Thoughts from the sidelines during bowl season:

So you’re a sports photographer and proud of it.

We’ll I’m here to say that I’m just one of many photo editors proud of you and appreciate your dedication and visual talents in bringing your awesome images to wire services; web and print publications.

I’m new to the job, but the job is not new to me.

If you are about to make the leap to the proud; the few the sometimes forgotten  here are five things to think about while on assignment.

1. We live very much in a digital age where time is king which spans a twenty-four hour news cycle.  That wonderful image that you have in the second quarter of the game is going to be overshadowed by someone who sent a lesser image 10 minutes before you hit send. Get into the mind-set that every quarter, every half, every period is your deadline.  Understand that there is a market out there for the FIRST image; understand there is a market out there for pre-game images.  Be a story-teller!

2.  Once you step into that arena of coverage; EVERYTHING is a valued image that may have an economic impact for you and your client.

That helmet sitting on grass near the sidelines: that sports drink bottle on the bench; those player-filled sports shoes in the rain, snow, mud.  The kids playing a sandlot game at the corner field.

This is a pop-culture society that places a value on still images.  It’s not enough to know your market…you need to know where the future is heading in your market.

3. Don’t stop shooting when the game clock shows no time left.  Make sure you tell the final story of both the winners and the losers.  Follow-up stories need images to help tell those stories that may run days later.  Although you are covering an event; you are really covering athletes and their emotions.   Those images have value for days, months, years to come.

4.  Don’t short-change the technical.  Make sure that your camera sensors are clean; make sure you have a solid white-balance; make sure you have the correct time stamp on all cameras and computers you use, make sure your images are in focus!  Take pride in the professional and correct cutlines you provide.

5. Above all be professional; be humble: be proud in the quality of work you produce and learn as much as you can from those that came before you.

Reasons for being Sad:

My youngest daughter sent me an email recently and noted that I sounded sad.

You know I think I am a bit sad.  But after seventeen months of searching for a job both in journalism and outside the newsroom; I try to make the distinction between being sad and of self-pity.  I must admit the line becomes thin and gray at times.

A friend and colleague noted yesterday:

“So very sorry about your long hunt on so very many levels: sorry for the loss of your talent for telling stories with pictures, for your helping others to tell stories, for journalism in general.”

That makes me a bit sad.  I love telling stories and my greatest joy has been helping others tell their stories both through words and images.

You know you can’t teach at a college or university without a degree. But you can teach without working in a newsroom?  They should give a degree for surviving thirty years as a journalist.

That makes me a bit sad.

I often wonder about the editors that write job post.  Should they really have a job in communication?

Digital Savvy Desk Person  (We’ve been in the digital age since the mid-1990s, must be a young editor)

Seeking Ace Business Reporter (My guess written by a sports editor)

Seeking hard working reporter  (ask any photographer and they’ll tell you reporters don’t work hard. Ask any reporter and they’ll tell you photographers don’t work hard.)

Talented Page Designer wanted  ( Why would you want a designer with no talent?)

From a friend:

“The other thing I think I am noticing is that the Internet has become a shield so that no one has to interview anyone …. they fill their quotas and get their numbers.

The algorithms and job descriptions make no sense but no one knows the difference in what passes for human resources.

What I’m sorry about is that we are all poorer for it.”

That makes me a bit sad.

It’s “Election Day” and the best part of it is knowing that those multi-million campaign ad dollars have kept a few more journalist working into the holiday season.

If both the politicians and the journalist would spend more time at their local social service office talking to people face-to-face the community would be better served.

Cutting corners and poor ethics make me a bit sad.

Life revolves in cycles or periodic intervals giving us plenty of time to reflect.

In the past seventeen months, I’ve been given the opportunity to connect with family, develop new friendships and build on the old.

No reason to be sad.

There’s No Juice:

I was delighted the other day when two of my many passions merged in the form of a story about Architect, Frank Gehry’s soon to be christened Lou Ruvo Brain Institute designed in Las Vegas.

There is no doubt that a well crafted story and design of a world-class building have much in common.  Both need a solid foundation; a blueprint to guide the builder or reader and the necessary tools to compete the task.

Now you might find this a bit of a stretch but I grew up walking past one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last designs and his last church design on my way to school every day.

Wright designed the Pilgrim Congressional Church in 1958 before he died in 1959 in for the time was as far west of the town of Redding you could get before running into dirt.

There was nothing but black oak; manzanita brush and poison oak as far as you cared to itch. The church was designed as a tent.   It was said to represent temporary, migratory and transient lives.

This guy knew his stuff as there was little reason to migrate back to this area but then he was known as a visionary and a designer far beyond his time.

“Tell the people of the little church that I will help them out. If I like the ‘feel’ of a job, I take it.” said Wright when he took the job.

Not unlike an Architect, a journalist must design their work with quality content as their purpose.  Without a sound foundation that will inform, challenge and educate the reader; it’s just an empty shell.  Gehry said it perfectly in the Las Vegas Sun article.

 “I was knocked off my feet,” Gehry says. “When you look just at the computer rendering, there’s no juice. You have this fantasy in your head, but the drawings and renderings don’t have the feeling. But when you walk in, it’s like a miracle. It is breathtaking. I knew what it would look like, but when you’re there, and you see all the natural light, it all comes into focus.”

To Aggregate or Irrigate:

Rain, natures free irrigation

Rain, natures free irrigation

The now looming controversy for the journalism community (good gosh, you would think everyone loosing their job would keep them busy) seems to be the idea of “aggregated” information of the world’s web.

The definition of “aggregate” is to accumulate; to gather; to collect; to assemble information.  That use to be referred to as “journalism”…that by itself is aggregating from the on-line dictionary.  I can only guess it was aggregated from a hard-copy dictionary?

You hear the term “original content” thrown around with as much gusto as gasoline on an ant hill these days.  With a lit match it will burn just as hot.

We’ll assume for this discussion  that “original content” is something that you can place a cost factor on.

By the same token the definition of “irrigate” is to: 1. Supply dry land with water by means of ditches, pipes, or streams. 2. To wash out a wound or body cavity (yuck) with water or medicated fluid. 3. To make fertile or vital as if by watering.

Now think of the “internet” in terms of the vehicle to provide fertile and vital information to its readers. To “irrigate” just might be the way to go and we all know that water is not free.

Grass and drops

The Back Yard:

A pattern of lace, the ferns grow at the edge of the tree line.

A pattern of lace, the ferns grow at the edge of the tree line.

Just reading in the back yard…

It is towards the end of the first graph, but I’m uncertain if you can call anything that meanders past three inches a graph?

“My suggestion to newspapers everywhere is to give the public a reason to read them again.” stated the editor.

Thank you Graydon Carter, Editor of Vanity Fair in “Editors Letter” for speaking the obvious in the July 2009 edition of the magazine.

Many of us in the newspaper business for maybe way too long have been singing the praises of magazine quality work both in words and photographs but in an industry where publishers and editors are afraid to buck the trend and put quality first and hope readers and more importantly advertisers will come…we have dug our own grave.

Was that  video you introduced this past month?

Now, if that sounds a bit bitter, looking deep into the dark depths of my soul…it is.

This past Friday I stumbled past a thirty-year personal best which I never really gave much thought to until Saturday.

I have been unemployed for two months and a day.  That is one day longer than I have ever been out of a newsroom.

Technology has made it much easier these days to both reject and face rejection.
Rusty with work of the past.

Rusty with work of the past.

Back in the day (old folks use that a lot) you had to mail a bulky portfolio laden with photographs or story clips.

I collected the rejections for a period of time, one of my favorites from an editor in Spokane, Washington.  “You would be better off as a milkman rather than a photographer.” he noted.

I always enjoyed the honesty in such a reply.

Where the deer hide and the turkeys wait for the rain to stop.

Where the deer hide and the turkeys wait for the rain to stop.

A time to eat the young:

Spending time watching the wind.
Spending time watching the wind.

Managers have to be ready to Eat Their Young

 At times during the day I’ve found myself pacing from room to room with no apparent destination.  My daily routine disrupted and foreign to what I’ve known for the past thirty-seven years growing up in newsrooms.

The last two household boxes are all that remain and the daily process of unemployment, cobra and paperwork for the movers has slowed. 

The kids are gone with the youngest graduating from college at the end of May. The eldest has just purchased their first home north of New York, just in time to give mom and dad a place to stay while seeking out a new direction and hopeful employment.

Uncertainty is the norm in the newspaper industry at a time where a lay-off colleague noted “There are more of us on the outside than the inside anymore.”  It’s sad that we can coin-the-phrase ‘lay-off colleague”.

Fear of the future prevails in the newsroom and managers have to be ready to eat their young.

The light wind is blowing the curtain over the chair commanding my attention much longer than it should, offering a reason to look to the past with appreciation, and with a combination of excitement and fear to the future.

I started as a newspaper photographer at a time void of corporate liability concerns.  It was a time when you could hang out with the local small town newspaper photographer on their night shifts.  Watching them work a room; create images; and see the satisfaction in their eyes when the black and white prints formed in the developer.

The camera store kid who one Friday afternoon in 1974 was walked into the Redding, Record-Searchlight; shown where the Saturday assignment hook was; given a key to the front door and told “not to screw up!”.

After a few years on staff; following a love of travel and nature photography; opening a photography studio; and getting married somewhere in there; I was back at the newspaper in 1977 for the next eleven years.

“No one really cares about this!. It’s too depressing” The images were tossed to the edge of the table as the editor walked back into the newsroom.

I was crushed; I had worked on the homeless project using my own time for two months in 1988.  I worked the shelters, parks and encampments along the tracks. Did he miss the part about having the knife pulled on me? Did he not see the pain, loneliness in their eyes?

It was the realization that to bring change to a newsroom; photographers needed a voice in the newsroom. For some strange and delusional reason I needed to be the voice.  It was the start of a twenty-one year photo editing career with a path through Salem, Des Moines, San Bernardino and Riverside.

Blessed with talented photographers at each stop and editors who took the time to answer questions and guide me over the bumps like Jim Vestal, Paul Whyte, Bob Lynn, J. Bruce Bauman and Scott Sines I was able to avoid many of the landmines that came with directing a photography department.

Yes, the changes in our industry are monumental but it will be the love of our craft and the understanding that photojournalism, on all levels, has the ability to change lives.

I’m reminded of a photo assignment early in my career of an elderly woman who was bound to a wheelchair.  As we went into the kitchen I noticed one of my photographs of Mount Lassen taped to her refrigerator door, “That’s my window.” she noted pointing to the photograph.

A simple reminder, that no matter the vehicle we choose to deliver our images, the impact to the public remains the same.