Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Minutes after his swearing in, Governor Martin O'Malley and his wife Katie O'Malley leave the state house through a gauntlet of various state police officers and troopers on their way to the Inauguration Parade.
I found this spot during the previous governors inauguration. After the media frenzy of the swearing in, on a large stage surrounded by preening dignitaries, freezing cops, frostbitten reporters, cyclopean photographers, and cheering supporters, the new first couple walk through the state house and out the back. It's not a staged media event, they just have to get down to the street to watch their parade. So two lines of police formed, and they walked by hand in hand. I like to think that this was the moment when it finally sinks in for any new governor, when all of their sacrifice and work pays off. I was the only photographer there. And even though the exposure maybe isn't the best I still like it best out of all I shot that day.

A Chinese dragon walks in the Inauguration Parade for new Governor Martin O'Malley.
When you shoot in a smallish size town you have to find new ways of showing the same locations. I love the state house in Annapolis, but as a photographic element it does tend to just sit there. So you have to find new things to throw in front of it, new juxtapositions. Why was there a Chinese dragon at the Inauguration? Only as I type this has it occured to me to ask.

A Navy cheerleader is lifted high into the air as the crowd of mids support the Navy Woman basketball team in the game versus Army.
I guess it's kind of a cheesecake picture, but I really like her "Lady Liberty" pose and the dumb enthusiasim of the mids. I cover the Naval Academy almost weekly, and sometimes find it hard to portray the humanity in the students. Probably because they are being taught to discipline themselves so thoroughly.

A worker spreads salt and uses a blower to clear a walk near the statehouse during snow flurries. I wanted to include this pic because it's just so lame. A Febuary afternoon barely visible snowfall, and it is my job to find a picture, no excuses. After driving around for an hour, finding nothing and knowing that the snow could stop any minute leaving me shotless, I find this poor guy doing the job he probably drew the shortest straw for. And here I come to immortalize the moment. Any other day I would have left him alone, but I was desperate and freezing and in a weird brain hole where all of my self worth involved finding a goddamn weather shot. He was a good guy and even gave me his name. So thanks to him, and everyone else who puts up with the crazed photojournalists.

To support a ban on human cloning, March for Life members gather at Lawyers Mall in Annapolis. It's an unconventional way of shooting a rally, I like the lights through the flag and the church steeple in the distance. I think it also says something about the isolation of the politically active, the rest of the world drives on by while they call through megaphones.

2007 Youth of the Year Christopher is embraced by his tearful mentor Reggie at a community award ceremony. This was an assignment that looked like there would be zero payoff, a long ceremony with nervous speakers behind a podium, bad lighting and no emotion. I could have left after an hour with a mediocre shot, a "this happened and there were a lot of people there" shot. But for some reason I stuck around, and just past the three hour mark this happened. A big guy breaking down and a wide smile at the cheering crowd. A lead picture rather then filler.

Blanca 4, with her brother Sandy 5, shows off her shoes at a homeless shelter in Annapolis. This was from a story on a shelter where the reporter and I spent a night at a shelter, I left at lights out but he spent the night. I know that pictures of homeless children like this one and the one below are more then a little cliched and manipulative, they really don't tell the complicated story of how our society can turn on a dime and leave it's luckless citizens with nothing, or of the misfortunes and bad choices that people can make.
But, pictures like these work.They hopefully reach through the blinders we all wear and touch our hearts. At least that is what I was aiming for.

From left Priscilla , Orville , and Carlos hold hands in a circle around the table as grace is said a homeless shelter.

Clowns put on their makeup in a truck container before their first show of the day at a traveling tent circus. I could spend a year following this circus around and taking their pictures, it's one of the highlights of my year. These clowns are all from South America, in fact most of the circus is from out of the country. I love the off kilter mirror, the hanging plastic mask, the trucking container dressing room. After I was done shooting we took my then year old daughter Ruby to the last show.

The winner crosses the finish line well ahead of the rest of the pack in the Girls Sprint Medley Relay. This girl was fast, and did it in a cold rain. I love the distance between her and the rest of the pack. My best sports shot of the year.

A multivehicle crash stops traffic on the westbound Bay Bridge.
End of my shift, late afternoon, and we hear the call for the accident, confirmed fatalities. We know that unless someone is already in the area, getting close is next to impossible. So we need a plane. After a dozen fruitless calls to area airfields, one of our reporters remembers a stunt pilot who keeps his plane nearby. The pilot answers the phone.
I think it took about 23 minutes from me sitting at the computer surfing around and waiting for the day to end to be tearing down a runway in a cherry red aluminum stunt biplane, camera clasped between my legs and frankly pretty scared. Stunt biplanes are not clunky Cessna's, struggling to get off the ground, they leap into the air like they've got rockets. Maybe two minutes later we approach the Bay Bridge, and I count at least five hovering helicopters in the area. It's disconcerting to look DOWN on a helicopter as you blast by at 200mph. We get to the accident and the pilot turns the plane on its wing and tries to circle as tight as he can. Now this plane is probably the worst shooting platform you can imagine. The canopy is so close to your face you can't use a long lense, and the plane can literally not slow down without stalling, and add just a tiny bit of turbulence, and I find focus next to impossible. The setting sun on the shiny tanker truck and spilled fluids make exposure a guess. We got in two passes before the flustered helicopter pilots complain loudly enough to air traffic control to get us kicked from the airspace, and I had no idea what I had caught or not. We land, I jump back in the car, and out of the whole thing I have three useable frames, barely. The entire event lasted about an hour and a half for me, from the first call to handing in the shots to the editors.
This is why I will never be able to work a normal job for the rest of my life.

Midshipman raise incoming Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Jeffrey L. Fowler's flag at the Change of Command ceremony at the Naval Academy. Not much to say, I just liked the ritual of the change of command, the formality and dignity. Typical Navy held photographers way back from the action, but I think I did pretty well with this one and the one below.

Outgoing Naval Academy Superintendent Rodney P. Rempt leaves the stage and life in the Navy after being replaced by Vice Admiral Jeffrey L. Fowler at the Change of Command ceremony at the Naval Academy.

High school grads stand in the blowing wind as they wait for the start of their ceremony. This is my second year of shooting this same shot at the same school, with the wind blowing the students gowns. This one is better then last years, so next years will be great.

A National Guardsman holds hands behind his back with girlfriend while waiting in line for a snowcone. The soldier is being shipped to Iraq in two days. I think I blew this assignment, the Guard held a family picnic just before their deployment, and I got plenty of shots of guys in uniforms with their kids. But this one was the closest I think I came to getting at the underlying anxiety in everyone's minds. I'm still not happy with it, though. I think the enormity of the event, of the war and the separation, got to me and I faltered. I should have done a lot better, I feel like I let these guys down, and in a sense I let history itself down.

The light in the cupola of the Thomas Point Lighthouse. I like the scale here, the mico and the macro. When the Sun did their story on the lighthouse their picture was similiar but better. I'm sure they never saw mine, but its funny how sometimes photographers think alike. One of my coworkers took a carnival photo that looked so much like mine from last year ( the one way below) I thought it was mine. I think I need to stretch out a little more.

As incoming Navy midshipman read their Reef Points while waiting for their haircuts, spectators press themselves against the glass doors to catch a glimpse of the induction procedure. Basically the same idea as the cheerleader pic above, and the next pic, trying to capture emotion and vulnerability in people professionally committed to not even admitting such things exist.

New Navy midshipman load their duffels onto a truck during their induction into the Naval Academy.

This years 4th of July, with a symphony playing in the foreground. I went to the trouble of bringing a tripod, but when it came time to use it I realized I didn't have the connecting bracket to attach to my camera. Good one. I ended up putting my weight on the camera as it sat on the tripod, and holding really really still.

Kyron 11 has his new tooth Sealant bonded by "white light" by a dentist. For a story on a free dental clinic. Wow, what a neat blue color in his mouth! Too bad the page designer put it on a black and white page!

The Capt John Smith shallop pulls into a city dock packed with spectators and a colonial band, with help from Governor Martin O'Malley. Basically a media free for all with boats jostling and splashing to capture the slow moving shallop as it came into Annapolis, O'Malley in a sleeveless tshirt pulling on the oars and singing. You've got to hand it to O'Malley, he's certainly more fun then Ehrlich was. I like the juxtaposition of history here, the waterfront and the boats. This is the kind of picture I see being hung on the walls of a bar in 200 years, the good old days.

Lane two keeps an eye on lane one as they leap into the pool in the boys 6 and under 25 SC meter freestyle in the Bronze Championships. Nothing earth shattering or too deep here, just kids enjoying life as kids.

The J30 class crosses the starting line at the Annapolis to Solomons Island sailboat race. I like covering sailing, I like showing how the boats fit into the nature they're at the mercy of.

Three boys hold up the lizards they have won at the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Carnival. I resolved to find at least one new fair picture this year, one I had never seen or shot before. These kids and their lizards did it for me. Exposures a little off, next year I'll try and get it.

The Kent Island team celebrates their victory at the Hero's Lacrosse League Pee Wee Division Championship. Yes, the cliched victory pile up, everybody loves it, that's why everybody shoots it.

A Lt Cmndr embraces his daughter at BWI after arriving from deployment in Iraq. Almost all returning troops come through our area, and the lucky ones have family to meet them. I think I did a better job here, with this one and the next, showing the effects of the war on the hearts of people. It was easier as they all had already made it back ok. As a new father, this image resonated with me personally as well. She gets bigger overnight sometimes, and I can't imagine leaving her for so long.

A soldier, right, gets a first look at an in utero image of his unborn son in a poster held by pregnant wife after arriving at BWI from his deployment overseas in Iraq.

High school football players run sprints during practice in the preseason. I like the composition of this one, that leg coming down in the upper right and then echoed along the track in the other runners, the school fading into the horizon.

A woman whose mother was murdered in 1988, talks about the sentencing of a man for that crime and two other murders. At right is the State's Attorney. This was a somewhat routine press conference that got very emotional. The murderer was already in prison for life for another crime, and even though the state wanted the death penalty the families of the victims didnt want to spend 20 years trying to get it done. So they settled for his admitting to the murders, I guess the word is closure but I don't know if it's even possible in this case. When someone breaks down like this in front of me, I find it difficult to raise the camera and do my job. I try and empathize with my subjects, to get into their worlds and tell their story from the inside out. Then I find myself here, in a world of grief and pain, and to take the shot feels like taking on a shadow of that feeling, if only for a second. But if she is brave enough to stand there and tell her story, I need to be brave enough to capture it.

A cataract extraction with lense implant operation. I really like shooting operations, the twin miracles of the body and science under lights so bright that the background goes black. I imagine that this is the worldview of the surgeon, focused only on the single element of the entire patient.

A WW2 submarine veteran holds his hand over his heart as the ashes of Rear Admiral USN (retired) Eugene Bennett Fluckey are carried by at his funeral at the Naval Academy. A highly decorated officer, as commander of the submarine Barb during WW2 in the Pacific Fluckey is credited with sinking more tonnage than any other US skipper. He also independently launched a ground assault on mainland Japan from his submarine, blowing up a troop transport train, the only American ground combat on home Japanese soil. I feel honored to cover lives like this, to mark their passing . I think thats one of the most important jobs of newspapers, to recognize what the rest of the world has forgotten.

SPCA dog Cookie sits for a close up as a Comcast videographer films her for a local pet adoption searchable feature. A cute dog pic to be sure, but to my surprise the Washington Post picked up the story off of the wire and man, did my picture look good in the Washington Post. The Post is my favorite paper, hands down. I'm starting to think that I may have missed the career paths that would put me there, and this isn't even exactly a foot in the door. But my face is pressed up against the window looking in.

The remains of a sedan that was involved in an accident with a van. Senseless tragedy, and it took me too long to get to the scene, so the only story to tell is this wrecked hulk and the fluids on the road. As Americans we fit the violence of the roads into our lives as the simple price to pay for our isolated convienence. It is insanity. Total insanity, but like standing on an Incan pyramid and watching a human sacrifice, thats the culture we have. I'm so tired of taking these pictures.

A harpist's fingers pluck the strings of her concert grand harp during a symphony practice. I really enjoy taking pictures of musicians, and I like to think it's one of my strong portfolio points. I get really into it, I find my shutter snapping in time with the music.

A dancer performs wearing a mask in a practice for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by the Ballet Theatre of Maryland. This and the next few pics were part of my best photo series of the year. This is a professional company but only barely. Dedicated artists making even less then I do. I felt bligated to make them look as good as possible, and at no fault of theirs I had my work cut out for me. To have the story out in time I had to shoot a rehearsal a week before the performance, so we couldn't do it on stage. I had to shoot in their practice space, which happned to be in the basement of an office building with horrible drop ceilings and worse backgrounds. The light was dismal and dim and murky. My solution was unusual for me, I set up two strobe lights pointing straight at the side walls, and the reflected blast threw dramatic shadows around their flailing arms. I think it worked out pretty well, which was a little bit of a surprise.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Artist Colin Lacey talks about his new show of drawings and paintings. Colin suffers from schizophrenia, but his work is incredible. Some folks are good at making art, but every once and awhile you meet the real deal, a real artist, the divinely inspired.I shot him through a window in a propped open door as he talked about his work. I was trying to say something about his struggle with himself, and about the world's struggle with real artists.

The Humane Society of the United States protests in Lawyers Mall, calling out to Gov. O'Malley to "stop the bear hunt". The next day was the opening day of the bear hunting season. Pretty much the only reason I went to cover this was that I was hoping there would be someone in a bear costume. It could not have been better.

Moira Lee, one of the Aerial Angels, performs on ropes hanging from the trees at the last day of the Maryland Renaissance Festival. I use to look down on the renfest, but I've come to love it. I cannot think of any other event where that many people come together to just have fun, and hardly anyone ruins it. The lighting is a pain though, the sunlight through the trees creates exposure problems I still havent been able to figure out. This is the kind of event I want to spend the rest of my career shooting, trying to capture and celebrate.

The county's oldest employee paints a wall in the county executives office. He talked about how when he was young he had to leave Maryland because the racism was so bad, and only decades later returned and took a government job. I guess things had changed, but he worked 30 years and was still painting some white guy's walls. Not to take away from him, he had pride in his work, and not an unaware pride. A pride that seemed to come from recognizing the ingrained racism in America and living a decent life in spite of it. This piece made me feel like I did at the submariners funeral, honored to be telling the story.

Former President William Clinton holds his hand over his heart as the casket of Admiral William James Crowe Jr passes by at the Naval Academy. An ok shot, but I was happy to get all of the elements squeezed so tightly into the frame. It took several hours of standing around and plotting out all of the "what ifs" of something that took less then two minutes.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Racing industry employees and supporters listen to live testimony from a hearing on slots legislation coming from a large speaker at a demonstration in favor of slots at Lawyers Mall. One of my favorite shots of the year, a lot of elements come together here for me. The slogans, the worried faces, the bent heads, the tangled flags and the roofless pillars.

The late afternoon sun shines on the turning leaves at the pond at the head of a creek oof of the Severn River. I didn't think much of this when I shot it, it was fun to get and pretty but it didn't mean much to me. I forgot it as soon as it ran, but a few weeks later a reporter asked me for a copy of it. She wanted a good copy of it to give to this couple. She said she had been in the house of an elderly couple for some story or other, and in their kitchen they had this picture taped to the wall. Nothing else, just this picture, and they would sit at the kitchen table and look at it. That's the best compliment I think I've ever had.

Navy's Zerbin Singleton, right, runs past an airborne Northern Illinois's Bradley Pruitt courtesy of Navy's Reggie Campbell, left. I'll never be a great sports photographer, I do a good enough job to be payed for it but it's not one of my strong suits. I liked this one, though. The balance of the composition is all wrong, and I was too high to get the bottom players arms on the ground, but I like the goofiness of the flying guy.

5 month old Kamari is held up by his grandmother at a table at a community Thanksgiving dinner. If it is a crime to shoot pics of cute babies just for the heck of it, knowing that all the rest of your shots will go out the window when the desk sees it, then I am guilty.

As fireworks blast into the sky, a stand in for the Army mule hangs from a scaffold above the bonfire at the Naval Academy, surrounded by a crowd of midshipmen. The annual tradition occurs two days before the Army-Navy football game. It was cold, and then it was very hot, too hot. Another nice compression shot, another nice exposure. It's funny, you really do get an instinct about exposure, I'd heard of it but never thought it would happen to me. Here I exposed for flames, highlight details, and fireworks. Of course, I should've used a fill flash to show the faces of the cheering midshipmen as well. Next year.

The streets of Annapolis are almost empty as the snow continues to fall. A nice parting shot, a light snow and holding hands in a deserted town. I'm pretty proud of this one, I can't tell you exactly why. Maybe it's from having been there, standing on the roof of a parking garage as the snow muffled all of the sounds around me, and looking down four stories and catching this couple walk together down an alley.As they came out onto the street they joined hands, and it seemed we were the only three people in the world. Even though they never knew I was there, we came together to create something, art or photojournalism or just a picture to hold the spaces in the paper between the ads.
I have a feeling 2008 is going to be a rough one professionally, too many fuses lit and I'm maybe too ethical for my own good. Well, it's either ethics, or the fear that by letting my subjects down ( and everyone is my subject), I'll lose the ability, the gift, to be be able to do what I try to do.