we won an Icky!

An exciting email came through my inbox today, from Gazette Director of Photography Paul Jensen:
The Gazette and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art won an Icky award last night for Visual Arts Programming for the flood photo exhibit. To date the exhibit has had 22,814 visitors making it the second most viewed exhibition at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, following only the great Grant Wood retrospective of 2005, which included “American Gothic.”
You only have a few weeks to go see it, if you haven’t already. The exhibit is open until Feb. 22.

photo by Mark Tade/The Gazette


Covering the Inauguration from Iowa

Sure, all the action was in DC yesterday. But you didn’t have to be on the Mall to witness history — any place with a TV would suffice. My first thought was to head to the Irish Democrat, but I feared that there wouldn’t be much of a crowd when Obama was sworn in. My next thought was to go to Coe College, but the Gazette’s Iowa City photographer, Brian Ray, was already planning on going to the University. Here’s where Twitter (insert shameless self-promotion here) was useful: I remembered a tweet from Riley’s Cafe saying they had installed four TVs above the counter. Perfect! How much more American can it get?

Riley’s Cafe owner Phil Pankey of Cedar Rapids, left, and patron Gary Allyn Lewis of Cedar Rapids watch the Inauguration of Barack Obama on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009. The cafe had their four televisions turned to four different channels, all broadcasting the ceremony.

What you can’t see in the photo above is that Gary is deaf, and was attentively reading the closed captioning. When he got up to leave, I wrote in my notebook, “Your name for the Gazette?” and he wrote his name for me. “Cedar Rapids?” I wrote, and he responded with a nod. There was some back and forth on the correct spelling of his name before he pulled out his drivers license (so much easier). “Thanks!” I wrote and he left the cafe with a smile and a handshake. Communication barriers have been an issue a few times this year — most notably, covering the immigration raid in Postville. My high school French classes aren’t much help (”Comment vous s’appelle?” doesn’t elicit much response, and, in fact, may still be wildly incorrect), so I rely on what little Spanish I know (”Su nombre?”). On another note, I spent several minutes talking to a table of women whose photo we didn’t end up using. There’s so much emphasis now on social media and online networking that it’s good to actually talk to our readers face-to-face and hear their thoughts on our coverage.

Later in the afternoon, I went with reporter Erika Binegar to the Southside Boys and Girls Club Inaugural Ball. I spent a good deal of time observing, looking for the kids I thought might make for the best photos when there was some action in the crowd. Star and her daughter Joy were incredibly enthusiastic, and when the crowd began to chant “Yes We Can!” (and the excitement was almost palpable), I knew exactly who to place myself in front of for the photograph. Star’s son Jonathan was celebrating his birthday yesterday, and I’m sure it’s a day he’ll remember for a long time.

Star Holmes-Word and her daughter Joy Nance, 8, chant “Yes We Can!” during the Southside Boys and Girls Club Inaugural Ball on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009.


The future of the Paramount

The Paramount Theatre is one of my favorite buildings in Cedar Rapids. Before the flood, I had only been there once (also for the paper, when I was here as an intern in fall 2006). I immediately fell in love with the architecture, the ambiance, the feeling that I had stepped back in time as I walked into the lobby.

The second time I went to the theatre, one of the symphony percussionists took me and a reporter through a door behind the stage to view the flood damage (it was part of my post-flood downtown tour), and I photographed the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ toppled onto its back, lit only by the open door, the rest of the theatre enveloped in darkness. I haven't heard much about the organ lately, but, it's been removed from the theatre and will hopefully be repaired and restored to its location. The photo from June:

This week, as part of Rick Smith's story in the Gazette on the future of historic buildings, I photographed the theatre again. The front door is still boarded up (see the first photo), and, like Vets Memorial, plastic tubing stretches across the floor, delivering fresh air and heat to protect the building during the winter.

A few technical notes, for those that are curious: the photo of the lobby, known as the Hall of Mirrors, was a 30-second exposure, lit only by my dying Maglite (a technique called painting with light). My guide was running late to a meeting, so I only shot four frames of the hall, and I wasn't quite able to perfect the lighting. Depending on the building's future, I'd love to get back in there with a few hours at my disposal, to photograph more of the theatre using light painting. The photo below was a one-second exposure, lit only with a work light in the left corner.

"It is such a unique asset to the state of Iowa," Council member Brian Fagan says in Rick's story. "I don't know anywhere else that has a venue like that. And as an icon of Cedar Rapids, as an historical feature in our community, it is in my opinion — and from the information I have now and after touring it — we've got to reinvest in that. It is worth saving."


Sitting Silent

While working on a story for Sunday's Gazette, I took tours of some of the historic downtown buildings, including Veterans Memorial Building, which housed City Hall before the flood. A few of my favorites are below, and you can see the rest in a slideshow here. For those not familiar with Cedar Rapids, Vets Memorial is on Mays Island, in the middle of the Cedar River (it's the building on the right in this photo). We were the only city in the world to have its municipal offices on an island.

There are shadows on the wall where photos once hung in the mayor's office. Papers are still scattered across the desk.

The in/out board in one office lists everyone as 'out.' Although, after the offices were evacuated, it's doubtful anyone came looking for the people on this list at this office.

City council chambers have a fine layer of dust over everything. Notes from what was probably their last meeting there (that would have been June 9, if memory serves) still hang on the wall.

The guts of the building are exposed, ready for rebuilding.


how much more of this can we take, really?

All I could see of the little gnome in my backyard this morning was the peak of his hat.


...and more snow.

I touched on this a bit in my last post, but, with every snowstorm comes a new challenge to find something different to photograph. Since I photographed shoveling (er, sweeping), scraping and walking on Saturday, I drove/walked past all the people cleaning their walks. The news of the day was the blizzard warning, and school was letting out two hours early. Again, the Wellington Heights neighborhood served me well. Wide avenues with trees meeting in the middle, a lot of kids that walk home from school.. and those kids all rely on the crossing guard, no matter the weather.

Doris Courtright of Cedar Rapids stops traffic at a crosswalk on Bever. Ave SE on Monday, Jan. 12, 2009, in Southeast Cedar Rapids. She has been a crossing guard for the school for 12 years, and sometimes shovels the walk to make crossing easier for the students. Johnson Elementary School and other Cedar Rapids schools dismissed two hours early Monday because of a blizzard warning, which will be in effect from 6 p.m. Monday to 9 a.m. Tuesday.

A jogger caught my eye as he ran up 4th Ave SE, and I caught up with him on 19th St. SE.. His red coat is a great contrast to the blanket of snow, and was just the right time to emphasize the whiteout.

Don Venzke jogs on 19th Street SE as the snow falls on Monday, Jan. 12, 2009, in Cedar Rapids. Venzke is now retired, but said that before retiring he used to ride his bike to and from work everyday, regardless of the weather.

snow day remix

Re-posting with the photos that ran in Sunday's and today's paper..

I woke up Saturday to see the snow still falling after far surpassing the three inches of accumulation that were forecasted. I threw on my snow boots, grabbed a Subaru from the office and hit the unplowed streets (perhaps getting overconfident with the all-wheel drive) in search of features, after confirming that both of my assignments for the day were canceled. The neighborhoods on the SE and NE side close to downtown are always a good place to find people outside. (Above 19th St SE I had a hard time finding anyone out, but below 19th was like shooting fish in a barrel. CR readers will understand this; for you others, just know that CR the personality of our neighborhoods changes block-by-block.) And, of course, all of this gets more difficult to cover in a new way the more often it snows.

Lewis Kleman, 7, left, and his brother Caleb Kleman, 8, brush snow off their neighbor’s sidewalk as snow continues to fall on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009, in Southeast Cedar Rapids. Between four and eight inches of snow fell over east-central Iowa overnight and into midmorning. More snow is expected Sunday and Monday before temperatures dip into the teens and single digits.

..and here’s an outtake of Caleb. I love how rosy his cheeks are. The boys were clearing snow for the neighbor, but not their own mom, who was just starting to clear the walk in front of their house while Caleb and Lewis were finishing up their project.

I pulled up C Ave NE and saw several people in the midst of brushing off and digging out their cars. It’s a chore I never look forward to, but we all have to do.

Paul Kleinstauber cleans snow off of his car on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009, as snow continues to fall in Northeast Cedar Rapids.

I usually try to swing through a couple of parks when feature hunting, but didn’t really expect to find anyone in Bever Park that day. Cathy was just leaving the park when I pulled up next to her, got her name and let her go on her way back home, following along from a distance with a long lens. The snow was completely unspoiled, and little Teddy seemed to be having a great time bounding through the drifts that were nearly as tall as he was.

Cathy Rawson walks her dog Teddy through Bever Park in Southeast Cedar Rapids on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009, as snow continues to fall.

We're expecting more snow and single digit / below zero temps the rest of this week. Sigh. How many days til spring?


College Station

I forgot to post photos from my little brother's graduation back in December.. This lovely fellow was mounted on the wall at Dixie Chicken (which serves incredible, heart attack-inducing burgers). More photos of the family (including the beautiful bonfire memorial) here.


snow day!

I woke up today to see the snow still falling after far surpassing the three inches of accumulation that were forecasted. I threw on my snow boots, grabbed a Subaru from the office and hit the unplowed streets (perhaps getting overconfident with the all-wheel drive) in search of features. Here's an outtake of Caleb, who was shoveling for his neighbor with his brother Lewis (but not for their own mom). I love this (my) neighborhood -- I can always count on finding someone outside.


2008 favorites: campaign

The last of my favorites.. since Iowa held its caucus early in January, I don't have much work from the campaign. But I did cover the McCain/Palin rally at the airport in September, where I was part of the press pool (which meant I was able to photograph from the buffer zone, rather than the riser.) You can see more photos from the event in my original post.

A supporter holds photos of Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as she stands next to the Senator during a campaign rally at the the PS Air Hangar at the Eastern Iowa Airport on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008.

Press photographers photograph Republican Vice Presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin from behind a curtain during a Road To Victory campaign rally with Republican presidential nominee John McCain at the Eastern Iowa Airport on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008.


2008 favorites: flood

It was really hard to narrow down my favorite photos from the flood (and, really, seems strange to call them 'favorites' considering that we're talking about a natural disaster..). More of my flood work can be found in the June archives. I've arranged them roughly chronologically here. I've also put together a series of details that I shot during the flood. You can see from the dates that most of the work came after the flood -- in fact, flood coverage continues even now, as we tell the stories of the rebuilding.

The Cedar River continues to rise around City Hall and May's Island Thursday afternoon, June 12, 2008. The river rose above record levels Thursday, and is expected to crest Friday morning.

Jeff Palmer, left, hands Lauri Haldeman, both of Cedar Rapids, the dog of Gene Minder, 95, who was rescued from his Ellis Boulevard home by Cedar Rapids and Ely firefighters as floodwaters of the Cedar River rose to nearly six feet in his living room Thursday morning, June 12, 2008. Haldeman alerted firefighters that Minder was stuck in his home.

Artificial flowers in a glass jar are coated with silt on Monday, June 16, 2008, after the floodwater receded from Czech Village in Southwest Cedar Rapids. The water broke windows of the antique shops in the historic district, leaving antiques and gifts scattered in the streets.

A tablecloth from Zins Restaurant in downtown Cedar Rapids shows evidence of the place setting that remained on the table as floodwaters overtook the restaurant last week. Photographed on Tuesday, June 17, 2008. The restaurant is among those that, seven months after the flood, have still not reopened.

Condensation forms in the inside of the Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival windows as festival mascot Sam oversees cleanup from the flood in downtown Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, June 17, 2008.

Dried worms line the sidewalks in the Time Check neighborhood in Northwest Cedar Rapids on Friday, June 20, 2008.

Adam Pledge of Cedar Rapids stands in his parents' Time Check home in Northwest Cedar Rapids on Friday morning, June 20, 2008, as he begins to clean up from last week's flood. Pledge works for the city's solid waste department, so he'll be picking up trash removed from flood-damaged homes in addition to cleaning out his parents' home.

Lindsay Lawrence bends down to hug her daughter Hayley, 3, as they see their home for the first time on Friday, June 20, 2008, since evacuating to escape the rising Cedar River the previous Tuesday, June 10. Their home was marked with a purple tag indicating that it was unsafe to enter; the house was demolished several months later. "Seeing the TV, you can stay calm until you get here and see face to face what it is," Lindsay Lawrence said. They were able to remove clothes, photos and major appliances before evacuating. "It's unreal to think... our whole lives were in there," Lindsay said. It was the first home the family had owned.

This photo was part of a larger series of portraits of people whose homes were marked for demolition.
Todd Gareau and his fiancée Julie Stevens had lived in their Northwest Cedar Rapids house for six months before the Cedar River topped the levee and flooded the house. "We were building a home together," Stevens said. They had planned on buying the house, and it would have been the first home either had owned. Now, they plan to leave Iowa. They had set a wedding date in August, but say they may get married sooner. Photographed Sunday, June 29, 2008, with their dog Jack. The couple also has three cats, which were rescued from the top floor of the home as floodwaters rose.

Secret Service agents provide security as Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tour flood damaged areas of Northwest Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008. Months after the flood, many houses still sit undisturbed, full of rotting furniture, and trash from gutted homes still lines the streets.


2008 favorites: spot news

Obviously, I'll have another post later to deal with my favorite flood photos. The photo below is from day-after coverage of a tornado that struck Hazleton in May. I like how the woman almost gets lost amidst all the debris.

Imogene Pirillo of Oelwein sits outside the rural Hazleton, Iowa home of her granddaughter Ryan Dettbarn on Monday, May 26, 2008, the day after the house was damaged in a tornado that ripped across eastern Iowa. Dettbarn had moved into the house with her husband Dustin two weeks earlier, and they were working on refinishing it.


2008 favorites: sports features

Between Iowa and prep football, state basketball and state track, I had a decent year of improving my sports action shooting, but none that stand out enough to share here. My two favorite sports features from the year are both from the state track meet. I'm sure it has nothing at all to do with the seven years I spent on the elementary/middle/high school track teams, but I really loved covering the state meet. The excitement of a win or the devastation of a loss that never gets old, especially in the relay events.

Iowa City West's Dani Freeman, clockwise from top left, Kristi Schuette, Hadiza Sa-Aadu and Kalee Schilling huddle after their second place finish in the girls' 4A 1600 meter relay finals, cementing their team's state championship at the state track meet at Drake Stadium in Des Moines on Saturday, May 17, 2008.

Nevada's Brittany Kruschwitz lays on the ground after running the anchor leg of the girls 3A distance medley relay during the state track meet at Drake Stadium in Des Moines on Friday, May 16, 2008. The Nevada team placed 22nd out of 24 teams in the relay.


2008 favorites: features

Well, I've finished my contest season editing with a bit (okay, a lot) of help, and have things narrowed down to POYi standards -- that is, my top 15 works from the year. We'll start off with something fun, my favorite features of 2008..

Bailey Wall, 9, does a handstand in her pool on Monday, July 7, 2008, in the backyard of her Southwest Cedar Rapids home. She usually plays softball on Monday evenings, but decided to skip practice to escape the heat in the pool.

Kyle Rouse, 16, of Cedar Rapids, flips over a fence from the top of a pavilion in front of the Veterans Memorial Building on Monday, Oct. 13, 2008, in downtown Cedar Rapids. The group of high school traceurs, or practitioners of parkour, practice tricks and techniques in a gym before trying them outdoors, where they are constantly looking for new locations to practice their techniques.

Lauren Faas, 9 (from left), Gabrielle Vance, 8, Jacob Schropp, 8, and Anton Huedephol, 9, all of Williamsburg, ride the merry go-round during KIND Care after school day care at Williamsburg Elementary School on Friday, May 9, 2008. KIND Care provides a supervised place for children whose parents work before and after school.

Hannah Faber, 4, of Marion swings high on the swing set at Bever Park in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, April 5, 2008, one of the first warm days of spring after a winter of record-setting snowfall.