Friday, August 31, 2007

Mr. Kagen goes to the Yacht Club

I've always been interested in politics, but never enough to be _in_ politics. Since I picked up a camera I've wondered what it would be like to cover government exclusively. I have a few friends who did or currently do work in Washington and they seemed to enjoy their time there.

For years I've been inspired by the famous George Tames photo of JFK in the Oval Office. Maybe someday I'll be blessed with a moment like that.

In the meantime I'll stick to my local legislators. Congressman Steve Kagen took a two-hour boat tour of the Fox River with other legislators and governmental leaders. He paused for a moment on the dock to enjoy the scenery.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fastpitch World Series

The losers'-bracket game ended up being a thriller. It went into three extra innings and featured some of the best talent in the league.

Cat Osterman, made a spectacular save.

Caught in a pickle at the plate...

After going over the outfield fence, Akron (Ohio) Racers center-fielder Caitlyn Benyl (19) eyes the game-winning home run ball, left, hit by Rockford Thunder's Jamie Davison (24) in the top of the 10th inning.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lambeau... Lambeau

I went to the Green Bay Packers pre-season game to test our new audio gear, but put a couple cameras around my neck regardless.

I like this frame, but it probably won't ever see the light of day.

I wish it was Donald Driver (instantly ups the value and newsworthiness of the image).

I also wish it was in the other end zone. Lambeau is shaped somewhat like a horseshoe, and this photo shows the open end. Had the photo been shot from the other end zone, you'd be able to see more of the stadium, placing the moment undeniably at Lambeau Field.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Friday Night Football Begins

The season began on the 24th, whether I was ready or not. Here are my two best frames from the evening.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Tapas... redux

A return back to the Tapas restaurant on College Avenue yielded this photo of Tostones en taza Rellenos de ceviche.

I had about five different angles of this and wasn't sure about this particular one at first, but I think it was the right choice.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Woooooooo!!! Gospel Fest! Wooooooooo!!!

Here are a few photographs from the Voices of Peace Gospel Music Festival at Civic Park in Hilbert.

It's your usual outdoor concert kind of thing, but I saw something special in the way that these musicians prepared backstage. Many of the groups are simply families who feel the call to take their talents to the stage to evangelize the Christian Gospel.

The Yoder Family from Farmville, Va., is one of them. Mike Yoder, right, and his sons Forrest, left, and Rusty prepared their instruments together by their trailer. I was drawn to the simplicity of the scene and the visual repetition. I also love the fact that they have their own .org website.

Also backstage, Bud McAtee from Potter, Wis., tuned up his guitar.

Others soon joined him for a "jam-session" of Christian hymns.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

How to shoot a pitcher...

I don't claim to be the authority on shooting baseball. I think it's easily one of the most difficult sports to photograph well. Brad Mangin (an SI freelancer) and Mark Terrill of the AP bureau in Los Angeles are two guys who I idolize as far as baseball photography. I wish I could shoot the sport half as well as them.

Assignment here was to photograph pitcher Sean White of the Seattle Mariners as he made a recovery start for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Seattle's farm team. It was a cover story for our tabloid sports section so it couldn't just be a standard photo from the baseline.

I decided to take the 600mm lens (anything but low-profile, weighing in at roughly 12 pounds and is about two feet long). I talked some fans into letting me squeeze into the middle of their row and shot a couple innings from that position.

Timing and positioning is everything with this image. A row higher and White's eyes are shielded by the brim of his hat. A row lower and you start seeing the advertising on the outfield wall. Either way left or right and you start seeing other infielders.

The one thing that bugs me is that little sliver of second base still visible behind him.

Friday, August 24, 2007

County Fair?

This was originally an outtake from my shoot at a high school's football practice, but we ended up going with it for the print edition.

I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I like the (forgive the pun) pivotal moment of the guy's foot in the foreground, but I don't know how I feel about the lighting and the moments happening in the background.

The team calls this drill they're running "County Fair". I don't get that. It doesn't look fun to me. At all.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hmong Funerals

I have a B.S. in Visual Communication but my specialization area in college was Cultural Anthropology and Sociology. That educational background helped me appreciate this assignment that truly piqued my interests.

Wisconsin has the third largest Hmong population in the United States behind California and Minnesota. The Hmong people emigrated to the U.S. from Southeast Asia, many of them refugees from Thailand/Laos, following the Vietnam War.

Wayne Tauber, a funeral director here in Appleton has a special relationship with the Hmong people. He has been given a Hmong name by local elders, "Wa Yeng Lee," as a testament to his dedication to catering to the Hmong people's funeral needs.

"These are my people," he says. "These are my families. These are the people I serve."

Hmong funerals differ greatly from Western or American tradition. They typically last a number of days, have hundreds or perhaps a thousand visitors, and involve presentation of symbolic paper money and live animals. A chicken is also sacrificed as part of the ceremony; its spirit is believed to guide the deceased into the afterlife.

Nowadays, Tauber orders specially-made caskets for the funerals. They are handbuilt in Laos, entirely constructed of wood (there can be no metal or plastics of any kind) and many carry spiritually-significant designs engraved on them.

This assignment really made my day. I valued the opportunity to talk with Mr. Tauber about the customs and extraordinary experiences he's had with the Hmongs. I left with no doubt in my mind that he genuinely loves his job and, likewise, the Hmongs indeed love him.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Time for some football...

For me, high school football is one of the most enjoyable things to shoot.

You don't always get the gigantic leaps or the diving passes - they rarely enter into your viewfinder. But at the high school level, you have some of the hardest hits, and the rawest emotion. The athletes aren't playing for the money, they're playing for the love of the game.

The end of August marks the beginning of the season here in Wisconsin. Our preview coverage included a story about two players from rival teams who will face off for the last time this year before becoming teammates at UW-Madison.

Dan assisted me on this shoot. Three lights were used: narrow spot grids on each player's face and a wider grid on a light held over their heads for highlights on their hair. The original plan was to shoot this at a football stadium. We arrived on location and realized there were no power outlets for our lights and it was far too bright. It also wasn't very visually appealing.

Next to the stadium was the Menasha municipal garage which we were able to use until 3p.m. when they closed up shop. Amid the scent of gasoline, oil and lawn trimmings, we made this image below.

I brought the photos back on my cards and my editor Dwight Nale, did just a spectacular, bang-up job of finding this photo and visualizing the print layout.

Our game coverage begins this Friday!

(click photo to enlarge)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Parade of Homes

There's nothing like the Parade of Homes. It's the result of combining the American desire for grandeur with pretension.

The completely illogical part of it all, is that people actually pay money to walk through other peoples' homes. I don't get it.

Below: Megan Miles of New London, left, and April Rhoden of Dale admire the features of an upstairs bathroom in an 8,164-square-foot home, during the Parade of Homes in Appleton.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Little League

I really, really love shooting youth sports. There's so much emotion to it, like no other level of play.

This was the state championship game for 9-10 year olds. Again, our local team lost.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Riding the trolley...

Downtown Appleton features a short-route trolley that is absolutely free. It's not on tracks... it's a converted bus... but it's still pretty cool.

I made sure to make a frame for me, today. I think it captures some of that little-kid awe. I would have liked a little better light on the kid, but I like the backlighting.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


This is algae in Lake Winnebago. We have an algae problem in our area's waterways because of run-off from lawn fertilizers. This isn't the main photo we used in our paper, just a detail, but it's the more artistic of the two. After our reports, DNR has raised an eyebrow and a community is even considering a fertilizer ban.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I'm shooting that? Again!?

It's the nature of the job. Usually, as a photojournalist you live in one place at least for a couple of years. In a smallish community with a smallish photo-staff, you're bound to cover the same event more than once.

Greenville, Wis., is home of the annual Great Catfish Extravaganza. I never thought of catfish as "great"... tasty, yes, but not "great". The good folks in Greenville are all about their catfish. So much so that they race them.

Last year I shot the races as an intern for The Post-Crescent. I made a picture taken with a fish-eye lens that actually won several awards. It's incredibly daunting when you're assigned the same assignment where you made an award-winning photo and are expected to out-shoot yourself and come back with something nobody's ever seen.

I gave it my best shot. This event always has gorgeous light...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

From nothing to something in a single inning

What a strange night this was.

Our local American Legion baseball team was playing De Pere for the state title. To make things tricky, this particular tournament was double-elimination. This meant that even if Appleton lost the championship game, they could still win because there would be a second championship game. And that is exactly what happened.

To call the first game "baseball" would be generous. The quality of play from both teams was absolutely abysmal. First rule of baseball photography is that you always shoot the starting pitchers - they will always have some bearing on the outcome of the game. The shots won't always be used but you have them just in case. Game 1, however, was the kind of game where we actually would have had to resort to use them.

In Game 2, our local ball club pretty much self-destructed. In the third inning, De Pere scored seven runs. Errors and walks by Appleton contributed to that. That half of the third inning, translated into time, was about 45-minutes. It was an eternity, and it was a cruel nail in the coffin for the Appleton players. This frame below, I thought, really captured that feeling of, "God, please make it stop."

How the photo was used on the front of our sports section:

I love shooting youth sports because of the unparalleled access photographers have. Nowhere else can media literally go into the dugout. It's a privilege and I try not to abuse it... I get in and get out while being respectful and making a worthwhile picture that tells the story and captures the emotion of the moment. This shot below was all about the disappointment of being runner-up.

Sometimes an accident turns into a picture. Sports photographers often use their cameras as notebooks. "Film is cheap," the saying once went. Well, pixels are even cheaper.

There's a reason why there are several hundreds of photos on my cards at the end of the night. For starters, I suck at shooting baseball so I shoot the hell out of these games praying for some luck. Secondly, I'm constantly shooting the scoreboard and backs of the players' jerseys. This gives me a visual box score of the game: chronologically, I have the action and the reaction photos that we'll use for the paper along with shots of the scoreboard (so I know the inning and any run/hit/error that resulted) and the players numbers (so I can look them up to get their names on the roster).

Walking out of the stadium after Appleton's loss, I remembered that I didn't shoot the scoreboard so I would have the final score (a piece of information I sometimes like to include in my captions). I turned and clicked the shutter. Several parents were still near the stands waiting to console their sons after the game. Their figures, half-silhouetted, made an interesting and moody view. The scoreboard also says a lot about how lopsided the game really was.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dangerous Intersections

We do a fair amount of investigative stories about issues in our coverage area. Dangerous intersections are always a big deal. This particular intersection is far east of Darboy and is tricky because of the curves, speed, and the sunlight.

Tried to get all of that in one.