Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

Sharing our humanity

In Writing techniques on November 10, 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 March 4, 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 February 18, 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 April 30, 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 March 12, 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 March 5, 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 January 15, 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 November 28, 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 »

Taking the #bwchallenge

In Photography on November 13, 2014 at 3:33 pm
Noger Beshar, 6, at her family’s home in Abdullah's Village outside Al-Kut in south-central Iraq.  The village has no electricity or running water. Photograph by Michael Madrid, USA TODAY.

Noger Beshar, 6, at her family’s home in Abdullah’s Village outside Al-Kut in south-central Iraq. The village has no electricity or running water. Photograph by Michael Madrid, USA TODAY.

Several days ago, a friend of mine posted a black and white photograph on Facebook along with the hashtag #bwchallenge. Unbeknownst to me, this is a thing. It’s sort of like the ice bucket challenge, only drier. Some of the world’s best photographers have taken the challenge and are posting black and white photography across social media platforms.

My Facebook friend is Michael Madrid. He and I worked on the college newspaper together back when newspaper photographers were denizens of the darkroom. He is now senior photo editor for USA Today. The photos he is contributing to the challenge are from a project he did in Iraq and they are absolutely arresting. I asked him when he prefers black and white photography and this is what he wrote back. — Clay

The photograph on the left illustrates a prime element of the black and white aesthetic, focusing the viewers’ eye on the heart of the photograph. The second photograph illustrates the color distraction quite well. … Read the rest of this entry »

By the light of the moon

In Photography on November 13, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Moons web

The photo on the bottom here is currently my screensaver at work. It is the result of the keen eye of Half Moon Bay Review photographer Dean Coppola, and also his keen understanding of light and exposure.

The photo was played big in color inside this week’s newspaper. We all love it. As a result, I asked him to talk about how he got that dramatic look with a scene that we all noticed as we were driving home last week. Take it away, Dean. — Clay

As I was driving home from work on Nov. 5, I noticed a dramatic moon rising over the coastal hills. I had seen on my calendar that the next day, Thursday, was the actual full moon, but Wednesday’s was pretty close. I knew I had to pull over and make a picture.

My first attempt (the one on top) was an overall exposure and gave a decent result, but I wanted more detail in the moon. I took a meter reading for the moon knowing that the rest of the scene would darken and look more dramatic. Those of you with camera phones or point-and-shoots can get similar results. Some point-and-shoots allow you focus on the moon and “lock” on that exposure, perhaps by pushing the shutter button halfway, then recompose to take in the entire scene. If you tap on the image – for example, the moon – with your iPhone, it will set the exposure to that light reading and the rest of the scene will darken. … Read the rest of this entry »