Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Top 5 Assignments of 2011

 Bison management in Yellowstone National Park
This was my most exciting assignment of the year. I was interning for the Salt Lake Tribune and they had me drive 8 hours up to Yellowstone National Park for four days to make some photos for a story they were working on about the park's bison management policies in and outside of the park. If I had to pick my two favorites in the word, they would probably be 1. traveling, and 2. animals (and 3. photographing both) so this assignment was a match made in heaven. However, it ended up being harder and more frustrating than I thought. I did not do a good job do to my poor planning and communication with the park. I basically spent 4 days taking photos of bison and that's it. I should have been shooting rangers out in the park corralling the animals into pins, catching them in the city, branding them, testing them for disease, etc. That was something I should have tried to set up before investing the time and money on this trip because once I got there the rangers said no to everything and I didn't do enough about it. I was really embarrassed when I came back with only 10 out of 1,000 shots having something besides a buffalo in it. I'll have to chalk this one up to a lesson in learning from my mistakes. 

Dealing with the loss of Hugh Dearden.
When I was interning with the Salt Lake Tribune I decided I wanted to do some kind of sports related photo story. In my last month of my internship I was assigned to start on a project with sportswriter Bill Oram about a local man who was in the late stages of cancer and loved watching his son play soccer. I met the family, took some photos at the house when his son's team came to visit, went to a game, shot that, then got the news--only three days since I met him--that he passed away. We decided to continue with the story and I spent the next week shooting more soccer games, an open-casket memorial and a traditional funeral. This was the first story I ever worked on dealing with death and learning the ins and outs of being a sensitive journalist.

The Young and the Homeless
In my first month at the Tyler Morning Telegraph I got assigned to go to a church and take some photos of four homeless guys who had agreed to do an interview with us about being homeless in Tyler. Originally the story was going to be about how it's hard living on the streets when it's 120 degrees in the summer in Texas. But that wasn't the story. The real story was their friendship. These guys stuck it out together. They kept each other company at night, during the day, during meals, etc. Between the four of them one of them usually had a cell phone turned on so I gave them my phone number and off and on from then they would call me, and I would come hang out with them documenting their lives. This was an easy story that I decided to go further with. I put a lot of effort into spending time with the guys, even staying up until 4 a.m. one night to get this photo of "Bear" as he fell asleep outside the library.

Our Lady Parade
This was an assignment that took me by surprise because I had no idea what to expect. It was a Sunday. I was feeling under the weather, and the only thing on my calendar was a note saying a Catholic parade was to be held that afternoon in downtown Tyler and a contact phone number. I didn't call. I figured it was a parade and there wasn't much to really know. Wrong. This wasn't any Catholic parade, it was the parade celebrating the feast day of the Lady of Guadalupe (the Virgin Mary) and the whole parish of St. Peter Claver was in the streets with many matachines, Virgin Marys and Juan Diegos to keep me busy snapping away.

Brook Hill's championship win
They say that football is big in Texas. I honestly don't think it's any bigger than it is in Michigan, but having so many schools and so many divisions and regions and such a long season of football in Texas means that many communities have a local team going close to that coveted state title. Since I'm the newbie on staff I spent all fall covering the private schools, but that meant I got to travel to go shoot Brook Hill as they took on another private school in Killeen, TX. It was clear from the touchdown within the first two minutes that Brook Hill was going to win. They guys were more adrenaline rushed and excited than anything I have ever seen, which in turn, got me really excited to shoot! It didn't feel like work at all photographing these kids with as they screamed and jumped around and cheered the whole game. Sports features have always been a  favorite of mine to shoot.

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