Up and at ’em

I had just shot something near Heisler Park the other day and saw this on the walk back. I often struggle to get out of bed when the alarm comes early — it’s easy to downgrade the priority of something that needs done in exchange for a bit more sleep. Then there was this view. The light and the fog aren’t like this most mornings. I remembered by being out there a lot you to capture the cool things when they do happen to occur. So here’s to all those early mornings when you could have slept in but got up and slogged through something that didn’t really need to be done.

Shooting Standing Still

As a journalist I respond to news, and cover stories as they happen. Sometimes I do a more investigative piece, or a character portrait, but usually it’s a matter of keeping up with a story as it happens, and getting ahead of it. I’m often shooting from the hip. Don’t get me wrong, a good photojournalist is well trained in the finer points of crafting images, but that expertise is often applied in a very quick, improvisational way. Here are some examples of the best.

Of course you try to think, as something is happening, about where it is going to go, and put yourself in position for it, but that only works part of the time. I’ve lost count of the times I had a great shot set up and then the subject changed direction at the last second, or the moment changed, and I was left with the back of a head, or the side of a van.

On the other hand, a lot of photos that look straightforward were difficult to get because of an uncooperative light source, or the need to get past a physical obstacle (say, climbing a street sign to get above a crowd), or a situational obstacle (talking your way past a traffic cop to gain access to a crime scene). And then, after dealing with settings, light, angle, etc. there is still the matter of capturing the moment. Sometimes you get the happy accidents, when a shot emerges where you never expected it. But you can’t count on these.

Shooting news is a combination of showing up in a new situation, trying to craft an image out of whatever you are given, and accepting the image you end up with – sometimes it’s better than the one you were planning.

When I set up a tripod the other night (thanks for the loaner Ed), stood in one place and shot a landscape — with a 25 second exposure (ha!) — it was like photography meets spa day.

Ps. I still had to illegally park, run across a busy, windy mountain road in the dark and shoot from private property without permission.

One More Run

This was my first real assignment. The Snowboard Journal, a good publication now out of print, sent me to Haines, AK, to go to Alaska Heliskiing’s guide school.I had one lens, and  a Minolta Maxxum 7000i that my dad gave me. Hot stuff in 1988 — still makes great images. Back in prehistory, when people made photographs with film, you didn’t know if you got anything good until it came back from the lab. This was one of the last days of the trip. I had already burned through the budget the magazine had generously given me. But I wanted a little more time in the heli, to be sure I got the goods. I talked my editor into a couple hundred more dollars, basically another run or two in the heli.

It was a brutal day — sunny but windy, and really cold. We went out anyway. It was just me and a few of the guides. As we approached this zone, the gusts were blowing the heli around and it took Mike, our pilot, three passes before he could land. We honestly weren’t sure he’d be able to get back in there and pick us up. As the boys were scoping lines I got this shot of Ted Purdy. Imagine what it was like for him, looking over that cornice, into that line with that wind blowing up in his face! It was -40 with wind chill.

Camera’s sometimes don’t work in those temps, so you have to keep it under your down jacket, visualize the shot and do as much as you can in your head, then pull the camera out, pull off your goggles, and hit the shutter. As soon as you pull your goggles off, your eyes go watery and you can’t see much, so you put it on autofocus (stopped way down in this kind of light) and hope you got the composition right. I was stoked this one worked.

Ted dropped that cornice where he’s standing, Fishbone took a line further left, Jeremy dropped about where I took the photo from, and stopped mid-slope as safety for me. I took Ted’s line, and once I was out of the steeps, Jeremy and I pointed it and ran for the heli, which was waiting at the bottom. Fishy took one look at my face, already going waxy frostbitten, and said, “Get in, we’re going home,” with a seriousness I hadn’t heard from him before.

Some days are just too damn cold — you’re really pushing your luck going outside. Luckily we still got this shot. Thanks boys!





Here are the rest.