Monday, July 30, 2007

'Just jamming out on skates'

Talking with Eli Broyld about roller skating is like talking to a pastor about his faith. Every carefully chosen word is loaded with enthusiasm.

It is hard to believe that the 28-year-old scrap-hauler from Neenah just recently put his skates back on. For almost 10 years, Broyld didn’t skate at all after several challenges in his life damaged his passion for the hardwood rink.

At the age of 15, he lost his infant daughter and her mother to a drunk driver. At the age of 16, his father was shot to death. He was also diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a rare heart disorder resulting in irregular and often dangerously racing heartbeats.

Just two years ago, a friend noticed Broyld’s struggles and told him that it had been far too long since he had felt a skate’s wheels roll underneath his feet. Doctors told him that he needed to stay in top physical shape. Skating, to Broyld, seemed to be the only logical medicine.

And the medicine worked.

Read the story here.
See Eli skate and hear his story in his own words here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Did I break your camera?" – Yes.

I was sent out to Fox Cities Stadium for a fun assignment. Lance Parrish, formerly a baseball great with the Detroit Tigers, is now manager of a farm team called the Great Lakes Loons. I'm not sure that's a title I'd willingly accept, but to each his own.

We wanted to do a short story on him and my job was to get a shot of him.

And it pours.
Cats and dogs.
Torrential downpour.
And then there is lightning.

Oddly the umps don't call or suspend the game. I'm severely under-lensed (only a 400mm for a tight-ish shot along the third-baseline... needed at least 560-600mm) and because I've got my AquaTech camera-coats on for protection, it's not convenient at all to change lenses. They're great raincoats for cameras but it's hard to change anything once they're put on.

So I'm stuck in the rain.
It is seeping through my raincoat.
My pants are soaked.
My socks are soaked.
My shoes – leather – are shriveling.
I'm not getting exactly the shot that I want.
It is lightning.
I'm basically holding a 25-pound camera rig mounted to a lightning-rod.

And then, my shutter blows.

A shutter blowing is actually quite magical and mysterious. You never see it coming. You see symptoms (white streaks), but you instantly begin denying that it's actually happening to you. It sneaks up on you. Before you know it, you have black diagonal chunks in your images... the silhouette of the mangled shutter within your overpriced light-tight box. Without a functioning shutter, you don't have a functioning camera. It's a $300 repair.

It just wasn't my night. I went back to the office to turn in my faulty camera and some mediocre images. I found this frame in the mix...

What you see here is the white streak that somehow indicates the shutter is killing itself slowly with each frame. For some reason it looks like the baserunner is watching Scotty beam-up Lance Parrish to Starship Enterprise.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Sometimes a cute-kid picture is in order.

Here you go. A snap from a Living Well assignment about one of two sets of triplets born this summer in the Appleton-area.

These brothers are 26-days old.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Park to Park Paddle

I wish I had a kayak.

I love being out on the water. I surely cannot afford an actual boat, and with a bit of saving I probably could buy a kayak in a couple years.

But... where the hell would I put a kayak?

I realize it's not like I live in New York City, and in a closet. But it's not like I've got a 3-car garage and a tool-shed, either. I have a Subaru with a rack these days, but I would look like such a doofus riding-up to all of my assignments with a gigantic kayak on top of my car.

But hey, if the Fox River ever caught fire, I would totally have the best spot news photos ever!

Ridin' the rapids and through the flames...

Here's a photo from the event that rekindled my zeal to obtain a kayak. Just took a high position on a bridge to show the paddlers leaving downtown Neenah.

You freeze.

"Have you ever crossed the road, and looked the wrong way? A car's nearly on you? So what do you do? Something very silly. You freeze. Your life doesn't flash before you, 'cause you're too...scared to think - you just freeze and pull a stupid face."

Yesterday I froze. People don't generally like to discuss their failures.

I had always thought of myself as reactionary. Not a crazy activist - someone who can quickly respond to something unexpected. My experience at the EAA fly-in in Oshkosh made me question that belief.

I was on assignment to photograph local folks who sell legally essential tiedowns for the visiting aircrafts. Tiedowns literally tie down an airplane to prevent it from being blown over or blown away by gusts of wind - it sounds absurd but it happens surprisingly frequently.

For about three hours I rode around in the John Deere Gator used by these guys to get from plane to plane in a plane-filled mile-long field along the runway. Cameras around my neck, we took a break to grab some water and watch planes land, some three at a time on a single runway.

A blue and white plane approached erratically, tipping its wings widely from side-to-side as it came closer and closer to the ground. Even at 100-feet in the air, an accident seemed nearly inevitable.

I always thought of myself as the type who would certainly ready his camera to make a picture.

Instead, my jaw-dropped and I froze.

The plane continued to descend. At 20-feet – practically the ground – the plane banked right, nearly clipping its right wing on the asphalt runway, then proceeding to buzz the crowd with little control.

The incident had turned out to be nothing but a pulse-raiser. But maybe it wouldn't have. It makes me wonder in other situations if I would have froze. Perhaps the obsession will wear-off, but today, it bothers me.

Friday, July 20, 2007

NASCAR's Kyle Busch hits the track at WIR

Last night, Kyle Busch, NASCAR's most recent hit, found his way to the track at Wisconsin International Raceway on his state tour. He'll return Aug. 7 to race the real deal, but this visit was just to get used to the track and see if it was worth racing.

Nevertheless, it was somewhat momentous to have a driver from the NASCAR circuit at the track, although few fans came exclusively to see him. Most people in the stands didn't even know he was there until they heard it announced over the loudspeaker. Here at WIR, Kyle Busch was one of many – just one in the crowd – at a 1/2-mile track best described as a haven for "grassroots racing" enthusiasts.

My job on this story wasn't to show Kyle Busch. That's easy. Any hominid with a right index finger could do a decent job at documenting his existence. My job was to show Kyle Busch, a Las Vegas native, at WIR and show the readers what was unique about his visit here.

We're local-centric. As a journalist for my community, the question I always have to ask myself on stories of national interest is: "How do I localize this?"

The photo above is of Busch holding up an oversized dice before the race. The oversized dice is unique to WIR. After qualifying, drivers roll the dice to help determine their starting position for the actual race. Let's just say that NASCAR has other methods and formulas for determining this. Busch's slightly puzzled and humorous body language was illustrative of the notion that he wasn't in Vegas anymore.

Just like all the other drivers, Busch had to get his instructions from the WIR officials before the race.

Busch drove a local car, #51, instead of his usual #5.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I say this jokingly: Sometimes it absolutely sucks to be a journalist for a reputable publication.

In newspapers, we often do reviews or preview articles about restaurants that have recently opened. This week it was Tapas, an upscale place on College Avenue in downtown Appleton. When we shoot pictures or write features on these places, the owners and chefs very frequently offer us something from their menu... usually it's the very plate of food that we just took a picture of. It's a gracious offer; one that usually comes conveniently around lunch- or dinnertime.

As a journalist I can never take-up a restaurant on that offer. Perhaps it seems like a stretch to you, but the reasoning is the same for why I could never accept a gift of any kind from a public official or prominent business-person.

Coverage cannot be bought. Fair-coverage, however, should be given freely. We as journalists can't allow ourselves to be bought, even if it's a $10 dish at a restaurant. Journalists aren't entitled to anything more than the general public, legally or socially.

Some publications take this principle of journalism to the extreme and mandate that their employees not accept gifts of any kind and of any value. Anything received must be surrendered to the company and later given away. This covers items of such negligible value as a key or credential lanyard – it probably cost, at most, 10 cents to make.

Refusing the offer is the hardest part. It must be done eloquently, sincerely and tactfully. And even then, many won't ever understand why we'd ever in our right minds turn-down a gorgeous plate of free Gambas al Ajallo (garlic shrimp) and a free glass of white Sangria.

It's then that I must resort to using the line, "I just ate."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bret Younger 10K Run

Gary Nettekoven of Appleton pushes along his children Anika and Aiden on the final stretch of the Bret Younger 10K Walk/Run at Appleton North High School in Appleton, Wis., Saturday morning, July 14, 2007. Nettekoven still managed to finish ninth overall, and first in the men's 40-44 division with a time of 39:34.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'm the old crotchety man of the neighborhood, now...

Last night I called the cops on the young hooligans in my neighborhood. For the past several weeks ever since I moved-in to my new apartment in Appleton, teenagers (and I call them that in a cruel-tone) have been coming to our entrances in the middle of the night and buzzed everyone by slapping their hands on the buzzer panel.

Our buzzers aren't like the ones on TV. They're not like the ones on Seinfeld, and they're nothing like doorbells. They're only slightly less annoying than triggered smoke detectors. I found the poorly timed visits a nuisance. So I called the police and made a formal complaint.

They came out and talked to me for a while. I explained that I was sorry for bothering them, and that I knew it wasn't the most important thing they had to deal with. The officer's response really made me think. She said in a very matter of fact way, "Well, it's important to you."

It made me think about what we do as community journalists. The stories we cover sometimes seem trivial. They may not matter or effect me, or you... but they matter to somebody. And that alone makes it worthwhile.

Home Improvement

Today I shot a story on the fruits of being the general contractor for your own home build or renovation. I felt like a journalist today... questions and small-talk came naturally...

-What part of your home do you take most pride in?
-What is your favorite place inside? Outside?
-What was the most difficult decision you had to make?
-Show me a detail that you toiled over that many people might not even notice?

Knowing the answers to these questions help me work better. The more you understand the story, the better you can make pictures that illustrate it for the reader.

Monday, July 09, 2007

U.S. Senior Open, Final Round

Our coverage of the USSO at Whistling Straits has come to an end. Today was the final round.

You wouldn't know from the photo below that I was actually out on the course. I was there on the 18th hole when all the leaders finished, and when Bryant vigorously hugged his caddie when it was clear he was the winner.

Covering a major golf tournament as part of a team has its benefits and its drawbacks. You could never do it alone, but in sharing the duties you ultimately lose some opportunities that you are used to as the sole photographer at an event.

You won't always be the photographer with "the" shot, and you won't always have the A1 lead photo or the cover. On the 18th hole, when Bryant finished, we had four visual angles on the hole... only one would be the shot.

You never know what direction they'll tip their hat... or if the caddy will walk in front of you blocking your view... or if the bright yellow pin will plague the background instead of contribute context. In my case, all three of these problems occurred from my view... all things I had no control over as part of a team.

It is indeed frustrating, but looking back on the difficult week we had I wouldn't have been able to do it alone and I couldn't have asked for better people to work with and share my time. We're looking forward to covering the PGA when they return in 2010.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

U.S. Senior Open, Day 5 of Many

Action from the third round of the U.S. Senior Open at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis.

Loren Roberts reacts to a missed putt on the ninth hole.

Tom Watson reacts to a missed putt, too. It really was a day for missed putts.

...And this is how TV gets in the way of good still photography. Please write your congressman...

Sometimes you look away from the greens and fairways and you find a picture. These golf fans boated out onto Lake Michigan to get a glimpse of Tom Watson sinking a birdie putt on the 7th hole. The lap-sized dog on the boat's stern really makes the picture for me.

Loren Roberts turned himself around later in the day and starting making some shots.

Friday, July 06, 2007

U.S. Senior Open, Day 4 of Many

today I had some fun and made some pictures... Romero totallly blew his lead and we captured all of his troubles on the 18th hole. Watson took off.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

U.S. Senior Open, Day 3 of Many

Yeah... physically, this tournament is grueling to cover. Part of me wonders why people would ever pay $95 to watch this... and the other part of me is in awe of the handful of true legends who are playing this week.

Jay Haas

Tom Watson

Ben Crenshaw

Curtis Strange

Hale Irwin

Some Guy :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

U.S. Senior Open, Day 2 of Many

Covering this tournament is an incredible physical challenge... and this is only the practice rounds. Happy Fourth of July...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

U.S. Senior Open, Day 1 of Many

This course makes the Old Course at St. Andrews look like a parking lot. This should be an interesting week.

Manawa Rodeo, a reshoot...

I shot this same rodeo last year as an intern. Who knows... maybe I shot it better this time around...

Dairyland, no doubt

My first assignment for The Post-Crescent turned out to be very light news, but one that went worldwide. We have a guy from neighboring Little Chute, Wis., who carves cheese. He was commissioned to carve Mt. Rushmore from a 700-pound block of cheddar.

Our story and photos went to the AP Wire was was picked up by masses of publications in four continents.