Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Photo 11-2-12

WEM fans hold up the number 2 to honor classmate Brady Hruska, who died in a hunting accident this week. Hruska wore the number 2 for the school's football team.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Photo 10-26-12

Fire pole from old fire station, now in new Mankato Public Safety Center.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

There are throw ins, and there is the flip throw in

I've seen the flip throw in before, where a soccer player flips over the ball and flings it over her head during a throw in instead of just standing still. I don't see it very often though, and even less freqently at a high school game. So when I failed to get a photo of Alina Bachman doing one during a game earlier in the season I was disappointed.

The idea of the flip throw in is to get much more distance and height out of a throw in than throwing in standing still, which helps when the throw in is near the goal.

While at Thursday's section final soccer game between St. Peter and Mankato West I saw Bachman set the ball down on the sideline when given a throw in near the goal, a sure sign she was going to do it again. I managed to get in position and get off a series of frames of her doing the flip throw in.

I had a little fun with them between assignments tonight and made the animation at left. It turned out pretty well and shows the acrobatic throw in better than a single frame would.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday photo 10-5-12

King and Queen of Sweden with GAC president and wife, St. Peter.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Photo 9-28-12

Buffalo, Custer State Park, SD

Off the beaten path

It's fun to do something out of the ordinary once in a while. A criticism I have of newspapers is we often do something the same way every time. While that's great for consistency, it's horrible for creativity.

That's why it's good the Free Press produces a pair of in house monthly magazines, the Minnesota Valley Business Magazine and the Mankato Magazine. While both are very different products they share a common trait: they are not the newspaper. Normal newspaper photography and writing styles don't necessarily apply to the magazine product.

When Mankato Magazine associate editor Tanner Kent came to me for help with a cover idea for this month's magazine an idea leaped into my head. After hours of trying to convey that idea to him, and convince him we could pull it off, we ended up in the product photography studio at in North Mankato with a fog machine, a cauldron, some other props and a fantastic model/employee named Ashly Schmaltz who was willing to have herself painted green for the photo shoot. An hour and a half (and a few tweaks) later we concocted the cover you see here.

I like how the cover looks. Of course, there are things I would change (aren't there always?). A bit darker background would have been nice, and a little more smoke coming from the cauldron would hurt, but in general this was how the idea appeared in my head.

This kind of photography is something we rarely get to do in the newspaper side of things, if at all. It was fun assembling all the pieces, trying different lighting combinations and really creating an image, as opposed to capturing one.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Should I go, or shouldn't I?

AP file photo
Newspaper photographers all get them: The phone call, email or letter saying you just HAVE to be at this really cool event. It used to be just phone calls, but with the rise of email marketing my inbox is often flooded with such event announcements.

Some are cool and worth going to, others not. Still others are harder to gauge whether they will offer something photo worthy. Whether I go or not, the invites keep coming. They're often too easy to ignore simply due to their volume, pushing them aside, saying I don't have time this week or I really should be somewhere else.

Malcom Browne was a photojournalist in Vietnam in 1963 when he and many other foreign journalists received a phone call to be at a certain place for a "very important" happening. Unlike his other colleagues, who pushed the cryptic invite aside Browne decided to go, and made the photo above of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc protesting against South Vietnam's U.S.-supported government by dousing himself in aviation fuel and setting himself on fire.

Browne died Monday at the age of 81 after a long career as a photojournalist, much of it with the New York Times. In his 30 years at the Times, I'm sure he received a mountain of phone calls and letters to come see the next cool event. He may have pushed many aside, but I bet he took a chance on many of them, going just to see if an interesting photo could be made. A good lesson for me, I think.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

   The news today of the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, really made me feel my age.
   I know precisely where I was on July 20, 1969, when Armstrong first stepped out of the lunar module: I was sprawled chin-in-hands on the living room floor of my then girlfriend, Nancy Johnson, watching the moment with the rest of her family.
   As a 17-year-old, I naturally had a lot more pressing things to worry about in my world. Nevertheless, the significance of the moment when he uttered the words "one giant leap for mankind" as he took that final step off the lunar module ladder onto the surface of the moon was not lost on me.
   After all, the space race had become headline news when I was a first grader in 1957 as the Russians beat us to the punch by launching Sputnik.
  On that fall evening in October, I can remember gathering outside with others in the neighborhood, hoping to catch a glimpse of it as it passed overhead in the starry sky.
  President John F.Kennedy gave his space race speech in 1961, offering the challenge to get a man to the moon by the end of the decade and the race to get there before the Ruskies was on.
  It was regular headline news in the Weekly Reader that our grade school teachers dutifully passed out to us each week.
  Looking back, it was all kind of amazing, certainly exciting.
  From rockets exploding on the launch pad, to the successful Mercury missions, then Gemini, and finally Apollo, it is remarkable that it took only eight short years to fulfill Kennedy's challenge.
 Truthfully, forays into orbit and near space became so routine that it all became kind of unremarkable.
  Certainly, there were set-backs, even a few tragedies where astronauts died. But the most part, the race to the moon was America's to win and measured mostly by forward progress.
  And the first moon landing was a defining moment for Americans and American technology.
  We, and much of the world, watched from living rooms, from bars, through department store windows, as the poor quality black-and-white video of Armstrong taking those first steps was beamed from the crescent moon a quarter-million miles away.
  It was a remarkable moment, but one that soon became routine as subsequent moon landings followed and even as video quality of astronauts cavorting on the moon _ taken as they golfed or drove a lunar rover _ improved.
  Manned moon exploration ended in 1972 and hardly anyone noticed. And then came the space shuttles which also quickly became routine until January, 1986, when the Challenger disaster reminded us of the peril of nibbling away at the edge of one of the last frontiers.
  In the 1960s, the space race made it easy to find heroes that didn't swing a bat, catch a pass, dribble a basketball.
  Neil Armstrong was one of those heroes.
  The is some truth to that old adage about being as old as you feel.
  And with Armstrong's passing, I, along with that old girlfriend, Nancy Johnson who now happens to be my wife for the last 39 years, just can't help but feel a little bit older at the news.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Photo 8/17/12

Hat and glove, State VFW Baseball Tournament, Mankato.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Has it been that long?

Tri-County Fair, 2002.
A revelation hit me today as I was on my way to my first assignment of the day. I've been shooting pictures for the Mankato Free Press for 10 years, today.

It dawned on me as I was on my way to the Tri-County Fair at the Caledonia Curling Club building (now the Caledonia Community Center, I guess). The Tri-County Fair was the first assignment I shot for the Free Press 10 years ago. I remember being a bit nervous even though I had been a professional shooter for 5 years before that assignment. I just wanted to find a good photo, something that would earn the respect of my new coworkers and bosses.

I'd love to say I found a photo that blew everyone's socks off. Something that made everyone gather around my monitor expounding with "Ooos" and "Ahhhs," but it didn't happen. I was happy with the photo, don't get me wrong. I felt it was something worth putting my name under. It had a good moment between a young 4-Her and his cow as he waited to be judged.

This year's Tri-County Fair photo.

It was the start of something I didn't think would last this long. The start of finding a place I could call home. A place where I could get comfortable, get to know well and tell the stories of the people that live here. A place where the familiarity of 10 years living in a place would help bring trust, friendship, and good pictures.

I've taken thousands of photos for The Free Press since then, many of them better than the one I shot that day. But that one will always stick out for me, just because it was the first.

I remember it being a good first week at The Free Press. I made pictures I was happy with that week and started friendships with coworkers that have lasted 10 years, and hopefully will last many more. The Tri-County Fair started a 10-year exploration of southern Minnesota I hope continues for a long time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday photo 8/10/12

Near miss, VFW State Tournament, Mankato, Minn.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Photo 8-3-12

Autograph seekers, Minnesota Vikings training camp, Mankato.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Photo 7/27/12

Sorry I missed last week. Vacation called.

Rain shower, Franklin Rogers Park, Mankato.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Photo 7/13/12

Rain shower, Rocky Mountain National Park

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday Photo 7/6/12

Boats during fireworks display, Lake Washington

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

Behind the scenes at a McDonald's photo shoot

I will be the first to admit I have little skill when it comes to food photography. I tried it once in college under the supervision of a local studio photographer. I have to say that, for me at least, dealing with a cranky child at a photo shoot is much easier than dealing with an unappetizing steak.

That's what makes this video so cool. McDonald's Canada marketing director Hope Bagozzi shows the difference between the burger you buy in the restaurant and the burger you see on the billboard. The long and short of it is simple: the burger you eat is made to taste good, but the burger you see is made to look good.

Friday Photo 6/22/12

Seats, TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Photo 6-15-12

Getting a better view, Franklin Rogers Park.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday photo 6-8-12

Waiting for the rain to stop.

Let's fly, let's fly away

John Klatt, Jeff Boerboon and Free Press reporter Robb Murray.
It's weeks like this one that make me miss my flying days.

The last entry in my flight log book was a long time ago, but spending time around the pilots and aircraft at the Mankato Regional Airport this week as they get ready for the Minnesota Air Spectacular has made it seem like it was just yesterday. I spent plenty of time around airplanes in high school, working as a ramp guy refueling and cleaning flight school aircraft at a small southern Wisconsin airport as an after school job. It was fun and I learned a lot. I even got my private pilot's license and instrument rating while working at the Dodge County Airport in Juneau, Wis. It was great during the week of the EAA air show in Oshkosh, as we were only 26 miles south of it and saw a lot of air show traffic.

I'm not a pilot anymore. I gave up that dream to take pictures for a living. In the end I made the right choice, but weekends like this one make me wish I still had a current flight medical certificate!

Free Press reporter Robb Murray and I went up for a flight with John Klatt and Jeff Boerboon of the Air National Guard aerobatics team Thursday for some aerial photo work and a few aerobatic maneuvers. Well, Robb got to do the aerobatics (but only a few, as his column in today's paper explains). I got to hang out the open back doors of a Beechcraft Bonanza, strapped in with a safety harness, and shoot pictures of Klatt and Boerboon putting their aircraft through its paces. It was a fun experience for me, not quite as much for Robb, even though he had the flying bug for a while in college too.

The Blue Angels arrive in Mankato.
The Blue Angels will get much of the attention this weekend with their F/A-18 jets and impressive aerobatics. But there will be other pilots showing off their skills this weekend that are just as impressive. The Air National Guard team, the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team and the Oracle team, just to name a few, can precisely control their aircraft and make them do things that I can only watch and appreciate. I look forward to taking pictures of them this weekend.

For both Robb and I the dream of being pilots is long gone. I get to step back into that world once in a while and enjoy what pilots like Klatt and Boerboon can do with an airplane, and appreciate just how difficult it is.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday Photo 6-1-12

Free Press Company stock certificate book.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Photo 5/25/12

Memorial Day flowers and flag, Calvary Cemetery.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Photo 5/18//12

In honor of Greater Mankato Bike and Walk Week:

Bicycle. Stoltzman Road hockey rink.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Photo 5/11/12

Empty seats and stands full of family and friends await South Central College graduates on the other side of the curtain during the school's commencement ceremony Thursday at the Verizon Wireless Center.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Elton John concert from behind the lens

My view of Sir Elton John, during the first song.
I enjoy shooting concerts. I admit it. The music, the lights, cheering fans. I like all of it. Sunday's Elton John concert in Mankato was no different.

It's tough to really enjoy the moment when I'm trying to get as many good photos as possible in the span of a couple of songs in challenging lighting conditions. It's those challenges, though, that make it so much fun. That, and and the brush with fame, of course!

Most major performers will only allow me to shoot during the first two or three songs of a concert, then I'm escorted from the arena. Of course, those two or three songs are usually from a pretty sweet spot, usually right in front of the stage or near the sound board.

Sir Elton's people granted photographers two songs, one from in front of the stage and slightly behind him so we could see him and the piano, and one song about halfway back on the floor on the same side of the arena, about where the MSU Mavericks men's hockey team comes out on the ice. A reasonable arrangement, but like most concerts I have to find and shoot my photos quickly.

Monday's A1.
The big names in music, the ones who've been performing a long time, know the limitations they've placed on photographers, and some will work with me to make sure I get the photos I need, though it's rarely a formal arrangement. After waving to the crowd from our corner of the stage, Elton John nodded down at me and A.J., a SportPiX photographer and the house photographer for the Verizon Wireless Center as if to see if we got the photo we were looking for from his intro.

Once he sat down to play though it was all business, for both of us. During his first song, coincidentally titled "The One," I was looking for just that: The one good, clear, creative picture of Elton. After that I had a little time to play with lighting, take some wide and some close ups, the usual stuff. Our spot for the second song gave me the opportunity to shoot some of Elton John through the crowd to give some context to the photos.

I don't think these are the best concert photos I've ever shot, but I'm happy with the results. I do wish I would've taken a little more time with my edit and picked a different picture to lead the front page of our print edition, but I'm not unhappy with what I used.

Below is the photo gallery the Free Press ran on our web site. It, along with Mark Fischenich's story, can be found here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Photo

Here is the beginning of a new feature on the blog, the Friday Photo (get it, FP, Free Press, Photo Friday. Clever, right?). My hope is to simply post a photo I've seen or shot over the past week I find interesting. Hopefully everyone else will too.

I'm an aviation buff, everything from World War II to today. I'm also a space buff, so this one just seemed natural to me. Enjoy.

This handout photo provided by NASA shows the Space shuttle Discovery, mounted atop a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, flying over Washington skyline, including the Washington Monument, as seen from a NASA T-38 aircraft, Tuesday, April 17, 2012. Discovery, the longest-serving orbiter will be placed to its new home, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.   (AP Photo/NASA, Robert Markowitz)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Looking Forward to a Soldier's Homecoming

In an effort to be as objective as possible, photojournalists do their best to be the proverbial flies on the wall and dispassionate observers when covering news events.
We try not to be noticed so not to encourage participants of a news event play for camera and to remain emotionally detached to ensure our photographs capture a fair representation of what transpires.
At least in a perfect world, that's what we aspire to.
But sometime in the next several weeks, I likely will be covering an event where I will be an enthusiastic participant and unabashedly wearing my emotions on my sleeve.
For the last 12 months, about 2,300 soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard's Red Bulls have been serving in Kuwait, providing support as the U.S. military forces withdraw from Iraq.
The first group of Red Bulls returned to Minnesota this past weekend and the remainder will be coming home sometime in the next several weeks.
Among them will be my daughter's husband, Sgt. Nathan Fenske, a member of the New Ulm-based 125th Field Artillery and Headquarters Battery.
This is his second deployment with the unit.
His first was an extended 22-month period in Iraq when the situation was much less secure in that region.
They returned to New Ulm from that duty in July, 2007, an event I had the opportunity to cover.
Even though I really had no emotional ties to any of the returning soldiers _ my daughter, Amanda and Nate didn't meet one another until 2009 and married late in 2010 _ it was difficult not to get caught up in the excitement and unbridled joy of families reuniting with their returning soldiers.
Nevertheless, my job was to shoot photographs and it wasn't too tough to find some very touching images.
One of them, shown here, instantly became one of my favorites.
Sometime in the next several weeks, my son-in-law and his unit will be coming home.
And as far as this journalist being an objective, dispassionate observer this time around, all bets are off.
To view a photo gallery of the Red Bulls returning in July, 2007, go here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Photos of photographic history

I saved the best (in my opinion) for last. The photographic equipment scattered around the Free Press newsroom reflects a more hands on approach to news photography. Despite my age, I am not that far removed from using much of this stuff myself. In fact, in my last job in Fergus Falls, Minn., I used the exact same film scanner pictured here, and the enlarger and metal film developing tanks and reels are old friends from college.

Sometimes I miss those days. There was a magic to photography that is still hard to ignore. Don't get me wrong, digital cameras, computers and all the modern equipment we use today makes photojournalism easier in many ways. But those of us who learned how to make a print on deadline and push process film to get an extra stop out of it sometimes miss the "good old days." Of course, my colleague John Cross will laugh at me for that last statement since my professional photographic career only intersected the film era by a few years.

Nothing has really changed, though. The tools may be different but the goal is the same: Create the best, most creative, most storytelling photograph possible using the tools we have to the best of our ability. Photojournalists will always push the capabilities of our equipment as far as it will go. It's part of the creative process.

Enjoy these photographs of the history of Free Press photography.

Lighting kit.

Negative scanner.
Lamphouse of an enlarger.

Film developing reels and tanks in a box with a print from a past issue.

The steering wheel of the Nikon F.
Tmax P3200. The savior of sports photogs.

Happy Birthday Free Press!

The Free Press turns 125 years old today.

The Free Press technically wasn't the first newspaper in Mankato. The first newspaper in Mankato, the Independent, began in 1857 and later was named the Mankato Union. In 1880, the Union merged with its rival Mankato paper, the Record, to become the Mankato Weekly Free Press. The newspaper kept that name for the next seven years.

Then, on April 4, 1887, the first daily newspaper to serve the area was established.

Its front-page stories were about issues journalists continue to report on today. Stories of school budgets, political conventions, crime, deaths and city council meetings filled the pages. Looking through it gives a reader a glimpse of life in a fledgling Mankato in the late 1800s, something those journalists may or may not have been aiming for, but something that goes with the nature of one of the roles of a newspaper as a chronicle of a community's life.

There were no photos in that first Daily Free Press. The halftone process used to produce photographs on newspaper pages didn't become widely used until 10 years later. The press itself has come a long way since 1887. Our press, the popular Goss Community press, is nearly as old as I am but continually pumps out more than 21,000 newspapers a day every day, a task that punishes even the best equipment. As some of these photographs show, the old Goss may have some battle scars, but she still cranks out the pages every day.

Worn steps leading down to the press room.
Concrete pillars that once held up a press upstairs.

Control switches for the press.

One of the press unit's controls.
Yellow ink in one of the inkwells.

A locker room for press operators.