Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

Cops and reporters

In Legal on 31 Aug 2017 at 3:12 pm

This is the late Arthur Felig, who police called “Weegee” for his Ouija-like prescience of where to be at crime scenes.

Recently, there has been an uneasiness along the demilitarized zone that usually separates police from the media in this country. Violent clashes between protesters have left reporters and cops in the middle and sometimes the police have trampled on First Amendment rights in order to restore order. Meanwhile, the commander-in-chief has repeatedly berated some of the best journalists in the country, giving cover to local officials who have never thought much of your pesky questions.

Closer to home, there have been problems in Sierra Vista, Ariz. Several Sierra Vista Herald/Review journalists have reported unreasonable orders from the local police while both sides attempt to do their respective jobs. On more than one occasion, Sierra Vista Police officers have ordered reporters to less advantageous vantages ostensibly because they were worried about the safety of reporters.

What do you do when a cop at a fast-moving scene tells you to stand back so far that you can’t do your job?

This week, I posed that question to Dan Barr, a media law attorney for Perkins Coie. Barr works for the firm that authored a very good handbook for journalists that can be downloaded through the Arizona Newspaper Association. It turns out his advice is much like that I have given before: Build a strong relationship before you meet police at some scene, and once you are there, remember you are more apt to get what you want by being respectful than belligerent. … Read the rest of this entry »


The photo I didn’t run

In Photography on 3 Aug 2017 at 2:50 pm

Last week, there was a murder in Half Moon Bay. Only it wasn’t a murder. And that last part further complicated an already difficult decision about whether to run a photo I knew would upset some people.

Some explanation is in order.

We don’t have many murders, thankfully. Maybe four in my dozen or more years here. So when arts reporter Sarah Greigo Guz called me one evening to say she stumbled onto a crime scene and the scuttlebutt was that there had been a murder, it was a big deal. We scrambled a news reporter and I made some social media posts, of course.

I also got a call from a local photographer, who said he had photos from the scene. I asked for them and he sent them, and my actual text back to him at the time was: “Wow.”

That is the most impressive photo above… Except I cropped out the “wow” part. Which is an unnatural act for a newspaper editor and required a lot of soul-searching on my part.

What you don’t see, off to the left, is a body under a white tarp. At the time, I was convinced I would run it full frame. That conviction changed over time.

First, I sent the photo around to Wick editors. I would say most people, about 60 percent of those who provided feedback, said they would run it for the same reasons I thought I would. It was big news, it occurred in public, there were likely already photos like it on social media. It wasn’t particularly gory. … Read the rest of this entry »

Sharing our humanity

In Writing techniques on 10 Nov 2016 at 3:35 pm


Hunter Marrow, a reporter at the Ontario, Ore., Argus-Observer, found this prisoner the other day, guy by the name of Michael Johnson. It turns out that Johnson was about to be released from the Snake River Correctional Institution after serving a stint for burglary.

Suffice to say, Hunter saw past that criminal past to something else:

ONTARIO — It’s rare that an inmate gets a parting gift on his last day in prison, but that’s just what happened for one veteran inmate before his release on Tuesday.

Michael Johnson shook hands with Snake River Correctional Institution staff Tuesday morning before receiving his gift. His fiancée, Tina Newson, stood at his side, smiling at the congratulations Johnson was receiving.

It was Johnson’s day of release from the prison, and he received a special farewell gift on his way out: a Quilt of Valor.

You see, there is this group of kind people that makes quilts for returning veterans. Johnson served in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1971. He was wounded and received a Purple Heart in service to his country before his road turned crooked and Johnson landed in jail.

There are undoubtedly a dozen angles you could take to a story about this man’s life. (How does he have a fiancée? What do his victims think of his release? What is he going to do now?) Hunter chose the Quilts of Valor angle, and if you choose to question that decision, look at that photo again. … Read the rest of this entry »

Want to make better photos?

In Photography on 4 Mar 2016 at 8:35 am

It used to be that having your photo taken was a big event. Many of us can remember getting gussied up by our mothers and loaded into the station wagon for a trip to Sears, where a photographer would position us in some unnatural pose, next to our color-coordinated siblings, in order to capture an image that would live forever in the family photo album.

Now, we are liable to have our photo taken several times a day. We all walk around with cameras in our pockets. The advent of the cellphone camera has made picture-taking ubiquitous. That leads to a mistaken impression that it’s easy to take a telling, beautiful image.

This week, Tom Yunt forwarded a DIY Photograph interview with Steve McCurry. He’s one of the best photographers in the world. The 30-year-old iconic image you see above was his work. … Read the rest of this entry »

Accept your biases

In Writing techniques on 18 Feb 2016 at 3:47 pm

The above video really got me thinking, not just about how photographers are affected by what they think they know about a subject but how preconceived notions affect the rest of us as well.

As you can see for yourself, six photographers were told they were shooting the same man but were given wildly different backstories for their subject. He was a self-made millionaire, he was an ex-con, and so on. The result were photographs that were as much about the preconceived notions as the subject himself.

Us wordsmiths have the same problem. Say you go to an assignment. Your editor says you are doing a story about a CEO who is speaking to a local school group. Now imagine your editor says the man speaking to the kids is a gang member. Would you approach each subject the same way? How would you dress for each assignment? Would you think one story is better than another before you even get there? If you are telling me you treat each assignment exactly the same, I don’t believe you. In fact: you should prepare differently, to a degree.

I know we try to keep an open mind. I know we say we treat all our subjects equally and with respect. We should try to do that, but I submit to you there are subtle biases that we bring to each assignment based on preconceived notions and those notions affect our final product.

Bias can be just loaded word for preparation. Take the way you dress for various assignments. When I covered major league baseball, I generally wore Polo shirts and shorts rather than slacks, dress shirt and tie because it occurred to me that professional baseball players might speak more openly with me if I reminded them of one of their golfing buddies rather than an attorney. Likewise, if I have an assignment in a courtroom, I would rather my appearance mimic an officer of the court rather than the defendant’s lowlife cousin. What I read beforehand — even the music I listen to — might vary depending on the assignment I’m heading toward. … Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing isn’t always believing

In Photography on 30 Apr 2015 at 4:08 pm

reverse image pic

I know that by now you have seen some disturbing images from Baltimore. There has been looting and rioting and misbehavior of many sorts after the death of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody.

Most of us probably take the images we see at face value. Because we’re trained to believe our eyes. For generations, we got information from reputable sources and if the New York Times or CBS News or some other brand we trusted posted a photo like the one you see above, you had good reason to believe that it was from looting in Baltimore.

But the one you see above it not from Baltimore. Despite what “Da’Marious Trufton” would have you believe on Twitter, that photo is actually from the pillaging of a KFC in Karachi, Pakistan … in 2012. The Twitter guy apparently just found a photo he liked on the Web and made something up. It’s been retweeted a lot by people who took it as gospel.

I might have seen the tweet and believed it myself if not for a guy named Eoghan mac Suibhne. He’s a journalist for the online outfit Storyful and he used the tweet, and others of a similar vein, to remind us to verify photos before passing on this stuff as real news. Please remember this before retweeting things like the above photo in the heat of the moment. … Read the rest of this entry »

Was it cropped?

In Photography on 12 Mar 2015 at 2:18 pm

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.38.32 PM

Rarely has a photo’s composition gotten more scrutiny than this one. It’s a front-page photo that appeared in the New York Times on March 7. It’s a re-enactment of the famous “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. As you can see, the first family is all in attendance along with some icons of the civil rights movement and a few thousand of their closest friends.

What you don’t see is former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura. They were also in the front line of marchers and are just a bit to President Barack Obama’s left — out of the frame.

Conservatives were afire and saw the photo as a liberal media slight against the former president. They accused the Times of cropping out the Bushes to further an agenda and promote the wrong notion that Republicans don’t care about events in Selma.

For his part, Times photographer Doug Mills told the newspaper’s ombudsman that the photo wasn’t cropped at all. It was taken with a long lens. Wider shots with Bush in the picture didn’t work for technical reasons. Bush was in bright sunshine and washed out of a photo that captured the faces of the current president further down the line.

“… Bush was in the bright sunlight,” Mills said. “I did not even send this frame because it’s very wide and super busy and Bush is super-overexposed because he was in the sun and Obama and the others are in the shade.” …
Read the rest of this entry »

Send me that photo?

In Photography on 5 Mar 2015 at 4:48 pm
The fire chief asked our photographer for this shot, which included a presentation from a state legislator.

The fire chief asked our photographer for this shot, which included a presentation from a state legislator.

This has probably happened to you. You are at some community event – a ribbon cutting, a groundbreaking, a Eagle Scout ceremony – and a representative of the hosting organization saunters up and says: “Can you send me that picture?”

What do you say?

We at the Half Moon Bay Review seem to be fielding that request more and more these days. I submit the answer is tricky. On the one hand, your professional photos belong to the news organization. They are news photos that we might run again from our file, not simply marketing materials for some business. If the host wants photos, she should pony up for a photographer to take them, right? On the other hand, sometimes it seems like the goodwill outweighs any harm.

Let me suggest some middle ground. And let me say that this isn’t the definitive word. It’s just meant to foster the conversation at your newspaper. … Read the rest of this entry »

We can take better photos

In Photography on 15 Jan 2015 at 3:07 pm


If this press release crossed my desk, I would say, “OK, but can we get a photo of Hooker actually being the layperson of the year?”

It’s a funny headline, sure, but it’s the photo that grabbed my attention — precisely because it’s anything but an attention-grabbing photo. In fact, it’s terrible.

All of us have photos something like this in yellowing scrapbooks at home. Everyone gathers around, stares at the camera and smiles their faces off. It works when it’s grandma and Aunt Nell and that crazy cousin with the wandering eye and all you want to do is document Christmas dinner, 1973. It doesn’t grab your eyeballs, however, when those people grinning at you are not blood relatives.

Photos like this are a throwback to an era when photos were A Really Big Deal. You had to get down the bulky camera, get everyone to hold still, worry with the focus and shutter speed, finally “click.” Then you had to remember to take the film to Harry’s Camera Shop so you could wait a week to see that you still had the lens cap on.

As you know, we don’t live in that world any more. People take pictures all day long for any reason whatsoever. Our camera phones are dummy-proof, full of fun filters and cropping tools and all manner of cool app. You can be Ansel Adams with all this stuff.

So let’s resolve to do better than this. Some ideas: … Read the rest of this entry »

When there are no assignments

In Photography on 28 Nov 2014 at 11:25 am


I got a text from Half Moon Bay Review photographer Dean Coppola one morning last week, just as I was getting in:

Hey Clay, I didn’t see anything on the schedule until 1 p.m. I’m gonna poke around for a (feature.) I’m in Montara now, about to move south.

That isn’t exactly what an editor wants to see in his inbox. Ideally, we have a better plan than that. That is why we meet each week – to assure that we all have productive work to do throughout the week.

But hey, it happens. What’s more, wild art has its place. We run photos pretty much every week just because they are amazing. So there are worse things than talented photographers trawling for the perfect shot.

Many photographers will tell you that riding around looking for something, anything, to shoot is one of Dante’s inner rings of hell. While we all hear of just stumbling onto something great, it isn’t likely. Unless you take an educated guess. … Read the rest of this entry »