaches and a pair of players from each team for future use in all-metro selections pages.

When I walked in to UMBC's RAC Arena, I trekked around their upper level loft as the MIAA B Conference championship between St. Mary's and St. Vincent Pallotti came to a close.

With less than two-minutes left in the game, I simply wanted to see how the close match would end.

Time ticked away and it was a tie game until senior guard Nick Groce finished a left-handed layup with four seconds remaining. It was an amazing shot and I am still shocked he made it.

St. Vincent Pallotti had a chance to win at the buzzer, but a shot from the top of the three-point line hit the front rim which in turn gave the Saints their third conference crown in the past seven seasons.

The place erupted. I figured since I was there I'd shoot the jubilation and dejection as it unfolded in front of me. It's not everyday you get to shoot a championship game.

This celebration was unlike I'd ever seen though.

Most games, be it pro, college or prep end with little or no emotion. While I hope and pray that a player will fall to the ground hiding his face, tears or run around with their jersey off as they celebrate, when it comes down to it, there typically is nothing more than a quick smile.

However, this game was different. The crowd rushed the court and raised St. Mary's senior Nick Groce into the air after his layup with seconds left gave his team the championship victory.

It was something you would see in a movie and shooting from above gave me a great vantage.

It was a great game. I was lucky to be walking in and have a nice vantage point. Not to mention, one helluva finish.

I moved the photo and it ended up running along with an action shot from the game I did cover.

So what is the lesson of this post? It pays off to show up early. Sometimes.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


"Pikesville's Davon Shambley tries to escape Owings Mills' Julio Trujilo in the 285-weight bout during the Baltimore County wrestling championship finals at New Town High School, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009. Trujilo won on a pin to take the title."

No one is perfect and mistakes are made. When that happens, the best you can do is make the most of the situation and hope for the best.

A little over a week ago I was scheduled to cover the Baltimore County wrestling championship at New Town High School.

I was pumped to be covering more wrestling. I feel like I've gotten the hang of shooting it and always trying to better my last attempt at the sport.

Since the championship started at 5 p.m., I figured I'd show up early to hang out with my good friend Matt Roth who I knew was shooting the event for Patuxent Publishing.

He knows the sport better than me and knew he'd be bringing his lights. Sucker.

As I pull into the parking lot he is unloading his car. Here I am only taking in only one body, a 70-200 f/2.8 and my waist pack with some primes. Then you have Roth with a rolling case of lights, a 200 f/2, a 300 f/2.8 and a bunch of other goodies.

As we walked in, I was thinking he is going to show me up not only because he loves to shoot wrestling, but when this gym is dungeon dark, he is going to have a major advantage.

Strolling into the gym I notice there are matches already going on. I was a bit confused, so I asked former Baltimore Sun sports reporter, Lem Satterfield, who covers sports occasionally for Digital Sports, when the championship started.

"Right now. This is it, man," Lem said. Umm. I thought they were suppose to start at 5 p.m., it was a little past 4 p.m. at the time. Great.

So without hesitation, I began shooting. I didn't have much time. I had to make something.

Three matches later the tournament was over. Not to mention, two of the three matches I got to shoot ended in a pin. Roth and I had both been misinformed. The tournament started at 3 p.m., not 5 p.m. Apparently it was listed wrong on their Web site.

Well, I wasn't sure if I had anything worthy to move, but I had to either way. The only good thing to come of this was now instead of quickly transmitting my car under a tight deadline, I now had a couple hours to skim my take and find at least two movable frames.

In the end, I surprised myself, my ability to work under intense pressure and lack of time and still come out with frames that not only told the story, but were catching to the eye.

I guess it pays off to work hard, so when you get to situations like these, you're ready to perform at your best.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Doin' the Soulja Boy

"Kevin Mulligan of Arbutus, Md., dances with Lin Orrin (left) and Marla Weiner (right) to Messianic Jewish music at B'nai Avraham Messianic Congregation, Friday night. The congregation holds this form of Messianic dancing each third Friday each month."

Journalism is a wonderful thing. What else would allow one the opportunity to see spectacular things, meet new people and enter into a world they never knew existed.

Everyday I meet some new and interesting people, and last week was no different. I was assigned to hangout and shoot a group of Messianic Jewish folk who practice a special form of dancing every month.

Now, I had never heard of the Messianic Jewish religion before last week. I must admit that while I attended church as a child and made my Holy Communion in middle school, that my history and knowledge about other religions is very slim. So I had to do some homework.

What I did know was the small community paper I was stringing for was in a very Jewish area. The neighboring area, Pikesville, has one of the largest Hassidic populations per capita on the East Coast. In short, a ton of Jewish people, Hassidic, conservative, reform, etc., live there and around the way.

So doing what I do, I looked up what they practiced and found out that it seemed like a spin off of Judaism and Christianity. They believe in Jesus as their savior, yet, that he has yet to come. Which in turn, is sort of, kind of like Judaism, other than they believe that Jesus is not their savior. Correct?

Anyways, my assignment was straight forward. I had to make a couple frames of this group practicing a very spiritual, free flowing form of dance.

Knowing pretty much nothing about how these group of people engaged in religious, spiritual ceremony and activity, I approached it with an open mind.

Although the light was near non-existent and their movement of dance was fast at times, I got a sense of what they were about and what they believed in. They danced the night away in this tiny apartment-like-complex and prayed, chanted, spun, and clapped as they danced around the room for a little over an hour.

They were very nice and didn't once try to convert, change me, unlike other religious assignments I've had in the past.

In contrast, during my time there and afterward speaking with others, I quickly found out the controversial reputation others held against them.

Regardless of others preconceived notions about Messianic Judaism, Judaism or religion in general, I learned some things from this fine folks, but obviously others held different opinions.

From what I gathered, some say that it's not a real religion. They said it was a way to convert those practicing Judaism to Christianity without "making them feel like" they're really becoming Christians.

Summing others thoughts, they spoke about it as not being a blend of religions or mixing of faiths, but being a mask for what is really evangelic Christianity.

Beats me, and as I said before, my history with religion isn't broad enough to get into a sensitive topic discussion such as this.

However, this topic is now typed into my Blackberry as a future multimedia story I could work on that could not only educate others about this religion, but how others view it.

Alas, if you missed the headline reference joke, head on over here and learn the steps.