Sunday, August 30, 2009

Late night drive

The other night we finally had some rain in San Antonio and it brought along some lighting to boot.

In California lighting storms are pretty rare and I was feeling the itch to explore the light.

So I grabbed my cellphone, sent off a Twitter update-- "Going for a late night drive in the rain. I love the rain. The sound, the smell, the splashing, how the light bounces around... Ahhhh :)" -- and started snapping away.

It was freeing, just shooting for the joy of shooting. And aside from being chased off of a bike cop from under a freeway (I think he was just pissed that I woke him up to be honest), it was a pretty productive couple hours.

Here's what I came back with. Nothing earth-shattering I know, but it sure was soul-filling. :)

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Time out Tuesday: ReTweet Revolution

We all know the role Twitter played in the aftermath of Iran's elections. How tweets got the play-by-play news from the streets to the world. How it was used by some to organize protesters. How the White House asked Twitter to keep the servers online and push off scheduled system updates. And how it appears to some that the government of Iran tried to take down the service in an effort to squash protests. It was one of the first major tests for the young service that showed-- beyond a twitpic of a plane in the Hudson, a tweet about Tim Russert's passing, or of a student being arrested in Egypt-- its power to organize and become an effective means of mass communication, for protesters, spectators and detractors.

The ReTweet Revolution organizes the post-election communication. With time stamps and a rising bar chart shows how often a message was ReTweeted, visitors can see a living time line.

It's worth a look, if only to see how a series of tweets can go from fleeting one-shot blasts, to a collective document of a movement.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

deer in the city

The buck lifted his head and stared at me as I tried to move closer.

I was driving around Fair Oaks Ranch looking for a picture to go with a story on stage 3 water restrictions but wasn't having any luck. Some days are like that.

It also didn't help that my eight hour shift had turned into a twelve hour and counting marathon. It had been a very long hot day and after logging nearly 200 miles, I was tired and I was hungry, but the clusters of deers running across the street and feasting on lawns were an unexpected diversion.

He turned toward me and then another buck to his left stopped eating the grass on a manicured lawn and joined him in the stare down.

I stopped in my tracks. No more clicks now, don't want to provoke the animal.

Moments earlier I was crisscrossing the residential streets looking for anyone doing anything outside. As I rolled down one cul-de-sac after another at five miles per hour, I wondered which would happen first; would someone call the police to investigate a compact cruiser or would I happenstance upon a picture.

But the streets were empty. As one may guess, many folks had not come home from work yet and those that were home weren't foolish enough to leave the sanctuary of central air.

So when I turned a corner and about two dozen deer ran across the street, a part of wondered if I had really just seen that and another part was excited to take advantage of the setting sunlight.

I pulled over and walked closer to a small group that was grazing, trying to make the most of the crimson glow fading behind the horizon.

Maybe I can sell it on the "the grass is all dead and even the dear are starving" angle I told myself.

They were everywhere, encroaching on homes as if they couldn't read the no soliciting signs. Or maybe it's the other way around?

I fired off a couple frames and slowly and deliberately composed each shot, trying to make the most of it, but I'd gotten too close and now a pair of stags were eying me.

It was time to go, no point pressing my luck any further.

I slipped back into my car and slowly backed down the road, with one eye on the rear view and another on the bucks now standing guard.

I continued driving and the hunt for people doing anything, dodging the dears that were now amalgamated to their new surroundings.

I asked some folks what the story was, they all shrugged and looked at me like I was speaking Canadian.

As the sun was going down I approached a man who was squeezing in some practice on the putting green at a golf course.

"One more thing, it might sound weird," I said as we finished talking about water restrictions. "What's with all the dear?"

"Oh," he laughed, miffed at the seemingly silly question. "It's... the hill country."

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Time out Tuesday: Ira Glass on Storytelling

I don't even think I have validate this entry to time out, it's F'n Ira Glass, women like his style and men have been ripping off his hipster style for years.

The host of PBS radios "This American Life" has carved out a piece of the radio landscape and delivers each week the find of long form feature slice of life stories that local papers used to do before they cut back staffs and spread the survivors so thin that what you read now is pretty much, save for a handful of columnists and special reports across the country, regurgitated PR-releases disguised as event coverage and reaction stories, i.e. It's hot, a car crashed, someone shot someone, etc. etc...

But I digress, we'll save that rant for another day.

Ok, enough of me, peep some inspiration (in four parts).

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Time out Tuesday: Dr. Horrible

Ok ok, so two weeks ago I did kind of cop out by posting Spaced, but you know you enjoyed it. ;)

It's 42 min, but if you haven't seen it, you are so missing out on something awesome. The controversial ending alone is genius.

Created during the writer's strike in 2008, it was basically a couple of friends getting together to make sometime for fun and on the cheap. But what makes it really cool is that they distributed it on the net in three weekly installments, for free and completely gained an audience by word of mouth.

The lesson, if you put it out there and it resonates with people, it will find an audience. It also helps if you have a cult following like writer/director Joss Whedon (I'm not a fan BTW, sorry) or get your little silly musical antihero movie nominated for an Emmy.

Enjoy :)

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Tea for 61

Tea parties are pretty strange. I mean, if you think about it, they're pretty strange. Men in sharp black suits and polished shoes not going to the office. Women in flower-adorned hats and their Sunday best not going to church, well Sunday church.

Everyone stopping in the middle of the day and dropping all their cares to drink dried leaves given names like British breakfast tea and Earl Grey and snack on tiny crust-less sandwiches with slices of cucumber and sides of puffy balls with cream. They're all gathered around tables draped in linen and topped with floral arrangements while they sip from gold-rimmed teacups and ask each other about how their family is doing, laugh about theories on why young people don't wear hats and propose the best wisdom on beating the heat.

Slowing down, talking with friends and enjoying the day instead of racing from point A to point B like the rest of the world. What strange people.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Time out Tuesday: Letters to the President

"Every day, President Obama reads ten letters from the public in order to stay in tune with America's issues and concerns. "Letters to the President" is an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the process of how those ten letters make it to the President's desk from among the tens of thousands of letters, faxes, and e-mails that flood the White House each day."

When Obama took office I posted that I would like to throw my hat in the ring to start adding videos to the press office's offering, I guess he didn't get my resume ;)

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Blue Therapy

I was in knots as I walked out of the office. So much on my mind. So much to process.

I looked up and saw a shade of blue sky that gave me an excuse. So for the next twenty minutes I walked around and thought only about blue. It was calming, for the time being.

Call it a barley started career crisis, or an idealist reality check or a size 10 to the netherlands. Whatever you want to call it, I'm at a crossroads.

Somewhere in the mind scape, I'm standing on an x with my thumb to the void. On one side, the desire. On the other, the reality. In the middle I feel like I'm failing.

I had one of those moments today, when you get shook up and start to re-examine.

There was a time when I thought I had the answers. Just work hard and do good. I thought all I had to do was shine a light on the s*** and the rest would take care of itself.

When I first picked up a camera I didn't take it to seriously, I just tried to have fun. The freedom of doing whatever I wanted was freeing. And it seemed I had a knack for it, at least my teacher thought so. "You have the upside down eye," my teacher Mr. Frankie once told me. That's what he called it when you see things different.

Fast forward and I'm here now. Working at a paper, doing something that a 16-year-old me could never imagine in his/my wildest dreams.

And at that age, you have some wild dreams.

Along they way I saw the power of the image. I discovered Gordon Parks, Eugene Richards, Alex Webb, Dorothea Lange, Raghubir Singh, William Eugene Smith and countless others that escape my sleep deprived mind at this hour,and I saw the potential of photography to effect change. To shine a light.

Coming from where I come from, it wasn't the roughest part of town, but it was only a short two min drive from it. If you can think of it, it was happening out there.

It's gotten better since those days, mostly thanks to the tech boom that brought folks with cash into the poor side of town, which lead to community organizations, which lead to councilmen and women looking to please said organizations which lead to clean-ups, a new park, stop signs, speed bumps, graffiti clean-up and what have you.

But that's now, way back when it was a different story. Now I'm not saying it was the worst of the worst, but we saw things and dealt with things that kids shouldn't have to. Hell adults shouldn't have to either. Drugs, gangs, stabbings, graffiti, police copters shining a light in your back yard, etc. etc.

A part of me thought that when I picked up a camera maybe I'd be able to be a voice for this community that never had one. At least not until the Mercedes-leasing, home expanding, political-organizing, girl-scouting crowd moved in to the neighborhood.

Maybe I'd be able to do something that no one was able to do for me and my friends.

But lately I don't know.

I feel like I'm failing to do what I set out to do. I keep visiting crime scenes, I keep talking to concerned citizens, I keep trying to bring attention to a problem... and today I comforted an elderly couple as I told them a man they knew had been shoot and killed.

Days like today... they make you think.

There's something that happens you're behind the camera. Everything melts away and the world becomes reduced to a 24x36mm window.

Some of the war photogs describe it as tunnel vision. It's only happened to me once, but it's real. I was caught in the middle of a quickly escalating riot in downtown San Jose a couple years ago over Mardi Gras. It wasn't until I looked down and saw I'd walked down a block and left a trail of bloody footprints, that it hit me.

It's like the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan when the soldiers go in and out of the water. Above the water, the sounds of war and total chaos. Below, there is silence, stillness, solitude and a sense of calm.

Tonight I needed it. I needed the tunnel vision. The calm.

The pics above, they come from the tunnel vision.

I wonder still if anything we do makes a difference. "You do it because you love it, there's no money in it so you have to," I joke with people still.

On days like today I tell myself that what we do matters.

That it makes a difference.

But I wonder.

I wonder if it even matters what we do. Are we like the tree in the woods that feel over? Are we just pissing in the wind? Does anyone even care?

The press has power. I'm in a place where I can do something and I try. But nothing changes.

I feel like I'm failing. The reason I got into this business is because I felt like I could make a difference. I thought I brought a unique background to the job, something that added to the discussion.

Maybe I'm just naive.

Right about now you're probably wondering what happened, or more likely you've stopped reading like 20 graphs ago. If you're still here, you're probably getting pretty upset that I haven't told you... well... anything really.

What happened isn't the point. It's what isn't happening.

(But I'll meet you half way. If you're a decent journalist and your curiosity is too strong, a simple search on the the Express-News site should quench your thirst.)

So at this point, let me turn it over to you. If you have this job and you have the medium of the press and you have the desire, if you have all that, let me ask you now... what would you do?

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