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 jalapeƱos 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