The Derrick and News-Herald employs only one staff photographer, me. This was my 20th year as a staff photographer at small community based newspapers. My third year anniversary, at this newspaper, will take place in the middle of March of this year. I took over for the very talented and dedicated journalist Jerry Sowden in hopes of carrying on the legacy he built of the Derrick and News-Herald of being a top-notch visual newspaper recognized for its excellence.
As the only staffer it falls on me to each day be responsible for the front page photography. Each day, a good first impression of our product by our readers depends, in part, on whether or not I succeeded the day before in making a compelling storytelling image. Not everyday is a success unfortunately, but I do my best to minimize those days where my work isn't up to my own pretty rigid standards.
Some days the front page picture isn't my choice, we have editors who have to make the decision what images translate the story at hand best to our readers. It is impossible for us to agree all the time, but my suggestions are usually taken as I am the visual reporter on the scene of the story getting the first hand impression of the event. And our news editors are pretty savvy about what works and doesn't.
This collection of images are what struck me as my favorite pictures of the year. Not all are chosen for their exemplary photographic quality. Some are my favorites because of the story of how I got the image. I work hard to achieve strong images with layers of meaning and sometimes it takes quite a bit of time to find that image. Other times it comes fast as if it was given as a gift to me. Sometimes I don't even know what I've captured until i look at the back of the camera or call the image up on the computer. Instinctual decision making sometimes yields subtleties that weren't expected or even seen when i pressed the shutter.
Other times I feel a picture is just simply given to me. In front of my lens the elements come together and I am just a vehicle there to push a button.
What I always look for is the moment in which the image takes on a deeper meaning that words cannot describe. Sometimes its in peak action in sports, sometimes its a subtle touch of a son's hand on an emotional mom's shoulder. Sometimes its a guy tossing a rock into a river knowing it might very well be his last as he battles cancer.
Sometimes it just life, a kid spitting water while playing in the lake, a man with a funky hat mowing his lawn with an old timey push mower, Or sometimes it's man of God simply out for a walk.
I try my best not to impose my own thoughts on the subjects of my photographs, though I suppose its impossible not to somewhat. I want their nature, their story, their essence to be told as it is lived whether I am was there or not to record it. That is what I want to appear in my photographs.
In 2017 I met some incredible people and witnessed some incredible things. It wasn't a year without tragedy or sad stories, but it was a year where i met some up-lifting people with their own little beautiful lives reflected in the things they were doing when I met them. A young boy out shoveling snow or a woman sitting in her car unsure what to do as she watched firefighters trying to save her house.
I took thousands of images and could've shown a couple hundred images that all have a story. I wanted to choose just a handful to show, but have settled on these 78 photographs as my favorites of 2017. Some will move you and some will make you wonder why they are there in this collection. Anther person will be moved by a different set of these. That is what makes life and trying to document it so interesting to me.
Thank you for taking a look at my reflections from 2017. Most captions are stream of consciousness recollections of the image and how I came to make them.
1 of 78
I asked a security guard, who I have known for about 20 years, to help me take this selfie at the Stoneboro fair. It was just going to be a tongue-in-cheek post on social media, but, I thought it would be a fun portrait to use for my favorite photos of the year. Red isn't really my color though!
My assignment for Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th president of the United States was to cover the students at Red Bank Valley High School watching the swearing in live in their auditorium. I noticed some of the students taking the oath as well and knew that would be my picture. I had to photograph them from behind in order to give the full context and have the president in the background.
This is the V.E.T.S. honor guard at a dedication of a monument in the Franklin Cemetery in January. I really loved the stoic presence of the man in the foreground of this particular frame that also had the bullet casings airborne after being discharged from the rifle. It is those extra layers that I look for in photographs I make. Those add more depth and meaning by capturing a frozen moment in time that becomes more apparent to our readers by seeing the airborne shells.
I had taken pictures of this parking garage over and over and over again as each story up-date about it being taken down was published. We finally had a date for staring the demolition and needed yet another new photograph (The thing I love most about this newspaper is we don't get lazy and use a lot of file photos! Though it does make my job more difficult sometimes.) As I sat in my car, with a coffee thinking about how else I can photographs this damn garage, I saw the garage in my side mirror and the sun was popping in and out lighting it kinda cool. I decided to make some photos of the garage through my side mirror. Then this man came walking across the road and I liked having a person in the photo. He came up to me after catching my making pictures and we ended up having a fairly long conversation. I was able to get a guy on the street opinion about the garage and its coming down. "I'll believe it when I see it!" he said, acknowledging how he's heard about this for years and years. The other thing I love about this paper is that we ran this picture in the paper. Good editors get good photographs.
This was a story about a small old-school mom and pop retail shop being swallowed up by larger corporate store chains. I stopped in to an empty store and chatted with the owner for awhile. I felt so bad for him as he just could no longer hold his own with the small community paint and hardware store while big corporate super-stores had everything he did at a lower price.. As we chatted one of his long-time customers came in to make a few purchases and I just hung around making pictures as they talked. The picture of him leaving the store, with the owner looking almost helpless behind the counter and looking at him leave, I thought told the heart of the story. It wasn't a story about the last day of the shop, but that it was announced they would be closing in a matter of weeks. To me, this picture also speaks about the loss of another time altogether.
Sugarcreek police officer Ryan Ashbaugh's cousin was dying. Ashbaugh arranged for him to be sworn in as a temporary police officer and to go out on a short patrol with him. We learned about this and thought it would be a nice feature story. It had always been his cousin's wish to be a cop. I made a few pictures and went along on a ride along. I thought this picture of Ashbaugh's reaction to his cousin being sworn in was my picture. The ride along didn't yield a very strong photo. I was put in the back of the squad car, fortunately I have been in the back of police cars three times, all three times because of my job(...knock on wood!!) and it was difficult to make a good photo from there. Though I think we did use one in the paper the next day.
I noticed this one sole demonstrator standing on her lunch break in downtown Franklin and was impressed with her commitment. The picture we ran in the paper showed her face as she wasn't trying to hide her identity at all. I liked this photograph because it didn't identify her and therefore stood as an 'everyperson' type image. I feel it takes courage to stand alone for anything you believe in.
I got sort of blindsided as I attended a meeting. This gentleman seemed adamant that I make a picture of his swearing in as a fire policeman even though I told him we don't normally run those pictures because, there are simply dozens of such swearing ins that we can't single one out over another unless there was a compelling reason to do so. I was pretty sick and not feeling well at all. I actually sat down at the end of the meeting to rest and this man approached me again. I said, sure I'll stick around. To be honest I don't remember if the picture ended up running or not, but I was happy I stuck around and got this moment as he messed up his lines repeating the oath. I think I just put it out on Facebook. I love photographing these moments in everyday life and know I can't photograph them all, but this is real life.
I try to avoid anything to do with a group of people in a posed shot. This was supposed to be an interview with Betty Ghering about her experiences surrounding dying and being brought back to life. When I arrived several family members were there. It was pretty sweet actually. They considered the interview as a pretty significant event for the family. As I listened and made some pictures of Betty speaking to our reporter Sally Bell, i figured I needed to make a portrait of her as the interview pictures might not really tell this story. As I walked into their living room, I took note of the sign above the door and figured I'd somehow include that. As I was making a portrait of her I realized it wasn't working. She was short and the sign was high over head. I moved her out but could really get the depth of field i needed to read the sign well. At this point I had just given up on making a meaningful portrait. At the end I just said "let me just take a nice picture of you all together," as a gesture because they asked if I would earlier and I said sure but had no intention that it would be the picture for the paper. I figured, take the picture but we'd probably us one of the interview pictures i made. 'Show Betty some love" I said and this was what I got out of it. I normally would have no part in a picture like this as a story telling photo, but, in this case, I felt it really was the best way for me to tell this story. Their mom died, his wife died, but came back to life. That is a reason for a group hug.
This picture is the only picture out of order chronologically in this slideshow. A few months later as I was photographing the Taste of Franklin vocal competition in Bandstand Park one of the contestants entered the crowd and asked Betty Ghering to get up and dance with him, which she did happily. Her second chance at life she is taking full advantage of, I thought. And she ended up on the front page again. Not too many people die and end up dancing with handsome young men in a park a year later.
When I worked at The Meadville Tribune, my favorites of the year slideshows usually consisted of more sports than anything else. There, I was one of two or three photographers and I worked nights, which meant, every night, I photographed sports. Here, the Derrick has a good freelancer who shoots the majority of the sports for the paper allowing me to work more day shifts. When my schedule is light, I ask for something to cover in sports and try to adjust my schedule to photograph some local sports as I think it is a hugely important part of our community. I like to photograph sports because it is just a go and get the best picture I can get of an event that is taking place exactly the same way as it would if I wasn't even there. Sports helps tune your reflexes and instincts and you're always looking for something out of the ordinary. I managed a few sports shots this year for the paper. I liked this simple tired gesture of victory from this young wrestler. Its more quiet than most sports action shots, but it tells a nice story.
Joel's Parrot rescue is a popular local exhibit with many festivals and schools. He gets invited to show of his parrots and Macaws several times a year. As Joel was positioning his birds on this young man, the Macaw flexed his wings to help me get a more dynamic moment than I had before this moment. This looked awesome on the front page of the paper the next day.
Franklin on Ice featured this large 'Love' sculpture that they lit with colored lights. I was actually going home after photographing the event earlier in the day and my pictures were already on the page. Nice moments from the day time part of the event. I stopped to make pictures of this at night and we used it on social media the next day. Social media has become a great way for newspapers to interact with their readers and beyond.
Each year I photograph the self-defense classes that the sheriff's department conducts along with the PPC Network, a women's advocacy group and shelter. I think this image may have been thought to be a little too violent looking for the paper, which I would argue, that perhaps that is exactly why it should be used. It isn't violence, it is a class to demonstrate protection techniques against very violent acts. And maybe we need to hammer this point home once and for all. I liked how the women in the front of the demonstrators are intently looking at what is going on. I think this is enough to make people realize what is happening here.
I was sent to photograph a civil air defense ceremony that was a surprise for this young woman who was honored and given a new title promotion. Her husband and son stood by her as she tried to hold back her emotions. This was another one we often don't do, but I was sent to see if it was something worth covering. I thought it was. It is a part of the community not often seen and it shows something good coming from hard work.
A local bar and tavern had burned down over night. I was called to get a picture on my way in. As I arrived, the fire marshal was looking over the totally destroyed business. I looked for some clues to couple with the investigator to show what the business was. Most of the items inside were too charred to recognize, especially once printed on newsprint. The tavern sign was melted but still readable but it was high and, other than photographing wide angle which I did, it was impossible to get it in the frame with the investigator where he wasn't very small and hard to see. This ended up being my favorite picture of an important event in the county as it was a popular haunt because it really showcased the fire marshall but gave a hint that it was a bar.
I photographed and wrote a story about a competitive cheer group. I couldn't get anyone interested in the story at the paper with my verbal description, so i decided to just do it on my own and present it done. The athleticism of cheerleaders is often over looked, so I chatted with them about being athletes, and skilled ones at that. I was told about the many mishaps that can occur and, lo and behold, there one happened in front of me, a missed foot on a dismount catching one of the base cheers right in the kisser. This became the signature photograph for the story that the paper did end up running once they read it and saw the photographs.
This was just a quiet moment as I was looking desperately for people at Clarion University one day. It seemed poetic to me. I made it my cover photo on facebook for a few days which is why it is cropped so narrow and wide.
One of the big stories of the year was finally tearing down the condemned city parking ramp. It became a once or twice a week progress shot for the paper. I had photographed this thing every which way you can imagine. I had asked Jill Harry of PennDOT if i could photograph the progress from her office up on the firth floor of her building across the street. She was a former colleague so it was just a quick and easy "Hey can i come up and shoot a picture out your window." And once she approved it with her bosses, there I was. I got an added benefit when her reflection popped up against the dark window frame. Though this was my favorite picture because it had layers and a visual puzzle to catch our readers attention, we chose just the picture of the scene without the reflection for the paper the next day.
We had heard about a drill at Franklin High School for local law enforcement and school staff to learn about what to do in case of an active shooter call. I had put myself in the middle of the action and actually narrowly missed getting hit with the little rubber pellets used in the drill. I was where I shouldn't have been (my fault, I had been warned....). I was running down the hall after the officers when i saw this scene. Again, I thought this was what it was all about, training for a horrific situation. But given the graphic nature of this one with the 'bodies' on the floor we decided it best to use other images from the drill that focused more on the training aspects only and not so much painting the picture of what a horrific scene might look like from the inside.
Early spring weather features and gearing up for spring sports season sometimes come together in one picture. I used track practice to get what is known as a "wild art' feature, meaning a photograph that has no story to accompany it but has some human interest. I like to use other than standing vantage points to give our readers a glimpse of the world from different angles sometimes. Fragments of people are still people so, therefore, the content is described in details. In this case in a runner's stride with colorful shoes not touching the ground freezes a moment in time.
One of my favorite things is the stumble upon. Just finding someone with a story. This guy was jamming away and dancing on the side of the road. He was waiting for friends to pick him up. He was just released from county jail and insisted to me that he was going to get himself straightened out to take care of his young baby. I had no reason not to believe him and was able to tell a little bit of his story. Real life!
Those fragments of life that I think give us a chance to reflect a little. Just these feet coming down the slide still shows play in a different way. A quiet way.
When you hear about a bear in a tree in a residential area and the police, fire and conservation officers are called, you know you're about to have some fun making pictures. I learned a lot about bears and hoping to direct them certain directions in coaxing them to climb back down out of the tree on their own. I also learned a bear will do what a bear wants to do. I had several photos from this day that told the story better than this one, but look at that face!!!
It just makes me laugh every time i see this little guy go. This is a woodchuck that lives underneath a building right next to the paper's parking lot. I stopped hoping to get his guy eating a dandelion, but he had no wish to be a party to my photographing him and dashed back across the road to his hole.
I was called to a fire. I remember it well because i met reporter Sally Bell, who took brand new reporter Will Stevens along with her to cover the fire. They were sitting back observing when I showed up. Apparently Sally was giving Will advice to just hang back and watch. By doing so they ended up learning about a heroic effort by a guy who saved the owner of the house. Good advice Sally. They got the story within the story. The funny part was I showed up and all i ever want to know at a scene is it a fatality? The answer was no. I approach fatalities differently, those I tend to stay back as Sally advised Will. I never want to make a tense situation worse by my presence. No was the answer and then i hustled right up into the midst of everything. A different approach from Sally's advice. Later when she and I spoke, we wondered what Will thought about the two different opposing thoughts?
So I was in the midst of it a suddenly I noticed a small group hovered around something. Not knowing what was going on I approached cautiously to see it was one of the homeowner's pet dogs. I then watched these dedicated firefighters and paramedics work on this dog as if it was a human being and saved its life. I couldn't locate the image we used on Page one, which i think was actually my favorite, but i liked this one as well.
We don't take the line up with shovels groundbreaking posed pictures. I work these events to tell the story in an un-posed way. But this ceremony for the new Clarion County Bank I tried something a little different. It still didn't run and we used another image from the ceremony inside with an artist rendering of what the new bank will look like.
Sometimes you see something out feature hunting (another term used by photographers when searching for slice of life scenes to satisfy the request for 'wild art!'), and you just give yourself to making a cute picture. I followed these kids and their dad around for a couple blocks making pictures.
I did a first person story about covering the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes awareness event. I failed in walking the mile, but made this picture as I was still trying trying to keep up with the men doing a much better job of walking in heals. My first person story was about my failure as a tough guy unable to handle walking in pretty shoes.
I made several photos of a chorus singing for a reunion. I liked the feel of this and the repetition and layering. Almost like an echo.
Nothing special about this photographically, but its a special subject. This is a group of community neighbors getting together to help a local business family save what they could from a roof collapse. By being there and not rushing off I was able get another layer to the story beyond just a straight roof collapse story.
It's a struggle sometimes to find any kind of weather feature on a hot day. We'd shot a lot of pool/lake heat pics so I wanted something else. Then i saw this cool looking hunched over guy pushing an old-timey push mower. I spent the next half hour talking to him and photographing him mow his brothers yard. He is sensitive to fumes so he uses the gas-less mower. Some days, most days, I love my job.
I won't get into how this one was cropped for the paper. His expression caught in a rundown between two opposing team players was an immediate hit in the newsroom. I was excited we were going to use it in the paper even though it didn't show the ball. It seemed to tell a pretty telling story about the game with the two player on either side of guy caught in a pickle. Like I said, I won't go into how it was cropped in the paper.
The toughest part of the job by far is covering tragedy. There was a call about a fatal house fire or a possible arson and shooting from the night before. I arrived on the scene and saw people around the house. I walked around and tried to make my pictures without being too intrusive. I didn't know who anyone was so I couldn't make pictures with the proper context or be able to say for sure who was there reacting. After a few moments I approached them and apologized for my intrusion. To my surprise they were very open and we talked for probably about a half -hour. I was able to make more pictures and we were able to get more for the story. I had gotten a phone number and our reporter talked with her directly. Her boyfriend had set the house on fire and then took his own life in a mobile home out back while she was at work. Terribly sad story.
I don't photograph, too often, scenes without people. This image of the tattered flag with a giant sign of support for the president seemed to sum up much of the nations feelings. Incredible support on one hand and incredible fear for the deterioration of this country on the other.
Another sign photograph during a very strange storm on my way home. A large rainbow that was beginning to wane filled an eerie sky. It was such a strange light and at times I felt a tornado was possible.
Flag retirement ceremony on flag day. A saluting child always makes me think of little John Kennedy Jr. saluting at his dad's funeral.
Covering the opiod crisis brought us to a home of a torn apart family who lost a son and brother. I made pictures as we talked mostly to the dad as the mother listened. My heart was in my throat listening to these poor folks.
We got a call about this special party for an anniversary. I think it was 65 years. We decided to cover this. It was at a nursing home which has some restrictions regarding who can be photographed. So I struggled a bit. Our reporter Saxon was with me and very patient as I said I wasn't getting what I wanted. I decided to back way off and just observe from a distance. When they brought the cake out, I got in close and made pictures but they were too aware of my presence and everything looked awkward. This was a great family milestone and the last thing I wanted was some awkward photo of them in the paper. From a distance I then witnessed what 65 years of love and commitment looks like. He began to feed his wife the cake. We then learned he does this everyday. I had my picture. This is life. This is what it means to some people who have found this meaning.
Over the summer my commute consisted on many stops along Route 322 due to construction. Most days it was just a short stop for maybe 3 or 5 minutes. Annoying but no big deal. Sometimes I'd make a progress picture of the work. This particular day was a long stop. I noticed the woman up a couple cars from me open her door and I saw some smoke. I decided to just make a picture. No intention of doing anything with it. I sat back in my car and looked over my photos and thought. that's a cool frame. Maybe we could use it as a feature? I was going to get out of my car and go up and talk with her, but the construction opened up and we started to move. So it became just a cool street photograph and not one we would use in the paper. Her smoking might have kept it out as well. It is funny how many people call complaining that we are promoting smoking when we put a picture in the paper that shows someone lighting up.
When you're the only photographer for the paper you don't want your pictures to look the same each day and bore the readers. I try a lot of things and most fail. I like visual oddities sometimes that make you stop and contemplate where you are in this photograph. Ultimately I want the reader to put themselves inside my photographs. I'm not afraid of breaking any rules because I believe rules are only tools to use when what you're doing isn't working. Otherwise you play, explore and see what happens in hopes to find something you didn't expect, but compels you to look closer. This is just some kids playing at the park, but i hope it is also the feeling of play by being in so close that it looks like I'm playing too. Which I am... I soooo am! I love my job!
"It must be a no news day?" Dan Brown said to me as I was photographing him pick up golf balls after practicing his chipping on the ball fields at Hasson Heights. "Most of them are around here, that's why we live here!" I told him. Again, nothing special about this picture, but it was just an odd little thing to come across out and about looking for anything of interest. The device he used fascinated me. The fact that some manufacturer saw a need for such a device to pick up golf balls, then made it and, then, found people to buy it was amazing to me. That was the story within the story to me! I don't remember if the image made the front page, but he did make the paper. It might have been a slow news day or maybe something happened later?
I admit to having made a really big mistake with this picture. I was working the 4th of July parade and made several pictures. I was grabbing caption information etc... as I went. I made this picture and thought it was ok, a little backlit but ok. As I approached to talk to them I realized I wanted to make another picture of the flag as it passed in front of the courthouse. I didn't stop to get their names, this was my big mistake. By the time I was done getting the shot I thought I wanted and all the caption info I needed, I had forgotten about the kid and his dad. I knew the picture was back lit and probably would fall apart quality-wise anyway. I went about my business. In editing pictures I realized it was my best frame. I had made a quick slideshow and used this picture to tease it on social media. Lo and behold someone tagged mom in comments right away! I immediately hopped on after mom replied and asked the questions I should've asked on the parade route and was able to have this picture and caption on deadline for the next days paper. Social media might be a drain on our lives sometimes, but it is also quite a way to connect us all together. And this looked great on the front page of our paper the next day in color! I do prefer it still in Black and white because i think you are really drawn to the boys face without all the red catching your eye.
When I worked for the Meadville Tribune back in the 90s and early 2000s I photographed a ton of local pageants. So many that i figured my book title should be "Frog Jumping and Beauty Queens." Here in Venango County the only thing remotely like it is the Oil Heritage Festival Queen which is really more about scholarship than it is about how a contestant looks in a bathing suit. What I didn't expect is a brother home on leave surprising his little sister with a hoist after she was crowned the festival queen. I wasn't prepared for it but somehow managed to react fast enough to make this frame, which was considerably more layered and important than any other image i made up to this point, though when this happened I was getting the name of the girls grandma who I just photographed her hugging, which at that brief second, thought was going to be my best picture.
Senator Casey visited Oil City and was brought into a great old bank building for a meeting. Now this building is basically abandoned and unused. A roof leak years prior has left it smelling of foul must. But here we were in a meeting with the senator inside this building. Every breath the smell of decayed old plaster and stale, stale air. I was feeling sick inside, so made a few pictures and went outside. I didn't really feel like I had a picture I needed so I couldn't just leave and I was there with a reporter as well. So I began exploring a different type of photo about the senator's visit. We ended up using one of the photos I made inside, but this was the one I like best from his visit.
During Oil Heritage Festival I decided to stay late and photograph the night time concert. I wasn't on deadline so it gave me some lee-way to make pictures at night. The band was Lawyers, Guns and Money and they invited the Venango Chorus to join them. This was the best cover show I've heard in a long time. The choir added an element that was simply outstanding. I also learned that night, that the president judge for Venango County was the keyboard player in the band. As I've mentioned before, to me, a good storytelling photograph has layers that the eye can find details to add further meaning than just a picture of a thing. I made a few photographs of the band while it was still light out and concentrated a little on the judge who I felt I wanted to write a little story about(it dawned on me later that I was probably the only person who didn't know the judge played keyboards in this band.) Not many people were up dancing and even fewer were when they saw me draw near with camera in hand. Then it got dark and the kids who were excited to be up so late got up and really started running around and dancing. I decided I wanted to silhouette some dancers and use the arc of the clamshell stage to frame the band. Then it was a matter of waiting. This boy with a cowboy hat that lit up was there and i made a few frames but either no lights showed up because they blink, or his position wasn't right. Then, as if someone or something was looking after me there was this boy in a perfect spot with the lights on his hat glowing. I often don't know how this happens, and believe me it doesn't always, but sometimes I feel I'm just the currier delivering the photograph someone else made through my lens. Yes, I know, I've studied and trained and use good preparation work to be where I need to be, but sometimes I feel I have no control over it and it all just comes together. This year was especially about this for me. This year I really felt disconnected and lost a lot making pictures, but somehow was guided to find images and stories that surprised me.
Part of the story about Oil Heritage Festival this year was the rainy weather. So when the parade was about to start I thought I was going to photograph either empty parade route or umbrellas. But it stopped raining just as the parade started. I still felt the rain was part of the story of the weekend, as the weather did affect the numbers, so used the old mirror image reflective idea to make, I hoped, a straight photo more interesting while acknowledging the weather by using a street puddle to add the weather angle to the image. Several readers stopped me afterwards about this picture that I wished was so much better, and told me how much they like how i took this.
The Clarion County Fair is on the very out-skirts of our coverage area. It is nearly an hour drive away. As schedules work, I usually end up at the fair too early for a lot of crowd activity, so I end up looking for those quieter fair moments. This year I happened to find a group of cousins who were checking out horses and I made a few photos and got their names. About twenty minutes later I ended up in a barn photographing another 4-H kid fitting their goat. Across the barn I saw those cousins and made a few more pictures of them. I loved this quiet moment of a girl laying with the gentle cow. Her fascination with touching the cows lips I thought was beautiful.
I was out looking for a feature and thought I'd stop and check on the farmer's market in Oil City. Not much was happening, but I did notice these cone flowers in front of the library with some active bumble bees flying around. In the background I saw a vendor selling tie-dye t-shirts and decided to frame to flowers with the shirts as a background. Then I waited for the bee to come back. I ended up making several of this and normally I wouldn't pick this sort of picture for a favorites collection, but I liked the color harmony of it. And I like the fact that, in a small community newspaper, some days, we can share with our reader just a pretty photograph from a day that nothing much was going on.
After I made this picture, which was just a perfect lazy, hazy days of summer type picture, this young man's mom, probably wisely, put a stop to this practice. I was glad, for once I managed to take the picture before it was stopped. I often see these moments and as I wait for the next chance, something happens to end it. Right now, as the temperatures haven't gotten above 20 in several days, I wouldn't mind being able to make this picture again right now!
This is a tough one. I covered the Rock in River festival for the second year. I knew one of the key founders of the event was former world Guinness book record holder Russ Byars and I knew he was struggling with a nasty cancer that seemed to be winning. During the day he expressed how he loved the event and the people in the skipping world. He told them all to keep it going. He knew this was likely his last event. I had made this picture of him as just a picture of him throwing a stone as I would any other time, but in looking back at it a couple month's later on the day Russ passed away, I felt it was the best way I could honor him. A man, a stone, the river and a hope that the stone keeps on skipping across the water. RIP Russ.
Another very typical assignment each year is the first day of school. In Venango County. We have around 10 elementary schools and three high schools. On the first day of school I try to visit at least three schools, one in each school district, and I try to hit different levels from K through 12. Some years we have a focus story, but most years we just go and try to take pictures that say 'first day of school.' I made this picture during a school tour for the kindergarten kids. The teachers devised a clue based game asking questions along the way. For me, its all about expressions that take a simple story and makes it something our readers can relate to. I felt the young girl in the front had such excitement and hope in her expression that it was a good way to kick off the year of new things to learn.
Each summer, as we gear up for school starting, several stories can be done ...teacher's getting their classroom's ready, janitors and maintenance workers finalizing details, back to school shopping and the opening of football and band camps. I love going to camps and finding ways of shooting the drills or team scrimmaging. When its not full contact I can get a little closer than usual without getting pummeled. I liked this picture as it focused on the school's name and colors that I could couple with the blue and white sky and clouds by laying on the ground. This I was able to publish on social media. In the paper we used a tight shot of a receiver catching the ball in stride to tell the story.
The Venango County Fair is now a stop on the Mud bogging monster truck circuit in the region. It's a fun, though loud, event. I don't get too excited about taking pictures of the trucks themselves because its hard to see the driver. But on the out skirts of the event, where the people are hanging out its fascinating and culturally significant. Lots of little stories can be told there!
I always tell students that you can make compelling, story telling pictures with whatever camera or lens you have. You just have to have a strategy for doing it. Wide angle lenses aren't used much in sports action, because you have to be so close that it gets dangerous. Some great sports shooters carry the wide angle and then pray that they can capture a great moment without getting run over! I set up my wide angle in front of me to capture a celebration if the TD came right at me. It didn't, but i knew I was already framing that crooked marker and just reached down an made a frame of the runner heading back to the sideline after crossing the goal. I remember wishing he put his hands up and just thought I didn't get anything. Until I saw the ref signalling touchdown when i checked out the photo on my computer. I'd hate to rely on making sports photos with nothing but a wide angle, but feel I could still tell a story and if I wanted to risk getting maimed, I could even try to shoot some action when it came close to the sidelines. Maybe next year I'll take one game and try it.
I have an on-going series I call OC Street. They are just street photographs of life in Oil City. I usually don't caption these or identify the subjects and thus-far I am only publishing these on social media. This gentleman sits in this doorway for hours each day when it is warm enough out do so. I stopped quickly and snapped this frame and he began to laugh. I chatted with him for a few minutes, same as I have on other days that I saw him there. I don't think he knew what I was seeing and even if he did, he probably would wonder why. I do love street photography and love capturing things like this from time to time. Keeps the eye muscles toned and ready.
When the lottery is high we usually do a story about that. Not my favorite thing to cover. Its not a good situation for really getting strong pictures without people being overly aware of my presence. This particular one this year I just hung out for awhile as the customers came and went. I made a few transaction shots and at the end, as I waited for the next round of people to come into this little mom and pop store the cashier just looked whooped. Might be the only time I ever include a lottery story in my favorites.
When one of Oil City's star players was hurt in the first game of the season, I watched him on the sidelines. At one point, while grimacing, he told the coach he could still catch the ball one-handed. Protocol meant he had to ride the stretcher instead of walking to the ambulance for a ride to the emergency room. As he was being wheeled out, he waved to the crowd cheering him on! I wanted this to be our page one opening season photograph but we went with another shot. This went into our slideshow and out on social media with his quote about being able to play one-handed. Social media can be great for getting more of the story out to our readers.
The week of the Venango County Fair is a fun long week with miles of walking each day. There are pictures to be had everywhere. This year, this cage with dozens of birds caught my attention. I just got inside with some kids and watched as they interacted with them and waited. When a couple landed on this one girls head her expression helped me have a moment unlike the others I photographed inside that cage. The lighting was a little rough inside the tent causing me some quality and color issues with this one, but it works ok in black and white.
I made this quick portrait of Wayne with the intention of meeting up with him a few days later while he walked for the glory of God. It didn't happen, however, a few months later I stumbled across him again out walking and I stopped and chatted with him again. This time did do a short story about him and his personal mission. The picture of him walking we used in the paper, but I was able to reach other people with a two combination picture and story using this portrait too. It has been viewed by people all over the world thanks to social media sharing. I loved his giving expression and posture in this simple straight on shot of him.
Sometimes, when taking a picture to tell a story and looking for the layers to support that story, you realize how you depict it can be as much apart of conveying the meaning. In this case showing the beauty is part of the meaning. It hit me as the sun was setting that part of the marching band experience is in the artistry and beauty. I felt this picture, which is quite a simple picture captured in-between songs and movements was just a pretty picture. And i felt that told the story.
Not long after all the protests and counter-protests erupted across this country this summer, a rally was held in Franklin with both sides of the immigration issue gathered together. Unlike those cities that erupted into violence, these two sides took the time to engage in discussions. There were a few times when voices raised and one would talk over the other, but mostly they realized they all live near each other and have many common friends. They are neighbors. And, though they disagree with one another, they also realize they have more that binds them together than what tears them apart. As a journalist I couldn't express this in the reportage, but I was proud of my community that day.
During some team-building leadership activities students got a chance to pass their teachers down a long row from one end to the other. I was able to get a few good expressions from a few different teachers by holding the camera over head doing what we call a hail Mary, shooting while not looking through the camera held high over head..
This youngster gets to forever say he ran a route and caught a pass from a pro football quarterback. I was covering Charlie Batch visiting Venango College to give an inspirational talk and meet and greet folks. At the end he tossed a couple balls to the youngsters wanting to show off their talents to the former pro player. I carry a 20mm wide angle and 300mm tele-photo only so I wasn't sure the best approach as this unfolded before me. So I just went really wide and hoped for something. The kids anticipation is what sold me on this even though its really small in the frame.