Twenty Moments is an annual feature on the blog where I take you behind some of the photos I feel helped shape my year.
A friend who lives in California and has never experienced sports in Alabama saw this photo and said, “It looks like they all died!” My wife, who is not originally from these parts either said back to her, “This is Alabama. There isn’t much difference.” We do take our sports seriously here and that is one of the great things about shooting sports in Alabama. We do take our sports seriously, sometimes too seriously. I mean, all it takes is one visit to a youth league sports event and you will see parents who get emotionally out of control. We have even had murders following the Iron Bowl were one fan killed another, usually after heavy alcohol consumption and a loss by their favorite team. With that said, the passion we have for sports is generally more benign and adds to the joy of photographing sports.
This photo is from the State Volleyball Championship Tournament and Athens Bible, the girls in green, have just won the state title by defeating Meek High School. I am usually a much better action shooter than I am a jubilation/dejection shooter. I have no idea why. I have tried everything but I seem to be in the wrong place after a game rather than in the right one. It is a weakness I am working on. My mentor, Dave “Mullet” Martin, was about the best post-game shooter I have ever seen. He had the absolute knack for being in the right place. I have stood beside him in the closing moments of college football games many times, determined to find his secret. I would look away or put the camera to my eye to shoot and when I looked back he would be gone. Next thing I would know, he would have the great reaction photo and I would have been out of place, again.
This time; however, I got the shot. Athens Bible was closing in on the victory. When you shoot a championship anything there is a certain momentum that develops, even in very close games, and you sense the team that is going to win. I felt that as I shot the final between these two teams. Athens Bible was the team I was there to cover anyway so I was already on their side of the net. I had been shooting wide for a while, more on that later, so all I did was get ready for the reactions. The final point was scored and these two girls dropped to their knees to my right. I slid over a few feet and was on my knees too shooting with a 24-70 f2.8L on my Canon EOS 5D.
The framing was very simple. Holly Persell and Loren Gilliam are right there and off to the right in the background are Meek players also lying on the floor. They stayed in this position long enough for me to shoot a few frames, reframe the image and shoot a few more frames. I felt I had it nailed and I also felt I could leave the floor right then. I knew I had my image. Of course, when covering a championship, you have to stay on the floor until the trophy is presented. It is an overdone image but it is expected and the emotion is very real for the kids. I have shot that image of the kids holding up a state championship trophy many times and each time you know you are shooting a moment that will be with these kids all through their lives. That makes it worth shooting.
Now back to the wide angle lens and the 5D. As I mentioned in a previous post, the 5D is not a sports action camera. It is great for what it was made for but it was not made for sports. I had no choice but to use it with my company issued Nikon D4 in the shop. With the slow motor you have two choices. The first, try and nail your action images on the first frame. Volleyball is difficult to shoot at 10 frames per second. At 2.5 frames per second it is mind numbingly difficult. Fortunately, back in the early days of my shooting life, I had no motor drive so I learned to shoot sports one frame at a time. I can still do that, to some degree at least, and I fell back on that old skill as I shot with the 5D.
The other option is to shoot wide and try some different things. I had never shot volleyball wide but, given the slow motor drive speed and rather poor autofocus on the 5D, I opted for some wide stuff. I discovered if you get low and wide near the net you can make some nice pictures of the kids spiking the ball. Wide near the middle of the side of the court you are shooting can give you some nice stuff if the ball comes to your side of the floor. If you shoot from behind the back line you can occasionally shoot a nice image of the kids diving around for the ball. In short, in both volleyball and basketball there is a ballet like quality as the athletes leap all over the place and dive for the ball. The wide angle allows you to catch some of that cool stuff.
Twenty Moments is an annual feature on the blog where I take you behind some of the photos I feel helped shape my year.
This photo isn’t in Twenty Moments for the reason you think unless you think the reason is framing, yes framing. Oh, yes, she does have legs and the legs form the frame but you people need to get your minds right! Now, I had my laugh. Let’s get serious. This image was from one of the most fun assignments you can do, the Power of Pink Fashion Show which raises money for Decatur Morgan Hospital and helps raise awareness for breast cancer research and treatment. The models are all local women, and a few men, who model clothes from local fashion stores and from one very eclectic designer. It is loads of fun.
By the way, on a serious, or a funny, or a seriously funny side note, you really shouldn’t put your camera between a person’s legs unless you are crazy or they know you and are comfortable with your craziness or, perhaps you are married to the person and they accept you are crazy and still tolerate you. (Have you ever seen so many dependent clauses in a sentence? English teachers are retching right now!) I am not married to this lady but she worked with me for several years at the Decatur Daily so she already knew I was crazy and didn’t kick me. The very tolerant model is Kate Cole and I was using her legs to frame the other lady as they waited to walk the runway.
Now, so you know, I was not directly behind Kate like it looks like I was. She was standing at the top of a set of steps. I was actually beside the steps with the camera at arm’s length and setting on the ground right behind her. I was looking for this exact shot and Kate either didn’t know I was there or knew I was there and knew what I was attempting. I was shooting with my Canon 5D with a 17-40 f4L lens and the 5D predates the live view feature available now. With live view you can see how you are framed. In this instance I could not see the framing so I shot a sequence of images, checked my framing and shot another quick sequence before Kate moved.
Although I am crazy, I am not crazy enough to use a woman’s legs who didn’t know me to frame a picture. Kate has quite a bit of modeling experience and she has worked with photographers enough to know what we are doing. You have to remember, the great majority of these ladies have either never done this before or they only do this for this show. I live in the community and I am going to see them throughout the year so it isn’t like I was shooting a runway show in New York with pro models I would never see again.
There is a point here. When you work for a community newspaper you are accountable to the community. I have literally had people call me a pornographer because they considered a picture I had taken to be too risque. There was one a few years ago where I photographed a female athlete of the year and one woman gave me so much grief over what I thought was a totally acceptable and normal picture I called the girl and her family to see if I had offended them in any way. Fortunately, they were as surprised by the person’s reaction to the image as I was. Local accountability is important because it keeps us tied to the community’s standards for acceptable content for everything from fashion shows to traffic accidents.
My job; however, is the same whether it is a runway show in New York or the Power of Pink show at Ingalls Harbor Pavilion in Decatur and that job is to make innovative, storytelling photos that rock! I shot from the front of the stage doing the standard runway stuff. I shot from backstage and got cool shots like this. I got a couple of audience reaction photos. I got women getting on their outfits and makeup before the show. Basically I am telling you I worked as many angles and did as many shots as I could possibly do and I did them at the highest possible quality I could because I am never likely to shoot a runway show in New York so this is my fashion week. I am guessing you have something in your community you could do this to as well. Treat every job, every day, as if it is the most important job you will ever shoot.
Twenty Moments is an annual feature on the blog where I take you behind some of the photos I feel helped shape my year.
I thought Auburn might have a tough time this year. I actually predicted three losses before the season started based on the tough schedule they were going to play and how many of those tough games were on the road. I was right and then some. Auburn finished the regular season with four losses. Some of them were not pretty. What is weird, this team is basically the same core team as the team that played for a national championship last year but with the loss of a prominent player on offense and a prominent player on defense.
This game with South Carolina was, I thought, going to be a blowout for Auburn. They were coming off of a tough loss to top ranked Mississippi State and I thought they would take it out on South Carolina, a team having a tough year. Things did not go as planned. I think Coach Steve Spurrier had his team go for it on every fourth down during the game. They made first down’s or scored points on a bunch of those fourth down attempts. They pulled out all the stops and the game was coming down to one final play for SC.
I was taking a bit of a chance. I was shooting this game with my Canon 5D and a Canon 1D MkII, an older pro body a friend had recently given me. My Nikon body was still in the shop. My only long lens was a 70-200 f2.8 with a 1.4 extender. Even with the 1.3 body conversion on the 1D MkII I left me shooting with a lens in the low 300mm range a f4. That was pushing the very limits of the ISO range on that MkII. I think I was a 1/500th and f4. Not much room for error and with that older sensor, no room to push it any further. What that actually translates into is a lot of running for me. To stay close to the action I had to sprint around the benches in hopes of staying ahead of the action but not too far ahead. I ran a bunch of hundred yard dashes that night! Well, if you were watching it would have looked like a hundred yard shuffle but one doesn’t dash when he wants to hold onto all his gear!
As I said, the game was coming down to the last play and I had positioned myself on the sideline about halfway between the goal line and the back line of the end zone. I was hoping for a pass in the corner and I was ready for it. I had a 24-70 f2.8 L lens on the 5D and the longer combo on the 1D MkII. Sure enough, South Carolina threw desperation pass toward my side of the field. My first couple of frames were soft. It didn’t really matter because the players shielded the ball from me. When the dust cleared the Carolina players were walking away defeated and Auburn’s player is on his knees with the ball. Auburn intercepted the pass as time expired preserving a victory.
The play was over but I never stopped shooting. This wonderful photo happened a few yards in front of me and a few seconds after the play and the game ended. Defensive back Jonathan Jones was on his knees with the ball he intercepted and teammate Johnathan Ford was in his ear. The SC receiver was walking away. Now I made a bunch of good pictures during this game but it all came down to this. I really like this picture. It is not an action photo but it certainly sums things up nicely and, when all is said and done, that is the object of what we do.
One final note, the equipment you use is far less important than the vision you have. The 5D is definitely not an ideal sports action camera. If you ever get the rated three frames per second out of it you would be looking at a miracle. It has miserable autofocus relative to today’s powerhouses but still better than my eyes. The camera does do what it does do very well. Understanding your equipment, what to expect from it, what it will do and, perhaps more importantly what it won’t do, is very important to your success. I usually don’t ask too much in a sports setting from the 5D. It is my short lens body and it does well with that. If you try to force equipment to do what it is not made to do you will likely be disappointed.
I wasn’t even supposed to work! For some reason I had a shift swap with a colleague on this day and I ended up with a dream assignment, flying on a B17 bomber of World War II vintage. The aircraft was named Memphis Belle but it was not the original Memphis Belle. It was; however, the aircraft used to make the motion picture of the same name and it is a genuine B17 Flying Fortress. This airplane came into service at the tail end of World War II and did not see any action in the war. When I got the assignment I was genuinely thrilled. I had always wanted to ride one of these babies and I was going to have my chance.
As it turned out, the airplane was not the star of the day. The flight also featured two actual World War II veterans who both served on B17s during the war. The man you see in this photo is Bill Varnedoe, a veteran of 26 missions over Germany as a navigator. Such a remarkable man. I believe he is 91 years old and he is very sharp. He told me something I will never forget – you can hear it in the video posted below. I don’t have to tell you what it is. You will likely recognize it immediately.
I strapped into a seat next to Varnedoe right behind and slightly lower than the pilots. The navigator’s position is directly beneath the pilots in a secondary deck that also has the bombardier’s position. It is accessed through a very small crawl way beneath the pilot’s seats. I knew I was going to get down there. I never dreamed Mr. Varnedoe would beat me to it! As soon as we were in the air the pilots gave us the ok to move around and see the plane. I was about to go to the bombardier’s deck but Mr. Varnedoe slipped through that hole so fast I wondered where the “old” man had gone. It was like he suddenly dropped sixty years and was a young man rushing to his position.
We got down there and it was just the two of us. He was telling me how he once got the chance to shoot at a German fighter. He was very excited but when he grabbed the gun it jammed and would not fire. He had to strip the weapon down and put it back together and by the time he was ready to fire the fighters were gone. Varnedoe said that was the only time he had the chance to fire on a fighter. The photo you see here is him living out that memory. He was so excited. I watched him and I could see the young man still there.
It makes me wonder exactly how much of our age is real. When I was riding on the LST the crew told me stories of how they would have WWII veterans come on board using walkers and the next thing they knew those same men had put aside the walkers and were climbing into the landing craft Higgins Boats like young men again. I know there are physical realities to age but I am also wondering just how real those are, how much can be overcome by the power of the mind. I suspect, were we ever to uncover a fountain of youth we would have found it locked between our ears.
I have often wondered what it was like to have been a very young man who helped save the world. I have also wondered what it was like to come back home and enter a normal life again. I will never know because I am no longer a young man and one hopes the world will not again need saving as it did in their day. But there I go, allowing my mind to dictate an age based way of thinking. Who knows, maybe I am a perpetual teenager just looking for a reason to break loose!
I shot this photo with a Canon EOS 5D and a 17-40mm f4L lens. I recorded the audio on my iPhone and combined it with still frames and a few clips of iPhone video to create the audio visual piece below. My D4 was off at the shop for what turned into an extended stay. Another little bonus, this image was selected as the Alabama AP Member Showcase Photo of the Month for October.
I have two or three great loves in photography. Sports and great clouds are two of them so when I can get both in the same picture, well, it just doesn’t get much better than that! I went to cover Hartselle High’s football game with long-time rival Cullman High. Let’s just say, they don’t like each other very much and even old men who haven’t played ball in fifty years will still tell you how they got cheated or how Cullman played dirty way back when. For their part, I am sure the Cullman folks say the same about Hartselle. That’s the way of good rivalries.
I arrived early because we always have to shoot features for pages and galleries and this day turned out to be special. I got out of the car and almost ran to the stadium. There was a great rainbow out behind the visitor’s side and I tired to work it but the rainbow faded before I could get in the stadium. The awesome cloud cover was a pretty nice consolation prize. I know what you are thinking, you are thinking I doctored that sky. I promise, I didn’t do much of anything to the sky. The sky wasn’t the problem. The players were the problem. To properly expose the sky I had at least a one stop drop off and probably more like two stops drop off on the players and the field. Naturally, I bracketed my exposure. The best exposure turned out to be right in the middle.
Metering for the sky alone produced an image rich in color and detail in the sky but badly underexposed the players. Exposing for the players washed out the sky. What I did was meter the sky and then open up about one full stop. Of course, I shot in manual mode for this image. That still left me with players that were too dark but when you work with digital you are better off working with underexposure rather than overexposure. If an image is dark there is probably hope of salvaging something. If an image is blown out then the situation is hopeless.
This image requires a fair amount of work to the players and the field in Photoshop. I use the history brush tool rather than the dodge and burn tool. Using history brush gives me much better control and I can also adjust colors while lightening or darkening. So far as I know, that can’t be done using the dodge and burn tool. That kind of control would make Ansel Adams smile!
I knew the sky would not last until game time so I had to work during warm up. I set the camera on the ground and tilted it up a bit as the players ran past me to begin their pregame routine. I didn’t do anything fancy. I just held down the shutter release and let it rip for a few seconds. Yeah, I know, highly scientific shooting there. One might even call it surgical shooting! Then I tried a few more angles and yes, I tilted the horizon on purpose. I kinda like it too. I don’t overdo the tilted horizon but I have been known to shoot one now and again. I tend to dislike rules that say never and always so this is my exception to the never tilt the horizon rule.
It would have been pretty cool to have a touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone shot with a wide angle lens as the player lays out against the great sky to catch the pass. Yeah, well, I can have my daydreams and besides, you never know, it might actually happen someday! Oh, almost forgot, in the category of bonus material, I sent the top photo to AP and it was run by several papers including the New York Times. It ran on the Times web site but I don’t know if it made a printed edition. Still, pretty cool for a high school feature shot from north Alabama.
Twenty Moments is an annual feature on the blog where I take you behind some of the images I feel helped shape my year.
It is Christmas Eve and in many ways the image you are seeing with this post was my Christmas present. True, I shot the picture in September but the whole assignment was a gift. Unwrapping this assignment was one of the two or three biggest treats of the year. First, you can’t tell from this photo, but I am on board an LST? The LST is a type of ship said to have been dreamed up by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill to fill the needs the two men perceived would exist when America and Britain joined together to fight the Nazis. They envisioned a ship that could deliver tanks and other heavy equipment right onto the beach. As it turns out, they were more than correct. Every major allied invasion of the war began with troops crossing beaches and much of their initial support had to come across those same beaches until a harbor could be captured.
The LST is a flat bottomed, ocean going vessel with a ramp that can be dropped, literally on the beach, allowing tanks to drive from the hold onto the beach. Not only tanks were brought to invasion beaches but also mountains of ammunition, supplies and other vehicles needed to support the war effort. LST 325 participated in invasions of Sicily, Italy and Normandy. This ship was present on D-Day and supported the invasion making 44 trips across the English Channel bringing in more men, equipment and supplies until the allies could open a legitimate port in France.
Now, how in the world did I end up on an LST. This, in fact, is the only LST left in the world and it is maintained by a group of men, most of whom served aboard LSTs during their Navy careers. The ship does a river tour every year both to show off the ship and to raise money for its upkeep, restoration and operation. This year the ship sailed up the Tennessee River and one of the stops was to be in Decatur. I got the assignment to ride from Wilson Dam to Ingalls Harbor in Decatur. I was completely thrilled. I spent the summer at the city pool with the kids, them swimming and me reading a three volume set on the US Army in World War II and the LST played a key role in all three of the books. To step foot onto those decks was such a privilege. Quite literally, I was walking in the footsteps of men who spent their last few moments on this earth on that ship.
I joined the ship at the Dam very early in the morning and we made the cruise up the river at 8 knots. That gave me plenty of time to get pictures and I did a nice page, photo gallery and a couple of videos. All good stuff. I was given only one real instruction and that was to stay out of the way of the crew when they were working. Well, there is a fine line between getting the pictures and staying out of the way. I suppose I kinda crossed the line and the captain sent my escort to move me out of the way. He put me in the forward gunners tub right out on the bow of the ship. I couldn’t have asked to be put in a better spot!
As we approached Ingalls Harbor my escort told me they were going to open the bow doors and lower the ramp. I suppose it didn’t occur to me they could do that while underway and I was surprised. The escort assured me you could open the doors even at sea and the remain seaworthy. The doors opened and the ramp dropped and I was leaning out over the bow like a little kid. Then the crew stepped out on the ramp to help in the process of tying up at the dock. I was loving this. The crew in color shirts standing on the Navy gray ramp with the doors open forming those great angles and the clouds reflecting in the surface of the river all came together in one of my most favorite photos of the year. Merry Christmas to me!
This photo was taken using the Nikon D4 and a 17-35mm f2.8 lens. And Merry Christmas to you all. Tomorrow we will take the day off and pick up again on the 26th.
Running sports can be tough to shoot. I mean, literally the only thing that is going on is people are running. While that may make an interesting photo once or twice, coming up with nice photos from running sports consistently can be a challenge. I suppose we cover at least half a dozen races, maybe more, every year. Most of them are local 5K and 10K type events, usually raising money for a charity but we do have some very large high school cross country events in our area.
A little background here will help. Jesse Owens, the American Olympian who went to Germany in 1936 and ruined the whole freakish idea of aryan supremacy for Adolph Hitler, was born and raised in a little sharecroppers cabin in Lawrence County, Alabama near the Oakville community. For years and years the only monument to Owens was a small brick column about waist high with a plaque set in it. That was a disgrace that was not remedied until the Olympic Committee decided to run the torch for the ’96 Games in Atlanta through Oakville in honor of Owens. A great flurry of activity resulted in a very nice museum and park dedicated to Jesse Owens. It was long overdue but racism dies a hard death.
Now, every year, a huge high school meet takes place in Oakville at the Indian Mounds Park and is named in honor of Owens. The event attracts thousands of high school runners from Alabama and Tennessee and, I think, Mississippi. I really love shooting this event. It is not that I think I am going to nail some unbelievable photo, I always hope to, but the real reason is because I love it they are honoring Jesse Owens. He has been a hero of mine since I learned of him sticking it to the Nazis in the Olympics. That and I also love the hugeness of this event. It is great to see so many young people out competing. This is far larger than any other high school sporting event we cover in terms of the number of kids participating. There is nothing not to love about it.
There are two real nice shots you can work in the first quarter mile. As the runners come to the first turn there is a little elevation where you can do a nice compression shot with a long lens showing the mass of runners. That is always a nice shot. They make a 180 degree turn right there and I have had good success on both ends of the turn shooting with a wide lens. This year, I selected a shooting position where I was shooting directly into the sun using a 17-40 f4L lens on my Canon EOS 5D. I set my exposure to ensure I would not be silhouetting the kids and to also make sure to preserve that great blue sky. There is a little lake that the turn bends around so I got below the track level beside the lake and shot looking up. The 5D does not have a fast motor but I tried shooting in three and four shot bursts whenever a good group of kids would come past me. I was looking for this shot exactly. I wanted a runner framed between the legs of another runner. I got that plus some bonus legs and runners to boot.
Like all other images, this one is not perfect. The kid in red that is partially obscured by the leg, yeah, I would like to delete that kid. Too bad. We deal in reality here. In a perfect world he would not be in the frame or he would at least be clear of the back foot so I could see all of him. Like I said, no perfect images. By the way, the Twenty Moments series will take the day off tomorrow. Hope y’all have a Merry Christmas! See you back on the 26th.
Twenty Moments is an annual feature on the blog where I take you behind some of the images I feel helped shape my year.
Fireworks photos are so overdone and so easy to shoot, provided you have a tripod, I just about skipped this image. I mean, it’s pretty basic stuff. The reason I left it in my Twenty Moments selection is because of the courthouse and the cool event and atmosphere. Of course, you were not privy to those things so you will have to trust me on this one.
The old courthouse is located in Somerville, once the county seat of Morgan County but that was a very long time ago. The old courthouse is a beautiful building which sits inside a hand made rock wall. It is very picturesque. On this evening which was July 3rd, if memory serves me, the town of Somerville was having an event featuring music, food and fireworks. I was working late shift this summer so I got the job. I wasn’t all that thrilled because shooting fireworks isn’t my favorite thing in the world and I couldn’t imagine how a little town like Somerville could put on much of a fireworks show. Honestly, I expected a piddly little display that was quickly over.
I was in for a very pleasant surprise. I arrived and found not only the the whole town there but a goodly portion of Morgan County. There was good music, food everywhere and people in just about every square foot of the Courthouse yard. I think Mark Twain would have felt right at home at this event. Then the fireworks show started and I quickly realized this wasn’t just a couple of pops and a sizzle and everyone goes home. This was going to be a first rate fireworks show.
I set up initially with a wide lens and shot, from a tripod of course, and tried to balance my exposure so the white, well lit top would not wash out but I would also have a long enough exposure to get more than one fireworks burst. That required a little experimentation. No big deal. The show kept going on and on and on. That gave me time to move around and try different angles and different lenses. And still the show continued. I had done plenty of great fireworks pictures and I was ready to leave even before the grand finale began. I knew I had plenty of images so I switched to video and did video of the finale.
What a great show! What a great event! I thought it was considerably better than the much larger show put on every year in Point Mallard Park to conclude the Spirit of America Festival. I know there was less traffic which nearly always translates into a good experience. I do hate traffic! This particular image was shot with a 17-35mm f2.8 lens at the 35mm setting on a Nikon D4. The exposure was ISO 100, f8 at 6 seconds.
Twenty Moments is an annual feature on the blog where I take you behind some of the photo I feel helped shape my year.
Back in the day when teams didn’t throw the ball 75% of the time there was an old football saying about the run first offense; three yards and a cloud of dust. Obviously, that whole cloud of dust thing arose from a time before modern football stadiums where the field is tended as well as any golf course. I walk out on the field at Bryant Denny Stadium or Jordan Hare Stadium and I see those perfect fields and I wonder how they do that, even in November? I think my grandfather played football on some three yard and a cloud of dust fields but that was back in the leather helmet era!
My actual assignment this day was to shoot something to accompany a story on Priceville High School’s quarterback. The team’s starting quarterback had been injured and they were moving a running back to the quarterback spot to finish out the season. I shot the assignment quickly and left. I actually had another assignment at the same school to shoot a volleyball match. I arrived in the gymnasium to find the time for the match was wrong and the match I was to shoot wouldn’t start for more than an hour. It seemed pointless to me to drive back to Decatur and turn around and drive back to Priceville so I found a shady spot and just sat down.
From my shady vantage point I could see the football team practicing. I think they were running first team defense against scout team offense. I watched and became intrigued. There was a large area of dirt in the middle of the practice field and it had not rained in quite a while. Every play kicked up a big cloud of dust. I remembered the old saying quoted above and decided to see what a picture would look like. When I put the camera to my eye the scene was totally transformed into this mass of swirling arms and legs and dust.
I sat there and shot photo after photo. Every photo looked so cool so I just kept shooting. I had an hour to kill so anytime they ran a play through the dirt area I was ready. Most of the frames were too disorganized and the photos didn’t make sense. About six or eight of the images were wonderful. I went back and forth over two of them and finally settled on this photo as my favorite. Not only does it have all the dust and the arms and legs but it also has a player with the ball who has no uniform, helmet or pads being chased by the kids in helmet and pads. It was a cool moment.
Eventually my time ran out and I had to go shoot some volleyball but before I left I came back to the coach and got a few more pictures to go along with what I was actually assigned to shoot and they were much better than what I shot to begin with. Time usually equals better pictures, usually. The lesson here is don’t waste your time. If there is something to shoot, even if it may not be what you were assigned, shoot. Remember, my basic philosophy is shoot to make myself happy because when I am happy the editors and readers will usually be happy too.
This image was shot with the Nikon D4 using a 300mm f2.8 lens with a 1.4 teleconverter.
I love covering farm stories. Always have. I find the farm a fascinating place and I just about always make a nice picture doing farm stories. Often, I am shooting stand alone art when I am on the farms. This time I had an assigned story on the wheat harvest and the reporter had a family lined up who was out working a wheat field.
I arrived at the tail end of the lunch break. I have a special talent for arriving at an assignment when nothing is happening. What can I say? It is a gift! This time it worked in my favor. I arrived at the harvest site just before 1 p.m. and I saw they had lunch laid out in the back of a truck parked in the shade. There was a young lady sitting back there enjoying her lunch break. I had to try for a photo without ruining the shot by her knowing I was shooting a photo of her. I kinda sidled over casual like. That is southern speak for saying I tried to get close without being obvious or looking like a creeper.
I stood near the tailgate and casually snapped a frame before Breanna Grantland noticed I was taking her picture. I hoped the exposure was good but there was strong light behind her and she was sitting in the shade on a black truck bed. I loved the mood but I feared underexposure. I tried a few more accurately metered shots after she knew I was there shooting but they didn’t work as well. I had to do some serious work in Photoshop to bring up the levels in the shade and bring down the levels in the highlights without totally screwing up the picture.
Of course, after making this photo I learned the harvester was broken down and they couldn’t harvest wheat for several hours as they waited to get a part. I made a few photos of them bailing wheat straw, something I had not seen done before and came back later and got a picture of Breanna working on a tractor. I actually finished the assignment the next day in another field with her grandfather. Breanna had come home from college for a couple of days to help with the harvest. I was fortunate to catch her because the next day she had gone back to school.
Some of you may be scratching your heads right now wondering, “Why in the world did Gary put this in Twenty Moments? Surely he doesn’t think this is a great photo.” The answer is really simple. I like the picture. I recognize it isn’t going to win any awards but it has a feeling to it I really love. There is something in the moment I find appealing. I don’t know if you ever did farm labor when you were young. I did just a little bit. I had hay fever so I couldn’t do much. There is one thing I can say though, on a hot June day there isn’t much better than lunch on the tailgate in the shade before you start back to work on a hot afternoon. In other words, the photo strikes a nice memory chord and I enjoyed a few moments with a very nice family while I shot the photo.