Monday, December 17, 2007

Ka... ka... ka... Cold!

It's really cool when you're paid to take pictures while you go on a carriage ride through the woods. But you just have to remember to dress warmly.

Liz Herms of Random Lake, Wis., and Chris Stinski of Appleton enjoy a carriage ride with friends at Cavanaugh's Carriages in Neenah, Wis., Saturday afternoon, Dec. 8, 2007.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hmong New Year

The Fox Cities Hmong community held its annual Hmong New Year celebration Saturday at Appleton East High School.

Organizers said about 500 people attended the celebration, which is the most important holiday for the Hmong community.

Crystal Vue, 15, of Appleton, dances with her group Gao Hmong Asia during a talent portion of the Hmong New Year celebration.

Christina Thor, 15, of Appleton, dressed in traditional Hmong-Chinese clothing talks with her family.

The traditional clothing for men and women features special chiming coins, which culturally represent and display beauty.

Family portraits are commonly taken during the day. Families often travel to reunite for this holiday.

The Hannah Montana craze

The Fox Cities were no exception to the Hannah Montana craze that's sweeping the nation. Tickets are selling out all over in less than five minutes. There's a little happiness and a lot of disappointment.

I wish I could say that skill played a part in the photo below, but I feel it was more a matter of good karma, or divine intervention.

I missed another moment a few minutes before this photo because a TV cameraman was in my way, blocking my shot. He was the kind that had no awareness of how his actions were affecting others.

On a hunch, I asked the Macy's TicketMaster representatives if I could come behind the counter with them for a different angle. Sure enough, one minute later, the ticket winner's girlfriends show up and start jumping up and down and hugging each other. I had the perfect angle for the moment of the day, and the TV guys missed the whole thing. That's karma baby...

Erika Conn, 16, of Neenah, Wis., left, hugs her friends Kari Zwirchitz, 16, center, and Angela Bacon, 17, right, both of Neenah, after Conn became first in line for Hannah Montana concert tickets thanks to a lottery system, shortly before noon at the Ticketmaster outlet in Macy's at the Fox River Mall in Grand Chute, Wis., Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007. Hoping for a ticket behind them is Hannah Olson, 5, of Oshkosh, Wis. Tickets for the Jan. 13 concert at Milwaukee's Bradley Center sold out in just four minutes.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Boys' Basketball: Hortonville shocks New London...

Nobody expected the Polar Bears to knock off the Bulldogs... but I guess in nature, a polar bear could totally rip anything to shreds...

Friday, December 14, 2007

More wrestling...

Put a little more effort into wrestling last night. I had some time and the opportunity to setup a strobe in the corner of the small gymnasium used for a wrestling match. Why would I do such a thing? It looks better, I can shoot with a lower "film speed" by a factor of 3, and I can shoot with a slightly smaller aperture to ensure focus and sharpness.

These are two of my better photos from the night...

Menasha's Braeden Harris tries to pull away from Neenah's Ryan Robillaro in a 119 pound match in Menasha, Wis., Thursday evening, Dec. 13, 2007.

Neenah's Josh Gallagher gets a close-up view of the mat courtesy of Menasha's Tyler Bordeau in a 160 pound match.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Ice Maker

It's a simple process, really... you go to a park, plow away some snow in the shape of an oval, spray down water with a fire-hose and let it freeze. But it takes a week to turn a park into an ice rink. We went to Menasha's Hart Park in the middle of the process to see what everything looks like half-way through. The spikes sticking up are blades of grass coated with overspray.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Valley ballet...

Juanita Makaroff, right, is stepping briefly out of a 49-year retirement at age 73 to dance the role of Grandmother in Makaroff Youth Ballet's full-length production of the holiday classic "The Nutcracker."

Makaroff, who founded the oldest ballet school in the Fox Valley, left the professional performance stage at age 24 to teach classical ballet. She's returning to the stage at the invitation of daughter Jeanette Makaroff, left, the nonprofit youth ballet company's artistic director and the choreographer of "The Nutcracker" performances Saturday and Sunday at Lawrence University's Stansbury Theatre in downtown Appleton.

If I had to shoot this portrait again, I'd take the suggestion of my colleague Dan to put a slight hair-light/kicker behind them to separate them from the darkness. But I'm still happy with this. Those are all handmade tutus surrounding them, by the way...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hockey... room for improvement

I like hockey, but I'm awful at shooting it. We all need something to improve at, though. Here's a couple photos from last night's girls' game between Waupun and Appleton.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The beginning of a long basketball season...

Football was one day a week... basketball (seems) like fifty times a week.

FVL seniors Andrew Aronson and Joel Vanden Busch, right, cheer on the girls' basketball team to victory over Appleton Xavier High School at Fox Valley Lutheran High School in Appleton, Wis., Thursday evening, Dec. 6, 2007.

Appleton Xavier High School's Ashley Barwick (21), left, gets her her arm wrapped around Fox Valley Lutheran High School's Alysa McGovern (22) in the second period.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Wrestling... and then came the storm...

Even though wrestling just looks "wrong" sometimes, I enjoy shooting it. It's a challenge to get something good, something different. Late in the season it gets especially competitive and emotional. It's one of the only sports I know of where kids starve themselves during the week to meet their weight class. Here are two of my favorites from yesterday's tournament.

And then our first big snowstorm came. These photos aren't that awesome but they show you what it was like here. We got about 6-7 inches in about six hours.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Vinny's Pizza

Business assignments are usually really challenging. While local businesses really do make the world go round and keep the local economy afloat, they're usually no hotbed of activity worthy of camera attention. Anytime we're able to get something remotely cool, we're pretty happy.

This assignment was a little like the soccer portrait I shot a few weeks ago. I was really intent on shooting wide-angle up close... nothing looked right. Even though it was 15º outside, I went out in the parking lot and shot telephoto. It's a completely different view from what you'd see inside. I wonder how many people actually look in this way after they park their cars?

My overall style, I think, is simplicity. You have pizza boxes, workers, and dough. It's a quick read but should hold your attention for a little while.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The opening of a can of worms...

In what will no doubt be a national, convoluted, disturbing, and long trial:

Manishkumar Patel, 34, is accused of attempted first-degree intentional homicide for allegedly spiking his pregnant girlfriend's drink with RU-486 on Sept. 17 in Appleton — two weeks before she miscarried.

Although she did not ingest that drink, authorities suspect he may have caused that miscarriage and another one she had about 10 months earlier.

Patel is being prosecuted under the state's fetal homicide law that has been in effect since 1998. That law classified unborn children as potential crime victims.

The two photos are from Patel's initial court appearance. They, among others I sent, were carried on the AP wire and also used by CNN in their on-air legal analysis of the case. Not a huge deal but fun to see the photos used on a national level.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

High School Musical

To this assignment, I roll my eyes, but nevertheless emerged with a couple nice pictures...

Troy and the Jocks sing and dance to the song "Get'cha Head in the Game" during Disney's High School Musical played at the Fox Cities P.A.C. in downtown Appleton, Wis., Wednesday evening, Nov. 28, 2007.

A young theater-goer watches excitedly as the actors perform.

Ushers sit together in the back of the theater to watch the show.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Soccer player of the year – Stuart Grable

This was a much simpler portrait than the last one. One light, very small softener.

I was intent on using a wide-angle lens at first, and finally backed-off and shot through the soccer netting. Here's how the portrait ran in the newspaper:

Friday, November 23, 2007

Swimmer of the Year - Sarah Wardecke

Kirk and Dan both graciously came along on this photo shoot with me as assistants. I literally couldn't have done it without them. This portrait looks simple enough but it was a total bear to actually pull-off. The motto of the day was "volts and water don't mix."

While Dan set-up the softboxes and PocketWizard remote triggers, Kirk and I were in the shower room putting my electronic strobes under the hand dryers (it would have made for a hillarious funpix). My light kit had been in my car overnight. Chilled from the freezing temperatures, they began sweating profusely from the humid natatorium. We didn't want to plug these in until they were completely dry.

Volts and water don't mix.

I had this shot a bit pre-visualized, and we got all the lights setup shortly before Sarah arrived. I asked her to give an intense, stone-cold, game-face look. Some folks just don't have that kind of attitude. In Sarah's case, she's gifted with a pleasant smile, so we went with that.

This was one of those cases where the lighting just took forever to get correct. Water adds another whole dimension to lighting because it refracts the light in ways you wouldn't expect, especially in a natatorium with white reflective walls. I wanted a dark surrounding so we had to use grids and scrims (light modifiers that narrow the beam of light) to get this to look the way I wanted it. With two guys helping me, it took 20 minutes to get the shot. If I was flying solo, our swimmer would have been a prune by the time I would have finished.

Kirk and Dan were also instrumental in keeping some kids away from our extension cords and ensuring those cords never came in contact with any of the puddles on the pool deck. Thanks guys!

Here's how we ran the portrait in our Sports tab.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


More photos from the extended project...

Shannon Meltz holds her daughter Hailey, while watching her other daughter, Faith, jump on a trampoline in their backyard at their home Wednesday evening, Oct. 17, 2007. Brian and Shannon Meltz of Appleton, Wis., have two young daughters, Hailey, 2, and Faith, 3. In June 2007, Hailey, 20-months-old at the time, was diagnosed with Pediatric Low Grade Astrocytoma (PLGA), an inoperable brain tumor.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Gun-Deer season begins...

We have no qualms about running photos of dead deer on the front page here. That's just not my choice to make. And on the morning after the first day of Gun-Deer hunting season, that's apparently what people want to see.
Kristine Olson of the Dale Mini-Mart takes a photo of Dave Holloway of Dale and his hunt in the back of his pickup truck after registering at the Mini-Mart on the first day of gun deer hunting season, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2007.

This photo is really straightforward, but I thought the hunter's expression, hamming it for the camera was telling.

The rest of the morning I tried to focus more on the beauty of man in nature.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

State Football - Game 2

Kimberly victorious over DeForest.

Kimberly High School's Tyler Wolf (6) crashes by DeForest High School's Matt Klemmer (55) in the Division 2 State Football Championship at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., Friday, Nov. 16, 2007.

Kimberly High School's Nick Harkness (36), Dan Lenzner (48), and Mike Kusnierz (18) make a quarterback sandwich out of DeForest High School's Tyler Benzine (12) in the fourth quarter.

Kimberly High School's AJ Klein (34) and Dan Lenzner (48) celebrate their win.

Kimberly High School's football team celebrates around the state title trophy.

Our cover and centerspread that ran in the newspaper:

State Football - Game 1

New London loses to Wisconsin Lutheran.. . a game filled with missed tackles...

...nearly blocked punts...

...and disappointment.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Prep Football Semifinals Part II

On the road again, this time to Ashwaubenon outside of Green Bay for the Div. III semifinal.

Clintonville High School's Justin Jirschele (17) gets a face full of hand from New London High School's Jake Hermsen (13) in the third quarter of the Division 3 football semifinal game at Ashwaubenon High School in Ashwaubenon, Wis., Saturday afternoon, Nov. 10, 2007.

I really like this frame: New London High School fans cheer in the stands as Levi Thiel (34), bottom, makes his way through the scrum at the goal line to score a Bulldog touchdown in the third quarter of the Division 3 football semifinal game at Ashwaubenon High School in Ashwaubenon, Wis., Saturday afternoon, Nov. 10, 2007. Thiel's touchdown along with the extra point afterwards, increased New London's lead over Clintonville to 14-0. Landing on top of the pile is New London's Mitch Schuh (82).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Prep Football Semifinals

I was in the Wausau, Wis., area to cover Kimberly playing Menomonie for the Div. II birth to the state championship in Madison. Wausau's a little farther north than Appleton. Never before have I encountered four deer in my hotel parking lot, and I've never had frost actually form on my cameras while I was shooting. How bizarre!

Here are a couple of my favorite frames from the evening.

Kimberly High School's Zach Thuecks (22) breaks up a pass intended for Menomonie High School's Jon Heimler (80) in the first quarter of the Division 2 football semifinal game at Stiehm Stadium in Weston, Wis., Friday evening, Nov. 9, 2007.

This shot of Kimberly QB Tyler Wolf scrambling out of the pocket was a total fluke. I'm not sure I like it or not, but there was this photographer on the opposite sideline who kept blasting her flash throughout the game. 900 frames during the course of a game at about 5-6 frames a second and you're bound to catch a flash or two. I like the slight back-lighting and green "UFO" on the left. When I transmitted this image, I actually got a call back from the sports desk saying "there's something wrong with your photo."

This was the game-winning touchdown catch – right on the guy's fingertips. When I saw this on the back of my camera I knew this had to be our cover shot. News value and moment always win.