Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dueling Press Conferences

Photos © The Arizona Republic

A lot of news was made Thursday. Unfortunately for photographers, most of it was delivered in dueling press conferences. My morning started at the US Department of Justice offices in Phoenix where Thomas Perez, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, (top photo) delivered a scathing report on civil rights violations committed by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department during their "crime suppression" sweeps when deputies blanket a neighborhood and pull over anyone they think might be an undocumented immigrant, and in the county jails, where DoJ officials allege Spanish speaking inmates were not afforded their constitutionally protected rights. 

The day ended at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Offices across the street from the DoJ, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his lawyers strongly refuted the DoJ claims. (On the right in the bottom photo, with Lisa Allen his spokesperson) Arpaio claims the Justice Department's report is politically motivated by Democrats and liberals in Washington DC and retaliation against him because he's investigating whether or not President Obama is a US citizen. His claim is that if the President is not a US citizen he may have committed fraud by duping Arizona voters into voting for him. Arpaio's claim of a political attack overlook the fact that the investigation into his department was started during the Bush administration and his investigation of the President started just a few months ago, just before the DoJ investigation was concluded. If anything, Arpaio's investigation was intended to blunt the DoJ investigation, not the other way around. 

I've been photographing Sheriff Arpaio and the jails for more than 10 years. It's always kind of a surreal experience. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Michele Bachmann Comes to Scottsdale

Congresswoman and GOP Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann (R-MN) attended a Politics on the Rocks mixer in Scottsdale last night. The event was held at The Mint, a former bank (hence the name) now an upscale restaurant and club in downtown Scottsdale. Politics and the Rocks is a networking group for conservative Republicans, Bachmann was very warmly received by the crowd. 

I only had about 10 minutes to photograph Bachmann. She arrived at about 7:15 and I had to leave by 7:25 to make deadline. Sometimes things just work out that way. 

There are more photos of Bachmann working the crowd in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Wreaths for Heroes

About 200 people came to the National Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix Saturday morning to honor veterans in the final resting place. The occasion was the laying of Christmas wreaths on veterans' headstones. 

It's become an annual tradition. In 1992, Morrill Worcester, a businessman from Maine, placed wreaths on headstones in Arlington National Cemetery. Every year since then the tradition has grown. Now, on the 2nd Saturday of December, Wreaths Across America places wreaths in cemeteries across the United States. Not just veterans' cemeteries but anywhere veterans are interred. 

Saturday I went to the National Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix to photograph the wreath laying. Hundreds of people - some veterans' groups, some corporate volunteer groups and some individuals lined up for wreaths and then walked through the cemetery placing wreaths on headstones. 

Some people simply walked to a grave and placed a wreath on it, others knelt in quiet prayer. Veterans and military members laid a wreath on a headstone and snapped off a smart salute. It took about 20 minutes to distribute the wreaths. After that some family members kept vigil at loved ones gravesides. 

There are more photos from the wreath laying in my archive and available from ZUMA Press

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mitt's Back!

Perennial Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in Phoenix this afternoon to announce that former Vice President Dan Quayle was endorsing him for President. The two did a joint appearance on the podium for a few minutes then Romney did a live interview with Neil Cavuto on FOX. In between his appearance with Quayle and the interview on FOX, Romney worked the crowd, talking to children, signing autographs and posing for photos. 

There are more photos from Romney's campaign stop in my archive

Monday, December 5, 2011

Where There's Smoke

I never go anywhere without a camera of some sort. On my walks I just bring my iPhone but when I'm out for anything else I bring a "real" camera. When I'm not working, the real camera is a Panasonic Lumix GF1 and a few lenses (14mm, 20mm and 45mm). The GF1 is a remarkable little camera, not much bigger than a Canon G12 but much more capable. It's a 12megapixel, interchangeable lens micro 4:3 camera, a format pioneered by Panasonic and Olympus. It's small, fast and the lenses are exceptionally sharp. Because it's so small, it's easy to carry around. The whole kit fits into a large belt pouch or tiny shoulder bag. The sensor is half the size of a full sized 35mm sensor like the ones in the Canon 5D Mark II or 1Ds Mark III - it has a 2X crop factor - so the 14mm lens is roughly the equivalent of a 28mm lens, the 20mm lens = a 40mm and the 45mm = a 90mm. In other words, it's nearly a perfect combination for street photography or daily journalism work. 

This afternoon, on my way home from lunch with some of my former coworkers, I happened upon a house fire about two blocks from my home. I stopped to see what was happening and made a few photos. I was certainly helped by the weather. It's cold and very dry, so the sky was a brilliant blue. It was mid to late afternoon, so the light on the south facing house was nearly perfect. The little Lumix did a very nice job. 

This is not the first time I've used the Lumix for photojournalism. I used it to photograph most of a couple of projects in Bangkok. One on the Bangkok's commuter light rail, the Skytrain, and one on Soi Arab, the section of Bangkok popular with tourists from the Middle East. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe

December 12 is Virgin of Guadalupe Day, one of the most important holy days in the Latino Catholic calendar. Between now and then there will be thousands of processions at churches across Latin America and in Latino congregations in the US to honor the Virgin, also known as the Empress or Patroness of the Americas. 

The processions started in Phoenix on Saturday. The Phoenix diocese of the Church hosted the sixth annual "Honor Your Mother" day, which included a procession with hundreds of participants and a special outdoor mass to honor the Virgin. 

According to Mexican history, on December 9, 1531 Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant, had a vision of a young woman while he was on a hill in the Tepeyac desert, near Mexico City. The lady told him to build a church exactly on the spot where they were standing. He told the local bishop, who asked for some proof. He went back and had the vision again. He told the lady that the bishop wanted proof, and she said "Bring the roses behind you." Turning to look, he found a rose bush growing behind him. He cut the roses, placed them in his poncho and returned to the bishop, saying he had brought proof. When he opened his poncho, instead of roses, there was an image of the young lady in his vision.

The Basilica of Guadalupe, one of the largest churches in Mexico City, is built on the site close to where Juan Diego had his visions. The poncho he wore hangs in the Basilica. I've been photographing Virgin of Guadalupe observances for about 20 years, since my first trip to Mexico City. It's one of my favorite religious observances.

There are more photos of the Phoenix procession in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy ALEC

A Phoenix police officer pepper sprays a group of protesters at the Occupy ALEC protest this morning in Phoenix. 

The Occupy Phoenix protesters brought their battle for social justice uptown this morning when they tried to Occupy the ALEC conference at the Westin Kierland Resort in north Phoenix. ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative think tank that supports private prisons, wants to do away with the EPA, and helped write SB 1070, (Arizona's tough anti-immigration law). ALEC claims tax exempt status but some progressive organizations think ALEC is a lobbying organization and should have its tax status changed to reflect that. 

This morning about 300 people picketed the ALEC event. Most of the protesters were peaceful and respectful to law enforcement but a relatively small group tried to blockade the resort. Police responded by pepper spraying the crowd several times and arresting a handful of people. There were also a few scuffles between police and protesters but no one was seriously hurt. 

There are more photos of the ALEC protest in my archive and available from ZUMA Press

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cowboy Up!

A bull rider head butts the bull he was thrown from at the Grand Canyon Professional Rodeo Association (GCPRA) finals at Rawhide in Chandler, AZ, Saturday. The cowboy lost the head butting contest and was taken to local hospital. 

I really like photographing rodeo. It's a chance to see a part of America that's disappearing as people leave small towns and rural areas. It's a connection to the ranching heritage that helped settle the west.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) rodeos get all the attention, and they are excellent rodeos, but I prefer the smaller rodeos, which there are plenty of in Arizona. Access to the cowboys and action behind the chutes is much better at small rodeos, and that's a big deal for photographers.

This weekend the Grand Canyon Professional Rodeo Association held their finals at Rawhide. The finals are the culmination of the year's rodeo, when the GCPRA names its champions. The rodeo was a lot of fun, up to the bull riding when the cowboy in the picture had a wreck in the process of getting bucked off his bull. After the head butting, the bull came back at the cowboy, who was unconscious on the ground, and rammed him into the posts in the chute area. The cowboy ended up requiring facial surgery, was hospitalized overnight and discharged from the hospital today.

Injuries happen pretty frequently in rodeo. It's a tough sport, whether it's the rough stock events like bronc and bull riding or steer wrestling, when cowboys throw themselves off of a galloping horse and onto a galloping steer and wrestling it to the ground. "Playing through the pain" is a just another day at work for rodeo cowboys - hence the phrase "Cowboy Up."

There are more rodeo photos, including photos from the GCPRA Finals, in my archive and available from ZUMA Press.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Let the Shopping Commence!

Shoppers wait in line to pay for their "Black Friday" purchases at the Target Store in Paradise Valley. 

On Thursday Americans ate themselves silly celebrating Thanksgiving. Turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie the whole holiday feast. Before the meal many watched the Thanksgiving parades and after the meal it was football. And as soon as the football ended, many got into their cars and drove to the malls and big box stores for the annual tradition of Black Friday.

Black Friday is a peculiarly American tradition. It's the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season and supposedly the busiest shopping day of the year. But in truth, holiday shopping starts right after Halloween and the busiest shopping day of the year is usually the Saturday before Christmas Eve. Still excitement's in the air on Black Friday. Mall Santas are in abundance. The decorations are up and it's usually one of the first really cold days of the year, which in Phoenix means temperatures in the upper 40's.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My iPhone and the Phoenix Recession

I've started taking daily walks around my neighborhood, anywhere from four to eight miles depending on my schedule at work. I don't take my cameras with me on the walk but I do have my iPhone 4 with me where ever I go, so I've started using it to document my neighborhood. 

Driving the city streets at 40 miles an hour you don't realize how distressed the city is. When you get out of the car and start walking though, you see the signs of the so called "Great Recession" everywhere. In the closed businesses on every block. Abandoned buildings, and, in the shadow, abandoned people. The ones who have fallen through the cracks of the social safety net and are now living on the street. 

What's particularly distressing about this is that our neighborhood is not a bad one. By Phoenix standards it's doing pretty well. We have a good selection of family owned restaurants, office towers, retail (including an always packed Apple Store just three miles from our house) and a couple of grocery stores nearby. But the recession is everywhere.

Head out to Avondale or Queen Creek, the communities that 12 years ago were farm fields and eight years ago were booming suburbs and you can see the economic malaise up close. Blocks of abandoned homes. Others in foreclosure. These are the communities most devastated by the recession. Farmers sold their land in the good times. Developers started building during the boom, and people of limited means bought with no down payment, adjustable mortgages or subprime loans. Then the house of cards collapsed and the Phoenix economy along with it. 

Jon Talton, a Phoenix native and former business columnist at the Arizona Republic, had been predicting the collapse for years. His column roiled against what he called the "real estate industrial complex" that controls the Phoenix area economy. He wasn't popular with developers or the real estate industry but he was right. He now calls Phoenix "Detroit in the desert" because Phoenix is a one industry town. The industry is home construction and just as Detroit collapsed with the auto industry, he claims Phoenix will collapse with the collapse of our unsustainable real estate industry. I thought Talton was the best business columnist at the Republic. I wish he was still writing at the paper. 

There are more photos of the recession and Phoenix in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Meet the Mayor

Greg Stanton, and his wife Nicole France Stanton, celebrate Stanton's victory in the Phoenix mayoral election.

Tuesday was election day and Phoenix elected a new mayor. Greg Stanton, a former Phoenix city councilman and former Deputy Attorney General, handily beat Wes Gullett, a former lobbyist with a long history as a Republican political operative.  

In Mesa, long serving Senate President Russell Pearce was recalled, losing to Jerry Lewis, also a conservative Republican. Pearce was the author of SB 1070, one of the toughest anti-illegal immigration laws in the country, and other anti-immigration efforts. He sponsored numerous bills to loosen Arizona's minimal gun control laws and tax cutting legislation. He was a darling of the Tea Party and one of the most conservative people in a very conservative state senate. Lewis' campaign was built around one simple issue: he wasn't Russell Pearce. He is in step with Pearce on many issues, but this race revolved around personality and Lewis was the winner.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Greatest Generation

One of the great things about being a photojournalist is the people we get to meet. Yesterday I was assigned to photograph the only living African-American veteran of Pearl Harbor. Nelson Mitchell (above) is 91. He joined the Navy in 1940 and served through the war. Mr. Mitchell was born in a small town in east Texas in 1920. I can't begin to imagine the changes he's witnessed first hand. After the war, he moved to the Phoenix area to join his family, which had moved here during the war. 

Last week, I was assigned to photograph five vets of all ages for a Veterans' Day story in the Gilbert section of the Arizona Republic. One of the vets was Peter Curtin (below) a US Marine veteran of World War II. I photographed him at the American Legion Post in downtown Gilbert. 

Both men represent the last of America's "Greatest Generation." More than 1,000 of America's World War II veterans are dying every day (according to the Associated Press). The death rate will go down as the number of vets decreases. The youngest WW2 combat veteran is now about 84 (assuming 18 years old and in combat in 1945). The greatest generation could be gone by 2031. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Now About That Fence

Michele Bachmann, a Republican Congresswoman from Minnesota, talks to Arizona legislators about border security at the Arizona Capitol Monday. 

Michele Bachmann, once a Tea Party favorite for the GOP Presidential nomination, visited with Arizona Republican legislators at the state capitol Monday. She talked about securing the border and promised that, if elected, she would complete a border fence. 

Afterwards she held a press conference where a couple of protesters tried, unsuccessfully, to shout her down. Other protesters, who stayed quiet, tried to ask her some questions during the q&a, but she didn't recognize them or tackle their questions. 

There are more photos of Bachmann in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Monday, October 17, 2011

There's Something Happening Here...

...What It Is, Is Increasingly Clear
An OccupyPhoenix protester sleeps on the sidewalk in front of Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Phoenix Monday morning. 

With apologies to Stephen Stills. The original lyric "For What It's Worth" is "There's something happening here, What it is ain't exactly clear." That song and those lines have been played and recited a lot by the mainstream media as they grapple with covering the Occupy movement and the movement's goals. 

The movement's diffuse nature and their dedication to open democracy confuses people used to covering the Tea Party, which say what you will, is disciplined. 

Spend any time with Occupy protesters though and it's very clear what they want. 

It boils down to economic justice. They're angry, especially at banks but also other large corporate interests that pocket millions and billions in profits while the middle class of the US shrinks and the gap between the rich (the 1%) and everyone else (the 99%) grows ever wider.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Demanding Justice

An Occupy Phoenix protester leads a chant in front of the Bank of America in Phoenix Friday night during a march to kick the Phoenix edition of the Occupy protests. 

About 300 people, from button downed office workers to anarchists marched through central Phoenix Friday evening to start the Occupy Phoenix that organizers hope will last through the autumn. The protest has been organized to support the Occupy Wall Street protest that has been going on in lower Manhattan since September 17. Protesters have a list of issue, but they are most angered by the growing economic inequality in the US, with the very rich getting richer while the middle class shrinks and working class falls further and further behind. The banks are a special target of protesters' ire. They are angry that the largest banks, which arguably caused the recession and economic meltdown, have gotten billions in federal assistance but, protesters claim, are now not lending or reinvesting in the community. 

These protests are sweeping the country and have been called the "American Autumn" just as protests in the Arab world earlier this year have come to be called the "Arab Spring." The march in Phoenix was spirited but peaceful and the protesters were looking forward to the occupation which starts Saturday. 

There are more photos of the protest in my archive and available from ZUMA Press

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Sign of the Times

A woman paints a sign in anticipation of the Occupy Phoenix demonstration planned for next weekend. 

The movement started by the folks who occupied Wall Street last month is making its way across the country. Next week, the movement is coming to Phoenix. Organizers of the Occupy Phoenix protest are planning a march next Friday evening that will wind through downtown, stopping at the large banks that are special objects of the protestors anger, before going to Cesar Chavez Plaza near City Hall for a rally that will start a weekend of actions in downtown. 

The Occupy movement caught a lot of people by surprise. They were barely covered by the so called "main stream media" at first and a lot of people outside the movement don't seem to know what the demonstrators want. 

I thought the New York Times' Paul Krugman had the most interesting analysis when he said in a recent column that the occupy movement was like a left wing Tea Party, except that unlike THE Tea Party, which  supports large banks (or at least opposes regulations on those banks) the participants of the Occupy movement were angry at the right people - large banks and corporate officials who pocket huge profits and guarantee large salaries for corporate officers, (in the US, corporate CEOs make 450 TIMES the average salary of their regular workers). The protestors are angry because CEOs and high ranking corporate officials pocket large bonuses while cutting pay for regular workers and in many cases, laying workers off. The real surprise is why people didn't rise up in anger sooner than this. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Twinkling for a Candidate

Russell Pearce supporters wave their hands silently in the air, a form of applause called "twinkling" during a debate in Mesa Thursday night. 

There's an election in Mesa next month. Russell Pearce, the fiercely conservative, fiercely Republican and darling of the Tea Party, President of the Arizona State Senate is the subject of a recall election and is being forced to defend his seat from a challenge by a Jerry Lewis, a fellow Republican. The Democrats are not running a candidate against Pearce, who is from one of the most consistently Republican legislative districts in the state.  

The two men met for a debate in Mesa Thursday night. 

Pearce, a long time politician, talked about his accomplishments - his authorship of and the passage of SB 1070, one of the most strict anti-immigration bills in the country; his support for lower taxes and support of gun owners' rights. 

Lewis, a political novice running for office for the first time, talked about his vision for a better Arizona, one not sullied by the extremism some say Pearce has caused.  

Obviously, neither man talked about the baggage he carries. Pearce blamed the recall on liberal political operatives from outside the district, essentially ignoring the fact that more 15,000 people who live in his district signed petitions calling for his recall. He wasn't asked about and didn't address charges that he improperly accepted gifts from the Fiesta Bowl organization. Nor was he questioned about charges that his supporters actually recruited a third candidate to run against him and take votes away from Lewis. A Maricopa County court found the charges to be true, but the third candidate, Olivia Cortes dropped out of the race, which made the question mute. 

Lewis, the newcomer, was not asked about and did not address charges circulating on right wing blogs that he improperly diverted non-monetary gifts away from the charter school he ran. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Football Night in Scottsdale

I shot my first football game in five years last night, Desert Mountain vs Notre Dame at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale. I was never much of a sports photographer - it just doesn’t interest me. I don’t watch football on television and I barely know what team is in what place at any given time. 
On top of that, my kit is not built around shooting sports. My cameras are the Canon 5D Mark II, a terrific camera with outstanding image quality but slow as molasses. The autofocus was state of the art in 1995 - images in the viewfinder don’t snap into focus, they sort of drift into focus. When pictures are in focus they’re tack sharp, but it may take awhile to get there. 
Compounding the problem, the 5D Mark II maxes out a claimed 4 frames per second, but I think that when you’re shooting continuous autofocus at a night time sports assignment it’s more like 3 fps. The camera has a 12 picture buffer, after that it slows to about 1.5 fps until the buffer is cleared. 
On Canon’s current state of the art sports camera, the 1D Mark IV, the autofocus is so fast it’s almost supernatural and the camera blasts through pictures at 10 fps. The 1D Mark IV has a 32 photo buffer, after which it slows to 4 fps. Still faster than the 5D Mark II. 
So if a play lasts 10 seconds, I’m lucky to 20 frames. The photographer next to me using a 1D Mark IV will get three times as many, increasing hugely the probability of getting “the” photo. 
I wouldn’t trade the 5D Mark II bodies for anything. For what I want in a camera, it’s  easily the best camera out there right now. But as good as it is for what I do, it’s really not a sports camera. So I approach sports assignments with a fair amount of dread. So I was pleasantly surprised when my take from last night. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dangerous Places

A special unit of the Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, police department, conducts an anti-drug and gang sweep through the city.
The folks over at PhotoShelter, did a blog entry this week on the world’s most dangerous places for photojournalists. I was flattered when they asked me to contribute my thoughts on working in Mexico, which came in at number eight on the list. I’ve worked a lot in Mexico, in many places throughout the country, on stories about immigration, agriculture and traditions. I always had a great time and was touched by the warmth of the people I met there. It breaks my heart to see what the drug wars have done to the country. 
The PhotoShelter blog entry has subsequently been picked up by other photography blogs (which also used one of my photos). 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The (political) Elephant in the Room

Mitt Romney was the first of the 2012 GOP Presidential hopefuls to bring the campaign to Arizona this week when he hosted a “Town Hall” style event in Sun Lakes, an upper middle class retirement enclave southeast of Phoenix. There was no podium or mic stand in the room, so Romney jumped on a chair and spoke for about 30 minutes before taking questions for another 30 minutes. At the same time that Romney was meeting voters in Sun Lakes, Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann was across town courting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix. 
The room, in a gated country club community, was packed. Most of the attendees were retirees but there were a few working age people and a couple of kids. They were very receptive to Romney’s promises to roll back regulations on industry and business and repeal the health care reform bill passed by Congress in 2010. He disputed charges made one person in the crowd that the Massachusetts health care bill Romney signed while Governor of the state is the basis for the health care bill passed by Congress in 2010. 
One of the things I found interesting was that several people asked Romney what he would do to curb the powers of unions but no one asked what he would do to curb the power of corporate interests.
There are more photos of Romney’s meeting in my archive

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bacon on the Hoof

4-H contestants walk their pigs at the Minnesota State Fair. 
We were at the Fair in St. Paul, MN, this weekend. The “Great Minnesota Get Together,” as the Fair is called, almost defies belief. It’s one of the largest state fairs in the country. It dates back to 1859, the year after Minnesota joined the Union. Nearly 160 animals are born at the fair, most in front of a live audience, in the Miracle of Birth barn at the Fair. 
The fairgrounds cover 320 acres and include a large midway, a kiddie midway, a machinery hill that highlights new cars and tractors as well as a large collection of antique tractors, there are barns for horses, cows, sheep, chickens, llamas and more.   
Then there’s the food. Minnesota celebrates its dairy heritage so there’s lots of milk. But there’s also pork on a stick, deep fried candy bars on a stick, salad on a stick, fruit on a stick, chicken on a stick, hot dish on a stick (an unappetizing combination of tator tots and meatballs), hot dogs on a stick (i.e. “pronto pups” and corndogs) and chocolate covered jalape├▒os on a stick. If you don’t like your food on a stick, there are sit down meal halls, sandwiches, deep fried cheese (not on a stick), mini donuts galore, corn on the cob (which is dangerously close to being corn on a stick) and chocolate chip cookies by the bucket load. Literally by the bucket load. There are lots of beverages to wash it all down, from sodas and lemonade to beer (again by the bucket).  
All in all, the Minnesota State Fair, which runs for 12 days, is a treat not to be missed. There are more photos from the fair available from ZUMA Press and in my archive

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Dust Storm Hits Phoenix

A "haboob" or dust storm moves from the suburb of Tempe to downtown Phoenix Thursday. To get an idea of how big the dust cloud was, check out the buildings in the lower right corner. Those are 30 - 50 stories tall.  
A haboob (Arabic for "strong wind") is a type of intense duststorm commonly observed in arid regions throughout the world. They have been observed in the Sahara desert, the Arabian Peninsula, throughout Kuwait, and most arid regions of Iraq. In the USA, they are frequently observed in the deserts of Arizona, including Yuma and Phoenix, as well as New Mexico and Texas. "Haboob" has been widely used to describe dust storms for more than a generation In Arizona but this year the very word "haboob" has become a political football because some conservatives have lobbied against use of the word, favoring English words, like "dust storm." Personally, I think haboob has a nice ring to it. 
There are more photos of the habob in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Faces of Arizona

I was up in Eagar and Alpine last week working on stories about the aftermath of the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history. 
The fire ripped through the White Mountains, from Greer in the west to Alpine and Nutrioso in the east, and from the edge of Eagar in the north to south of Hannigan Meadow. It was a massive blaze, its scars, large swaths of scorched countryside, will be visible for at least a generation. 
At Luna Lake, east of Alpine, a group of ranchers met with US Congressmen Steve Pearce, of New Mexico and Paul Gosar, of Arizona, both Republicans. There was something about their faces I really liked. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mob Rule

Girls dance at a “flash mob” in front of the Arizona Science Center this morning. 
A sort of flash mob took over the plaza in front of the Arizona Science Center this morning. I say “sort of” because it was an extraordinarily well planned flash mob. There were briefs in the Arizona Republic encouraging people to participate in the mob, a local radio station was there for a live remote and it was cosponsored by the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” physical fitness campaign. 
If a 21st century flash mob is a group of people coming together because of a series of text messages and SMSes, this was more of a 20th century flash mob called together by 20th century means. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s just not a real flash mob. 
Still it was a lot of fun. There was music, some people danced, a few stayed to go to the Science Center and the others went on their way. The whole thing lasted about 25 minutes. 
There are more photos of the flash mob in my archive and available from ZUMA Press

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Speeding Up Lightroom

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is an amazing bit of software. I use it for nearly 100 percent of my photo processing needs. From ingesting to converting to cataloging, it’s all done in Lightroom. One of the things I like about Lightroom is that handles all of the RAW files in my archive from Canon D30 (circa 2000) to the 5D Mark II. I even have a couple of Nikon D1 files floating around. 

My biggest complaint with Lightroom is that it’s a little slow with large catalogs, especially when launching and ingesting and when I’m working on 21megapixel files from the 5D Mark II. After some trial and error, I’ve settled on a couple of very easy steps that make working in Lightroom faster (for me at least, your mileage may vary). 

But before I get into specifics there are a couple of things to keep in mind when using LR (or most any image editor).

  1.  Disable languages you don’t need. For me, that’s everything but English. It’s easy, (but it’s done in the finder, not Lightroom). First quit Lightroom. Then, in the Finder select Lightroom, then type Command (or Apple) i. This opens the Get Info box for LR. Scroll down the box to Languages and deselect everything you don’t need (by default LR will always select one language so you can’t deselect everything). Close the Get Info box and relaunch Lightroom. Only the language(s) you’ve selected will load with LR and it should be speed things up a little. (This trick also works with any application on your Mac.)
  2.  More RAM is better than less. I run LR on two similar Macs, a 13 inch 2.26 ghzMacBook Pro with 4 gigs of RAM and a 20 inch 2.16 ghz iMac with 2 gigs of RAM. On paper, the little MacBook Pro isn’t much faster than the iMac but with the extra RAM it leaves the iMac in the dust when it comes to Lightroom. 
  3.  Dedicate as much of your system as possible to Lightroom. When I sit down to start a serious editing session in Lightroom, I quit SafariTweetDeck andMail. When I’m done with LR, I quit out of it before restarting Safari, TweetDeck and Mail. This is especially true if you’re working on a RAM impaired (2 gigs or less) computer.  

Now on to the workflow habits that can speed up your Lightroom experience. 

When you launch Lightroom it’s going to load the last folder or collection you used and it’s going to load all of the photos in that folder or collection before it lets you start another session. 

If you quit LR with your entire 100,000 image catalog selected, you’re going to wait a while before you do anything. And if you quit LR with it on an empty folder or catalog it’s going to be ready to go nearly instantly. I use Quick Collections while I’m sorting my photos. When I’m done with a LR session I empty the QC and then leave it selected and quit LR. Next time I launch LR, it starts up in the empty QC and is ready to go instantly. This significantly speeds up the time LR needs to start up. (Top photo)

I’m pretty impatient and for me the most frustrating part of using Lightroom is waiting for thumbnails and previews to build because I can’t start sorting and editing until I can see the photos. 

I typically ingest photos from my cards into folders on my hard drive. I set up my import (Command Shift I) to copy photos from the card to a folder in my LR catalog. Once LR has started importing the photos, I select the target folder in LR, set the thumbnails to as small possible (using the slider on the bottom of the tool bar) and clear all of the panes off the screen to get as many photos on screen as possible. LR only builds previews as the images are on screen. So if you select the largest thumbnail setting and have all the panes visible (Identity Plate, Catalogs, IPTC and Filmstrip) LR will only generate previews for the pictures on the screen. Then I kick back and wait. Use the time to catch up on email (if I have access to a second computer), get something to eat or drink or do paperwork. Anything to take my mind off of waiting. (Second photo)

Using the fastest cards and card readers you can afford will substantially speed up the import process. I’ve always used SanDisk Ultra II cards, because they were fastest most inexpensive cards available. I recently started using SanDisk Extreme IV UDMA cards with a SanDisk Extreme IV FireWire 800 card reader. The combo flies. I still have to wait for previews to build, but they start building a lot sooner than they did with Ultra II cards and slower card readers. 

Once I have the photos imported and previews built I go to work sorting, captioning and editing photos. This is where you’ll see the speed gains you made earlier in the process (getting extra RAM and quitting other applications). 

When it comes to writing captions (every photo in my catalog has a caption), presets can make things go a lot faster. I have a “boilerplate” template for each of several agencies I send photos to. The template has all the information specific to that agency, which saves me typing time. LR also remembers (and auto completes) entries you’ve made on other photos, which speeds up the sorting/editing process. 

Other than the tips I’ve already listed (extra RAM, quitting others applications), I haven’t found a way to speed up the export/conversion process. This seems to be heavily dependent on processor speed and RAM. Bigger files (i.e. those from a 5D Mark II, D3X or Sony A900) take more time to convert than smaller files (i.e. Canon D30, Canon 1D or Nikon D1). If you have any tips for speeding up export I’d love to hear them

UPDATE AUG 3: On his web site, Lloyd Chambers goes into some detail on why Lightroom is rather pokey on exports and some tips on how to speed it up. He recommends dividing your batch export into two batches and exporting them at the same time. The full explanation is here and worth reading. 

My photos are available from ZUMA Press or PhotoShelter. My PhotoShelter archive is searchable.