Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A time to be artsy, and a time to be simple

I think many photographers who have never worked at a newspaper lean toward the excessively artistic when it comes to shooting and editing pictures. Newspaper photographers always have in the back of their heads to tell the story first, then add complexity or artistic flair to a picture. In our mind, artsy does no good if you don't tell the story.

In general I believe that's true, but from time to time the artsy genie won't stay in the bottle and insists on coming out. When that happens, I often have a dilemma. I know editors and page designers often look for the simple, basic photo. On the other hand, I now have this creative image I've probably fallen in love with for some reason or another. Maybe I found a unique angle. Perhaps I worked hard using a slow shutter speed to streak a background, or maybe invested some extra time to get just the right framing.

No matter what the reason may be I have to pick one of the two, or persuade an editor or page designer to pick the more unusual photo.

The two photos below of Mankato West runner Joey Booker, which are also in The Week in Pictures right now, illustrate what happens when the artsy genie's out of the bottle. Waiting for the race to start, I laid on my belly with my 300/2.8 to see if I can get a shot of Booker through the hurdles. I got lucky, and he took a moment to compose himself before the start of the 110-meter hurdles at the section track meet.

 Mankato West’s Joey Booker prepares for his 110-meter hurdles race during the Section 2AA track and field meet in St. Peter.

Of course, I saw a couple of problems with the photo right away. I couldn't see Booker's face, for starters, and he's pretty small in the frame. Of course, the unique angle, good moment and interesting framing had the genie screaming at me to put it in the paper.

During the race I shot the next photo. This is usually more of what the paper's looking for: Clear face, tight framing, little wasted space.

 Mankato West’s Joey Booker qualified for the state meet in the 110-meter hurdles with a qualifying time of 15.22 seconds.

While not a bad photo at all, I really hoped we would run the first picture. Under these circumstances I will often lobby our page designers to run one photo over another, but in this case I wasn't able to be in the office when they put the page together. I was surprised when I saw this:

Thanks to Shane Frederick, who was designing sports pages that night, for picking the more unusual photo to run. It's often hard to decide when to go out on a limb and listen to the artsy genie. Sometimes you just have to go for it!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

You know, that camera won't protect you much!

I ran across these videos recently displaying the dangers of being a photographer. Of course, there are many other professions that put a person in more harm's way, but there can be an element of danger to getting the shot you really want.

All I can say is, I'm glad I don't have to shoot rally racing on a regular basis!

Of course, in both of these cases, I think the photographer is being a bit cavalier about the dangers his chosen location poses. In this one, I don't know if the photographer is that good to know the wall would protect him, or that lucky that the wall DID protect him.

This one really looks like it hurt. The sound is a bit disturbing.

One of my favorite near miss stories is this one by racing photographer Mark Reblias about his experience losing thousands of dollars in camera gear after a remote camera got hit by a dragster's parachute during a NHRA race. The Nikon D700 and 400/2.8 lens he lost carry about a $12,000 price tag! At least he wasn't standing behind it!

A couple of weeks ago I nearly had a close encounter with an errant softball. A foul ball rocketed off the bat and hit the dugout next to my head before screaming past the front of my camera. Now, I've had plenty of close calls in a variety of sports, but this one rattled me a bit.

I've also seen many photographers who think the chunk of plastic, metal and glass they're holding will insulate them from any harm. Yes, I've had my share of moments after a puck whizzes by my face where I don't want to show anyone I was scared out of my mind.

But hiding behind the camera will NOT keep you safe!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The risk you take

Photo by John Cross.
As an artist, I can sympathize with Kate Christopher.

I didn't get to meet the Mahtomedi artist during the installation of "Look and You Will Find It," one of the sculptures I photographed on the CityArt Walking Sculpture tour in the last post (by the way, that's the photo in the slideshow I did NOT take with my iPhone, if you were wondering). Her sculpture instantly drew my attention the moment I saw it, both for its simplicity and its message.

“It’s a piece about attitude and how you look at things and how you approach the day,” Christopher said in a story today in The Free Press. “If people start their day looking down, that’s the life they see."

It is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, it also drew the attention of a vandal, who managed to break off and steal one of the figures.Another piece on the sculpture walk was vandalized recently too.

I have a hard time imagining why someone would vandalize art like this. It seems like outdoor artwork attracts vandals. You may recall the stone buffalo in Reconciliation Park in Mankato being vandalized a couple of years ago in a spray painting incident. The organizer of the art walk in Sioux Falls had similar stories of occasional vandalism.

Christopher summed it up well in a comment in The Free Press. “You have to rage against people who want to destroy public art," she said.

As it is, artists take a risk displaying their work to the public, regardless of the medium. There's an emotional risk that no one will like it. There's a monetary risk that no one will buy it. Now there's the physical risk that some one will vandalize it.

Christopher said she plans to come to town soon to fix the sculpture, which is insured.

Friday, June 3, 2011

CityArt art

My wife Lisa looking at "Fowl Ball" by Lee W. Badger.

A couple of weeks ago I was assigned to shoot the installation of the CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour in downtown Mankato and North Mankato. 25 sculptures were placed in the two cities for a year for walkers to enjoy.

My wife Lisa and I took advantage of one of the few spring days without rain to look at the sculptures. We both definitely had our favorites, and no, we didn't really agree. The good part of the sculptures selected for the walking tour is that they are so varied in style and substance that everyone should find a piece they like.

Our excursion took place on a Sunday morning after going to church downtown. While my cameras are in the truck nearly all the time, we took Lisa's car that morning and all I had with me was my relatively new iPhone. Now, much has been made of all the photography apps available on the iPhone and how handy the little gadget has become. Since the photography bug hit me that morning I thought I'd put it through its paces.

I had a good time taking various pictures of the sculptures, exploring their angles, details, and the way the changing light fell on each sculpture. The iPhone's camera performed pretty well, though it was certainly not my trusty SLRs. I chose not to use any of the App Store's many photography programs to process the images. They're pretty much straight out of the phone. Of course, being a gadget freak, if anyone has any recommendations on a favorite camera app for the iPhone, I'll listen!

I didn't shoot a picture of every sculpture. I did include one photo shot with my D300 from my installation assignment. Any idea which one it is?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

We're back!

"The Blink of an Eye" has returned! After a nearly year-long hiatus from blogging we're back with a new design and new features. Take a few minutes to look around and see what's new.

We've added informational links across the top and renamed our "Photos of the Week" feature "The Week in Pictures" to better reflect what it is: A look back on the images that caught our eye in the past week. Click on it each Tuesday after 5 p.m. to see a new slideshow of images from local, state and national photographers.

Most of the posts will be by me. John Cross will be making occasional posts as a contributor, but I'll be doing the heavy lifting. We hope to turn "The Blink of an Eye" into a place to share some of our personal work and continue to give insights into the stories behind the photos we shoot every day.

Check back with us a couple of times a week to see what's new!