Year in Pictures

NYTimes has their Year in Pictures collection up. The work by NYT photogs this year (well, okay, consistently) excites and refreshes me and reminds me of the importance of documentary photojournalism, even in an industry that nearly everyone says is dying. Call me an idealist, but I'm certain that there will always be a need for photojournalism in daily news.

I'm working on my own end-of-year portfolio, which I'll start posting over the next weeks.



Left the house when it was still dark out for a shoot at the Hamburg Inn in Iowa City. Modern Marvels was filming for an episode on the incredible egg. Of course I stuck around after I was done shooting to eat my own Iowa omelet: cheese, ham and hashbrowns. Perfection.


first snow!

Leaving a disappointing assignment tonight, my headlights lit up the snowy field in front of my car. Four hours on the road today, and no winter driving incidents.. off to a good start, I hope?


Frozen banana

Why, yes, that is a banana and a penguin waiting for the Iowa football game. I think the penguin is more suited for this chilly day than the banana. "So, what's with the costumes?" I asked. "Oh, well, we wear them to every Marion (high school) game too." Oh, well in that case, okay.


I know how you feel, kid.


fall frolicking

Last Sunday I went on an adventure with fellow Gazetters Erika, Brian and Stephen to celebrate Stephen's birthday the Iowa way... we went on a very educational tour of the Oak Hill Cemetery here in Cedar Rapids then on the Kroul Farm for pumpkins and corn-field-related fun. For more, see my facebook album, Stephen's flickr and Brian's album.


McCain/Palin (a month late)

A lot has changed in the presidential campaign since Sept. 18, when I was the local pool photographer for the McCain/Palin campaign stop in Cedar Rapids last month. The pool slot got me inside the buffer zone with the national pool photogs, and also kept me busy running for the better part of a few hours. I've skipped the podium photos for this post and am just sharing some of my favorite images from the day. Media got there early (about two or three hours early) to get credentials and through security, set up our computers and shoot some features.

I've taken Chris Morris' 'My America' with me from TX to WA to UT to Iowa's caucus, so I was, needless to say, a bit giddy when I saw him gather with the rest of the media under the wing of the campaign plane. In other photo fangirl news, Todd Heisler was in the pool too, but, having never met him, I didn't realize it until I saw his work in the Times the next day. The pace of the day was so fast, there wasn't really much time for introductions or small talk, and the locals ride in a different van than the national media.

Way underexposed, yes. But it works for an inside photo, and I dig the deep blacks.

The porcelain skin, red lips, and photos of the candidates.. perfection. Oh, and that's McCain to her left.

First thought at seeing the lenses peeking through the curtain: "Hmm.. all eyes on Palin." Second thought: "How do I get up there?" At that point, one of the photogs tapped me on the shoulder (Heisler, I think?) and I followed him backstage, past the Secret Service and up a ladder.

These overall crowd shots are easy enough to get when you have a ladder and a great venue (see, for example, this photo by Damon Winter from NYT of the 100,000-strong Obama rally in StL this weekend). This airplane hangar wasn't so fantastic, but, actually made the crowd look bigger than it was (even though it was impressively huge) because of the overexposed, faded crowed at the top of the frame. The riser in the top right shows you where the rest of the media stood for the rally.

When you're part of a pool, you basically go where you're told to go and stay out of the way of the candidates and their security. We (local freelancer Stephen Mally shooting for Reuters, I think, and I) were pretty much on the stage at the end of the rally when one of the media handlers told us "She's coming your way, move back." She walked right in front of us, and we got the shot that the national guys didn't.

Going into the day, we didn't expect McCain and Palin to tour the flood zones -- in fact, there was a bit of an outcry about it here. So when our handler said, "Just in case you need to get in a van for some reason, you'll be getting into that van," we were pretty certain plans had changed. Sure enough, after the rally, we all piled into the vans and got on the highway. Meanwhile, my editor was calling to find out what I knew (less than him) and where we were going (probably Time Check, maybe Czech Village). Our intern, Amanda, was positioned at the old Dairy Queen in case they headed that direction, and sure enough, we took the exit for Time Check and headed into the neighborhood that I've gotten to know so well in the past four months. We were kept at a distance from the group as they walked up the street, and it was odd, being in a pack of other media as we walked (backwards, slowly, while shooting) through the neighborhood.

trunk or treat!

Yes, it has been awhile. No, I don't have a good excuse.

However, I'm currently holed up at the coffee shop, attempting to sort of catch up, starting with my favorite stuff from September. While I work on that (expect a TON of updates over the next couple days), enjoy this glimpse into the trunk of my car. Yes, that is a giant pumpkin in my very messy trunk, which, yes, could be lived out of if necessary. (I could eat the pumpkin if I got really hungry, though I think I have a box of granola bars in there somewhere, along with three pairs of rubber boots of varying heights.)


I'm in the second leg of a week-long escape from CR -- will be back Thursday with photos from McCain's visit to Iowa last week, Iowa's loss to Pittsburgh, and Chicago adventure photos. Until then, I wanted to share this from Joe McNally's blog today...

It ain’t the way it used to be, but what is? There’s never been any guarantees, or forgiveness, or for the last 10 or more years, fairness, in this industry. But here’s the thing.

We are out there, in the air, in the world. We don’t go to a cubicle farm everyday and stair at dismaying numbers on a screen. We make pictures. At the end of the day, we create something potentially significant that did not exist at the beginning of the day. We go forward, despite the uncertainty. Because this is an act of love and passion, which defies reason and prudence.

And we make that occasional good frame, the one that sings, the one that lifts our hearts and the hearts of everyone who sees it. That well and truly is as good as it gets.


Witnessing history

This is not a photo that will win any awards, but, in the 30 minutes it took me to photograph and process it for print in today’s paper, I was reminded of my own experience with 9/11. I was a senior in high school in 2001, and remember hearing from another student before class started about the first tower being hit. Once class started, we all turned on the classroom TVs with their fuzzy reception and watched as history was made before our eyes. Now, it gets a few paragraphs boiled down to bare facts in a high school history textbook, with a brief history of the Middle East and terrorism. Oddly enough, this does tie in with the job I have today: after school I went to my internship at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and remember being astounded at the photos I saw coming across the wire from New York. I was amazed at how powerful even a single image was, and how photos from Ground Zero let us all witness and experience the events of that day, even if to a very small degree.


I'm attempting to catch up after a little blog slacking, so, here are a few photos from the Meskwaki Powwow in Tama last month. Looking over these photos now, it seems that what caught my eye most was the involvement of the younger generation of Meskwaki.

Dancers line up before the start of the 94th Annual Meskwaki Indian Powwow at the Meskwaki Casino arena in Tama on Thursday, August 7, 2008. The powwow was relocated to the casino due to this year’s flooding, which affected the usual powwow site on the Meskwaki Settlement, and continues through Sunday.

Drake Keahna, 10, of the Meskwaki Settlement near Tama, makes a face as his mother Tia Keahna adjusts his headdress before a ceremonial dance at the 94th Annual Meskwaki Indian Powwow at the Meskwaki Casino arena in Tama on Thursday, August 7, 2008.

Derris Keahna, Jr., 18, of the Meskwaki Settlement near Tama, performs the Shield Dance during the 94th Annual Meskwaki Indian Powwow at the Meskwaki Casino arena in Tama on Thursday, August 7, 2008.

Stephanie Snow holds her son Tenoch Snow, 22 months, both of the Meskwaki Settlement near Tama during the 94th Annual Meskwaki Indian Powwow at the Meskwaki Casino arena in Tama on Thursday, August 7, 2008.

Denny Keahna, 14, of the Meskwaki Settlement near Tama, performs the Buffalo Head dance at the 94th Annual Meskwaki Indian Powwow at the Meskwaki Casino arena in Tama on Thursday, August 7, 2008.


Coming to a museum near you...

A barista at my favorite coffee shop (or, home away from home) reminded me tonight of something I had forgotten to post here... The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art will be displaying 83 photos from the Gazette's coverage of the flood, opening this Saturday to coincide with the reopening of the museum, and continuing into next year. It's free until November 1, so get there soon! The photo below is by fellow photog Cliff Jette and one of the truly iconic images to come out of our incredibly talented photo staff. (Out of towners, I will gladly give you a guided tour if you come visit our sleepy little flood damaged town.)

The Year of the River: Flood Photography from The Gazette

August 30, 2008 - February 22, 2009

In May 2007, the city of Cedar Rapids and Linn County designated 2008 the "Year of the River" to draw attention to the Cedar River, a vital aspect of downtown Cedar Rapids. No one could anticipate the devastating floods of 2008 that ultimately affected so many communities in Eastern Iowa. The power and force of area rivers made themselves known in a manner that had never been witnessed before. It truly was the year of the river.

Throughout all of the events that transpired during the month of June 2008, photographers from The Gazette captured the many moments that made up this monumental event. From Marengo to Vinton, from Palo to Cedar Rapids, and from Coralville to Iowa City, their photographers logged countless hours capturing images of the people and places impacted by the extraordinary flooding that occurred. While some images they shot documented the magnitude of the rising waters, many other photographs sought out the human side of the catastrophe.

This exhibition has been made possible by the generous support of The Gazette, TrueNorth, Hawkeye Ready Mix, Inc., King's Material Inc., PRIMUS Construction, Inc., Ryan Companies US, Inc., and U.S. Bank.

75 and sunny

I took a little trip to Chicago this week to visit a friend from high school, do a little shopping, and, especially, relax. After a delicious breakfast on Tuesday, I walked thru Grant Park to the lake and just enjoyed the absolutely perfect day.. it was the kind of day that's made for taking your time and soaking up the sun and listening to the ropes on the sailboats clinking in the wind.

The Detektivbyran EP (new cd coming to my door any day now!) provided the perfect soundtrack for my train ride back to Jaclyn's house, the golden evening light streaming across a big, lush green backyard where a mother pushed her daughter on a swing set. It was absurd how perfectly suburban -- and perfectly gorgeous -- it was. No pictures from that.. I just smiled as we flew past.



I shot a 'zero game' in Central City last weekend, my first football game of the season. I'm not sure if the photo below was my fault or my camera's, but after this frame, it came into focus. The first couple games are sort of 'practice' for me anyway, after a summer of not shooting sports and trying to get back into the mindset. And then, there's my tendency to keep shooting when I know it's too tight.. but you never know, I've had a few plays where I pulled it off, if my framing was right.


the one that got away

As I was wandering Rompot last week, I saw the legs, and quickly snapped a couple frames. I was working my way closer to the truck, hoping that the man inside was asleep and wouldn't wake up until I got the shot I really wanted. No luck. He sat up as I approached and looked at me quizzically, so we introduced ourselves and Stephen asked him some questions for the story. A missed opportunity. I'll be sneakier next time.

Some of you that have been reading this blog for awhile know that I don't crop the photos I put here if they're outtakes, or taken on personal time -- thus, 'full frame madness,' a term used by one of my photo professors. It's a challenge to myself to use every bit of the frame. The only cropped images are photos I took for work -- they're presented here as I turned them in for publication. With that in mind, the photo in this post doesn't use the frame how I wanted -- so here's a crop of that photo, as I wish it could have been taken.



Yesterday reporting intern 3.0 Stephen Schmidt and I explored the Rompot / Cedar Valley area for a story on how the neighborhood is recovering.. these are just a few photos I took for myself. What used to feel like a flood zone now feels like a ghost town, even though families were hard at work rebuilding at a few of the houses in the neighborhood.



I covered the Country Cruisers car show today in Manchester, and found myself drawn to the chrome and candy colors of the classic cars. A photo of a four year-old car owner will run in the paper tomorrow, and I'll post it then. For now, a handful of details...


The assignment was simple: photograph herbs in the studio for a story on drying your own herbs. We used fresh herbs for the photo. We had an idea to create a wreath of the herbs...

but this approach could create problems for the designer, of possibly having the wrong proportions. So I photographed each herb individually on a white sheet. Still, it wasn't quite right.. there was no texture to the herbs, and I wanted to create a sort of translucence. I remembered a photog at the Deseret News photographing autumn leaves on a light table, so I relocated, spread the herbs out and hit the light. (Mostly untouched) studio photos on the left/top, light table photos on the right/bottom. I think a few of these are destined to hang on my kitchen walls..

The light shone through the cut edge of the chives, giving more texture and translucence, where the studio photo is a little flat.

Basil looks like just another leaf in the studio, but the light table brought out the layers.

Placing the dill on the light table made the difference in color between the two more obvious, and the lack of shadow beneath the leaves made it seem more like an illustration than a photograph.

A few more of my favorites...