Access: unappreciated but awesome

April 19, 2009

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I complain too much.

The last couple weeks, I’ve been all bummed about the newspaper industry dying, and all of the accompanying inconveniences for journalists. Stuff like getting paid less and working harder and not getting decent equipment. Cry me a river.

I always forget that one of the best benefits of all is free.

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It’s not every day that you can stand in the middle of a deserted interstate and shoot artsy photos. (HDR by the way, day two of new hobby)

Even parking on the interstate is usually out of the question.

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Other drivers are slowing down to rubberneck, but thirty minutes earlier, I jumped in my car specifically to drive to Milton and see what was going on. Somehow, a notepad and a camera qualify me for pulling onto the median, getting out of my car, and snooping around the scene of an accident.

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As I get closer, a firefighter comes running toward me. I’m almost shocked. “Is he going to tell me to leave?” I start to prepare my verbal objection.

But it was a false alarm. He just wanted to give me a reflective vest so I would be safe. “Thanks man!” He walks me toward the wreck, and excitedly tells me how he was coincidentally right ahead of the truck when it crashed. He saw it in his rear-view mirror and was the first to call it in, and the first on the scene (about 30 seconds after the crash).

He was stoked. And his enthusiasm was contagious. And the wreck was REALLY cool.

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By the time I took this photo, it had completely blocked the interstate for more than an hour. It was a major mess. The driver was alright, but the DOT cleanup guys had their work cut out for them.

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Clad in my neon orange vest (which said “fire” on it, btw) I walked around for about thirty minutes talking to the highway patrolmen, the firefighters, the cleanup guys, and several of the drivers impatiently waiting to get on their way.

Even though the drivers were pretty disgruntled about the delay, all that I spoke with admitted that it was a pretty cool wreck.

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So, after I had all my notes squared away, and a couple dozen photos shot, I climbed back into my car, busted a U-turn in the median, and enjoyed a dozen or so miles of deserted Interstate on the drive back to Pensacola.

I’ve got to admit, even though the money is bad, the job security is non-existent, and the industry resembles a derailing freight train, being a journalist is a really cool job.

I need to stop complaining.

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Too cool. HDR is a new hobby.

April 12, 2009

I’m a bit of photo purist. I never really got into the whole HDR thing. But the more I think about it, the more it interest’s me as a photographer. It’s almost like having ISO1600 and ISO60 chilling together on the same roll of film, just waiting  around to be of use whenever they can.

So after a sailing trip got cut short this afternoon due to excessive wind, I made a handful of HDR images.

Nothing much, but pretty fun given how easy they are to shoot and produce.

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All you do is set AEB (auto exposure braketing) to shoot +2 0 -2, then import the three exposures into  a program called Photomatix.

It gives you some sliders to slide and you’re done.

I probably didn’t slide my sliders around just right. So far I’ve been tending towards making the photos look more realistic, but I may get away from that in the future.


Time to play

April 9, 2009

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Sometimes assignments can suck.

Event coverage stories tend to be some of the worst offenders. More than once, as I struck off into the nether-regions of Northwest Florida on a Saturday morning, I’ve wondered what the 20 participants at, say, the First Annual Oompletown Doggie Parade, did to deserve a story in the newspaper.

But you’ve just got to choke those thoughts back. There has to be something in the newspaper while waiting for the next volcanic eruption,  hurricane, political scandal, or cheese contamination.

Thus was my mental process while driving to cover the third day of the Florida General Baptist Convention. Not that I’ve got anything against the Baptist convention. On the contrary, I think it’s a pretty significant event for Pensacola.

But still, how much fun can you have at church on a weekday?

As it turns out, a LOT!

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Read the rest of this entry »


Going too far…

April 4, 2009

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As I walked on to the crash scene, the body bag was being wheeled out of the garage.

“Why did they take the body inside?”

Seconds later, it hit me.

“oh s–t… he went through.”

Witnesses at the scene saw a 20-something male come blasting down Herman Avenue on a little Honda motorcycle. He was running wide open.

He didn’t let up as he turned and crossed the parking lot.

He didn’t let up as he took aim at the concrete wall.

He didn’t let up.

Investigators later found a suicide note at the man’s home.

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When he jumped on that bike and started to ride, it was quitting time on a sunny Friday afternoon.

It was the time of year when azaleas shake off the shackles of winter and burst into bloom, spreading an explosion of color across the city like wildfire on the wind.

It was the time of year when wisps of pollen dance in the sunlight before settling like a blanket across the hoods of cars.

The days when pale winter skin feels the first touches of the summer sun.

And when the weather is just right for a long afternoon drive.

I wonder if he noticed.

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Back in the newsroom, my editor tells me we don’t write about suicides. We won’t publish the man’s name. We won’t talk to his family. The photos are taking it a step too far. If no one else was hurt, we write a brief, we move on.

And I will.  Except for one thing.

With the economy in shambles, the industry dying, the stress rising and money tight,  I didn’t really notice the azaleas this spring. Then after a week of heavy rain, and a couple of cold nights, they were gone.

Next time, I’ll remember to slow down and look.


Back to business. (And how…)

April 1, 2009

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The last two weeks have been a blur.

Since I got back from furlough, I’ve banged out more than 15 stories (probably closer to 20). I’ve written everything from an in depth, 40-inch Pensacola Business Journal headliner about technology, to breaking news coverage about plane crashes and flood evacuations.

I’ve driven to Eglin AFB twice covering ground-breaking ceremonies on nearly $1 billion in construction. I got to rub elbows with Robin Roberts (the Good Morning America host) when she came through town. I got to drive to Pace to hang out with some folks who were putting on an OK to Pray rally on the front lawn of the high school.

There’s more… I know there’s more… But I sure can’t remember it at the moment.

Maybe some photos can refresh my memory.

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Oh yeah! There was the “drug deal gone bad” shooting at Circle K. The guy above was one of the “victims.” A girl who was in the car with him got shot in the back and was rushed to the hospital. (she lived) The alleged drug dealers fled the scene after the shooting.

I snapped this photo after he said there was no way he was going to talk to the newspaper.

Notice the “Macho” sign? (Oh yes, awesome composition, I know…)

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What is it with Circle K’s in this town? It seems like every other day someone is getting shot at one. That’s why I’m a BP guy… (Or Tigermart. They’ve got the best breakfast.)

And while we’re on the subject of phenomena I don’t understand, what is the deal with “Golden Shovel” ground-breaking ceremonies?

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Why? What in the world is the point? This is at the ground breaking for the Joint Strike Fighter program. I duly shot my photos, just like I have dozens of times before at similar ceremonies, but days later when I drove to Eglin again for another ground breaking, I thought they would break the trend.

It was pouring down rain. They had to move the ceremony inside. “Ah Ha!” I thought. No golden shovels today.

Wrong.

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Get a load of this! The brought a container full of dirt inside a museum, and they laid out plastic so they could do the golden shovels thing! I was absolutely astounded…

Whatever. In the end they got me. I took the picture.

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In other news: While I was at Eglin, I ran into someone I’ve only met once before.

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After the ceremony, Mr. Sansom ducked out before I was able to say hello. I think I know why.

I would have tried to chase him down, but they were pretty strict about where media could and could not go. As I was rounding the bleachers to go shoot some photos, a young officer chased me down, and I got placed back in the press area.

So I shot some photos of the press.

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This girl’s name is Christina Leavenworth. (I think) We didn’t get to chat much, but she seemed nice enough. She’s a TV reporter and also had to drive over from Pensacola for the ground breaking.

So tomorrow I head back to work, clueless as ever about what I’ll be covering.

One thing is for sure. This job is NEVER boring.


FURLOUGH = extracurricular journalism

March 15, 2009

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The company that owns my newspaper, Gannett, decided that in order to avoid further layoffs, all employees had to take a one-week unpaid vacation.

This decree applied to all Gannett employees worldwide, regardless of how well their individual newspapers/media outlets were performing financially. I have a couple qualms with that reasoning, but I try not to think too much about it.

Being the model of responsibility, I took the opportunity to go to Universal Studios with my friend Irina, who was on spring break from UWF, and spend a ton of money. After a few days of that, I came back to Pensacola and had a sailing adventure with my friend, and fellow reporter, Rebekah.

So, taking a break from the typical semi-professional content of this blog, I’m going with the theme of furlough and posting up some of my time off the clock.

First off: The sailing.

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The weather Saturday was dismal — thunderstorms and heavy wind. I kept a close eye on the radar and saw an opening where the rain cleared for a couple hours. Rebekah was down, so we went for it.

The wind and the waves were still huge; way bigger than any I’d ever sailed in.

Being super-reporters, we take a video camera along, but we really don’t put a lot of work into getting decent video.

But liberated from the bounds of news-style video,  I went a different route during editing… Artsy/fartsy.

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And then their was Universal.

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While waiting in line for this coaster, they told everyone to put away their electronic gadgetry. But some shots are too cool to pass up.

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And some of the rest…

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So with an empty bank account and a farmer’s tan, I’m headed back to work on Tuesday. Despite the naysayers, there are at least a couple perks to working in a dying industry.



Pensacola Skateboarding

March 1, 2009

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Some things never change. I grew up skateboarding in Memphis, Tenn., and I remember very well pushing dozens of miles down concrete sidewalks between street spots.

Spend about an hour at the five-set behind the high school. Then head over to the loading ramps with the sweet five-foot gap nearby. If we were feeling really ballsy, there was a low handrail on a five-set near the city hall that we could usually spend about 15 minutes on before the cops showed up.

So I’ve got a little bit of a soft spot for these guys, who built their own little skate park on a demolished warehouse slab in a TERRIBLE part of town. But in a month or two, the property is set for new construction, and they’ll be looking for someplace new.

They want Escambia County to build a public park, and have circulated a petition. We’ll see what happens.

Shots from the day:

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