Archive for May, 2010


(accidentally) getting involved

As journalists, and even more so, as photographers, we constantly try to stay out of the situation we are photographing.  We try to be a fly on the wall, letting the subjects do what they do while we document the situation. Sometimes this is difficult to get into peoples’ heads (i.e.: no I don’t want you to pretend you’re doing something, just do it naturally, as if I wasn’t here), but that’s for another blog post.

Last week, I got a call from bossman to head to North Augusta to shoot a giant dredge boat/pontoon being prepared for shipment to Canada.  It was cool. Very cool.  A 400,000 pound boat with a huge “ladder,” an arm that lowers with big teeth on the end to remove silt from the bottoms of ponds and such.  There were workers all over the place, cutting, wiring, welding, walking in dangerous places, the whole nine yards.  And the owner was really cool about showing me around, and even left me for a bit so I could do my thing.  Usually that’s a dream assignment; the kind where you have free reign to walk around shooting very photogenic things going on? 

Yeah.  Except apparently I need parental supervision because I accidentally dropped a memory card down the ONE crack in the boat that led to nowhere.  It didn’t even bounce on anything, it just fell straight down, perpendicular to the ground and directly into the slot between the hull and the pontoon.

Now, normally, if it had been a fresh card without ALL OF THE STUFF I HAD JUST SHOT on it, I would have considered letting it go as a gift to the photo gods, if you will.  But I needed those images.  So after getting on my knees and peering into the darkness to determine that it really had gone deep into the bowels of this $4 million boat, I had to resign myself to asking one of the workers to help me out.  His name was Ethan Robert and boy do I owe him a beer or 12. 

Long story short, he went to the ground with a long rod and started pulling (pushing, scraping, etc.) out a bunch of junk from underneath this boat that had been sitting there for a year, maybe more.  Everything but a very thin, small memory card.  By now half the crew is paying attention to me and Ethan.  People are getting flashlights, getting the air compressor ready to “blow it out.”  In other words, I halted work on this huge boat. Single handedly.  Ugh.  The opposite of what I could ever have wanted. 

All said and done, we figured out it was on a hook where the hull attaches to the fuel tank.  Ethan managed to knock it off the hook and drag it out.  Save for a bit of dirt, it was ok, and it later worked fine in the card reader.  And the images were fine. 

Ethan Robert uses a metal rod to retrieve me memory card that I stupidly dropped into the bowels of a 400,000 pound boat. I'm smooth like that.

Ethan’s the man.



pond jump

OK fine, it was bound to happen.  But I’m proud of myself for holding out for so long.  The cliche to end all cliches in community photojournalism…the first cute kid photo has made it to my blog. 

But can you blame me?  It’s the fastest most effective way to get a picture with a reaction or a funny face, probably because kids are so unadulterated.  But that’s only part of it.  The real reason I like kid assignments is the high cost/benefit ratio.  The harder I work a situation with kids in it, the more likely I will get something good.  It’s super rewarding.  The longer I hang around, the faster the kids will totally forget I’m there and just act natural.  Adults don’t do that.  By contrast, I can show up to an adult meeting, or event, and hang out for hours and never get anything worth while.  It’s not that I didn’t try, but the assignment was doomed from the start.

Nathan Stewart, 5, makes a face as he looks for insects during Pond Jump, a learning activity for children including dipping nets in a pond to find frogs, tadpoles and insects at Reed Creek Wetlands Interpretive Park, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, in Martinez, Ga. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Daniel Huntsman, 5, uses his muddy strainer to look for tadpoles during Pond Jump, a learning activity for children including dipping nets in a pond to find frogs, small fish and insects at Reed Creek Wetlands Interpretive Park, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, in Martinez, Ga. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

The mud and water in this boy’s boots  made a squishing sound everytime he came running to his mom or dad to show off a crawfish or tadpole.  How is that not cute?


And that’s my five minutes of uncynical-ness for the day.


slip n’ slide

You’re a senior at a local prep school.  It’s your last official day of class.  You’ve had four (six in this school’s case) years of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, good times and bad times, all that.

What better way to celebrate your impending freedom to go out and learn at a higher learning institution than a SLIP N’ SLIDE! YEAH.

But as was the case for Westminster Prep School seniors last Friday, first you get to play a faculty vs. seniors volleyball game, in which you crush your 11th grade algebra teacher in the face with the ball.  Then on your way to the slip n’ slide, you get to run all over the soccer field with the sprinklers on, as a sort of warmup to the drenchedness that you are about to experience. And finally you make it to the baseball field, where proud moms have set up a tent with fruits and cookies and other goodies (where are the Jello shots?) to accompany a solid hour of forming a line, running, jumping, sliding, forming a line, running, jumping, sliding, formi…you get the idea.

Seniors last day fun.  Before you have to go out and do something with yourself. Good luck.

From left, Rebecca Shine, Jim McPhail and Charlotte Thornton ride down the slip n' slide during the Westminster seniors' last day, Friday, May 7, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. Festivities also included a faculty/seniors volleyball game and a sprinkler run on the soccer field. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

This was an outtake.  Another version made the paper as a standalone on page 2a of Saturday’s paper.  And although I decided on the other one because it was cleaner (background) and was easier to read, I really like the girl on the right’s legs up.  It looks more like a moment.  But the background on the left is messy and any photographer who knows me, knows I’m a background Nazi.  So it’s new home is here.



National Day of Prayer

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a sucker for silhouettes.  Some would argue it’s cliché, or it’s just something photographers use from their “bag of tricks.” But what a tool it can be.

When it’s used correctly and in the right setting, it can be so effective in conveying a situation.  It also makes the image instantly readable without the “clutter” of having faces, or things to draw the viewer’s eyes away from the moment.  Plus, it’s striking. More impactful.  I don’t know. It’s one of those aesthetic things.  Soft early morning light never hurts either.

Members of the military and civilans bow their heads in prayer this morning during the Fort Gordon National Day of Prayer Observance Ceremony, Thursday, May 6, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Before the ceremony, I saw the flags and the soldiers congregating nearby.  A bit of previsualization and it turned out pretty nicely.

For astute readers of this blog, you’ll notice this is reminiscent of the JROTC photo I posted in April here.  Is it just the nature of those two assignments, or am I already a broken record? Oops, I’ll get on that.

For more photos of my two assignments for National Day of Prayer, see the slideshow on the Augusta Chronicle’s website.



Talladega debrief

While sitting in the AP darkroom for 18 hours waiting for tornados to maybe or maybe not hit Talladega Superspeedway, I calculated how many race weekends I’ve spent at the place.  This was my 19th race weekend, so if you average out three races in the spring and two in the fall, that’s 95 actual races I’ve shot since 2001.  That’s just enough to be kind of impressive, but not enough to be any sort of record, or cool for that matter.  I’m in Dega experience no man’s land.

All that said, there’s always the small possibility of getting an interesting shot, made smaller by the fact I’m usually placed in the pits, where you see the least amount of the track.  My day consists of trying to wrestle my way between an angry tire changer from the team in front of me and an angry fuel man from the team behind me to get a picture of Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson in a 14 second pitstop.  And between pitstops, I pan with the cars as they pass in front of me in case this happens:

Carl Edwards (60) goes airborne as he crashes with Mike Wallce (01) James Buescher (1) and Jason Leffier (38) during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Aaron's 312 auto race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., Sunday, April 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

That’s twice in one year he’s performed so ‘well.’  Got some air but no flips.  This is becoming a pattern. Catch you next time Carl!