Monday, February 11, 2013

Covering a funeral in a football stadium

http://www.demotix.com/news/1789670/thousands-honor-american-sniper  Covering news today means still & motion. Press stuck high up, they feared a gunman showing up. Lots of police standing at every aisle along with anti-terrorists security armed with automatic rifles.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Joy of being a newsphotographer

Paper was almost hit by a tornado, what a day!
For many newsphotographers, what they like most about the job was going to big events, getting that front row seat covering a world series game, or historic event. (Like a tornado?)

But for me, my favorite day was a Saturday covering a basketball tournament and getting a call to fill-in (cover his assignments too). Stressful? Not for me. It was great and I even managed to stumble across some "weather art."

I had just starting taking pictures at the high school tournament when the pager went off. Normally I'd have stayed several hours shooting action and different teams. But now I just had 15 minutes and had to go with whatever I had.

The next assignment was opening of a senior center  where they were giving area residents lunch. The place was packed and I managed what I thought was a nice shot of everyone sitting on folding chair outside, no table, eating.

Leaving the senior center I drove through a parkway where they had a man-made pond with a fountain in the middle. But what caught my eye was two guys on a raft, sitting in lawn chairs fishing. It was a funny picture and captured what a nice day it was for fishing. (Had to shout out to them and get their names. Not sure they caught anything.)

Those photos stick in my head, I didn't save any clips, however, and remember covering a art exhibit opening and also some other kids event. The next day, five photos ran in the paper.

 It was a great day, the one I remember most as a newsphotographer.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Camera bags are just big pockets

Back in college we searched for a camera bag and at the time the camera bag was simply a premium item given to camera stores to promote a camera brand, or a stiff leather case with handles or a hard aluminum case. They didn't work,so my roommate John M. Flanagan and I decided over Christmas vacation in 1970 to search in St Louis and Denver for army surplus and buy 2 of anything that looked interesting and bring it back to Columbia, where we were both photojopurnalism students at the University of Missouri.

John found an army surplus bag that was a couple of inches thick and 14 inches deep, the ony thing I found was asimply n olive drabe green sack. Unfortunately I thoughtI could find something better and only bought one, John bought two and decided to use them back to back. I kept the sack and simply dumped everything in on-top of everything.

The first thing I changed was the shoulder strap, it had to go all the way around. Made the bag feel like one whole, and eliminated the risk of the strap letting go and falling off the shoulder.

The old leather boxes were heavy and stuff rattled around inside, so many photos would then put lenses in pouches to protect them when they rubbed against the camera. Nonsense! Make separate compartments to keep the gear apart.

Many bags were set up with forcing you to store the gear in a certain way. Camera could only have the normal zoom, but what if you didn't use a normal zoom. You liked shooting wildlife or sports and used a long zoom lens. I saw how every newspaper photographer seemed to individualize his favorite lens and favorite gear. The camera bag had to be useful to every photographer.

Pockets had to be deep and wide enough for a wide-angle or telephoto, big enough to change lenses quickly and one pocket had to be able to hold anything.

That was what I wanted in my camera bag.

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Being a winner

www.jim.domke.comIt's another year and another Super Bowl, CBS's Sunday Morning featured Buffalo Bill's Jim Kelly, on how it is to be a loser. The Bills have gone to the Super Bowl many time, but never won. Always came in second, and they went on to show still photos of the gold, silver, bronze Olympic winners posing with metals. The winner was smiling, as well as, the third place winner, but whoever came in second didn't look happy.

It dawned on me how being a "newsphotographer" was all about winning. Getting a better photo than the Associated Press and seeing it on the front page. Getting a photo on the front page on my first day at a paper was my goal. I've always managed to do it. (Later changed my goal to simply getting on the front page of one of the newspaper sections.)

Above is a picture from my first assignment at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. An assignment to cover a class visit to the medical college, where they were going to learn how the body ages. To illustrate what happens to the body the kids stuffed cotton in their ears, put on yellow tinted glasses, pinched their noses and breathed through a straw. One student thought this was funny. The reaction made for an eye-catching photo and ran on the front page of the Metro section. For me, it was winning a game.

My first day at the San Francisco Examiner was to tag along with a veteran staff photog, Fran Ortiz, who had shot for LIFE magazine and other magazines. With a two-way radio linking him to the photo department, it suddenly came to life when news of Marin County Sheriffs call for reinforcements. They were confiscating house boats claiming they were polluting the S.F. Bay. We rushed across the Golden Gate bridge and found the police arguing with someone on the boat. He pulled out a long knife and fortunately I had my camera ready with a 180mm lens. I got the picture and it ran the next day on the front page. I'd won.

On this Super Bowl weekend it occurs to me that one of the draws to being a photographer, a newsphotographer, is having the challenge not simply to come back with a photo. But to make the front page.

I'm the runner-up if they run the AP photo or the photo runs on an inside page.

I've talked to others  who tell me how they liked being a newsphotographer because they got to go to historic events, or were attracted to fires, sports, or pretty girls. I like the competition of getting a front page photo.